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The Status of Sunna from the Shii Point of View

Author : Allamah Sayyid Murtada Askari
Subject : Prophet’s Sunnah
Translator : Ahmad Rezwani
Editor : Mahdi Baqi

09 Oct 2010
Hadith Sciences 2


This paper – presented in International Symposium on Status of Prophetic Sunnah in Islam, Istanbul, Turkey, 1995 – deals with importance attached by Shi`i people and cites some examples from Shi`i hadith sources concerning Shi`i scholars’ referring to the Prophetic Sunnah after the Holy Quran. These hadiths indicates that what have been said by Shi`i Imams are the same as the sayings of the Holy Prophet which have reached them. The author deals with the Book of Ali and explains the characteristics of this book and emphasize that this book has been told by the Prophet and written by Imam Ali, peace be upon them. Citing some hadiths from Infallible Imams he tries to prove that what have been said by Imams are the same as the sayings of the holy Prophet which has been written in the Book of Ali which is known as al-Jami`a by them. The author finally comes up with the hadith sources and concludes that these hadith collections have been compiled using Asls which had been narrated by traditionists from Infallible Imams they have not reported but the word of the Messenger of Allah. At the end he concludes that these hadiths are the words of the Messenger of Allah and Shi`a just acts according to the Book of Allah and the Prophetic Sunnah.

Key Words

Book of Ali, Sunnah, Shia Views, Hadith Sources.


All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds; and Salutations to the Seal of the Prophets, the most virtuous of the Messengers, Muḥammad and to his Pure Household and peace be upon his chosen companions.

According to the words of the Exalted Allah, ﴾Take whatever the Apostle gives you, and relinquish whatever he forbids you﴿ (Al-Qur'an, 59:7), the followers of the school of Ahl al-Bayt (the Imāmī Shi'ites) receive the commands of Islam (including ideas and rulings) from the holy Prophet (S.A.W.), second to the Book of Allah. The most explicit evidence for this fact is that since 4th/9th century the Imāmī jurists have after the Book of Allah relied on the Sunna of His Apostle to infer rulings ordinances. Accordingly, they have referred to the four ḥadīth books: Al-Kāfī by Shaykh al-Kulaynī (d. 329/940); Man lā Yaḥḍirahu al-Faqīh by Shaykh al-Ṣadūq (d. 381/991); Istibṣār wa Tahdhīb by Shaykh al-Ṭūsī (d. 460/1067). The authors of these books have adopted the narrations from uṣūl (sing. aṣl)[2]. Aṣl in the terminology of the scholars of ḥadīth means a work that the main author has heard its narratives directly from the Ahl al-Bayt, or from someone who had directly learnt it from the Imam. The infallible Imams, for their part, have stated that what they relate or make judgments about are from among the words of the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.).

Imam Abū ‘Abd Allāh al-Ṣādiq (A.S.) responded to a question put to him by someone in similar way. That person asked, "If such and such happens, what should be said about it in your view?" The Imam said:

Be quiet! What I respond to you is from the words of the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) and we have nothing to do with, "What should be said?"[3]

And it is related in Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt:

Whenever I give you an answer, it is from the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) and we do not say anything on our own.[4]

Majlisī says: When the questioner asked him, "Recount your viewpoint which you choose out of supposition and ijtahād (personal judgment)", the Imam (A.S.) forewarned him against such suspicion and made it clear to him that they [i.e., the Imams] would never say anything without certainty or except what they have received from Sayyid al-Mursalīn (S.A.W.).[5]

Similarly, Samā'a is quoted in Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt as saying:

I said to Abū al-Ḥasan: Is everything you say from the Book of Allah and the Sunna of His Apostle, or is it on your own? His Holiness replied, "Surely what we say is in the Book of Allah and the Sunna of His Apostle (S.A.W.)."[6]

It is also related on the authority of Abū ‘Abd Allāh al-Ṣādiq:

If we give people fatwās (legal judgments) on our own or out of [our own] desire, we are among the perished; but these words are from the Apostle of Allah. It is a fountain of knowledge that each of us inherit from the other. We keep it [the knowledge] safe just as people hide their gold and silver [in a safe place].[7]

The like of this ḥadīth has been related in this book from Imam al-Bāqir through three chains of transmitters. The author has on his authority quoted Abū Ja‘far Imam al-Bāqir as saying:

If we speak on our own we will be misguided like those who were misguided before us; but we speak with a proof from our Lord which He has explicated to His Apostle, and he has clarified it to us.[8]

And he has on his authority quoted Imam Ja‘far al-Ṣādiq (A.S) as saying:

It is a proof from our Lord which He has explicated to His Apostle, and His Apostle has clarified it to us. Were it not so, we were like these people too.[9]

Similarly, on his authority he has quoted Abū ‘Abd Allāh al-Ṣādiq (A.S.) as saying:

