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Islamic Salvation

Discussions On Ilm Ar-rijal

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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.


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)


* 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...

Edited by Islamic Salvation

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Part B of Lecture 1


There have been many definitions of this Ilm, but the best definition for it would be the one that answers the question -

What do we want from Ilm ar-Rijal? What purpose does this Ilm serve?

I say openly that this Ilm would not have existed if we did not have Hadith.

In other words Ilm ar-Rijal exists only to serve the Hadith.

Any Hadith has two parts, Isnad (chain) and Matn (content). To accept the Hadith's Matn (content) we have to study its Isnad (chain).

What is the Isnad of a Hadith?

Names of the Rijal who narrate the the Matn of the Hadith one after the other up to the compiler of the book of Hadith that has reached us. Ilm ar-Rijal studies these men, so that it can authenticate the Isnad (chain), thereby allowing the acceptance of the Matn (content).

A definition that serves such a purpose, and that is most complete, is what is found in al-Dhariah, by al-Muhaqiq al-Tihrani,

he says, and I quote him -

"It is an Ilm (a science) that investigates the attributes of a narrator of a narration, (only those) attributes that have a bearing in the acceptance of his narrations or not".

In other words we study the attributes of a narrator of a narration, and based on that study conclude whether the narrator's narrations are to be accepted or not.

What are the attributes of a narrator that have a bearing to acceptance of his narrations?

1. his Hal (status) in terms of Wathaqa (trustworthiness) or lack of it.

2. his Tabaqa.

3. unique characteristics that might differentiate him from others who share the same name [in case of the so-called Mushtarakat].

4. his Dhabt (meticulousness) and how he transmits his Hadith.

Why do we need to study the Wathaqa of a narrator?

--> The Hujiyyah (probative force) of accepting a Matn of a Hadith is based on the Wathaqa of its narrators in its Isnad, and the only Ilm that studies who is Thiqah or not is this Ilm.

--> It is well known that when there occurs apparent conflict between two Hadith, one way of resolving such a conflict is by taking the Hadith whose narrators are more Awthaq (trustworthy), the only Ilm that classifies the Rijal based on their degree of Wathaqa is Ilm ar-Rijal.

Why do we need to study the Taabaqa (generational layer) of a narrator?

--> There might be a Sanad that consists of all the Rijal Thiqat, but if we do not know the respective Tabaqat of the Rijal within it we still cannot rule on its Sihha (authenticity).

This is because apart from the Wathaqa of all the Rijal in the Sanad we still need to check for its Ittisal (connectivity), that is, the well know rule that in most cases a narrator can only narrate from someone who is in his own Tabaqa or in the Tabaqa above him, and the one who narrates from him has to be in his own Tabaqa or in the Tabaqa below him.

If such a rule is not met, example, someone narrating from another who is two Tabaqa's away from him we can confidently surmize that the narrator has dropped some of the intermediaries from the chain [thus the chain is not connected], as it would be physically impossible for the two to have met looking at the time-gap between the two.

Example, Muhammad b. Yahya al-Attar who is Thiqah cannot narrate from al-Hasan b. Ali b. Fadhal who is also Thiqah, since the former is in the 8th Tabaqa and the latter in the 6th Tabaqa, thus there should be an intermediary between the two from the 7th Tabaqa, thus any Hadith with such an Isnad where al-Attar is apparently narrating from al-Hasan b. Ali b. Fadhal is not Sahih.

While it is true that we have a paucity of death dates for narrators, but we map out the Tabaqat using other indicators such as knowing teacher-student and father-son relationships.

Why do we need to know the unique characteristics of a narrator?

--> We have some narrators who appear with the same name in Isnads, and may even be in the same Tabaqa, but they do not share the same Hal (i.e. both are not Thiqah), the only way to differentiate between them would be to identify some unique charactersitics that one of them may posess and use it to make a categorical judgement.

This is where the importance of the geographical locations of a narrator provided in the Tarjuma may have importance, where we know that one narrator may be, for example, from Kufah and the other from Qumm, we can then look at the circles from which they narrate to differentiate them.

In this area much progress has been made by the Muta'akhir scholars, a much favoured method here is to look at the pattern of those who usually narrate from the ambiguous individual and the one he usually narrates from in exclusion to others - so as to identify him.

For example, previously, Shahid II [in his Sharh Lumah] used to declare all the Hadith containing Muhammad b. Qays as Dhaif, since there are multiple Muhammad b. Qays, some are Thiqah and others Dhaif, and he could not differentiate between them, modern application of Ilm ar-Rijal is now agreed that the Muhammad b. Qays from whom Yusuf b. Aqil and Asim b. Humayd narrate - is the Thiqah Muhammad b. Qays, in this way we can declare these Ahadith as Sahih.

Why do we need to know the Dhabt of narrators and their mode of transmission?

--> Some narrators lost their memories in what was essentialy a verbal transmission mechanism, others made frequent mistakes, this has an impact on the quality of the Hadith they transmit,

knowing them makes us decide to accept their narrations or not, and if so, under what coniditon.

--> Also, the mode of transmission counts, did the narrator have Sam'ah alone (hearing) or was there Kitabah (writing down) of the Hadith, has a particular Hadith work reached us through Ijaza (certification) i.e. Munawalah, or did somebody just 'discover' a long lost manuscript from the marketplace.


The topic/domain of this Ilm is confined to the narrators of Hadith and their attributes that have a bearing in the acceptance of the narrations.

Thus we look at their Hal (Tawthiq/Tarjih), their Tabaqat, their unique identifying properties in case of ambiguity, and their Dhabt and method of transmission.

The topic is not about any Rajul or Ashab of the Aimmah, it is those who narrated narrations from them that concern us in Ilm ar-Rijal.

We see that some make mistakes here, they include in books of Ilm ar-Rijal those who are not its topic, example, some give Tarjuma of the Ashab of Imam al-Husayn in books of Ilm ar-Rijal, as was done in Tanqih al-Maqal, the truth is that most of these martyrs did not narrate Ahadith from the Imam, so their presence in books of Rijal is not correct, others include all the Ashab of an Imam, even though some of these Ashab despite their prominence are not narrators of Hadith.

It should also come as no surprise that there are some mentioned in the two Fihrists of at-Tusi and an-Najashi that are not part of this Ilm, remember that the purpose of the Fihrist is to record authors of books that have reached to at-Tusi and an-Najashi, thus there are people mentioned in the Fihrist who have just authored books on Kalaam, for example, Banu Nawbakht, annd have not narrated any narrations, these are not covered by this Ilm.

On the other hand, there are people not mentioned in the two Fihrist who are covered by this Ilm, that is, the Mashayikh of Ijaza, who have not authored any books, but they have narrated narrations, these cannot appear in the Fihrist as they are not authors, but they are definitely an integral part of this Ilm.

All that happened to make these two Fihrists important in Ilm ar-Rijal is that at-Tusi and an-Najashi also listed authors of books of Hadith, example, Usul written by the Ashab of the Aimmah, and Kutub of other narrators of Hadith, that reached them, and decided to take it upon themselves to also mention with it their Hal - from Tawthiq and lack of it, and thus it becomes an important source book for Ilm ar-Rijal.

But their principal aim was not to make Tawthiq and Tadhif, Jarh and Tadil, Madh and Qadh, rather when one reads their prefaces, the aim was to defend the Shia against claims of cultural and literary deficiency.

Thus I say that this Ilm only covers the narrators of Hadith.


1. Rijal al-Barqi by Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Khalid al-Barqi

2. Ikhtiyar Ma'rifat al-Rijal (abridged by at-Tusi from al-Kashi's original)

3. Fihrist of at-Tusi

4. Fihrist of an-Najashi

5. Rijal of at-Tusi

6. Rijal attributed to Ibn al-Ghadhairi

Edited by Islamic Salvation

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The problem is each maktab of islam accepts its own narrations, narrators and chains. The usually claim that the books of the other madhab are full of weak traditions. How would be one way to bring all of them together and pick the most authentic adahith from all the books. Even tho shias may take some ahadith from the sunni books, the sunnis usually completely disregard the ahadith books of shias.

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Lecture 2

The differences between Ilm ar-Rijal and two of its sister Ilms, as below:


--> Ilm at-Tarajim is an Ilm that investigates the personalities of individuals and the histories of their lives; it looks at their geneologies, their academic accomplishments, their contribution to the socio-economic and political landscapes and other aspects of their existence.

--> In essence, Ilm at-Tarajim strives to shed light on the events in the lives of individuals who play(ed) a role in society.

--> From this definition we understand that this Ilm is not something intitiated by or confined to the Muslims, rather non-Muslims before the dawn of Islam had already authored numerous books in this regard.

