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Muharram 11, 1330
I. Admitting ‘Ali’s Merits
II. Such Merits do not Necessitate his Caliphate
1) Imam Abu ‘Abdullah Ahmed ibn Hanbal has said: “Nobody among the companions of the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam has possessed as many virtues as ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib has.”1 Ibn ‘Abbas has said, “No verses of the Book of Allah have descended in honour of any man [besides the Prophet] as much as they have in honour of ‘Ali.”2 On another occasion, he has said, “As many as three hundred verses of the Glorious Book of Allah, the Sublime, have been revealed in praise of ‘Ali;” and yet in another instance he has said,3
“Whenever Allah reveals ‘O ye who believe…,’ ‘Ali is implied as their prince and dignitary; and Allah even rebuked the followers of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, on several occasions, in His precious Book while always speaking well of ‘Ali.” ‘Abdullah ibn Ayyash ibn Abu Rabi’ah has said, “‘Ali possessed a very sharp edge in knowledge; he has the seniority in embracing Islam; he is the son-in-law of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, and he is the faqih of his Sunnah, the hope for victory during wartime, and the most generous in giving.”4
Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal was asked once about ‘Ali and Mu’awiyah; he said:5 “‘Ali used to have quite a few enemies. His enemies looked for something whereby they could find fault with him. Having found none, they came to a man [Mu’awiyah] who had fought and killed him, and they praised that man only out of their spite of ‘Ali.” Isma’il the judge, al Nisa’i, Abu ‘Ali al Nisaburi and many others have said that nobody, among all the companions of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was praised as much as ‘Ali was.6
2) There is no argument about your point, yet an argument is raised if you claim that the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, during his lifetime, had promised him the caliphate. All these texts are not bound proofs to support such a claim; they simply enumerate the imam’s attributes and virtues, and the number of such texts is indeed high.
We believe that he, may Allah glorify his countenance, was worthy of all of them and of even more, and I am sure you have come across several times as many such texts suggesting his nomination for the caliphate. Yet a nomination is not akin to a binding pledge for caliphate, as you know, Wassalam.
Muharram 13, 1330
I. Why interpret text on his behalf as Indicative of his Imamate
Anyone like you, who is deep in thinking, gifted with a far insight, an authority on linguistic sources and derivatives, aware of its meanings and connotations, deriving guidance from the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, believing in his wisdom and conclusive prophethood, appreciative of his deeds and statements
(“He does not speak of his own inclinations (Qur’an, 53:3),
“ certainly cannot miss the gist of such texts, nor do their conclusions, which are derived from logic and common sense, remain secret to him. It is not possible that you, the recognized authority on Arabic (i.e. athbat1) that you are, fail to perceive that these texts have all granted ‘Ali a very sublime status, one which Allah Almighty and His Prophets do not grant except to the successors of such Prophets, to the ones they trust most to take charge of their religion, to the custodians of such religion.
If they do not explicitly indicate the caliphate for ‘Ali, they undoubtedly hint to it, leading to such conclusion by necessity. Such an obligation is quite obvious from their precise meaning. The Master of Prophets salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is above granting such a lofty status to anyone other than his successor, his vicegerent.
Yet whoever deeply scrutinizes the texts concerning ‘Ali ‘alayh al Salam and very carefully and fairly digests their implications will find their vast majority aiming at endorsing his imamate, indicative of it either through explicit announcements, such as the previously quoted ones, and such as the Covenant of al Ghadir, or by virtue of necessity, such as the ones stated in Letter No. 48.
Take, for example, his statement, peace be upon him and his progeny, “‘Ali is with the Qur’an and the Qur’an is with ‘Ali; they both shall never separate from each other till they meet me by the Pool [of Kawthar],”2 and his statement, peace be upon him and his progeny, “‘Ali to me is like the head to the body,”3 and his statement, peace be upon him and his progeny, according to a tradition narrated by ‘Abdul Rahman ibn ‘Auf,4 “I swear by the One in Who hold my life, you will have to uphold the prayers, pay the zakat, or else I shall send you a man of my own self, or like my own self,” then the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam took ‘Ali’s hand and said: “This is he;” up to the end of countless such texts. This is an obvious benefit to which I attract the attention of all seekers of the truth, one which unveils what is ambiguous, delves deeply in independent research. He salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam has only followed what he himself comprehends of the moral obligations of such sacred texts, without being overtaken by his own personal emotions or inclinations,
‘Abdul Hussain found it expedient to inflate his arguments under the correspondence ascribed to his debater.