By Allah! We do not relate anything out of [our own] desire and do not utter anything except what our Lord has said. These [sciences] are principles with us which we save the same way that people hide their gold and silver.[10]

The Imams (A.S.) rely on Their Ancestor, the Apostle of Allah (s.a.w.), in What They Say

In previous aḥādīth, the Imams (A.S.) have asserted that they do not speak on their own; rather, they relate from the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.). Some of the narrations in which the Imams (A.S.) have attributed their sayings to their ancestor, the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.), are pointed out as follows:

In Shaykh Ḥurr al-Āmilī’s Wasā'l al-Shī‘a, as well as in Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, and others, it is quoted through five authorities from Abū 'Abd Allāh Imam al-Ṣādiq (A.S.) as saying:

Allah instructed the lawful (ḥalā), the unlawful (ḥarām), allegorical interpretation (ta'wīl)and exegesis (of the Qur'an) to His Apostle (S.A.W.) who, [in turn,] instructed all his knowledge to Ali [A.S.].[11]

And on his own authority he has quoted Abū ‘Abd Allāh (A.S.) as saying:

Allah Almighty instructed the Qur'an and something other than that to His Apostle (S.A.W.), and what Allah instructed to His Apostle, His Holiness instructed them to Ali (A.S.).[12]

In the same book, he has related on his own authority form Ali b. Abī Ṭālib (A.S.):

Whenever I asked a question from the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.), he would answer me and once my questions ended, he would begin to talk to me. No verse was revealed to him concerning the night, the day, the heaven, the earth, the world, the Hereafter, the paradise, the hell, the plain, the mountain, the darkness and the light unless he recited and dictated it to me and I wrote it down with my own hand. And he instructed to me its interpretation and exegesis, the unequivocal and the ambiguous and taught me how, where, and about whom till the Day of Resurrection it has been revealed. And he asked Allah to bestow on me understanding and the power to retain [the verses]. And I forgot no verse of the Book of Allah, nor who they were revealed about, except that the apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) dictated it to me.[13]

It is related in Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt by the narrator that Zayd b. ‘Alī told them: "Amīr al-Mu'minīn (A.S.) said: I neither rested nor the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) got me into any commitment until I learned from the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) what Gabriel (Jibra'īl) had revealed that day concerning the lawful, the unlawful, the Sunna, the commandments or prohibitions and found out who and what they had been revealed about." We left [the place] and ran into Mu‘tazilites and told them this story. They said: This is an amazing story! How is it possible? How does he know it whereas one is absent from the other? The narrator said: We went to Zayd and informed him the Mu‘tazilites' response. He said: the number of the days that he [Ali – A.S.] was absent was remembered by the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.), and once they would meet the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) would tell him: "O Ali! On such a day such a verse and on such a day such a verse was revealed," going on until the day they had met. And we informed them [the Mu‘tazilites'] of Zayd's reply.[14]

The following three aḥādīth, quoted from Ibn Sa‘d's Ṭabaqāt, confirm the above ḥadīth:

1. Muḥammad b. 'Umar b. ‘Alī b. Abī Ṭālib is quoted as saying: Ali [A.S.] was asked, "How is it that you narrate more ḥadīth than the companions of the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.)?! His Holiness replied:

Whenever I asked the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.), he would inform me, and once I kept silent he would begin talking to me.

2. Sulaymān Aḥmasī is quoted as relating from his father that Ali (A.S.) said:

By Allah! No verse was revealed unless I learnt about what and whom and where it had been revealed; my Lord has bestowed on me a knowing heart and an eloquent and fluent tongue.

3. Abū Tufayl is quoted as relating from Ali (A.S.) who said:

Ask about the Book of Allah from me, for there is no verse except that I know whether it is revealed at night or in the day, whether it came down on the desert or in the mountain.[15]

Similarly, there are three narrations in Sunan of Nasā'ī and Ibn Māja and the Musnad of Aḥmad which confirm our assertion. The Following are related from Nasā'ī:

1. ‘Abd Allāh Najī is quoted as relating from Ali (A.S.) who said: "I had a status with the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) that no one else would enjoy the same; when every morning at dawn I sought his audience and said, "Assalāmu ‘alaykum yā rasul Allah!", if His Holiness gave a slight cough I would return to my family, otherwise I would enter his presence."

2. Ali (A.S.) said: "On certain occasions I would sought the audience of the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.). Whenever I went to him, I would ask permission; if he were engaged in prayer, he would give a slight cough (tanaḥnaḥ), [but] if he had finished his prayer, he would grant me audience."

3. He also said: "I had two times [permitted] to have the audience of the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.); one at night and the other in the day. Whenever I sought his audience at night he would tanaḥnaḥ."[16]

* * *

We already presented to you some of the narrations concerning Ali (A.S.)'s receiving knowledge from the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.). From now on, we will bring up aḥādīth denoting that the Imams from among the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) would obtain their knowledge from their father, Imam Ali (A.S.), and that this had been done by order of the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.).

the holy prophet's ordering ali (a.s.) to keep his words in writing ror other imams (a.s.)

