A common claim often made by Shi’ites is that the Twelvers, unlike Sunnis, do not possess Sahih hadith collections.When presented with a report from Shi’ite sources, the Shi’i polemicist will often retort saying: “But we Shias don’t label our books as Sahih!” This common talking point is usually employed as a cop-out by the Shi’ite in an attempt to bypass the implications of the hadith(s) cited by the Sunni from Shi’ite sources. A careful analysis of early Twelver biographical sources, however, is sufficient to dispel this inaccurate appeal often made by Shi’i apologists and polemicists alike, and demonstrate that Shi’ite scholarship at various points in history did, in fact, consider various Twelver hadith collections “Sahih”.
The Tafsir of ‘Ali b. Ibrahim Al-Qommi
‘Ali b. Ibrahim Al-Qommi, author of one of the most renowned Twelver exegeses of the Quran, is quoted saying, in the introduction to his tafsir: “And we shall transmit what has reached us from our teachers and reliable transmitters regarding those whom Allah has made their obedience obligatory….” (Al-Qommi 1:4 )
Appealing to this statement of Al-Qommi, key Shi’i scholars held the position that the default status of any hadith in his book is that it is authentic, unless proven otherwise.
Grand Ayatollah, Al-Khoei, said:
In this statement is a clear indication that he [Al-Qommi] only transmits from reliable transmitters in this book. In fact, the author of Al-Wasa’il, concluded – in the 6th fa’ida mentioned in his book that the book is Sahih, after listing the testimony of many of our scholars regarding the validity of the mentioned books, their tawatur, their authenticity to their authors, and their authenticity to Ahlulbait – that any [transmitter] cited in reports of ‘Ali b. Ibrahim back to one of the infallibles is reliable. He [author of Al-Wasa’il] said: “And ‘Ali b. Ibrahim attested to the authenticity of the hadiths in his Tafsir, and that they are transmitted through reliable transmitters to the Imams (as).” (Al-Khoei 1:49)
Al-Khoei then comments saying:
“His conclusion is valid, for ‘Ali b. Ibrahim intended, in what he had said, to establish the authenticity of his Tafsir and that its reports are established and they were actually relayed from the infallibles.” (Al-Khoei 1:49)
Al-Khoei proceeds to elaborate on this statement, concluding that any report of ‘Ali b. Ibrahim Al-Qommi in his Tafsir, ascribed to the infallibles and transmitted through uncriticized Shi’ite transmitters is authentic by default.
Shi’ite scholar, Muhammad Amin Al-Astarabadi, described the book saying: “It is a Sahih tafsir that can be relied upon in the Shariah because it is all taken from the infallibles.” (Al-Astarabadi 516)
Many similar quotes exist; however, this shall be sufficient to demonstrate how major Shi’ite scholars deemed the book authentic.
The Book of Al-Hasan b. ‘Ali b. Al-No’man
Al-Najashi said: “He was a reliable thabt. He had a book called Al-Nawader, and its hadith is sahih and of great benefit.” (Al-Khoei 6:61)
The Book of ‘Ubaidullah b. Ali b. Abi Sho’bah
Al-Najashi said: “He authored the book that is ascribed to him, and he presented it to Abu ‘Abdullah and he authenticated it.” (Al-Khoei 12: 85)
Al-Tusi said: “He authored a book that is acted upon, and it is said that he presented it to Al-Sadeq (as) and when he saw it, he applauded it and said: “They [the opponents] do not have a book like it.” (Al-Khoei 12: 86)
The Books of Al-Husain b. ‘Ubaidillah Al-Sa’di
Al-Najashi said: “He was among those criticized and accused of ghuluww. He has books that are authentic in hadith, such as: Kitab Al-Tawhid, Al-Mu’min wal-Muslim, Al-Maqt wal-Tawbikh, Al-Imamah, Al-Nawadir, Al-Mazar, Al-Mut’ah.” (Al-Khoei 7:24)
The Books of Yunus b. ‘Abdurrahman
Ibn Babuyah said: “I heard Ibn Al-Walid say: ‘The books of Yunus b. ‘Abdurrahman that are transmitted with reports are all authentic books that can be relied upon, except what is exclusively transmitted from Muhammad b. ‘Isa b. ‘Ubayd, from Yunus and not corroborated by anyone else; that cannot be relied nor acted upon.’” (Al-Khoei 21:211)
The Book of Sadaqah b. Bundar
Al-Najashi said: “He was a righteous reliable transmitter. He had a book known as Al-Tajammul wal-Muru’ah. It is pleasant and authentic in hadith.” (Al-Khoei 10:110)
A Different Paradigm: The Akhbaris
When addressing the issue of authenticity of Shi’ite hadith collections, one cannot bypass the Akhbari school. Though most Shias today do not ascribe to this school, many of their major scholars from the Twelver tradition, such as Al-Majlisi, Al-Hurr Al-‘Ameli, Yusuf Al-Bahrani, Ne’matullah Al-Jaza’eri and many others, ascribed to the Akhbari school.
