The General Attestation of Reliability (al-tawthiq al-‘am) of the Banu Faddal

In his Kitāb al-Ghaybah, Shaykh al-Ṭūsī quotes a narration from one of the special deputies of the 12th Imam, al-Ḥusayn ibn Rūḥ, in which he says that the 12th Imām was asked about the books of Ibn Abī al-Ghazāqir after he had been censured and a malediction had been pronounced against him. The Imām (‘a) replied: I say of them exactly what [my father] said about the books of Banī Faḍḍāl when asked about them. He (‘a) said: Take what they narrate and abandon what they interpret (khudhū mā rawau wa dharū mā ra’aw). 1

What is worthy of note about this narration is that no other erstwhile narrator or scholar has mentioned it and only during the twelfth century A.H. was it once again quoted by the likes of Ḥurr al-‘Āmilī and al-Majlisī – and that too, from al-Ṭūsī’s Kitāb al-Ghaybah. Some later scholars have understood this narration to mean that whatever is narrated by way of the Banū Faḍḍāl should be “taken” i.e. deemed authentic and accepted, regardless of whom they narrate from or even if their chains are incomplete (mursal). The first person to use this reasoning in the field of the Principles of Jurisprudence (uṣūl al-fiqh) was Muḥaqqiq Narāqi, and in the field of Jurisprudence (fiqh) it was most likely Muḥammad Ḥasan al-Najafī (ṣāḥib Jawāhir) who first employed this reasoning. Worthy of note, however, is that both these scholars were late, and for centuries, no other scholar had interpreted this narration in such a manner.

Upon examination of this narration, we find that there are a number of problems with it. Firstly, it has a weak chain or narrators because ‘Abdullāh al-Kūfī, who is one of its narrators, is unknown (majhūl). 2 Secondly, since this narration has not been mentioned in any other source, it is deemed to be from the munfaridāt of Shaykh al-Ṭūsī. Surprisingly, even Shaykh al-Ṭūsī does not mention this narration in any other of his works. Furthermore, the fact that none of the books of fihrist mention this narration even when discussing the works of the Banū Faḍḍāl is even more reason to question its authenticity, since this is what these works were written for in the first place. The narration itself seems dubious since the comparison made between Ibn Abī al-Ghazāqir and the Banū Faḍḍāl does not add up. The former was cursed while the latter were not; and the questioners about the former were his contemporaries whereas those who asked about the Banū Faḍḍāl lived decades after them.

Among the later scholars, those who interpreted this narration as being an injunction that obligates us to accept what comes from the Banū Faḍḍāl in the way of traditions, included Muḥaddith al-Nūrī and Shaykh al-Anṣārī. Sayyid al-Khūi argues that the Banū Faḍḍāl were not superior in status to some of the greatest companions like Zurārah and Muḥammad ibn Muslim, yet we do not accept narrations from the latter group if they contain weak or unknown narrators, so how can we accept such narrations from the former? Further, he says that before they deviated from the madhhab, their narrations were only accepted when they narrated from reliable people, so how can it be that after they deviated from our school of thought we should take all their narrations regardless of whom they narrate from? 3 Sayyid al-Khumayni says that if we reject the narrations of Banū Faḍḍāl because they narrated from weak narrators, our rejection is not of the Banī Faḍḍāl, but rather of the weak narrators they have narrated from. 4

In conclusion, we note that even if we were to accept this narration, its correct interpretation would not result in the wholesale acceptance of what the Banū Faḍḍāl have narrated. Rather, we would accept what they have narrated from reliable narrators. The only thing that we can then take from this narration is the permission to accept the narrations of the Banū Faḍḍāl (who had deviated from the right aqīdah) as long as their narrations meet all the necessary requirements. And Allāh knows best.


