Resolving Disparities In Hadith

Reading and pondering over hadith and acquiring knowledge directly from our Imams (as) is not the prerogative of the mujtahids only. It is a duty and responsibility of each and every muslim. We quote two hadith below from the Masumeen (as):

I heard Abu Jafar say: By Allah, that companion of mine is beloved to me, who narrates and ponders over our Hadith, and the evil one is the one who hears the Hadith which has been associated with us (as) and has been reported form us (as), so his mind does not accept it and his heart is constricted by what is contained in it, and he fights against it and denies it to make it his religion, and he does not know that it could be the hadith which is coming from us (as) and to us (as) is it’s link, so by that he has exited out of our wilayah (guardianship) [Source: Basair ul Darajat Chapter 22]

The Messenger of Allah (sawas) said: Seeking of knowledge is an obligation on every Muslim. Seek knowledge from its sources (i.e. Masumeen (as)) and take it from the People of Ahadith (i.e. narrators of hadith) [Source: Wasail us Shia H33127]

Unfortunately, the religious establishment has divided the society into two classes – clergy and layman. The layman are discouraged from accessing the hadith directly. One of the reasons often quoted is that the hadith literature has been corrupted and a layman will be unable to differentiate the sound (sahih) hadith from unsound (zaif). Nothing is further from the truth – our great collections of hadith are extremely reliable and a source of truth for us. Secondly we are not layman and should not consider ourselves as such. Knowledge of the hadith is an obligation on each and every one of us.

If we doubt our hadith (specifically the collections sourced from the Masumeen (as)) then God forbid we will have attributed a lie (false claim) to the Holy Prophet (as) who mentioned in hadith al thaqalayn that he (sawas) leaves behind two weighty things – the book of Allah and the Ahlul bayt (as). After Ghaibat-e-Kubra, the reference to Ahlul bayt (as) includes the vast amount of recorded hadith left behind. The Imams (as) had laid great emphasis on their companions the necessity of recording and preservation of hadith and this was acted upon meticulously by them.

We have already mentioned the fallacy of the subject of ilm-al-rijal in our previous post and proved its invalidity based on the hadith of the Masumeen (as).

Despite careful preservation, what should one do when encountered with contradictory hadith? The solution to this problem has also been provided by the Masumeen (as). In this post, we will quote a series of hadith by our Imams (as) which can be used to resolve disparities. What is most important to understand is that despite our best efforts if we are still not able to resolve the difference between two hadith then one can act on any one of them. We will be judged by Allah (swt) on our sincere efforts to follow the footsteps of the Masumeen (as). At least, we made the effort and did not resort to the short cut of acquiring religion from the mouth of men. At least we did not commit shirk by blindly following (taqleed) a fallible mujtahid.

Below are some of the hadith we have compiled that explain clearly how to resolve disparities. As you will see there is no mention of the concept of Ilm al Rijal anywhere and in fact, you will not find any hadith that advocate this concept. On the contrary there are numerous hadith (refer to my article on Ilm al Rijal) which speaks against using this concept.

1. Refer to the Book of Allah:

Abu Abd Allah (asws) said: The Messenger of Allah (saww) said: ‘Surely on every truth there is reality, and on every correct thing there is a light. Whatever is in agreement with the Book of Allah (azwj) take hold of it, and that which is against the Book of Allah (azwj), leave it’.
[Source: H33343 Wasail us Shia]

Abu Ja’far (asws) said: ‘If there comes to you from us (asws) a Hadith, you find a witness for it or two witnesses from the Book of Allah, take by it otherwise stand still, then return it back to us (asws), until its clarification comes to you’.
[Source: H33351 Wasail us Shia]

2. Prefer the one who has more knowledge of Hadith:

Abu Abd Allah (asws) said – Regarding two people who agree on the appointment of two just persons who issue decisions which are different, and they are happy with the fairness of the two judges, which of the two decisions have to be implemented? He (asws) said: ‘Look at their understanding and knowledge of our (asws) hadith and whoever is better, implement his decision and do not pay attention to the other one’.
[Source: H33351 Wasail us Shia]

Here the Imam (as) is referring to the ones who have knowledge of hadith. These are the narrators/compilers of hadith (defined as fuqaha by the Imams) – the ones who readily quote hadith and provide references to them. Not the mujtahids who perform ijtihad based on aql and ijma, who never quote hadith and require us to follow them blindly without asking for proof.

