Could you please explain the difference between Ahad and Mutawatir Hadith? In particular, could you specify how many narrations make a Hadith Mutawatir? Also, are Ahad hadith taken into Aqidah or only Mutawatir?
A Hadith Mutawatir (continuous) is that which is related by whole groups of individuals from whole group of individuals, in multiple contiguous channels of transmission leading back to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give peace), such as that the sheer number of separate channels at each stage of transmission is too many for it to be possible for all to have conspired to fabricate the Hadith.
As such, a Hadith is classified as Mutawatir only when it fulfils the following conditions:
1) It is reported by such a large number of narrators that under normal circumstances it would be impossible for them to conspire a lie.
2) Such a number exists throughout the chain of narration, i.e. from the beginning to the end.
3) The reporters must base their report on sense perception, i.e. on something that is heard or seen.
4) That the narration necessitates certain knowledge for the listener. (Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani, Sharh Nukhba al-Fikr, P.21).
Example of a Mutawatir Hadith is:
“Whoever lies about me deliberately must prepare himself for a place in the fire of Hell” (Sahih al-Bukhari & Sahih muslim).
Imam an-Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) states that this narration has been narrated from approximately 200 Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) (Introduction to Sahih Muslim).
The Ahad or solitary Hadith (also known as Khabar al-Wahid) is the Hadith which fails to fulfil the requirement of Mutawatir. Ahad Hadith may be sound (sahih), good (hasan) or weak (Da’eef). It is a Hadith which does not impart positive knowledge on its own unless it is supported by extraneous or circumstantial evidence.
According to the majority of the four Sunni schools, acting upon Ahad is obligatory even if Ahad fails to engender positive knowledge provided certain conditions are met.
As far as establishing matters of Aqidah is concerned, the majority of the scholars are of the view that Ahad may not be relied upon as the basis of belief (aqidah), for matters of belief must be founded in certainty. Therefore, issues that revolve between belief (iman) and disbelief (kufr) can not be proven by Ahad narrations (See: Fawatih al-Rahmut, 2/136).
However, this refers to beliefs on which the actual Iman is dependent. As for Ahad narrations pertaining to subsidiary matters which are not essential to belief such as intercession (shafa’ah), etc…, these must be accepted and believed. Anyone who denies them is a sinner (fasiq) but not a Kafir, as he denies something which is not decisively proven (Abu Zahra, Usul al-Fiqh, P.85).
None of the previous scholars rejected any belief that was not established by Hadith Mutawatir. In fact, the great Hadith expert, Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani (Allah have mercy on him) states in his monumental commentary of Sahih al-Bukhari that, Ahad narrations are a source of evidence when the Ummah accepts it and acts upon it. It then has the power to become firm belief (Fath al-Bari, V.13, P.234).
Many beliefs have been established by Ahad narrations, yet they have not been rejected by the great scholars of this Ummah. Beliefs such as the intercession (shafa’ah) of the blessed Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give peace), descriptions of the angels, Jinn, Jannah, Jahannam, and much more.
In conclusion, matters of Aqidah can and have been proven by Ahad narrations and accepted by the majority of the Ummah. Yes, those integrals of Aqidah on which an individual’s Iman depends can not be established by Ahad narrations. As a result, denying beliefs that are proven by Ahad will not constitute Kufr, rather a sin.
And Allah Knows Best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK