Mu'awiyah in Baladhuri's Ansab al-Ashraf

Posted on: 08 June 2015

An Important Principle in Hadith Criticism  

The acceptance of hadith is governed by a set of scientific rules, i.e. hadith criticism. Hence, only once a hadith passes the standards established, may it be considered as the words of our beloved Prophet (upon him be peace). Hafiz Ibn Hajar (d. 852) elucidated some details regarding one such rule,

يقبل من لم يكن داعية إلى بدعته لأن تزيين بدعته قد يحمله على تحريف الروايات وتسويتها على ما يقتضيه مذهبه وهذا في الأصح وأغرب ابن حبان فادعى الاتفاق على قبول غير الداعية من غير تفصيل نعم الأكثر على قبول غير الداعية إلا أن يروي ما يقوي بدعته فيرد على المذهب المختار اهـ

“Whoever never invited toward his innovation is to be accepted; since otherwise, in the embellishment of his innovation he may be led to interpolating narrations and making them incline toward what his sect claims. This is the relied-upon position. Ibn Hibban held an aberrant position and claimed ittifaq [agreement of the scholars] on accepting the narrations of one who does not call toward his innovation, without additional explanation. In fact, the majority are upon [the view] that accepts one who does not invite, except when he is narrating what supports his innovation, then that is rejected according to the relied-upon opinion.” (Nuzhat al-Nazar 103-04. Nuzhat al-Nazar is Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani’s commentary on his Nukhbat al-Fikar. It is an excellent classical presentation of hadith sciences. The contemporary scholar Dr. Nur al-Din Itr edited the work, and his edition was published in Cairo by Dar al-Basair. The works full title is Nuzhat al-Nazar fi Tawdih Nukhbat al-Fikar fi Mustalah Ahl al-Athar.)     

In summary,

  • Early authorities analyzed the case of an innovator relating what supports his innovation.   
  • They apprehended that his bias may impede on his ability to objectively transmit hadith.  
  • Consequently, they deemed what he relates in support of his innovation to be unaccepted.

Indeed, to operate according to this principle is rational. An individual’s perception is significantly influenced by various emotional, ideological, and psychological factors. These for the most part dominate one’s behavior. (Manhaj al-Naqd 41)   

Empirical studies have revealed how individuals maintain prejudices against other groups. The research demonstrated how one may conjure thoughts (perhaps even at the subconscious level) to accord with their own preconceived notions, i.e. selective perception. Test subjects were not able to recall what was seen or heard, save for what agreed with their preexisting notions. However, what conflicted with their attitudes would either be promptly forgotten or changed in some way to conform to their ideas. (See: Dr. Muhammad Mustafa al-Azami’s Manhaj al-Naqd inda al-Muhaddithin: Nashatu hu wa Tarikh hu, The Methodology of Criticism according to the Hadith Scholars: Its Origins and History, this work has been published along with Dr. Azami’s edition of Imam Muslim’s Kitab al-Tamiyz.)

One study, carried out in America, utilized a photograph of a well-dressed African-American man standing next to a Caucasian-American man who was holding a large knife. The photo was shown to a pool of Americans, some of whom had preexisting inclinations of racism. Later, they were questioned regarding what they had seen in the picture. Many replied that the knife was in the hand of the African-American. This response was strikingly different from those who viewed the picture without preconceived bias; as the latter were able to accurately recall what they had seen. (Ibid) 

Many similar studies have been conducted on the followers of radical groups. The subjects of these studies almost always only retain what is in conformity with their beliefs. Preexisting inclinations interpenetrate the emotional faculties, consequently, inciting one to conjure up propaganda to support his views. The more one senses a threat from society on account of his viewpoints, the more he reinforces his selective perception. (Ibid, 42)

