Do we believe in the torment of the grave, the Cistern, the Balance and other matters of 'aqeedah? What makes us believe in that or deny it?

a) The scholars of the righteous predecessors - Salaf - believed that it is obligatory for us to believe in everything that Allah or His Messenger (ﷺ) have told us, and in what has reached us via a ṣaḥeeḥ isnad. They did not distinguish between mutawaatir reports and aaḥaad reports2 as long as they were ṣaḥeeḥ (sound), and they used both (types of report) to prove matters of 'aqeedah, without distinguishing between them.

Their basis for doing so was the general evidence which commands us to believe all that Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (ﷺ) tell us, and to obey them in all that they command, as in the aayaat (verses):

وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلَا مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَن يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ ...

❝It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision... (Qur'an 33: 36)

و قُلْ أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ ...

Say [O' Muhammad]: "Obey Allah and the Messenger [Muhammad]...") (Qur'an 3: 32)

b) A group that lacked the knowledge of differentiating between sound and weak aḥaadeeth argued using mawḍoo' (fabricated) and da'eef (weak) aḥaadeeth as evidences.3 For example, the hadith:

"I reached my Lord on the night on which I was taken up to the heavens, and I saw my Lord, and between Him and me there was a visible barrier. I saw everything of Him, I saw even a crown adorned with pearls." - This is a mawḍoo' hadith.4

The hadith,

"Verily Allah sits on an arch between Paradise and Hell."5 This is da'eef.

It is essential to examine aḥaadeeth before using them as evidence, whether they have to do with aqeedah or aḥkaam (rulings), otherwise the result will be the attribution to the religion of Allah of things that are not a part of it, and we will affirm matters of belief that are false.

Those who try to prove beliefs by using fabricated and weak aḥaadeeth are like those who try to use myths, dreams and legends as evidence.

c) A third group refused to use the transmitted reports, i.e., the texts of the Qur'an and aḥaadeeth, as evidence in proving matters of 'aqeedah. They claimed that "the transmitted evidence did not reach the level of certainty that would inspire in us the required level of faith, so 'aqeedah cannot be confirmed thereby."6 They explained why it does not reach the level of certainty by saying that "in the case of the transmitted evidence there is too much scope for too many things that would prevent this level of certainty."7

This view is clearly nonsense, and no great effort is required to refute it because it contradicts the consensus (ijmaa) of the ummah. If there is too much room for doubt with regard to the texts, then how about what people say? How come issues of faith cannot be proven by what Allah and His Messenge said? Glory be to You (O' Allah)! This is a great lie (cf. Qur'an 24: 16).

d) A fourth group rejected the idea of using ṣaḥeeḥ aaḥaad aḥaadeeth as evidence in matters of 'aqeedah. They refer only to the Qur'an and the mutawaatir aḥaadeeth, and they do not prove 'aqeedah from the Qur'an and mutawaatir aḥaadeeth except when the text had a definitive meaning.8 If a text does not have a definitive meaning, then in their view it is not permissible to use it as evidence. This was the view of the scholars of 'ilm al-kalaam in the past. Some scholars of usool followed them. This idea is widespread in our own time, to the extent that the truth has almost been forgotten and people regard as strange those who follow it. The scholars of the past and the present have always explained how corrupt and dangerous this view is, and refuted the specious arguments of its proponents.

Explanation of Their Specious Arguments 9

We have noted that their argument is based on the claim that the reports used as evidence regarding matters of 'aqeedah should reach the level of certainty, and that if the meanings of the aaḥaad aḥaadeeth, the texts of the Qur'an and the mutawaatir aḥaadeeth are not definitive, then they do not reach that level of certainty; rather they are conjecture, and conjecture cannot be used as evidence with regard to these matters because Allah (SWT) says:

... إن يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنَّ وَمَا تَهْوَى الْأَنفُسُ .

