Some of the Reasons for Differences in the Narrations

//Some of the Reasons for Differences in the Narrations

Muʿjam al-Aḥādīth al-Muʿtabara, Some of the Reasons for Differences in the Narrations – Ḥadīth #5

[5/77] al-Kafi: Ali b. Ibrahim from his father from Uthman b. Isa and al-Hasan b. Mahbub all together from Sama’a from Abi Abdillah عليه السلام, he (Sama’a) said: I asked him about a man who is answered oppositely by two of his co-religionists (i.e. Shi’as) in regards a matter – [and] both transmit it [their answers – on your authority], one of them obligates it while the other forbids it – what should he do? he said: he withholds [doing anything] until he accesses one who will inform him (of the true position), and he is respited until such a time as he meets him. [And in another narration [the Imam said]: whichever of them he acts by –  suffices him – if done in subservience (with the intention of obeying)]. Comments

If one receives conflicting reports – both attributed to the Imam – one obligating action and the other forbidding – the Imam advises postponing judgment until you can meet him who will resolve it. This is Tawaqquf. The seeker is also not blamable in the interim. Al-Kulayni includes another narration which says – he can choose to do either one and no fault will attach itself to him if this is done with the intention of obeying. This is Takhyir.

al-Moḥsini says: As for the last Hadith then it is dependent on the possibility of the Mukallaf to refer the matter back to the Imam or a Mufti who is a Marja of Taqlid, so he will postpone acting until he meets him, and the words of the two men [who report the Imams position] will have no Hujiyyah because they are contradicting, and in this age there is no great difficulty upon the Mukallaf [to access the Marja]. This narration while it has utility for the Mukallaf who is a layman both in the age of presence of the `Aimma and the Ghayba does not have utility for the Mukallaf who is a Mujtahid in the age of the Ghayba (because he has no one to refer it to) … and Allāh Knows more.

In conclusion, it is undeniable that contradictions have occurred between Mu’tabar narrations and I have mentioned some of the reasons for this in my book Hudud al-Shariah. Two of the main reasons that can be inferred from the narrations found in this chapter are abrogation and using indirect speech because of Taqiyya or some other reason as we have clarified previously. And Allāh is the Protector and the Guide.

[5/77] الكافي: علي بن إبراهيم، عن أبيه، عن عثمان بن عيسى والحسن بن محبوب جميعا، عن سماعة، عن أبي عبد الله عليه السلام قال: سألته عن رجل اختلف عليه رجلان من أهل دينه في أمر كلاهما يرويه: أحدهما يأمر بأخذه والآخر ينهاه عنه، كيف يصنع؟ فقال: يرجئه حتى يلقي من يخبره، فهو في سعة حتي يلقاه، وفي رواية اخرى بأيهما أخذت من باب التسليم وسعك

Muʿjam al-Aḥādīth al-Muʿtabara, Some of the Reasons for Differences in the Narrations – Ḥadīth #4

[4/76] Ilal al-Sharai: My father from Sa’d from Muhammad b. al-Walid and al-Sindi from Aban b. Uthman from Muhammad b. Bashir and Hariz from Abi Abdillah عليه السلام, he (Hariz) said: I said to him: there is nothing more difficult for me [to bear] than the differences [that exists] between our fellows, he said: that is from me (I purposely caused that). Comments

He caused that by reporting different things to them to maintain Taqiyya, and the wisdom behind this is to preserve the lives of the believers from the unjust aggressors. This is consonant with what the Imam said in a similar narration in Ilal when asked about Ikhtilaf – لو اجتمعتم على أمر واحد لاخذ برقابكم – “if you had been unanimous in all affairs – it would have been off with your necks”.

