teacher and student

I made him swear by God

“According to a tradition, ‘Ali said: ‘Whenever one transmitted to me a tradition of the Prophet ﷺ (hadaththani bi-hadith), I made him swear by God that he had heard it from God’s messenger. If he swore, I believed him.’

The correct wording is:

"When I heard something from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, Allah swt would benefit me with it as He wished; but when someone other than him narrated it to me, I would make him swear to it; if he took an oath, I would believe him."

Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (hasan), Abu Dawud with a sound chain, Ahmad with two chains in the Musnad and also in Fada'il al-Sahaba (1:159 #142), and Abu Yaʿla and al- Humaydi in their Musnads. It is cited in the books of Tafsir for the verse: {Yet whoso does evil or wrongs his own soul, then seeks pardon of Allah, will find Allah Forgiving, Merciful} (4:110).

“Al-Nazzam’s razor-sharp mind picked up a grave defect in this report. He pointed out that the transmitter must be, in ‘Ali’s views either a trustworthy person (thiqa) or an untrustworthy person (muttaham). Now, if he is trustworthy, making him swear had no meaning,

This premise is flawed, because he might be a truthful person with a bad memory; or a truthful memorizer reporting a meaning rather than an actual wording. As for a possible forger, he would not stand in front of ʿAli long enough for a Nazzam to write "muttaham."

and if he is untrustworthy, how will the saying of the untrustworthy person prove true through his oath? If it is possible for him to transmit false tradition, it is possible for him to swear falsely.

A solemn oath does not constitute a verification but makes the speaker introduce Allah Most High as the direct witness of his own speech. This is not a light step, especially to Arab Muslims of the first/second layer.

“Thus, Al-Nazzam draws two fatal conclusions here, (a) ‘Ali’s reputation as a wise scholar (according to this particular report) is impaired, for he established an unreasonable procedure for accepting traditions; and (b) all the traditions in which ‘Ali is a transmitter may be suspected as unreliable.”

ʿAli was speaking either to a Companion or (very unlikely but possible) to a Tabiʿi. According to the Prophet's ﷺ hadith about the best of generations, it is far more likely that the liar in this whole story is al-Nazzam himself - a man of the eighth layer - rather than the Prophet's ﷺ cousin (ra) or his interlocutor.

Note that in that hadith the Prophet ﷺ said that the first three layers of the Muslims are the best ever, after which (1) lying would abound and (2) people would swear oaths before being asked to.

More, in the time of ʿAli and the succeeding generation, the forgers could be counted on the fingers of the hand. In the time of al-Nazzam (d. ~220-230) they were epidemic. It took the great Huffaz to exterminate them. A razor-sharp mind? Try Ahmad ibn Hanbal (ra).

1. How did the Hadith Masters respond to the point which al-Nazzam made about Sayyidina ‘Ali [karram’Allahu wajh – is that a correct transliteration of the honorific? By the way, why do we say this after Sayyidina ‘Ali’s name, and not any other Sahabi?]

karram-Allahu wajhah

The Prophet ﷺ is related to say: To look at the face of ʿAli is worship. He did not say this of any other Sahaba, although he said it of all parents also, and of the Kaʿba, the sea, and the Qur'an. He also spat into Sayyidina ʿAli's eyes and cured him of ophthalmia (a miracle) after which ʿAli took up the flag and Khaybar was conquered at his hand. ʿAli is the husband of the Zahra' [virgin] of the Prophet ﷺ and the father of his ﷺ two rayhana [fragrances], al-Hasan and al-Husayn.

The hadith Masters did not consider the Muʿtazila qualified to discuss the strengths or defects of hadith. They considered they did not pay their dues in the pursuit of hadith study and this does show - painfully - in most Muʿtazili and Shiʿi arguments.

There is also their perpetual internecine squabbles - mocked, as I posted before, by Ibn Qutayba: Abu al-Hudhayl al-ʿAllaf (d. 230), the chief Muʿtazili of Basra who disagrees with his colleague al-Nazzam; the Muʿtazili al-Najjar who disagrees with both of them; the Shiʿi anthropomorphist Hisham ibn al-Hakam (d. 148) who disagrees with al-Najjar; the Muʿtazili Thumama ibn Ashras who disagrees with Ibn al-Hakam; etc. During a debate al-Najjar held with al-Nazzam a scuffle ensued and the latter kicked al-Najjar, soon after which he died. Whoever prefers such models to the likes of al-Shafiʿi and al-Bukhari, pity him.

“Please note that this was the early Muslim reaction to the hadith. This is not modern, orientalist scholarship. Ibn al-Rawandi in his Zumurrud, raises a few other rational considerations.

And, lest we forget, Nietzsche in his Zarathustra.

This is why the Muʿtazila and their sub-sects, just like the Khawarij and their sub-sects as well as the Shiʿi and their subsects - all really innumerable - were and are excluded, inside Islam, from consideration in this debate. Christians, orientalists, etc. fail to understand why, because they know Islam from the outside only, from books and so forth. They think Ibn al-Rawandi is an undiscovered genius, al-Jubba'i a misunderstood mental giant, etc.

“Traditions concerning miracles are inevitably problematic.”

But of course. It is a Muʿtazili pillar to deny the validity of miracles. When confronted with the Qur'anic nass for Musa (as), they resort to allegory.

“At the time of the performance of the supposed miracle only a small number of people could be close enough to the Prophet to observe his deeds.

Balderdash. Masses observed the splitting of the moon. Some believed, some said: This is magic.

“Reports given by such a small number of people cannot be trusted (a la David Hume, cf. Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section X. On Miracles). Muslim tradition therefore, argues al-Rawandi, falls into the category of flimsy traditions, which are based on a single authority (habar al-ahad) rather than multiple authorities (habar mutawatir).