In Shaykh Ṣadūq's Amālī, as well as in Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, and Yanābī‘ al-Mawidda, Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. ‘Alī al-Bāqir is quoted as relating from his forefathers:

The Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) said to Ali (A.S.): "Write down what I dictate to you." He asked, "O Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.)! Are you worried that I may forget?"

His Holiness replied,” I am not worried that you may forget; for I have besought Allah to protect you from forgetfulness, but do write down for your partners."

He said he asked, "O Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.)! Who are my partners?"

The holy Prophet said, "The leaders who are from among your progeny."[17]

Ali (A.S.) has referred to this issue in his speech in Maskin (a place in the region of Kūfa), being related by Abū Arāka as follows: We were in the company of Ali (A.S.) and were talking about Ali (A.S) bequeathing the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.)'s sword; some saying that he bequeathed his mule; others believed that he had bequeathed a script (ṣaḥīfa) and a writing in the hilt of His Holiness' sword. This talk about him was still going on when Ali (A.S.) came near us. He said:

By Allah! If I have time and permission, I would talk to you as long as a year without repeating even a word of my talking. And by Allah, there are many scripts with me which are the heritage of the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) and his Ahl al-Bayt.[18]

the name of ali (a.s)'s book

It is related in Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt and al-Kāfī on the authority of Abū ‘Abd Allāh (A.S.) who said:

By Allah! There is something with us that [by the existence of which] we would not need anyone and the people would need us. There is a book with us dictated by the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) that Ali (A.S.) has written down in his own handwriting. It is a script seventy cubits (ḍirā‘) in length which contains every [ruling on] ḥalāl and ḥarām.[19]

The Imams from Ahl al-Bayt have named Ali (A.S.)'s book al-Jāma‘a, in which the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) had dictated the rulings to him. This appellation is related in six narrations in al-Kāfī, al-Wāfī, and Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt from Abū ‘Abd Allāh al-Ṣādiq, summarized as follows:

"Al-Jāma‘a" is with us; it is a script seventy cubits in length which the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) has personally dictated to Ali (A.S.) who has written it down in his own handwriting. Every [ruling on] ḥalāl and ḥarām and everything that the people need, even the compensation for the slightest scratch, is mentioned there.[20]

In another cadet, His Holiness said:

On a leather scroll, like the thigh of a Bactrian camel, there exists the ruling of whatever that people may need. There is no issue except that it exists in it, even the compensation for the slightest scratch.[21]

Yet, in another ḥadīth, he said:

"Al-Jāmi‘a" has not left any words [unsaid] for anyone. There exists the science of ḥalāl and ḥarām in it. The adherents of analogy proceeded to seek for science and knowledge on account of analogy, but did not achieve anything except going farther away [from them], for the religion of Allah is not achievable by analogy.[22]

How were the books of science changed hands among the Shī‘ī Imams, Imam Ali, Imam al-Ḥasan, Imam al-Ḥusayn, Imam al-Sajjād, and Imam al-Bāqir (A.S.)? In Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt by its own authority, Abū ‘Abd Allāh has been quoted as saying:

The books [of science] were with Ali (A.S.) and when he set off for Iraq, he left them with Umm Salama. When Ali (A.S.) was martyred, those books were kept by Imam al-Ḥasan, and then by Imam al-Ḥusayn, then by Ali b. al-Ḥusayn, and then by my father Imam al-Bāqir (A.S.).[23]

Imam ali b. al-Ḥusayn (a.s.)

In Ibn Shahrāshūb's Manāqib as well as in Biḥār al-Anwār, on their authority of Abū Ja‘far, Imam al-Bāqir is quoted as saying:

When Ḥusayn (A.S.) set off for Iraq, he gave his testament, those books, and other things to Umm Salama, the Prophet (S.A.W.)'s wife, and said to her: "When my oldest son came to you, deliver to him what I left with you." And when Ḥusayn was Martyred, Ali b. al-Ḥusayn came to Umma Salama who handed over to him what Imam al-Ḥusayn (A.S.) had left with her.[24]

The like of this is also narrated in Uṣul-i Kāfī.[25]

imam muḤammd al-Bāqir (a.s.)

It is related in al-Kāfī, I‘lām al-Warā, Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, and Biḥār al-Anwār (quoted from al-Kāfī) that ‘Īsā b. ‘Abd Allāh quoted his father as saying: Being gathered around by people and lying in his "martyrdom bed", Ali b. Ḥusayn turned his face toward his son (Muḥammad b. Ali) and said:

"O Muḥammad! Take this chest to your home." Then he said, "But there are no dīnārs and dirhams in this chest; rather, it is replete with knowledge (‘ilm).[26]

And in Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt and Biḥār it is related from ‘Īsā b. ‘Abd Allāh b. ‘Umar, from Ja‘far b. Muḥammad al-Ṣādiq as saying:

Before Ali b. al-Ḥusayn was martyred, he took out the chest that was with him and said: "O Muḥammad! Take this chest.” They said, "Give us our share from the chest, too!" His Holiness (al-Bāqir – A.S.) replied: "By Allah! There is nothing in it for you; were there anything for you, he would not give it to me." And in that chest were the weapon and the book of the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.).[27]

imam ja‘far al-Ṣadiq (a.s.)