3. One Must Hold Back in Confusing Matters:

Abu Abd Allah (asws) said: ‘Holding back in confusing matters is better than falling into destruction. For every truth there is a reality, and on all correctness there is a light. Whatsoever is in agreement with the Book of Allah azwj, take it, and whatsoever is against the Book of Allah azwj, leave it’.
[Source: H33368 Wasail us Shia]

4. Flexibility in choosing one of them:

Imam Al-Reza (asws) said, when it was said to him (asws), ‘The Hadith from you (asws) are differing’, he (asws) said: ‘What comes to you from us (asws), compare it to the Book of Allah and our (asws) (other) hadith. If they are similar, then they are from us (asws) , and if they are not similar, then they are not from us (asws)’. I said, ‘There come to us two men – and both of them are reliable – with two hadith which differ, and we do not know which one of them is on the just’. He (asws) said: ‘If you do not know then you have been given the flexibility to take to whichever of them’.
[Source: H33373 Wasail us Shia]

5. Choose the one against the majority of Muslims:

And from Sama’at Bin Mehran, from Abu Abd Allah (asws) when it was said to him (asws), ‘Two Hadith get referred to us, one of them orders us for something, and the other one prohibits us’. He (asws) said: ‘Do not act upon any one of them until you meet your Master (asws), ask him (asws)’. I said, ‘If it is necessary to act upon one of them?’ He (asws) said: ‘Take to the one which is against the generality of the Muslims’.
[Source H33375 Wasail us Shia]

Ameerul Momineen (as) said, ‘Allah has made certain acts compulsory upon you. Do not waste them. He also has created boundaries for you. Do not cross them. He has forbidden from you certain things. Do not go against Him. Whatever has not been mentioned was not due to Allah forgetting. So do not try to know about them.’ [Source: Nahjul Balagha Saying No 835]

This proves that if you do not find an order regarding an issue in Quran or hadiths then you should refrain from performing that act because this is the will of Allah. If you attempt to create rulings from your own opinion, it is as if you are competing with Allah.

Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) said, ‘In the case of doubt, it is better to refrain from performing an act than to become destroyed by performing it’.
[Source: Usool e Kafi Kitab e Aql chapter 22 hadith 10]

6. One Must Wait until he Finds the Authentic Hadith:

When it was asked from Abu Abd Allah (asws) about the man, for whom there is a dispute about the differing orders of two men of his religion, both of them narrate to him, one of them orders him to do something and the other one forbids him, how does he act? He (asws) said: ‘He should abstain until such time as he meets someone who gives him the Hadith. He should wait until he meets him’.
[Wasail us Shia H 33338]

7. One Must Act on a Hadith which is Closer to his Time:

And from him, from his father, from Usman Bin Isa, from Al Husayn Bin Al Mukhtar, from one of our companions, who have narrated the following from Abu Abd Allah asws: ‘If I (asws) were to give you a Hadith and a year later you come to me and I (asws) give to you a Hadith different to that previous one, which one of these will you act by?’ I said, ‘The latter one’. He (asws) said to me: ‘May Allah have Mercy on you’. [Wasail us Shia H 33340]

I said to Abu Abd Allah (asws) , ‘A Hadith comes to us from the former one of you (asws) and a Hadith comes from the later one of you (asws), which one shall we take?’ He (asws) said: ‘Take it until such times as one Hadith comes to you from a living one (asws). When you are told something by a living one (asws) grab his (asws) speech’. [Wasail us Shia H 33341]

H 33342 – Kulayni said, And in another Hadith it is “Take by the (new) Hadith”.

