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Permission for the Transmission of Hadiths

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Permission for the transmission of hadiths or ijazat al-riwaya (Arabic: إجازَة الرِوایة) is a permission given by a master to a trusted student for the transmission of hadiths. Such permissions were intended to preserve hadiths and reliably transmit them to future generations. The permission can be written or oral. In the wake of mass prints and publications of the books of hadiths in recent decades and the relative confidence that no distortion occurs, permissions for the transmission of hadiths are merely formal.

Permission

"Ijaza" literally means permission, authentication, and certification. For a long time, permissions were common among scholars of different sciences and disciplines. Scholars issued permissions to their students as acknowledgement of their scholarly achievements and qualifications. In different disciplines of Islamic sciences, such as exegesis of the Qur'an, hadith, fiqh, medicine, literature, and mysticism, it was common for masters or teachers to issue permissions to their qualified students. For example, traditional physicians wrote permissions of medical practices for their qualified students; outstanding reciters of the Qur'an wrote permissions of recitations for their students; and Sufis and Dervishes received permissions of khirqa (a type of cloak) from their masters; muhaddiths issued permissions for the transmission of hadiths or books of hadiths to students; and fuqaha issued permissions of ijtihad or permissions for undertaking hisbiyya affairs to qualified people and students.

In hadith sciences, "ijaza" is a term referring to a source of receiving and transmitting hadiths. In hadith terminologies, "ijaza" is a source of receiving hadiths along with "sama'" (direct hearing), "'ard" (presentation) and "recitation". "Ijaza" is obtained by a written or oral permission of a master for the transmission of hadiths recorded in certain texts.

Permissions were possessed by people as precious scholarly and cultural documents and certificates. Having a permission brings confidence in one's sayings and writings. Permissions also involve the master's comments on the student's qualifications as well as his own masters.

Use of Permissions

Scholars of hadiths believe that permissions for the transmission of hadiths are the most important ways of "carrying" or "transmitting" hadiths. Such permissions support the accuracy and correctness of the transmission of hadiths. Here is the mechanism: masters of hadith sciences give written or oral permissions for the transmission of hadiths from themselves to their students; they usually mention their own masters of hadiths as well as their own written work. Such permissions connect the chains of the transmission of hadiths to the infallible Imams (a). Masters of hadiths usually connect their chains to one of the great masters, such as Muhammad Taqi al-Majlisi, al-Shahid al-Awwal, al-'Allama al-Hilli, or al-Shaykh al-Tusi and do not mention the rest, because the rest of the chain is commonly known and is generally reliable.

The following advantages have also been mentioned with regard to the permission for the transmission of hadiths:

  • First, they prevent chaos with respect to the transmission of hadiths. So, because of the requirement of such permissions, nobody's hadiths were accepted without having the permission.
  • Second, the introduction of the master and his permission would assure the hearer about the reliability of the transmitter of hadiths.
  • Third, the master broadened or narrowed the scope of the permission on the basis of the student's qualifications. One student may have well been only permitted to transmit hadiths from a certain book, while another student was permitted to transmit hadiths from all books of hadiths. Thus, the qualifications of transmitters were monitored by masters.
  • Fourth, with the permission of the master, the student would count as a transmitter of hadiths from the Prophet (s), whereby the connected chain of transmission, which is a characteristic of Muslims, could continue.

Merely Formal Permissions

With the proliferation of the copies of hadith books, especially after mass prints and publications of collections of hadiths and after the disappearance of hadith courses, the main reason for the issuance of hadith permissions disappeared, and it turned into a mere formality.