  1. Kitāb al-Ghaybah p. 389 ḥ. 355
  2. Mu‘jam Rijāl al-Ḥadīth vol. 1 p. 67
  3. Kitāb as-Ṣalāh vol. 1 p. 150-152
  4. al-Khalal fi as-Salāh p. 81
Categories: Narrators | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The “difficult” narrations of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a)

Kulayni reports the following in al-Kafi (vol. 1 p. 401)

قَالَ أَبُو جَعْفَرٍ ع قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص إِنَّ حَدِيثَ آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ صَعْبٌ مُسْتَصْعَبٌ لَا يُؤْمِنُ بِهِ إِلَّا مَلَكٌ مُقَرَّبٌ أَوْ نَبِيٌّ مُرْسَلٌ أَوْ عَبْدٌ امْتَحَنَ اللَّهُ قَلْبَهُ لِلْإِيمَانِ فَمَا وَرَدَ عَلَيْكُمْ مِنْ حَدِيثِ آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ ص فَلَانَتْ لَهُ قُلُوبُكُمْ وَ عَرَفْتُمُوهُ فَاقْبَلُوهُ وَ مَا اشْمَأَزَّتْ مِنْهُ قُلُوبُكُمْ وَ أَنْكَرْتُمُوهُ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَ إِلَى الرَّسُولِ وَ إِلَى الْعَالِمِ مِنْ آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ وَ إِنَّمَا الْهَالِكُ أَنْ يُحَدِّثَ أَحَدُكُمْ بِشَيْ‏ءٍ مِنْهُ لَا يَحْتَمِلُهُ فَيَقُولَ وَ اللَّهِ مَا كَانَ هَذَا وَ اللَّهِ مَا كَانَ هَذَا وَ الْإِنْكَارُ هُوَ الْكُفْرُ

Note that this narration, like many other similar narrations contains the phrase ṣa’bun mustaṣ‘ab which can be translated as difficult and hard to bear. In the above ḥadīth, we are told that the ‘narrations’ of Ahl al-Bayt are difficult to bear except for three categories, namely: the archangels, the messengers and the believers whose hearts have been tested for faith. So if you hear something from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and it appeals to you, accept it and if it evokes a sense of distaste and you doubt it, then leave it to Allah and the Prophet for indeed it is wrong for anyone to deny something that they have no understanding of.

Scholars have interpreted the term ḥadīthanā in three ways:

1)      Some have taken the pronoun in ḥadīthanā to be an iḍāfah lāmiyyah meaning “our speech” or “our traditions” and as such the way they interprete this narration is that it is difficult to ‘understand’ the traditions of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) except for the three categories that have been mentioned.

2)      Others have taken the pronoun to be iḍāfah ẓarfiyyah meaning “speech pertaining to us” or “traditions about us” and have thus interpreted the narration to mean that it is difficult to ‘bear’ the traditions that mention the numerous virtues (faḍā’il) of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) except for the three groups that have been mentioned.

3)      Yet other scholars have interpreted the word ḥadīthanā to mean the wilāyah of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a).

In order to understand this narration and arrive at its correct interpretation, we need to look at other narrations that are similar and this will give us a better idea of what meant by this ḥadīth. For example, two similar narrations are as follows:

a)      In Nahj al-Balāgha, Amīr al-Mu’minīn (‘a) says:

إِنَّ أَمْرَنَا صَعْبٌ مُسْتَصْعَبٌ لَا يَحْمِلُهُ إِلَّا عَبْدٌ مُؤْمِنٌ امْتَحَنَ اللَّهُ قَلْبَهُ لِلْإِيمَانِ وَ لَا يَعِي حَدِيثَنَا إِلَّا صُدُورٌ أَمِينَةٌ وَ أَحْلَامٌ رَزِينَةٌ


b)      In Baṣā’ir al-Darajāt there is a narration in which Imām al-Bāqir (‘a) says:

عَنْ أَبِي بَصِيرٍ قَالَ قَالَ أَبُو جَعْفَرٍ ع إِنَّ أَمْرَنَا صَعْبٌ مُسْتَصْعَبٌ عَلَى الْكَافِرِ لَا يُقِرُّ بِأَمْرِنَا إِلَّا نَبِيٌّ مُرْسَلٌ أَوْ مَلَكٌ مُقَرَّبٌ أَوْ عَبْدٌ مُؤْمِنٌ امْتَحَنَ اللَّهُ قَلْبَهُ لِلْإِيمَانِ


What we notice from these two similar narrations is that the word amranā has been used in place of ḥadīthanā in some and this gives the impression that the second or third interpretation mentioned above is correct. In the second narration (from Baṣā’ir al-Darajāt) we notice an addition i.e. …‘alā al-Kāfir, Lā yuqirru bihi illā… meaning that the affair or narration(s) about the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are difficult to bear for the disbelievers (not difficult to understand, because there is no difference between a believer and a disbeliever as far as the faculties of intelligence and understanding is concerned), and none but the three groups testify to it.

In conclusion therefore, we see that this narration is not talking about the aḥādīth of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) being difficult to understand. Rather, it is their virtues, the foremost of them being their wilāyah and divinely given authority, that are difficult for people to bear.

Categories: Hadith Analysis | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Reconstructing the person of Ibn Shu‘ba al-Harrani

The author of the famous fourth century hadith compilation Tuḥaf al-‘Uqūl, Abu Muḥammad al-Ḥasan ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Ḥusayn ibn Shu‘ba al-Ḥarrāni is an individual whose character remains elusive because nothing has been said about him in the early works of rijāl. Though more recent scholars have mentioned him with praise, the late Sayyid al-Khui (r) says that the opinions of later scholars are to be considered as their own ijtihād and are of little value if nothing has been mentioned by the earlier scholars of rijāl. 1 As such, attempts have been made to try and reconstruct the character of Ibn Shu‘ba from the contents of his famous compilation Tuḥaf al-‘Uqūl.

For example, one phrase that is found in Tuḥaf al-‘Uqūl is al-shī‘ah al-mustabīrīn [p. 490] which is an uncommon phrase and some theories have been put forward and debated in relation to what this could mean and how it may relate to the beliefs of Ibn Shu‘ba. Specifically, whether or not by this phrase Ibn Shu‘ba was actually hinting against the Muqaṣṣirah among the Shī‘ah. 2 Another interesting claim that has been made is that because Ibn Shu‘ba has included the testament (waṣiyya) of Mufaḍḍal ibn ‘Umar al-Ju‘fī al-Kūfī in his compilation, he must have been a Nuṣayri.

Some later scholars such as Shaykh Husayn al-Baḥrāni (in his work on ethics al-Ṭarīq ila Allāh) have evinced that he was one of the teachers of Shaykh al-Mufīd because of the fact that the latter has narrated some traditions from him. However, Shaykh Muḥsin Amīn says that even though Shaykh al-Mufīd has narrated from him, this is not sufficient to prove that he was one of Ibn Shu‘ba’s students. 3 Due to the dearth of information about al-Ḥarrāni, many things have been speculated about him and the above are some of the more well known examples. Whether he was the actual compiler of Tuḥaf al-‘Uqūl and al-Tamḥīṣ (the other work that has been attributed to him) has also been questioned.

What is fascinating to note is that attempts have been made to reconstruct the person of Ibn Shu‘ba through the contents of his work and to deduce what his beliefs were etc. This is not something new and can be seen in the cases of other authors and compilers as well. But, when biographical information is available in the sources, it is taken to be the sole source of information about the individuals, and scholars do not normally use the same methods of reconstruction to try and check whether the biographical information tallies with the contents of the works of these individuals. This type of analysis could yield some interesting results and might give us a sense of how accurate these biographies are in the first place.


