Written by © Atabek Shukurov
Edited by Abu Talha
The words of the prophets have a huge importance in all religions. However, the understanding of it and accurate transmission without any damage is something which could be lacking sometimes. Hence, it is important to test the narrators without compromise. It requires a person to stay neutral and remove emotional or any other attachments towards the narrators and apply the principles of testing the narrators fully.
I have written this article over two years ago but was not published for some reasons. So, it can be out of date especially after publishing the previous articles which are similar to it. However, it has some extra information which may not be found in the previous ones.
Finally I want to clarify that no any offence intended, and academic comments will be welcomed.
I would like to elucidate and demonstrate yet another example of Muslims’ disagreement with, and even direct opposition to, our Holy Mentor ﷺ; in this case, their brazen contravention regards statements related to us by over seventeen Ṣaḥābah. Now, we have already seen the Muslims’ neuroses in regard to their flaccid defense of one ʿImrān b. Ḥiṭān, so we can feel safe in venturing a guess as to how they will perform in defence of ʿIkrimah. Their chosen champion in this field – and indeed it seems in every defence of narrators with unacceptable beliefs who were nevertheless accepted by Imām al-Bukhārī – is none other than Ibn Ḥajar. It is he upon whom all subsequent prospective defenders built their cases, and so it shall be his initial defence of innovators we place under examination.
So, let us review what Ibn Ḥajar brought in defense of the senior Khārijī, ʿIkrimah al-Barbarī:
Ibn Ḥajar says, “ʿIkrimah is utilized by Bukhārī and the authors of the rest of the ‘Six Books’ except for Muslim, who only narrated from him when supported by a narration of Ibn Jubayr. Muslim rejected him because of what Mālik said about him, but a group of imāms including Ṭabarī, Marwazī, Ibn Mandah, Ibn Ḥibbān, and Ibn ʿAbdu-l Barr have written books to defend him.”
He carries on, “I shall summarize [what the aforementioned group of scholars and others] have written in ʿIkrimah’s biography in my summary of Tahdhīb al-Kamāl.
ʿIkrimah has mainly been accused of the three following things:
1). Innovation. Regardless of whether or not this allegation is true, which has not been proven, the authenticity of his narrations should not be impugned because he was not a dāʿī (literally ‘caller,’ proselytizer).
2). Accepting favors/rewards from those in power. This does nothing to damage his acceptibility either, except according to the mutashaddidīn (scholars who took strict stances in their criticism of narrators). Nevertheless, the vast majority of scholars don’t criticize this behavior; Ibn ʿAbdu-l Barr has penned a work on it.
3). Lying. I will explain how to respond that! [Then he commenced his response, on ʿIkrimah’s behalf, to the accusations of lying].”
We will examine these charges one-by-one, but I must say first that Ibn Ḥajar’s case is quite an odd one. Above, he defends ʿIkrimah with the claim that he “wasn’t a dāʿī,” when he knew fully well that he was. Let us also remind you, we have already seen Ibn Ḥajar’s attempt at employing the gambit of completely minimizing the impact of being a Khārijī dāʿī in defense of ʿImrān b. Ḥiṭān, who was 100% certified as one – “but it didn’t matter because he was truthful,” or so his gambit went. We have also seen Ibn Ḥajar’s treatment of those scholars’ – ones who actually met the man, mind – arraignment of ʿIkrimah for being a “liar” and “not truthful.”
Let us appreciate Ibn Ḥajar’s defense by way of a quick synopsis. If a narrator is an innovator (a Khārijī in this case), then not being a dāʿī saves their credibility. If they are both, then calling them truthful is meant to suffice. But if they are the trifecta – a lying, innovating dāʿī – then Ibn Ḥajar’s feeble attempt to salvage the disaster is, as we shall see, the conjecture that “lying” really only means “prone to mistakes.”
For my part, I cannot place the label of “academic” on the above. Rather, we can only call it what it is: panicked, feverish ad hoc justification without regard for right or wrong.
I also feel the need to share an observation: if we were to offer a similar defense to every narrator that fell under the purview of the science of jarḥ wa taʿdīl, then no weak narrators would be left to criticize. This begs the question, why is one specific group availed of such privilege? And why is a bare minimum of critique needed to reject – without possibility of appeal – adherents of other “innovative” groups such as the Murji’ah, Muʿtazilah, Shīʿah, and direct students of a whole slew of elite scholars like Imāms Muḥammad al-Dībāj and ʿAlī al-Riḍā?
But I digress; let us see what Ibn Ḥajar has to say next (same page as above):
He mentions some of the narrations from the scholars who accused ʿIkrimah of lying (follow along in the blue boxes):
1). Ibn ʿUmar forbade his slave Nāfiʿ from lying on his behalf as ʿIkrimah did on behalf of Ibn ʿAbbās.
2). Saʿīd b. al-Musayyab forbade his own slave from the same, as was confirmed by Imām Mālik.
3). Yazīd b. Abī Ziyād said, “I went to ʿAlī, son of Ibn ʿAbbās, and saw ʿIkrimah bound with chain. ʿAlī said, ‘he is lying on behalf of my father!'”The same event is narrated via another chain on the authority of ʿAbdullāh b. al-Ḥārith. (Take note of the fact that we have two witnesses for this episode; people claim that the narration is weak, but they know this corroboration makes it authentic. They use this fact only when it suits them).
4). Ibn Sīrīn was asked about ʿIkrimah, and he replied, “I wouldn’t begrudge him a place in Paradise, but he is a liar!”
5). In the larger blue box, Saʿīd b. al-Musayyab and ʿAṭā’ state that ʿIkrimah lied about jurisprudential issues.
6). Yaḥyā b. Saʿīd confirmed that ʿIkrimah was a liar.
7). Qāsim b. Muḥammad said, “ʿIkrimah is a liar!”
In sumation to all of this, Ibn Ḥajar says, “that is the entirety of what the scholars ambiguously stated with regard to ʿIkrimah’s being a liar, but I will explain all of it – if God willed – and redirect each statement to serve as proof that none of them besmirch ʿIkrimah’s narrations.”
But before we allow Ibn Ḥajar’s “redirection,” let us pause to consider something: Ibn Ḥajar classifies the above statements about ʿIkrimah as “ambiguous,” meaning the accusations of mendacity remain unqualified. I will comment on this caveat of his further, but let us first return to Ibn Ḥajar’s response.
Ibn Ḥajar continues, “that narration of Ibn ʿUmar is not accepted because Yaḥyā al-Bakkā is weak.” So if we prove that this Yaḥyā is reliable, then so will be the narration transmitted on Ibn ʿUmar’s authority. Just who was this Yaḥyā?
Dhahabī says, “Yaḥyā is a Shaykh from Baṣrah with a weakness […] He narrated from Ibn ʿUmar, Saʿīd b. al-Musayyab, Abū ʿĀliyah, and others. He narrated very few aḥādīth […] Ḥammād b. Salamah, ʿAbdu-l Wārith, Ḥammād b. Zayd [etc.] narrated from him.”
Ibn Saʿd said “he is reliable.”
Abū Zurʿah said “he is not strong.”
Yaḥyā al-Qaṭṭān used to dislike his narrations.
Al-Nasā’ī said “he is weak.”
Aḥmad b. Zuhayr narrated from Yaḥyā that “Bakkā is weak.”
As you can see, the last four scholars said only that Yaḥyā is “weak,” but failed to expound. This type of criticism is called mubham, which means unexplained or ambiguous. According to not only the Ḥanafīs, but other schools as well, this type of unqualified criticism is not valid grounds for disqualification of a narrator. This is due to the fact that one scholar may consider some deed or quality as damaging to their credibility, but not another.
This type of invalid and rejected criticism has been explained in my book, Ḥanafī Principles of Testing Hadith; it should be a fairly well-known principle besides, but just to review, here is an excerpt from the Ḥanafī text Sharḥ Mukhtaṣar Manār:
“Unexplained criticism of the imāms of ḥadīth such as ‘he is weak, he is rejected, he is criticized, he has weakness, he is not reliable, he is not righteous,’ and so forth is not acceptable. That is because it is possible that one scholar may consider some act as reason for weakness, but another may not. The only criticism which is accepted is that which is explained and agreed upon by all scholars as a valid reason for rejection.
“But if it is explained criticism, yet the reason which is shown is disagreed upon – for example, the narrator drinking nabīdh, [etc…] we don’t accept such criticism because it is not agreed by all that nabīdh is prohibited!
So in our case, four scholars of ḥadīth said that Yaḥyā al-Bakkā is “weak,” but without explaining how or why; thus we do not accept this criticism. Hence we have no choice but to regard the aforementioned episode involving Ibn ʿUmar as authentic and admissible according to Ḥanafī (and others’) principles. However, I am aware that modern “Ḥanafīs” follow Ibn Ḥajar’s methodology – one which involves, at times, baseless, flagrant disregard for any princples whatsoever in defense of Khawārij narrators. This is why we need to ascertain whether Ibn Ḥajar deemed Yaḥyā al-Bakkā as “weak” based on some principle, or if it was simply to throw out a red herring to throw would-be truth-seekers off the trail of the Khawārij.
To that end, I would like to present an excerpt from Ibn Ḥajar’s work, Nuzhah al-Naẓar which is a commentary of Nukhbah al-Fikr:
The selection in the first red box reads, “unexplained criticism is not accepted except for under two conditions: that it comes from a qualified imām, and that there is no positive testimony.” So this second condition remains unfulfilled, as Ibn Saʿd attested to his reliability.
The second red box reads, “unexplained criticism is not accepted if the narrator has been relied upon.” But since Ibn Saʿd gave a positive review of al-Bakkā, he is relied upon.
From the preceding we can conclude that, rather than basing his rejection of Ibn ʿUmar’s narration on any sort of principle, his reason for doing so was simply to defend the Khawārij (and ultimately, the positions their narrations justify).
Another thing of which to remain cognizant in this regard is that there are those who consider that the narration of a mujtahid from someone as positive testimony of their reliability. In this case, we have top scholars of ḥadīth such as the two Ḥammāds, narrating from al-Bakkā, as well as Tirmidhī, and Ṭabarānī.
We even have the Ḥanafī mujtahid muḥaddith Abū Jaʿfar al-Ṭaḥāwī narrating through Ḥammād b. Salamah from Yaḥyā al-Bakkā, going on to say “this proves the authenticity of what we have said […] and that is the opinion of Abū Ḥanīfah, Abū Yūsuf, and Muḥammad.”
Let’s review the points brought to light here:
1). Ḥammād b. Salamah, who is regarded by many as a “sign of Islām,” narrates from al-Bakkā. Again, there are many people who claim that, if a mujtahid narrates from someone, that indicates their reliability according to that mujtahid. So al-Bakkā is authentic according to Ibn Salamah.
2). Ṭaḥāwī narrated from al-Bakkā as well, further indicating his reliability.
3). That al-Ṭaḥāwī explicitly confirmed his narrations as proof positive for his arguments demonstrates his reliability according to al-Ṭaḥāwī.
So to reiterate, we have unexplained criticism of a narrator who is reviewed positively by Ibn Saʿd and transmitted from by mujtahid muḥaddiths of Ahl al-Sunnah like the two Ḥammāds, al-Ṭaḥāwī, Tirmidhī, Ṭabarānī, and others. Without a doubt, the narration of the incident of Ibn ʿUmar forbadding his slave Nāfiʿ from lying on his behalf as ʿIkrimah did on behalf of Ibn ʿAbbās is authentic – not only according to the Ḥanafīs, but also according to the principles employed in modern times by most Muslims. In short, Ibn Ḥajar contravened his own principles in his rush to defend the Khawārij. That people who treat matters related directly to God’s religion as games should be respected is, to me at least, a very curious thing indeed!
Here we have yet three more chains relating Ibn ʿUmar’s stern advice to Nāfiʿ; but these should only serve as icing on the cake, as the first one we presented is actually authentic according to both Ḥanafī and Ḥajarī principles. Ibn Ḥajar’s rejection is thus itself rejected.
But let us see what else he has to say. Ibn Ḥajar must have anticipated peer review and inspection rather than blind acceptace of his opinions and statements, for he said further to all of this that “Ibn Jarīr [al-Ṭabarī] said, ‘if a statement of Ibn ʿUmar is authentic, then there are a number of possibilities. It is possible that he [Ibn ʿUmar] meant to say that he lied in one issue, which doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of ʿIkrimah’s narrations are lies as well,'” a caveat which Ibn Ḥajar clearly supports. Ṭabarī continues to clarify that Ibn ʿUmar only accused ʿIkrimah of lying about an issue related to money exchange; then Ibn Jarīr adduces as proof for his point that Sālim accused Nāfiʿ of lying about an issue related to anal sex on behalf of Ibn ʿUmar. However this criticism, according to Ibn Jarīr, by Sālim was not sufficient grounds for rejection of Nāfiʿ altogether. And it was thus that Ibn Ḥajar conluded that ʿIkrimah should not be discounted as a reliable narrator.
To reiterate Ibn Ḥajar’s conclusion, lying about or on behalf of someone else in only one narration is not sufficient reason for total rejection.
However, the picture painted for us in Tadrīb al-Rāwī, which is an explanatory expansion (sharḥ) of al-Nawawī’s Taqrīb, contrasts with this conclusion sharply. This important work posits that, on the contrary, lying even once in a narration is sufficient to class the narrator as a liar and reject all of their narrations, even after repentance.
A commentary of Ibn Ḥajar’s Nuzhah by ʿAlī al-Qāri’ echoes the above principle, in which he writes that “repentance from any major sin is accepted from a narrator, and their reliability is thereafter reinstated, with the exception of lying in narrating; this disqualifies them as a narrator even if they repent.” He continues, “as for lying about issues which have nothing to do with narrating ḥadīth, repentance is accepted; but scholars never again narrate from this liar.”
Based on the above principle, we have no choice but to conlcude that both Ibn Ḥajar and Ibn Jarīr were simply wrong; ʿIkrimah’s mendacity with regard to ḥadīth, just because it was supposed to have happened only once, certainly nullified his authenticity.
So there are two of Ibn Ḥajar’s defenses of ʿIkrimah down; one to go. His third argument flows from what he claims is Ibn Ḥibbān’s statement, namely that “Ḥijāzī people use the word ‘lie’ to mean ‘mistake.'”
He adduces an incident during which Abū Muḥammad said that witr prayer is compulsory, to which ʿUbādah b. al-Ṣāmit retorted “lie!” He conlcuded that “lie” here was to be understood as “mistake” because Abū Muḥammad was not narrating, rather he was giving his own opinion. And if someone gives his opinion, you don’t respond to it by calling it a “lie,” but instead “mistake.” He claimed that Ibn ʿAbdu-l Barr demonstrated this with several examples.
For myself, I have to say that this semantic frivolity (besides also begging the question) betrays a certain measure of desparation in Ibn Ḥajar’s defense of his favored Khārijī narrator. I shall reduce his argument to simpler terms to highlight what I mean; if you narrate, then “lie” really means lie, but if you give your opinion, then “lie” just means “mistake.” Notwithstanding being open sophistry, this house of cards collapses without even the slightest whiff of air, because we see that ʿIkrimah is being called a liar for narrating something (a situation in which “lie” means lie), but Ibn Ḥajar insists that this “lie” means “mistake,” “proving” his point with an example about giving one’s own opinion. It seems some wires have been crossed somewhere, and if you, dear reader, are confused – you should be. This obfuscation was doubtlessly the objective.
This tactic also gives rise to another problem in its relegation of the Ḥijāzī dialect of Arabic to the realm of incoherence. The consequences, if we follow this move to its logical end, are disasterous when we consider that the Qur’ān itself was revealed among the Ḥijāzī-speaking Quraysh; will we now, armed with this new principle, translate every instance of the word “lie” in the Qur’ān to mean “mistake” (but only in response to an opinion, except not really)? The insidious nature of this predicament compounds further when we consider that all of the ahadith – thousands of them – transmitted from the Prophet ﷺ, who spoke in that same Ḥijāzī dialect, use the word “lie.” Did he really mean “mistake” all those times (but only in response to an opinion, except not really)? Add to that the thousands of narrators and scholars from the Ḥijāz who uttered the word “lie.” Shall we re-translate all of their statements? Now, Ibn Ḥajar himself provided commentary on ahadith in Bukhārī, explaining “lie” to mean lie. Where was his deus ex machina of “lie” really meaning “mistake” (but only in response to an opinion, but not really)? At best, we can call this inconsistency – or shall we call it a “lie” while really meaning “mistake?”
Three out of the three lines of defense that Ibn Ḥajar put around ʿIkrimah against this narration have fallen, and Ibn ʿUmar’s appraisal of the Khārijī stands undamaged. ʿIkrimah deliberately gave false information and disqualified himself from authenticity.
Next, Ibn Ḥajar turns to the statement of Saʿīd b. al-Musayyab, who said much the same thing to his slave as Ibn ʿUmar said to his about ʿIkrimah being a liar.