The statement about the abundance of ahadith on the exclusive virtues of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu is often misunderstood. The narrations about the merits and virtues of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu are of three categories: those which are authentically traced back to the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, those in which the narrators erred, and those which were fabricated. If we were to compare that which is authentically transmitted about ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu virtues against that which is unreliable and that which is forged, the outcome would be a small percentage. This means that many people were responsible for fabricating narrations about his virtues, causing confusion and inadvertently detracting from ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu true status; and since they could not see his virtue for what it was they decided it best to invent a persona for him. The statement, from this perspective, is not one of praise.
The other element implied by that statement refers to the abundance of narrators who narrated the same texts about ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu virtues. This was the positive response to the Nawasib, those who made injurious comments about him and critised and abused him verbally. Among the first to do this was Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
There remains the matter of the statements which ‘Abdul Hussain has attributed to Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma with the pen of the Sheikh al Azhar. These have been lifted from al Sawa’iq al Muhriqah of Ibn Hajar al Haytami. Its convenient that his eyes only fell on one chapter and ignored the preceding chapters in the book: the virtues of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu, the virtues of ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu, and the virtues of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
a. The statement ascribed Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma wherein he allegedly says that the Qur’an has not been revealed in such abundance to anyone besides ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu appears in Tarikh Dimashq but the writing in the original manuscript was obscured so there is a missing section in the chain of transmission of this report. The chain is legible upto one Hussain, after which the manuscript is blurry and the editors were not able to read it completely. They have pointed out though, that the same chain of transmission has recently appeared where the narrator has been identified as Hussain ibn al Mukhariq.
Due to the missing information we ought to exclude this narration entirely. Insufficient details about the isnad compromises the narration. However, if we were to make an inference then the missing details would be assumed to include Hussain ibn al Mukhariq.
Al Dhahabi quotes al Darqutni on Hussain ibn al Mukhariq, Abu Junadah, that he used to fabricated Hadith.
Either way, the narration is not sound.
b. The quote which has it that Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma said that three hundred verses had been revealed about ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu is recorded by al Khatib al Baghdadi by way of Abu Ya’la Ahmed ibn ‘Abdul Wahid — Kuhi ibn Hassan al Farisi — Ahmed ibn Qasim — Muhammad ibn Hibsh al Ma’muni — Sallam ibn Sulaiman al Thaqafi — Ismail ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Abdul Rahman al Mada’ini — Juwaybir — al Dahhak — Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhum.
Sallam ibn Sulaiman al Thaqafi is unreliable. He was known to have narrated many objectionable narrations.
Ismail ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Abdul Rahman is Majhul, none besides Sallam is known to have narrated from him. He is also known for having only narrated from Juwaybir.
Juwaybir ibn Sa’id al Azdi is extremely weak. Ibn Ma’in, al Juzajani, al Nasa’i and al Daraqutni have rated him extremely poorly. He is known for narrating by way of al Dahhak. Ibn Ma’in compared him to Jabir al Ju’fi.
Al Dahhak did not narrate from Ibn ‘Abbas directly. The narration between him and Ibn ‘Abbas is interrupted. 
This narration is severely weak and cannot be relied upon for these four reasons at least.
c. The narration ascribed to Ibn ‘Abbas from al Mujam al Kabir of al Tabarani is considered weak due to the presence of ‘Isa ibn Rashid, al Haythami declares this narration unreliable on the basis of ‘Isa ibn Rashid.
Al Dhahabi points out that ‘Isa ibn Rashid is Majhul, and is on record for having related baseless narrations. He also quotes al Bukhari on the unreliablity of ‘Isa ibn Rashid. Ibn Hajar concurs with this assessment.
We have repeatedly mentioned that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu is worthy of virtue and merit. There are sufficient sound narrations that extol his merits and virtues; both exclusively and shared. The exaggeration to which the Shia resort to—’Abdul Hussain demonstrating this tendency before us—is a desperate attempt to create grounds for their foreign doctrines. His portrayal of the opponent reflects cognitive dissonance on the part of the opponent, Sheikh Salim al Bishri. The most probable reason for this is his anticipation of possible questions that might linger in the mind of a Sunni reader. He is proactive in the fact that he preempts the questions; but that reveals the ficticious nature of the correspondence.
In his round of ‘correspondence’ ‘Abdul Hussain makes a number of unsettling remarks; impressing upon the Creator of heaven and earth to carry out specific decisions.
He repeatedly resurrects the argument of Wasiyyah, nomination. Not only have our previous discussions exposed the fallacy in the theory that the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam nominated his successor, but we have demonstrated the extent of unreliablity of the narrations that have been furnished as proof of ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu immediate succession.
The authentic narrations about ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu cannot be connected to immediate succession in any way. The narrations which are explicit in this regard have already been proven unreliable, many even fabricated.
