This short article falls under our series of Sunni vs Shia Hadith Sciences, so be sure to refer to it for many more examples of the weakness of the foundation of Shia hadith sciences.
This article will take a look at Al-Majlisi’s I methods at authenticating reports. Even though the focus of this article is Al-Majlisi and his methods, we stress that these views are not exclusive to him, especially when it comes to systems like Ashab Al-Ijma’ and Mashayikh Al-Ijaza, which we shall soon explain and explore.
We have divided this article into the following sections for the ease of readers:
– Abuse of the Ashab Al-Ijma’ and the Mashayikh Al-Ijaza Systems
– Expanding the Rules to Include Anonymous Narrators
– Expanding the Rules to Include Liars
– Expanding the Rules to include all Students of Ja’afar Al-Sadiq
1- Abuse of the Ashab Al-Ijma’ and the Mashayikh Al-Ijaza Systems
In his commentary on Man La Yahtharhu Al-Faqeeh 1/517, he states when authenticating a report:
وطريق الكليني إليه (صحيح) وإن كان فيه سهل بن زياد، لكن الظاهر أنه من مشايخ إجازة كتاب ابن أبي نصر هنا وفي كل المواضع، لأنه ليس بصاحب كتاب، وكتاب ابن أبي نصر وأمثاله مثل حماد وابن أبي عمير وصفوان كان متواترا عندهم، وأجمعت العصابة على تصحيح ما يصح عنهم.
Translation: The path of Al-Kulayni to him (Ibn Abi Nasr) is (authentic), even though Sahl bin Ziyad is in it. However, it is apparent that he is a Shaikh of Ijaza of Ibn Abi Nasr because he is not an author of a book. The books of Ibn Abi Nasr, and those like Hammad, Ibn Abi Umair, and Safwan, were mutawatir with them (Al-Kulayni and the compilers), and there is a consensus from the sect to authenticate what is authentic from them.
It should be known that Sahl bin Ziyad, that is mentioned in this chain, is a very weak narrator that has been accused of lying by the shaikh of Qum Ahmad bin Mohammad bin Eisa and ultimately banished him from Qum.
However, he is a Shaikh of Ijaza according to Al-Majlisi. An Ijaza is the act of giving someone permission to narrate a book. In other words, Al-Majlisi is saying that Sahl bin Ziyad is not really a narrator here, but that those that took the hadith from him only took “permission” from him to narrate the book of Ibn Abi Nasr, which was supposedly widespread. The main benefit of these permissions is to have a connected chain to the book.
Al-Majlisi goes on to say that Ibn Abi Nasr, along with other important Shia narrators like Hammad, Ibn Abi Umair, and Safwan (bin Yahya), are examples of those whose narrations are acceptable no matter who they narrate from. Shia hadith scholars refer to them as Ashab Al-Ijma’ (those that are agreed upon).
He has arrived at this conclusion due to what Al-Kashshi claimed in his Rijal book, about Shias accepting the narrations of a group of the companions of the Imams. We have compiled a list of these narrators along with their number of narrations (based on Mu’jam Rijal Al-Hadith by Al-Khoei) in the four books:
The Companions of Abu Ja’afar and Abu Abdullah (p. 174):
1- Zurarah (2,490)
2- Ma’rouf bin Kharbouth (11)
3- Buraid (127)
4- Abu Baseer Al-Asadi (or Al-Muradi) (2,275 narrations from a Abu Baseer)
5- Al-Fudhail bin Yasaar (254)
6- Mohammad bin Muslim Al-Ta’ifi (2,276)
The Companions of Abu Abdullah (p. 270):
1- Jameel bin Darraj (570)
2- Abdullah bin Miskaan (1,253)
3- Abdullah bin Bukair (898)
4- Hammad bin Uthman (734)
5- Hammad bin Eisa (1,036)
6- Aban bin Uthman (700)
The Companions of Abu Ibrahim and Abu Al-Hasan Al-Redha (p. 394):
1- Yunus bin Abdulrahman (263) (1,052 narrators are from Yunus and what is meant by Yunus is Ibn Abdulrahman in most cases)
2- Safwan bin Yahya (2,825)
3- Mohammad bin Abi Umair (5,360)
4- Abdullah bin Al-Mugheera (521)
5- Al-Hasan bin Mahboob (3,068) (or Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Fadhal or Uthman bin Eisa or Fadhala bin Ayoub)
6- Ahmad bin Abi Nasr (1,003)
In other words, we have eighteen narrators who are of this position. This means that if any of the men above can be found in a chain, then the narration is authentic. It doesn’t matter if the narrators narrating from him are weak, or the narrators that he is narrating from are weak.
This is a simplified example of an authentic chain:
Compiler of Hadith book (i.e. Al-Kulayni / Al-Saduq) –> Narrator X –> Narrator Y –> Ashab Al-Ijma’a –> Narrator Z –> Imam
It does not matter how weak X, Y, or Z are, since X and Y will be considered by Al-Majlisi as Shaikh of Ijaza, and that Z’s narration is accepted since it is narrated by one of Ashab Al-Ijma’.