...They follow but a guess and that which they themselves desire,...(Qur'an 53: 23)


.... إن يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنِّ وَإِنَّ الظَّنَّ لَا يُغْنِي مِنَ الْحَقِّ شَيْئًا 

...They follow but a guess, and verily, guess is no substitute for the truth. (Qur'an 53: 28)

And there are other aayaat (verses) in which Allah (SWT), condemns the mushrikeen (idolaters) for following conjecture.

Their use of these and similar aayaat as evidence may be rejected, because the kind of conjecture or guess referred to in the aayaat is not the conjecture that they are referring to. The texts that they refuse to accept as evidence concerning matters of 'aqeedah reached a level of high probability, whereas the conjecture which Allah condemns in the aayah: ...They follow but a guess,... (Qur'an 53: 23) is the kind of doubt which is mere speculation and conjecture, but in An-Nihaayah, Al-Lisaan and other Arabic dictionaries it is stated that zann (translated as "guess" in the aayah quoted above) refers to "when you have doubts about something but you accept it and judge according to it."

This is the zann or guess which Allah condemned on the part of the mushrikeen. What supports this view is the fact that Allah (SWT), said concerning them:

... إن يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنَّ وَإِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا يَخْرُصُونَ 

...They follow nothing but conjectures, and they do nothing but lie. (Qur'an 6: 116)

So zann refers to conjecture which is mere speculation and guessing. If the zann for which the mushrikeen were condemned was high probability, then it would not be permitted to use the Qur'an and aḥaadeeth as evidence for rulings either, because Allah condemned the mushrikeen (idolaters) for following any kind of zann whatsoever. He did not condemn only zann in the case of beliefs and ignore the matter of rulings; in some aayaat (verses) He explains that the zann for which the mushrikeen are to be condemned includes their ideas about rulings too. Here is what Allah (SWT) says, on this matter:

...و سَيَقُولُ الَّذِينَ أَشْتَرَكُوا لَوْ شَاءَ اللهُ مَا أَشْرَكْنَا وَلَا ءَابَاؤُنَا

Those who took partners [in worship] with Allah will say: 'If Allah had willed, we would not have taken partners [in worship] with Him, nor would our fathers...'(Qur'an 6: 148)

- this refers to belief or 'aqeedah;

... وَلَا حَرَّمْنَا مِن شَيْءٍ ...

...And we would not have forbidden anything [against His Will]... (Qur'an 6: 148)

this refers to rulings or hukm.

هو ... كَذَلِكَ كَذَبَ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ حَتَّى ذَاقُوا بَأْسَنَا قُلْ هَلْ عِندَكُم مِّنْ عِلْمٍ فَتُخْرِجُوهُ لَنَا إِن تَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنَّ وَإِنْ أَنتُمْ إِلَّا تَخْرُصُونَ الله

...Likewise belied those who were before them, [they argued falsely with Allah's Messengers], till they tasted Our Wrath. Say: 'Have you any knowledge [proof] that you can produce before us? Verily, you follow nothing but guess and you do nothing but lie." (Qur'an 6: 148)

We do not accept what they say about the aaḥaad aḥaadeeth not reaching the level of certainty. They do indeed reach that level. Şiddeeq Hasan Khan said: "The dispute is with regard to aaḥaad reports for which there is no corroborating evidence and whether they constitute conjecture or certainty. In the case of aaḥaad reports for which there is corroborating evidence, there is no such dispute. 

There is no dispute concerning aaḥaad reports where there is consensus (ijmaa) that they should be acted upon, because this (ijmaa) takes them to the level of certainty as it brings them to a point where they are known to be true. The same applies to aaḥaad reports which are accepted by the ummah, and followed according to the apparent meaning or an interpretation of their meaning, as is the case with the aḥaadeeth in the Two Saḥeeḥs of Bukhari and Muslim."

