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Definition of Hadith Mutawatir and Hadith-ul-Ahad

Q: I am a young Muslim woman who was brought up according to the following beliefs: Allah saved `Isa (Jesus, peace be upon him) from crucifixion and raised him up into the heavens after He made one of his disciples look like him and this man was crucified instead. I also learned that `Isa (peace be upon him) will return to earth before the Day of Resurrection to kill Al-Masih-ul-Dajjal (the Antichrist, may the Curse of Allah be upon him). (Part No. 4; Page No. 366) However, a few days ago I read in a book entitled Muqarinat-ul-Adyan wa Al-Istishraq (Comparative Religions and Orientalism) by Ahmad Shalaby, professor of Islamic history in Cairo University that `Isa was not raised up into heaven, and he just disappeared from his enemies, died an ordinary death somewhere, and was buried like any other person. Not only that, but he went on to say that the Prophet’s Hadith speaking of ‘Eisa’s descent from heaven at the end of time to kill Al-Masih-ul-Dajjal, are Ahad Hadiths which do not qualify to be taken as evidence in creedal fundamentals as the issue at hand. Even more confusing was his claim that this is the opinion of some of our eminent scholars, such as Shaykh Al-Maraghy, Shaykh Shaltut, Sayyid Qutb and others. In fact, I felt concerned and unable to ascertain the truth. My question is: What is meant by Hadith-ul-Ahad? Is it true that it should not be taken as evidence in creedal issues as the professor claimed, even if such Hadiths are authentically narrated in the Two Sahih (authentic) Books of Hadith: Al-Bukhari and Muslim?

A: Hadith are divided into Mutawatir and 'Ahad. The Mutawatir refer to the Hadith that were reported by a significant number of narrators, whose agreement upon a lie is impossible, and also precludes the possibility of their ever committing lying about such personalities, and the last Sahaby (Companion of the Prophet) in their Sanad (chain of narrators) should state that he narrated it through either having personally heard, seen or the like. The ‘Ahad is any Hadith which lacks any of the above conditions. The Mutawatir is taken as evidence in matters pertaining to ‘Aqidah (creed) and subsidiary matters, as in case of the Qur’an. On the other hand, the ‘Ahad is taken as evidence in subsidiary matters by Ijma‘ (consensus of scholars) and is taken as evidence in creedal matters according to the more correct of the two opinions held by the scholars. (Part No. 4; Page No. 367) It was reported from Imam Ibn ‘Abdul-Bar and Al-Khatib Al-Baghdady that it is taken as evidence in matters related to ‘Aqidah and subsidiary matters. Anyone who argues that Hadith-ul-Ahad should not be quoted as evidence in creedal matters, in fact his actions contradict his words, for he has taken it as evidence in creedal issues and in fundamentals as well, even the Da‘if (weak) among them.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions!