Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Zaidism and Hadith Authenticity.

Followers of the Zaydi / Zaidi math-hab are at a distinct advantage when it comes to the study of ahadith (prophetic narrations) and the study of the authenticity of ahadith. This is because, unlike the Sunnis, the Zaidis do not require taqleed (blind acceptance) of ahadith, and unlike 12 imamers, Zaidis do not believe in the infallibility of some of the ahadith narrators.
With these two restrictions lifted from them, Zaidi scholars are in a position to review ahadith critically and logically, taking into account the historical / political context of the hadith’s appearance, its conformity with Qur’anic principals, and applying reason/logic in an effort to ascertain the hadith’s authenticity.

Why do Sunnis and 12 Imamers uncritically accept their ahadith collections?

The sunnis have idolized two of their ahadith collectors, namely Bukhari and Muslim, to such an extent that they do not acknowledge that either of them could have made a mistake when selecting the ahadith that went into their collections. They have labeled their collections as “Sahih al Bukhari” and “Sahih Muslim”, and if anyone challenges any ahadith from these two collections, they are considered non-sunnis. This is despite the fact that these two scholars, who are not from ahlul bait or even from Qr’aish, never claimed infallibility.
The 12 Imamers have idolized their 12 Imams to such an extent that any narrations supposedly originating from them go unchallenged as well. They have an advantage over the sunnis in that their narrations come from ahlul bait, however, their insistence that their Imams are infallible makes serious scientific study, with a critical approach, very difficult.

Contrast this with the Zaidi position as articulated by Imam Rassi Society:
“A hallmark feature of the Zaydi school is that all of our hadith literature are subject to scrutiny; even ahadiths from our imams! We don't have any book called "Saheeh this" or "Saheeh that". The Qur'an and logic are used to judge the ahadith.”

As discussed in an earlier post, the Zaidis and 12 Imamers agree that “Allah ta`ala does not abrogate His speech by (anything) other than His speech” i.e. the Qur’an can not be abrogated by the Sunna (the ahadith). However, the sunnis, also known in history as “ahlul hadeeth” have a tendency to give ahadith precedence over the Qur’an where there is a contradiction.

As well as using the Qur’an and logic to judge the validity of a hadith, another way of evaluating ahadith, which was refined by the mu’tazili scholars, is to identify and promote those ahadith which are “mutawatir’, i.e. found in the books of all Islamic math-habs including sunni, Zaidi and 12 imamer, in other words:
“those (ahadith) that have come down to later generations through a large number of chains of narration, involving diverse transmitters such that it is virtually impossible that all these people, living in different localities and espousing (at times radically) different views, would come together, fabricate the exact same lie and attribute it to the Prophet of Islam or any other authority. A large number of narrators is not a sufficient criterion for authenticating a report because people belonging to some sect or party may have an interest in fabricating reports that promote their agendas. The power of this mode of transmission, tawatur, rests on both the number and diversity of narrators at each stage of transmission.” (quoted from Wikipedia summary of Mu’tazili doctrine).
This is a very scientific and logical way to identify the accurate ahadith, and it surprises me that nobody has yet published a book of these “mutawatir ahadith” for hadith skeptics like myself to reflect upon.
We have seen that Zaidism and Mu’tazilism are intricately interwoven, therefore I think it is fair to say that Zaidi scholars, like Mu’tazili ones, would have given preference to ahadith which are mutawatir, when quoting from narrators other than Imam Zaid bin Ali. (further research on this point is on its way).

Zaidi scholars also have a tendency to re-interpret ahadith from other schools so that they conform with narrations on the same topic from the Imam Zaid.
Imam Rassi Society has provided an example of this tendency in these words:

“Another thing about our imams is that they made themselves familiar with the narrations of other schools, taking all of the narrations on a topic and seeing if one can interpret the others to conform (with the Zaidi view). For example, in the issue regarding whether touching one's private parts violates ritual purity, our (Zaidi) imams take the position that it doesn’t. As for those (non- Zaidi) narrations that seemingly contradict that view, they interpret those reports that say: ((Whoever touches one's private parts should make ablution)) to mean: "Whoever touches one's private parts should wash their hands". This is because the literal meaning of wudu is to wash one's limbs.”

For all of these reasons, the Zaidi math-hab is clearly the superior math-hab of the three, when it comes to the scientific and logical study of the ahadith. Having said that, Zaidis must be on their guard not to uncritically accept ahadith from their own school, in the event that any of them seem not to conform to the guiding principles of hadith validity mentioned above (i.e. being in accordance with the Qur’an, being logical, and, wherever possible, being mutawatir.)
An example of a possible inconsistency within Zaidism: (?) Debate welcome…
I personally find it surprising that all three schools (Zaidi, sunni and 12 imamer) have accepted the ahadith prescribing the punishment of stoning for married adulterers, which contradicts with the Qur’anic ayat prescribing flogging (i.e. a much more lenient penalty). Here we have an example of a hadith which is mutawatir (agreed upon by all schools of thought) yet in contradiction with the Qur’an. I personally would go with the Qur’an on this one; even though I identify myself as a Zaidi, and it is a mutawatir hadith. On this particular issue I am taking the position of the “Ahlul Qu’ran”, (a group of scholars who have rejected al ahadith because their respect for the Qur’an), because I am not yet convinced by the following justifications for the “unQur’anic” hadith, given by the three math-habs:
A Zaidi justification (from AwsMekka):
“In the written history about leaders (imams)in Yemen (and in Gilan and Dailman) I didn’t read that any did stoning ...but there are ahadith that imam Ali(as) lashed the married adulterer while saying “I lash according to Quraan” and then stoned him saying “I stone according to the sunna”. Imam Hadi (founder of Zaidism in Yemen) only did stoning when the adulterer confessed and chose to be stoned, i.e. to restore their honour”

A 12 Imamer justification (from MacIsaac):
“The usual explanation is that it is abrogated in recitation while not abrogated in ruling. Regardless, yes we do have hadiths indicating that the punishment for the muhsan (married, and whose spouse is sexually available to them) adulterer is to be stoned. However, our fiqh is compatible with what the Quran says in that the adulterer is also lashed a 100 times, like the ayat says. The stoning is an additional punishment on top of that.”

A Sunni justification (a hadith from Sahih al Bukhari, kitab ul hudood)
“The Prophet S.A.W said; “For unmarried persons, one hundred lashes and one year’s exile, for married adulterers, 100 lashes and stoning.”

With all the freedom to evaluate and re-consider its hadith literature, the Zaidi math-hab is the only math-hab that has the potential to develop and flourish into the future, weeding out any inconsistencies; with objective research and open minded scholarship, the true ahadith can be uncovered from the false. Zaidi scholars are in the perfect position to carry out this task. Sunni and 12 Imamer scholars are not. I believe the Zaidi math-hab will be the only math-hab left standing when truly objective and scientific research into all of the ahadith has been thoroughly completed.


  1. Salaam
    I think the Shia sects need to understand what the term sahih means. For example the Shias say nahj al balagha is the word of Imam Ali (as). How do we know this ? There is no documentation of the letters which state how its connected to Imam Ali(as) through its chain narrations. In fact there are no chains of narrations for letters either. Other shias reply saying there are sound narrations. Again this is not definite proof.
    By having sahih ahadith Sunnis are able to look through the biography of the narrators within the chain of the ahadith. Also, within Ahle Sunnah there are 2 school of thought in ahadith as well. There is the akhbari school of thought, which today is led by the Saudi scholar Albani. The other school is the Usooli school which is led the by the Ghumari masters of ahadith. In the Usooli school of thought Sunni don't not blindly accept all sahih hadith to be perfect. A study is done further to match the ahadith from the Quran.

    As for the verses on stoning the Ibadi sect in Oman consider it haraam under any case.

    1. K.C. Negaro on FacebookFebruary 14, 2017 at 2:34 AM

      Bro you just made a MAJOR error. Akhbari and Usooli are SHIA schools of thought and you just referred to them as Sunni. I would have thought it was a typo but you did this TWICE in the above paragraaph........

  2. Thanks Pro ahlul bait, I've never heard of the Usooli school of Sunnis, and I don't think the majority of Sunnis have either. If they are really matching ahadith with Qur'an they will eventually figure out that Zaydism is the authentic Islam. The sunni "biographies" of narrators can't be trusted as they are too subjective. Sahih according to who? Albani and his predecessors judged the narrators in the chains according to their sunni/salafi standards, discrediting so many truthful narrators on the basis that they were shi-ites or mu'tazili. Their selection of "reliable" transmitters says more about their own biases than about who was really telling the truth. Being an ex-sunni, I don't know much about Najhul balagha, but the Shia have plenty of literature to be proud of, like Zain ul Abideen's beautiful Book of Prayers/du'aa; it's in a class of its own. The content speaks for itself. It is a book important to Zaidis as well as 12 Imamers, yet most Sunnis have never heard of it. Instead they let a modern day Albanian tell them what to read and what not to read.

  3. The name of the book by Zain ul Abideen I mentioned is "As Saheefa as Sajjadiyyah"

  4. Salaam
    Sahifa Sajjadiya contains du'a and wazifa, and it is accepted widely by Ahlus Sunnah,as Imam Azubaidi ( the one who did Sarh Ihya by Imam Gazali) refers to it many times. Sahifa Sajjadiya is a collection of Dua and wazaif by Imam zainul Abidin (as), is said to be related to him.

    Also here is a Hanafi scholar reading it, and the Sunnis are repeating the dua after him.