  1. Mu‘jamu Rijāl al-Ḥadīth wa Tafṣīlu Ṭabaqāt al-Ruwāt vol. 1 p. 42
  2. Ali Akbar Shayestenijād, Jayegāhe Tuḥaf al-‘Uqūl dar Manābi Riwāiye Shī’eh, Ulume Hadith 16 issue 1 & 2, p.249
  3. A‘yān al-Shī‘ah vol. 5 p. 185
Categories: Narrators | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Rijal al-Barqi

This book is also known as Tabaqāt al-Rijāl. Its author believed to be Abu Ja‘far Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqi (d. 275 or 280 AH) who was one of the great narrators of hadith in the third century after Hijra and was one of the companions of the Imams (‘a). Ahmad ibn Muhammad authored more than 100 books before his death, including the important work al-Mahāsin.

This work is one of the important Rijāl texts. It has been arranged according to the tiers (tabaqāt) of the narrators, beginning with the companions of the Prophet (s) followed by the companions of Amīr al-Mu’minīn (‘a) and then the companions of each of the other ten Imams – up to Imam Hasan al-‘Askari (‘a), and finally listing the women who have narrated traditions from the Prophet (s) and Imams (‘a). The book ends with the names of those who stood up against Abu Bakr for usurping the Caliphate and records their statements against him.

In every section, al-Barqi begins by listing those companions who were also companions of the previous Imams and then proceeds to name those individuals who were companions of only that particular Imam. The entire book, which is made up of some 66 pages in the edition printed by the University of Tehran (2004), contains a list of 1730 narrators but does not discuss the reliability of the narrators.

There has been some discussion among scholars about the author of Rijāl al-Barqi. This is because there are four individuals who are known as al-Barqi:

1)      Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqi

2)      His son, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqi (the author of al-Mahāsin)

3)      His grandson, ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khālid (one of the Shaykhs of al-Kulayni)

4)      His great-grandson, Ahmad ibn ‘Abdillah ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqi

After further investigation, it seems that this work is most likely that of the great-grandson, Ahmad ibn ‘Abdillah ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqi, for three reasons. Firstly, the author frequently narrates from the book of Sa‘d ibn ‘Abdillah and from ‘Abdullah ibn Ja‘far al-Himyari. Both these individuals were contemporaries of the third al-Barqi (‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad) and would narrate from his father’s al-Mahāsin. Secondly, when the author mentions Muhammad ibn Khālid, he does not state that he was his father. Thirdly, it has not been recorded anywhere that Ahmad ibn Muhammad had a book on rijāl.

For these three reasons, it is more likely that the great-grandson of Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqi was the author of Rijāl al-Barqi, rather than his son Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqi. In conclusion, it is worth noting that since this work does not elaborate on the reliability or unreliability of the narrators, its sole benefit is distinguishing the tiers (tabaqāt) of the narrators.

Categories: Book Reviews | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Books of Rijal

The books of Rijāl that are currently in our possession can be divided into three groups:

1) The main foundational books of Rijāl: These are the books that have been authored up until the time of Shaykh Tusi. These are known as the Kutub al-Qudamā’.

2) The books that were authored after the time of Shaykh Tusi – from the beginning of the sixth century A.H. until the ninth century. This era is referred to al-Fatrah al-Mutawassitah.

3) The books that were written in al-Fatrah al-Muta’akhirah i.e. from the beginning of the tenth century A.H. to the present.


The books of Rijāl that fall into the first category are:

(a) Rijāl al-Barqi

(b) Rijāl al-Kashshi

(c) Fihrist al-Najāshi (also known as Rijāl al-Najāshi)

(d) Fihrist al-Tusi

(e) Rijāl al-Tusi

(f) Rijāl Ibn Ghadhā’iri


Those that fall into the second category include:

(a) Ma’ālim al-‘Ulamā’

(b) Fihrist Muntajab al-Deen

(c) Rijāl Ibn Dāwud

(d) Khulāsat al-Aqwāl fi Ma’rifat al-Rijāl

(e) Hal al-Ishkāl fi Ma’rifat al-Rijāl


As for the books of the third category, they include:

(a) Mu’jam al-Rijāl

(b) Nahj al-Maqāl

(c) Jāmi’ al-Ruwāt

(d) Naqd al-Rijāl

(e) Amal al-Aāmil

(f) al-Khulāsah

(g) Rijāl al-Shaykh al-Ansāri

(h) Bahjat al-Aāmāl fi Sharhi Zubdat al-Maqāl

(i) Muntaha al-Maqāl

(j) Lu’lu’at al-Bahrayn

(k) Tanqih al-Maqāl fi ‘Ilm al-Rijāl

(l) Mu’jam Rijāl al-Hadith

(m) Qāmus al-Rijāl

(n) Usul ‘Ilm al-Rijāl


We will be looking at each of these books in more detail in the forthcoming posts inshaAllah.

Categories: Book Reviews | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Reparation of Weakness in the Chain of Narrators

One of the principles that has been debated among the scholars is known as the Principle of Reparation (Qa’idat al-Injibar) which states that if the majority of scholars (al-Mashhur) act upon a tradition, it makes up for and ‘repairs’ the weakness in the chain of narrators of that tradition. Certain scholars, like Ayt. al-Burujardi (r),  have accepted this principle and have included the caveat of precaution (ihtiyat) in their religious edicts (fatawa) when dealing with traditions that have been ‘repaired’ in this way. Other scholars like Ayt. al-Khui (r) reject this principle. Now let us look briefly at the arguments that have been presented against this principle:

The basis of this principle is the saying of the 5th Imam (‘a):

خذ بما اشتهر بين‏ الأصحاب ودع الشاذ النادر

But this saying refers to cases where there is a contradiction between two traditions that seem equally authentic, so it cannot really be used as the basis of this principle in the first place.

Some other reasons for not accepting this principle include:

1) How are we to know that all the well-known scholars acted upon a certain tradition? The fact that six or seven scholars scholars, whose works have reached us, acted upon a narration does not prove that all the well-known scholars did so.

2) Is the shuhra being referred to one of the olden scholars or of the contemporary scholars? If we say that it includes the shuhra of the contemporary scholars then this will be problematic because of the long gap between them and the time of the actual narration.

3) How can we prove that the well-known scholars acted as they did because of that particular narration and not for any other reason?

Therefore, we can conclude that this principle needs to be re-examined and all the problems arising therefrom need to be solved before it can be used as a means of authenticating any narration. And Allah knows best.

Categories: Hadith Analysis | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

False Attributions

It has been narrated from Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a) that:

كان‏ المغيرة بن‏ سعيد يتعمد الكذب على أبي، و يأخذ كتب أصحابه و كان اصحابه المستترون بأصحاب ابي يأخذون الكتب من أصحاب أبي فيدفعونها الى المغيرة، فكان يدس فيها الكفر و الزندقة، و يسندها الى ابي ثم يدفعها الى اصحابه و يأمرهم ان يبثوها في الشيعة، فكلما كان في كتب اصحاب أبي من الغلو فذاك ما دسه المغيرة ابن سعيد في كتبهم

al-Mughira ibn Sa’eed used to intentionally lie about my father. He would take the writings of his companions, and his followers would hide themselves among the companions of my father, taking what had been written by my father’s companions and passing it to al-Mughira who would then interpolate the text and add into it [teachings of] disbelief and apostasy and attribute it to my father. He would then give the books back to his companions and instruct them to disseminate them among the Shi’a. So everything in the books of my father’s companions that contains elements of extremism (ghuluw) is actually from the interpolations of al-Mughira ibn Sa’eed that have been introduced in their books.

[Rijal al-Kashshi 2:491]

Upon examination of this interesting narration, we find that the Imam himself describes in detail how the enemies would go to great lengths to corrupt the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). The interesting point to note though, is that we are told that whatever we find in the books of the Imam’s companions that contains elements of ghuluw should be taken to be interpolations and not ascribed to the Imam. Now the question arises – what exactly is this ghuluw and how can we draw the line that marks the boundary between ghuluw and fadha’il, for example?

Categories: Hadith Analysis | Tags: , , | Leave a comment