A Reply to Those Who Deny the Punishment of the Grave

  Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn

The presentation of a series of proofs from the Quʾān, Sunnah, and the Salaf, stacked against those who reject al-khabar al-āhād.



  The Muʿtazilah and whoever followed them from later generations, for example Shaykh Muḥammad Abduh, Maḥmūd Shaltūt, Aḥmad Shalbī, ʿAbd al-Karīm ʿUthmān, amongst others. 

Information related to the Religion (al-khabar), is categorized in accordance to the manner in which it has reached us. There are two categories:

[1]: al-Mutawaatir (recurrent):that which has been narrated from one group to another. Convention dictates: it is impossible that they would act in collusion upon a lie, from he beginning of the chain of narration to the end.

[2]: al-Āhād (singular): all narrations excluding those classified as recurrent.  Some individuals from the people of kalām, for instance the:

The Muʾtazilah and whoever followed them from later generations, for example, Shaykh Muḥammad Abduh, Maḥmūd Shaltūt, Aḥmad Shalbī, ʿAbd al-Karīm ’Uthmān, amongst others. In addition to the Uṣūliyyīn:  Ascribed to the opinion that the khabar al-wāḥid cannot be used as a means of founding matters of ʿaqīdah, rather only definite evidence can be used to establish matters of ʿaqīdah, comprising of either a verse or a prophetic tradition. [1] The assertion above concerning the impermissibility of establishing matters of ʿaqīdah upon singular traditions is inadmissible. For indeed, if the authenticity of a ḥadīth is established, it being transmitted by a trustworthy chain of narrators, and has reached us in a correct manner, then īmān (faith) upon it is indeed obligatory, in addition to the affirmation of it. Irrespective of whether it is khabar al-āhād or mutawātir. It imports upon the individual an obligation to maintain the indisputable knowledge concerning it.  This is the creed of the scholars of our pious predecessors, established upon the Command of Allāh the Most High to the believers, by his statement:

‘‘It is not for a Believer, man or woman, when Allāh and his Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision.’’ [Sūrah al-Aḥzāb 33:36] 

His statement, the Most High:

‘‘Obey Allāh and His Messenger.’’ [Sūrah Āl ʿImrān 3:32]

Ibn Ḥajar (d.852H) - raḥimahullāh- said:

‘‘The implementation of the singular tradition, by the companions and the Tābi’īn without repudiation is ubiquitously circulated and known, for it dictates that they unanimously accepted it.’’ [2]

Ibn Abīl-’Izz al-Hanafī (d.729H) - raḥimahullāh- mentioned:

‘‘The Ummah has received the khabar al-wāḥid with acceptance, by implementation of it, and attestation to it. It does denote indisputable knowledge amongst the vast majority of the Ummah. It is one category of al-mutawātir. There did not exist any variance of opinion amongst the Salaf concerning this matter.’’ [3]

A man questioned Imām al-Shāfiʿī concerning a matter. He responded, ‘‘The Messenger of Allāh decreed such and such.’’ The questioner said to al-Shāfiʿī, ‘What do you say?’ He said, ‘Praise be to Allāh, do you see me attending the church? Do you see the belt of the Christians around my waist?  I say to you: The Messenger of Allāh decreed such and such and you respond: what do you say?’’ [4]

al-Shāfiʿī (d.204H) - raḥimahullāh - also mentioned:

‘‘When I narrate an authentic tradition from the messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) and do not accept it, I would have testified to you that my intelligence has disappeared.’’ [5]

Hence, he did not differentiate between the khabar al-wāḥid and the khabar al-mutawātir. Furthermore, he did not distinguish between narrations concerning to ʿaqīdah and those pertaining to a matter of action. Indeed the determining factor was founded upon the authenticity of the tradition.

Imām Aḥmad (d.241H) - raḥimahullāh- stated:

‘‘We affirm and accept every matter that has arrived from the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) by means of a sound chain of authorities. If we did not affirm or accept that which the Messenger came with, by means of repudiation and opposition to it, we would have opposed the command of Allāh.