Ḥamrān is quoted in al-Kāfī and Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt as saying: I asked ḥaḍrat Abū Ja‘far (A.S.) concerning what people said about a chest being left with Umm Salama. He said:

"When the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) passed away, Ali (A.S.) inherited his science and knowledge, his weapon, and what was left there. Then, they were bequeathed to Imam al-Ḥasan, and after that, to Imam al-Ḥusayn; and when we were afraid of being killed, he left them with Umm Salama. Later on, Ali b. al-Ḥusayn (A.S.) inherited them."

I said: "Yes. And then they were given to your father and after that they ended up to you and you received them." He said, "Yes."[28]

Also, it is related from Umar b. Abān who said: I enquired Imam al-Ṣādiq concerning what people were saying (i.e., about the sealed scroll left with Umm Salama). His Holiness said:

"When the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) passed away, Ali (A.S.) inherited his science and knowledge, his weapon, and what was left there. Then, they were bequeathed to Imam al-Ḥasan, and after that, to Imam al-Ḥusayn."

I said: "And then they were given to Ali b. al-Ḥusayn (A.S.) and after him they ended up to his father and then to you." He said, "Yes."[29]

imam Mūsā b. Ja‘far (a.s.)

Ḥimād b. Ṣā'igh is quoted in Biḥār al-Anwār as saying he heard Mufaḍḍal b. ‘Umar who said:

I was asking questions from Imam al-Ṣādiq (A.S.) when Abū al-Ḥasan Mūsā – Imam al-Kāẓim (A.S.) – came in. Imam al-Ṣādiq (A.S.) said to me, "Will you become delighted if you behold the owner of Ali's book?" I said: What greater honor [is there] than this? His Holiness said: "This person [Imam al-Kāẓim (A.S.)] is the owner of Ali (A.S.)'s book... [See the reference for full text of the ḥadīth].[30]

imam ali b. Mūsā al-riḌā (a.s.)

Ali b. Yaqṭīn is quoted as saying:

Abū al-Ḥasan, Imam al-Kāẓim (A.S.) said to me, "O Ali! This person [Imam al-Riḍā] is my most knowledgeable son, and I have presented my books to him, [while pointing to his son – Imam al-Riḍā (A.S.)].

And in another ḥadīth, Ibn Yaqṭīn has related:

I heard him [Imam al-Kāẓim (A.S.)] say: "My son is the chief of my children, and I presented my books to him."[31]

reference of the imams (a.s.) to "al-jāmi‘a"

Imam Ali b. al-Ḥasan (a.s.)

The first person we know who has directly narrated from Ali (A.S.)'s book, "Al-Jāmi'a", is Imam Ali b. al-Ḥusayn (A.S.), as mentioned in al-Kāfī, Man lā Yaḥḍuru al-Faqīh, al-Tahdhīb, Ma‘ānī al-Akhbār, and Wasā'il al-Shi‘a. The following ḥadīth is from al-Kāfī:

It is related from Abān that he asked Ali b. al-Ḥusayn (A.S.) about a man who had willed a thing (shay') of his property. His Holiness said, "In Ali (A.S.)'s book, shay' equals one third."[32]

imam al-bāqir (a.s.)

After Imam Ali b. al-Ḥasan (A.S.), Imam Al-Bāqir (A.S.) has narrated from "Al-Jāmi‘a". Imam al-Bāqir is quoted in al-Khiṣāl, Iqāb al-A‘māl, and Wasā'il al-Shi‘a, as saying:

In Ali (A.S.)'s book, three features are pointed out; the person who possesses them will never depart from the world unless he would see their evil consequences: injustice; breaking off connections with one's near of kin; and perjury by which Allah would be challenged.[33]

Similarly, Imam al-Bāqir (A.S.) has quoted from Ali (A.S.)'s book concerning appropriating the property of the son and the father and intercourse with the slave-girl of one's son.[34] And concerning the rulings on concealing of a woman's defects at marriage[35], perjury[36], and the ruling on the muḥrim (a person in Hajj pilgrimage clothes) who has hunted a game[37], the Imam said: "They are in Amīr al-Mu'minīn's book".

He also said: "We saw in Ali's book the statements concerning the necessity of having a good opinion of Allah and being good-tempered[38], the ruling on [the blood money of] cutting off a dumb person's tongue[39], the ruling concerning a person who reclaims a piece of land and then abandons it[40], failing to pay alms tax (zakāt)[41], and the blood money for [breaking someone's] teeth[42]."

