A narrator has six ways of reporting a Hadith:
1- The best way is: A sheikh reads the Hadith to his student to narrate the Hadith on his authority such as to say: So and so told us, so and so informed us, so and so said, I heard so and so saying.
The scholars of Hadith differentiate between "So and so told us," "So and so informed us," "So and so reported to us."
`Abdullah ibn Wahb said: When I say: "So and so told us," it is the narration which I hear along with the people. When I say: "So and so informed me," it is the narration which I heard alone. When I say: "so and so reported to us," it is the narration which is recited to a scholar while I am attending. When I say: "So and so told me," it is the narration which I read to a scholar; and likewise said Al Hakim Abu `Abdullah An-Naysabury.
Yahya ibn Sa`id said: "So and so told and informed us" are the same, which is linguistically correct. As for "so and so reported to us," the scholars of Hadith gave this form to "Ijazah [permission for narration]" and "Munawalah [handing over]" unlike reading and listening, otherwise there is no difference between "informed and told," but the difference is in the narrations which a Sheikh permits orally for a narrator without giving him a written permission.
2- A narrator reads to the sheikh and the sheikh keeps silent as if he says: What you are reading is correct. In this case, the narration is permissible unlike the view of some followers of the Zhahiry School because if that had not been correct, his silence, which indicates approval of what a narrator is reading, is considered a defect in the trustworthiness of the sheikh. If there is a kind of compulsion or inattention, the sheikh will not keep silent because a sheikh commands his student to say when reporting a narration: "So and so told us," "informed us," or "after reading to him". Some people said: It is not permissible to say: He told us, informed us, or heard so and so saying while others said it is not permissible.
The correct view is: It is not permissible for a narrator to say “He told us, informed us, or heard so and so saying” because that indicates that the sheikh told him such narration which is not true except if the person who receives narrations knows that a narrator means that he read the narration to the sheikh and the sheikh permitted him without telling him the narration orally.
Al Hakim said: Reading to a sheikh is a kind of informing, this is the view of some jurists like Abu Hanifah, Malik, Ash-Shafi`y, Ath-Thawry, Al Awza`y, Ahmad, and others.
Al Hakim added: That was the way which our imams adopted and approved, and this is our view as well as the view of the scholars of Hadith that reading to a Sheikh —if he memorizes what is recited to him or holds its original copy if he does not memorize it— is correct like hearing from him.
Ibn Jurayj said: I read to `Ata' ibn Abu Rabah then I said to him: What should I say? He said: Say: "So and so told us." Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said to a group of people from At-Ta'if: Read to me, for my approval to your reading is like reading to you. Some people hold the view that reading to a sheikh is a higher rank than listening from him and more accurate. They said that the reading of the sheikh generates two things:
1- The probability of changing part of the narration or the sheikh makes a mistake or changes the letters of some words without knowing, and a narrator does not know in order to correct him. However, if a narrator makes a mistake or changes some letters, the sheikh can correct his forgetfulness or mistake.
2- A narrator may miss some words from the sheikh due to some reasons which happens a lot unlike his reading to the sheikh and the sheikh is listening.
These are the proofs which they offered to sustain their view, but scholars, jurists, and the people of Hadith hold the first view because these possibilities may happen very often to a narrator more than a sheikh. The mistake of a narrator is easier than the mistake of a sheikh, but everyone has his own view.
3- Listening to Hadiths that are recited to the sheikh which is like reading to him but the difference is: A listener may miss some words as we said earlier, but this cannot happen to a reader. It is permissible for a narrator to say: We are told or informed from him by listening when it was read to him.
4- Ijazah (Giving permission): A sheikh says to a narrator orally or in written form or by a letter: I gave permission to you to narrate such and such book on my authority or permitted what you heard from me. At this point, it is important to know the narrations which he heard from the sheikh. However, if he says to him, this is what I heard from so and so, it is not permissible for him to narrate on the authority of the sheikh because he did not give him permission to narrate.
A sheikh should say to a narrator: You must say: We are told or informed according to the permission of so and so, and he must explain the way he was given permission: Orally, written, or by a letter.
Some people said: It is not permissible for a narrator to say: “We are told” if the permission was written or by a letter, but he should say: “We are informed” as he says: “Allah informed us in His Book” or “on the tongue of His Messenger,” and should not say: “Allah told us.”
