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Tawatur

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Tawātur (Arabic:تواتر) is a term in the science of hadith and the usul al-fiqh), which is used when an account is reported numerously by different narrators and through various chains of transmission, in a way that substantiates its authenticity. Such a report is called mutawatir.

In the sciences of hadith, fiqh (jurisprudence), history, rijal (narrators of hadith) and logic, different aspects of mutawatir reports are discussed. A mutawatir report is authentic and valid to be used in an argument; and a weak chain of transmission does not reduce its authenticity.

Lexicology

Lexical Sense

The root of this term is waw ta' ra' (Arabic: واو تاء راء) which means succession or coming after one another.[1] This word is used when members of a group come shortly one after another.[2]It is one of the terms in the science of 'arud (prosody) as well.[3]

Technical Sense

Technically, Tawatur means the state in which an account is reported numerously by different narrators and through various chains of transmission, in a way that substantiates its authenticity. Such a report is called mutawatir, as if the report has come successively or has been narrated in succession.[4] The experts of the science of hadith have defined a mutawatir report in three ways:

  • A report narrated by a group, that automatically produces certainty.[5]
  • A report with such number of narrators that their conspiracy to fabricate an account is usually and historically impossible.[6] Those who have adopted the first definition, take the importance of number and its role in the impossibility of fabrication as one of the conditions of Tawatur and as the explanation of it (not intrinsic element of its definition).[7]
  • Sometimes the two definitions are combined.[8]

There are definitions with slight differences in some sources.[9] Negative and positive points of both definitions have been discussed;[10] however, it seems that the second definition reflects the real nature of tawatur (i.e. innumerability of the narrators) better.[11]

Objection to the Technical Definition

It has been said in the definition of tawatur, that to reach the level of certainty, the number of reports must be large enough so that it leaves no possibility for the conspiracy of narrators in fabricating the report.

Some scholars believe that even if we are certain about the impossibility of conspiracy and fabrication, we cannot trust such report, for false reports are not always created by intention, awareness, and conspiracy. Sometimes a group of people, unknowingly, and mostly because of shared social and cultural backgrounds like religious tendencies and prejudices or political affiliations, without having a conspiracy, fabricate similar reports. However, scholars in the sciences of hadith, principles of jurisprudence and logic generally were aware of this problem and have pointed it out while discussing the definition of tawatur.[12]

It seems that the use of word ittifaq (accidental similarity) instead of tawatu' (conspiracy) in the given definition would solve the problem; as al-Sayyid al-Murtada has used the same term.[13] It must be noted that authors of books in the science of principles of jurisprudence have discussed the mutawatir report in its lexical sense and in a general way (including all forms of reports) while the scholars in the science of hadith, have focused on the mutawatir hadith. This difference in the domain of the subject has affected some of the details of the discussion, like the conditions of the narrators of a mutawatir report.

In different Sciences

Logic

The topic of Mutawatir reports and their validity is discussed in logic under the section "sana'at al-khams" (the five arts) and mutawatir reports have been introduced as one type of "yaqiniyyat" (certain statements). In this terminology, a mutawatir report has two features combined:

  1. It is reported by significant number of narrators.
  2. It entails certainty in the hearer.[14]

Sometimes, the same terminology is referred to in the principles of jurisprudence as well.[15]

Principle of Jurisprudence

Main article: Mutawatir Hadith

Since tawatur is the qualification of some of the narrations, in the science of usul al-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence) it is usually discussed as one type of the reports and sunna, under the section on religious evidences.[16] In later periods, it is discussed under the section of validity of zann (conjecture).[17] Also, in the science of hadith, the hadith is first divided into mutawatir and khabar al-wahid.[18]

As a Means of Acquiring Certainty

The fact that a mutawatir report is a sufficient cause for certainty is a matter of consensus among all scholars of the sciences of hadith and principles of jurisprudence. As al-Shaykh al-Tusi puts it,[19] the doubt about the credibility of the mutawatir report is like the doubts proposed by skeptic sophists about the existence of the universe.[20] Therefore scholars usually discussed the nature of this certainty, that is, whether it is a derivative or immediate certainty, rather than discussing certainty itself.