--> This is because every grouping throughout history has paid attention to its famous or infamous figures.

--> The aim of this Ilm apart from acting as a monument to glorify or revile men (and women) who have impacted the society, is to allow them to become either role models and a source of emulation for others if their contribution was positive, or cast them as a source of admonition, warning and instruction to others if their contribution was negative.

--> Muslim authors have also written in this regard from the earliest of times (since they are not an exception to the natural impulses that call for such works), and the Shia Ulama in particular being an important subset of the body of Islam were not left behind in this regard.

--> Thus we see that some of the Ashab of the Aimmah and their immediate predeseccors i.e. our Salaf - wrote books that depicted events in the lives of eminent personalities and likewise despicable characters, thus we see biographical works on, for example, Hijr b. Adi and Di'bil al-Khuzai, while on the opposite end of the spectrum, we see those dealing with unjust rulers such as - Yazid b. Muawiya and Hajjaj b. Yusuf.

--> Coming to more recent times, we have seen encyclopedic works in this Ilm, some of these include Rawdat al-Jannat (by al-Khwansari), Riyad al-Ulama (by al-Efendi) and Ayan al-Shia (by al-Amili).

--> The objective of the above mentioned works was to record some glimpses in the lives of numerous major figures in Shi'ite history, including the Ulama, political leaders, millitary leaders, false claimants of the Imamah (pretenders), poets, scientists, critics and so on.

--> In conclusion this Ilm is quite different from Ilm ar-Rijal since it differs from it in definition, scope/topic, and aim, as follows:

** Its definition is wider than that of Ilm ar-Rijal since it investigates all the attributes of individuals and not only those attributes that have a bearing to the acceptance of an individual's narrations or not.

** Its scope/topic is wider than that of Ilm ar-Rijal since it involves all the individuals who merit such attention, regardless of them being narrators of Hadith or not.

** Its aim is to paint a certain picture of history, provide a feeling of unified vision and shared experience to a community, identify role models, while the aim of Ilm ar-Rijal is simply to judge the acceptance of a given narrator's Hadith or not.

NOTE: This is not to say that these two Ilms do not intersect, indeed Ilm at-Tarajim may investigate an individual who is a narrator of Hadith [thus fall under the scope/topic of Ilm ar-Rijal], and in this investigation it may also scrutinize some of the attributes that are of importance to Ilm ar-Rijal such as Wathaqa [again falling under the definition of Ilm ar-Rijal], but the aim for embarking on such an endeavour is what will always distinguish between these two Ilms as has already been pointed out, since what is of primary importance to one is only of secondary importance to the other.


--> It is easy to confuse between Ilm ar-Rijal and Ilm ad-Dirayah, maybe because both Ilms exist to serve the Hadith.

--> We can define Ilm ad-Dirayah as the Ilm that investigates the classification of Hadith [isnad + Matn].

-> Basically, what Ilm ad-Dirayah does is to study the various types of Isnads and Mutun of Ahadith and provide terminologies for them so as to classify the Hadith.

--> Ilm ad-Dirayah is the one that tells us, for example,

If a Sanad of a Hadith has all Rijal Thiqat, and in their respective Tabaqat, then it is Sahih.

If a Sanad of a Hadith has all Rijal Thiqat, and in their respective Tabaqat, but one or more non Imami, then it is Muwathaq.

If a Sanad of a Hadith has one or more Rijal whose status is unkown, then it is Majhul.

If a Sanad of a Hadith lacks explicit names of some of its Rijal, then it is Mursal.

NOTE: but who is the one who declares the Rijal Thiqat, Imami or non-Imami, in their Tabaqat or not, it is Ilm ar-Rijal.

If a Matn of a Hadith has an error in transcription, then it is Musahhaf.

If a Matn of a Hadith has words which have mingled into it from the footnotes, then it is Mudarraj.

If a Matn of a Hadith has strange content, then it is Gharib.

If a Matn of a Hadith has ambiguous meanings, then it is Mudhal.

--> From the above, it becomes clear that Ilm ad-Dirayah studies the Isnad of the Hadith as a single unit, and provides terminologies for it, while Ilm ar-Rijal studies the constituent parts of the Isnad, that is the Rijal who make up the Isnad, and this is a very important difference, again Ilm ad-Dirayah looks at the Matn as a whole, and provides terminologies for it, it does not discuss the meanings of particular Mutun, or the conflicts between various manuscripts, this is done by the commentators of Hadith.