Al-'Allaamah as-Safaareeni said in Lawaami' al-Anwaar al- Bahiyah:

"If an aahaad report is well-known and widely accepted, suggests certainty, as is narrated by 'Allaamah ibn Mufliḥ and others from Ibn Ishaaq al-Asfaraayini and Ibn Foorak. It is also said that this brings it up to the level of being definite (definitely ṣaḥeeḥ)." 

Then he mentioned the view that if an aaḥaad report is not well known and widely accepted, this brings it to the level of probability (not certainty), because there is the possibility of confusion and error. But it is narrated that Imam al-Muwaffaq (Ibn Qudaamah), Ibn Ḥamdaan and At-Toofi concluded that such reports should reach the level of certainty if there is corroborating evidence.

Al-'Allaamah 'Alaa' ad-Deen 'Ali ibn Sulaymaan al-Mirdaawi said in Sharḥ at-Taḥreer:

"This is a stronger, clear opinion and is correct." He explained that corroborating evidence means "that one feels at ease with the aaḥaad reports just as one feels at ease with the mutawaatir reports, or something similar to that, to the extent that one has no doubts at all."

He also stated that aaḥaad reports which are not well known and widely accepted may reach the level of certainty if it is narrated by one of the Imams whose scholarly pre-eminence and precise knowledge of aḥaadeeth is agreed upon.

He narrated from Al-Qaadi Abu Ya'laa, "This is the correct view (the view of the Hanbalis). Abu'l-Khaṭṭaab said, this is the apparent meaning of our companions' view."

As-Safaareeni mentioned that this was the view adopted by Ibn al- Zaa'ooni and Imam Taqiuddeen ibn Taymiya, then he said that this was the opinion of "the ușooliyeen among the companions of Abu Haneefah, Ash-Shaafa'i and Aḥmad may Allah have mercy on them all (who said that) if an aaḥaad report is accepted and followed by the ummah, then it reaches the level of certainty."

Then he stated that those among the followers of the Aimmah (Imams)10 who opposed this view were very few, and they were influenced by the scholars of 'ilm al-kalaam. He said that among those who said that aaḥaad reports reach the level of certainty were "Abu Ishaaq and Abu at-Tayyib. This has been mentioned by 'Abdul Wahhaab and his colleagues among the Maalikis, and by As-Sarkhasi and his colleagues among the Ḥanafis." He said: "This is the view of most of the fuqahaa', scholars of hadith, the salaf and most of the Ash'aris and others."

Ibn aş-Şalaaḥ said: "What is narrated by Bukhari and Muslim reaches the level of certainty, contrary to the opinion of those who deny that on the basis that it only reaches the level of probability. But they explain that the ummah has widely accepted these aḥaadeeth because they have to act upon a hadith even if it reaches the level of probability only. He said: 'but aḥaadeeth which only reach the level of probability may be wrong."

Ibn aş-Şalaaḥ said: "I used to favour this view and thought that it was valid, then it became clear to me that what we referred to first was the correct view, because it is thought to be correct by one who is infallible and whose thoughts cannot be wrong, for the ummah (Muslim community) in its consensus is infallible and is protected from error." Ibn as-Salaaḥ meant that the ummah had agreed unanimously that the aḥaadeeth of Bukhari and Muslim are authentic.

As-Safaareeni said: "When Ibn Katheer examined the view of Ibn aş- Salaaḥ that what is narrated in Aş-Şaheeḥayn11 is definitely correct, he said: 'I agree with what Ibn aş-Şalaaḥ stated and pointed out.""