Among these scholars is al-Sadr has meticulously analyzed the nature of certainty produced by Mutawatir reports. He explains this certainty based on the principles of probability and as a result of induction. He argues for the certainty of mutawatir reports, based on his theory, intrinsic reproduction.[21]

Derivative or Immediate Certainty

There are different opinions regarding the nature of certainty which is entailed by mutawatir reports:

  • The famous view among the scholars of Logic is that the knowledge acquired from a mutawatir report is one of yaqiniyyat (certain statements) whose acceptance is necessary. Based on this, it is an immediate certainty.[22]
  • Some of the scholars of usul al-fiqh(principles of jurisprudence) regard the knowledge acquired from a mutawatir report as a derivative certainty, since there are hidden premises before reaching it.
  • Some scholars have remained silent on this issue.
  • Some thinkers have distinguished between the mutawatir reports in geographical issues, and mutawatir reports about the miracles, based on the difference in the attitude of general public toward the two.[23]

Possibility

In contrast to the famous view in the sciences of usul al-fiqh and logic, some people believe that a mutawatir report is neither possible (in the real world), nor is it a means of certainty. Al-Sharif al-Murtada has named a group of Hindus, called Samaniyya, who would reject the existence of any mutawatir report (whether in history, geography, or …) and the resulting certainty.[24] Authors after al-Sharif al-Murtada have repeated this account; some of them have attributed this opinion to Brahmins.[25]

Types

Text and Context

Most of the authors have divided Tawatur into two main types: Tawatur of the text and Tawatur of the content

The first type is when reporters give the same account in the same wording; however, in the second type one account is given through similar phrases with different texts. The examples of Tawatur of the text are the similar reports about ancient nations and far cities, or the similar reports about one earthquake, and in the science of hadith, one example is the famous Hadith: "actions are (rewarded) by intentions";[26] or Hadith al-Thaqalayn or some parts of the Hadith al-Ghadir.

The examples of tawatur of content are the numerous reports about the generosity of Hatam al-Ta'i or the bravery of Imam Ali (a).[27]

It must be noted that the tawatur of the content might be numerous reports from one single incident (like the reports about the bravery of Imam Ali (a) in the Battle of Uhud) or numerous reports from several incidents (like his bravery in different battles). However, these reports denote the common content either by postulation or implication.[28]

Specific and Non-specific

In another classification, mutawatir reports are divided into the Specific and Non-Specific.

The specific Tawatur is the general type of Tawatur which has been divided formerly into the Tawatur of the text and that of the content; however, in the later works of the usul al-fiqh among Imamiyya, another type of tawatur, called non-specified tawatur, has been discussed. Apparently, the pioneer of this theory was the renowned Shi'a faqih and scholar of usul al-fiqh, Muhammad Kazim Khurasani. This term is not used in Sunni sources of hadith studies.[29]

What is meant by non-specified Tawatur is that sometimes a group of single accounts are reported, and by considering different surrounding conditions, it results in the state of al-'Ilm al-Ijmali (inevitable probability) that they can't be all false reports. (at least one or some of them are true).

In another word, we are sure that certainly some of these accounts are true as they are.[30] In Kifayat al-usul, Khurasani has used the same term and used it as a base for his demonstration for the validity of single reports,[31] even though some scholars have made objections to the given example.[32]

Al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr has offered helpful explanations about this type of Tawatur.[33] Under the topic of Tawatur, Mirza al-Qummi has discussed different types of tawatur of the text and that of the content,[34] it seems that some of these types like the third and fifth, can be identified as the non-specified tawatur.

Muhammad Husayn al-Ha'iri al-Isfahani points out some of the examples given by Mirza al-Qummi and makes objections to these examples.[35] In fact, the usage of the term tawatur for the examples given by Khurasani, is a metaphorical usage, however, this type is very helpful in jurisprudential discussions.

Conditions

Two types of conditions have been set for Tawatur:

  1. The conditions under which a report is considered as mutawatir
  2. The conditions under which certainty about such report is acquired

Conditions of Tawatur

  1. The first condition is that the report must be about a concert fact, or an abstract one that has sensory basis like bravery.[36] The reported content must not be a rational or speculative issue, since in such matters the rate of error is high and this very fact is the main difference between tawatur and ijma' (consensus).[37]
  2. The second condition that has been required by some scholars is that, all the reporters must have direct knowledge of what they are reporting.[38]
  3. The third condition that has been required by some scholars is that, the totality of the reports must entail certainty, even though there might be among the reporters some who have narrated the report by assumption.[39]
  4. The fourth condition is about the least required number of reports, this is based on some of the historical events in Islamic history or some of the verses of the Holy Qur'an that contain some numbers like: 4, 12, 70, 313;[40] however this is not accepted by either Sunni nor Shi'a scholars. They regard the number of reports as relatively dependent on the situation and nature of the report and other characteristics.[41]
  5. The fifth condition is that, regarding the reports from old history, each generation of reporters must independently have the aforementioned conditions.[42]

In addition to these conditions, other conditions have been regarded necessary for a mutawatir report, but there are disagreements about them:

  • The reporters must not be followers of a certain sect.
  • They must come from different tribes.
  • They must come from different cities.

