Traditions are of two types, Mutawatir (widely related) and non-Mutawatir. Mutawatir give knowledge and create certainty and it is obligatory to act on them and no other tradition is having precedence to it. There is no inconsistency and contradiction in them. Non-Mutawatir are of two types: First are those which create knowledge and certainty; and the tradition which is correct from the aspect of context, has to be compulsorily acted upon. Contexts are of few types:
Firstly, they should be according to rational proofs, secondly, they should be in conformity with Quran, either in wordings, meanings, in general sense or a special evidence. In such circumstances, traditions are not considered solitary. They become equal in status to Mutawatir.
Thirdly, they should conform the practice of the Prophet either in meaning, in general sense or according to special proof. Fourth, they should be in accordance with the consensus of Muslims and even though they may be solitary according to three rules, but they should be considered Mutawatir.
The second type of non-Mutawatir are of few types. Firstly, they should be free from the above-mentioned contexts and there should not be another contradiction to it. In that case, it is like Mutawatir and when verdicts are found against it, we must not act upon it. And if an objectionable tradition is found in this place, we must check the qualities of narrators, which of them is more just and trustworthy. But if both the narrators are equal in justice, we must see the narrators of which tradition are more.
And if narrators of both traditions are same in qualities and number, and both traditions are free of the above mentioned contexts, it is obligatory to act upon the one on which a perfect interpretation is established, and to reject the other solitary reports, on which interpretation is not possible. And if the interpretation is supported by merging a tradition or if any cause is found in words or by proof, it is obligatory to act upon the mentioned tradition; and if both opposing traditions have scope for different interpretations, one has the choice to act on whichever one likes.1
- 1. Ref. Istibsar of Shaykh Abu Ja’far Tusi.