Then he mentioned that Ibn Katheer saw some written statements of his shaykh, Ibn Taymiyah, the conclusion of which was that he stated that the ahaadeeth which were well known and widely accepted by the ummah and transmitted from many scholars were definitely sound. After mentioning some of their names, he (i.e., Ibn Taymiyah) said: "This is the view of all the scholars of hadith and most of the salaf."12

The correct view is that the ṣaḥeeḥ aaḥaad aḥaadeeth reach the level of certainty if they are supported by corroborating evidence, as we have narrated from a group of scholars. The aḥaadeeth which were transmitted in the books of Sunnah and classed as ṣaḥeeḥ (sound) by the scholars, with no doubts about their soundness and authenticity expressed by any of the scholars, reach the level of certainty by the consensus of the ummah that they are ṣaḥeeḥ. This includes those aḥaadeeth which were agreed upon by the two authors of the ṣaḥeeḥs (i.e., Bukhari and Muslim), or which were narrated in either of the ṣaḥeeḥayn, and about which no doubts were expressed by any scholars. The same applies to any other reports which are well known and widely accepted or have been narrated by one of the major celebrated scholars such as Maalik from Naafi' from Ibn 'Umar. 

In conclusion: the Sunni scholars accept the ṣaḥeeḥ aaḥaad aḥaadeeth concerning both 'aqeedah and aḥkaam, without differentiating between the two. This is indicated by the fact that the aaimmah (Imams) of the Ahl as-Sunnah, such as Maalik, Aḥmad, Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Tirmdhi, Nasaa'i, Ad-Daarimi and others, narrated in their compilations aḥaadeeth which speak of 'aqeedah, and that there are few mutawaatir reports among them. If they did not believe that such reports could be used as evidence, they would not have bothered to narrate them, examine them and record them. Whoever narrates anything other than that from them is lying about them, and it is not the issue whether the aaḥaad reports reached the level of high probability or certainty.

Those who say that these reports do not reach the level of certainty say that they can be accepted with regard to 'aqeedah if they are proven sound. Even if they only reach the level of probability (in the view of some scholars), this does not mean that they are to be rejected if they talk about 'aqeedah.

Ibn Abdul Barr (may Allah have mercy on him), although he suggested that the aaḥaad reports do not reach the level of certainty, still believed that they should be accepted concerning matters of 'aqeedah, just as they should be accepted concerning rulings (aḥkaam). He attributed this view to Ahl as-Sunnah.13

Texts Which Indicate that Aaḥaad Reports are Sound Enough to be Used as Evidence

Many texts indicate that we should accept the aaḥaad aḥaadeeth as evidence in proving matters of 'aqeedah. Examples include the following:

a) The aayah (verse):

ل الله وَمَا كَانَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لِيَنفِرُوا كَافَّةً فَلَوْلَا نَفَرَ مِن كُلِّ فِرْقَةٍ منْهُمْ طَائِفَةٌ لِيَتَفَقَهُوا فِي الدِّينِ وَلِيُنذِرُوا قَوْمَهُمْ إِذَا رَجَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَحْذَرُونَ 

And it is not [proper] for the believers to go out to fight [Jihad] all together. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they [who are left behind] may get instructions in [Islamic] religion, and that they may warn their people when they return to them, so that they may beware [of evil].) (Qur'an 9: 122)

This aayah (verse) urges the tribes, clans and people of various regions who are believers to send forth a party to get instruction in their religion, then they should go back to their people and warn them. The Arabic word taa'ifah (translated here as "a party") may apply to one or more persons. Getting instruction in religion includes both 'aqeedah (belief) and aḥkaam (rulings); indeed, understanding of 'aqeedah is more important than understanding the aḥkaam. Hence Imam Abu Haneefah (may Allah have mercy on him) wrote a small book about 'aqeedah entitled: Al-Fiqh al-Akbar (The Great Fiqh). This aayah (verse) clearly indicates that we should accept the aaḥaad reports as evidence with regard to matters of 'aqeedah, otherwise it would not be permissible for the taa 'ifah (a party of one or more persons) to warn the people.

b) The aayah (verse):

يَتأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا إِن جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَرٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا..

