Few Pertinent Aspects for the Benefit of the Scholars
At the end of the discussion surrounding the Salat al Janazah of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha there are certain doubts that require clarification. Without the clarification of these lingering doubts the discussion will remain incomplete. Therefore, I find it pertinent to throw light on them. However, to grasp these issues is beyond the understanding capacity of the commonality, and they are requested to bear with me in this regard. I will try to elucidate these issues in the simplest of ways.
After analysing the detailed discussion around the Salat al Janazah of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha, which included seven narrations, the ruling of Imamah in light of the shari’ah and the undeniable practice of the Ahlul Bayt in this regard, those who have knowledge regarding ahadith and prophetic traditions, will protest that these are inharmonious with one narration. This narration appears in books of both authentic and unauthentic ahadith. It reads as follows:
ودفنها زوجها علي ليلا و لم يؤذن بها أبا بكر وصلي عليها
And her husband ‘Ali buried her by night. He did not inform Abu Bakr and he performed her funeral prayer.
This is the only narration that they are able to present. This narration establishes three things:
- Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha was buried by night.
- ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had not informed Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu of this tragic incident.
- ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu himself performed the Salat al Janazah.
This suggests that there was disconcertion between them till the very end. The answer to this narration is presented ahead.
The Addition of al Zuhri and him Being Alone in Narrating This Narration
I have a list of books wherefrom I have sourced this particular narration. This narration has been narrated through the transmission of Ibn Shihab al Zuhri only; this is what I have picked up regarding this narration in the books of hadith wherein it appears :I have not come across a single narration in which mention is made of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu not informing Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu regarding the demise of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha, etc., narrated by another narrator beside Ibn Shihab al Zuhri; the narrations of those besides al Zuhri in this regard have no mention whatsoever of this particular aspect. We had already seen in the previous contention around the demand of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha of inheritance, that there as well all the narrations suggesting that she became disconcerted with Abu Bakr, did not talk to him and renounced him, are all narrated through the transmission of al Zuhri alone. And as we go along I shall single out many a narrations that highlight some sort of controversy and are narrated by none other than al Zuhri. This is something to take cognisance of; we will find a certain incident narrated from many narrators. But, from among all of them al Zuhri will be the only one who will narrate that particular incident with words that suggest some sort of contention. Allah alone knows whether al Zuhri had done so knowingly or unwittingly. These narrations can cause colossal consternation for people who do not possess in-depth knowledge of hadith. May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala forgive him and may he protect us from becoming victims of these misconceptions. For these aspects can cause us to entertain evil thoughts regarding the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum.
A Valid Interpretation of the Narration
The commentators of hadith have mentioned an appropriate interpretation of this narration which makes it coherent with the other narrations. Hafiz Ibn Hajar has written the following regarding this narration in his book, Fath al Bari:
فكان ذلك (الدفن في الليل) بوصية منها لإرادة الزيادة في التستر و لعله لم يعلم أبابكر بموتها لإنه ظن أن ذلك لا يخفي عنه وليس في الخبر ما يدل علي أن أبابكر لم يعلم بموتها و صلي عليها
She was buried at night because of her bequest so that her body remain thoroughly covered. And it is highly possible that ‘Ali did not inform Abu Bakr of her demise because he assumed that this would not have remained unknown to him. There is nothing in the narration that suggests that he (Abu Bakr) did not know of her demise and did not participate in her Salat al Janazah.
In other words, ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu saw no need to inform Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu of her death. For he had already known everything regarding Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha from his wife Asma’ bint ‘Umays radiya Llahu ‘anha. Likewise, even if we agree that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had performed her Salat al Janazah then also it does not in any way suggest that Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu did not lead the people therein. Hence, there is no contradiction between the narrations that establish that Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu led her Salat al Janazah and this narration, on condition we are cognisant of piety and impartiality.
Giving Preference To One of The Two Types of Narrations
The experts of hadith have set out certain rules wherefrom the credibility or invalidity, acceptance or rejection and the selection of one of the conflicting narrations and the Akhbar al Ahad, can be determined.
I shall present some of these rules ahead and I implore all the readers to apply them. These rules are mentioned with much more detail in the books of hadith and fiqh.
1. Al Khatib al Baghdadi has made mention of two rules in his book al Kifayah. He writes:
ولايقبل خبر الواحد في منافاة حكم العقل و حكم القرآن الثابت المحكم و السنة المعلومة والفعل الجاري مجري السنة و كل دليل مقطوع به
Any Khabar Wahid which contradicts rational reasoning, the categorical verses of the Qur’an, or a widespread and well-known sunnah, or any action that is equivalent to a sunnah and any undeniable evidence will not be accepted.
2. Al Khatib al Baghdadi has mentioned another rule as well under the chapter regarding the acceptance and rejection of Akhbar al Ahad. He states:
وكل خبر واحد دل العقل أو نص الكتاب أو الثابت من الأ خبار أو الإجماع أو الأدلة الثابته المعلومة علي صحته وجد خبر آخر يعارضه فإنه يجب إطراح ذلك المعارض و العمل بالثابت الصحيح اللازم لأن العمل بالمعلوم واجب علي كل حال
Every Khabar Wahid that is supported by rational reasoning, the Qur’an, authentic traditions, consensus of the ummah or sound evidence the validity of which is certain, if contradicted by another narration, then it will be necessary to practice upon it and discard the narration that is contradicting it. For practicing upon the well-known narration is incumbent in all conditions.
