Compiled, Translated & Annotated
Abu Khuzaimah Ansari
Some brother, Muhmmad Moin has compiled a response to an article of Shaikh Zubair Ali Zai’ Rahimahullah on the narrator Mu’mall bin Isma’il. The article is titled ‘Mu’ammal bin Isma’eel: A look at the research of Shaykh Zubair Ali Zai regarding him,’
Without going into the polemics of this ‘looking’ nor trying to address each and every point, I thought it would be somewhat beneficial to shed some light into this looking and the research presented. I do not have much time as I would have liked to address each and every point however this being said, in Sha Allah each and every point has been already addressed in other research, which will, by the permission of Allah be presented in the future.
The brother begins by saying
“Some brother Raza Hassan has translated an urdu article by Shaykh Zubair Ali Zai proving Tawtheeq of Mu’ammal bin Isma’eel. I had read it in the book ‘Ilmi Maqalaat (1/417) by the author. After comparing the translation and the article present in Ilmi Maqalaat, it is clear to me that the brother has quoted it from the urdu Islamic magazine Al-Hadeeth vol.21. This same article was later published in ‘Ilmi Maqalaat (collection of Shaykh Zai’s articles) where he retracted a lot of things he claimed previously (this will be notified during the course of this writing). The title of the article is “Ithbat at-Ta’deel fi tautheeq Mu’ammal bin Isma’eel”
Some people may think why Mu’ammal bin Isma’eel is so much discussed among hardcore muqallids and hardcore ghair-muqallid. There are two reasons for it, Muqallids call him Munkar ul-Hadith because (1) he is the narrator of the tradition which mentions that the Musalli should place his hands over his chest, (2) and he is the narrator of some criticisms of Sufyan Thauri against Abu Hanifa. These are the same two reasons why some harsh Ahle Hadith scholars made Tautheeq of Mu’ammal.
Shaykh Zubair Ali Zai has special methodology of analyzing conflicting statements of Jarh and Ta’deel. He counts the number of criticism and praise, and rejects the minority based on majority. This seems good, but this was not the methodology of scholars of hadith, not even single of them. Rather they would prefer explained Jarh over general Tautheeq, and reject unexplained Jarh against established Ta’deel.
There are several problems with his methodology, and we shall see them during the course of this refutation, Insha Allah. After this brief introduction, let us proceed with the article by Shaykh Zai.-
Let us examine some of these points. The reader should be aware that author or writer will always amend and change his works due to new information or understanding, this is well known amongst those who write, especially those who write and research issues pertaining to rijal and Jarh wa’t Ta’dil etc.
When this is the case Shaikh Zubair published the said article in his monthly journal, al-Hadith in February 2006 (issue no.21) and we also know the Tahqiqi Ilmi Maqalat volume 1 was printed in 2010, where the treatise is in (1:417-438), giving the Shaikh a total of 4 years to make any necessary changes, retractions and or clarifications if needed and this is not something which is defective, but rather something praiseworthy and highly encouraged as the truth is always beloved to us.
Shaikh Zubair Ali also dates the article in the Ilmi Maqalat (1:438) as 14th Sha’ban 1427H which corresponds to September 2006, which therefore shows amendment after approximately 8 months and it appears this is the amended version that was included in the Ilmi Maqalat. Point being there were amendments in a period of 8 months where as 4 years is a very long time and highly likely and very plausible that contents of any article or book can change.
Furthermore, in our rebuttal of Abul Hasan Hussain Ahmad’s critique of Shaikh al-Albani’s research on the hadith related to placing hands of the chest in his Sifah Salah, we compiled a response titled, ‘Answering the Lies on Imam al-Albani -The Issue of placing the hands on the Chest – al-Jawab ar-Rabbani Raf al-Kadhibah Anil Imam al-Albani’ which can be accessed here
In it, on p.19 we cite this research of Shaikh Zubair as,
“Based upon and abridged from the treatise, ‘Ithbaat ut-Ta’deel Fee Tahqeeq Mu’ammal ibn Ismaa’eel’ (manuscript form) of Shaikh Zubair Alee Za’ee.”
