Quran and sunnah as sources of determining hadith authenticity

For part 1, click here.

For part 2 click here.

Below is part 3.


 1 ) Contradiction in ahadith

Al-Tusi says in the introduction of al-Istibsar:

The difference, contrast, contradiction, and contradiction that occurred in it, to the extent that hardly any hadith is agreed upon except with there being something that contradicts it, and no hadith is accepted - except that there be a hadith that goes against it”

Aba Abdilah [al-Mufid], may God support him, mentions that Abu al-Husayn al-Harouni Al-Alawi [Zaydi Imam] believed the truth and believed in (Twelve conception of) Imamate, bu he retracted from it when he becam confused due to difference in ahadith and left the doctrine

وما وقع فيها من الاختلاف والتباين والمنافاة والتضاد، حتى لا يكاد يتفق خبر إلا وبإزائه ما يضاده ولا يسلم حديث إلا وفي مقابلته ما ينافيه

أبا عبد الله أيده الله يذكر أن أبا الحسين الهاروني (3) العلوي كان يعتقد الحق ويدين بالإمامة فرجع عنها لما التبس عليه الامر في اختلفاالأحاديث وترك المذهب

2 ) Why would such a contradiction have existed? 

2A - Purposeful creation of the differences among the companions by the Imams for purpose of taqiyya

(Tahdheeb al-Ahkam, vol 2, page 252) 

Muhammad b. Yahya from Muhammad b. al-Husayn from Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Hashim al-Bajali from Salim Abi Khadija from Abi Abdillah عليه السلام, he (Salim) said: a man asked [him] while I was present: I happen to enter the Masjid and one of our companions is praying the Asr prayer while another is praying Dhuhr [why this divergence]? He said: I ordered them to do that, if they were all to pray at one time they would be known and it would be off with their necks.”

عن سالم أبي خديجة، عن أبي عبد الله عليه السلام قالسأل إنسان وأنا حاضر فقالربما دخلت المسجد وبعض أصحابنا يصلي العصر،وبعضهم يصلي الظهر، فقالأنا أمرتهم بهذا لو صلوا على وقت واحد لعرفوا فاخذ برقابهم.

  • Note: For perspective, this hadith is graded mu’tabar by Shaykh Asif Mohseni in Mu’jam al-Ahadith al-Mu’tabara

(‘Ilal al-Shara’ie by Shaykh al-Saduq)

My father, on the authority of Saad, on the authority of Muhammad ibn al-Walid and al-Sindi, on the authority of Aban ibn Uthman, on the authority of Muhammad ibn Bashir and Hariz, on the authority of Abi Abdillah [al-Sadiq], peace be upon him, who said: 

I said to him [The Imam]: There is nothing more difficult for me than the differences of our companions. 

He (the Imam said): I ordered that.

Allama Majlisi clarification on meaning of hadith: 

What I informed them (the companions) out of taqiyya, and ordered them to do for the greater good”

علل الشرائعأبي، عن سعد، عن محمد بن الوليد والسندي، عن أبان بن عثمان، عن محمد بن بشير وحريز، عن أبي عبد الله عليه السلامقالقلت لهإنه ليس شئ أشد علي من اختلاف أصحابنا، قالذلك من قبلي.

بيانأي بما أخبرتهم به من جهة التقية وأمرتهم به للمصلحة.

(‘Ilal al-Shara’ie, vol 2, page 395)

Muhammad ibn al-Hasan told us, he said: Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Saffar told us, on the authority of Ahmad ibn Muhammad, on the authority of Ibn Sinan, on the authority of Abu Ayyub al-Khazzaz, on the authority of who told him on the authority of Abu al-Hasan [al-Kadhim], peace be upon him.

The Imam was asked about differences among our companions.

He, peace be upon him, said: I did that to you. If you were united under one matter - your necks will be struck.”

حدثنا محمد بن الحسن قالحدثنا محمد بن الحسن الصفار عن أحمد ابن محمد عن ابن سنان عن أبي أيوب الخزاز عمن حدثه عن أبيالحسن عليه السلام قال اختلاف أصحابي لكم رحمة، وقالإذا كان ذلك جمعتكم على أمر واحد، وسئل عن اختلاف أصحابنا فقال عليهالسلامانا فعلت ذلك بكم لو اجتمعتم على أمر واحد لاخذ برقابكم.

2B - Ahadith of taqiyya are binding to specific people and are not invalid


Abu Jaafar (al-Baqir) said to me: O Ziyad! What do you say if we give a fatwa based on taqiyya to a man who is one of our followers? 

I [Ziyad] said to him: You know best, may I be your ransom. 

He [the Imam] said: If he takes it, it is better for him and greater in reward.

عن علي بن محمد ، عن سهل بن زياد ، عن ابن محبوب ، عن علي بن رئاب ، عن أبي عبيدة ، عن أبي جعفر ( عليه السلام ) ، قال : قال لي : يا زياد ! ما تقول لو أفتينا رجلا ممن يتولانا بشيء من التقية ؟ قال : قلت له : أنت أعلم ، جعلت فداك ، قال : إن أخذ به فهو خير له وأعظمأجرا 

  • Commentary:

Meaning, if for example the the Imam decrees you a fatwa to you personally to break your fast the same time as Mukhalifeen. 