Ya‘qūb b. Maytham al-Tammār, Ali b. Ḥusayn (A.S.)'s freed slave, had the audience of Imam al-Bāqir [Abū Ja‘far (A.S.)] and said to him: I read in my father's book that Ali (A.S.) said to my father, "O Maytham! Befriend the friends of the household of Muḥammad (S.A.W.)..." as far as he said, "I heard the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) say..." [See the ḥadīth in its reference].

Abū Ja‘far (A.S.) said, "This very same matter is in Ali (A.S.)'s book."[43]

Similarly, Imam al-Ṣādiq (A.S.) has related from his father, "I read in Ali (A.S.)'s book that the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) made a treaty between Muhājirūn (the emigrants) and Anṣār (the helpers) and those from among the people of Madīna who joined them..." [See the ḥadīth in its reference].[44]

imam al-Ṣādiq (a.s.)

Imam Abū ‘Abd Allāh al-Ṣādiq (A.S.) has quoted from Ali (A.S.)'s Jāmi‘a three ḥadīths concerning the sighting of the crescent[45], the virtue of the time of [saying] noon prayer[46], the ruling of performing Friday prayer together with one's opponents[47], the ruling about the leftover of a cat[48], and the ruling about the muḥrim if he/she dies [while in Hajj pilgrimage][49]; two ḥadīths concerning wearing of buttoned garment [ṭayalsān] by the muḥrim[50]; two ḥadīths concerning shooting sand-grouse (qiṭāt)[51]; three ḥadīths concerning the expiation for [breaking] the sand-grouse’s eggs[52]; two ḥadīths concerning extra round of circumambulation [in Hajj][53], minor pilgrimage[54] (al-'umra al-mufrada), the number of cardinal (kabīra) sins[55]; and six ḥadīths concerning various fishes whose meat is unlawful to eat[56].

those among the companions of Imams (a.s.) who have seen ali (a.s.)'s book

1. Abū Baṣīr is quoted as saying: Abū Ja‘far, Imam al-Bāqir (A.S.) showed me a scroll in which there were [precepts about] the lawful, the unlawful, and inheritance.

I asked him, "What is it?"

He said, "This is the dictation of the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) and the handwriting of Ali (A.S.)."

"Would it not decay?" I asked.

"What may spoil it?" He said.

"Would it not erode?" I enquired.

"What may erode it?" He said. [And then added] This is Jāmi‘a [or, from Jāmi‘a].[57]

2. Muḥammad b. Mulsim is quoted through two isnād (chains of transmission of ḥadīth) as saying: Abū Ja‘far (A.S.) read something from Ali (A.S.)'s book to me, which included: "I forbid you of [eating] sheatfish (also known as ḥarām fish), zamīr (a fish known as ābnūs), eel, ṭāfī (a fish that dies and floats in water), and the spleen."

[He went on to say] I said: O son of the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.)! Allah may have mercy on you! We will bring in scaleless fish. His Holiness said: “Use scaled fish, and avoid eating scaleless fish."

Previously, we pointed out six ḥadīths from Imam al-Ṣādiq (A.S.) by various isnād , in which the same ruling has been related from Ali (A.S.)'s book, and gave the references under the topic, "Various fishes whose meat is unlawful to eat".[58]

3. In the same source [Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt], Abū Baṣīr is quoted in relation to Abū Ja‘far as saying: I was in his presence [i.e., Abū Ja‘far Imam al-Bāqir (A.S.)]. He asked for al-Jāmi‘a, and looked into it. The following was in there: "If a woman dies and has no inheritor except her husband, he will inherit all her property."[59]

4. ‘Abd al-Malik b. A‘yan is quoted as saying: Abū Ja‘far (A.S.) showed me a part of Ali's book...[60].

5. Also in Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, ‘Abd al-Malik is quoted as saying: Abū Ja‘far (A.S.) asked for Ali's book, Ja‘far (A.S.) brought him the book. It was rolled up like a man's thigh, and there were ... [See the ḥadīth][61].

6. In al-Kāfī and Tahdhīb, Muḥammad b. Muslim is quoted as saying: I looked at a scroll that is looked at it by... [See the ḥadīth].

7. And in a ḥadīth, Muḥammad b. Muslim says: Abū ‘Abd Allāh opened the scroll of inheritance. The first thing I saw in it was about [the inheritance] of one's nephew [one's brother's son] and forefather... [See the ḥadīth][62].

Muḥammad b. Muslim seems to have acquired through these questions and answers plenty of gleanings about inheritance similar to what is related from him in al-Kāfī, Man lā Yaḥḍuru al-Faqīh, and Tahdhīb.