Ibn Ḥajar says, “as for the statement of Saʿīd b. al-Musayyab about ʿIkrimah, Ibn Jarīr said that it is very similar to what was narrated from Ibn ʿUmar.” Ibn Ḥajar supports this opinion and adds “Ibn Jarīr’s argument is actually correct, which becomes clear from the narration of ʿAṭā’ al-Khurasānī on the story of the Prophet’s ﷺ marriage to Maymunah in which he says ‘ʿʿIkrimah oppressed!’ That’s due to the fact that it’s transmitted along many chains that Ibn ʿAbbās had said that the Prophet ﷺ married while in ihram.
“Ibn Ḥibbān claimed that there are many examples in which ‘lie’ means ‘mistake,’ for example in the aforementioned statements of ʿAṭā’ and Saʿīd b. Jubayr. We cannot say they meant ‘lie,’ but ‘mistake,’ because they praised ʿIkrimah so highly in other narrations. So we can conclude that they criticized him in specifc issues only.
“As for Ibn Sīrīn’s statement [in which he referred to ʿIkrimah as a liar], he only criticized his opinion. Otherwise, Khālid Hatha said, “when Ibn Sīrīn says that ‘a reliable narrator informed me from Ibn ʿAbbās,’ he is referring to ʿIkrimah. He only did this because he disliked him and preferred not to use his name.
To summarize Ibn Ḥajar’s above points:
1). Ibn Jarīr said that Saʿīd b. Musayyab’s advice to his slave basically meant “don’t make a mistake about me” instead of “don’t lie on my behalf” because the distance between the meanings of “lie” and “mistake” is “not far.”
2). Ibn Ḥajar supported it by saying that in another narration of ʿAṭā’ al- Khurasānī from Saʿīd it says “ʿIkrimah oppressed,” hence “lie” means “mistake” rather than lie.
3). There are plenty of examples floating around of “lie” meaning “mistake.”
4). ʿAṭā’ b. Abī Rabāḥ and Saʿīd b. Jubayr posited that ʿIkrimah lying really means nothing more than that he makes mistakes because they praised him in other statements.
5). Ibn Sīrīn also “lie” means “mistake” because he referred to him as “some trustworthy narrator,” at least according to Khalid Hatha.
My comments on these five main arguments are as follows:
1). If I were to to tell you to “take this money,” you would understand its literal meaning – although there might be a plethora of metaphorical meanings. But just because there are so many metaphorical meanings that might apply to it, and “take” is “not far off” in meaning from other words, there’s no way you aren’t walking away with this money. On a daily basis, we utter a lot of words that have their direct meanings as well as their “not far” meanings; but we never ignore the direct meaning in favor of what’s “not far off.” In other words, the possibility of something is not proof of its actuality.
2). This is yet more naked sophistry. Follow the logic, if you dare to try: Saʿīd said “he lied!” in one narration. In the other, he said “he oppressed!” Therefore “lie” means “mistake.” Using things to prove unrelated things is a strange – to put it mildly – way to proceed, but Ibn Ḥajar has made it his modus operandi in this case. And what makes this point even more untenable is another narration of the same story from ʿAṭā’ al-Khurasānī with an addition of “he’s a filthy liar! Go and insult him!”
3). Saʿīd calling ʿIkrimah “khabīth” (literally ‘filth’) and telling ʿAṭā’ to “go and insult him!” effectively takes “lie” meaning “mistake” in this particular context completely off the table. If all he meant was “mistake,” we could expect respectful disagreement and correction, possibly followed by an excuse or two; but under the clarifying circumstances above, the meaning of “lie” is beyond dispute.
4). One can claim many examples for many things, but one must ensure that one thing follows from another if they want their example to be valid. Showing me snow and using it to demonstrate that all white things are cold is simply not valid, and Ibn Ḥajar – at least in principle – himself agrees; in the dialect of the Ḥijāz, “lie” only means “mistake” if it is used to show disagreement with an opinion. But he knew fully well that Saʿīd b. Musayyab confirmed that ʿIkrimah lied in his narration from Ibn ʿAbbās, not an opinion about his opinion. Furthermore, neither Ibn Ḥibbān nor Ibn Ḥajar are experts in the field of Arabic Language, and so their opinions on issues related to said field are not authoritative or admissible; and that’s if “lie” really does mean “mistake” in the Ḥijāzī dialect at all in any case. Yet still, we can see for ourselves that Ibn Ḥajar neglected to retranslate the Qur’ān, hadiths, or statements of every Ḥijāzī scholar and narrator to bring them in line with this purported linguistic principle.
5). Since it is alleged that ʿAṭā’ b. Abī Rabāḥ and Ibn Jubayr also said that “ʿIkrimah lied” meant “ʿIkrimah made a mistake,” let us see exactly what they said. If they did indeed mention “lie” in response to ʿIkrimah erring in an opinion of his, then we concede that Ibn Ḥajar really did consistently apply a valid principle; but if they called him a liar for his narration from Ibn ʿAbbās, then “lie” could only have meant lie, according to any principle. Here is the text:
Above, we have two narrations in which ʿAṭā’ says that ʿIkrimah “lied,” and both instances are in reference to his narration from Ibn ʿAbbās. So whichever principles we choose to abide by, “lie” here means lie. And on to what Saʿīd b. Jubayr said:
Here were have three instances of Saʿīd b. Jubayr saying that ʿIkrimah has “lied.” The first one is on the meaning of “sooq,” which is in the Qur’ān. This is indeed in reference to ʿIkrimah’s personal opinion. The second instance involves a group of people asking ʿIkrimah about some issues and him responding. When they bring his responses to Ibn Jubayr, he exclaimes “ʿIkrimah has lied!” But since we haven’t any indication as to what issues were being disucussed, be they narrations, creed, fiqh, or anything else; so this can’t be used for either side. The third instance involves ʿIkrimah commenting that renting out one’s yard is disliked, to which Jubayr responds “ʿIkrimah has lied, because I heard Ibn ʿAbbās saying such and such.” The wording of Ibn Jubayr’s response would seem to indicate that the issue boiled down to ʿIkrimah lying about a narration. So even if we accept that the first story is a demonstration of the principle of “lie” meaning “mistake” when responding about an opinion, it still does nothing to nullify the direct import of Ibn ʿUmar’s, Ibn Musayyab’s or ʿAṭā’ b. Abī Rabāḥ’s statements. They have all confirmed, in no uncertain terms, that ʿIkrimah was a liar.