Generally, thinkers have regarded these conditions as unnecessary.[43] Although, the main element is that the reporters must not have any relation to each other, this reduces the chance of the existence of a shared motivation for fabrication, thus guarantees the nature of the tawatur.[44]

To be Muslim, to have Iman (faith), and being just are among the conditions. Although mentioned in some of the sources of usul al-fiqh and the science of hadith, scholars generally do not regard them as necessary.[45] However, sometimes Islam has been counted as one of the necessary requirements of the reporters of hadith.[46] Some authors regard this condition as a matter of dispute among scholars of hadith and scholars of principles of jurisprudence.[47] This does not seem plausible since majority of experts in hadith have not accepted the necessity of this condition, for the main element of tawatur which causes certainty, is the numerousness of the reporters. However, since the narrators of hadith –which is a type of report in its lexical sense-, were Muslims, this condition existed in them.

Al-Ghazali[48] and al-Amidi (d.631/1231)[49] have attributed to Shi'a that the existence of an infallible among the reporters is a necessary requirement of a mutawatir report. Contrary to this attribution –and in addition to its unknown source- negation of such condition has been stressed in Shi'a sources- both before[50] and after[51] the time of al-Ghazali. It seems that such attribution is the result of confusion between Shi'a theory of ijma' (consensus) and the topic of tawatur.[52]

Conditions for Acquiring Certainty

  1. The first condition is that, the hearer must not have pre-knowledge about the reported content, for in that case, the report does not cause any new certainty in the hearer.[53]
  2. The second condition that has been proposed by al-Sharif al-Murtada and later scholars have adopted it as well, is that the hearer must have an unbiased approach toward the report.[54]
  3. If the hearer has a skeptical attitude or finds the content of the report contrary to his habits, beliefs and emotions, the certainty is not acquired by the mutawatir report or at least, the report is not accepted immediately.[55]

Number

The number of textual mutawatir reports is so few and sometimes even restricted to one report; however, the number of tawatur of the content and the non-specified tawtur (in jurisprudence) is very high.[56] Some scholars believe the number of mutawatir narrations is high,[57] although it appears that what they mean by tawatur, is the tawatur of the attribution of certain hadith books to their authors. In this case, there's no tawatur in the generations before the authors of those books.[58] It seems that the majority of books dedicated to collecting mutawatir reports,[59] do not contain reports that are mutawatir in every generation of narrators,[60] and that the author of such books were aware of this fact. Al-Suyuti, who is one of the early compilers of such reports, has followed this method.[61]

Advantage

In the sciences of rijal and hadith, the advantageous result of mutawatir reports is that, unlike other reports, there's no need for examining the characteristics of narrators for the authenticity of a mutawatir report. Therefore the weakness of some of the narrators in a mutawatir report does not affect its validity.[62]