    I wish I can provide you more information about the Ghumari masters of ahadith. However, sadly the information is Arabic. However, Syed Ninowy studied hadith under them and he uses their methodology.
    In fact one the masters of this ahadith school did the Takfir of Muawiyah. He was the late Hafeth Sayyed Ahmad bin Assiddiqq.

  5. A few things. First of all, the Imami Shia do not in any way believe that any narration attributed to one of the Imams is necessarily authentic. Some of the akhbaris were notoriously liberal in accepting Hadith, which considering the amount of forged extremist hadiths the imamis have collected led to some disastrous results, but the usulis never had any such inclinations.

    I think part of growing out of childish faith is recognizing that we will never have certainty. We will never know for certain that anything is 100% authentic and are instead dealing with probabilities and part of that is being humble and realizing that we might be wrong and therefore should be flexible and gentle with those who we differ with. One of the reasons I think it is important for people to read the writings of the orientalists is that they ask the questions no one else is willing to ask and cast doubts everyone else is afraid to investigate.

    Another hard thing we must deal with is stoning. Stoning is a horrific way for someone to be killed and it is very hard for any of us to understand this. How can something like Islam proscribe something so horrific? And if it is not from Islam how do we explain how it has traditionally been considered to be? I don't know the answers, but we have to find satisfying answers at some point.

  6. As I stated before, the Ibadi Madhab is against the concept of stoning. However, in the Muslim countries that the Muslims live in today, committing fornication is still seen as a big offense. Of course there are people who have no fear when it comes to major sins, but if the whole society figures out that a person fornicates then that becomes a problem. Now stoning is involved when it comes to a bigger crime. Its applied for a person who is already married and decides to commit adultery with another sex who is also already married too. Don't these people think about the consequences? What about the spouses and family members that they hurt ?
    On the other side, I know the great Sunni Scholar Shaykh Abu Zahra also had trouble with this case of adultery. In the end we have to remember that this punishment should only be prescribed in an Islamic State.

    Next there is the punishment for apostasy. We as Muslims believe Islam should be spread around the world. However, when our own Muslims leave the Islamic faith they have to executed. On the contrary, Muslims have no problem with the millions who are leaving their old faith and accepting Islam.

  7. To Devin, my point about stoning is that is not supported by the Qur'an, it is only supported by the ahadith. If we accept that stoning is a legitimate punishment in Islam, we are raising the authority of the ahadith to a higher level than the Qur'an. This then opens the door to other rulings that are based on ahadith and have contradictory punishments in the Qur'an. Since Zaydism supposedly judges ahadith by the Qur'an, I think Zaydism has the potential to develop reforms in this regard.

  8. To Pro ahlul bait, similarly to what I just said about stoning, the punishment of death for apostasy finds no support in the Qur'an and is based on a hadith (for Sunnis the hadith comes through Abbas, I do not know the Zaydi ruling on this one). The Qur'an promises apostates "a great punishment" (in the hereafter), but does not mention a death penalty. It seems to me to be a bit risky killing people on the basis of a hadith, given that we know many ahadith were fabricated. I think the Qur'an should be referred to in such matters, but other Zaydis may not agree with me.... and Allah knows best.

  9. Salaam
    For the ruling on adultery, you might want to adopt the Ibadi school's stance. Its what fits the best with the Quran. On apostasy the 12rs Shias say there is no death penalty toward women. For born Muslims men there is a death penalty, and for converts they have a chance to repent, but will face penalty if they do not become Muslims again.
    I guess its a little better then what Sunni Islam says. In my view I still see it to be cruel. In fact, I see the punishment for apostasy to be worst than a punishment for adultery.
    Imam Ali (as) is known to have said a child can grow in Kufr lands, but he/she can never grow under oppression.

  10. Alsalam Alaikom Brother. First I would like to thank you for this blog. May Allah reward you and guide us all. I have a small comment: you said that "The sunnis have idolized two of their ahadith collectors, namely Bukhari and Muslim, to such an extent that they do not acknowledge that either of them could have made a mistake when selecting the ahadith that went into their collections. They have labeled their collections as “Sahih al Bukhari” and “Sahih Muslim”, and if anyone challenges any ahadith from these two collections, they are considered non-sunnis."
    This is not true. If you check fatawi Alalbani (pp. 524-528) which is one of the leading contemporary Sunni hadeeth scholars, he clearly said that no one could claims that Albukhari or Muslim are infallible or that what they wrote is all truth. He even said that he think that some of haddeths in those books are week. He also said that he is not the first to say that and he gave some examples of famous haddeth scholars who said similar things. You can see the quote in
    فتاوى الشيخ الألباني ص 524 - 528 ، الطبعة الأولى 1414هـ/1994م ، مكتبة التراث الإسلامي ، القاهرة ، جمع عكاشة عبدالمنان الطيبي.

