This post is a paraphrased (incomplete) translation, with my personal comments and notes, of the chapter regarding the Types of Hadith [page 47] from section one of Muhammad Baqir Irwani’s book Durus Tamhidiyah fi al-Qawaid al-Rijaliyah. The section on al-khabar al-dha’eef, al-khabar al-mudhmar, and al-khabar al-mursal have not been added to this post. For an actual translation-in-progress for this book, please click here.
A hadith can be classified into 4 types:
- Sahih (authentic): that is a narration in which all of the narrators are ‘adil and Imami
- Muwatthaq (trustworthy): that is a narration in which all or some of the narrators are not Imami, but they are trustworthy (thiqa)
- Hasan (good): that is a narration in which all or some of the narrators are Imami, but they have only been given praise. We are unaware of whether they are ‘adil or trustworthy. For example Ali bin Muhammad bin Qutayba [علي بن محمد بن قتيبة النيشابورى] who was one of the students of Fadhl ibn Shadhan. There is not much difference between a hasan and muwatthaq tradition. It generally comes into use when one wants to compare a certain set of narrations with another
- Dhaeef (weak): that is a narration which does not fall in any of the above 3 categories. All of its narrators are either unknown (majhool) or have been weakened
Some of the Akhbaris have attempted to refute this 4-classification system and have rejected it. They say that the first scholar to begin using this classification system was Allamah Hilli, while some say it was probably Ibn Taoos (Allamah Hilli’s teacher).
The reason for the Akhbaris to reject this system was that some of them would say that the 4-books are authentic, and it is obligatory upon us to act upon them. Sheikh Hurr al-Amili was one who held this opinion and brings 22 reasons to justify it, thus trying to prove the authenticity of the 4 main books completely.
Sheikh Hurr al-Amili concludes by saying: “From this, the weakness of these new terminologies becomes apparent, which were renewed from the time of Allamah Hilli and his teacher Ahmad bin Taoos.” The author (Baqir Irwani) responds to these comments in section 3 of the book.
Some discussions surrounding the 4 classifications of hadith
Popularity being against an authentic narration
If a hadith has an authentic chain of narration, what is well known then, is that it is binding upon us (it is hujjah). However, these is a debate upon whether a popularity of a fatwa by the jurists which is against an authentic narration causes the hujjiyah of the authentic hadith to drop.
What is generally accepted amongst the jurists is that the hujjiyah of the hadith will drop, except in the opinion of some, like Syed al-Khoei. Ayatullah Khoei was of the opinion that the hujjiyah does not drop.
One way to argue for the hujjiyah being dropped, is by suggesting that the qudama were not unaware or ignorant of these authentic narrations. Them ignoring it and issuing a fatwa contrary to an authentic narration implies that there was something that they were aware of, which we aren’t. Syed al-Khoei however was suggesting that the popularity of a fatwa is not what we should be looking at, rather we should be looking at what the Imams themselves have said [i.e. what has authentically reached us from the Imams].
In any case, it is true that the abandoning of hadith which has an authentic chain should not be because we are basing the hujjiyah solely on the popularity of another opinion. That would be doing taqleed of the previous jurists, and not ijtihad. Therefore, a ruling being popular is not enough to rule out the hujjiyah of an authentic tradition, rather what makes a popular fatwa rule out an authentic tradition (that is against the ruling) is that you assume there was something that the qudama had access to which we don’t. That’s the only justifiable way the popularity of a tradition will drop the hujjiyah of an authentic narration.
Of course, the question will still remain as to how we can explain the reasons why the qudama abandoned an authentic narration. Most of the times we do not have any reasons from them where they explain their reasoning.
A narration of a Thiqa or ‘Adil
What is well accepted amongst the scholars is that hujjiyah is not just restricted to a narration by an ‘adil, rather a narration by someone who is solely thiqa is also hujjah.
Reason for why a narration of a thiqa is also hujjah is because this is a seerah of the uqalah. The seerah al-uqala (practice of the commoners) agrees with acting upon a report brought forth by a trustworthy person, just like a report brought forth by person who is ‘adil. For example, the seerah of the uqala suggests that a report by someone who is not Imami, but he his thiqa, will be acted upon.
Some opponents to the above opinion have said that the ayah of Naba (49:6) asks us to look into the report of a fasiq (transgressor). An individual who is thiqa (trustworthy), but not ‘adil (just), is in fact a fasiq (the opposite of an ‘adil), therefore we must look further into the report that is being given by such an individual.
The author (Baqir Irwani) replies by saying that, the meaning of fasiq in the relevant verse is referring to a person who is prone to lying, and the word is not absolutely being used as an antonym for ‘adil. There are two proofs for this:
- The relationship between the hukm (judgement) and the mawdhoo (subject) is that there is no hujjiyah given to a report brought forth by a person who is prone to lying, or is not free from the defect of lying
- The person who acts upon a report of a fasiq will only regret it if the person was lying. Meaning, he could be a transgressor, and commit other types of sins, but yet still be truthful
A narration of a Thiqa or that which is given Wuthooq
Should we take the hadith of a thiqa absolutely (mutlaqan) or should we look into the wuthooq (trustworthiness) of the content of a narration and arrive at itminan?
It may be argued that, the condition that a narration should have a thiqa in its chain should always be there, however that is not all that one needs. That is to say, a hadith being from a thiqa solely should not be enough for arriving at its hujjiyah. You still need determine wuthooq of the hadith itself, due to the possibility of facing regret (which has been referred to in the discussion of Ayah of Naba).
However, what is correct is that a hadith of a thiqa is hujjah, absolutely (mutlaqan). The author brings a narration to prove this argument. Ali bin Yaqtin (ra) asks Imam al-Ridha (as) that he is not able to reach him at all times, while he is in need of all that the religion demands. He asks the Imam whether Yunus bin Abdul Rahman is thiqa, and whether he should take from him that which he needs. The Imam replies affirmatively.
A good narration
Is a hadith that is Hasan, hujjah? Sheikh Naeini and Syed Khoei are of the opinion that it is hujjah. The proof for this argument is presented in Misbah al-Usul, where it states that the seerah of the uqala is to do such a thing.
For example, if the command of a master for his slave, is delivered to the slave from someone who is praised and whose transgression has not be disclosed (nor his adalah), but he his Imami, the slave will act upon the command of the master. They (Sheikh Naeini and Syed Khoei) further state that no one has rejected this seerah, and therefore they believe they have determined the position of what the Sha’ria (canon law) has accepted and that it is compatible with the seerah of the uqala
The author (Baqir Irwani) responds to these comments in section 2 of the book.
 Refer to the last Volume of Wasael [Vol 30], page 249: الفائدة التاسعة – في ذكر الأدلة على صحة أحاديث الكتب المعتمدة، تفصيلا
 This was a later opinion adopted by Syed al-Khoei and he died upon it. Initially he was of the same opinion that is famous.