Kitab al-Maraseel of Imam Abu Dawood
According to the later scholars (muta’akhireen), mursal is that hadith in whose chain a Companion (Sahabi) is not mentioned i.e. a Follower (Tabi’i) says that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said…..)
The rest of the chain from the compiler (Musannif) till the Sub-companion (Tabi’i) is continuous (Muttasil) with no one left out. If on the other hand any narrator between the compiler and the Follower is left out, then that tradition is called munqati’. However according to the earlier scholars (Mutaqaddimeen) both the above ahadith are called Mursal.
Imam Abu Dawood is from the Mutaqaddimeen. Hence he has included both kinds of ahadith in his Kitab al-Maraseel. Some jurists (fuqaha’) accept both Mursal and Munqati’ narrations as evidence. Some only accept mursal while others reject both. Since the Imam’s intention in compiling his Sunan was to gather all the proofs of the jurists he only accept Marfu’ narrations therein since these are accepted as evidence unanimously. (Marfu’ narrations are those whose chain from the author to the Prophet(saw) is intact)
He then gathered all the Mursal and Munqati’ traditions in a separate book as an addendum to Kitab al-Sunan. Imam Abu Dawood then wrote to the scholars of Makkah, “In the past, all our scholars unanimously accepted Maraseel as conclusive evidence. Great Imams like Maalik, Sufyan al-Thawri and Awza’i were of this opinion. The first person to voice an opinion in this regard was Shafi’i. After him, Ahmad and others followed suit. However, it is my opinion that if in any mas’ala there is no Musnad or Marfu’ narration, then a Mursal or Munqati’ hadith may be accepted as proof even though they are not equal to the former. He further elaborated, “all these ahadith are mursal according to my findings. It is possible that others may have the same narrations with a continuous chain.”
The Imam gathered 600 Maraseel as a part of his Sunan. Later on some people published it separately without the chains of narrators for brevity. This came to be known as Mukhtasar Kitab al-Maraseel. Its contents are the same, only the chains have been removed.
Adapted from “The Biography of Imam Abu Dawood Sijistani”, edited by Mufti A.H.Elias.