O' you who believe! If a Faasiq [liar - evil person] comes to you with any news, verify it...(Qur'an 49: 6)

This proves that if one who is not a faasiq (liar) and is reliable and honest brings some information, then evidence has been established and it does not have to be checked; on the contrary, it is to be accepted straight away.

c) The Sunnah explains the aayah:

... فَلَوْلَا نَفَرَ مِن كُلِّ فِرْقَةٍ مِّنْهُمْ طَائِفَةٌ .

...Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth...(Qur'an 9: 122).

Bukhari narrated in his ṣaḥeeḥ that Maalik ibn al-Huwayrith said:

"We came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and we were young men, close in age. We stayed with him for twenty days, and the Messenger of Allah was merciful and kind. When he sensed that we were missing our families, he asked us who we had left behind, and we told him. He said, 'Go back to your families and stay with them, and teach them and instruct them, and pray as you have seen me praying."14

He commanded each of these young men to teach their respective family members, and teaching includes 'aqeedah; indeed, 'aqeedah is the first thing to be included in teaching. If aaḥaad reports cannot be used in establishing 'aqeedah, there would have been no sense in this instruction to these young men.

d) In Saḥeeḥ al-Bukhari and Şaḥeeḥ Muslim it is also reported that the people of Yemen came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and said:

"Send with us a man who can teach us the Sunnah and Islam." He (the Prophet) took the hand of Abu 'Ubaydah and said, "This is the trustee of this ummah."15

If evidence could not be established by the report of one man, the Messenger() would not have sent Abu 'Ubaydah to them on his own. The same could be said of other occasions when he () sent others of his şahaabah (Companions) to various lands, such as when he sent 'Ali ibn Abi Taalib, Mu'aadh ibn Jabal and Abu Moosa al- Ash'ari (may Allah be pleased with them all). Their aḥaadeeth are recorded in ṣaḥeeḥayn and elsewhere.

Undoubtedly what these men taught included 'aqeedah. If they could not have established proof of 'aqeedah and left the people with no excuse, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) would not have sent them individually.

Imam ash-Shaafa'i (may Allah have mercy on him) said in his book Ar-Risaalah: "When he sent someone, then evidence was established for or against the people to whom he was sent by their knowing that what he told them was from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)."16

Refuting the Argument of those Who say that Aaḥaad Aḥaadeeth cannot be Used as Proof with Regard to 'Aqeedah

The scholars refuted those who do not accept aaḥaad aḥaadeeth as proof concerning matters of 'aqeedah on several points, such as: 

a) The view that aaḥaad aḥaadeeth cannot be used to prove matters of 'aqeedah is an innovated and invented opinion which has no basis in shari'ah. Every such opinion is to be rejected.

b) This opinion of theirs (that aaḥaad aḥaadeeth cannot be used as evidence) is in itself 'aqeedah (a belief). According to their own methodology, this belief requires definitive proof that it is forbidden to use the aaḥaad aḥaadeeth as evidence concerning 'aqeedah, and there is no such evidence.

c) If there was any definitive proof that aaḥaad aḥaadeeth cannot be used to prove matters of 'aqeedah, the Companions (ṣaḥaabah) would have known this and would have stated it clearly, as would those of the righteous predecessors (salaf) who came after them. 

d) This view is contrary to the methodology followed by the şaḥaabah, one of whom would accept what another told him from the Messenger (ﷺ) and would be certain about it. They would not reject what their brother told them on the grounds that the hadith that he was transmitting was an aaḥaad hadith.

e) The evidence which indicates that it is obligatory to accept the evidence of the Qur'an and Sunnah refers to both 'aqeedah and ahkaam. There is nothing to support the idea of this evidence being acceptable only in the case of aḥkaam and not 'aqeedah if the reports are aaḥaad.

f) Allah (SWT), commanded His Messenger to convey the Message clearly. It is known that a clear message is the one in which proof is established so that what is being conveyed may be made known. If an aahaad report was not sufficient for the establishment of knowledge, then the message has not been conveyed. Proof can only be established when it reaches the level of certainty.