--> It is based on this definition that we notice that Ilm ad-Dirayah originated with the A'mmah (Sunnis).

--> Infact the first Shia scholar to use it and refer to its findings was Sayyid Ahmad b. Tawus, when he categorized the Hadith in its famous four pronged division, borrowing terminologies from the Sunnis, and the Allamah who was his pupil was the first to use it in his discussions on Fiqh.

--> The first Shia scholar to write comprehensively concerning Ilm ad-Dirayah was Shahid II then his pupil Shaykh Husayn b. Abdis-Samad (the father of Shaykh al-Bahai).

--> This admission might come as a surprise to some, but it is important to understand why this Ilm took so long to be incorporated by the Shia.

--> During the times of the Ashab, to know assuredly whether a given Hadith was actually from the Imam or not, all a Sahabi has to do was ask any of the Imams to confirm it.

--> During the times of the Ulama just after the Ghaybah, when a scholar said that a Hadith was 'Sahih' he meant that he was certain that it was spoken by the Imam, thus in essence Hadith to them was either spoken by the Imam (Sahih) or wrongly attributed to the Imam i.e. not said by the Imam (Saqim), all other divisions were just artifical.

--> They could recognize whether a Hadith was spoken by the Imam or not by the various Qarain (indicators) that they had in posession, being very close to the age of the Imams.

NOTE: the Isnad was just one among these multiple Qarain.

--> As time passed, and we went further from the age of the Aimmah, to the Muta'akhir, the only Qarina he has to ascertain the Hadith's authenticty becomes the Isnad, thus greater effort was put in studying it and doing so methodologically.

--> It is because of this that the Shia scholars borrowed most of the concepts of Ilm ad-Dirayah from the Sunnis, who faced a similar problem just alluded to, but much earlier since their only source was the messenger who was before the Aimmah.

--> So do not confuse, Ilm ar-Rijal always had a place in the Madhab from its earliest of times, since even the Ashab of the Aimmah placed importance in whom they took Hadith from, and evaluated the status of each other, and discussed the attributes of the narrators of Hadith, but Ilm ad-Dirayah and its methodological classification of the Hadith based on Isnad and Matn only developed later, and that too after borrowing much from the A'mmah.


--> It is because Ilm ad-Dirayah originated from the laps of the A'mmah that you will see even Shia works of this Ilm discussing concepts that are alien to our Hadith, for example,

Occurence and effects of Tadlis

Riwayah of Kabir from Saghir

Qalb (interchange) of the Isnad

All these matters are quite common in Sunni Hadith due to their gap in Tadwin (writing down) of Hadith, but since we have always maintained the need to write down the Hadith they have not affected us to merit their discussion, anyone who studies the book on Dirayah by Shahid II will know that there are entire passages taken from the Muqadimat of Ibn Salah (the Sunni author of arguably their most important book on Ilm ad-Dirayah).

--> It is also true that writings concerning the overall concepts (Qawaid) of Ilm ar-Rijal were not written in separate works by the Ulama of the middle ages, thus you see some discussed concepts of Ilm ar-Rijal in works of Dirayah for example Muhadith Nuri in his Miqbas, and other discussed them briefly in books on Usul al-Fiqh like in the Uddah (of Shaykh Tusi), Ma'arij (of Muhaqiq al-Hilli), Qawanin al-Usul (of Muhaqiq Qummi) etc.

NOTE: But the modernists have now separated this, and made special books for Ilm ar-Rijal and Ilm ad-Dirayah and Ilm Usul al-Fiqh.

--> In the latter sections of Ilm ad-Dirayah there are also some topics on the Adab [convention] of narrating and writing down the Hadith, this has no practical relevance in the present day, for example, ther are rules like - if you write down the names of the prophet and the Aimmah in the Hadith make sure to send the relevant Salawat etc.

--> In the end, Ilm ad-Dirayah has no practical relevance, hence its late ammalmagation into Shia scholarship, it is nothing but a science of terminologies of Hadith and some Adab of narrating and writing down the Hadith.

Edited by Islamic Salvation

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This is an excellent idea for a post, and very very beneficial. As an English speaker, we dont have access to much material on this subject, so what ever you can translate and contribute is much appreciated.

I pray to Allah (swt) to increase your taufeeq and for you to continue with this!!