Our rebuttal was published in January 2004, ie 2 years before it appeared in the al-Hadith monthly journal, Shaikh Zubair Rahimahullah provided this paper prior to 2006, which was in manuscript form. It was years later when it was finally published in the magazine and much later in the Ilmi Maqalat.
The point here is to illustrate the period when this treatise of Shaikh Zubair was first written to the time it was last published with any amendments. We have shown this period at the very least exceeds 6-7 years and also that it is very common and that any individual can appreciate the possibility and need for correction due to a plethora of reasons.
Therefore, the authors words, “This same article was later published in ‘Ilmi Maqalaat (collection of Shaykh Zai’s articles) where he retracted a lot of things he claimed previously (this will be notified during the course of this writing)” have no relevance and should not be given any importance except but to understand the norm of changes over a period of time particularly when it is concerning such intricate sciences of hadith and mustalah.
We know as Muslims arrogance and pride are destructive traits which have been severely censured in the Prophetic Ahadith. Shaykh Zubair through his works has shown his retractions and clarifications on possible mistakes or errors he may have made and this is the true sign of scholarship, integrity and trustworthiness. This is not an ayb ie something bad or defective but rather something which should be respected, appreciated and praised.
The author, Muhammad Moin, should have noticed on the very last page of the al-Hadith monthly journal (Issue no.21, p.25) and no doubt he would have observed this due to his admittance of referring back to the journal, that Shaykh Zubair has a subheading titled, “Announcing a Retraction” where the Shaykh mentions one of his books was composed for publication and after revising the book he graded a narration to be weak after having graded it Hasan in an earlier issue of the al-Hadith journal (Issue no.4 p.40). Shaykh Zubair Ali Za’i said,
“Therefore, I retract from my previous research and grading and May Allah forgive (me)” (13-12-2005) (al-Hadith; Issue no.21, p.25).
This therefore, shows the Shaykhs methodology in referring and retracting back to the truth and this is the Asal of the Sunni, Salafi and Ahl al-Hadith.
The author goes onto say,
“Some people may think why Mu’ammal bin Isma’eel is so much discussed among hardcore muqallids and hardcore ghair-muqallid. There are two reasons for it, Muqallids call him Munkar ul-Hadith because (1) he is the narrator of the tradition which mentions that the Musalli should place his hands over his chest, (2) and he is the narrator of some criticisms of Sufyan Thauri against Abu Hanifa. These are the same two reasons why some harsh Ahle Hadith scholars made Tautheeq of Mu’ammal.”
The terminology used is crass. obtuse and well lets just say following bandwagon trends, with the least of the issue being deplorable, grossly incorrect and outrageously divergent from the truth. It is enough to satisfy any reader that Mu’mmal bin Isma’il is a narrator of other ahadith in the various books of the Sunnah. In fact, Shaykh Zubair Ali Za’i cites every hadith Mu’mmal narrates which shows the reality is totally different from the two reasons inappropriately cited above.
Mu’ammal is a narrator of hadith and reports just as equal as other narrators and the Ahl al-Hadith Scholars most certainly do not have tahazzub or ta’assub for particular issues as the author asserts. The truth of the matter is that the very same scholars have defiantly repelled the staunch and bigoted blind imitation ie taqlid prevalent in common society and popular culture. There are a catalogue of incorrect notions and assertions juxtaposed in the authors words, one example being. “some harsh Ahle Hadith scholars…”
Shaykh Zubayr also mentions the other books of hadith and their respective authors who used Mu’ammal ibn Isma’il as a narrator, like Bukhari no.2700, 7083, Tirmidhi no. 415, 672, 1822, 1948, 2145, 3266, 3525, 3906, 3949, Nasai in al-Sughra no.4097, 4589 and Ibn Majah no.2013, 2919, 3017. Bukhari using Mu’ammal holds great value and importance which is perhaps beyond the scope of this reply but in sha Allah it can be expounded upon later.