    ( سؤال :
    شيخنا .. السؤال هو:
    هل سبق للشيخ أن ضعف أحاديث في البخاري [وأفردها] في كتاب مّـا ؟

    وإن حصل ذلك فهل سبقك إلى ذلك العلماء ؟
    نرجو الجواب مع [التبيين] جزاك الله خيراً .

    أما أنه سبق لي أن ضعفت [بعض] أحاديث البخاري فهذا حقيقة ! يجب الاعتراف بها ! ولا يجوز إنكارها . ذلك لأسباب كثيرة جداً ..
    أولها :
    المسلمون كافة لا فرق بين عالم أو متعلم أو جاهل مسلم . . كلهم يجمعون على أنه لا عصمة لأحد بعد رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم . . وعلى هذا ، من النتائج البديهية أيضا أن أي كتاب يخطر في بال المسلم أو يسمع باسمه قبل أن يقف على رسمه ، لا بد أن يرسخ في ذهنه أنه لا بد أن يكون فيه شئ من الخطأ ، لأن العقيدة السابقة أن العصمة من البشر لم يحظ بها أحد إلا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم .
    من هنا يروى عن الإمام الشافعي رضي الله عنه أنه قال : أبى الله أن يتم إلا كتابه .
    فهذه حقيقة لا تقبل المناقشة . هذا أولا . . هذا كأصل...)

    this part of his answer. Someone wrote the whole quote here: http://www.albaidha.net/vb/showthread.php?t=17762

    My point of view is that Albukari and Muslim have done a great job selecting hadeeths with high level of standards. Any one who wants to critique their work can do that as long as he explain why he disagree with them. This would give the person critiquing creditability and allow us to test his claim.

    Please keep the good work

  11. Salaams and thanks for the encouragement!
    Sahih al Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are huge collections of ahadith but they contain very few ahadith narrated by the Prophet s.a.w.'s immediate family and his descendants. One would normally expect at least half of someone's speeches during their lifetime to be handed down through their family/ descendants. Whoever collected these ahadith made no effort to get narrations from the people who were closest to the Prophet s.a.w. Therefore I disagree with you that Al Bukhari and Muslim "did a great job". And if Albani hasn't noticed this weakness in their collections, then I think his evaluation of them is very weak.

  12. Isa Abdullah from Shiachat website wrote this:

    "Sister Zaida

    While it is good to be critical and to seek knowledge and understanding, there is the danger of drowning in the sea of narrations and opinions, unless we go about it in the right way. You have some misunderstandings when it comes to some basic principles of the different schools, and i believe it leads you to make judgements that are far from the truth.

    One example is abrogation, and you brought the example of stoning the married adulterer.
    Know that there are three categories of abrogation. One is that which is abrogated in both recitation and ruling, the second one is that which is abrogated in ruling, but recitation remains. The third is that which has been abrogated in recitation but ruling remains. The issue of stoning belongs to the latter category. This was an ayah in the Quran, which was later abrogated in recitation but not in hukm. That the 4 schools of Ahlus Sunnah(Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi'i and Hanbali), Hadawis(Yemeni Zaydi), and the Maraji' of the Imami Shi'a all agree on this ruling carries a lot of weight.

    Secondly, the Zaydis don't base their fiqh solely on Quran, logic and Mutawater Hadith. Firstly, a Mutawater Hadith cannot be rejected, and all 4 schools of Ahlus Sunnah are in agreement on this. An Imami could explain their own views on this better. So this is something that we all agree on. Other than that, the Hadawis accept khabar al-wahid(single report), not just that which reached tawatur. So for you to go against the ruling of stoning, you first need to be qualified, and it needs to be based on a proper Usul(principles), not whims and desires.

    You need to realise that we accept the Quran as authentic because it has come down to us in Tawatur. So the mutawater ahadith have a similar authenticity. It is fully established that the Prophet (salawatullah wassalamu 'alayh), just as it is established that Allah says something in the Quran. So the full-blown Hadith rejectors are considered non-Muslims by consensus."

  13. Excellent article. A few points of clarification should be made. Scholars of hadith from both Ahlul Sunnah & the Ithna Ashari do critically examine the nature & scope of hadith. No hadith is to be taken at face value alone but are to be examined by the light of the Qur'an. The Ithna Ashari do not unequivocablly accept hadith from the 12 Imams or their closest disciples. Those hadith have to be examined in the light of the Qur'an.

    Ma salaam

  14. The Zaydi fiqh is the most submissive to the revelations of the Holy Quran. That alone qualifies it for greater consideration from any devout and sincere muslim. In fact, any hadith that does not comply with the Quran must be dismissed. No matter the reliability of the hadith, it is not a Holy Revelation. Allah perfected our faith in what was given to the Holy Prophet (SAW).