A common report many Shia polemicists cite is a hadith where the Prophet ﷺ is quoted supposedly saying: “Whoever curses Ali has cursed me.”
Often, this report is cited to justify the takfīr of a few Saḥābah and other Muslims who may have disagreed with Ali or hypothetically cursed him at a point in history.
However, a detailed analysis of this report is enough to display its defective nature.
The redaction of the hadith appealed to by Shias is transmitted by Ahmed in al-Musnad (#26748) & Fada’il al-Saḥābah (#1011), Al-Nasā’ī in al-Sunan al-Kubra (#8422), Al-Ajurrī in al-Shari’ah (#1535), al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak (#4615) and others through Isra’il b. Yunus, from Abu Isḥāq al-Sabī’ī, from Abu ‘Abdillah al-Jadalī, who said:
“I once entered upon Umm Salamah, and she told me: “Is the Messenger of Allah ﷺ cursed among you?!”
Abu ‘Abdillah responded saying: “Ma’adh Allah!” or “Subhanallah!” or something like that.
Umm Salamah then said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say: “Whoever curses Ali has cursed me.”
Several defects exist within this hadith, and they can be traced back to two main elements of the report:
- Its chain of transmission.
- Its content.
Chain of Transmission
The chain of transmission (isnād) of this report, on a surface level, seems to be Sahih and reliable; however, it contains Abu Isḥāq al-Sabī’ī. Abu Isḥāq is a known reliable transmitter and muhaddith; however, he also was a mudallis.
A mudallis is a transmitter who regularly drops the intermediary between him and another informant. Thus, a mudallis’ transmission cannot be ascertained to be connected (muttasil) unless the mudallis explicitly mentions hearing the report from the informant above him. Otherwise, the transmission is deemed weak and unreliable.
In this report, Abu Isḥāq does not state that he heardthe report from the informant above him; rather, he merely says: ‘عن’ (from) when quoting Abu ‘Abdillah al-Jadalī.
Several early critics have referred to Abu Isḥāq’ role as a mudallis:
- Ya’qub b. Sufyan al-Fasawi said: “The hadith of Sufyan, Abu Isḥāq, and al-A’mash can be cited as long as one can ascertain that they did not perform tadlīs.”(al-Fasawi 2/637)
- Ibn Ḥibbān said: “He was a mudallis.” (Ibn Ḥibbān #4449)
- Abu Ja’far al-Nahhas said: “He was a mudallis, and his reports cannot be cited unless he explicitly states that he heard them from the informant above him.” (Al-Nahhas175)
Thus, the isnād of this report is weak simply due to the tadlīs of Abu Isḥāq.
Some Shias may appeal to another redaction of this report, transmitted by al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak where Abu Isḥāq is quoted explicitly stating that he heard the report from Abu ‘Abdillah.
Al-Hakim said: “I heard Abu Ja’far Ahmed b. ‘Ubaid al-Hafedh in Hamdan say: Ahmed b. Musa told us that Jandal b. Waliq told him, that Bukayr b. ‘Uthman al-Bajali told him, that he heard Abu Isḥāq al-Tamīmī say: I heard Abu ‘Abdillah al-Jadalī say…..” and he proceeded to quote the hadith. (al-Hakim#4616)
This isnād is weak, since Jandal b. Waliq is an absolutely unknown transmitter, and none of the early critics have verified his status as a transmitter.
Another indicator to the weakness of this specific isnād is that its transmitters erred in Abu Isḥāq’s patronymic: they ascribed him to the tribe of Banu Tamīm, hence the patronymic “al-Tamīmī”. This is a clear error in Abu Isḥāq’s name, for it is well-known that Abu Isḥāq is from the tribe of Sabī’ from the Yemenite confederation of Hamadān. He was not from Banu Tamīm, nor did he have any affiliation with the tribe. Such an error in the name of the main transmitter of this hadith is indicative of a lack of retention of this report on the part of the rest of the transmitters down the isnād.
Thus, we have no evidence showing Abu Isḥāq explicitly stating that he heard the report from the informant directly above him, and the hadith is weak for that reason.
Content of the Report
The weakness in this report stems from other reasons asides its weak isnād. Several different redactions of this same hadith present a different account of the incident without the clause: “Whoever curses Ali has cursed me.”
One of these accounts is transmitted by Ibn Abi Shaybah in al-Musannaf (#32113), al-Baladhuri in Ansab al-Ashraf (#216), al-Tabarānī in al-Mo’jam al-Kabir (#737) through Fitr b. Khalifah, from Abu Isḥāq, from Abu ‘Abdillah al-Jadalī that he said:
Umm Salamah once told me: “O Abu ‘Abdillah, is the Messenger of Allah ﷺ cursed among you without you doing anything about it?!”
I said: “Who curses the Messenger of Allah?!”
Umm Salamah said: “Ali and his lovers are being cursed, and the Messenger of Allah used to love him.”
Another account is transmitted by Abu Ya’la in al-Musnad (#7013) and al-Tabarānī in al-Mo’jam al-Awsat (#5832) & al-Saghir (#822) through ‘Isa b. ‘Abdurrahman al-Sulami, from al-Suddi, from Abu ‘Abdillah al-Jadalī, who said:
Umm Salamah once told me: “Is the Messenger of Allah ﷺ cursed among you in front of the masses?!”
I said: “Subhanallah! Where is the Messenger of Allah being cursed?!”
Umm Salamah said: “Isn’t Ali, along with his lovers, being cursed?! I bear witness that the Messenger of Allah used to love him.”
As seen, the clause,“whoever curses Ali has cursed me”, is absent from these accounts; rather, Umm Salamah is the one quoted equating the cursing of Ali with the cursing of the Prophet ﷺ. Her reasoning, as stated, was that Ali and his lovers were being cursed; thus, that must span the Prophet ﷺ as well, since he loved Ali.
Hence, it appears that drawing a parallel between cursing Ali and cursing the Prophet ﷺ was originally an inference carried out by Umm Salamah. Eventually, this inference was misinterpreted and erroneously interpolated as a statement of the Prophet himself ﷺ.
There exists sufficient evidence to assert that the clause, “Whoever curses Ali has cursed me”, has no basis as a Prophetic tradition. The report’s isnād is weak due to the tadlīs of Abu Isḥāq, and this clause seems to be a mere byproduct of a misinterpretation of a phrase Umm Salamah uttered when she supposedly confronted Abu ‘Abdillah al-Jadalī.
Though cursing Ali (or any other companion of the Prophet ﷺ) is a major sin within Islam, no authentic evidence suggests that it is equivalent to cursing the Prophet ﷺ.
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