Successive transmission of traditions about Imam Mahdi (as)
We have already discussed in the preceding chapter that a section of the Ahle Sunnah scholars have deemed as authentic the traditions relating to Mahdi. Alternatively they have brought the chain of narration of such traditions in their books without casting any aspersion on their reliability. A large number of prominent Ahle Sunnah scholars have chronicled these traditions in their works, viz. Ibne Hajar Haithami in his ‘As-Sawaiqul Muhriqah’, Shablanji in ‘Noorul Absaar’, Ibne Sabbaagh Maliki in ‘Fusoolul Muhimmah’, Muhammad Subbaan in ‘As’aafur Raaghibeen’, Shaafaee in ‘al-Bayaan’,
Shaykh Mansoor Ali in ‘Ghaayatul Maamool’, Sowaidi in ‘Sabaaek al-Zahab’, etc. Therefore, this continuity which is lacking in some traditions on this topic, is adequately compensated for. Asqalaani writes,
"A chain of narration that has been successively transmitted carries on it a stamp of authenticity, leaving no scope for refutation.’
(Nuzhatul Manzar, p. 12,
by Ahmad b. Hajare Asqalani, Karachi edition)
The distinguished Imam of the Ahle Sunnah, Shaafaee has written,
‘A large number of traditions relating to Mahdi have been transmitted and their transmission being successive, such traditions can be deemed reliable. Some of these traditions are correct (sahih), while some others are weak (zaeef). However such traditions have been transmitted and compiled by a large number of individuals, and moreover, they are in harmony with other traditions of a similar nature. This fact lends credibility to such traditions and the latter can be relied upon.’
(Al Futuhatul Islamiyyah, vol. 2, p. 250)
In other words, great and illustrious companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) have narrated the traditions relating to Mahdi, viz. Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.), Abdur Rahman b. Auf, Abu Saeed Khudri, Qais b. Jabir, Ibne Abbas, Jabir b. Abdullah Ansari, Ibne Masood, Abu Hurairah, Saubaan, Salmaan Farsi, Abu Amamah Huzaifa, Anas b. Malik, Umme Salmah, etc. The traditions narrated by the above mentioned companions have been compiled by the most distinguished of Ahle Sunnah traditionalists in their books, viz. Abu Dawood, Ahmad b. Hanbal, Tirmizi, Ibne Maajah, Imam Haakim, Imam Nesaai, Abu Noaim Isfahani, Dailami, Baihaqi, Soa’labi, Hammuee, Ibne Magazali, Ibne Jauzee, Muhammad Subbaan, Mawradi, Ganji Shaafaee, Sam’aani, Khwaarazmi, Sha’raani, Darqutnee, Ibne Sabbaagh Maliki, Muhibbuddeen Tabari, Ibne Hajar Haithami, Shaykh Mansoor Ali Naasif, Muhammad b. Talha, Jalaaluddeen Suyuti, Shaykh Sulaiman Hanafi Qundoozi, Qurtubbi, Baghwi, etc.
CHAIN OF NARRATORS CAN NOT BE DECLARED AS UNRELIABLE IN ALL INSTANCES:
Ibne Khaldun has discussed those narrators who have been deemed unreliable and questionable. However, the reliability of some of these narrators is widely acknowledged by others. That is mainly why Ibne Khaldun himself has brought traditions transmitted by these ‘unreliable’ narrators. This proves that it is not tenable that these narrators be deemed unreliable and weak in all instances. Because it is quite possible that a narrator may possess some trait or attribute that certain people consider questionable and suspect, while some others may not share that opinion. In others words, while one group may deem that narrator unreliable based on that trait, another group may still maintain him as reliable and continue quoting him in their works. Asqalaani writes in the preface of his ‘Lisaanul Mizan’, ‘A narrator may be considered dubious only when the trait or cause of this dubiousness is firmly established. Till such a time he can be relied upon.’
