‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar b. Al-Khattab is a companion of the Prophet who is regularly reviled in Twelver sources. He is constantly slandered and criticized by Twelver polemicists in an attempt to undermine his reliability as a transmitter of hadith and his status as a companion of the Prophet.
Ironically, the earliest of historical sources actually quote the 5th Imam of the Shia praising Ibn ‘Umar! It is mass-transmitted from Al-Baqir’s companion, Muhammad b. Suqah Al-Kufi, that Al-Baqir once said: “Whenever Ibn ‘Umar transmitted a hadith from the Prophet, he would not add anything or omit anything from it.”
This precisely is the quality historians and hadith critics wish to observe in reliable transmitters of hadith: the integrity of their transmission, which manifests in the lack of omissions and accretions that distort and decontextualize the reports they are transmitting
What is noteworthy is that Muhammad b. Suqah was endorsed as a reliable transmitter in Twelver sources, let alone Sunni sources:
- Al-Najashi said: “Hafs b. Suqah Al-‘Amrawi, the mawla of ‘Amr b. Hareeth Al-Makhzumi. His two brothers Ziyad and Muhammad, the sons of Suqah, transmit more from Abu Ja’far and Abu ‘Abdillah (as). They are all reliable.” (Al-Khoei 17:175)
- Al-Jawahiri thus concluded that he was reliable. (Al-Jawahiri 535)
In figure 1 below, we can see the multiple sources that transmitted this report from Al-Baqir’s companion Muhammad b. Suqah, from Al-Baqir:
Figure 1. Diagram presenting the mass-transmission of this report from Muhammad b. Suqah
Sources: Al-Kifayah fi ‘Ilm Al-Riwayah pg 171, Musnad Ahmed #5546, Musnad Al-Darimi #327, Musnad Al-Humaydi #705, Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah #35249, Al-Mustadrak #6374, Sunan Ibn Majah #4, Sahih Ibn Hibban #264, Al-Tabaqat Al-Kubra 2/284
As we can see, four individuals corroborated this report from each other, and the statement of Al-Baqir can be found in over nine primary sources. It is evidently authentic to Al-Baqir.
What is more important and insightful than Al-Baqir’s statement, however, is its actual context. In multiple redactions of the report, Al-Baqir’s statement comes with a story that involves Ibn ‘Umar and the transmission of hadith.
Al-Humaydi and others authentically reported that Ibn ‘Umar was in the presence of the tabi’i, Abd b. ‘Umayr, as ‘Abd was publicly transmitting hadith.
‘Abd transmitted a Prophetic tradition where he quoted the Messenger of Allah saying: “The parable of a hypocrite is that of a sheep between two sheep: one of them rams it, and then the other one [rams it.]”
Ibn ‘Umar thus interjected saying: “Between two sheep pens.”
He was thus told: “O Abu ‘Abdurrahman, they are both the same [in meaning.]”
Ibn ‘Umar rejected [its transmission] unless it was exactly as he had heard it.Musnad Al-Humaydi #705
Al-Baqir, when transmitting this report, commented on Ibn ‘Umar’s meticulousness as a transmitter of hadith, as presented earlier in this article.
This authentic report from Ibn ‘Umar is very insightful. It demonstrates the Sahabah’s meticulousness as they transmitted the hadith of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ . In the context of the parable made by the Prophet, the two statements,”a sheep between two sheep pens” and “a sheep between two sheep”, are almost identical in meaning. Ibn ‘Umar, however, interjected to ensure that the report was transmitted exactly as it was uttered by the Prophet.
Examples like this one (and many more) demonstrate several things:
- The Imams’ acceptance of various companions of the Prophet as reliable transmitters of hadith.
- The meticulousness of the Sahabah as they transmitted Prophetic traditions.
- The Sahabah’s willingness to openly correct others whenever they erred in the transmission of hadith.
The reliability of the Sahabah as transmitters of hadith is evident and apparent to anyone with competence in hadith. The Shia, in reality, have no sound reason to reject the transmission of Ibn ‘Umar for several reasons: (1) his evident meticulousness in the transmission of hadith and (2) his authentically reported praise by Al-Baqir.
If the Twelvers ignorantly insist on dismissing the reliability of Ibn ‘Umar, then we challenge them to present a single example of Ibn ‘Umar’s alleged fabrications in light of Ahlulbait, Imamah, and other socio-political interests.
If they cannot reproduce a single authentic example of Ibn ‘Umar’s fabrications, then it becomes apparent that Twelver dismissal of Ibn ‘Umar’s reliability as a transmitter merely stems from hawa and their desires.
Can he who follows clear guidance from his Lord be compared to one who is led by his own desires and whose foul deeds are made to seem fair to him?Quran 47:14
Al-Jawaheri, Muhammad. Al-Mufid Min Mo’jam Rijal Al-Hadith. 2nd ed., vol. 1 1, Al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1424.
Al-Khoei, Abu Al-Qasem. Mo’jam Rijal Al-Hadith. 5th ed., Markaz Nashr Al-Thaqafah Al-Islamiyyah, 1992.