As seen in the above list, the rules that Al-Majlisi abuses has a colossal effect on the grading of hadiths, since many of these narrators have narrated thousands of hadiths.
2- Expanding the Rules to Include Anonymous Narrators
Al-Majlisi states in his commentary of Man La Yahtharhu Al-Faqeeh 1/97:
وما نقل هنا حكم بصحته الصدوق، وإن كان في طريقه مجهول أرسله بعض أصحابنا عن أبي عبد الله عليه السلام. فإنك إن تتبعت كتب الرجال وجدت أكثر أصحاب الأصول الأربعمائة غير مذكور في شأنهم تعديل أو جرح، إما لأنه يكفي في مدحهم وتوثيقهم أنهم أصحاب أصول… وإما لبعد العهد بين أرباب الرجال وبين أصحاب الأصول وغيرهم من أصحاب الكتب.
Translation: What is narrated here is authenticated by Al-Saduq, even though there is an anonymous narrator who narrated from a group of our companions from Abi Abdullah (alaihi alsalam). And even if you study the books of Rijal, you would find that most of the four hundred authors of Usool do not have any praise or condemnation, since being an author of the Usool is enough praise… that or because they lived in a far era from the authors of the book of Rijal.
The Four Hundred Usool (plural of Asl) are four hundred books written by the companions of the Imams. Shias often claim that the early compilations of hadith all take from these four hundred books.
Al-Majlisi admits that most of the authors of the Usool are unknown according to what we find in the books of Rijal. However, since these Usool are reliable, in his view, it does not matter if they are unknown, since according to him, early Shias relied on these works.
We will also find in his commentary many examples where in which he admits that a chain is weak, but that it “is apparent that his book is relied upon,” and therefore, authenticates the narration. Once, again, he uses the Mashayikh Al-Ijaza rule to disregard any weak or anonymous narrators in the chain up until the author of the Asl.
A simplified example of an authentic chain:
Compiler of Hadith book (i.e. Al-Kulayni / Al-Saduq) –> Narrator X –> Narrator Y –> Author of the Asl –> Imam
This would be authentic even if X and Y were considered to be liars since they are seen as Mashayikh Al-Ijaza.
Unlike the case with Ashba Al-Ijma’ though, the author of the Asl needs to be a direct narrator from the Imam. The hadith would be disregarded if the narrator between the author of the Asl and the Imam is weak in this scenario.
3- Expanding the Rules to Include Liars
Al-Majlisi said after narrating a hadith about how to bury the dead in his commentary of Man La Yahtharhu Al-Faqeeh 1/488:
رواه الكليني والشيخ في الصحيح، عن أبي البختري وهو ضعيف، ولكن كتابه معتمد عليه
Translation: It was authentically narrated by Al-Kulayni and Al-Shaikh (Al-Tusi) from Abu Al-Bakhtari, who is weak, but his book is relied upon.
Do note that Wahb bin Wahb Abu Al-Bakhtari is not a trustworthy author, nor is his book considered to be one of the Four Hundred Usool. In the footnotes, the editor quotes Al-Tusi and Al-Najashi, who accused him of being a liar.
In other words, a chain can be weak to a liar, but if his book is relied upon, then the narration is authentic. Of course, Al-Majlisi does not provide any proof that his book is relied upon except that Al-Kulayni and Al-Tusi quoted his book.
4- Expanding the Rules to include all Students of Ja’afar Al-Sadiq
Even though we have not seen this argument made by Al-Majlisi himself, this view was held by some early scholars.
Al-Mufeed said: The People of Hadith collected the names of the narrators from him (Ja’afar Al-Sadiq), those that were trustworthy, even though they had different beliefs and views, and they came out to be four thousand.
This view was echoed by Ibn Shahr Ashoub and Al-Fattal Al-Nisapuri. See Kuliyat fi Ilm Al-Rijal by Ja’afar Al-Subhani (p. 323).
It goes without saying that by four thousand, Al-Mufeed and those that followed him are referring to all the companions of Ja’afar Al-Sadiq, since the largest compilation of the companions of Al-Sadiq, which can be found in Rijal Al-Tusi reaches only three thousand.
Al-Subhani though argues that this is very problematic, since this is similar to the view of the Sunni, who believe in the reliability of all the Sahaba.
Of course, we simply argue that there is no comparison between the two, since there is no evidence, logical nor textual that the companions of the Al-Sadiq were reliable. While, on the other hand, Sunnis are armed with many verses from the Qur’an as evidences for the reliability of the companions. See the following verses: (2:143), (3:110), (8:74), (9:100, 117), (12:108), (48:5, 18-19, 26, 29), (57:10), (59:8-10), (62:2-3), (66:8).
…and praise be to Allah the Most Gracious Most Merciful.