Yes, indeed - the timing the Imam gave to his Shi’a is different. However - because the Imam wants you specifically to engage in taqiyya. You will gain extra ajr for fasting with the Mukhalifeen, because the Imam ordered you specifically to fast with them.

But this specific order isn’t binding on Shi’a as a whole. This is why we - as commoners - are instructed to take upon ahadith conforming to established sunnah, as will be discussed below.

Anyway, the following hadith highlight my point:

Al-Hurr al-Amili in the chapter “The istihbab (i.e, it is mustahab / desirable) of attending jama’ah prayer behind one whom is to not be prayed behind, and praying behind him in the first set - out of taqiyya”.

Quoting hadith from Shaykh al-Saduq’s Man La Yahduruhu al-Faqih:

Whomever prays with them [Mukhalifeen] in the first set - it is as if he prayed behind Rasul Allah in the first set (of worshippers).

باب استحباب حضور الجماعة خلف من لا يقتدي به للتقية والقيام في الصف الأول معه 1 - محمد بن علي بن الحسين باسناده عن حمادبن عثمان، عن أبي عبد الله عليه السلام أنه قالمن صلى معهم في الصف الأول كان كمن صلى خلف رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله فيالصف الأول

You get extra ajr for praying behind the Mukhalifeen out of taqiyya. However, unlike for example fasting in their same time in which the hukm (religiouscommand) is specific to certain individuals - it is mustahab for any Shi’i to pray behind a Mukhalif out of taqiyya.

In fact, the Imam had likely given his companions jurisprudential rulings based on the ideas and thinking of the Mikhalifeen. To facilitate taqiyya among his companions.

This may be corroborated by the Imam telling his companions that when living under oppressive rulers, to go by their ahkam (religious rules, fiqh, commands, etc):

(‘Ilal al-Shara’ie)

“Abi Abdilah [al-Sadiq] said: 

If you were under oppressive rulers, abide by their ahkam and do not reveal yourself (as Shi’i) - such that you will be killed.

If you implemented their ahkam, it is better for you

ل الشرائعأبي، عن سعد، عن عمرو بن أبي المقدام، عن علي بن الحسين، عن أبي عبد الله عليه السلام قالإذا كنتم في أئمة الجورفامضوا في أحكامهم ولا تشهروا أنفسكم فتقتلوا، وإن تعاملتم بأحكامهم كان خيرا لكم.


2C) - What to do when there are contradictory ahadith? Why are we commanded to use Quran and sunnah?

First of all, accept both of them as true - even if it seemingly contradicts the established sunnah. Because what contradicts the sunnah, could simply be a specific command to specific companions - not the majority of Shi’a.

(Tafsir Ali ibn Ibrahim al-Qummi)

Imam al-Sadiq says:

“If we give you a hadith and it conforms to our (established) saying - then say: God and His Messenger have spoken the truth

And if it is otherwise, say: God and His Messenger have spoken the truth, you will be rewarded twice.”

Second, the commoner must not take ahadith seemingly contradicting Quran and sunnah as applicable.

Yunus ibn Abd al-Rahman, was entrusted with ahadith contradicting what is known and popular among the Shi’a. Once he revealed it to them, they insulted him and backbited him to the Imam. 

After this, the Imam told Yunus to not inform the Shi’a other than what they know.

It seem “what they know” is the Quran and sunnah, as those Shi’a’s personal ta’wil of the Quran and sunnah differed from the Imam - as they did not have the level of comprehension to understand the ahadith of Yunus. 

After this, per the Imam’s instruction of telling the Shi’a only what they know..

As seen in report below -Yunus began denying the content of many ahadith and stated that his rationale is a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq is the Imam said to not accept a hadith except if it conforms to Quran and sunnah, or has evidence from early ahadith.

401 - حدثني محمد بن قولويه، والحسين بن الحسن بن بندار القمي، قالا:

حدثنا سعد بن عبد الله، قالحدثني محمد بن عيسى بن عبيد، عن يونس بن عبد الرحمن، ان بعض أصحابنا سأله وأنا حاضر، فقال لهياأبا محمد ما أشدك في الحديث، وأكثر انكارك لما يرويه أصحابنا، فما الذي يحملك على رد الأحاديث؟

فقالحدثني هشام بن الحكم أنه سمع أبا عبد الله عليه السلام يقوللا تقبلوا علينا حديثا الا ما وافق القرآن والسنة، أو تجدون معه شاهدامن أحاديثنا المتقدمة،


As seen in part 1&2 of this series- and also this post, the Imam’s approach to hadith is strict traditionism. 

Part 1 explains why a hadith simply being attributed to the Imam has its weight. 

Fact checking a hadith would be by asking the Imam about it. 

Introduction of Quran, sunnah, and ijma’ as methods of the Shi’a to deduce ahkam of the Imams, distinguishing truth from falsehood, using their personal reasoning is so that these Shi’a do not call the Imam or their companions as liars because they do not understand a hadith. 

Quran, sunnah, and ijma’ are tools to help us understand a hadith - as commoners not entrusted with special knowledge or status by the Imams. And this is my approach to ahadith - seeing their applicability by their conformance to Quran and sunnah. But as discussed previously, something contradicting our personal interpretations of the Quran and sunnah is not false nor automatically inapplicable.

Wa Allahu A’lam