Actually, there are mass-narrated (mutawatir) miracles in the Sunna, such as the moaning of the tree during khutba one time, and the watering of the Muslim army through the Prophet's holy hand one time. This is a shining proof that the ahad excuse is a transparent lie, since the Muʿtazila also reject the above miracles.

“The coup de grace al-Rawandi presents is devastating. He points out that the Prophet’s own stipulations and systems show that religious traditions are not trustworthy. The Jews and Christians for example say that Jesus really died, but the Qur’an contradicts them.”

Where in the Qur'an does it say that Jesus did not die?

2. How did the Hadith Masters, and the Ulema in general, consider Ibn al-Rawandi? Who was he, and what is the weight of the points he made above?

Also called Ibn al-Riwandi (d. 298). An ex-Muʿtazili atheist of Jewish origin from Merv. He kept company with atheists and Rafida (extreme Shiʿis) claiming "I only want to know their positions." The Muʿtazila (eg Jubba'i and al-Khayyat) wrote books against him. He jumped from creed to creed. Abul-ʿAbbas al-Tabari (d. 335) said Ibn al-Rawandi was commissioned to author a book against Islam which he did, then was paid double for promising not to refute it. Al-Balkhi said: "His learning exceeded his intelligence." Ibn al-Jawzi said: "Author of doubtless, certifiable rantings he wrote for the Jews and Christians to use as arguments against the Religion" while Ibn ʿAqil wondered how on earth he was never put to death. Al-Dhahabi reports the above, commenting: Thanks to Allah for simple faith devoid of useless intelligence.

3. I understand the concept behind mutawatir hadith yielding definite knowledge, since it is impossible that so many could have conspired to fabricate a lie. However, yesterday I got to wondering, why then could not christians also claim the truth of, say, the trinity, based on it being transmitted by tawatur?

For tawatur to exist it is not merely a question of number but of time. In other words, it must begin at the *earliest* link with the Prophetic source. Whereas the Christians' earliest, next-to-earliest, and next links are all missing from their transmission of this purported doctrine of Christ. It is born as a mass- transmission only at a council of miters centuries later.

4. I think I understand the Ash’ari position concerning causation, that it is Allah ta’ala who is the Musabbib [Causator]. I have also read what you translated of Dr Buti’s remarks in the article ‘Foreordained Destiny and the Inefficacy of Material Causes-and-Effects’. My question is how is such comprehension not confused with hulul [indwelling?], or whatever other term might imply the overlap between Allah ta’ala and the acts that take place in creation if hulul is the wrong word? That is, if Allah ta’ala is – and please correct me in how not to breach the adab towards Allah ta’ala when trying to articulate such a point - an *active agent* in the acts which occur in the domain of the sensory/material world, with respect to cause and effect, then how does that not imply that He (awj) is a part of it, astaghfirullah? Especially when one reads such explanation of the Ash’ari standpoint as articulated by Professor Mohammad Hashim Kamali in his article ‘Causality and Divine Action: The Islamic Perspective,’ wherein he writes: “The Ash‘ariyya denied the Aristotelian notion of causality and provided an alternative version of their own which may be summarised as follows: The world which means everything other than God, consists of transitory elements, atoms and accidents, created and recreated from one instantaneous period to the next. The world is thus not only created ex-nihilio but it is kept in existence by a process of continuous recreation out of nothing, with God’s power and will being the only cause and explanation for its continuity.”

The complete Ashʿari position presupposes taqdis of Allah subhan wa Taʿala. I.e. His absolute transcendence beyond anything created and any notion of indwelling or being part of anything (and it is "ex nihilo").

I read the extensive passage you quoted from al-Fajr al-Sadiq of Shaykh al-Zahawi [raheemahullah]. As I read it I wondered if the word *reason* was not being used in more than one context at different points?

Yes, it is sometimes used in the sense of ʿaql (the mind or intellect), and sometimes in the sense of the capacity for asbtraction and intellection.

“There is no doubt that when reason and the transmitted text contradict each other, the transmitted text is interpreted by reason.” [p84]

“Clearly one can affirm the transmitted text only by virtue of reason.” [p85]

But you are right in questioning the above statements. They do have a Muʿtazili ring to them. Perhaps, it would be more correct to say: "When two transmitted texts of equal strength contradict one another, one of them is interpreted by reason in accordance with lexical and other critera." And Allah knows best.

I have always understood that reason plays a different role prior to accepting Islam, and post-acceptance. Prior to Islam, it is used as a tool to affirm the truth of the aqeedah – and that necessarily includes the wahy – but *after*, its role is second to the authority of the naql.


Of couse I’m not denying that the aql still has a role, just that the role is *not* to rationalise the naql.

Yes, the great mistake of the Muʿtazila was to make human intellect the ultimate judge. This is, of course, the essence of modernism and it is no wonder at all they appeal to free-thinkers.

I have been confused for ages now as to which honorifics one is supposed to use when, from amongst the following:

Radhiallah, Raheem’Allah, Rahmatullah, etc. When is each used, and what are the differences in meaning??

And how to adopt them to make sure they’re accurate in a gender-specific context? And further, how to correctly pluralise them??

RadyAllahu ʿanh, ʿanha (fem.), ʿanhuma (dual), ʿanhum (pl.) --> Sahaba and early Imams.

Rahimahullah, rahimahallah, rahimahumallah; rahmatullah ʿalayh, ʿalayha, ʿalayhima, ʿalayhim --> every Muslim.

However, Taraddi is sometimes used for later figures such as the great Awliya'. WAllahu aʿlam.


Hajj Gibril

GF Haddad ©





latest update: Thu, 12 Feb 2009
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