8. Muḥammd b. Muslim says: Abū Ja‘far read to me the scroll of inheritance which was dictated by the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) and written by Ali (A.S.), in which I found [the following ruling]: "When a man dies and leaves behind a daughter and his mother, the daughter inherits half of the property... [The ḥadīth is long]."[63]

According to what is related in many narrations, some of which we mentioned, Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) adduced in their sayings to what their ancestor said, that is, the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) who, as the Holy Qur'an described, ﴾Nor does he speak out of [his own] desire: it is just a revelation that is revealed [to him]﴿ [Al-Qur'an, 53:4].

That is why we say that the narrations of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) have one and the same sanad, with their ḥadīth and word being originated from the same source. Accordingly, Abū Ja‘far, Imam al- Bāqir (A.S.) replied to Jābir who said to him: If you relate a ḥadīth to me, state it well-documented (mustanad):

My father has related to me from my forefather, the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.), from Jibrā'īl (Gabriel) from Almighty Allah and whatever I relate to you is documented the same way....[64]

For this reason, Imam Ja‘far al-Ṣādiq has stated, as related by a group of his disciples:

My word is my father's word, and my father's word is my grandfather's word, and my grandfather's word is Ḥusayn's word, and Ḥusayn's word is Ḥasan's word, and Ḥasan's word is Amir al-Muminīn's word, and Amir al-Muminīn's word is the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.)'s word, and the Apostle of Allah's word is the word of the Glorified and Almighty Allah.[65]

Similarly, it was for the same reason that Imam al-Bāqir (A.S.) replied to Ḥafṣ b. Bakhtarī [who had said to His Holiness: We hear the ḥadīth from you, but we do not know whether it is your own or from your noble father]:

What you heard from me, relate it from my father; and what you heard from my father, relate it from the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.).[66]

And thus, the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) have related [ḥadīth] from Al-Jāmi‘a, which is dictated by the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) to Ali (A.S.) who has written it down in his own handwriting. It is to be pointed out here that the authors of the four books of ḥadīth, i.e., al-Kāfī, Man lā Yaḥḍuru al-Faqīh, Al-Istibṣār, and Al-Tahdhīb have adopted the narrations of these books from uṣūl [books of ḥadīths recorded directly from the infallible Imams (A.S.)] and small ḥadīth compilations (mudawwināt). The authors of these ḥadīth compilations have codified in them the narrations they have heard from the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) and, as we said before, the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt were disgusted with speaking out of [their own] desire, and in stating rulings and precepts solely adduced to Imam Ali (A.S.)'s Al-Jāmi‘a.

The following diagram elucidates the trend of Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.)'s school in perception of the Sunna of the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) and expression of ordinances (aḥkām):

Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.)'s School


The Dictation by the Seal of the Prophet (S.A.W.)


Imam Ali (A.S.)'s Al-Jāmi‘a


Narrations by the Twelve Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.)


Uṣūl and small Ḥadīth Compilations




Faqīh Tahdhīb Istibṣār

The Treatises by the Jurists belonging to the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.)'s School

The jurists of this school, however, do not consider any book other than the Book of Allah as valid; they verify and research on the authority and the text of the ḥadīth in any ḥadīth book and rely on the results of their research. For instance, al-Kāfī in their view is the most popular ḥadīth book, whose aḥādīth they have researched on and stated that it includes 16199 ḥadīths out of which 5072 ḥadīths are sound, 144 ḥadīths are acceptable, 1118 ḥadīths are reliable, 312 ḥadīths are definite, and 9485 ḥadīths are weak (amounting to 16121 ḥadīths).[67]

This division in the compilation of the narrations is dependent upon the rank and status of their narrators according to the well-known standard since the time of Allāma Ḥillī (d. 762/1360), and then on the knowledge of the scholars of that era concerning the conditions of the narrators.

Thus, the study circles (ḥawza ‘ilmiyas) in Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.)'s school have not failed to do researches and scholarly scrutiny even for a single day; rather, they have proceeded in their own eras with their fruitful endeavors in the field of ḥadīth in two directions:

1. Making endeavors to preserve in written form the texts of the traditions representing judgments (aḥkām).

2. Making endeavors to raise scholarly discussions concerning the chain of transmission (sanad), texts (mutūn), enunciation (manṭūq), and signification (madlūl) of traditions, etc.

Finally, they acceded to the results obtained through the designations (nuṣūṣ) of the Book and the Sunni; hence, refusing to make personal judgments (ijtahād) against the Book and the Sunna.

What we stated in general, would clarify the Status of Sunna from the Imamī (Shī'ī) point of view.

[1] This paper was presented to the International Congress, "The Status of Prophetic Tradition in Islam" in Istanbul, Turkey, Nov 19, 1995.

[2] For a definition ofaṣl, see Al-Dharī'a ilā Taṣānīf al-Shi'a, 2:125-167.

[3] Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, I, 8, Tehran, 1375/1955; Muḥammad b. Murtḍā (known as Mullā Muḥsin Fayḍ Kāshānī – d. 1091/1680), Wāfī, I, 59, 1324/1906.

