Sunan al-Kubra of Imam Nasa’i

Musnad Abi Ya`la
October 1, 2015
Musnad al-Bazzar
October 1, 2015

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Sunan al Kubra of Imam Nasa’i

It should be clear that the narration of Thaqalayn is narrated from Imam al Nasa’i through two different chains. The first chain is the one narrated by him in his book Khasa’is ‘Ali. The second chain is the one contained in his famous work Al Sunan al Kubra. It is not in his Sunan al Nasa’i (al Mujtaba), which is in fact a summary of al Kubra. We will now present the complete isnad from these two books.


The First Narration


اخبرنا احمد بن المثنى قال حدثنا يحيى بن معاذ قال اخبرنا ابو عوانة عن سليمان قال حدثنى حبيب بن ثابت عن ابى ثابت عن ابى الطفيل عن زيد بن ارقم رضى الله عنه قال لما رفع النبى صلى الله عليه و سلم عن حجة الوداع و نزل غدير خم امر بدوحات فقمن ثم قال كانى دعىت فاجبت و انى تارك فيكم الثقلين احدهما اكبر من الاخر  كتاب الله وعترتى اهل بيتى فانظروا كىف تخلفونى فيهما فانهما لن يتفرقا حتى يردا على الحوض….ثم قال ان الله مولاى وانا ولى كل مؤمن ثم انه اخذ بيد على رضى الله عنه فقال من كنت وليه فهذا وليه اللهم وال من والاه وعاد من عاداه فقلت لزيد سعته من رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم فقال ما كان فى الدوحات احد الا راه بعينيه و سمعه باذنيه[1]

Ahmed ibn MuthannaYahya ibn Muaz — Abu ‘Awanah — Sulaiman — Habib ibn Thabit — Abu Thabit — Abu Tufayl — Zaid ibn Arqam


The Second Narration

قد روى النسائى فى سننه عن محمد بن المثنى عن يحيى بن حمادعن ابى معاوية عن الاعمش عن حبيب بن ابى ثابت عن  ابى الطفيل عن زيد بن ارقم رضى الله عنه قال لما رجع النبى صلى الله عليه و سلم من حجة الوداع و نزل بغدير خم امر بدوحات فقمن ثم قال كانى قد دعىت فاجبت انى قد تركت فيكم الثقلين كتاب الله وعترتى اهل بيتى فانظروا كيف تخلفونى فانهما لن يفترقا حتى يردا على الحوض….ثم قال الله مولاى وانا ولى كل مؤمن ثم انه اخذ بيد على رضى الله عنه فقال من كنت مولاه فهذا وليه اللهم وال من والاه وعاد من عاداه فقلت لزيد سمعته من رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم فقال ما كان فى الدوحات احد الا راه بعينيه و سمعه باذنيه تفرد به النسائى من هذا الوجه[2]

Muhammad ibn MuthannaYahya ibn Hammad — Abu Muawiyah — A’mash — Habib ibn Abi Thabit — Abu Tufayl — Zaid ibn Arqam


The summary of both the narrations above is:


Zaid ibn Arqam narrates that whilst returning from Hajjat-al Wada’, Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam disembarked at a pond called Khum. He ordered that the trees of the area should be trimmed. Thereafter he addressed the people saying, “I will soon be invited to my eternal abode and I will accept the invitation. I am leaving amongst you al Thaqalayn, one is of greater weight than the other. They are the Book of Allah and my ‘itrah. Be careful of how you treat them in my absence. They will not separate until they meet me at the pond.” Thereafter he said, “Allah is my master, I am the wali (friend) of every Muslim.” Then he took hold of the hand of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and said, “Whoever takes me as a friend, ‘Ali is also his friend. O Allah, befriend those who befriend him and take as your enemy those who have enmity towards him.” Abu al Tufayl says, “I asked Zaid ibn Arqam, ‘Did you hear this from Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam?’ He replied, ‘Whoever was present between those trees saw this with his eyes and heard it with his ears.’”


After presenting the translation of this narration, we wish to shed light on a few matters regarding it:

1. The first narration is recorded in the book Khasa’is ‘Ali of Imam al Nasa’i. The isnad contains two names: Ahmed ibn al Muthanna and Yahya ibn Muaz (his teacher) — whose names have been printed incorrectly by the publishers. An extensive search was made in all the books of rijal but they were nowhere to be found. Shia sources were even consulted, but to no avail. Thereafter, a few different copies of Khasa’is were referred to, and it was discovered that these names were incorrectly printed, courtesy of the calligrapher and publisher. Muhammad ibn al Muthanna is the correct name instead of Ahmed and Yahya ibn Hammad is the correct name instead of Muaz.

It should be understood that ‘Allamah al Nasa’i did not take it upon himself to differentiate between authentic and unauthentic in this compilation, and as such many unauthentic narrations as well as the narrations of alleged fabricators and Shia have been included in it.

The second narration is quoted from al Bidayah wa al Nihayah (vol. 5 pg. 209) by Hafiz Imad al Din ibn Kathir in his book, which he quotes from al Sunan al Kubra. Ibn Kathir commented:

تفرد به النسائى من هذا الوجه

Al Nasa’i is the only one to narrate it in this manner.


No other Muhaddith has narrated it in the same way. Imam al Tirmidhi has labelled the narration of Thaqalayn “Gharib” as stated previously. Abu Musa al Madini said that this narration is extremely Gharib, which will be quoted shortly. Ibn Taymiyyah has regarded the narration of “my ‘itrah who are my Ahlul Bayt” to be to be unauthentic as explained at the end of Tirmidhi’s narration.


2. The narration of al Sunan al Kubra was neither quoted by the author of Fulk al Najat nor the author of Abaqat. In fact, it was not quoted by any of the Shia Mujtahidin. We found it through our own research and thereafter presented it. The intention behind it is to bring all the narrations on this subject to the fore and thereafter to examine them so that the authentic may be distinguished from the weak and unreliable narrations, and the narration may be understood as it ought to be understood.

3. The two narrations of al Nasa’i are in fact only one narration. There is only one difference in the chain; the narrator prior to Yahya ibn Hammad in Khasa’is is Abu ‘Awanah, as opposed to Abu Muawiyah who appears in the narration of al Sunan. The rest of the chain as well as the texts of both are the same. We will not comment on the first chain. However, there has been some strong criticism against Abu Muawiyah and we feel that it will be appropriate to mention it here. Al Dhahabi has commented regarding him in Mizan al I’tidal (vol. 3 pg. 382) in the following words:


وقد اشتهر عنه الغلو غلو التشيع

His extremism in Shi’ism is quite well known.


4. It is necessary to understand that these narrations of al Nasa’i hold a weaker position than that of the narration of Muslim and those that correspond to it (the sixth narration of Ahmed and the narration of Darami). Those narrations meet the criteria of authenticity as required. This narration does not meet the criteria, but it can be given the rank and position immediately below them. With regards to the text of the narrations of al Nasa’i, we say the following:

The narration has two parts to it. The first part of the narration is used to prove the necessity of obeying and holding onto the Ahlul Bayt. This part of the narration ends at the saying:

حتى يردا على الحوض

…until they meet me at the pond.

The statement:

الله مولاى وانا ولى كل مؤمن

Allah is my master, and I am the friend of every Muslim.


is used to prove the incumbency of taking ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu as the first khalifah, i.e. without anybody in-between. This point is taken from this statement right up until the end of the narration. In short, this narration is seen as a clear proof to establish these two claims. Now we wish to analyse the text of this narration to see if this narration qualifies as proof for the above-mentioned claims or not.

Firstly, if we study the words of the first narration without being biased, then we cannot find anything therein that establishes the incumbency of obeying the Ahlul Bayt. There is no mention of acting upon their instructions or following their practices, nor is there any instruction of holding firmly onto them. There is no word indicating the necessity of obeying them nor has it been said that if you accept whatever they say then you will never go astray.

In other words, no instruction of this nature has been issued. Hence these narrations are definitely not valid proofs to substantiate their claims. In this portion, the importance of the Qur’an was highlighted and good relations with the Ahlul Bayt was emphasised. It was also explained that the Ahlul Bayt will never separate from the Qur’an. It is their distinguishing feature that they will never leave the Qur’an. There will always be a group from amongst them who will always remain attached to the Qur’an.

Secondly, examine the second portion of the narration, which is used as a clear proof to establish the entitlement of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu to the Caliphate immediately after Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The opposition see this as a proof that is clearer to them than broad daylight. The entire discussion centres on the words “ولى” and “مولى”. According to them, these words were used as an instruction to appoint the first successor of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam held the hand of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and said, whoever takes me as a wali/mawla, then ‘Ali is also his wali/mawla. Therefore this narration proves that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu is the first rightful khalifah.


Answering the substantiation from the narration: “Whoever takes me as a wali then ‘Ali is also his wali”

It would be appropriate to pay attention to a few aspects at this juncture:

1. Many leading scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah, the likes of Imam al Bukhari, Ibn Abi Hatim al Razi, Ibrahim al Harbi, Ibn Abi Dawood, Ibn Hazm, etc., have questioned the authority of the narration referred to as Ghadir Khumm. The details under question are the holding of the hand of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, and the statement that ‘‘Ali is the wali of those who take me as their wali’. This is because these details do not appear in the authentic versions of this narration, like the narration of Muslim and its likes. The narrations that include these parts are mostly narrated through chains which have been questioned or worthy of criticism. They do not meet the requirements for them to be declared authentic.

This narration has therefore been discussed at length by the ‘ulamaʼ. Many of them have taken it to be unauthentic, as explained above, whilst a few of them have accepted it as authentic. Those who have accepted it to be authentic have confined the meaning of it to that which has been explained above. The purport of this narration is the importance of loving the Ahlul Bayt. It has nothing to do with the first eligible khalifah; in fact it has nothing at all to do with Caliphate.


2. We need to ponder over the wording of the narration to determine which meaning of the word wali or mawla has been intended here. The scholars are aware that this word has a few different meanings. Thus, Ibn al Athir al Jazri, in his famous dictionary on Hadith, al Nihayah, has counted sixteen different meanings of the word mawla. Al Munjid has twenty different meanings to the word, but both books do not mention it ever having the meaning of immediate successor.

Now the question remains that if the meaning of ‘immediate successor’ is not correct, then what would be the correct meaning? This question has been answered in this very hadith. Immediately after saying, ‘‘Ali is the wali of those who take me as their wali,’ the following is also found, “O Allah, befriend those who befriend him and take as your enemy those who have enmity towards him.” In this statement, the words Muwalat (taking a friend) and Mu’adat (taking someone as an enemy) have been used in opposition to one another. The fact that they were used in opposition to one another is a clear indication that no other meaning is intended besides friendship. If this is not the case, then the sentence, ‘O Allah, befriend those who befriend him and take as your enemy those who have enmity towards him,’ will remain disconnected to whatever is before it. The word wali cannot appear in one text with two different meanings. This is contrary to the demands of eloquence.


3. Since the meaning of the word mawla has been affixed to ‘friendship’, it is now clear that this narration cannot be used to prove who should be the immediate successor. The claim that is being made is that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu is the immediate successor and the evidence for this is the narration in which it is mentioned, “‘Ali is the wali (friend) of those who take me as their wali (friend), O Allah, befriend those who befriend him and take as your enemy those who have enmity towards him.” You be the judge, can a narration which has absolutely nothing to do with Caliphate be used to establish who should be the immediate successor?


The summary of the discussion around the narrations of al Nasa’i is that, even if we take these narrations to be authentic, then too it neither serves the intended purpose of the claimants of love for the Ahlul Bayt nor does it bring to question the viewpoint of the Ahlus Sunnah. This is so because, in the case of this narration being authentic, it establishes nothing more than the virtue of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu, which is something that we gladly accept and even proclaim. Their claim of it being a proof of immediate succession cannot be established in any way.

Note:- Just as the Mujtahid of Lucknow, Mir Hamid Hassan, wasted his time compiling two volumes of Abaqat al Anwar in trying to establish that the hadith of Thaqalayn is Mutawatir, similarly he also compiled another two volumes of the same book to prove somehow that the narration, “‘Ali is the wali (friend) of those who take me as their wali (friend),” is Mutawatir as far as both, the meaning as well as the wording is concerned. However, Allah Ta’ala blessed the ‘ulamaʼ of Islam with the ability of responding to these claims. Therefore, under the verse of the sixth juz’:


يَا أَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ بَلِّغْ مَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِنْ رَبِّكَ

O Rasul, announce that which has been revealed to you from your Rabb.


Molana Thanwi, in his book Bayan al Qur’an (printed by Mujtabai Press -New Delhi), added a lengthy footnote (which he named: Correction of errors) in Arabic in which he discusses this hadith. He gathered all the different chains and scrutinised each of them thoroughly. The result was that all the effort of the author of ‘Abaqat was proven to be a waste of time. We plead to all those who appreciate research to refer to this treatise and derive maximum benefit. Great academic mysteries have been unfolded in it and the reality of the Shia proofs has been exposed.


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[1]Al Khasa’is li al Nasa’i pg. 31-Egyptian print

[2]Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah by Ibn Kathir al Dimashqi vol. 9 pg. 209