We were discussing our position on the contradicting hadīth on whether or not a person who does not have wilāya will have his actions accepted or not. Is believing in the Imāms a condition to entering Paradise or not? We said that the traditions vary and are contradicting, some traditions clearly saying this is not a condition, but rather hatred to them is the barrier preventing a person from reaching Paradise. We expanded on this in some detail. On the other hand we have a number of traditions explicitly mentioning that belief in the Imāms and accepting their wilāya is a condition for getting to Paradise and having the actions accepted.
So how do we solve this contradiction? The solution, as I have laid out in the book Mīzān Tashīh al-Mawruth al-Riwā’ī, is to assess these traditions by referring them back to the Qur’ān. What’s our proof to say that referring to the Qur’ān is an obligation and a necessity? I don’t want to get into an extensive discussion so I shall suffice with showing one or two examples from the words of the Imāms taken from reliable books with reliable chain of narrators. We were previously looking at this tradition of Yūnus b. ‘abd al-Rahmān:
وافيت العراق فوجدت بها قطعة من أصحاب أبي جعفر (عليه السلام) ووجدت أصحاب أبي عبدالله متوافرين، فسمعت منهم وأخذت كتبهم
Yūnus said: I went to Iraq and I found some followers of Imām Bāqir, and I found the followers of Imām Sādiq to be many. So I listened to them [the followers of Imām Sādiq], and I took their books.1
The books being mentioned here are the books of Hadīth that were in circulation among the Shi’ī of Baghdad.
فعرضتها من بعد على أبي الحسن الرضا فأنكر منها أحاديث كثيرة أن يكون من أحاديث أبي عبدالله
So I presented them [the books] to Imām al-Ridhā who rejected many Hadīth from them which were considered to be the Hadīth of Imām Sādiq.
What exactly is understood from the word “many”? Does it mean 80%? 70%? 50%? I’m not sure. Here Imām al-Ridhā is saying very clearly that many of the traditions that have been attributed to Imam Sādiq by the Shi’ī of Baghdad are fabrications. These are narrations from Shi’ī works not Sunni! The Imām passed an edict that many of the traditions within the works of the Shi’ī are nothing more than fabrications attributed to Imām Sādiq.
For those who are honest, for those who value religious knowledge and honest research, and for those who fear God, what did I mention in the satellite channel of Kawthar, that the majority of traditions within our literature are fabrications and Isrā’īliyyāt that cannot be relied upon.2 This is exactly what the Imām is saying here. Someone might argue that our scholars came after and corrected all the fabrications and lies. In fact, the opposite happened, they [unintentionally] added to the fabrications and lies! I’m not saying they did it on purpose [but they did it with good intentions]. This is the case, particularly with Bihār al-Anwār. If we are saying that many of the traditions in our reliable books are fabricated than in the case of Bihār the majority of it is fabricated. The majority of it, not just many traditions from it. These are the very words of Imām al-Ridhā.
These comments of mine are directed at those who value knowledge, those who have piety, and to those who are honest. I’m not speaking to the layman or to those who are dogmatic. I’m not speaking to these people that’s why in the first lesson I said I’m only speaking to people who can bring me evidence, and speak to me on the basis of evidence and not on the basis of scholar X said this and scholar Y said that. This is my evidence [for my doubt in the traditions]. I should add that I have other evidence as well but this is just one of them.
وقال لي: ان أبا الخطاب كذب على أبي عبدالله لعن الله ابا الخطاب، وكذلك اصحاب ابي الخطاب يدسون هذه الاحديث إلى يومنا هذا في كتب اصحاب ابي عبدالله
He [the Imām] said to me: Verily Abu al-Khattāb used to lie on Imām Sadiq, may Allah curse Abu al-Khattāb. Similarly, the followers of Abu al-Khattāb continue to fabricate traditions to this very day within the books of the followers of Imām Sādiq.
What is the Imām saying here? This fabrication took place in the 400 usul.3 Isn’t it said that Shaykh Tūsi, Mufīd, Kulaynī, they all relied on these 400 usul? Here we have clear confirmation that these sources were tampered with. It is for this reason that Shahīd Sadr used to say that he had general knowledge (‘ilm ijmāli) that whatever Hadīth he would touch within the most reliable books like that of Usūl al-Kāfi, the first possibility he would entertain was that this tradition is a fabrication. Don’t tell me that the chain of narrators is authentic, because those people who used to fabricate the content of traditions were masters in the art of fabricating chain of narrators also.4 You think that those people who would fabricate traditions were laymen? No, not at all. They were from amongst the scholars, and they knew how to fabricate chains of narrators the way they knew how to fabricate the content. So now we ask, what is the solution to this problem? Especially now that we are in the time of Occultation where we don’t have access to the Imām to ask him, what criteria do we have to check a tradition for reliability?