[4] Muḥammad b. Ḥasan al-Ṣaffār (d. 290/902), Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 301, 1285/1868.

[5] Muḥammad Bāqir al-Majlisī (d. 1111/1699), Mir'āt al-'Uqūl.

[6] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 301.1.

[7] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 229.

[8] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 229, ḥadīth 1 and 300, ḥadīth 4, 6.

[9] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 229.2.

[10] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 300-301, ḥadīth 5, 7, 10.

[11] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 290; Wasā'il by Ḥurr Āmilī, III, 391.19, 1323-24/1905-06; Mustadrak al-Wasā'il, III, 192.28, 1321/1903, related from Ayyāshī's Tafsīr .

[12] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 290-291.3, 9 and close to this theme in the same source: 392.13.

[13] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 198.3.

[14] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 197.4.

[15] Ibn Sa'd, Ṭabaqāt, in the chapter, "Imam Ali's Spiritual States", 2/2/101; The first ḥadīth has been related by Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal in his Manuscript, (Faḍā'il-i 'Alī b Abī Ṭālib).

[16] The three narrations in Nasā'ī's Sunan, (Kitāb al-Sahw), chapter on Al-Tanaḥnaḥ fī al-Ṣalāt , I, 178, and in the Beirut edition, III, 12. The third narration in Ibn Māja's Sunan, Kitāb al-Adab, the chapter on Al-Istīdhān, 1122. ḥadīth No. 3708. And the first narration in Aḥmad's Musnad, I, 107, ḥadīth No. 647, and the second in Musnad, I, 107, ḥadīth No. 845. And the third narration in Musnad, I, 80, ḥadīth No. 608. Bukhārī, however, has omitted the beginning of the ḥadīth in his Al-Tārīkh on the states of Najī, 4/2/121.

[17] Shaykh Abū Ja'far Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Ṭūsī, Amālī, 56. 2, Najaf, 1347/1928. Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 167, related from Abī Ṭufayl on the authority of Abū Ja'far, Dar al-Khalafa al-'Uthmānī, 1302/1884.

[18] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 149; and close to the same meaning on page 159. 15.

[19] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 149. 14, 154. 7, 142. 1 differing in wording; al-Kāfī, I, 241.

[20] Al-Kāfī, I, 239; Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 151-152; Al-Wāfī, II, 135. The ḥadīth is lengthy; it is partially quoted here as needed.

[21] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 142 and 149 up to: ('arḍ al-adīm).

[22] Al- Kāfī, I, 57.14; Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 146 and 149-50; Wāfī I, 58.

[23] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 162.

[24] Shahrāshūb's Manāqib, IV, 172; Biḥār al-Anwār. XLVI, 18.3; the ḥadīth itself being quoted from Biḥār al-Anwār.

[25] Al- Kāfī, I, 304; I'lām al-Warā, 152; Biḥār al-Anwār, XLVI, 16; Shahrashūb's Manāqib, IV, 172.

[26] Al- Kāfī, I, 305.2; I'lām al-Warā, 260; Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, chap. I, 44; Biḥār al-Anwār, XLVI, 299.1; Al-Wāfī, II, 83.

[27] Al-Kāfī, I, 305.1; al-Wāfī, II, 82, IV, chap. 4, 165; I'lām al-Warā, 260, Biḥār al-Anwār, XLVI, 299.

[28] Al-Kāfī, Kitāb al-Ḥujja, III, 48; Al-Wāfī, II, 133; Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 177, 186, 188.

[29] Al-Kāfī, III, 48; Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 184, 177; Al-Wāfī, II, 133.

[30] Biḥār al-Anwār, XLVIII, 22. 34.

[31] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt,; Al-Wāfī, II, 86.

[32] Al-Kāfī, VII, 40.1; Man lā Yaḥḍuru al-Faqīh, IV, 151; Ma'ānī al-Akhbār, 217 – both by Shaykh al-Ṣadūq; Shaykh al-Tūsī, Tahdhīb, IX, 19.835; Wasāil, XIII, 450.1.

[33] Al-Khiṣāl, 134; Iqāb al-A'amāl, 261both by Shaykh al-Ṣadūq; Wasā'il al-Shī'a, XVI, 119.

[34] For the ruling on appropriating the property of the son and the father, see Al-Kāfī, IV, 135-136; Al-Istibṣār, II, 48; Wasāil, XII, 194-195 and XVI, 122.

[35] For the ruling on concealing defects of a woman, see Al-Tahdhīb, VII, 43; Wasā'il, XIV, 597.

[36] For the outcome of perjury, see al-Kāfī, VII, 436; Iqāb al-A'māl, Shaykh al-Ṣadūq, 270-271, al-Khiṣāl, 124; Wasā'il, 122.

[37] For the ruling on hunting by the muḥrim, see al-Kāfī, XL, 390.9.