From here, it should be clear to us that the hadith scholars were spot-on in maintaining objectivity through not accepting narrations from individuals when those individuals’ preconceptions to certain lines of thought were manifest. Given that a partial individual may have a preset mental state by which his objectivity may be obstructed. Selective perception would consequently be a detrimental impediment of ability to convey the hadith of the Prophet (upon him be peace). (Ibid)

Ansab al-Ashraf’s Two Narrations on Muawyiah

Baladhuri (d. 279) relates, in Ansab al-Ashraf vol. 5, pg. 134 in the Dar al-Fikr print, two hadiths. They are:

Hadith # 1: < Ishaq and Bakr b. al-Haytham < Abd al-Razzaq [b. Hammam al-Sanani] (d. 211) < Mamar [b. Rashid al-Azdi al-Huddani] (d. 154) < Ibn Tawus [Abd Allah] (d. 132) < Tawus [b. Kaysan al-Yamani] (d. 106) < Abd Allah b. Amr [b. al-As] (d. 65), and he related that he was sitting with the Prophet (Salla Allah alahi wa sallam), “then, the Prophet said, ‘there shall come upon you a man from between this pass who will die upon other than my religion.’ [Abd Allah] said, ‘I had left my father for ablution so I was like one holding back urine in fear that he may come.’ He said, ‘then, Muawiyah appeared.’ The Prophet (Salla Allah alayhi wa sallam) said, ‘this is him.’”

Hadith # 2: Abd Allah b. Salih [b. Muslim al-Ijli al-Kufi] (d. 222) < Yayha b. Adam [b. Sulayman al-Kufi] (d. 203) < Sharik [b. Abd Allah al-Nakhai] (d. 177/178) < Layth [b. Abi Sulaym b. Zunaym] (d. 148) < Tawus < Abd Allah b. Amr, and he related that he was sitting with the Prophet, “then the Prophet (Salla Allah alayhi wa sallam) said, ‘there shall come upon you a man from between this pass who will die upon other than my religion.’ [Abd Allah] said, ‘I left my father behind to get dressed and apprehended that it may be he who would appear, and then Muawiyah appeared.’”

Comments on Hadith # 1

Problem 1:

Abd al-Razzaq had Shiite tendencies. Makhlad b. Khalid al-Shairi who was once in the company of Abd al-Razzaq while mention of Muawiyah (d. 60) was made. Then, Abd al-Razzaq stated, “Don’t dirty my gathering by mentioning the son of Abu Sufyan.” (al-Duafa al-Kabir 3/109) Ibn Asakir (d. 571) mentioned that Abd Allah b. Ahmad b. Hanbal related from his father that Abd al-Razzaq had Shiite inclinations. (Tarikh Dimashq 36/186) Hafiz Dhahabi (d. 748) mentioned that Abd al-Razzaq had Shiite inclinations: extreme love for Ali and extreme hatred for those who fought with him. (Tadhkirat al-Huffaz 1/364) Abd al-Razzaq was further known for relating what would come in praise of the Ahl al-Bayt, while also relating what would vilify others. Hafiz Mizzi (d. 742) pointed this out. (Tahdhib al-Kamal 18/61) Ibn Adi (d. 365) mentioned,

ولعبد الرزاق بن همام أصناف وحديث كثير وقد رحل إليه ثقات المسلمين وأئمتهم وكتبوا عنه ولم يروا بحديثه بأسا إلا أنهم نسبوه إلى التشيع وقد روى أحاديث في الفضائل مما لا يوافقه عليها أحد من الثقات فهذا أعظم ما رموه به من روايته لهذه الأحاديث ولما رواه في مثالب غيرهم مما لم أذكره في كتابي هذا وأما في باب الصدق فأرجو أنه لا بأس به إلا أنه قد سبق منه أحاديث في فضائل أهل البيت ومثالب آخرين مناكير اهـ

“To Abd al-Razzaq b. Hammam are compilations and numerous hadith. Many trustworthy Muslims and their scholars traveled to him, wrote from him, and did not see any problem with his hadith except that they attributed to him Shiite tendencies. Also, he related hadiths on the virtues [of Ahl al-Bayt], which do not correspond to any other trustworthy authority. This is the main accusation that is thrown at him, owing to his transmitting such hadith. He related mathalib [narrations that vilify] of which I did not relate in this book of mine. Regarding the question of [his] truthfulness/veracity, I anticipate that there is no problem with him; except that his hadith on the virtues of the Ahl al-Bayt and his hadith on the vilification of others are manakir [unfounded/unsubstantiated].” (al-Kamil fi Duafa al-Rijal 5/315; Tarikh Dimashq 36/191. Both Ibn Adi’s Kamil and Ibn Asakir’s Tarikh Dimashq are indispensible biographical reference works.)

Ibn Hibban (d. 354) also noted his Shiite tendencies. In addition, he mentioned that during the latter part of his life Abd al-Razzaq went blind. Moreover, he relied upon books; and, when he related from memory, then he would err. He passed in the year 211. (al-Thiqat 8/412) Imam Ahmad said,  

أتيته قبل المئتين وهو صحيح البصر ومن سمع منه بعدما ذهب بصره فهو ضعيف السماع

“I met him before the year 200 while he still had good eyesight. Whoever heard from him thereafter, when his vision had gone, it is a weak transmission.” (Siyar Alam al-Nubala 9/563. This is one of Hafiz Dhahabi’s works. It is a concordance of biographies.)

Abd al-Razzaq had various students. In the isnad mentioned in Ansab al-Ashraf the names of the hadith’s transmitters that took from Abd al-Razzaq are “Ishaq and Bakr b. al-Haytham.” Regarding Bakr b. al-Haytham, Baladhuri relates from him in Ansab al-Ashraf. Nonetheless, biographical information regarding Bakr and his relation to Baladhuri is very scarce in both historical and biographical source material. The following works have been consulted to find mention of Bakr and his transmitting from Baladhuri: al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, Siyar Alam al-Nubala, Tadhkirat al-Huffaz, and Tarikh Dimashq. If there exists a biography for Bakr b. al-Haytham, to that Allah knows best.

Regarding Ishaq, Hafiz Mizzi mentioned various Ishaqs who relate from Abd al-Razzaq. (Tahdhib al-Kamal 18/52) Some of these individuals’ link to Abd al-Razzaq is questionable. For instance, Ishaq b. Ibrahim al-Dabari’s (d. 285) father would bring him as a very small boy to study hadith with Abd al-Razzaq. This was only after Abd al-Razzaq had become very old and lost his eyesight. Ibn al-Imad (d. 1089) mentioned,

إسحاق بن إبراهيم الدبري المحدث راوية عبد الرزاق بصنعاء عن سن عالية اعتنى به أبوه وأسمعه الكتب من عبد الرزاق في سنة عشر ومائتين

“Ishaq b. Ibrahim al-Dabari al-Muhaddith, he narrated from Abd al-Razzaq in Sana during his old age. His father would bring him and have him hear books from Abd al-Razzaq in the year 210.” (Shadharat al-Dhahab 3/356. Ibn Imad’s Shadharat al-Dhahab contains both biographical and historical information. It is categorized chronologically.)

Problem 2:

There is a break in the isnad between Ibn Tawus and his father. Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi (d. 620) cited that there are two problematic features found in this hadith. (al-Muntakhab min al-Ilal lil-Khallal 227-28. The title means, Selections from Khallal’s Ilal. In the work, Ibn Qudamah selected excerpts from Khallal’s Ilal and presented them in an outstanding format and arrangement.)