Allāh the Most High stated:

‘‘Whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, whatever he prohibits you from, abstain from it.’’ [Sūrah al-Ḥashr 59:7]’’ [6]

Accordingly, Imām Aḥmad did not stipulate any conditions for acceptance save the authenticity of the tradition.

Ibn Taymīyyah (d.728H) - raḥimahullāh- stated:

‘‘If an action of Sunnah is established, all the Muslims are in agreement upon the obligation to adhere to it.’’ [7]

Ibn al-Qayyim mentioned in his refutation of those who reject the proof of the khabar al-wāḥid, ‘‘From amongst the proofs: The Companions’ conveyance of traditions amongst themselves. For they asserted authoritatively that which an individual narrated from the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam). No individual amongst them responded to the one who informed him of a tradition from the Messenger of Allāh with the statement: your information is founded upon the khabar al-wāḥid, this does not constitute knowledge until it is founded upon a mutawātir tradition.  If one of the Companions narrated a tradition to another from the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) pertaining to Sifaat (attributes), it would be received with acceptance. Furthermore, the recipient would believe in that attribute categorically and with absolute certainty. Similarly, they believed in the vision of the Lord, His Speech, His Call upon the Day of Judgment to His servants wit a voice that will be heard in the distance as it shall be heard nearby. His descent every night to the lower heaven, His Laughter, His Delight, His Act of Grasping the heavens and placing them upon a Finger from the Fingers of His Hand, in addition to the affirmation of His Foot.  Whosoever heard these aḥādīth from those who narrated them from the messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) or his companions, believed in the authenticity of their content by virtue of having heard them from the just and the truthful, and they entertained no doubt therein. It is perhaps conceivable to assume that they sought affirmation in some traditions pertaining to rules and regulations. However, despite that, no individual from amongst them sought the confirmation of the narrations pertaining to the Attributes at all. Rather they were amongst the foremost of the people in the acceptance and affirmation of them, authoritatively asserting their content, and establishing the Attributes upon them. They did so from what was communicated to them by means of these aḥādīth from the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam).  Whosoever has the closest acquaintance with the Sunnah and consideration towards it is aware of that matter.  For if the position was not manifestly clear concerning this matter, we would certainly have cited in excess of on hundred examples of clarification.

Hence, this practice of disaffirming knowledge founded upon the aḥādīth of the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) which they are dependent upon, was punctured by the consensus of the companions. This is a matter, which is known by necessity. In addition to the consensus of the Tābi’īn and the consensus of the Imāms of Islām.  However they are in agreement with the Muʾtazilah, the Jahmiyyah, the Rāfidah, and the Khawārij who violated this sanctity. Groups amongst the Uṣūliyyīn and the fuqahaa‘ (jurists) followed them. Otherwise, they are not aware of a single individual amongst the Salaf - from the Imāms of the Salaf – who followed that opinion. Rather the Imāms explicitly declared their opposition to their statement. From amongst those who ascribed to the opinion that the khabar al-wāḥid constitutes knowledge: Mālik, al-Shāfiʿī, the companions of Abū Ḥanīfah, Dāwūd Ibn ʿAlī and his companions, for example Muḥammad Ibn Hazm.’’ [8]

From amongst the reasons, which are propounded by those who reject the legal validity of the khabar al-wāḥid by reason of doubt, is the notion that the khabar al-wāḥid constitutes uncertainty and suspicion.  They intend by means of their allegation the ‘preponderant uncertainty’ to infer the probability of ʿalá wāḥid (the individual narrator) erring, or the presence of negligence, or forgetfulness.  However they allege: by a unanimous resolution, it is obligatory to implement those rules and regulations, which are founded upon the ‘preponderant uncertainty’. Never the less they assert that it is impermissible to employ them for the purpose of matters relating to ʿaqīdah. [9] They derive the evidence for this principle from the āyāt, which prohibit the following of uncertainty and suspicion (dthann). 

For example, His statement, the Most High:

‘‘While they have no knowledge therein. They follow nothing but dthann, and indeed dthann is no substitute for the truth.’’ [Sūrah al-Najm 53:28]

The response to this doubt is that their allegation founded upon this verse and those similar to it is rejected. For dthann here is not the ‘preponderant uncertainty’, which they mean. Rather it is doubt, falsehood, conjecture and guesswork. Verily it is stated in an-Nihāyah and al-Lisaan, and other books of language: dthann: A doubt propounded to you in a certain matter, hence you scrutinize it and deliver a verdict upon it.

