“And if it weren’t for Fāṭimah, I would not have created you two [Muḥammad and ʿAlī]
On A Forged Ḥadīth
Many of us have commonly heard – usually from a pulpit – a narration in which it is claimed that God tells Muhammad that had it not been for Fātimah, He would have not created both Muḥammad and ʿAlī. Numerous scholars and speakers have tried to derive from this alleged ḥadīth qudsī various unique qualities that Lady Fātimah possesses which made her fit to be what is on the face of it the final cause for the creation of both Prophet Muḥammad and Imām ʿAlī. Alongside that, some attempted to interpret it in a way such that it does not amount to the claim that she is better than both of them for this is considered a clear heresy.
But as should be obvious, offering any interpretation or deriving any specific matter on the basis of a ḥadīth is subsidiary to demonstrating the authenticity of the said ḥadīth. If we have reason to think a ḥadīth is forged, citing it as evidence is both impermissible and ethically dubious. This is especially the case here because the ḥadīth is being attributed to God. Failure to care about its authenticity also shows a strange disregard for the truth which reflects badly about the speaker who will shape the minds of his audience on matters which he fails to be even remotely certain of.
So why think the ḥadīth is forged? Well, the ḥadīth is not narrated in any early work whatsoever and the first time it appears with a chain is in the last century written in a Persian work titled al-Junnah al-ʿāṣimah by a scholar named Hasayn Mīrjahānī (d.1999). In that work, he claims to have found the ḥadīth in the library of a scholar called al-Shaykh Muḥammad al-Simāwī. We shall translate what the contemporary jurist and great scholar al-Sayyid Shubayrī al-Zanjānī tells us about the incident.
“Ḥadīth ‘law lāk’ which is mentioned in al-Jannat al-ʿāsimah is a fabricated. The marḥūm Mīrjahānī narrated that ‘I went to the library of al-Shaykh Muḥammad al-Samāwī, the author of Ibṣār al-ayn fī anṣār al-Husayn (as), and I was looking at the books till I came across a book from Ibn al-ʿArandis.’
He then narrated a chain from Ibn al-ʿArandis such that the fabrication is very obvious. In that chain Ibn al-ʿArandis transmits from people who were born after him by a period of time.” (Jurʿa az daryā, 2:685)
In the footnote, al-Zanjānī mentions the chain which can be summarised as follows:
Ibn al-ʿArandis (d. 840) ← al Shaykh Ibrāhīm b. al-Ḥasan al-Warrāq (d. aprox 910) ← al-Shaykh ʿAlī b. Hilāl al-Jazāʾirī (d. aprox 910) ← al-Shaykh Aḥmad b. Fahd al-Ḥillī (d. 841) ← al-Shaykh Zayn al-Dīn ʿAlī b. al-Ḥasan al-Khāzin al-Hāʾirī (d. 791) ← al-Shaykh Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad b. Makkī al-Shahīd (d. 786) ← From his connected ṭarīq to Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Mūsā b. Bābawayh al-Qummī ← With his ṭarīq to Jābir b. Yazīd al-Juʿfī ← Jābir b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Anṣārī ← The Prophet Allāh
As should be obvious, the chain contains an absurdity. Ibn al-ʿArandis who dies around 840 supposedly narrates from someone who comes after him and dies around 910! How would that have been possible?! For this reason, al-Zanjānī correctly states that this chain is fabricated.
Al-Zanjānī offers us another reason to be suspicious of this story, however. He notes that al-Shaykh al-Samāwī was extremely protective of his library, due to the rare and valuable manuscripts and books he had. He would not allow anyone to enter his library. On the rare occasion he did allow someone to use his library, it required a deposit or documentation of some sort to be given to al-Samāwī and this would only allow him to use a physical book not a manuscript. Moreover, the book itself would be brought by al-Samāwī from its storage whilst the person waited outside. Upon finishing with the book outside, the person would return it and receive his documentation. No one would be allowed into to where these books and manuscripts are stored.
al-Zanjāni finishes by telling us that he once told al-Sayyid ʿAbd al-Azīz Ṭabāṭabāʾī – the grandson of Ṣāḥib al-Urwah – about the kinds of stories Mirjahānī transmits on the pulpit describing them as unbelievable, particularly the story of the aforementioned ḥadīth. In response, al-Sayyid ʿAbd al-Azīz Ṭabāṭabāʾī said that this story is not possible that al-Samāwī granted anyone permission into his library! (Ibid, 2:686)
Alas, the damage was done, and a miracle would be required to undo its effects. A narration whose chain is both forged and allegedly only discovered in the last century is now famous and widespread and scholars of various levels transmit and present their analysis of it. Speakers, of course, hear these scholars and naturally follow on without any awareness of what they are transmitting. It is doubtful that discovering these facts would deter many of these speakers. They may suggest that we do not need an authentic chain for such a narration and that its content is correct. A subset of speakers may refrain from transmitting this narration in future if they discovered these facts. But will they retract what they said in the past and issue a clarification so that the audience who heard the narration and assumed its truth is no longer deceived? That certainly is doubtful.