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Lecture 3


Hadith == Khabar (for the purposes of the discussion below).

There existed and still exists great debate amongst our scholars (both the Qudama and the Muta’akhirin) over the degree of need for Ilm ar-Rijal. That is, while others swear by it, others discard it near completely.

In order to understand this variation between them, what we need to do is to look at the different positions these same scholars hold in regards to another related topic, that is, what they require [place as a condition] for I’tibar (acceptance of / dependence on) a Khabar.

To this goal, we will refer to Shaykh al-Ansari’s discussion over the Hujiyya of Khabar in his Rasail as a baseline since we find that he explains these differences in depth - which we can then summarize into five different categories as follows:

I. Those who say that only the Khabar which is known with certainity to be from the Imam has Hujiyyah (and therefore can be acted upon).

How do we achieve this certainity of knowledge? they say – if the Khabar is Mutawatir or if it is accompanied by an undeniable Qarina (indicator).

In other words, they say that if we do not know with certainity that a Hadith was said by the Imam [i.e. it is not Mutawatir or accompanied by an undeniable Qarina] then it cannot have Hujiyyah and we can therefore ignore it (i.e. not act upon its contents).

This position is attributed to Sayyid al-Murtada, Ibn al-Idris, Ibn al-Barraj, Ibn al-Zuhra, at-Tabrasiy and Ibn Qiba al-Razi; they all held that anything below this is just Dhann (supposition) which cannot be a Hujjah (does not require us to act upon it).

II. Those who say that the Khabar that has Hujiyyah is the one for which we can have sufficiency of trust that it originates from the Imam (i.e. Wuthuq as-Sudur), even if we do not claim to know with certainity that it has come from the Imam.

How do we obtain this sufficiency of trust (i.e. something that has overcome Dhann even if not certain)? they say – if the Khabar is accompanied by a credible(not undeniable) Qarina (indicator).

It is to be understood that more than one credible Qarina adds to the weight of the Khabar.

To those belonging to this camp, only one among these numerous credible Qarina that can lead to sufficiency of trust is the Sanad of the Hadith consisting of all Rijal Thiqat or Udul and being Muttasil (i.e. the modern day definition of Sahih was just a tool in the box).

This position is attributed to most of the Qudama, including al-Kulayni, Ibn al-Walid, as-Saduq, al-Mufid and at-Tusi, and this is what they meant when they said a Khabar is Sahih [not the definition of Sahih that the Muta’akhirin have formulated].

NOTE 1: This second position does not mean that if a Khabar is Mutawatir or if it is accompanied by an undeniable Qarina it is not a Hujjah to them, but it means that they add to this a Khabar that we can have sufficiency of trust that it actually originates from the Imam (i.e. unlike the first position - they have widened the circle).

NOTE 2: We will discuss the other Qarina that these Qudama considered providing sufficieny of trust for acting upon a Khabar in other lectures.

NOTE 3: The major question here has always been whether we can depend on the Qudama’s Tashih [since they depended on Qarain that we may not agree with and that are definitely unknown to us - in other words should we make Taqlid of their decisions or NOT], most of the Usulis have decided not to depend on them for this for reasons that are well known.

But those that have, have no problems in acting upon a Khabar that is Dhaif [by modern day definition i.e. consists of weak or unknown individuals in the Sanad] since they argue that it is accompanied by a Qarina or Qarain that provide sifficiency of trust.

- The common nature of the remaining camps after these first two positions (discussed below) is that they argue that since most of the Qarain that were present to the Qudama are not available to us [due to passage of time], they will concentrate on the only Qarina that is available to us and that is the Sanad.

- The last camp will also add to the Sanad a second Qarina and that is Shuhra [Amal of the 12er Imami Fuqaha community based on a Hadith].

III. Those who say that only those Akhbar have Hujiyyah that meet this one single condition, that is - have a Muttasil Sanad consisting of all Adil individuals.

Adil meaning belonging to the Firqa al-Muhiqqa [rightful Madhab] i.e. [12er Imami and NOT to other Madhahib like the Mamtura (wet dog) Waqifis, Fathis or Amma] whether these Akhbar have been acted upon by the previous 12er Imami Fuqaha [i.e. is the Mashhur opinion] or not.

This is the opinion of al-Allamah, Shahid II, and his son Shaykh Hasan [sahib al-Maalim], and his grandson Shaykh Muhammad [sahib al-Madarik], and it has also been attributed to Shahid I.