As for permission, some people permitted that a narrator says: “We are told or informed” which is not correct as we mentioned in the part of reading to a sheikh.
Some people said: It is not permissible to give permission of narration unless a narrator knows exactly what he is going to narrate then the sheikh asks the narrator: “Do you know everything in this book or this narration?” He says: Yes. Then he is granted permission of narration.
However, if a sheikh says to a narrator: “I give you permission of narration” while a narrator does not know what the narration is about, it is not permissible. Such as if a person listens to a narration without knowing its meaning, it is not permissible for him to narrate. People say about judges: Witnesses come to testify without knowing what they are testifying at.
This is the view of those people who consider the knowledge of Fiqh and the knowledge of Hadith science a condition in narrating as we mentioned in the first section.
The highest rank of permission is the oral permission because it is certain and has no possibility, then permission by a letter because the holder of a letter is accurate and pronounces the narration, then written permission because writing is not pronounced but accurate.
Giving permission to a known person is permissible without conditions, but as for giving permission to unknown person along with setting conditions, it is controversial.
As for giving permission to unknown person, if a sheikh says: “I permitted some people to narrate from me;” it is not permissible in this case to say so because the "some" which he mentioned cannot be known.
As for giving permission to someone who does not exist such as to say: “I give permission to new baby of so and so” or “to the descendants of so and so” or “to his offspring,” in this case some people permitted it, whereas others did not.
As for conditioned permission, as if a sheikh says: “I give permission to so and so if he wills,” or addressing someone saying: “I give permission to whomever you want,” or “I give permission to whomever you want;” in this case some people permitted the narration while others did not.
Some people said: Giving permission to nonexistent or unknown person is not permissible and it is not permissible to set a condition because defining the person who shall convey the narration is obligatory which is more protective to the Shari`ah and the science of Hadith.
Some people said: It is permissible to give permission to existent person without conditioning whether the permission was in general or private form.
As for the private form, it is as if a sheikh says: “I give permission to so and so.”
As for the general form, it is as if a sheikh says: “I give permission to Banu Hashim or the tribe of Tamim” or “I give permission to general Muslims.” This permission is permissible if those people are present.
5- Al Munawalah:
It is called "reviewing" and it is as follows: A narrator would be a good memorizer and a person offers to him part of his narration or more which the narrator examines carefully and when he is sure that the narration is reported by him, he says: “I studied what you had given me and I am sure it is one of my narrations on the authority of my sheikh, so you may narrate it.” Al Hakim said: Many scholars permitted this kind of permission from the people of Medina, Makkah, Kufa, Basra, Egypt, and Khurasan who considered reviewing a narration a kind of hearing it.
He added: Mutarraf ibn `Abdullah said: I have accompanied Malik for seventeen years and I have never seen him reading his Muwatta' to anyone. I heard him denouncing those people who say: “Only hearing a narration is permissible.” He would also say: “How come this is not permissible in Hadith whereas it is permissible in the Qur'an which is greater?!” Other narrators said: “Malik was asked about his Hadiths whether he heard them by himself? He said: Part of it was hearing and part was by reviewing, and reviewing is not a lesser rank than hearing.”
That was Imam Malik who was the master of Hadith science. He said: “As for Fuqaha' (Muslim jurists), they did not consider reviewing as hearing.”
Al Ghazzali (may Allah bestow mercy on his soul) said: The method of handing over is to say: “Take this book and narrate it to people on my authority.” Handing over without such statement has no meaning, but if this statement is said, there is no meaning for handing over [because it is like an oral permission].
The scholars of Hadith listed handing over before permission in rank which occupies a higher degree.
Some of them hold the view that it is better than hearing, but the apparent meaning is that handing over is more cautionary than permission because the least degree of handing over is considered a private form of permission for a certain book which the sheikh knows for sure what it contains or almost certain unlike the general permission. However, the sheikh stipulates in handing over and permission the following:
1- The free of mistakes and alteration
2- Adhering to the conditions of Hadith narration.
By these conditions, the sheikh becomes free of guilt and then a narrator may say: “He told us and informed us by handing over” or “by reviewing” or “informed us” as the scholars of Hadiths mentioned.
