Mutawatir Hadith

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Mutawātir hadith (Arabic: الحديث المتواتر) is a hadith which is reported numerously by different narrators and through various chains of transmission in a way that substantiates its authenticity. Mutawatir hadiths are considered opposite Khabar al-Wahid, i.e. non-Mutawatir hadiths are Wahid accounts.

There are two kinds of Tawatur: Tawatur of the text and Tawatur of the content.

Lexical and Technical Meaning

The root of this term is derived from (و-ت-ر) which means constant and continuous.

Hadiths narrated from the infallibles in hadith collections have divided the number of narrators of hadiths in two groups: Mutawatir and Wahid; also each of them has different types.

In hadith terminology, Mutawatir hadith is an account which is reported numerously by different narrators and through various chains of transmission in a way that substantiates its authenticity.

In other words, Mutawatir hadith is an account reported by a large number of narrators, so that the possibility of a common intentional agreement in rejecting an account is canceled. As a result, it can be concluded that the account was actually stated by the infallible.

Number of Mutawatir Hadiths

Although the number of Mutawatir hadiths are few, they are generally significant as they have crucial meanings, such as the al-Ghadir Sermon. This hadiths is narrated by one hundred of companions and also the Hadith al-Thaqalayn which is narrated by eighty narrators of companions. In addition, narrations on the necessity of saying daily prayers, the number of the units of prayers, conditions of zakat and characteristics of Imam Ali (a) have been narrated by a large number of companions and reliable narrators.

Conditions of Tawatur

The conditions of Tawatur have been indicated for both the hearers and narrators:

Conditions of Hearer

The hearer must have these two conditions:

  1. The hearer must not have pre-knowledge about the reported content so that acquiring hadith would happen.
  2. The hearer must not have skeptical attitude toward hadith, as disbelievers did not accept miracles of Prophet Muhammad (s) due to their skeptical attitude.

Conditions of Narrators

  1. The number of narrators in generations must be high so that their mutual agreement on rejecting a report would become impossible. In addition specifying a number for the narrators is not possible as accepting and rejecting a Mutawatir report is relative and certainty on absence of an agreement on rejecting a report is the minimum. However some have identified a specific minimum number of narrators in tawatur which was criticized by others.
  2. Narrators must narrate an account with certainty without a slight doubt.
  3. The narrators must have listened or seen the account themselves; making guesses or reasoning in achieving conclusion is not accepted.
  4. All these conditions must be followed in all generations of narrators. Then, tawatur is proved to the generation which has acquired all the conditions.

Other conditions such as justice, Islam, Shi'ite narrators or presence of Shi'a Imams in the chain of narrators are not acceptable in reliability of Mutawatir Hadith.

Types of Tawatur

Mutawatir Hadiths are divided into two groups:

Tawatur of the Text

Tawatur of the text is when narrators give the same account in the same wording, for example: the Hadith of Ghadir, the Hadith of Thaqalayn and "Innama al-'amal bi al-Niyyat" (actions are by intentions).

Tawatur of the Content

Tawatur of the content is when all the narrators of all generations give the same content of an account with different wordings or phrases; i.e. the meaning is the same. Reciting a sura after the sura of al-Hamd in prayers is narrated from different narrators in which all of them have mentioned reciting a sura with different phrases. Also other examples of Tawatur of content are narrated by numerous reports about bravery of Imam Ali (a); it was narrated about different incidents with numerous reports.

In comparison, tawatur of the content is much more than tawatur of the text. Most of details of Shari'a rules specially Furu' al-Din (ancillaries of religion) acquired tawatur of the content. The units of prayers, Conditions of sawm (fasting), hajj, and zakat etc. are examples of tawatur of the content.