8. Choose An Arbitrator who has more Knowledge of Ahadith:

‘I asked Abu Abd Allah (asws) about two men from our companions who have a dispute about religion or heritage (inheritance), give us a verdict’ – until he said – ‘If each one of them chooses from our companions to represent his rights and they differ in their judgements, and they all dispute about your (asws) Hadith?’ He (asws) said: ‘The judicial decision will be by the one who has more understanding and is more truthful in the Ahadith and their narrations, and do not pay attention to the decision of the other’.

The narrator said, ‘I said to him (asws) : ‘Both of them are regarded as just amongst our companions, there is no distinction of one over the other’. He (asws) said: ‘Look at which of their narrations that they have used in making the decision that they have agreed upon, so take by that and ignore the one which is not well known among your companions, for the one which is known by all, there is no doubt about that’

The narrator asked: ‘If the Hadith used by them are all well known, then what?’ He (asws) said: ‘Look, at what is in accordance with the Book and the Sunnah and is opposite to what the generality of the Muslims do, take by that, and ignore what is against the Order of the Book and the Sunnah’.

I said, ‘May I be your (asws) sacrifice! I see both of them to be men of understanding who understand the Order from the Book and the Sunnah, and we find one of the two Hadith to be in accordance with the generality of the Muslims, and the other one to be in opposition to them, which one of these Hadith shall we take by?’ He (asws) said: ‘That, which is against the generality of the Muslims for there will be guidance there in’.

I said, ‘May I be your (asws) sacrifice, what if both the Ahadith are in accordance with the generality of the Muslims?’ He (asws) said: ‘Look to what their governors and judges are deciding by the most, ignore these and take to the others’.

I said. ‘What if their governors make use of both these Hadith equally?’ He (asws) said: ‘If that were to be the case, wait until you meet your Imam (asws) for staying away in doubtful matters is better than indulging in destruction’.

[Source: H33334 Wasail us Shia]

Lastly we would like to quote, Sheikh Yaqub al Kulayni (one of our greatest scholars of hadith who lived in the time of Ghaibat-e-Sughra) who writes the following in his introduction to Al Kafi:

Thus, you should know, my brother – may God [continue to] guide you – that nobody can resolve any of the disparities in the traditions of the Imams – may God’s peace be upon them – using his own opinion. Rather [these can only be resolved] according to the methods stated by one of the knowledgeable Imams – may God’s peace be upon him – when he said “Compare them to the book of God. Take whichever of them concurs with the book of God – almighty is he and sublime – and reject whichever of them contradicts the book of God;” and when he said “Abandon whatever concurs with the majority [i.e., Sunnis], for guidance is found in opposing them;” and when he said “Take what is unanimously agreed upon, for there is no [room to] doubt in what is unanimously agreed upon”. However, [despite these methods] we only know a few instances where true resolution is possible. Thus, we find no path more prudent, or easier than to refer the knowledge of all this back to the knowledgeable Imam of our time – may God’s peace be upon him – and to accept the freedom of choice that he gave to us when he said “Any one [hadith] that you act on out of submission is fine”

Fallacy of Ilm-al-Rijal

Ilm-al-Rijal literally means ‘Knowledge of Men’ and is more commonly understood as the Science of Narration. This science is one of the most important founding pillars of Ijtihad (and thus the system of Taqlid and Marjaiyat). The purpose of this science is to distinguish between reliable and unreliable hadith by evaluating the biographies of the narrators instead of examining the actual text and contents of the hadith. This science was first invented by the Ahlul Sunnah and Ahmad ibn Hanbal (founder of the Hanbali Sunni School) was among one of the early specialists in this subject who also wrote the book Kitab al-`Ilal wa Ma‘rifat al-Rijal: “The Book of Narrations Containing Hidden Flaws and of Knowledge of the Men (of Hadeeth)”.

