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Salaam. After much prodding by a dear friend, I have decided to publish here my notes to an audio series on Ilm ar-Rijal by one Shaykh Suwaydan. Shaykh Suwaydan is teaching Bahth al-Kharij at the Hawza in Qumm, and he has a 166 lecture audio series on Ilm ar-Rijal. Inshallah it can be beneficial to those wishing to know more about Ilm ar-Rijal. Any questions, suggestions, opinions are welcome as ever, but should be strictly on topic. Part A of Lecture 1 A. The discussion will be on the major themes and topics of Ilm ar-Rijal. B. The discussion will try to be based on scholarly research, it will try to go in depth into those matters within the Ilm that justify such a consideration, and just summarize matters within the Ilm that are not as fruitful. C. Initially in our introduction, we will mention a few points concerning the history of the Ilm, taking this from the authoritative sources that have reached us that can speak about it, especially, the two Fihrists authored by at-Tusi and an-Najashi, whereby we will try to reconstruct using these as references some milestones in this Ilm in our history, then we will define the Ilm, give the domain it extends to, and discuss the need or importnace of the Ilm. HISTORY OF THE ILM D. First, it is established without doubt that this Ilm is an innovation of the Muslims after the dawn of Islam, thus we do not see anyone apart from us having formulated such an Ilm before, thus it has no comparison or paralell in the other faiths or civillizations. --> We do not mean by this that the Uqala (posessors of intellect) before Islam did not try to ascertain the Wathaqa (trustworthiness) of individuals before accepting their words; but what we mean is that there was no body of knowledge exclusive for this purpose. E. Second, we know touch upon the question of the first author to write upon this Ilm [from the Shia] --> Previously we had opined that the first to author a book and write on this Ilm was Ubaydullah b. Abi Rafi, secretary of Imam Ali, and one of his closest companions. --> The reason we concluded so was based on the words of both at-Tusi and an-Najashi in their respective Fihrists, whereby they have recorded under this Ubaydullah's Tarjuma (entry) that he had authored a book wherein he mentioned all the Rijal from the Ashab of Imam Ali who participated with him in his wars (being on his side). --> Using this as evidence, al-Muhaqiq al-Tihrani ruled that Ubaydullah was the first author on Ilm ar-Rijal, and to prove this he (in his Dhariah) says that the aim of the author, that is Ubaydullah, was not simply to enumerate the names of these personages, but there was a form of Ta'dil (strengthening) and Tajrih (weakening) inherent in such an endeavour, this is because Ubaydullah was mentioning only those who participated in the wars on the side of Ali [and this acted as a form of Madh (praise) for them in oppostion to those who did not take part, who are implicitly blamed (Qadh) for not participating] this makes its contents fall under the domain of Ilm ar-Rijal. --> Except, this in of itself is not enough to award Ubaydullah this accolade (of being the first author to have written a book on this Ilm) Why? * We cannot ascertain the author's aim in writing this book, i.e. did it have a Rijali purpose or not? this is especially so as the book is extant and has not reached us for us to study its contents. [Yes, from the title of the book and the way at-Tusi and an-Najashi describe it to us, we do know that Ubyadullah wrote down the names of those companions of Imam Ali who participated with him in those wars, but the question is - for what purpose did he write it?, it seems more logical that this was a historical work of a particular period] * For it to be a work on Ilm ar-Rijal, the author would have to have a Rijali purpose in mind, and that is establishing the Wathaqa (trustworthiness) of the men he lists or the lack of it, and we have no indicator that he goes on to do this in the book's body. F. Thus, to answer this question, we have no option but to agree with Sayyid Hasan al-Sadr [in his Ta'sis al-Shia] wherein he says that Abdallah b. Jabalah was the first to write on this Ilm. --> He bases this on the listing of the books under his (Abdallah's) Tarjuma (entry) by an-Najashi in his Fihrist, one of the books that an-Najashi attributes to this Abdallah b. Jabalah is a Kitab ar-Rijal, which looking at the genre, would consist of listing the names of the Rijal of the Hadith and their associated attributes. --> It should be noted that Abdallah b. Jabalah was a companion of Imam al-Kadhim and died in the year 219 A.H. G. Third, to know the importance and the high status that this Ilm had among the Ashab (companions of the Imams) and the Salaf (early predessecors), I will provide two evidences: (I) Any cursory glance at the lists of books authored by these Ashab and Salaf as provided by at-Tusi and an-Najashi in their two Fihrists, reveals that quite a lot of books were authored on Ilm ar-Rijal. Many of