It contains five types:
The first type is:
The classes of narrations, which are five:
The first category which is the highest is: A Companion says: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying such and such, or he spoke to me of such and such, or told me such and such, or whispered to me of such and such. Likewise narrations which were not reported by the Companions, and this kind of narration has no probabilities and that is the origin of conveying narrations and the origin in reporting news.
The second category is: A Companion says: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said such and such or spoke to us of such and such or told us such and such, and likewise any other narrator who reports from his sheikhs. This type is not clear in conveying the narration because someone may say that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said depending on what has been reported to him without directly hearing from the Prophet (peace be upon him). So, perhaps the Companion depended on reported narrations from people whom he trusted; do not you see that Ibn `Abbas reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "There can be an element of interest in credit (when the payment is not equal)." But when he was questioned about it, he said: I heard it from Usamah ibn Zayd, and likewise other Companions.
However, this category is probable, but it is away from the Companions because when a Companion says: "The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) says," it means he did not narrate this narration but after making sure that he had heard it well. Unlike those who did not live in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) because, for sure, they did not hear it directly from the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and their wordings cannot indicate hearing directly from the Messenger of Allah. But a Companion may hear it directly from the Prophet (peace be upon him), so he did not use it but after hearing from the Prophet (peace be upon him). This is the apparent case and all narrations were reported to us as such. It is said: “Abu Bakr said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said”. “`Umar said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said,” so the apparent case is: They heard it from the Prophet (peace be upon him) and likewise the narrations of other narrators who report from their sheikhs.
The third category is: A narrator says: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) commanded with such and such or prohibited such and such. In this case it has three possibilities:
1- He heard it directly.
2- He may think that a certain matter contains an order while it is not a command because people differed regarding "Do" whether it is a command or not. Therefore, some people of the Zhahiry school of Fiqh said: There is no proof that it is a command until the narration is reported.
The correct view is: A Companion can never say such unless he had known that it was a command and he heard it as such: I command you of such and such or he said: Do such and such, moreover a Companion would add to it some proofs to confirm that it was a command and he knew it for sure.
3- The probability of generality and privation because some people think that certain commands are directed to the entire nation.
The correct view is that the people who hold the view that the command is for the entire nation should cease because perhaps what he had heard was a command for the entire nation whether it was directed to a sect, a group, or to a certain person.
All previous cases are suitable to be a command, so we depend on the proof. However, if the command was for a person, it may indicate that the command was for the entire nation except if there was a description that specified it for a certain person such as a travel or a menstruation, and if the matter was as such, the Companion would say so, such as the narration of "We have been commanded not to take off our leather socks for three days." Yes, if a Companion said: We have been commanded, and it was his habit to use it for the entire nation, it will be as such otherwise it probably would be a command for him, for the nation, or for a certain group.
The fourth category is: A narrator would say: We have been commanded with such and such or we have been prohibited to do such and such or such and such things are made obligatory upon us or such and such was permitted for us or we have been banned to do such and such or it is part of the Sunnah, or the general Sunnah in such and such is.
All these forms have the same ruling and contain the three possibilities that have been mentioned in the third category in addition to a fourth possibility which is: The commander. In these cases a person does not know whether the commander was the Prophet (peace be upon him) or one of the scholars.
Some people said: This category contains no proof for doing or not because it contains possibilities.
Most scholars adopted the view that it cannot be directed to something other than the command of Allah and His Prophet because a narrator wants to prove a Shari`ah ruling or set a proof to a Shari`ah command.
Some people said: This contains some details because if the narrator was Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him), so the commander would be the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) because Abu Bakr will not say: "We have been commanded" if the commander was someone other than the Prophet because no one can command him except the Prophet (peace be upon him), and no one had an upper hand upon him. As for people other than Abu Bakr, if they said: We have been commanded, perhaps the commander was the Prophet (peace be upon him) or someone else because Abu Bakr ruled Muslims sometimes and Muslim should have obeyed his commands. Moreover, some Companions were emirs during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and after his time, so it is permissible to attribute the command to them.
If it is said: It was made lawful or was obligatory or banned, it is more likely was said by the Prophet because permissibility, forbiddance, and obligation are added to the Prophet (peace be upon him) without associating others because an imam commands people to do obligatory matters but it is not said: It was obligated by the imam except in figures of speech.
As for the saying: It is part of the Sunnah or the Sunnah is, the apparent meaning is that a narrator does not intend but the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and those who must be followed (i.e., the Four Rightly-Guided Caliphs), and there is no difference between the saying of a Companion during his lifetime or after.
If a Successor says: We have been commanded, it is probably the command of the Messenger of Allah that was directed to the entire nation, and it may be the command of a Companion, but it is not proper for a scholar to say that except if he intended the command of a person whose obedience was obligatory, but the probability in the saying of a Successor is stronger than a Companion.
The fifth category is: A narrator says: "We used to do so and so" with the purpose of explaining the rulings of the Shari`ah because the apparent meaning is: All the Companions had done so during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and he approved it.
If a narrator says: They used to do such and such and added it to the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), it indicates the permissibility of the action because mentioning it while explaining a ruling indicates that it was the action of the Prophet (peace be upon him) or what he approved by silence (except the things which were not exposed to the Prophet or he did not know about) which indicates permissibility. For example, the saying of Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him): "We used to compare between the Companions at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and we used to say: The best among people after the Prophet (peace be upon him) was Abu Bakr, then `Umar, then `Uthman. And when that reached the Prophet (peace be upon him) but he did not deny it." Likewise the saying of Abu Sa`id Al Khudry: "We used to pay during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) one Sa` of dried dates."
As for the saying of a Successor: "They used to do," it does not indicate the action of the entire nation, but indicates that some did so; therefore there is no proof in that except it has been unanimously reported from scholars.
As for confirming it with the narration of a single narrator, it will be explained later.
It was said: If a narrator says: "They used to do such and such," it indicates that the entire nation used to do so or some of them did so and the rest kept silent or they all did so during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him) without denying it.
In general, if a narrator says something from his own, it is not obligatory to imitate him because it is Ijtihad and his Ijtihad may not be better than any other Ijtihad. However, if he says something that is not open for Ijtihad, he must have said it based on a narration.