CONTENTION WITH THE BELIEF OF MAHDAVIYAT:
The belief of Mahdaviyat is attacked stating the weakness and unreliability of the chain of narrators as the main reason. However this opposition stems from a different reason altogether. The critics in reality do not wish to acknowledge this belief, regardless of the reliability of the chain of transmitters. For instance, there is a raging debate among the Muslims about the permanence of Quran. A group among them contends that the Quran like Allah, was not created but was always existing. In other words, Quran is eternal like Allah. The other group maintains that Quran was created by Allah afterwards, i.e. it is not eternal like Allah. This fierce debate between these two groups assumed violent proportions, with each leveling a decree (fatwa) of disbelief (kufr) against the other. Those who asserted Quran was eternal, did not simply refute the reliability of the chain of narrators, but decreed them to be unbelievers. The author of ‘Azwaa ala al-Sunnate al-Muhammadiyyah’ writes,
‘A group from among the chain of narrators were declared to be heretics. Their only offense was that they had reported traditions that claimed Quran was created, and not eternal. A far more stunning incident is recorded wherein a son on his father’s demise, refused to appropriate his legacy, stating that they belonged to separate faiths. Apparently, his father belonged to the Shaafaee sect, who refused to commit on the eternality of the Quran.’
(Azwa alas Sunnate Muhammadiyya,
by Mahmood Abooriyah, p. 316)
Thus prejudice and bigotry made these people rebut the reliable traditions of the upright and virtuous transmitters; not only negating the traditions, but ascribing disbelief and apostasy to the narrators.
Research and investigation that is marked with bias and prejudice will seldom, if ever, be of any benefit. One who undertakes an inquest or seeks to analyse a topic, must do so with a certain degree of objectivity and probity. The quest for truth must never be sullied with personal bias and prejudice. If a subject of research can be validated only with the help of traditions, then one must diligently go about authenticating the uprightness and reliability of the chain of transmitters, so as to determine the accuracy of the traditions. If the traditions satisfy the criteria of reliability, then one must acknowledge the traditions regardless of his sect. Else, the very purpose of research and investigation is not served. It is against the very principles of objective analysis, that a group of traditions is refuted simply because the chain of narrators happen to be Shias. The impartial and just scholars and traditionalists of the majority are also requested to be attentive towards this aspect.
Asqalani writes, ‘One must observe circumspection in instances, when certain traditions have been refuted and rebutted. Particularly when the one(s) negating, through their denial, hope to target the ones negated with their animosity and hostility. For instance, Abu Ishaaq Jorjaani, an antagonist of the Ahle Bayt (a.s.), was most critical and biased of (traditions reported by) the Kufans, who were mostly Shias. He was very harsh in castigating and criticising them, and denounced the latter as unreliable and weak. In his extreme bias and disinclination, he has refuted even acknowledged and distinguished narrators like A’mash, Abu Noaim and Abdullah b. Musa, who enjoy a status in Islam with few parallels.’
Shajari declares, "The intention of the writers have become like a melting pot. Thus if there is evidence of the narrator’s reliability and veracity, then it should be given preference over any doubt about his unreliability."
(Lisanul Mizaan vol. 1, p. 16)
Muhammad Ahmad b. Usman Zahabi, after delving in depth on the life of Aban b. Taghlib, writes,
‘If someone asks me why I have considered Aban to be reliable, while he was from among the innovators (a derogatory reference to the Shias), then I shall reply that innovation can be broadly classified under two heads, viz., exaggeration among the Shias and Shiism without exaggeration and deviation. For surely innovation of this kind (the first) was evident even in the lives of the taabe’een (those who witnessed the companions but not the Prophet (s.a.) ) and the tab’-e-taabe’een (those who saw the taabe’een but not the companions) while they were renowned for their uprightness, virtue and integrity. If we adopt an approach whereby all traditions narrated by such individuals is negated, then indeed we find ourselves bereft of a multitude from the Prophet’s most crucial traditions. The second classification of innovation, which is of a more serious nature, is complete rejection, especially when this rejection leads to exaggeration, and condemnation of Abu Bakr and Umar. Then surely, the narration of such transmitters is without merit and must be rebuffed outright.
(Meezanul E’tedaal, vol. 1, p. 5 Darul Kitabal Arbiyya edition)
Then, one who seeks the truth and hopes to acquire certainty, must do so after only careful inquiry and thorough investigation, without being swayed by the opinion of the biased. Only then will he be enlightened with truth and understand the reality.