The author continues and says,
“Shaykh Zubair Ali Zai has special methodology of analyzing conflicting statements of Jarh and Ta’deel. He counts the number of criticism and praise, and rejects the minority based on majority. This seems good, but this was not the methodology of scholars of hadith, not even single of them. Rather they would prefer explained Jarh over general Tautheeq, and reject unexplained Jarh against established Ta’deel.
There are several problems with his methodology, and we shall see them during the course of this refutation, Insha Allah. After this brief introduction, let us proceed with the article by Shaykh Zai.-“
It is well known to the beginner student of knowledge that an author is likely at times to use general or mujmal phrases with the mindset the reader is perhaps familiar with the sciences of hadith since he is reading such issues which revolve around these detailed sciences. It is also known to such elementary students that an author will also sometimes explain his general statements with a more detailed and comprehensive explanation whereas sometimes he will leave his statement general. So for a third party to clutch onto the general statements of an author and ignore his multitude of detailed statements, is in serious need of improvement to present such research.
It will also be very lengthy to present all of the detailed statements of Shaykh Zubair in this regard who emphatically holds on to and utilizes the methodology of the Scholars of Hadith in investigating, verifying and grading ahadith and he most certainly did not employ a new or special methodology as the author asserts.
Shaykh Zubair Ali Za’i says answering a question,
“Authentic and weak narrations are of two types. The first type; narrations which are unanimously agreed upon in being authentic or weak. Hafiz Abu Hatim al-Razi (d.277H) said, “And the agreement of the Ahl al-Hadith on something constitutes evidence.” (Kitab al-marasil p.192 no.703, under the entry of Muhammad bin Muslim al-Zuhri)
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah al-Harrani (d.728H) said, “So when the people of jurisprudence unanimously agree on a statement then is not except but considered the truth and if the Ahl al-Hadith unanimously agree in the authentication of hadith then it is not considered except but the truth.” (Majmu’a Fatawa 1:9-10).
So we find accepting a hadith unanimously agreed upon is not an issue of ijtihad but rather the ijma is to be followed.
The Second type: The ahadith which are differed over, whether they are authentic or weak, then in such affairs giving precedence to the view of the majority is an issue of ijtihad. One must remember is incumbent to act upon whatever principle is adopted otherwise contradiction in statement and action is hypocritical.
Note Well (1): Taj al-Din Abdul Wahhab bin Ali al-Subki (d.771H) wrote, “So if the number of disparagers/criticisers are greater in number, the criticism is given precedence.” (Qa’idah fi jarh wa’t ta’dil p.50)
so we find the narrator who is considered to be disparaged by the majority of the scholars of hadith is also considered to be disparaged according to the later scholars. The authentication and weakening of hadith is an issue of ijtihad. However, this does not mean hanafi’s grade hadith they require to be authentic and render other hadith to be weak. Therefore, it is preferable to give precedence to the position and view of the majority of the scholar of hadith (al-Hadith Issue no.10, Muharram 1426H/March 2005, p.18-19, Fatawa ilmiyyah al-ma’ruf tawdih al-ahkam 2:293-295) End of Shaykh Zubair’s words.
My edition of the ‘Qa’idah fi jarh wa’t ta’dil’ contains the addition of ‘the ones who praise’ “So if the number of criticisers is greater in number than those who praise, then the criticism is given precedence.” (Taj al-Din al-Subki, Qa’idah fi jarh wa’t ta’dil, ed. Abdul-Fattah Abu Guddah, 3rd ed. (Beirut: Dar al-Quran al-Karim, 1400H/1980c) 50)
This book is very beneficial and filled with principles pertaining to the science of Jarh wa’t ta’dil and thus the avid reader is recommended to refer to it. So we find some of the scholars from the mutaqadimin generally used the idea of majority for either praise or agreement and even criticism and Shaykh Zubair was not the only one and there are many example of this in the books on the science of hadith and narrators.