Ibn Kathīr mentioned in his tafsīr (explanation) of the following verse:

‘‘But they have no knowledge concerning it.’’ [Sūrah al-Najm 53:28]

 Meaning that they the unbelievers do not have correct knowledge to authenticate that which they say. Rather it is lies, falsehood, fabrication and heinous unbelief:

‘‘They follow nothing but dthann, and indeed dthann is no substitute for the truth.’’ [Sūrah al-Najm 53:28]

Meaning, it has no weight at all, it can never establish it self upon the platform of truth. It is indeed established in the Ṣaḥīḥ that the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) stated, ‘‘Beware of dthann. For indeed dthann (suspicion) is the most false type of speech.’’[10]

Accordingly, doubt and falsehood is deemed dthann, in a matter which Allāh the Most High dispraised and censured the Polytheists for pursuing.  This assertion is corroborated by His statement, the Most High:

‘‘They follow nothing but dthann, they do nothing but utter falsehood.’’ [Sūrah-Anʿām 6:116]

Accordingly, if falsehood and conjecture is dthann (the preponderant uncertainty which they allege), it is indeed impermissible to implement them in matters of rules and regulations, for these matters are not to be founded upon doubt and conjecture. [11] In relation to that which was propounded, concerning the existence of negligence or forgetfulness by the narrator. This is rebutted with that which has been stipulated in the khabar al-wāḥid from the premise that each narrator is sound and trustworthy.  Hence, if the tradition is deemed authentic, there can be no sphere to imagine an error being committed by the narrator. In addition, by convention, a trustworthy and sound narrator is neither to be considered negligent nor an individual who uttered a lie. Accordingly, there is no scope in which to reject his information by reason of the possibility of rationale and intellect negating that which is established by convention. Evidence to support the acceptance of the khabar al-wāḥid, in view of the fact that the inherent fallacy in their assertion, it is impermissible to establish matters of ʿaqīdah upon the khabar al-wāḥid has been clarified. The various evidence which obligate the necessity of implementing them in these matters are numerous in number. They are present in both the Qurʾān and the Sunnah. From amongst them:

[1]: ‘‘It is not proper for the believers to go out and fight all together. Of every troop amongst them, only a party should go forth, so that those who are left behind may receive instruction in religious matters. There after they may warn their people when they return to them, so they may be ware of evil.’’ [Sūrah al-Tawbah 9:122]

This āyah exhorts the believers to study the Religion.  A group: which is dispatched may include one individual or more.  Imām al-Bukhārī (d.265H) - raḥimahullāh- said, ‘‘A single man may be deemed a group, in accordance with His statement:

‘‘If two groups from amongst the believers start to fight, then make peace between them both.’’ [Sūrah al-Ḥujurāt 49:9]’’ [12]

 Hence, if two individuals start to fight, they are to be included in the meaning of this āyah. Accordingly, if what is communicated by a single individual, in matters pertaining to the Religion, is to be accepted, this indicates that his information is a proof. In addition, studying the religion incorporates matters of rules and beliefs.  No, rather the study of beliefs is more important then the study of rules and regulations.

[2]: ‘‘O you who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with news, ascertain the truth.’’ [Sūrah al-Ḥujurāt 49:6]

This āyah is indicative of the principle that the acceptance of information from a trustworthy individual ought to be absolute and authoritative. It is not necessary to verify that information. For that individual is not deemed to be a fāsiq (wicked, mischievous individual). If the information conveyed did not constitute knowledge, the command to verify the truth would have been absolute until the information conveyed assumed the status of knowledge. [13]

[3]: ‘‘O you who Believe! Obey Allāh and obey the messenger, and those entrusted with authority amongst you. If you differ in any matter amongst yourselves, refer it to Allāh and His Messenger.’’ [Sūrah Sūrah al-Nisāʾ 4:59]

Ibn al-Qayyim - raḥimahullāh- said:

‘‘All the Muslims by unanimous resolution are in agreement that the act of referring to the messenger is an act of returning to him during his lifetime, and referral to the Sunnah after his death. Hence, if those traditions which are mutawātir or āhāddo not constitute knowledge and certainty, there can be no provision for referral back to Him in this manner.’’[14]

In relation to evidence from the Sunnah: they are plentiful in number. I shall restrict myself to quote a few from amongst them:

[1]: The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) used to send his messengers to various kings, one after another, similarly his governors were dispatched to different countries. The people sought instruction from them in all matters pertaining to regulations, both in action and in belief.  He sent Abū ’ʿUbaydah ʿĀmir Ibn al-Jarrāḥ (raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhu) to the people of Najraan. [15] He sent Muʿādh ibn Jabal (raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhu) to the people of Yemen. [16] He sent Dihyah al-Kalbee (raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhu) with the Book to ’Adtheem Baṣrah. [17] In addition to other Companions.

[2]: It has been narrated by al-Bukhārī, from ʿAbdullāh Ibn ʿUmar (raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhu), who said, ‘‘We were amongst the people of Qooba’ during the dawn prayer, when a messenger came arrived with an āyah. He said: Indeed an āyah from the Qurʾān has been revealed to the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) during the night. He has commanded us to turn his face towards the direction of the Kaʿbah, so turn your faces towards it. Their faces at that time were turned towards the direction of the Shaam. They therefore turned their faces towards the Kaʿbah.’’ [18] It cannot be said: this is a ruling concerning action, for the implementation of this ruling is founded upon the authenticity of this information.

[3]:  From ʿUmar (raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhu), ‘‘There was a man from amongst the Ansār, if he was absent from the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam), and I witnessed the Prophetic instruction, I would come to the man and would inform him of that which I heard from the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam). If I was absent form the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) and he witnessed the Prophetic instruction, he would come to me and inform me of that which he heard from the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam).’’ [19] Hence, this as the state of affairs amongst the Companions. It indicates that one companion was content with the information of one individual in matters pertaining to his religion. Irrespective of whether the matter concerned action or belief.

[4]:  From ʿAbdullāh Ibn Masʿūd (raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhu), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) say, ‘‘May Allāh illuminate the face of the one who heard a ḥadīth from me, and then memorized it in order that he may communicate it to others. For perhaps the informant will be more learned then the one who heard it initially.’’ [20] Similarly, this precept is not restricted to those traditions concerning actions only, excluding other matters. Rather it is general in meaning, applicable to traditions concerning action, and rulings linked to belief. If īmān in that which is established to be authentic from him (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) in matters of belief, related by means of the khabar al-wāḥid is not obligatory, why was this command from the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) relating to the conveyance of his traditions general in meaning. Rather the Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) would indeed have clarified that this principle is restricted to traditions linked to action, excluding others.

Accordingly, the statement that āhād traditions do not establish principles of belief is an innovated statement, unprecedented, and devoid of any foundation in the Religion. Not one individual from amongst the Pious Predecessors (Salaf al-Ṣāliḥ) communicated this statement. Nor has it been transmitted by any individual from amongst them. Rather they did not entertain such a thought. If categorical proof was found indicating that āhād aḥādīth can not be employed to establish ʿaqīdah, indeed the companions would have been conversant of it. Furthermore, they would have publicly declared such a matter. Similarly, those who proceeded them from amongst the Pious Predecessors would have communicated it.  In addition, this innovated statement comprises of an ʿaqīdah necessitating the rebuttal of hundreds of authentic aḥādīth, established form the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam). [21] Hence those who do not accept the Khabar al Wāḥid in matters of Aqīdah are obligate to reject matters of belief which are established by means of the singular tradition, from amongst them:

[1]: The superiority of our Prophet Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) over the remainder of the Prophets and Messengers.

[2]: His intercession upon the Day of Congregation.

[3]:  His intercession for those who perpetrated the major sins from amongst His Ummah.

[4]:  All his miracles excluding the Qurʾān.

[5]: How creation was inaugurated, the description of the Angels and the jinn, and the descriptions of Paradise and Hell, excluding that mentioned in the Qurʾān.

[6]: The questions of Munkar and Nakeer.