See Also

Notes

  1. Al-Farahidi, Kitab al-'ayn, Under the word "وتر"; al-Bayhaqi, Taj al-masadir, vol. 2, p. 862
  2. Ibn Faris, Mu'jam maqayis al-lughat, Under the word "وتر"; Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-'arab, Under the word "وتر"
  3. Shams Qays, Kitab al-mu'jam fi ma'ayir ash'ar al-'ajam, p. 274
  4. Al-Fadli, Usul al-hadith, p. 71
  5. Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi, al-Luma' fi usul al-fiqh, p. 208; al-Amidi, al-Ahkam fi usul al-ahkam, vol. 1, p. 25; Ibn Jama'a, al-Manhal al-rawi, p. 31; Ibn al-Shahid al-Thani, Ma'alim al-din, p. 184
  6. Al-Sayyid al-Murtada, al-Dhari'a ila ahkam al-shari'a, vol. 2, p. 498; Ibn al-Salah, 'Ulum al-hadith, p. 267; al-Tuni, Wafiya fi usul al-fiqh, p. 157; al-Sadr, Nihayat al-diraya, p. 97
  7. Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi, al-Luma' fi usul al-fiqh, p. 209; Ibn Jama'a, al-Manhal al-rawi, p. 31; Ibn al-Shahid al-Thani, Ma'alim al-din, p. 186
  8. Muntaziri, Nihayat al-usul, p. 486
  9. See: al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, al-Kifaya fi 'ilm al-riwaya, p. 32
  10. Al-Qummi, Qawanin al-usul, vol. 1, p. 420; al-Fadli, Usul al-hadith, p. 72-73
  11. Al-Qummi, Qawanin al-usul, vol. 1, p. 420-421; Al-Fadli, Usul al-hadith, p. 73
  12. Al-Sayyid al-Murtada, al-Dhari'a ila ahkam al-shari'a, vol. 2, pp. 499, 503-504; al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, al-Kifaya fi 'ilm al-riwaya, p. 32; al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, Ma'arij al-usul, p. 140; al-Muzaffar, al-Mantiq, p. 286
  13. Al-Sayyid al-Murtada, al-Dhari'a ila ahkam al-shari'a, vol. 2, p. 498
  14. Al-Tusi, Asas al-iqtibas, p. 345; al-Muzaffar, al-Mantiq, p. 286; Khwansari, Mantiq-i suri, vol. 2, p. 204
  15. See: al-Muzaffar, usul al-fiqh, vol. 2 p. 62
  16. Al-Sayyid al-Murtada, al-Dhari'a ila ahkam al-shari'a, vol. 2, p. 477; al-Qummi, Qawanin al-usul, vol. 1, p. 409, 420
  17. See: al-Hashimi, Buhuth fi 'ilm al-usul, vol. 4, p. 327; Muntaziri, Nihayat al-usul, p. 486
  18. Al-Sadr, Nihayat al-diraya, p. 97-108; Al-Fadli, Usul al-hadith, p. 71-86; Subhani, Usul al-hadith, p. 21-34
  19. Al-Tusi, 'Uddat al-usul, vol. 1, p. 243
  20. See: al-Ghazali, al-Mustasfa min 'ilm al-usul, vol. 1, p. 132; al-Amidi, al-Ahkam fi usul al-ahkam, vol. 1, p. 26
  21. Al-Hashimi, Buhuth fi 'ilm al-usul, vol. 4, p. 329-331; See: Surush, "Mabani-i mantiqi-yi istiqra", p. 12-43
  22. Al-Tusi, Asas al-iqtibas, p. 345-346; Shahabi, Rahbar-i khirad, pp. 255, 257-258, 265
  23. Al-Sayyid al-Murtada, al-Dhari'a ila ahkam al-shari'a, vol. 2, p. 481; al-Amidi, al-Ahkam fi usul al-ahkam, vol. 1, p. 30-35; al-Qummi, Qawanin al-usul, vol. 2, p. 422-424
  24. Al-Sayyid al-Murtada, al-Dhari'a ila ahkam al-shari'a, vol. 2, p. 481
  25. Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi, al-Luma' fi usul al-fiqh, p. 208; Al-Tusi, ''Uddat al-usul, vol. 1, p. 239; al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, Ma'arij al-usul, p. 138
  26. 'Itr, Manhaj al-naqd fi 'ulum al-hadith, p. 406
  27. See: Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi, al-Luma' fi usul al-fiqh, p. 208; al-Shahid al-Thani, al-Ri'aya fi 'ilm al-diraya, p. 66; al-Qummi, Qawanin al-usul, vol. 1, p. 426
  28. Al-Amidi, al-Ahkam fi usul al-ahkam, vol. 1, p. 43; Ibn al-Shahid al-Thani, Ma'alim al-din, p. 186; al-Qummi, Qawanin al-usul, vol. 1, p. 426-429; Muntaziri, Nihayat al-usul, p. 487; Subhani, Usul al-hadith, p. 31-34
  29. See: al-Qasimi, Qawa'id al-tahdith, p. 151; 'Itr, Manhaj al-naqd fi 'ulum al-hadith, p. 405