Firstly, Khallal relates that Imam Ahmad (d. 241) was asked regarding the hadith and Imam Ahmad replied,

إنما رواه ابن طاوس عن أبيه عن عبد الله بن عمرو أو غيره وشك فيه

“Ibn Tawus related it from his father from Abd Allah b. Amr or another person; and he [Imam Ahmad] doubted in that.” (Ibid)

Also, Khallal said,

رواه عبد الرزاق عن معمر عن ابن طاوس قال سمعت فرخاش يحدث هذا الحديث عن أبي عن عبد الله بن عمرو

“Abd al-Razzaq related it from Mamar from Ibn Tawus who said, ‘I heard Furkhasha relating this hadith from my father from Abd Allah b. Amr.’” (Ibid)

Imam Bukhari (d. 256) mentioned,

ويروى عن معمر عن ابن طاوس عن أبيه عن رجل عن عبد الله ابن عمر رفعه في قصته وهذا منقطع لا يعتمد عليه

“It is related from Mamar < Ibn Tawus < his father < a man < Abd Allah b. Amr, who ascribed it to the Prophet (Salla Allah alayhi wa sallam) it his anecdote. This is interrupted, and it is not relied upon.” (al-Tarikh al-Awsat 2/801 #549. Bukhari mentioned that he wrote his Tarikh thrice; each was preserved. Eventually, they became identified as: al-Tarikh al-Kabir, al-Tarikh al-Awsat, and al-Tarikh al-Saghir. There are two famous channels of transmission for al-Tarikh al-Awsat: 1) Khaffaf (d. 294) < Bukhari and 2) Abu Muhammad Zanjawayhi (d. 318) < Bukhari.)

Problem 3:

Sufyan al-Thawri mentioned that Tawus had Shiite inclinations. (Siyar Alam al-Nubala 5/43)

Concluding Remark on Hadith # 1:

Amid, the Shiite inclinations of Abd al-Razzaq and Tawus, a questionable narrator, and the doubt expressed by Imam Ahmad, there is little scope to accept the hadith’s isnad.

Comments on Hadith #2

Problem 1:

Sharik b. Abd Allah al-Nakhai had Shiite inclinations. Abu Dawud al-Dahhan mentioned that he heard him say,

علي خير البشر فمن أبى فقد كفر

“Ali is the best human, and whoever rejects has disbelieved.” (al-Kamil fi Duafa al-Rijal 4/10; Tarikh Dimashq 42/372)


ذكر معاوية بن أبي سفيان عنده ووصف بالحلم فقال شريك ليس بحليم من سفَّه الحق وقاتل علي بن أبي طالب رضى الله عنه

“Muawiyah b. Abi Sufyan was mentioned in his presence and described with clemency. Then, Sharik said, ‘He was not a clement person; one who depreciated the truth and fought Ali b. Abi Talib (Rady Allah anhu)!’” (Wifayat al-Ayan 1/411. Wifayat al-Ayan wa Abna Abna al-Zaman is Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Khallikan’s (d. 681) biographical concordance, and is published in Beirut by Dar al-Nafais.)

There are other fabricated narrations that have come via Sharik either in excessive praise of Ali b. Abi Talib or in the vilification of Muawiyah. For example:  

Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597) mentioned a fabricated narration via Sharik,

لكل نبي وصي وإن عليا وصيي ووارثي

“To every Prophet is an inheritance; and verily, Ali is my inheritance and my heir.” (Kitab al-Mawduat 2/150. Ibn al-Jawzi compiled a munificent selection of fabricated narrations. It has been printed in four volumes by Dar Ibn Hazm including an index.)

Also, Dhahabi mentioned a fabricated hadith related via Sharik,

إذا رأيتم معاوية على منبري فاقتلوه

“When you have seen Muawiyah on my pulpit, then kill him.” (Mizan al-Itidal 4/45. Hafiz Dhahabi compiled biographies of narrators in alphabetical sequence under the title Mizan al-Itidal.)