the Ashab had authored books titled 'Mashyakha' and 'Kitab ar-Rijal'. * The books of this nature were counted and they say that they reach approximately 120 books, from the time of al-Hasan b. al-Mahbub (who wrote a famous 'Mashyakha') to the time of at-Tusi and an-Najashi, if this does not show their concern for such an Ilm what does? * It should be noted here that these were not all encyclopedic works [exhausting all the Rijal], rather most were works dealing with specific categories of Rijal, example, Ibn Uqdah (the famous Zaydi), wrote separate works dealing with the Rijal narrating from Imam as-Sadiq, Imam al-Kadhim and Imam ar-Ridha. * To get a full listing of these books of the Ashab and Salaf on Ilm ar-Rijal, one can refer to voulume 10 of al-Dhariah or more beneficial for this purpose would be to read Mufasal al-Maqal by the same author (i.e. of al-Dhariah), wherein he lists them expansively. It serves no harm to mention here some important points: --> It is not necessary that only Tawthiq and Tadhif of the Rijal be mentioned and that no other biographical details and personal information be included on the Rijal in a book for that book to be called - a book on Ilm ar-Rijal. Indeed you will be hard pressed to find a book considered a book on Ilm ar-Rijal that does not diverge and mention biographical and personal material about the Rijal even if most of these data have no bearing on the Wathaqa of the Rijal or lack of it, and in strict terms have no place in books on Ilm ar-Rijal. --> It is also not necessary that all the Rijal mentioned in the book of Ilm ar-Rijal have clear/explicit Tawthiq and Tadhif for it to be considered a book on Ilm ar-Rijal. Indeed most of the books considered books on Ilm ar-Rijal do not have Tawthiq and Tadhif for the majority of the Rijal mentioned within, example, at-Tusi in his Rijal records names of about 6000 narrators, out of these only about 300 have Tawthiq or Tadhif. --> In short, all that is required for a book to be considered a book on Ilm ar-Rijal is whether the author had a Rijali purpose in mind or not, in other words, does he make Tawthiq and Tajrih of at least some of the Rijal he mentions, or concsiously provide information that leads to Tawthiq and Tajrih of them. (II) We can also look at the words of at-Tusi in two instances to observe the importance placed on this Ilm by those who were near the time of the Imams. --> In the preface to his Fihrist, at-Tusi mentions clearly that most of the previous Ulama had authored personal Fihrists. What were Fihrists? These were works wherein the author lists the books that he posesses and narrates to others, he legitimises his posession of these books by providing his Turuq (paths) to their original authors, most of these Fihrists also contained evaluation of the original authors, and details that could make Tawthiq and Tadhif of the Rijal mentioned within the path to the books, thus falling in the domain of Ilm ar-Rijal. --> These early Fihrists did not reach us, but we know what kind of works they are since the Fihrists of ar-Tusi and an-Najashi have reached us, and we see what kind of works they are. --> The only difference between the Fihrists of at-Tusi and an-Najashi and the previous Fihrists of the Ulama before them was that the previous Fihrists were only concerned with listing the books the individual author posessed and had chains to i.e. they were personal in nature, and not listing the comprehensive legacy of the shia authors as a whole, which at-Tusi and an-Najashi tried to achieve, inspired by one Ahmad b. al-Husaynb. Ubyadullah al-Ghadhairi. --> In his Uddah, in the section on Khabar al-Wahid, at-Tusi says: "Verily, we have found that the Taifah has discerned the Rijal who narrate these Akhbar, so they have made Tawthiq of the Thiqah amongst them, and made Tadhif of the Dhuafa amongst them, so they have distinguished those upon whom we can depend on in their Hadith and Riwayah, and those upon whom there can be no dependence, and they have praised the praiseworthy, and blamed the blameworthy, and they said about various Rijal, this one is accused in his Hadith, and that one is a liar, and so and so makes mistakes in narration, and Fulan is an opponent in Madhab and I'tiqad, and Fulan is Waqifi, and Fulan is Fathi, and the rest of the condescending attributes that they have recalled, and they authored for this purpose books, and they excluded some Rijal's (narrations) from the collection of what they themselves narrate, this reached to an extent that one of them - when he rejects the content of a Hadith - he looks at its Sanad, and weakens it due to the ones narrating it, this was their practise from the olden times up to the current'. I say: Can there be any greater evidence of their regard for the Rijal than this, and in it at-Tusi says that this was ther collective culture, and that they authored works on it, and that they deemed Isnad analysis unavoidable, and that they considered some Thiqah and others not. Part B to follow...
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