What is noteworthy about the Akhbari school is that it held the position that ALL of the contents of the four hadith books of the Shia are authentic.
Al-Khoei, in the introduction to Mo’jam Rijal Al-Hadith, acknowledges the existence of this position among Shi’ite scholarship, even though he vehemently disagrees with it. He said: “A group of the muhaddithin held the position that all of the reports in the four books are relayed from the Imams with certainty.” (Al-Khoei 1:22)
Al-Hurr Al-‘Ameli, for example, in Wasa’il Al-Shia, mentioned twelve arguments why he believed that all of the four books were authentic. (Al-Fadli 211)
In Mir’at Al-‘Uqul, Al-Majlisi stated that the Akhbaris cited Al-Kulayni’s preface to Al-Kafi to argue that the entire book was authentic (Al-Majlisi 1:21) . He then says: “In conclusion, the truth regarding this matter, in my opinion, is that the existence of a hadith in such relied upon collections is indicative of the permissibility to act upon it.” (Al-Majlisi 1:22)
Many similar sentiments are reported from Akhbari scholars, and it is important that they are not sidelined amidst the discussion on the attitude Twelver scholarship has had towards its hadith collections. The Akhbari school spans some of the most renowned scholars from the Shi’ite tradition and various figures from the school explicitly stated that the classical Twelver canon (the four books) was authentic. Thus, it is inaccurate to claim that Shi’ite Islam, across history, has never deemed a book wholly authentic.
In conclusion, Shi’ite polemicists often demonstrate their ignorance when claiming that there are no “Sahih” hadith books within Shi’i Islam. Rather, there were several works that were labeled “Sahih” by Shi’ite scholarship at various points in history. Similarly, one cannot overlook Akhbari scholarship and their position on the matter, which preposterously claims that ALL of the four books are authentic. Either way, the claim that Shia Islam has never had Sahih hadith collections is a fallacious claim, and it’s about time that this cop-out is abandoned and replaced with actual arguments.
And Allah is the best of witnesses,
Abu Al-‘Abbas Al-Shami
Al-Astarabadi, Muhammad Amin. Al-Fawa’id Al-Madaniyyah. 2nd ed., vol. 1 1, Mu’assasat Al-
Nashr Al-Islami, 1426.
Al-Fadli, Abdulhadi. Usul Al-Hadith. 2nd ed., vol. 1 1, Mu’assasat Umm Al-Qura, 1416.
Al-Khoei, Abu Al-Qasem. Mo’jam Rijal Al-Hadith. 5th ed., Markaz Nashr Al-Thaqafah Al-
Al-Majlisi, Muhammad Baqer. Mir’at Al-‘Uqul Fi Sharhi Akhbar Aal Al-Rasul. Edited by Jafar
Murtaza Al-Askari, 4th ed., vol. 1 26, Dar Al-Kutub Al-Islamiyyah, 2002.
Al-Qommi, ‘Ali b. Ibrahim. Tafsir ‘Ali b. Ibrahim Al-Qommi. Edited by Tayyeb Al-Musawi Al-
Jaza’eri, 3rd ed., vol. 1 2, Dar Al-Kutub, 1404.