Answered by Shaykh Musa Furber
The hadith is mutawattir among Muslims today.
wa `alayka wa `alayna al-salam
For this we need only turn to al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani in his _Nuzhat al-Nazr Bi Sharh Nukhbat al-Fikr_, with additional notes from Mula `Ali al-Qari's commentary, and a few notes from yours truly (set off in parentheses with tn: ). The translation is a bit rusty, but bismillah:
DIVIDING KHABR INTO MUTAWATI AND AHAD
(tn: the later muhaddithun and the majority usuliyun divide hadiths with respect to the number of paths through which they came into two major categories: mutawatir and ahad. They then divide ahad into three additional categories: "Mashhur", "`Aziz", and "Gharib". Ibn Manda and the Hanafis used a difference division: "Mutawatir", "Mashhur", and "Ahad", with "Ahad" including "`Aziz" and "Gharib". This is essential to know since some people accuse the Hanafis of throwing away a good portion of the Sunna, while this is not entirely the case; indeed: the ones who throw away the Sunna are the ones who reject everything their sheikh has not stamped with his approval.)
Concerning how it reached us, it either has paths--meaning many asanid (the plural of isnad, meaning the men in the hadith since they prop the khabr onto what the sanad [chain of transmission] ends in, and authenticity and others revolve around them. So isnad [ascribing a chain] means the sanad [chain] which is propped upon. Because of this Ibn al-Mubarak said: isnad is part of the religion. If not for isnad whoever wanted would have said whatever they wanted, and Ibn Sirin said: Verily this matter is religion, so look from whom you are taking your religion, and Abu Nasr Ibn Salam said: There is nothing heavier on the people of disbelief and more hateful to them than hadith being heard, related, and given a sanad.This is how he mentioned it in al-Khalasa, and it is problematic since the Quran should be more hateful to them, or equal to hadith in hatred. I respond to this in that he judged this based on hadith being an explanation of the Quran and a final arbiter over it)--because turuqis the plural of tariq, and fa`il when numerous is pluralized as fu`ul with two dhammas and in small amount af`ila.
What is intended by paths is the asanid. An isnad is a literal quotation of the path of the matn [subject matter].
MUTAWATIR (Continuous mass testimony)
Being numerous is one of the (five, or four) conditions for the Mutawatir [continuous mass testimony], when it is mentioned without being confined by a specific number (al-Sakhawi added: and without being qualified by being upright or Islam. The Sheikh omitted it here since the states of the men of the Mutawatir are not asked about) rather it is normally impossible for them to simultaneously agree on lying, and likewise for it to occur from them unintentionally. (Not being confined to a specific number means that what is considered regarding the informers being numerous is that they reach a limit where the mind rejects them simultaneously agree to lie, not that it does not fall under a specific number.) There is no meaning in specifying the number (al-Asili said: indeed, the parameter is obtaining knowledge, so whenever this group informs and it achieves knowledge, then we know that their khabr is Mutawatir, and otherwise it is not), according to the sound position.
Some of them specified that it is four, five, seven, ten, twelve, forty, seventy, or something else. Everyone held firm to evidence (with a verse or a hadith) that came with that number and was beneficial for certain knowledge (`ilm), and it is not necessary for it to be forced on the others (...the summary is that that number will contribute to knowledge in every situation, and likewise it is not obligatory that less than it not contribute to knowledge in another situation) since it possible that is it specific to it.
Thus, whenever a khabr is related like this, in addition to the matter of fulfilling the mentioned number from its beginning until its end and what is intended by fulfilling is that the mentioned number not decrease in some places (on the number which typically is impossible, etc...), not that it not increase, since it increasing is sought after here min bab awla--and that the matter it is finally attributed to is something seen or heard, not something proven through pure intellectual reasoning, (like the existence of the Creator and eternal preexistence, the preexistence of His attributes; creation having a beginning and end, and its material both basic and complex,) like that one is half of two... so if these four conditions are gathered, and they are:
(1) such a large number such that it is typically
impossible for them to agree upon a lie or to simultaneously lie
(2) (being without number)
(3) that they related it from the same, from the beginning to the end (4) that the matter it is finally attributed to is something sensed
and in addition to this:
(5) that this khabr is accompanied by benefiting knowledge for the one who hears it then it is Mutawatir. Anything [like this] which does not benefit knowledge (...which is related without being confined in number) is merely Mashur [well-known]. Every Mutawatir is Mashhur, but not the opposite.
It can be said that if the four conditions are achieved then it necessitates achieving knowledge, and in the majority this is so, but it can be contrary to this in some because of a hindrance (&like the stupidity of the one who heard it--like a scholar who did not come across some of the conditions&like two contradictory khabr which both gather the conditions)
Through this, I have made clear the definition of Mutawatir. [...]
Ibn al-Salah mentioned that examples of the Mutawatir according to the previous particulars are rarely found, except that it is claimed for the hadith Whomsoever ascribes a lie to me ((intentionally takes his spot in the Hellfire)) (since it was related by more than one hundred companions (Allah be well pleased with them), including the ten announced to have Paradise, and its narrators did not cease to increase the conditions are gathered in it). What he claims about it being rare is refused, and also what others (like Ibn Hibban and al-Hazimi) claimed about it being non-existent, since this is a result of their lack of familiarity with the many paths and states of the people and their attributes which necessitate that their agreeing to lie or simultaneously lying is normally far fetched.
Among the best of what establishes that Mutawatir does exist and is existent in numerous hadiths is the well-known recorded books which are in the hands of the people of knowledge in the East and West, and their being attributed to their authors is certain: when they all narrate a hadith and its paths are numerous, such that it is ordinarily impossible for them to simultaneously lie -- to the end of the conditions -- then it achieves certain knowledge of it being sound up to the person who said it. This occurs numerously in the well-known books.
>Salaam and Regards
Regards from one in need of his Lords forgiveness,
MMVIII © Qibla.
All rights reserved
No part of this article may be reproduced, displayed, modified, or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder. For permission, please submit a request at our Helpdesk.
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "Knowledge is only through study." While some knowledge can be gained from reading or casually listening to lectures, the best means to gain knowledge is through finding a qualified teacher and then setting up a systematic program of learning. Picking up a book or reading an article and trying to figure things out on our own is no substitute for learning from someone who has a direct link to our living tradition.
Through joining an online class at Qibla, you can benefit from convenient, online courses that will give you access to reliable scholars and our popular curriculum learning tracks. Knowledge gained in these courses will both build your iman and assist you in putting into practice what you learn. Don't give yourself less than you deserve, register today.