Ibn Ḥajar would have us believe that Ibn Sīrīn also meant “made mistakes” when he referred to ʿIkrimah as a “liar.” The incident Ibn Ḥajar referred to follows:
The first red box reads, “Ibn Sīrīn was asked about ʿIkrimah, so he said ‘I wouldn’t begrudge him a place in Paradise, but he is a liar!” We need to keep in mind the following:
- The principle which Ibn Ḥajar sought to employ is simply not applicable here; Ibn Sīrīn was no Ḥijāzī, but an ʿIrāqī from Baṣrah. Ibn Ḥajar, being who he was, must have known this, so it’s nearly impossible not to chalk his insistence that Ibn Sīrīn meant “mistake” when he said “lie” up to malicious intent rather than innocent blunder.
- The verb kadhaba differs from the noun kadhdhāb in that it is only the verbal form of this root that the Ḥijāzīs could have used to mean “mistake” rather than “lie.” The noun kadhdhāb, by contrast, is in something called the ṣīghah mubālaghah, a construction used to convey an exggeration of the noun. So kadhdhāb, rather than just kādhib, conveys a meaning along the lines of “super liar” in English; it could not possibly be substituted for “super mistaker.”
- Ibn Sīrīn’s prefacing his statement with “I wouldn’t begrudge him a place in Paradise” demonstrates his intention to discuss something we call a sin rather than just a mistake.
In the second red box, we see that someone came to Ibn Sīrīn and complained to him about ʿIkrimah. He replied gently, saying “may God take his life and grant us peace from him.” We can take away from this the following:
- People wouldn’t complain to such a degree about simple mistakes; he must have been causing them great hardship, especially for Ibn Sīrīn to respond the way he did.
- ʿIkrimah’s enjoyment of Umayyad favors and support is well documented and known; that the people of knowledge were suffering on his account should therefore come as no surprise.
- The narrator of this incident classifying Ibn Sīrīn’s response of wishing death on ʿIkrimah as “gentle” should serve to reveal, by way of comparison, what sort of havoc he must have been wreaking upon the people of knowledge.
In sumation of this point, Ibn Ḥajar surely knew that Ibn Sīrīn was Basri rather than Ḥijāzī, but he still insisted that he meant “mistake” when he said “lie” about ʿIkrimah. I leave it to you, dear reader, to determine for yourself whether or not Ibn Ḥajar’s best was good enough this time.
Now we may proceed to the incident of ʿAlī b. ʿAbdullāh b. ʿAbbās wherein he accused ʿIkrimah of lying on behalf of his father. Ibn Ḥajar also refused to accept it because Abū Hātim b. Ḥibbān alleged that Yazīd b. Abū Ziyād – one of the narrators – is weak. However, as before, if we prove this Yazīd to be reliable, then the incident under discussion will also be authentic. So we have first to ascertain who exactly this Yazīd is and what the discussion around him was.
The first issue to consider is there are three narrators with more or less the same name. Yazīd b. Abū Ziyād, the teacher of Imām Mālik, is reliable. Yazīd b. Abū Ziyād al-Dimashqī was called weak by some scholars. Finally, Yazīd b. Abū Ziyād al-Hāshimī al-Kūfī was the one who narrated the incident in question. As I already mentioned, Abū Hātim b. Ḥibbān alleged that he is weak. But is this allegation of weakness agreed upon, or even explained?
It should suffice to say that Imām Muslim narrated from him in his Ṣaḥīḥ collection, so whoever defends the reliability of ʿIkrimah should refrain from celebrating the victory they assumed Ibn Ḥajar brought them as long as Muslim narrates from this Yazīd.
Muslim divides his narrators into three categories. The first two are reliable, and the third is weak. Muslim included Yazīd b. Abū Ziyād into the category of reliable narrators. Here is the actual text from Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim:
Here, Ibn Ḥajar himself actually acknowledges that Imām Muslim considered Yazīd as trustworthy, criticizing Nawawī for confusing the Kufan Yazīd for the Damascene one.
As we can see in plain Arabic, Ibn Ḥajar knows that Yazīd is reliable according to Muslim; so why didn’t he mention it in any of his discussion around ʿIkrimah? By now, the answer should be obvious. Imām Muslim is not alone in considering him reliable, either. Other ḥadīth specialists include:
Yaʿqūb b. Sufyān who said, “Yazīd is reliable even if they criticize him.”
Aḥmad b. Ṣāliḥ who said, “Yazīd is reliable, and I dislike the ones who criticise him.”
Ibn Saʿd who said, “Yazīd is reliable, but towards the end of his life he started to mix things up.”
And since, as has already been mentioned, we have people who claim that a mujtahid narrating from someone proves their reliability, Yazīd should be considered reliable due to his being narrated from by such mujtahids as Shuʿbah, Sufyān al-Thawrī, Sufyān b. ʿUyayanah, Sharīk, Imām Muslim, and others
Personally, I consider the most likely reason for some ḥadīth specialists’ consideration of Yazīd as weak to be, as we can see, Ibn Adiy’s allegation that he was a Shia. We need to investigate all the statements about him, because taken together, we see there are three main types:
1). He is reliable, as Muslim and others confirmed
2). He is better than such-and-such narrator, and so-and-so narrator is better than him. This type of statement is ultimately useless for our purposes.
