Ithbat al-Raj’a of Fadhl bin Shadhan

This is a translated summary of an article written by Hasan Ansari, called Huviyyat-e Waqa’iee-ye Kitab-e Ithbat al-Raj’a Mansub beh Fadhl bin Shadhan (Actual state of the book Ithbat al-Raj’a, as attributed to Fadhl bin Shadhan). The purpose is to merely provide another perspective on the book, and not necessarily for the readers/researchers to reach conclusions.



Narrations from a book by the name of Ithbat al-Raj’a, attributed to Fadhl bin Shadhan are found in the Mir Lawhi’s work Kifayah al-Muhtadhi fi Ma’rifah al-Mahdi (کفاية المهتدي في معرفة المهدي), a book written during the time of the Safavids. Furthermore, Hurr al-Amili seems to have taken some of these narrations from the works of Lawhi and called it Muntakhab Ithbat al-Raj’ah (منتخب اثبات الرجعة) published in the 15th issue of the magazine Turathuna. It has also been translated into English as The Return of al‐Mahdi by Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi.

This work is not mentioned in any other earlier works at all, and its narrations – minus a few – can’t be found in other books written by Fadhl bin Shadhan. So we do not know how this text ended up receiving the name Ithbat al-Raj’a.  Even if one says that the name of Fadhl bin Shadhan exists in the manuscript itself, it does not suffice as proof, because the manuscript’s authenticity itself is not proven.

The actual book of Fadhl bin Shadhan by the name of Ithbat al-Raj’a was not a book of narrations, rather it was a theological work. Even if we assume the far-fetched view that this current book is his, then it wouldn’t have been called Ithbat al-Raj’a, rather Kitab al-Raj’a. Furthermore, most of the narrations (which we have at our disposal due to Mir Lawhi and Hurr al-‘Amili) have nothing to do with Raj’a as a concept. Perhaps it would have been better to call the book al-Ghaybah as that is what the narrations pertain to.

Besides the discussion on why it being named Ithbat al-Raj’a is flawed, the actual attribution to Ibn Shadhan is also incorrect. When one looks at the chains of narrations, we see that there are individuals in chains who came after Ibn Shadhan, or they were contemporaries, but younger than Ibn Shadhan. Two individuals that Ibn Shadhan quotes from in this book are Sahl ibn Ziyad and Muhammad bin Abi al-Sihban – both were younger contemporaries of him and we do not find Ibn Shadhan reporting from them in any other work at all. Furthermore, there are certain matters recorded in the book that refer to events that took place after the life of Imam Hasan al-‘Askari (s). Nevertheless, the name of Ibn Shadhan does exist on the manuscript (placed by someone) – a manuscript which was found by Wijada anyways.

Because we do not know how the original book was organized (since we only have a few narrations from it), we cannot comment much on what it was originally. Perhaps it was a book of narrations, which included both authentic and fabricated traditions, or with fabricated chains. It is possible that if it was fabricated, it may have been done by someone who lived much earlier.

All in all, only a handful of narrations that exist in the book, can be found in other earlier hadith books as well such as al-Ghaybah of Tusi. Some narrations can also be found in the works of Shaykh Saduq, but it seems that the main work relied on for the contents was Kifayah al-Athar of Khazaz al-Qummi – a post-Ghaybah work. There are also some traditions whose text is not in-line with vocabulary that is seen in the general hadith corpus.

For example, a tradition whose text is similar to the Ahd of Ardashir:

حدّثنا محمّد بن أبي عمير، وصفوان بن يحيى رضي الله عنه قالا: حدّثنا جميل بن دراج، عن الصادق عليه السلام ، عن أبيه، عن آبائه، عن أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام أنه قال: الإسلام والسلطان العادل أخوان توأمان لا يصلح واحد منهما إلا بصاحبه، الإسلام اُسّ، والسلطان العادل حارس؛ ما لا اُس له فمنهدم، وما لا حارس له فضائع؛ فلذلك إذا رحل قائمنا لم يبق أثر من الإسلام، وإذا لم يبق أثر من الإسلام لم يبق أثر من الدنيا

Another tradition is where the Prophet seems to be using philosophical jargon:

حدّثنا محمّد بن أبي عمير وأحمد بن محمّد بن أبي نصر رضي الله عنهما جميعاً عن أبان بن عثمان الأحمر، عن أبان بن تغلب، عن عكرمة عن ابن عباس، قال: قدم يهودي إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم يقال له نعثل، فقال: يا محمّد إني أسألك عن أشياء تتلجلج في صدري منذ حين، فإن أجبتني عنها أسلمت على يديك…قال صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم: سل يا أبا عمارة.قال: يا محمّد صف لي ربك. فقال صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم: إن الخالق لا يوصف إلا بما وصف به نفسه، كيف يوصف الخالق الواحد الذي تعجز الحواس أن تدركه، والأوهام أن تناله، والخطرات أن تحده، والبصائر أن تحيط قدرته؟! أجلّ عمّا يصفه الواصفون؛ نأى في قربه، وقَرُبَ في نأيه، كيَّف الكيف فلا يقال كيف، أيَِّن الأين فلا يقال أين. تنقطع الأفكار عن معرفته. وليُعلم أن الكيفية منه والأينونية، وهو الأحد الصمد كما وصف نفسه، والواصفون لا يبلغون نعته، لم يلد ولم يولد ولم يكن له كفواً أحد. قال: صدقت يا محمّد، فأخبرني عن قولك (إنه واحد لا شبه له) أليس الله واحداً والإنسان واحد؟ ووحدانيته قد أشبهت وحدانية الإنسان؟ فقال صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم: الله واحد وأحديُّ المعنى، والإنسان واحد ثنوي؛ جسم عرض (وبدن) وروح، وإنما التشبيه في المعاني لا غير…

Some narrations seem to be compounded, by taking the text from one place, and a chain from another place. This is not something that was unheard of. For example we see Ibn Ghdairi say on page 99 of his Rijal work, regarding Abu al-Mufaddhil Shaybani:

رأيت کتبه وفيها الأسانيد من دون المتون والمتون من دون الأسانيد

I saw his books, and in them were chains without any narrations, and narrations without any chains

So this was definitely a possibility. Here are a few possible examples:

حدّثنا محمّد بن الحسن الواسطي رضي الله عنه قال: حدّثنا زفر بن الهذيل، قال: حدّثنا سليمان بن مهران الأعمش، قال: حدّثنا مورّق، قال: حدّثنا جابر بن عبد الله الأنصاري قال

Compare with Kifayah al-Athar, Page 56-57; also see the critique of Allamah Majlisi with regards to the content of this narration in Bihar al-Anwar, Volume 36, page 306

حدّثنا عليّ بن الحكم رضي الله عنه عن جعفر بن سليمان الضبعي عن سعيد بن طريف، عن الأصبغ بن نباتة، عن سلمان الفارسي

Compare with Kifayah al-Athar, Page 40

حدّثنا عثمان بن عيسى رضي الله عنه قال: حدّثنا أبو حمزة الثمالي، قال: حدّثنا أسلم، قال: حدّثنا أبو الطفيل، قال: حدّثنا عمار بن ياسر

Compare with Kifayah al-Athar, Page 124

حدّثنا الحسن بن علي بن فضال رضي الله عنه عن عبد الله بن بكير، عن عبد الملك بن إسماعيل الأسدي، عن أبيه، عن سعيد بن جبي

Compare with Kifayah al-Athar, Page 120

حدّثنا عبد الله بن جبلة، عن عبد الله بن المستنير، عن المفضل بن عمر، عن جابر بن يزيد الجعفي، عن عبد الله بن العباس

Compare with Kifayah al-Athar, Page 16

حدّثنا عليّ بن الحكم رضي الله عنه ، عن سيف بن عميرة، عن علقمة بن محمّد الحضرمي، عن الصادق عليه السلام

Compare with Kifayah al-Athar, Page 266

حدّثنا عبد الرحمن بن أبي نجران رضي الله عنه قال: حدّثنا عاصم بن حميد، قال: حدثنا أبو حمزة الثمالي، عن سعيد بن جبير، عن عبد الله بن عباس

Compare with Tafseer Ali bin Ibrahim al-Qummi, Volume 2, Page 303

There are other examples as well, but these suffice for our argument.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.