A book may be a reminder to a narrator when he looks at the narration and makes sure that it is authentic or the book may be a guide to a narrator who does not remember the narration. So, if the book is a reminder, the narration will be accepted because there is no difference between remembering the narration by mind or by any other reminder because it is not a condition that a narrator should not forget the narration as it is part of human nature. However, if the book was a guide, it either was written by him based on his listening or was written by someone else who is trustworthy and the handwriting is well-read based on the narrator’s listening, or the narration is based on the listening of his father by the handwriting of his father whose handwriting is known to him. In these two cases, the narration is accepted as if he heard it and remembered the narration. The narration shall be accepted if he is known to be a trustworthy narrator, so there is no difference between the handwriting of his father and other; so it is permissible for him to narrate such narration even if he does not remember.
Some people say: It is not permissible for him to narrate if he does not remember the narration because writing down was not made except for remembering.
Some people said: If he saw his handwriting and knew it was his,
1- He would know that he had heard it.
2- He would know that he had not heard it.
3- He would suppose that he had heard it or not, or perhaps he had listened to it himself or not.
4- He would not remember that he had heard or read it but probably he had heard or read it.
In the first case, it is permissible for him to narrate.
In the second and the fourth, it is not permissible for him to narrate because how would he narrate something while he knows it is not true or he doubts it?
In the third case, scholars differed about that: Some permitted it, whereas others did not because reporting from another person is a confirmation that the person narrated to him, so it is not permissible to narrate except according to firm knowledge because handwritings are alike.
However, if the sheikh says: This is my handwriting, his saying is accepted but a narrator should not narrate from him except when the sheikh says: This is my narration, or by action such as to sit for narrating the Hadith.
If a trustworthy person says: This is an authentic copy of Sahih Al Bukhari, for example, then sees a Hadith that he did not hear or did not have permission to narrate, it is not permissible for him to narrate this Hadith, but should he act according to it if he is a follower of a certain school of Fiqh? If he is a follower of a school of Fiqh, he should ask the Mujtahid (one who practices Ijtihad from Shari`ah rulings), but if he is a Mujtahid, some people said: It is not permissible for him to act according to it as long as he did not hear it.
Some people said: If a trustworthy person affirms his knowledge of the authenticity of the copy, he may act according to the narration.
To sum up, it is not permissible for a person to narrate something except he knows for sure that he had heard, memorized, and can deliver it accurately, but if he is in doubt about anything, he should stop narrating.
If a person has a lot of narrations from a sheikh and doubts about a Hadith whether he had heard it or not, it is not permissible for him to say: I heard so and so narrating, or so and so saying, because he doubts the narration. It is not permissible for a narrator to narrate something he doubts to the extent that if he had heard one hundred Hadiths from his sheikh and knows that he did not hear one Hadith from him and he does not know which Hadith, it is not permissible for him to narrate any of the one hundred Hadiths from that sheikh because each Hadith may be the one he doubts.
If a sheikh denies the Hadith, this has three cases:
1- To deny it by words such as to say: This is lie, then it is not permissible to act according to it, and the narrator is not a liar. Or he says: I do not recognize it, so people may act according to the narration because a narrator is sure that he had heard it from the sheikh and the sheikh does not deny it.
Some people said: The forgetfulness of the sheikh to a Hadith annuls the narration, but the sheikh may act according to the narration when a trustworthy person narrates it to him, which will be explained later.
Some people said: A sheikh will see whether he forgets because of age or it is his normal condition concerning his narrations, in such case he will accept the narration of a trustworthy narrator on his authority. However, if he totally denies the narration, the narration will not be accepted because rarely a person forgets something he had memorized, especially when someone reminds it. Rules are built on regularity not irregularity, then the sheikh says: So and so told me that I narrated to him.
2- To deny it by action. If the sheikh acts in contradiction to the narration before knowing it, this is not denial but he acted differently when he knew the narration. Likewise, if the date of both actions is unknown, it will be like the previous case.
However, if the action was done after knowing the narration, we will see if the action may be harmonious with the narration in any way, it will not be considered denial because interpretation of actions are limitless but it will not be a proof to act accordingly because his own view is not binding to others. If the action has no interpretation and cannot be in any way harmonious with the narration, the narration is rejected.
3- To deny it by leaving the action according to it. If the sheikh refuses to act according to the Hadith, it is a proof that the Hadith is not true because if it had been true, he would not have neglected or refused to act according to it because it is forbidden for him to disagree with the Hadith while knowing its authenticity.