[7]: The compression and expansion of the grave upon the dead.

[8]: as-Siraat (the bridge of), al-Hawd (the pond), al-Mīzān (the balance, complete with two scales).

[9]: The belief that Allāh has decreed the happiness (destined for the Paradise) or the misery (destined for the hellfire) for each individual, in addition to his sustenance, his death, during his presence in his mother’s stomach.

[10]: The unique characteristics of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam), collected by as- Suyootee in his book al-Khasaa‘isul-Kubraa. For example: His admittance in the Paradise during his lifetime, his vision of the inhabitants, and that which has been prepared for the Muttaqeen (the God fearing) therein. In addition to the acceptance of Islām of his companions from amongst the jinn.

[11]: The absolute certainty that the ten who were given the glad tidings of Paradise are amongst the people of Paradise.

[12]: The finite residence of those who perpetrated the major sins in the Fire.

[13]: Īmān in all that has been authentically narrated in the aḥādīth pertaining to the description of the Day of Judgement, the Gathering, the Resurrection, excluding that which has been mentioned in the Qurʾān.

[14]: Īmān in the sum total of the Signs of the Hour. For example the appearance of the Mahdī, the descent of ’ʿĪsá (ʿalayhi al-Salām), the emergence of Dajjāl, the appearance of the beast, the rising of the su8n from the west and others.

Furthermore, not all the evidence employed to establish these points of ʿaqīdah are authentic by means of the khabar al-wāḥid, which is the point of view asserted by them. For their relative proofs are not contained in āhād aḥādīth, rather amongst them are those precepts evidenced by virtue of mutawātir aḥādīth. Never the less, these rejectionists have little knowledge in relation to the proof of the khabarul-āhād. It has caused them to reject all these points of belief. In addition to other precepts of ʿaqīdah, which have arrived by means of authentic aḥādīth. [22]


[1] Sharḥ al-Kawkabil Munīr fī Uṣūlil-Fiqh (p. 350-356) of al-’Allāmah Muḥammad Ibn Aḥmad Ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Ḥanbalī

[2] Fat‘h al Bārī (13/234)

[3] Sharḥul-’ʿAqīdahtit-Tahaawiyyah (p. 399-400)

[4] Mukhtasar Sawaa’iqul-Mursalah ’alal-Jahmiyyah wal-Mu’attilah (2/350) of Ibn al-Qayyim

[5] Mukhtasar Sawaa’iq (350/2)

[6] Ittihaaful-Jamāʿah (1/4)

[7] Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá (19/80)

[8] Mukhtasar Sawaa’iq (2/361-362)

[9] Wujoobul-Akhadh bi Ḥadīthil Aahaad fil-’Aqīdah war-Radd ʿalá Shubhil- Mukhaalifīn (p. 6-7) Muḥammad Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī

[10] Related by Muslim (no. 4646), and refer to Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr(7/434)

[11] al-’Aqīdah fillāh of ʿUmar Sulaymān al-’Ashqar (p. 48-49)

[12] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī (13/231)

[13] Wujoobul-Akhadh bi Ḥadīthil Aahaad fil-’Aqīdah war-Radd ʿalá Shubhil- Mukhaalifīn (p. 7)

[14] Mukhtasar Sawaa‘iqul-Mursalah ’alal-Jahmiyyah wal-Mu’attilah (2/352)

[15] Related by al-Bukhārī (13/232)

[16] Related by al-Bukhārī (13/261)

[17] Related by al-Bukhārī (13/241)

[18] Related by al-Bukhārī (13/232)

[19] Related by al-Bukhārī (13/232)

[20] Ṣaḥīḥ:Related by Aḥmad (6/96), and Shaykh Aḥmad Shākir authenticated it and said it had been narrated through two authentic chains of narration from Imām Aḥmad.

[21] Wujoobul-Akhadh bi Ḥadīthil Aahaad fil-’Aqīdah war-Radd ʿalá Shubhil- Mukhaalifīn (p. 53)

[22] Wujoobul-Akhadh bi Ḥadīthil Aahaad fil-’Aqīdah war-Radd ʿalá Shubhil- Mukhaalifīn (p. 36-39) 

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