In this article, we will show that this subject is diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Masumeen (as). When this subject is proved to be false, the system of Ijtihad (and thus Taqlid of fallibles) also collapses. This subject is taught in the Hawza (Shia Islamic Seminary) and a working knowledge of this subject is generally expected from every scholar who reaches the level of being a Jurisprudent (mujtahid) and has the ability to give legal edicts and injunctions.

There is not a single hadith or ayah of Quran that promote or even mention this subject. On the other hand, there are numerous hadith from Masumeen (as) which are opposed to the concept of Ilm-al-Rijal. Why are these hadith hidden from the public and never mentioned? Because Ilm-al-Rijal is a convenient tool and this very tool is used to reject hadith which speak against it. It is a powerful weapon used to establish rule and control over the masses.

Foundations of Ilm al Rijal
The foundation of Ilm-al-Rijal is based upon the following verse from the Holy Quran:

O you who have faith! If a fasiq (evil-doer, profligate person) should bring you some news, verify it, lest you should visit [harm] on some people out of ignorance, and then become regretful for what you have done. [Surah Hujurat, 49:6]

See below references where it is clearly stated that Ilm-al-Rijal was founded on the above verse:

What is most shocking is that the above verse is in fact clearly opposed to the concept of Ilm-al-Rijal. This verse asks us to investigate the report not evaluate the profile of the reporter since the reporter is already mentioned to be a fasiq (evil doer). In other words, don’t reject a report even it is from a fasiq, rather investigate into the contents to ascertain it’s truth.

If the mujtahidin want to apply the above verse to Ilm-al-Rijal where is the proof? Is there any tafsir of the above ayah by Masumeen (as) indicating that this verse applies to the subject of Ilm-al-Rijal and transmission of hadith? If Ilm-al-Rijal is so important that the whole process of ijtihad depends on it then it is surprising that there are no hadith clearly outlining the definition and process of Ilm-al-Rijal.

Common arguments supporting Ilm-al-Rijal
One common argument supporting Ilm-al-Rijal is as follows:

The goal of Ilm-al-rijal is not about proving hadith as false. It is about determining the degree of hujjiyya of a hadith with respect to the narrators in its sanad, i.e. the likelihood of its being issued from the Imam (as) through that particular chain of transmission, which is then added to other evidence to help determine, not whether the hadith is a fabrication, false or deniable or not, but how certain we are that it is from the Imam (as). This is especially important where there is conflict of evidence or when determining whether or not one ought to act upon evidence below a certain threshold.

The above statements are self-contradicting and simply a play of words to confuse the people. The end result of Ilm-al-rijal is to accept/reject hadith based on a fictitious whimsical and non-measurable threshold. Religion is based on conviction – not on uncertainty and doubt and Ilm-al-rijal is being used to create uncertainty. At the end of this exercise there are only two outcomes – either reject or accept the hadith based on the narrator – so essentially one has proved hadith to be true or false.

Hadith against Ilm al Rijal
Now, below are some hadith from Masumeen (as) clearly contradicting the entire philosophy of Ilm al Rijal:

Abu Abdullah (asws) said: Do not belie the Hadeeth, whether it comes to you by (way of) the Murjiites, or the Qadiriyya, or the Harouriya, if it is referred to us (asws), for you do not know perhaps therein is something from the Truth, otherwise you would end up belying Allah (azwj) on top of His (azwj) Throne. [Source: Al Mahaasin V1 Bk 5 H 175]

I heard Abu Jafar say: By Allah, that companion of mine is beloved to me, who narrates and ponders over our Hadith, and the evil one is the one who hears the Hadith which has been associated with us (asws) and has been reported form us (asws), so his mind does not accept it and his heart is constricted by what is contained in it, and he fights against it and denies it to make it his religion, and he does not know that it could be the hadith which is coming from us (asws) and to us (asws) is it’s link, so by that he has exited out of our wilayah (guardianship) [Source: Basair ul Darajat Chapter 22]