[4/76] علل الشرائع: أبي، عن سعد، عن محمد بن الوليد والسندي، عن أبان بن عثمان، عن محمد بن بشير وحريز، عن أبي عبد الله عليه السلام قال: قلت له: إنه ليس شئ أشد علي من اختلاف أصحابنا، قال: ذلك من قبلي

Muʿjam al-Aḥādīth al-Muʿtabara, Some of the Reasons for Differences in the Narrations – Ḥadīth #3

[3/75] al-Kafi: Ahmad b. Idris from Muhammad b. Abd al-Jabbar from al-Hasan b. Ali from Tha’laba b. Maymun from Zurara b. A’yan from Abi Ja’far عليه السلام, he (Zurara) said: I asked him about a matter so he answered me, then a man came to him and asked him about it so he answered him with a different answer to mine, then another man came so he answered him with a different answer to the one he gave me and the first man, so when the two men had exited I said: O the son of the messenger of Allāh – two men from the people of Iraq from among your followers came to ask you – but you answered each one of them with a different answer? He said: O Zurara, this is better and more safe for us and you, for if you were all to unite upon one position the people would believe you [in what you say] about us and that would be a threat to both our and your survival, he (Zurara) said: then I [later] said to Abi Abdillah عليه السلام: your followers – if you were to make them move in the face of arrows or on fire they would do it but they come out from you having differences! He said: so he answered me with the same reply as his father. Comments

ان هذا خير لنا وأبقى لنا ولكن ولو اجتمعتم على أمر واحد لصدقكم الناس علينا ولكان أقل لبقائنا وبقائكم – If you were all to agree on everything [become one homogeneous and disciplined body within the wider society], and narrate all the identical rites and practices that mark you out – on our authority – your claim to have an association with the `Aimma would become more believable because of your unanimity, and they will consider you our followers in actual fact, consequently the door of infamy and persecution by our enemies will be opened, but if you were to diverge in what you attribute to us, and differ among yourself, they will consider the whole thing a charade and not believe that you are our followers rather mere charlatans.

The success of this policy of the `Aimma was such that the proto-Sunni’s historically doubted whether there was any link between the `Aimma and their putative followers and many considered the whole thing to be a fabrication.

The same narration in Ilal has it as –  ولو اجتمعتم على أمر واحد لقصدكم الناس علينا – “if you were to unite upon one position – the people would target you because of us”. Which seems more natural.

[3/75] الكافي: أحمد بن إدريس، عن محمد بن عبدالجبار، عن الحسن بن علي، عن ثعلبة بن ميمون، عن زرارة بن أعين، عن أبي جعفر عليه السلام قال: سألته عن مسألة فأجابني ثم جاء ه رجل فسأله عنها فأجابه بخلاف ما أجابني، ثم جاء رجل آخر فأجابه بخلاف ما أجابني وأجاب صاحبي، فلما خرج الرجلان قلت: يا ابن رسول الله رجلان من اهل العراق من شيعتكم […]

Muʿjam al-Aḥādīth al-Muʿtabara, Some of the Reasons for Differences in the Narrations – Ḥadīth #2

[2/74] al-Kafi: Ali b. Ibrahim from his father from Ibn Abi Najran from A’sim b. Humayd from Mansur b. Hazim who said: I said to Abi Abdillah عليه السلام: what is my condition – I ask you about an issue so you answer me in it with a certain answer, then someone other than me comes to you so you answer him in it with a different answer? He said: we answer the people with addition (in-depth) and with deletion (in-brief). I said: so inform me about the companions of the messenger of Allāh صلى الله عليه واله – were they truthful about Muhammad صلى الله عليه واله or did they lie? He said: they were truthful, I said: so what was the matter with them that they differed? He said: don’t you know that a man used to come to the messenger of Allāh صلى الله عليه واله and ask him about a thing so he answers him in it with an answer, then he answers him after that with that which abrogates the former answer, so the narrations superseded one another. Comments

As to the different answers given by the Imam on a single issue, it is possible that it was necessary and justified because of Taqiyya i.e. the Imam had knowledge that the questioner will require such an answer to preserve his life, or it was for some other greater good.

