I’tibār, mutābi’āt and shawāhid

When a ḥadīth is narrated by a rāwī, where there is some doubt in the heart of the rāwī regarding the ḥadīth narrated that it is an exclusive narration,[1] then if this ḥadīth is narrated by someone else, it will be termed a mutāba’ah. If this ḥadīth is narrated from his shaykh, then it is a mutāba’ah tāmmah.[2]

If this ḥadīth is narrated by his teacher’s teacher, or from someone above this, this will also be termed a mutāba’ah. However, it will be given less weight than the first type[3] due to it being further away in the chain. Thus this is termed a mutāba’ah qāṣirah.[4] It is also permitted to call this mutāba’ah qāṣirah a shāhid as well. 

If this ḥadīth is not narrated exactly as it has been related from the different types mentioned, however the ḥadīth is narrated with a different meaning then this will be termed a shāhid and not a mutāba’ah. 

Note that a mutāba’ah tāmmah is only termed with the word mutāba’ah, likewise a shāhid is only termed as such. However, mutāba’ah qāṣirah, is sometimes referred to as a mutāba’ah and other times termed a shāhid.[5]

The definition adopted by Ibn Ḥājar and Ibn Kathīr, and followed by many of the muta’akhirīn,[6] is that a mutāba’ah is that ḥadīth which is narrated by one ṣaḥābah but through a different path. As for shāhid, it is that ḥadīth which is narrated with the same meaning but by a different ṣaḥābah.

The research process of finding a mutāba’ah or shawāhid is known as i’tibār.[7]

[1] A gharīb ḥadīth

[2] Complete mutāba’ah. This definition is adopted by Ibn Ṣalāh, ‘Irāqī and Nawāwi. 

[3] Mutāba’ah tāmmah

[4] Deficient mutāba’ah.

[5] This is a summary of what is understood by al-Baqā’ī, al-Sakhāwī and al-Zayn Zakariyya al-Anṣārī from the words of Ibn Ṣalāh as mentioned in his Muqaddimah. However Imām Nawāwi is of the opinion that mutāba’ah is the same, therefore both tāmmah and qāṣirah will be termed shāhid, and this is also a possibility. However what is mentioned is closer to the opinion of Ibn Ṣalāh according to ‘Abd al-Aẓīm al-Balyāwī. 

[6] This is also the definition adopted by contemporary scholars such as Albānī and al-Arna’ūṭ. 

[7] It is not always necessary to search for a mutāba’ah or shāhid narration, if we know that the narrator is strong. It is only necessary when there is a doubt in the mind of the narrator, and this is what is understood from Ibn Ḥibbān, Ibn Ṣalāh, Nawāwi, al-‘Irāqī, Sakhāwī, Suyūtī  and others. It was said to Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, who has corroborated with A’ffān in this narration? So he replied, Do A’ffān’s narrations require corroborating reports? 

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