Some of the earlier scholars like Imam Yahya ibn Ma’in (d.233H) used majority and minority to determine the Dhabt ie precision of narrators and the mistakes of Hammad ibn Salamah, who was a great Imam of Ahl al-Sunnah. Imam Ibn Ma’in rejected the minority of the students of Hammad ibn Salamah over the majority who narrated from him, which was based approximately on 18 narrators. (Ibn Hibban, Kitab al-majruhin minal muhadithin, ed. Hamdi Abdul Majid al-Salafi. (Riyadh: Dar al-Sami’i, 1420H/2000) 1:34-35)
The brother went onto say,
This seems good, but this was not the methodology of scholars of hadith, not even single of them. Rather they would prefer explained Jarh over general Tautheeq, and reject unexplained Jarh against established Ta’deel.
Again this is poor understanding of Shaykh Zubair’s methodology and highly incorrect to present it in this way. Everyone is agreed on the principle of detailed criticism takes precedence over general praise and no one differs with this especially Shaykh Zubair as we will show. Shaikh Zubair’s presented this approach only when there were statements of praise and criticism and neither were detailed or specific and it was thus difficult to ascertain the reliability of the narrator.
For example, Hafiz Ibn Abdul Barr had a unique methodology in that anyone who is well known to possess knowledge of such affairs (ie hadith) was considered to be upright unless criticised. (al-Tamhid, (Morocco: 1378H) 1:28), Cf. Ibn Kathir, Ikhtisar ulum al-hadith explanation of Dr Abdul Aziz al-Saghir Dukhan as al-Sai’ al-hathith, 2nd ed. (San’a: Maktabah al-jil al-jadid:1421H/2001) 304, Ibn Kathir, Ikhtisar ulum al-hadith, explanation Shaikh Ahmad Muhammad Shakir, al-Ba’ith al-hathith (Alexandria: Maktaba Dar al-Aqidah 1428H/2007) 77)
Although this has no relevance to majority of minority point, it does however show the uniqueness of every scholar. Naturally Hafiz ibn Salah answered Hafiz ibn Abdul Barr and said this approach was rudimentary and substandard. (Ibn al-Salah, Muqaddimah, ed. A’ishah Abdur Rahman (Cairo, 1990) 288), Cf. E’la al-Din Maglatai, Islah kitab ibn salah, (Cairo Maktaba Islamiyyah, 1428H/2007) no.90, 149)
Moreover, Imam Khatib al-Baghdadi was of the view only one critic is required to disparage a narrator. (Khatib al-Baghdadi, al-Kifayah fi ilm al-riwayah (Cairo, 1988) 84).
Again the intent here it so the unique and exclusive views of some of the scholars of hadith of the past ie the mutaqaddimin and therefore singling out Shaykh Zubair for having lone methods needs to be looked at, despite this not being the case as we shall mention. Hafiz Ibn Kathir presents his arguments and puts forth the view that statements of criticisms from these Imams who are experts in this field should be accepted without the reasons for the criticism. He also clarifies if criticism and praise conflict each other, then the criticism has to be detailed. (Ibn Kathir, Ikhtisar ulum al-hadith with al-Sai’i al-hathith, 304-305, al-Ba’ith al-hathith, 78)
This is incorrect and the scholars of hadith were not of this view, in fact this view is very unique and exclusive to the one who said it. So the authors statement, “but this was not the methodology of scholars of hadith, not even single of them. Rather they would prefer explained Jarh over general Tautheeq, and reject unexplained Jarh against established Ta’deel.” Should also be applied to Hafiz Ibn Abdul Barr, Imam Ibn Kathir and others and we are sure such examples clearly illustrate our point.