After analysing these two principles one can decide between the two diverse types of narrations that had passed in the previous pages. One type comprises of those six narrations that suggest that Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu had performed the Salat al Janazah of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha, and the other is those narrations in which it is stated that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had performed her Salat al Janazah and buried her by night without informing Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
The narrations that conform to the widespread and well-known sunnah will be worthy of selection over those narrations that do not conform to it. In this regard the sunnah has always been that the khalifah of the Muslims was the one most deserving of leading the Salat al Janazah. Therefore those narrations that conform to this are to be accepted and those that do not are to be rejected.
It becomes obvious that Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu had performed the Salat al Janazah of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha for it was solely his right. He had displayed splendid conduct with the children of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam at all times.
3. Similarly another point that is worth noting here is that although all the narrations that establish that Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu had performed the Salat al Janazah are Khabar Wahid — narrated through the transmission of just a few narrators, and therefore only give the benefit of Zan (assumption) — however when coupled with the practice of the ummah and specifically the practice of the Banu Hashim these very narrations reach the level of Shuhrah (commonness and popularity) and are hence give the benefit of certainty. The contention thus of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu performing her Salat al Janazah and burying her by night is totally dissolved.
4. Al Zuhri is the only narrator who reports the absence of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu from the funeral of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha and not being aware of her death. This is his mere assumption which is not supported by the view or the report of any Sahabi. Instead the report of the Sahabah who were present is contrary to that as narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma. Therefore the latter will be given preference over the former.
The Importance of the Narration of Ibn ‘Abbas
I had presented six narrations regarding Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu leading the Salat al Janazah of Fatimah radiya Llahu ‘anha. Three of the six are the Mursal narrations of Ibrahim al Nakha’i and ‘Amir al Sha’bi. They both are reliable and sound narrators of the Tabi’in, those who succeeded the Sahabah. Their Mursal narrations are given the position of marfu’ narrations because of their high calibre. To the extent that in the books of fiqh it is mentioned that at times an Mursal narration is selected over a marfu’ one (when the narrators of the former are authentic and those of the latter lesser in credibility). It should be noted that ‘Amir al Sha’bi had met ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and that makes his Mursal narration even more strong. I had then presented the Mursal reports of Imam Muhammad al Baqir and Imam ‘Ali Zayn al ‘Abidin both of who are acclaimed and reliable personalities according to both, the Ahlus Sunnah and the Shia, then their narrations are accepted without doubt.
Lastly I had presented the marfu’ narration of Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma. Before I came across this narration of Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma I had relied completely upon the previous five narrations. Now that I have learnt of it I find that, due to it, our argument in this regard gains much more strength. This is for the following reasons:
- Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma was the cousin of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and he was a Sahabi as well. He was fifteen years of age back then.
- His position of being a Sahabi is sufficient for his credibility, however together with that he was from the Banu Hashim as well, and being from the Banu Hashim, he obviously had more information of the happenings at that time.
- He cannot be discredited by saying that he was an adversary of the Ahlul Bayt, because the Shia have displayed their reliance and trust upon his piety, reliability and vastness of knowledge in their classical and primary sources. I will cite two quotations from their sources so that the position of Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma becomes crystal clear before us:
a. Abu Ja’far al Tusi, commonly known as Sheikh al Ta’ifah, has mentioned the following in his Amali:
قال ابن عباس “فلم أزل له (لعلي) كما أمرني رسول الله صلي الله عليه وسلم ووصاني بمودته وإنه لأكبر عملي عندي
Ibn ‘Abbas said: “I always accompanied ‘Ali in the manner Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had instructed me and stressed upon me to love him. And according to me this is my greatest deed.”
b. Similarly the following has been mentioned in the very same source as well:
قال ابن عباس علي علمني وكان علمه من رسول الله صلي الله عليه وسلم ورسول الله علمه من فوق عرشه فعلم النبي صلي الله عليه وسلم من الله وعلم علي من النبي وعلمي من علم علي
Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma mentions: “‘Ali dispensed knowledge to me, and his knowledge was sourced from Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and the knowledge of Rasul Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was from above the ‘Arsh, the mighty throne of Allah. So the knowledge of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was from Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and the knowledge of ‘Ali was from Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and my knowledge was derived from ‘Ali.”
Hence Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma is an accepted personality according to both sects. Maimun Ibn Mahran had heard ahadith from him (he narrates this particular narration from Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma and the narration is therefore consistent.
The only reason this is being mentioned here is that this is an answer to a question that might be lingering in the minds of many people (i.e. is the narration authentic or not). All praise belongs to Allah, Who inspired me to write on this issue in detail. This is the last issue I have presented before we move in to the next section.
 Fath al Bari, 7: 397: battle of Khaybar.
 Narrations reported by one narrator only, its singular is Khabar Wahid.
 Kitab al Kifayah p. 432, chapter regarding the acceptance and rejection of Akhbar al Ahad.
 Kitab al Kifayah p. 434, chapter regarding the acceptance and rejection of Akhbar al Ahad
 See Mustadrak al Hakim 4/365
 The narration appears with its complete chain of transmission in Hilyat al Awliyaʾ of Abu Nu’aym al Isfahani.
 Amali of Sheikh al Tusi 1/104
 Amali of Sheikh al Tusi 1/11
 For further details refer to al Tarikh al Kabir of Imam al Bukhari, vol. 4, Amali of Sheikh al Tusi 2/104; there many narrations therein that show that Maimun had met Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma.Back to top