3). He is weak, but no further clarification is offered.
According to Modern Ḥanafīs, who I have in the past demonstrated should be considered apart from the Classical Ḥanafīs, Yazīd b. Abī Ziyād should also be counted among the reliable. For example, here is a text by Zafar Thanwi:
Following the red box at the bottom, we see that “Yazīd b. Abī Ziyād is a narrator accepted by Muslim, Tirmidhī, Nasā’ī, Ibn Mājah, and Abū Dawūd. Bukhārī also narrated from him as Muallaq.
Zafar Thanwi carries on saying, “Ibn Shahīn, in his collection of reliable narrators, related that Aḥmad b. Ṣāliḥ said, ‘Yazīd is reliable and I dislike the people who criticize him.'”
Not only is this comment on Ibn Abī Ziyād positive, it offers some insight into discussion around him by revealing that Aḥmad b. Ṣāliḥ and Yaʿqūb b. Sufyān in fact knew about his critics and their statements, but disregarded them and confirmed his reliability despite them. Based on the foregoing, even Deobandi mawlanas of the Modern Ḥanafī school have no right to reject the testimony attributed to ʿAlī b. ʿAbdullāh b. ʿAbbās that ”ʿIkrimah [was] lying on behalf of [his] father!”
And as an aside, “getting mixed up towards the end of his life,” as long as his repots have independent corroboration, is in fact a non-issue.
To draw to a close the case of Yazīd b. Abī Ziyād, we must conclude as Ḥanafī principles dictate. As there is no qualification, the criticism aimed at him is rejected. This should also be the conclusion to which utilization of Ḥajari principles leads, as only ambiguous, unexplained criticism is offered, and a group of top mujtahids, such as Muslim and others, considered him reliable. He is even reliable according to the Deobandi strain of Modern Ḥanafīsm.
As something of a post scriptum to this section, I would like to mention that Ibn Ḥajar himself affirmed that the same incident is also narrated from ʿAbdullāh b. Ḥārith; and Mundhiri concurs. Just read what is in the blue boxes:
Thus another of Ibn Ḥajar’s defenses fails.
But continuing his attempted defense, Ibn Ḥajar continues:
“As for the statement of Yaḥyā b. Saʿīd about ʿIkrimah, he likely only criticized due to blindly following Saʿīd b. Musayyab.”
Here is the story to which Ibn Ḥajar refers:
“Yaḥyā b. Saʿīd Ansari and Ayyūb al-Sukhtiyānī met each other and began discussing ʿIkrimah. Yaḥyā said, ‘he was a liar.’ Ayyūb replied, ‘he wasn’t a liar!'”
Where in the above incident is there any indication whatsoever that Yaḥyā’s evaluation was nothing more than an echo of Saʿīd ‘s? On the contrary, Yaḥyā would never have needed to rely on anyone else’s opinion, because he met ʿIkrimah, heard what he had to say, saw his behaviour, and tested his knowledge himself. For Ibn Ḥajar to dismiss out of hand Yaḥyā’s unequivocal statement based on nothing more than what he deems “likely,” when it isn’t actually even so, is – and we keep finding reasons to repeat this word – curious indeed. This defense of his is in need of its own defense, however deep down the rabbit hole of incoherence such an attempt would drag us.
Ibn Ḥajar carries on:
follow the red; As for the story of Qasim bin Muhammad it doesn’t scratch the reliability of Ikrima, because it is possible that a very knowledgeable person will have two or three answers to one issue and he will mention the one that he could remember!
Following along in red, we read, “the narrative from Qāsim b. Muḥammad does nothing to tarnish ʿIkrimah’s reliability, because it is possible that a very knowledgeable person will have two or three answers to one issue, but will only mention the one that comes to mind at the time.”
He then seeks to bolster his assertion further by relating an incident during which ʿIkrimah, while in Egypt, begins narrating the same hadeeth from different narrators. When some expert muḥaddith, who had met Ibn ʿAbbās, comes to test him, he confirms that ʿIkrimah was able to do so because he had more than one chain for the hadeeths.”
Furthermore, Abū-l Aswad – another muḥaddith – said, “ʿIkrimah had a ‘small brain’ and heard one hadeeth from two people. When asked, he would narrate from each of them in different situations; that’s why some people might have thought he was a liar.”
We need to highlight at this point that Qāsim b. Muḥammad b. Abī Bakr was one of the foremost mujtahids, so distinguishing between a lie and an alternate narrative chain would have been a minor task. And as even we laypeople know, for one to accuse an innocent believer of lying – without proof or reason – is a major sin. Would such a great scholar as this Qāsim indulge in such a thing, and can we safely accuse him of doing so?
We can also clearly see that the fact of Abū-l Aswad saying that ʿIkrimah had a “small brain” not being accepted means that Ibn ʿUmar, Saʿīd b. Musayyab, Yaḥyā b. Saʿīd , Qāsim, and many others cannot distinguish between an instance of the quotation of two chains of the same hadeeth, and a flat-out lie. Ibn Ḥajar’s defense of ʿIkrimah therefore requires that a charge of ignorance and maladroitness be levelled against some of the foremost Ṣaḥābah and Tābiʿīn that we know. Is the protection of some lying deviant so important?
But Ibn Ḥajar carries on:
“As for the story of Ibn Maʿn: that only proves the extent of ʿIkrimah’s prudence, because he mentioned something during a discussion and upon seeing that the other person was going to write it down rushed to claim it as his own opinion.” This interpretation would seem to present a much more palatable alternative to the allegation that ʿIkrimah deliberately lied on behalf of Ibn ʿAbbās.