Shaikh Hafiz Ibn Ahmad al-Hakami (d.1377H) mentions if there is conflict between criticism and praise, the former is given precedence and this is the preferred view according to the majority of the scholars of research and there is no difference in this whether those who praise and validate number many or a little. Some have argued if the number of scholars praising and validating are greater in number then their praise is to be taken. However, this is incorrect as the one invalidating or criticizing is aware of the hidden defect in the narrator. It should be clear, this applies and refers to detailed criticism. (Hafiz al-Hakami, Dalil arbab al-falah li-tahqiq fan al-istilah, ed. Khalid bin Qasim al-Raddadi (Madinah: Maktabah al-Ghuraba al-Athariyyah, 1414H/1993) 204-205)
Hafiz Suyuti, Shaikh Ahmad Muhammad Shakir and Shaikh Adam Eithiopi have also mentioned something similar, even if the ones praising are greater in number. He also cites Imam Khatib al-Baghdadi who mentioned this to be the view of the majority of the scholars. Again, this refers to detailed criticism not if the jarh is mubham. (Asa’afu dhul al-watir bi-sharh nazam al-durrar fil ilm al-athar – Sharh al-fiyyah al-suyuti fi ilm al-hadith (Cairo: Dar ul-Athar lil Nashr wal-Tawdih, 1429H/2008) 1:338-339)
Shaikh Adam Ethiopi also said when there is conflict between jarh wa’t ta’dil the criticism takes precedence when it is detailed and praise takes precedence over vague criticism and then he goes into detail regarding the types of critics. (Adam Ethiopi, Aydah al-sabil fi sharh ittihaf al-nabil bi-muhammat ilm al-jarh wa’t ta’dil (Riyadh: Dar ibn al-Jawzi, 1429H) 49+)
Shaykh Zubair adds a note to the aforementioned statement of Imam Ibn Kathir and said,
“In criticism and praise, the detailed and specific positions are given given precedence over the vague and general positions…” (Zubair Ali Za’i, urdu trans. Ikhtisar ulum al-hadith, with verification and notes, fn.1, 60)
He went onto say, clarifying his position which is in line and in accordance with the methodology of the scholars of hadith, he said,
“Benefit (1): – when both criticism and praise are ambiguous or they are both detailed and reconciliation is not possible then the view of the majority of the Muhaddithin is given precedence.” (Zubair Ali Za’i, urdu trans. Ikhtisar ulum al-hadith, fn.1, 60)
Ibn Kathir goes onto ask a rhetorical question, is this (detailed criticism) given precedence? Or alternatively is the majority view given precedence (over the minority view) or those who are specialists and experts in this field? He answers it himself and says that there is a well known difference of opinion in Usul al-fiqh, issues of fiqh and in the science of hadith and Allah knows best. Then he says, “The statement of a single person whether criticism or praise is sufficient.” (Ibn Kathir, Ikhtisar ulum al-hadith with al-Sai’i al-hathith, 305).
Shaykh Zubair also added a note here and said in response to the rhetorical question posed by Hafiz Ibn Kathir that,
“The correct view is that if the criticism is detailed it will always be given precedence.” (Zubair Ali Za’i, urdu trans. Ikhtisar ulum al-hadith, 61)
The Shaykh then adds a note further explaining what he means by detailed criticism and when the view of the majority of the scholars of hadith and experts is given precedence. (Zubair Ali Za’i, urdu trans. Ikhtisar ulum al-hadith, fn.1, 61)
Shaikh Muhammad Dhiya al-Rehman al-A’zami discusses this issue whilst citing the chapter heading, “If a person has criticism and praise, which one is given precedence.” He then goes onto cite three main views. (1) criticism takes precedence over praise, (2) Praise takes precedence over criticism and (3) To give precedence to the position that achieves greater clarity. Then he goes onto cite the statements of the early pious ancestors explaining and evidencing each view.
He then brings another chapter titled, “Not every criticism takes precedence over praise.” And then the Shaykh evidences this. Such discussions and points add further information and clarity on these issues, especially for the avid reader and student of the discipline. (Muhammad Dhiya al-Rehman al-A’zami, Darasat fi jarh wa’t ta’dil (Varansi: Jamia Salafiyyah, 1403H/1983) 203-207).
The preceding discussion absolves any alleged allegations and or incorrect notions of understanding any reader may have had regarding the precedence of criticism over praise and that Shaykh Zubair Ali Za’i did not have a new methodology in scrutinizing ahadith. Furthermore, that he was upon the methodology of the Ahl al-Hadith in verifying and authenticating hadith