On the other hand different answers given by the Imam do not always mean that it is Taqiyya, because there is no question except that it has different aspects – which the different answers could be addressing. So if a scholar is asked the same question repeatedly and he answers differently each time – while having a different aspect of it in mind, all the answers are equally true, even if the questioner does not know the reasoning behind this, and the ignorance of the questioner does not detract from the correctness of the answers given, because what is required after ascertaining the greatness of status and the knowledge of the Imam is to submit to him unconditionally and believe in him.

al-Moḥsini says: As for the second narration then it is applies only to the time of the prophet (when he was alive), as there is no abrogation after his time except in a very rare scenario mentioned in Usul al-Fiqh. However, Takhsis [specification] and Taqyid [conditionalizing] are also sometimes referred to as Naskh [abrogation], so a Mufti might depend on the Amm (general rule) but mention a Khass (specific) instance of it or mention it Mutlaqan (in absolute terms) depending on the circumstances whilst having not exceeding the bounds to fall into lying. And this is what was meant by ‘addition’ and ‘deletion’ [in the narration]. And as for his words “they [the companions] were truthful [in what they relayed from Muhammad]” then it is taken to mean as a whole (since there was a group [of companions] within the whole group of companions who were truthful). […]

Muʿjam al-Aḥādīth al-Muʿtabara, Some of the Reasons for Differences in the Narrations – Ḥadīth #1

[1/73] Rijal al-Kashshi: From Ibn Masud from Ali b. al-Hasan from al-Abbas b. A’mir and Ja’far b. Muhammad b. Hukaym from Aban b. Uthman from Abi Basir who said: It was said to Abi Abdillah عليه السلام – while I was with him: Salim b. Abi Hafsa narrates from you that you speak with seventy facets – for each facet you have a way out [a possible alternative interpretation to avoid speaking a lie], so he said: what does Salim want from me? does he want me to come with the angels (to prove my truth)?! For by Allāh – not even the prophets came with them, and Ibrahim had said “I am sick” (37:88) but by Allāh he was not sick nor did he lie, and Ibrahim also said: “rather this biggest one of them (idol) has done it” (21:63) while he had not done it nor did he lie, and Yusuf said: “you are thieves” (12:70) and by Allāh they were not thieves nor did he lie. Comments

Salim b. Abi Hafsa (d. 137) was a leader of the Batri Zaydis. It should be noted that the Imam had indeed said what is attributed to him here by Salim – for there are a number of corroborating narrations in which the `Aimma say something along the lines of:

إنا لنتكلم بالكلمة لها سبعون وجها لنا من كلها المخرج

‘We Speak a word which has seventy facets – we have for each – a way out’

As al-Moḥsini comments: the presence of a Makhraj (way out/escape clause) in all the facets shows that the Imam would never lie outright, though they may equivocate for certain reasons.

Indirect speech is permitted in the Shariah and not considered a lie if it is employed as a way to avoid harm (Taqiyya/Tawriyya), or to fulfill a greater good such as to bring about resolution of conflicts between the people or to show people the error of their ways by conjuring up a hypothetical etc. Lying on the other hand is being mendacious in seeking to disprove a truth or to conceal a falsehood.

Al-Majlisi says: since Salim’s objection originated from his lack of recognition of the Imam – the Imam addressed this first by saying: what does Salim want from me as evidence to return to his submission to me for haven’t I already provided aplenty? And if he is only to believe once I come with the angels and make them bear witness that I am truthful then this is something that not even the prophets did. Then the Imam addressed the objection raised by Salim by pointing out that the motive for speaking in such a manner is because of Taqiyya or fulfilling some greater good, and this does not amount to lies for even the prophets have done it.

Ibrahim had said “I am Sick” and he did not lie because they took it to mean that he is ill literally and cannot join them in their festival, while Ibrahim meant – according to some commentators – that he was sick in […]

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