And from Ali Bin Ibrahim, from his father, and from Ahmad Bin Muhammad Ibn Khalid, from Al Nawfaly, from Al Sakuni, from Abu Abdullah asws , said: ‘The Commander of the Faithful asws said; ‘When you narrate Hadeeth, then mention its chain (of narrators). If it was the truth then it is to you (its reward), and if it was false it is to them (its punishment)’. [Source: Wasaail us Shia – H33259]

Muhammad ibn Isma’il from al-Fadl ibn Shadhan fromibn abu ‘Umayr from Hisham ibn al-Hakam and others from abu ‘Abd Allah, recipient of divine supreme covenant, who has said the following: “The Holy Prophet saww once addressed the people in Mina (a place in Makka) saying, ‘O people, whatever comes to you in the form of my Hadith, if it agrees with the Holy Book of Allah, it is genuine, but whatever comes to you that does not agree with the book of Allah you must know that I have not said it.'” [Source: Al Kafi – H 203, Ch. 22, h5

From Ahmad son of Muhammad son of Eissa from Al-Hussein son of Sa’eed and Muhammad son of Khaled Al-Burqi from Abdullah son of Jundub from Sufyani son of Al-Simd he said I said to Abi Abdullah pbuh may I be your ransom a man comes to us with lies, he mentioned a hadeeth and we consider him disgusting. Abi Abdullah pbuh says, “Did he say to you that night is day and day is night?” He said no. He said, “If he said to you this do not say he is a liar or else you are calling me a liar.” [Source: Mukhtasar Basa’er Al-Darajat Hassan son of Suleiman Al-Hilli p.76 and in another print p.234 Bihar Al-Anwar v.2 p.211]

Al Safar narrated from Muhammad son of Al Hussein from Muhammad son of Ismael from Hamza son of Bazee from Ali AlSinany from Abi Al Hassan (as) that he (as) wrote to him in a letter “Do not say to what has been mentioned by us Baatil(false/void) even if you know that it is the opposite, you do not know why we have said it and on what face and description.” [Source: Basaer AlDarajat Muhammad son of AlHassan AlSafar p.558/AlKafi v.8 p.25/Bihar Al Anwar v.2 p.209]

Cyclical problem of Ilm al Rijal
There is a cyclical (repetitive) problem with Ilm-al-Rijal which can be understood as follows. How do we know if a narrator who lived a thousand years ago was a reliable person? Through a biography – which is an account of someone’s life written by someone else. How do we know if this “someone else” is reliable and is not lying or mislead. We would need another biography of this “someone else”. And so the cycle continues – leaving us in complete doubt and uncertainty regarding the original narrator.

Opinions regarding other people
Everyone is entitled to have an opinion regarding another person. Everyone’s opinion can be personal, subjective and different based on the nature of their contact and the time of contact with that particular individual. In addition, a person can change during his life from being truthful to dishonest. How can anyone say with guarantee that a certain narrator is truthful?

If you look into the books of Rijal, you will find many contradictions regarding narrators. One expert of Rijal says a certain narrator is reliable, faithful and had a good memory. Another expert considers the exact same narrator to be a liar, unreliable, with no iman, and a bad memory. It will be impossible to know whether this narrator is reliable or not based upon this method. Even if you tried from now until the Day of Judgment, you will never be able to know. Then there will always be doubt in every hadith that is narrated from him, and this is what has happened with every single narrator. Because of this, hadith have lost their entire value and are nothing more than playthings for the people.

How long has this procedure of separating doubtful hadith from real hadith has been in place? More than 800 years has passed since that time. Despite the passage of eight centuries, the people of today are still unable to determine which hadith are correct and which are incorrect. If it had been determined, then there would be no differences between the fatwas of the mujtahids. One mujtahid would not declare something halal while another declares it as haram. This undeniable truth is a proof that Ilm al Rijal is false, and it is nothing more than conjecture and guesswork. It was invented in order to deceive the people and to destroy the shariat of RasoolAllah (saw).