  30. Khurasani, Hashiyat fara'id al-usul, p. 70
  31. Khurasani, Kifayat al-usul, p. 295, 302
  32. Murawwij, Muntaha al-diraya, vol. 4, p. 426
  33. Al-Hashimi, Buhuth fi 'ilm al-usul, vol. 4, p. 335-338
  34. Al-Qummi, Qawanin al-usul, vol. 1, p. 426-429
  35. Al-Ha'iri al-Isfahani, al-Fusul al-gharawiyya fi usul al-fiqhiyya, p. 268
  36. Al-Sayyid al-Murtada, al-Dhari'a ila ahkam al-shari'a, vol. 2, p. 503; Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi, al-Luma' fi usul al-fiqh, p. 209; al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, Ma'arij al-usul, p. 139
  37. Al-Hashimi, Buhuth fi 'ilm al-usul, vol. 4, p. 309; Muntaziri, Nihayat al-usul, p. 540
  38. Al-Sayyid al-Murtada, al-Dhari'a ila ahkam al-shari'a, vol. 2, p. 494; al-Amidi, al-Ahkam fi usul al-ahkam, vol. 1, p. 37; al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, Ma'arij al-usul, p. 139
  39. Al-Qummi, Qawanin al-usul, vol. 2, p. 424; al-Fadli, Usul al-hadith, p. 76-77
  40. Al-Suyuti, Tadirb al-rawi, vol. 2, p. 176-177
  41. Al-Sayyid al-Murtada, al-Dhari'a ila ahkam al-shari'a, vol. 2, p. 494-495; Al-Tusi, ''Uddat al-usul, vol. 1, p. 257-258; Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi, al-Luma' fi usul al-fiqh, p. 209
  42. Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi, al-Luma' fi usul al-fiqh, p. 209; Ibn al-Salah, 'Ulum al-hadith, p. 267; al-Shahid al-Thani, al-Ri'aya fi 'ilm al-diraya, p. 62; Ibn al-Shahid al-Thani, Ma'alim al-din, p. 186
  43. Al-Amidi, al-Ahkam fi usul al-ahkam, vol. 1, p. 39-42; al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, Ma'arij al-usul, p. 139-140; al-Qummi, Qawanin al-usul, vol. 1, p. 426; al-Ha'iri al-Isfahani, al-Fusul al-gharawiyya fi usul al-fiqhiyya, p. 268
  44. Al-Hashimi, Buhuth fi 'ilm al-usul, vol. 4, p. 333
  45. Al-Tusi, ''Uddat al-usul, vol. 1, p. 264; al-Amidi, al-Ahkam fi usul al-ahkam, vol. 1, p. 40; al-Qummi, Qawanin al-usul, vol. 2, p. 426
  46. Al-Qasimi, Qawa'id al-tahdith, p. 152
  47. Al-Mamaqani, Miqyas al-hidaya, vol. 1, p. 109
  48. Al-Ghazali, al-Mustasfa min 'ilm al-usul, vol. 1, p. 140
  49. Al-Amidi, al-Ahkam fi usul al-ahkam, vol. 1, p. 41
  50. e.g. Al-Tusi, ''Uddat al-usul, vol. 1, p. 264
  51. e.g. al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, Ma'arij al-usul, p. 140
  52. Al-Qummi, Qawanin al-usul, vol. 1, p. 436
  53. Al-Amidi, al-Ahkam fi usul al-ahkam, vol. 1, p. 37; al-Shahid al-Thani, al-Ri'aya fi 'ilm al-diraya, p. 64; Ibn al-Shahid al-Thani, Ma'alim al-din, p. 186; al-Qummi, Qawanin al-usul, vol. 1, p. 425
  54. Al-Sayyid al-Murtada, al-Dhari'a ila ahkam al-shari'a, vol. 2, p. 491-492; Al-Tusi, ''Uddat al-usul, vol. 1, p. 261-264; al-Shahid al-Thani, al-Ri'aya fi 'ilm al-diraya, p. 64; al-Qummi, Qawanin al-usul, vol. 1, p. 425-426
  55. Al-Hashimi, Buhuth fi 'ilm al-usul, vol. 4, p. 333-334
  56. Ibn al-Salah, 'Ulum al-hadith, p. 268-269; Ibn Jama'a, al-Manhal al-rawi, p. 31; al-Sadr, Nihayat al-diraya, p. 99-101; 'Itr, Manhaj al-naqd fi 'ulum l-hadith, p. 406-407
  57. Al-Suyuti, Tadirb al-rawi, vol. 2, p. 176-177; al-Sadr, Nihayat al-diraya, p. 99-101; al-Salih, 'Ulum al-hadith, p. 149-150
  58. Al-Sadr, Nihayat al-diraya, p. 101; al-Salih, 'Ulum al-hadith, p. 149-150
  59. see: 'Itr, Manhaj al-naqd fi 'ulum l-hadith, p. 407-408
  60. Al-Sadr, Nihayat al-diraya, p. 98
  61. Al-Suyuti, Tadirb al-rawi, vol. 2, p. 179
  62. Al-Suyuti, Tadirb al-rawi, vol. 2, p. 176; al-Sadr, Nihayat al-diraya, p. 101; al-Qasimi, Qawa'id al-tahdith, p. 151; al-Salih, 'Ulum al-hadith, p. 150-151

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