The incident related by Ibn Maʿn is as follows
ʿAbdu-l Raḥmān said, “ʿIkrimah narrated some hadeeth saying, ‘I heard Ibn ʿAbbās saying such-and-such.'”
He said to my servant, “give me pen and paper.”
Thereupon ʿIkrimah asked, “do you approve of it?”
He replied in the affirmative, to which ʿIkrimah followed up, “so you’d like to write it then?” He again responded affirmatively, at which point ʿIkrimah interjected, “don’t write it! It was only an opinion I formulated just now!”
Convenient. If the problems the above presents aren’t glaringly obvious, I’ll highlight them now for all of our benefit:
- It is clear that ʿIkrimah claims to have narrated a hadeeth from Ibn ʿAbbās, but didn’t want his partner in conversation to record it.
- Nothing else that Ibn Ḥajar adduced from the event is actually even in it.
- From the way events unfolded, it stands to reason that if ʿAbdu-l Raḥmān had not made known his wish to record ʿIkrimah’s “ḥadīth,” the latter would never have admitted that he made it up, that he didn’t hear it from Ibn ʿAbbās.
- Since, as we know, ahadith weren’t conveyed by writing alone but also verbally, if ʿAbdu-l Raḥmān hadn’t attempted to write it, he still could have memorized it and transmitted it; but if he had done so, we would be none the wiser that it was nothing more than ʿIkrimah’s fabrication.
If Ibn Ḥajar’s defense amounts to little more than offering the benefit of the doubt, then know that if we carry on giving the benefit the doubt (in this particular style), then Islām will become just another one of today’s deformed religions (following the others right through the lizard-hole). Nevermind benefit of the doubt, we already have the authentic (and proven so) statements of Ibn ʿUmar, Ibn Musayyab, Ibn Sīrīn, Qāsim b. Muḥammad, and Yaḥyā b. Saʿīd (all of whom, mind, met and knew ʿIkrimah) to save us from needing to engage in the mental gymnastics we have seen thus far. No more beating around the bush: none of this has any academic basis. This is not an example of ḥusn al-ẓann, which is all well and good under normal circumstances, rather it is nothing more than ignoring plain facts and simple definitions of simple words. This is excision, not excuse.
The question must be asked: why did muḥaddithīn give such back-breaking, logic-defying “benefit of the doubt” only to the members of the sects of the Khawārij (who opposed and murdered ʿAlī) and Nawāṣib (who nursed an ardent hatred for ʿAlī), yet on the other hand insisted on indiscriminate rejection of other “deviants,” even for invalid reasons, such as the Muʿtazilah, political ʿAlawīs, Zaydīs, Jaʿfarīs, and Rawāfiḍ? Could it have been some sort of vendetta against ʿAlī, his sons, his wife, and his grandsons? Could it have been because Ibn Taymiyyah, in keeping with his teachers and their teachers, considered ʿAlī a “hypocrite?”
But still, Ibn Ḥajar carries on:
“Imām Mālik’s criticism of ʿIkrimah is due to nothing more than the accusation against the latter of being a Khārijī; Ibn Abī Hātim confirmed this by saying, ‘I asked my father about ʿIkrimah. He said ‘reliable.’ I said, ‘can we accept his narrations?’ He said, ‘yes, so long as he narrates from reliable narrators. But Mālik rejected him because of his opinions, and it is not confirmed for certain that he followed that [i.e. Khārijī school]; rather he used to follow some of their opinions, so people attributed him to them.'”
- First of all, we have already seen that Mālik in fact rejected ʿIkrimah for lying on behalf of Ibn ʿAbbās, not “just for being a Khārijī.” Here is the narration, something about which Ibn Ḥajar woud have been perfectly well aware. I translated it before:
- Secondly, ʿIkrimah died in the year 105 AH, and Abū Hātim was born in 195 AH; it’s therefore unthinkable that Abū Hātim would have been privvy to some information about ʿIkrimah that Ibn ʿUmar, Ibn Musayyab, Mālik, Yaḥyā, Ibn Sīrīn, Qāsim and others were not. Again, the named Ṣaḥābah and Tābiʿīn actually knew and met ʿIkrimah.
- Yet another curiosity brought about by Ibn Ḥajar: he knew that Mālik accused ʿIkrimah of lying, yet he insisted on presenting Mālik’s rejection of ʿIkrimah as being for a completely different reason.
- Ibn Ḥajar doesn’t seem to mind the implication his defense makes about the great mujtahid Mālik, namely that he is negligent enough to fail to test a person so well-known as ʿIkrimah properly before advancing such a grave accusation as Khārijīsm. Would even a fraction of the great, sincere names Ibn Ḥajar has sacrificed on the altar he dedicated to ʿIkrimah be on a similar chopping block for the sake a Mu’tazili or a Shi’i? Of course not.
- Would it take 90 years for some physics student to uncover personal details about Albert Einstein that his own colleagues and associates – specialists in their respective fields – couldn’t discern? The testimonies of the people who saw and discussed with him about him being from among the Khawārij are overwhelming in number and authenticity; to posit that one Abū Hātim can come so much later with “the truth” of the matter is unacceptable absurdity.
And Ibn Ḥajar carries on
“Aḥmad and Al-ʿIjlī have clarified about ʿIkrimah in the book of thiqaat, saying: ‘ʿIkrimah, slave of Ibn ʿAbbās may Allāh be pleased with him; from Makkah, Tābiʿī, reliable, free from what people accuse him in terms of being Haruriy.'”
