By Dr. Hassan Ansari
Despite recent research in hadith studies and textual criticism that has shed light on the nature and characteristics of some hadith texts, unfortunately, some individuals still present any Arabic text as if it is a reliable hadith without caution or attention to the basic principles of hadith verification and sources. Such interpretations can produce results and deductions that are outside the principles of scholarly studies and research and the foundations of traditional studies. Furthermore, these interpretations are often mixed with various types of Sufi, Muhyi al-Dini1, and ecstatic readings, as well as some interpretations based on Sadrian and rather Shaykhi ideas, and are presented under the guise of “truths and secrets” (ḥaqā’iq and asrār) to the people. This type of reading has even more severe consequences for the overall religious education of the people, especially when unprincipled deductions and contents, which are based on unreliable sources, are presented in public forums. Such content can reach millions of audiences through the power of the internet and social media today.
Our discussion is not about narrations preserved in reliable and authentic sources. It revolves around a number of hadith books whose historical roots are unclear, and even their attribution to alleged authors is debatable without clear evidence of their authenticity. In recent years, numerous studies have demonstrated the nature of such works and their association with different Ghuluw currents and Shi’i Ghulat or certain narrators who showed leniency in transmitting narrations related to religious propagation. Why should we ignore the opinions and views of researchers when it comes to transmitting these reports and even go further by mixing their content with even more unreliable teachings, subjugating religious thought to interpretations that are, at best, relatively unrelated to what we know about Shi’i doctrines from the Quran and authentic classical sources? Such negligence and leniency in narration can lead to confusion and distortion, causing even a rational and well-informed audience to become disillusioned and providing grounds for astonishment, mockery, and belittlement by some individuals.
What is even more regretful is that in the face of investigations presented by researchers over the past few centuries and in the past few decades, some individuals choose to disregard the research and cannot bear to exclude certain hadith works from the category of those works that are usually deemed reliable. Instead, they attempt to validate these problematic hadith works and narrations by adhering to non-credible methods, trying to present them as reliable works. After tens of Nusayri works being published over the last few years; works from Ḥusayn ibn Hamadān Khaṣībī and Nusayris from Baghdad, Halab, and Laziqiyyah, some individuals even start transmitting from these works that clearly belong to the Ghulat. They handle these works carelessly and use them as evidence to support other unreliable works or unauthentic narrations that they were previously aware of. They are heedless of the fact that the publication of these books and their content has shown more than ever that books such as Hidayah al-Kubra of Khaṣībī, ‘Uyūn al-Mu‘jizāt attributed to Ḥusayn b. ‘Abdul Wahhāb, or parts of Dalā’il al-Imāmah, Ithbāt al-Waṣiyyah, and works of this nature have been written or reconstructed under the influence of the Nusayriyyah and other Ghuluw trends in Baghdad.
Citing unreliable sources lacking authenticity, which are unsupported by the classical principles of hadith or rijal studies, or the precise methods of modern historiography, poses a significant problem. Scholars of Uṣūl and hadith, as well as classical Shi’i jurists such as Shaykh Mufid and Sharif Murtada did not consider these beliefs as part of the doctrinal principles of Shia beliefs. Moreover, it presents another danger: they have resulted in the formation of religious sects, especially those influenced by eschatological ideas and extremist sects with exaggerated or esoteric interpretations, particularly after the Ilkhanate period and especially in recent centuries related to the ideas of Prophethood/Mahdism/Babism.
Many of these groups and sects rely on the same unreliable traditions that the ancient Ghulat and mufawwidah created with more or less similar goals. Unfortunately, some of these traditions have been introduced into our hadith gatherings due to the negligence of past hadith scholars and compilers, who disregarded their roots and gave credence to their contents. In recent years, a deviant sect has relied solely on two or three traditions, which are clearly rooted in the discourse of ancient Ghulat and mufawwidah, to substantiate their claims by relying on the hadiths of the Imams. This is just one kind of danger to the Shi’a community that negligence toward the principles of hadith transmission poses.
Sayyid Ali studied in the seminary of Qom from 2012 to 2021, while also concurrently obtaining a M.A in Islamic Studies from the Islamic College of London in 2018. In the seminary he engaged in the study of legal theory, jurisprudence and philosophy, eventually attending the advanced kharij of Usul and Fiqh in 2018. He is currently completing his Masters of Education at the University of Toronto and is the head of a private faith-based school in Toronto, as well as an instructor at the Mizan Institute and Mufid Seminary.