[38] Concerning having a good opinion of Allah, see, al-Kāfī, II, 71-72; Wasā'il, XI, 181.20353.

[39] For the ruling on cutting off a dumb person's tongue, see al-Kāfī, VII, 318; Man lā Yaḥḍuru al-Faqīh, IV, 111; al-Tahdhīb, 10/270.

[40] For the ruling on reclaiming the wasteland, see al-Kāfī, V, 279; al-Tahdhīb, VII, 153; Wasā'il, XVII, 329.3223.

[41] For the outcome of failing to pay alms tax, see al-Kāfī, III, 505.7; Wasā'il, VI, 13-14.

[42] For the ruling on the blood money of teeth, see al-Kāfī, VII, 329; Man lā Yaḥḍuru al-Faqīh, IV, 104; Al-Tahdhīb, X, 254; al-Istibṣār, IV, 288; Wasā'il, XI, 444.21299.

[43] The Ibn. Maytham's narration in Shaykh al-Ṭūsī's Majālis, 258, Najaf edition; Wasā'il, XI, 184.13352.

[44] For the narration of making a treaty between the emigrants and the helpers, see al-Kāfī, II, 666; Ibid., I, 336 and IV, 30-31 in the book of Jihād; Wasā'il, VIII, 478.15842 and XI, 50.

[45] Istibṣār, III, 64; Wasā'il, II, 105.13352.

[46] Istibṣār, I, 251; Tahdhīb, II, 23; Wasāil, III, 105.4752 and 107.14764.

[47] Tahdhīb, III, 28; Wasā'il, V, 44.19550.

[48] Al-Kāfī, I, 9.4; Tahdhīb, I, 227; Wasā'il, I, 164.580.

[49] Al-Kāfī, IV, 368.3; Wasā'il, II, 696-697.2759, 2761, and 2766.

[50] Al-Kāfī, IV, 304.7 and 8; Man lā Yaḥḍuru al-Faqīh, II, 117; Illal al-Sharāyi', II, 94; Wasā'il, IX, 119.16822 and 16823.

[51] Al-Kāfī, IV, 930; Tahdhīb, V, 44.1190 and 1191

[52] Al-Kāfī, IV, 930; Istibṣār, II, 202, 203, 204; Tahdhīb, V, 355, 357; Wasā'il, IX, 216, 217, 218.17223, 17225, and 17229.

[53] Istibṣār, II, 248; Sarā'ir, 446; Wasā'il, IX, 438 and 439.17974; some of the narrations lack the phrase, "in Ali's book".

[54] Al-Kāfī, IV, 534.2; Wasā'il, X, 244.19275.

[55] Al-Kāfī, II, 278-279; Wasā'il, XI, 254.20631; Khiṣāl, I, 273; Illal al-Sharāyi', II, 160.

[56] Al-Kāfī, VI, 220; Tahdhīb, IX, 2, 4, 5, 6; Istibṣār, IV, 59; Wasā'il, XVI, 334, 335; Biḥār al-Anwār, X, 254.

[57] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 144.

[58] Al-Kāfī, VI, 219; Wasā'il, XVI, 332, 400.30157.

[59] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 145.

[60] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 162.

[61] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, 165.14; Wasā'il, XVII, 522.32836.

[62] Baṣā'ir al-Darajāt, VII, 113; Tahdhīb, IX, 308; Wasā'il, XVII, 87 and 486.32702.

[63] Al-Kāfī, VII, 93; Man lā Yaḥḍuru al-Faqīh, IV, 192; Tahdhīb, IX, 270; Wasā'il, XVII, 463.32702.

[64] Shaykh al-Mufīd, Amālī, 26.

[65] Al-Kāfī, I, 53; Al-Mufīd, Irshād, 257.

[66] Al-Wasā'il, III, 380.86.

[67] Shaykh Yūsuf al-Baḥrānī says in Lu' Lu' al-Baḥrayn, 394: Some of our recent masters have said: "As for al-Kāfī, all of its aḥādīth are..." And Nūrī has similarly referred to it in the biography of Kulaynī at the end of Al-Mustadrak , III, 541, and stated: "Apparently what is meant by definite [ḥadīth] is the traditions whose some or all of transmitters are acclaimed non-Imāmīs; and there are no one among the authorities whose ḥadīth is weak. There is another attribution too..."

The total number of the aḥādīth that Baḥrānī and Nurī have mentioned do not march the sum of these figures as we introduced above. It is nine ḥadīths less than the sum total mentioned by the author of Al-Rawḍāt in his biography of Kulaynī, VI, 116. It is also different with the number given in Al-Dharī'a, XVII, 245, where the sum total is mentioned as 16000, and 178 reliable ḥadīth. The text, however, seems to be erroneous.

Sometimes, this difference and the difference in the total [number] which has entered the text is resulted from repeated counting by some.

Hadith Tags :   Book of Ali,  Sunnah,  Shia Views,  Hadith Sources
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