IV. Those who say that only those Akhbar have Hujiyyah which meet this one single condition, that is – have Muttasil Sanad which consists of Mawthuq individuals [i.e. individuals who are Thiqah].

Thiqah meaning having Tawthiq regardless whether they belong to 12er Imami or the other Madhahib like the Mamtura (wet dog) Waqifis, Fathis or Amma, regardless whether these Akhbar have been acted upon by the previous 12er Imami Fuqaha [i.e. is the Mashhur opinion] or not.

The only scholar to hold this position and take it to its full conclusion has been Sayyid al-Khoei, and some of his students of the present age [who is not?].

It should also be understood that in the beginning of his career Sayyid al-Khoei believed that if the previous 12er Imami Fuqaha did not act upon a Khabar [even if it had Muttasil Sanad and consisted of Mawthuq individuals] it was to be dropped [since it loses strength], but change came to him at the beginning of his third cycle of teaching Usul and onwards, and that is why if you refer to his first discussion on Salats in al-Urwa and the two discussions on Makasib before this change you will see his first world view in effect [ref. Taqrirat al-Dirasat of Sayyid Ali Shahroudi], but most of his life was spent in this position [i.e. IV]

Here may come a question, how is it possible that a Khabar that has a Muttasil Sanad which consist of Mawthuq individuals not be acted upon? It is because there are other factors weakening it, which when considered collectively made the Khabar unusable, and that is why it is not the Mashhur opinion

V. The last position is that only those Akhbar have Hujiyyah which meet these two conditions together:

(*) Have Muttasil Sanad and consist of Mawthuq individuals [i.e. individuals who are Thiqah - regardless whether they belong to 12er Imami or the other Madhahib like the Mamtura (wet dog) Waqifis, Fathis or Amma].

(*) The Akhbar that have been acted upon (used) by previous 12er Imami Fuqaha [i.e. is the Mashhur opinion].

This is the opinion of Sahib al-Kifaya (Akhund al-Khurasani), and Sayyid ash-Shahid as-Sadr, and Shaykh Wahid al-Khurasani from the contemporaries.

To be continued …

Edited by Islamic Salvation

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After elaborating on the above five camps in regards to delimiting the I’tibar of the Akhbar, we come to the heart of the topic and say: the need for Ilm ar-Rijal is in the Istinbat of the Ahkam from the sources of the Ahkam.


It is well known that the sources of the Ahkam according to the Usulis are four:

(i) Kitab

(ii) as-Sunnah

(iii) Ijmaa (consensus)

(iv) Aql

As for the Kitab, we know that the Ayat that contain the Ahkam are around 500 [with repititions], and these do not go into detail i.e. are general - requiring specification. Therefore the Kitab alone is not to be used to obtain all the Ahkam of the Shariah.

As for Ijmaa, then mentioning it as an independent source apart from the Sunnah is a mistake when one ponders over it, since the Ijmaa that we consider a source is that which reveals the position of the Imam, therefore all it does is to record a Sunnah that is not encapsulated in the Hadith, add to this that to prove the presence of an Ijmaa which reveals the position of the Imam is quite difficult and thus this is not a practical source.

As for Aql, even though it is the greatest bounty of God - it does not have the capability to shed light on the nature and reason for the smaller details of the Shariah, all it can do is to recognize some general principles of the Shariah such as the inherent ugliness of injustice; and also establish some cardinal relations within the Shariah such as the Wujub of the preliminaries of a Wajib act. Therefore it is also not a practical source.

This being the case, we are left with nothing except for the Sunnah, that is to say, the words and actions of the Ma’sumin recorded in the Ahadith are the main source of the Shariah.

Having said this, we also recognize that the Ahadith that are Mutawatir or have undeniable Qarina in the corpus of our Hadith literature are very few if not non-existent.

Most of the Ahadith are Ahad, so we can say that we derive most of the Shariah from Ahad Ahadith.

Considering this, we know say, after laying the backgound, whatever camp you belong to from the five camps discussed above, there will still be a need for Ilm ar-Rijal, the only thing that will change is the degree of the need for it i.e. for some camps - Ilm ar-Rijal will be central and for the others secondary at best.

Let us go through the five camps again, this time relating it with its need for Ilm ar-Rijal.

A. The first camp was the one which believed in the Hujiyyah of only the Akhbar that are (i) Mutawatir or (ii) Accompanied by undeniable Qarina.