This narration has been recorded by al Tabarani and al Hakim. The narration from al Tabarani is by way of ‘Abbad ibn Sa’id al Ju’fi — Muhammad ibn ‘Uthman ibn Abi Bahlul — Salih ibn Abi al Aswad — Hashim ibn al Barid — Abu Sa’id al Taymi — Thabit Mawla Al Abi Dharr — Umm Salamah radiya Llahu ‘anha.
Al Tabarani indicates that this is the common chain, by way of Hashim ibn Al Barid.
The version from al Hakim is by way of ‘Ali ibn Hashim ibn al Barid — his father, Hashim ibn al Barid — Abu Sa’id al Taymi — Thabit Mawla Al Abi Dharr — Umm Salamah radiya Llahu ‘anha.
The identity of Thabit is a bit of a mystery, he is not mentioned in the books of Hadith narrators. So, Thabit is Majhul.
Abu Sa’id al Taymi is named Dinar. He is considered extremely weak and unreliable. Some have suspected him of forgery. Since he is a common narrator the narration is signifcantly flawed even though the chain branches out later.
Hashim ibn al Barid, while considered a reliable narrator, is known to be a commited Shia. here we find an isolated narration that supports his beliefs and is only known via a suspicious chain of transmission. It is a possibility that his beliefs have influenced him in this case, although the most likely problem is Abu Sa’id al Taymi.
This narration is known by way of Ayub ibn Yusuf ibn Ayub — ‘Anbas ibn Ismail al Qazzaz — Ayub ibn Mus’ab al Kufi — Isra’il — Abu Ishaq al Sabi’i — al Bara’ bn ‘Azib radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
There are a series of Majhul narrators, in addition to the fact that this narration is only transmitted by way of Isra’il from Abu Ishaq via this chain as attested to by al Khatib al Baghdadi.
There is another chain going to Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhu by way of Hussain al Ashqar — Qais ibn al Rabi’ — Layth — Mujahid. This chain is riddled with problematic narrators and we have provided details about the unreliablity of the narrators in this chain under Letter 48.
This narration is thus severely weak. It was not uncommon for unscrupulous narrators to graft the wording of another chain to a chain of their invention. The common practise was to include a few unknown narrators so that the narration could not be traced and the narrator who appeared to possess this narration would hope to impress by narrating that which is rare. It is not farfeched that this second Isnad is the actual isnad and the narration from Bara’ could easily be a grafted chain; Allah Knows best.
This narration appears by way of Talhah ibn Jabr — Muttalib ibn ‘Abdullah — Mus’ab ibn ‘Abdul Rahman — ‘Abdul Rahman ibn ‘Auf.
Talhah ibn Jabr is considered weak and unreliable.
Mus’ab ibn ‘Abdul Rahman, while his identity is known, is considered Majhul in terms of being a Hadith narrator. Ibn Abi Hatim does not mention any grading, neither positive nor negative.
‘Abdul Razzaq narrates this report by way of Tawus — from Muttalib — from the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam; omitting the other narrators. Tawus is a much more accomplished narrator than Talhah. The version from Tawus—the interrupted version— appears to be a more accurate representation of how this Hadith was narrated.
For all the reasons given above, this narration is unreliable. There is another version of this Hadith, the discussion on Letter 44 deals with it.
 Tarikh Dimashq vol. 42 pg. 363
 Mizan al I’tidal vol. 1 pg. 554
 Ibn ‘Asakir narrates with the same chain, by way of al Khatib al Baghdadi
 Tarikh Baghdad vol. 7 pg. 185; Tarikh Dimashq vol. 43 pg. 364
 Mizan al I’tidal vol. 2 pg. 178
 Tarikh Baghdad vol. 7 pg. 185
 Tahdhib al Kamal vol. 5 pg. 167, Mizan al I’tidal vol. 1 pg. 427
 Tahdhib al Kamal vol. 13 pg. 291
 Majma’ al Zawa’id vol. 9 pg. 144
 Mizan al I’tidal vol. 3 pg. 311, Lisan al Mizan vol. 6 pg. 263
 Al Mujam al Awsat vol. 5 pg. 135 Hadith no: 4880, al Mujam al Saghir vol. 2 pg. 28 Hadith no: 720
 Al Mustadrak vol. 3 pg. 124
 Su’alat al Barqani (143), Mizan al I’tidal vol. 2 pg. 30
 Tarikh Baghdad vol. 7 pg. 462; Tarikh Dimashq vol. 42 pg. 344
 Al ‘Ilal al Mutanahiyah narration no: 335
 Letter 48, narration no: 8
 Musannaf ibn Abi Shaybah vol. 17 pg. 107; Musnad Abi Ya’la vol. 1 pg. 244; al Mustadrak vol. 2 pg. 120
 Talkhis al Mustadrak vol. 2 pg 120; Lisan al Mizan
 Al Jarh wal Ta’dil vol. 8 pg. 303