Problem 2:

Layth b. Abi Sulaym is not a strong narrator. In fact, Ibn Hajar clearly stated that what he relates from Tawus is weak,

كان ليث ضعيف الحديث عن طاوس

“Layth is weak in hadith from Tawus.” (Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 8/467. Tahdhib al-Tahdhib is Hafiz Ibn Hajar’s rearrangement and additions on Hafiz Mizzi’s Tahdhib al-Kamal.)

Many, such as Ahmad b. Hanbal, Yahya b. Said b. Farukh al-Qattan (d. 298), and Yahya b. Main b. Awn al-Ghatafani (d. 233) have criticized Layth’s reliability. (Tahdhib al-Kamal 24/282-83) 

Problem 3:

The hadith is also transmitted via Tawus, and reference to his Shiite inclinations has been presented above.

Concluding Remark on Hadith # 2:

In light of Tawus and Sharik’s Shiite inclinations and the weak chain link between Layth and Tawus, this hadith falls short of being acceptable according to our recognized conventions of hadith criticism.    

Shiite Narrators from Amongst the Early Generation?

One may question how some narrators, like Abd al-Razzaq, Tawus, and others with Shiite tendencies ascribed to them, are depended upon. Perhaps Hafiz Dhahabi’s following explanation may clarify,

فلقائل أن يقول: كيف ساغ توثيق مبتدع وحد الثقة العدالة والإتقان؟ فكيف يكون عدلا من هو صاحب بدعة؟ وجوابه أن البدعة على ضربين: فبدعة صغرى كغلو التشيع، أو كالتشيع بلا غلو ولا تحرف؛ فهذا كثير في التابعين وتابعيهم مع الدين والورع والصدق. فلو رد حديث هؤلاء لذهب جملة من الآثار النبوية، وهذه مفسدة بينة. ثم بدعة كبرى؛ كالرفض الكامل والغلو فيه، والحط على أبي بكر وعمر - رضى الله عنهما - والدعاء في ذلك؛ فهذا النوع لا يحتج بهم ولا كرامة. وأيضا فما أستحضر الآن في هذا الضرب رجلا صادقا ولا مأمونا؛ بل الكذب شعارهم، والتقية والنفاق دثارهم؛ فكيف يقبل نقل من هذا حاله! حاشا وكلا. فالشيعي الغالي في زمان السلف وعرفهم هو من تكلم في عثمان والزبير وطلحة ومعاوية وطائفة ممن حارب عليا - رضى الله عنه، وتعرض لسبهم. والغالي في زماننا وعرفنا هو الذي يكفر هؤلاء السادة، ويتبرأ من الشيخين أيضا، فهذا ضال معثر إلخ

“Then, one may say, ‘How is vindication of an innovator tolerated with the definition of a thiqah [trustworthy narrator is that he has] adalah [uprightness] and itqan [accurateness]? How is one considered upright when he is an innovator?’ The answer is, ‘Innovation is divided into two:

1) Bidah Sughra [lesser innovation]: such as excessive Shiite inclinations, or mild Shiite inclinations, without interpolation. This is frequent amongst the followers [tabiin] and their followers who both are [exceptional] in religion [din], scrupulousness [wara], and truthfulness [sidq]. So if their narrations were rejected, then a large amount of narrations would have to be discarded. This is clearly wrong.

2) Then, there is Bidah Kubra [major innovation]: like being an extreme, full-blown Shiite and debasing Abu Bakr and Umar. Regarding this second type, their narrations are not taken nor are they held in high repute.

Then, what I am mentioning now is a sincere individual who is not truthful; in fact, lying is their dictum and taqiyyah [concealing one’s beliefs] and hypocrisy. How could a narration of one who is in this condition be accepted?! Forbid!