فلا تقبلوا علينا خلاف القرآن ، فإنا إن تحدثنا حدثنا بموافقة القرآن وموافقة السنة ، إنّا عن الله وعن رسوله نحدّث ، ولا نقول : قال فلان وفلان ، فيتناقض كلامنا ، إنّ كلام آخرنا مثل كلام أولنا ، وكلام أولنا مصدّق لكلام آخرنا ، فإذا أتاكم من يحدّثكم بخلاف ذلك فردّوه عليه وقولوا : أنت أعلم وما جئت به ، فإن مع كلّ قول منا حقيقة ، وعليه نور ، فما لا حقيقة معه ولا نور عليه فذلك من قول الشيطان
So do not accept [what apparently comes] from us that contradicts the Qur’ān. For we only speak with that which is in accordance with the Qur’ān and the sunna. We speak either from Allāh or from the Prophet, and we do not speak from so and so that our words become contradictory. What we say at the beginning is the same as what we say at the end. And what we say at the beginning testifies to what we say at the end. So if anything comes to you in contradiction to this disregard it and tell the person who has narrated it to you that he is more knowledgeable in respect of what he has narrated [i.e. don’t confirm it]. For with every word of ours, there is a reality and a light, so whatever does not have this light or reality is from the words of Satan.
Any tradition which contradicts the Qur’ān should be disregarded without a moment of hesitation. You might ask, were the fabrications and Isrā’īliyyāt that common during the time of Imām Sādiq? Look at this reliable tradition:
وعن عن يونس، عن هشام بن الحكم، انه سمع ابا ععبدالله يقول كان المغيرة بن سعيد يتعمد الكذب علي أبي
From Yūnus, from Hishām b. al-Hakam, who said he heard Imām Sādiq say: Mughīra b. Sa’īd used to purposefully lie on my father. 5
These fabrications weren’t mere mistakes, the people behind them would intentionally fabricate traditions to destroy the Shi’ī school.
ويأخذ كتب أصحابه وكان اصحابه المستترون بأصحاب ابي
He [Mughīra b. Sa’īd] would take the books of the followers of my father, and his companions would be hidden amongst the companions of my father.
Mughīra b. Sa’īd had a group of companions hidden within the companions of Imām Bāqir. They would take the books from the companions of Imām Bāqir, they would ask if they could borrow it for a few days or so, then they would give them to Mughīra b. Sa’īd.
فيدقعونها لاى المغيرة، فكان يدس فيها الكفر والزندقة، ويسندها الي ابي
They would give the books to Mughīra who would then fabricate within them [traditions] of disbelief and apostasy, and would attribute it to my father [Imām Bāqir].
This is why I believe that all these traditions that we have that are full of superstition and disbelief originate from these people who would fabricate traditions with the intention of destroying the school of the Ahlulbayt.
ثم يدفها إلى اصحابه ويامرهم ان يبثوها في الشيعة
Then he [Mughīra] would give it back to his companions and order them to return the books to the Shi’ī
The poor companion has no idea that his book has been fabricated with tens of traditions all of them with strong chains of narrators.
فكلما كان في كتب اصحاب أبي من الغلو فذاك مادسه المغيرة ابن سعيد في كتبهم
So whatever you find of ghuluw within the books of my father, it is due to Mughīra tampering with their books.
Is it clear now why my approach to the reliability of traditions has changed in the last few years? This is the clear text which makes very clear that we cannot accept any tradition unless it is in conformity with the Qur’ān and the established rational principles.
Sadiq Meghjee is a frequent contributor to Iqra Online and has been studying in the seminary of Qom for 6 years. Prior to entering the seminary he pursued an accounting qualification and worked in London. His field of interest is intellectual history.
- Ikhtiyār Ma’rifatu al-Rijāl, v. 2, p. 490
- Here Syed Kamāl is referring to a comment he made on his regular TV show on the channel of Kawthar where he doubted the reliability of a considerable amount of traditions within the Shi’ī Hadīth literature (view one of the clips here). His comments caused a considerable amount of controversy and were met with a very strong backlash, one of the reasons which penultimately resulted in his show being cancelled.
- The 400 usul is the name given to the books of traditions compiled by the companions of the Imāms. Through these books, the later books of traditions, such as the 4 major books, were compiled. Out of these 400 only around 16 remain today.
- Refer to this discussion to see a practical example of how chains of narrators would be fabricated.
- Ikhtiyār Ma’rifatu al-Rijāl, v. 2, p. 491