For (i) we say that: Ilm ar-Rijal will aid in evaluating the possibility, nature and quality of the Tawatur, as an example, Tawatur can be more easily declared if the number of chains consist of Rijal who are well known for their greatness in the Taifah and are Mawthuqin - knowledge of which can only be obtained from Ilm ar-Rijal.

For (ii) we say that: Ilm ar-Rijal will also play a strengthening role in establishing the legitimacy of the undeniable Qarina that gives a Khabar Hujiyyah according to this first camp.

B. The second camp which believed in the Hujiyyah of only the Akhbar that bring sufficiency of trust due to being accompanied by credible Qarina.

We say that: there is not a more credible Qarina than the Hadith coming from a connected chain consisting of trustworthy individuals, and knowledge of the connectivity of the chain and it consisting of trusted individuals can only be obtained from Ilm ar-Rijal.

Now it is true that the other credible Qarina that they considered such as corraboration of Matn in more than one Usul, Imam’s declaration of Sihha etc. may not require Ilm ar-Rijal, but one among these credible Qarina (that of Isnad highlighted above) definitely does.

In short, Sidq or Kidhb of the narrator of the Khabar was an important credible Qarina that goes a long way in providing the much sought after sufficiency of trust.

NOTE: The Qudama had a wholistic view of all these Qarina before making a decision, but Ilm ar-Rijal definitely played a part.

C. As for the third camp, the matter becomes simpler, for they believe that the Hujjah is only in the Khabar of of the Adil, which Ilm informs us of the Adalat of the Ruwat (narrators) of the Akhbar if not Ilm ar-Rijal, infact the very goal of Ilm ar-Rijal is nothing more than to provide the status of the narrators of the narrations.

Thus this camp needs Ilm ar-Rijal much more, and therefore the members of these camp are also the first ones to show their open need for Ilm ar-Rijal eg. Muhaqiq, Allamah, Shahid I, Shahid II, Sahib al-Maalim, Sahib al-Madarik, so as they could differentiate between the Adil narrators and the non-Adil ones so as they can then act only on the Akhbar of the Adil narrators.

D. There is no camp that would require Ilm ar-Rijal more than this camp since it simplifies acceptance or non-acceptance of the Hadith solely to the Wathaqa of its narrators and nothing else, for scholars belonging to this camp the whole process of Istinbat boils downs to Ilm ar-Rijal, and their need for Ilm ar-Rijal is paramount.

And this explains why Sayyid al-Khoei gave such importance to Rijal after shifting to this camp, when previously he did not give much importance to it, when his outlook was similar to his teachers Naini and al-Hamadani who belonged to camp V as will come after this.

as-Suwaydan here recalls that Sayyid Hashim the son of Sayyid Ali ash-Shahroudi posseses the manuscript of al-Khoei’s whole discussionof Salat (when he was in camp V), and states that it does not consist of a single Rijali opinion in the whole of it, the main concentration in it was in looking at what the Mashhur opinion was in all the Abwab of Fiqh.

E. The fifth camp gives equal importance or balances between Wathaqa of narrators of the Khabar and there not being a weakening factor that goes against acting upon the Khabar of the Thiqah [and the most important weakening factor for them is the Fuqaha not acting upon the contents of a Khabar even if it was from a Thiqah Rawi].

The hidden concept being that by not acting upon the Khabar the Fuqaha had disclosed a hidden flaw that it has.

This camp too cannot escape from Ilm ar-Rijal since the first pillar they consider for I’tibar of Khabar is still Wathaqa of narrators which cannot be proven except from Ilm ar-Rijal.

In Summary, we can say that there is no way to avoid Ilm ar-Rijal in whatever camp one belongs to, and all the Usuliyun require Ilm ar-Rijal though there is difference in the extent of the need, from some having huge dependence on it and others not as much, based on what they require for accepting a Khabar.

Finally, there is a notorious group upon whose belief it can be said that Ilm ar-Rijal has no importance, and these are those who consider all the Akhbar in our book as having Hujiyya and some of them claim that they all definitely originated from the Aimmah, and due to the weakness of their claim, there is no benefit from discussing them.

But even for these we say that there will still remain some importance since in cases of conflict (Ta’arudh) in the Riwayat there is still the requirment for taking from the more Adil and the more Dhabit and knowledge of this requires Ilm ar-Rijal (Tarjih).

Edited by Islamic Salvation

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