The extreme Shiite in the time of the early generation and their custom was one who would speak about Uthman, Zubayr, Talhah, Muawiyah, and others who fought against Ali. Conversely, the extreme Shiite in our times and custom is one who calls these [mentioned Companions] disbelievers and denounces Abu Bakr and Umar. This is, without a doubt, misguidance.” (Mizan al-Itidal 1/118-19)

            Hafiz Dhahabi’s opinion could be summarized as follows:

  • Innovation is one of two kinds: 1) Bidah Kubra or 2) Bidah Sughra.
  • Some of our predecessors had Shiite inclinations.
  • Only individuals whose inclinations were bidah sughra would be considered. 
  • Amongst the early generations of Muslims, the word “Shiite” retained a different meaning than what it would eventually signify.
  • By Hafiz Dhahabi’s era the word “Shiite” had already signified an individual who vilified the Prophetic Companions, accusing them of unfaithfulness and infidelity.
  • Individuals who did this would not be accepted.

The Shiite Sayyid Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din listed a significant number of Sunni authorities who also held Shiite inclinations and transmit hadith recognized by Sunni scholarship. (al-Murajiat 127-87. It is collection of correspondences between Sayyid Abd al-Husayn and the head of Azhar University Shaykh Salim al-Bishri. The Arabic version was published in Beirut by Dar al-Bayan al-Arabi. Also, it has been translated into English.) Hence, the phenomena of Shiite narrators in Sunni books should not come as a surprise. Moreover, it should not impair one’s objectivity in submitting narrations to the recognized conventions of hadith criticism. The importance of maintaining objectivity is that the authenticity of what is ascribed to the Prophet (Salla Allah alayhi wa sallam) be kept untainted by forgery and interpolation.

In Similar Narrations Muawiyah is a Man of Jannah

Ibn al-Jawzi related hadiths in al-Ilal al-Muntahiyah vol. 1, pg. 277-79 expressing Muawiyah as being from the people of Jannah. We shall illustrate the nature of the hadiths relying on Dhahabi’s Talkhis al-Ilal al-Muntahiyah pg. 95-96. The wording of the hadith is,

الآن يطلع عليكم رجل من أهل الجنة فطلع معاوية

“Right now there shall come upon you a man from the people of Jannah; and then Muawiyah came.”

The hadith is transmitted from Abd Allah b. Yahya al-Muaddib < Ismail b. Ayyash (d. 281) < Abd al-Rahman b. Dinar (Abu Yahya al-Qattat) < his father < Ibn Umar (d. 74). Also, Abbas b. Muhammad al-Duri (d. 271) < Abd al-Aziz b. Bahr al-Marwazi < Ismail, with an addition in the text,

أنت مني يا معاوية وأنا منك لتزاحمني على باب الجنة كهاتين السبابة والوسطى

“You are from me O Muawiyah, and I from you. You will be with me at the gate of Jannah like these two: the index finger and the middle finger.”

Abd Allah b. Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 270) related it from Abd al-Aziz in a summarized fashion similar to the first. This hadith is also related by Kanani (d. 963) in Tazyin al-Shariah vol. 2, pg. 20 and by Ibn Tahir al-Maqdisi (d. 507) in Dhakhirat al-Huffaz vol. 2, pg. 1072. The intent here is not to claim authenticity or dependability for these hadith which vindicate Muawiyah. In fact, these sorts of hadith also need to be objectively subjected to the same standards and criterion, just like the hadith that vilify Muawiyah.

The purpose of including them in this article is to illustrate to the reader that they exist. And also, the reader should be made aware of the fact that there exists another hadith very similar to these.

In fact, the hadith is also related by Baladhuri in Ansab al-Ashraf, vol. 5, pg. 134. Astonishingly, it is located right on the same page as the two that malign Muawiyah, featured just before them. It is surprising that one could locate the two hadiths that vilify Muawiyah without also seeing the one that vindicates him. In order to preserve objectivity, one would need to consider all the hadiths that speak of Muawiyah, along with considering related discussions pertaining to the hadiths’ narrators. It makes one wonder why the hadith is being related without more in-depth dialogue on details surrounding it. Perchance, this is a working example of selective perception.      

And Allah knows best.