This is irrelevant and inadmissible, because being a Khārijī was not ʿIkrimah’s principle defect, rather it was his known status as a liar. Furthermore, Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal was born in 164 AH, 59 years after the death of ʿIkrimah, while Aḥmad b. ʿAbdullāh al-ʿIjlī was born in 182 AH. Their comments simply cannot overrule the proven testimony of the scholars from the generations of the Ṣaḥābah and Tabein that knew ʿIkrimah in person.
Here, Ibn Ḥajar narrates what Aḥmad said about ʿIkrimah in his Tahdhīb:
“ʿIkrimah is mudhtarab; he mixes things up to the point where I don’t know what’s what anymore!” Note that mudhtarab is a weakness whereby the narrator confuses things in both the text and chain of a hadeeth.
Someone asked Aḥmad, “was ʿIkrimah an Ibāḍī?” Aḥmad replied, “no, rather they say that he was a Ṣufrī.” So all Imām Aḥmad has done here is to clarify to which branch of the Khawārij ʿIkrimah belonged; the point here is that he was a Khārijī. Take note as well that on the same page, several more highly esteemed scholars confirm that ʿIkrimah was Khārijī, namely ʿAṭā’ b. Abī Rabāḥ who met and interacted with him, Muṣʿab al-Zubayrī, ʿAlī b. al-Madinī, and Yaḥyā b. Maʿīn; this is something Ibn Ḥajar has omitted.
An entry on the same page betrays ʿIkrimah’s Khārijī inclinations and desires wherein he is quoted as declaring, “I wish to attend the Ḥajj with a spear in my hand so I can kill the people all around me.” Now, we all know that ʿIkrimah’s contemporaries, particularly those attending the Ḥajj pilgrimage, were not the monsters of our modern era like Hitler and Stalin. He died in the year 105 AH. Some of them would have been Ṣaḥābah and Tābiʿīn. Indeed, some Ṣaḥābah even outlived him. So who is it that he wanted to murder beneath the shade of the Kaʿbah? We know from reliable narrations that he was supported and rewarded by the rulers of the day, so it wouldn’t have been the likes of the tyrant Ḥajjaj b. Yūsuf; even an intelligent canine wouldn’t bite the hand that feeds it. So why would a sincere, pious, intelligent man like Ibn Sīrīn wish death on him, while those who related such a wish considered it a gentleness? One reason could have been his open eagerness to go on Ḥajj just to spill the blood of Ṣaḥābah and Tābiʿīn, and common, innocent believers. And Ibn Ḥajar has nothing to say about this. But ʿIkrimah was voicing his opinion, so maybe it was just a “mistake.”
Still hoping to extricate his favorite Khārijī, Ibn Ḥajar says:
Ibn Jarīr said, “if we were to reject all of the people who have been attributed to a deviant sect and we say that they are not reliable, then we have to reject most of the muḥaddiths of the cities, because there is not among them one except some people attributed to them something odious!”
This might give us pause if we could simply forget what our Holy Mentor ﷺ taught us about the sect known as the Khawārij in particular, that sect and no other. But contrast what the Prophet ﷺ saw fit to teach us about only the Khawārij with what the muḥaddiths had to say about every sect besides, for example the Rawāfiḍ, Shīʿah, Murji’ah, and Muʿtazilah. A genuine scholar should treat every sect equally. And the muḥaddiths did in fact pay lip-service to equity by broadcasting that “we accept from everyone except the Khaṭṭābī Shīʿah because they are known to lie.” But the reality of the situation is entirely different. All of that aside, whether ʿIkrimah was a Khārijī or not is of secondary importance. He was a liar.
Ibn Ḥajar carries on:
“Taking gifts and receiving favors from those in power isn’t a good enough reason to be rejected. In fact, Zuhri was even more well-known for this same activity, and nobody has rejected him.” But is Zuhri really someone Ibn Ḥajar should have liked to justify ʿIkrimah’s behavior with his rulers? Without straying too far from this article’s topic, as another article dealing issues more germane to the fact that Zuhri was Bani Umayyah’s main scholar (fitting into the category of “ʿUlamā’ of the Sulṭān”), yet he is still somehow representative of what people mean when they utter “Salaf al-Ṣāliḥ,” is forthcoming.
Ibn Ḥajar triumphantly concludes:
“We have finished responding to the criticisms against ʿIkrimah, so now we turn to what his contemporaries and those who came after him said in praise of him.” Keep in mind the manipulation to which Ibn Ḥajar subjected ʿIkrimah’s criticisms, and you may have some inkling of how his praises will be treated.
Now, here is what Ibn Ḥajar put down in his book about the sciences of hadeeth called Nuzhah al-Naẓar:
“If a narrator receives criticism that is justified, and their critic is an expert who is aware of the reasons for said criticism, then they are to be considered weak.”
The mention of this principle begs the question: why would Ibn Ḥajar support a principle he fails to apply, unless he considered Ibn ʿUmar, Ibn Musayyab, Yaḥyā b. Saʿīd , Qāsim, and others as laymen?
Here, so we can be sure that Ibn Ḥajar wasn’t so flippant as to invent a principle himself only to disregard it, Nawawī and Suyūṭī confirm the aforementioned principle in Tadrīb al-Rāwī:
To conclude at long last, I would like to remind you, dear reader, that you have now witnessed the lengths (i.e. far beyond the bounds of reason, logic, and truthfulness) to which anyone who wants to defend ʿIkrimah or ʿImrān specifically, and the Khawārij in general, must travel, disregarding mass-transmitted statements from our Beloved ﷺ and mangling beyond recognition the statements of our Nation’s sincere scholars and the firm hermeneutical foundations they laid.
As I said at the outset, Ibn Ḥajar’s defense of ʿIkrimah is the spring from which all others’ attempts have flowed. His was the first and best case in ʿIkrimah’s favor. But was it enough? You decide.