g) The conclusion of this opinion is that we should not follow the aaḥaad reports with regard to 'aqeedah at all, after the time of the ṣaḥaabah (Companions) who heard them directly from the Prophet himself because until they were compiled in written form, the aḥaadeeth were only conveyed as aaḥaad reports, and those people whom the aḥaadeeth reached as mutawaatir reports were few, and even fewer than a few. Even when those who did hear mutawaatir reports conveyed them to others, a given mutawaatir report would still not reach the level of certainty, because when this one person narrated it, it was an aaḥaad report.

h) This view implies that we should not follow the aaḥaad aḥaadeeth which speak of 'aqeedah or actions, because if we reject them in the case of 'aqeedah, how can we accept them in the case of aḥkaam?

i) The ușooliyeen did not agree on this view as Shaykh Shaltoot claims. Imam Maalik, Ash-Shaafa'i, the companions of Abu Haneefah, and Dawood ibn 'Ali and his companions such as Ibn Ḥazm, stated that aaḥaad reports reach the level of certainty. This was also stated by Al-Husayn ibn 'Ali al-Karaabeesi, Al-Ḥaarith ibn Asad al-Muḥaasibi and Al-Qaadi Abu Ya'la among the Ḥanbalis.

1. See our book Aşl al-I'tiqaad, in which this is discussed in detail.
2. A mutawaatir hadith is one which is narrated by such a large number from the beginning of the isnad to the end that it would be impossible for them all to agree upon a lie. Aaḥaad reports are any that do not reach the degree of mutawaatir.
3. Mawdoo' (fabricated) means false, i.e. a hadith in which the isnad contains liars. da'eef (weak) means a hadith which does not fulfil the conditions of being ṣaḥeeḥ (sound).
4. Ash-Shawkaani, Al-Fawaa'id al-Majmoo'ah fi'l-Aḥaadeeth al-Mawdoo 'ah, 441.
5. Ibid, 448.
6. Shaltoot: Al-Islam 'Aqeedah wa Sharee'ah, Pp. 53.
7. Shaltoot: Al-Islam 'Aqeedah wa Sharee'ah, p. 53.
8. By definitive evidence they mean, the Qur'an and mutawaatir aḥaadeeth. By definitive evidence, they meant that the text should not have a second possible meaning, or be open to interpretation. Thus they rejected the texts which state that the believers will see their Lord on the Day of Resurrection. With regard to the aḥaadeeth, even if they were definitive in meaning, they still claimed that they were aaḥaad aḥaadeeth. With regard to the texts of the Qur'an, they are not definitive in meaning and they interpreted them differently. (See Shaykh Shaltoot's denial that people will see their Rabb, in his book Al-Islam 'Aqeedah wa Sharee'ah, Pp. 57)
9. See Al-Hadeeth Hujjah bi Nafsihi and Wujoob al-Akhdh bi Aḥaadeeth al- Aaḥaad fi'l-'Aqaa'id wa'l-Ahkaam, by Shaykh Naașiruddeen al-Albaani, and our book Aşl al-I'tiqaad.
10. The founders of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence Abu Haneefa, Maalik, Shafi'i, and Aḥmad ibn Hanbal (may Allah be merciful to them all). 
11. The two collections of sound aḥaadeeth - Bukhari and Muslim.
12. Lawaami' al-Anwaar al-Bahiyah, Pp. 17.
13. Ibn 'Abdul Barr, At-Tamheed, 1/7.
14. Bukhari, 2/110, hadith no. 627; Muslim, 1/465, hadith no. 674. This version is narrated by Bukhari.
15. Muslim, 4/1888, hadith no. 2419. The hadith in Bukhari states that he sent him to the people of Najraan. Bukhari, 7/93, hadith no. 3745; 13/232, hadith no. 7254.
16. Ash-Shaafa'i: Ar-Risaalah, Pp. 412.

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