Views of early Shia scholars regarding Ilm al Rijal
Early Shia scholars (narrators of hadith) never paid much importance to the chain of narrators. Sheikh Hurr Al Amili, the compiler of Wasail us Shia (one of the biggest collection of Hadith), says the following in his introduction:

  • The science of Rijal (men) should not be used.
  • The science of Rijal in Shi’ism is a recent innovation
  • It was invented because of the Ahl al Sunnah’s continual criticism of the shias for not having and following a system for deriving laws from hadith.
  • If the system was actually applied, very few, if any, Shia hadith would prove to be sahih (authentic), hasan (good) or muwathaq (trusted) – and the entire Shia collection of hadith would prove to be weak.

Esteemed scholar Baqir al Majlisi says:
“We do not need sanad (chain of narrators) for the four books (Kutub-e-Araba – the four early collections of hadith: Al-Kafi, Al-Istibsaar, Tahdhib Al-Ahkam and Man La Yahduruhu Al-Faqih) and when we place the sanad we do it just out of blessing and to follow the Sunnah of our predecessors” [Source: Rasael abi al Ma’ali lil Majlisi page 459]

Muhaqqiq Abu al Hassan al Sha’arani says:

“The majority of the hadiths of Usool (principle) in al Kafi are NOT sahih (authentic) in their sanad (chain of narrators) but they are adopted because their matn (text/content) agrees with the correct aqeedah (beliefs) and we do not need to look at the sanad (chain of narrators) in such narrations”
[Source: Miqyas al Hidayah 2/282, in the intro of Sharh al Jami’i Ala al Kafi]

Is Ilm-al-Rijal a science?
If Ilm al Rijal were to be such an important piece of guidance for the Shias, then should not Masumeen (as) have taught or mentioned it? This is claimed to be a science but it is not really a science. Even the hawza is not sure on the correct principles and rules of ilm-al-rijaal. Read the information in the Advanced tab at the following link:

Excerpt from above site:
“Although the science is one of the classical sciences, (al-Ulum al-Naqliyyah) that is taught and studied in traditional Islamic seminaries, it would be incorrect to assume that this science is in anyway uniformly rigid and there are varying views as to what the principles and rules of ilm al-Rijaal actually are. It follows therefore that whilst there are general agreed upon principles within the field, there is still debate over the scope of ilm al Rijaal, and even the particular methods of evaluating individual narrators’ reliability in the transmissions of reports.

In recent years, ilm al-Rijaal and its scope have been called into question by several controversies over whether or not the science is meant to be strictly applied to narrations in regard to Jurisprudence (as is practiced by the Jurists), or whether or not it has a broader scope, including the ability to call into question the authenticity of religious appeals.”

Embarassing contradictions in Ilm al Rijal
There are many embarassing contradictions in Ilm al Rijal where there are multiple opinions of the same narrator. For example regarding narrator Dawood Ibn Katheer Al Ruqa, Sheikh Al Toosi in his Rijaal (p.329 5003) considers him to be Thiqa (meaning reliable). Whereas, Sheikh Al Najashi said in his Rijaal (p.156 #410) that he (Dawood Ibn Katheer Al Ruqi) is very weak and the Ghulat (extremists) are narrating from him. Ahmad son of Abd Al Waahed said: I haven’t seen from him a strong hadeeth. And there exists a narration from Imam Sadiq (as) saying: “Consider Dawood Al Ruqi to me like the rank of Miqdad to the Messenger of Allah pbuh” [Source Mujam Rijaal AlHadeeth v.8 p.405]

Now in the face of above type of contradictions how is one ever going to find out the reality of a person.

In order to establish their rule over the masses and to make hadith doubtful, it was necessary for the religious establishment to invent a system, which they referred to as “knowledge” and gave it the name of “Ilm al Rijal”. It is based purely on speculation and conjecture. This concept cannot be found even in one ayah of the Holy Quran or even one hadith of the Masoomeen (as). Religion is based on ‘yaqeen’ (certainty) not on doubt. Ilm-al-rijal is a satanic tool that results in creating, rather than removing, doubt in religion.