In our previous discussion, we stopped at an important question. A question that isn’t just important here but it appears in every discussion, and that is, in the case of a contradiction between traditions of the Holy Prophet and His Family, what is the criteria for preferring one tradition over the other? We looked at a number of traditions that said accepting the wilāyā is not a condition to having actions accepted or entering Paradise and a number of others that said it was. How do we solve this and which set of traditions do we give preference (tarjīh)?
We mentioned in our previous episode that the solution to this conflict is to return back to the Qur’ān. The first point of reference should always be the Qur’ān and not the chain of narrators etc. On what basis is the Qur’ān the point of reference to solve these conflicts? Firstly we have rational proof to support this which I won’t go into. Additionally, we have textual proof to support this, traditions within the books of our scholars which clearly highlight the foundational importance of the Qur’ān. I’ll demonstrate with an example of a reliable tradition, found within a reliable book and with a reliable chain of narration as well.
This tradition can be found in Ikhtiyār Ma’rifatu al-Rijāl, well known as Rijāl al-Kashī 1:
ان بعض أصحابنا سأله وأنا حاضر، فقال له، يا أبا محمد ما أشدك في الحديث، وأكثر انكارك لما يرويه أصحابنا
A number of our companions asked him (Yūnus b. ‘Abd al-Rahmān) while I (the narrator) was present: Why are you so strict in accepting Hadīth, and [why do you] reject a lot of what we narrate?
This is the same methodology that I have recently adopted, similar to the methodology of Yūnus b. ‘Abd al-Rahmān, one of the greatest companions of the Imāms. We are extremely strict in accepting Hadīth, we don’t accept a Hadīth just like that. Don’t tell me that the tradition says this. There is no value to a tradition if it is contrary to the Qur’ān! Disregard it even if it is mutawātir! I cannot be clearer than this. And this is exactly what I have said in my book Mīzān Tashīh al-Mawruth al-Riwā’ī. I don’t take the classification of whether a tradition is mutawātir or not, even if the tradition is of the highest levels of tawātur there is no value to it if contradicts the Qur’ān. The sunna gains its legitimacy from following the Qur’ān, irrespective if the sunna is widely circulated or it’s based on a solitary tradition or a tradition from an unreliable book.
This is something we see happening a lot with Allamā Majlisī, whereby the majority of traditions he narrates in Bihār al-Anwār are taken from unreliable books let alone having weak chain of narrators.2 If we get the chance I will have an extensive discussion on the traditions recorded within Bihār al-Anwār so that we can assess their value and judge it’s reliability. You might ask, why is it important to have a look at Bihār al-Anwār? The reason it warrants a closer investigation is because it is with great sorrow that right now the Shi’ī culture that is spread from the pulpit and satellite channels is completely under the influence of traditions only found in Bihār al-Anwār. And this is a book which has no Divinely sanctioned value what so ever.
فما الذي يحملك على رد الاحاديث؟ فقال: حدثني هشام بن الحكم أنه سمع أبا عبدالله (عليه السلام) يقول: لاتقبلوا علينا حديثا الا ما وافق القرآن والسنة
So what has made you reject all these Hadīth? He (Yūnus) replied: Hishām b. al-Hakam told me that he heard Imam Sādiq saying: Do not accept any tradition from unless it is in accordance with the Qur’ān and sunna.
You might think, how can the sunna clarify the reliability of a tradition? Isn’t this circular? The response is we have two types of sunna, that which is doubtful and that which is established and we have certainty of its occurrence by the Prophet or the Imāms. So don’t say, but this tradition can be found in the book al-Ihtijāj. So what? It can be found in Bihār al-Anwār. So what? It can be found in Kitab al-Sulaym. So what? It can be found in Tafsīr al-Qummī. So what? It can be found in Kāmil al-Ziyārāt. So what? It can be found in Basā’ir al-Darajāt. So what? It can be found in the books of Shaykh Sadūq. So what? The Imām has made the criteria crystal clear, if a tradition comes to you from us evaluate it with the Qur’ān and the established sunna.
فان المغيرة بن سعيد لعنه الله دس في كتب أصحاب أبي أحاديث لم يحدث بها أبي، فاتقوا الله ولا تقبلوا علينا ماخالف قول ربنا تعالى وسنة نبينا فانا اذا حدثنا، قلنا قال الله عزوجل، وقال رسول الله
For verily Mughīra b. Sa’īd, may Allāh curse him, used to fabricate traditions in the books of my father’s companions. Fear Allāh and do not accept traditions that are in contrary to the Qur’ān and the sunna of our Prophet. For when we narrate anything, we attribute it to Allāh or the Prophet.
It is on the basis of this very tradition that Shahīd Sadr used to say that he had general knowledge (‘ilm ijmāli) that whatever Hadīth he would touch had the possibility of either coming from the Imāms or of being fabricated3 It is extremely unfortunate that when you look at the satellite channels of ignorance, those who claim to be people of knowledge, they narrate traditions from any and every book, traditions which have no chain of narrators, no supporting evidence (shawāhid) to prove it’s reliability, no contextual indicators (qarā’in) nor does it agree with the Qur’ān. The presence of fabrication is clear! This is from the words of the Imāms themselves! Why aren’t these traditions read to people? Why aren’t traditions evaluated against the Qur’ān? Why aren’t these traditions evaluated against the principles the Imāms have laid out?
قال يونس: وافيت العراق فوجدت بها قطعة من أصحاب أبي جعفر ووجدت أصحاب أبي عبدالله متوافرين
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.
How strange. Yūnus found a group of people following Imām Bāqir and a group following Imām Sādiq, similar to how today you have a group of people following marja’ X and another following marja’ Y. It seems that during the 2nd century Hijri the situation of the Shi’ī was similar.
فسمعت منهم وأخذت كتبهم، فعرضتها من بعد على أبي الحسن الرضا
So I listened to them [the followers of Imām Sādiq], and I took their books and presented them to Imam al-Ridhā.
Yūnus says he took the books from what was circulated amongst them and presented them to Imam al-Ridhā. Look at what Imam al-Ridhā says to him. This is what people have rejected, and whoever rejects this tradition is ignorant of the traditions of the Ahlulbayt. Keep in mind these books were popular and widespread during the time of Imām al-Ridhā. Unfortunately, our time has run out and I will mention what he says in our next episode.
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
- There have been numerous scholarly attempts to commentate on Bihār al-Anwār, the most popular being the works Allāmah Tabatabā’ī and Ayatollāh Āsif Mohsinī. Allāmah started a commentary on Bihār but was censored and stopped after a few volumes were completed. On the other hand Āsif Mohsinī in his Mashra’a al-Bihār went through the entire 110 volumes looking at which traditions were authentic according to his framework of reliable traditions. A similar work was compiled called al-Mu’tabar min Bihār al-Anwār where the author reconstructed the work by disregarding all unreliable traditions using Ayatollāh Āsif Mohsinī’s criteria for authenticity. This resulted in the reduction of the book from 110 volumes to just 3.
- Shahīd Sadr alludes to this point in his discussion within Usūl, whereby he says: “it is not possible to gain certainty that the Hādith we have today is free from these fabrications that the Imām warned of”. Similarly, he says: “It is possible that we find contradictory traditions, within reliable books of Hadīth that are with us today, that are a result of the fabrications that used to happen”. Refer to Buhūth fī ‘Ilm al-Usūl, v. 7, p. 39.