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Is This Hadith Really Sahih

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al Kafi, Tafsir al Qumi and other reliable shia classical books of ahadith:

Muhammad, from Ahmad, from ibn Mahboob, from Jamil b. Saleh, from Aban b. Tughlub, from Abi Abdillah  (as)

Narrator says) I asked the Imam  (as) about the planet Earth, does it rest upon anything? Imam  (as) replied: "It rests upon a whale." I asked: "Does the whale rest upon anything?" Imam  (as) replied: "Upon the water." I asked: "Does the water rest upon anything?" Imam  (as) replied: "Upon a rock." I asked: "Does the rock rest upon anything?" Imam  (as) replied: "Upon the horn of a straight/smooth backed bull." I asked: "Does the bull rest upon anything?" Imam  (as) replied: "Upon wet sand/soil." I asked: "Does the soil rest upon anything?" Imam  (as) replied: "Beyond (comprehension that is)! This is where the knowledge of the scholars goes astray

any knowledgeable input would be great thanks

salam alaikum

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In order to correctly understand the meaning of the foregoing hadith and the like and in order to know how to deal with such kind of hadiths in general, the scholar must take into account several points so that he may arrive at the correct meaning.

As for the points relatedto the strangely worded hadiths in general and the hadith at issue in particular, these are as follows:

1. This hadith has been narrated by the traditionist al-Kulayni [1] in his al-Kafi [2], which is one of the four most reliable books [3] on Hadith and one of the most significant collections among the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (upon whom be peace).

2. Even though some Shiite books and collections of Hadith enjoy a high status and a lofty position among the scholars and traditionists, this does not mean that all that which they include is correct and reliable, so they must be taken for granted without any discussion or reflection. Rather, the entirety of the hadiths and narrations must be exposed to the principles of defamation and authentication before we take them upon ourselves. This process is undertaken by specialist scholars at the science of Hadith with regard to narration and critical study of traditions.[4]

Moreover, the traditions and narrations, after their emanation from an infallible person, are divided in respect to authoritativeness and signification into the following:

1- Clear and explicit traditions that do not require an explication, a clarification or a interpretation, so the majority of people can understand them. Such traditions are numerous. An example is that which is related by al-Majlisi on the authority of the Messenger of God (upon whom); to wit, “Fast, you all, and you will be in good health”.[5]

2- Traditions that require accuracy, reflection and reference to specialists in order to correctly understand their purport. These traditions are not few in number either. An example is that which is reported by Sayyid al-Sharif al-Radi on the authority of the Commander of the Faithful ‘Ali (upon whom be peace); that is his words, “When girls come of age (nass al-hiqaq), the relatives on the father’s side have a greater claim”.[6]

After he mentioned this narration, al-Sharif al-Radi (may God have mercy upon him) said, ‘Nass’ means the last end of things or their furthest limit, such as ‘nass fi al-sayr’ in the sense of the maximum limit that a beast can walk. You may say, ‘nasast al-rajul ‘an al-amr’ when you questioned a man so closely as to bring forth what he has. Based on this, ‘nass al-hiqaq’ denotes prudence because it is the last limit of childhood and is the time when a child crosses childhood into maturity. This is a very eloquent reference to the point and a strange one, too. He intends to say, when a girl comes of age, her relatives on the father’s side have a greater claim to her than her mother, provided that they are from among those with whom marriage is prohibited, such as brothers and paternal uncles, and to the arrangement for her marriage if they so desire. Moreover, ‘al-hiqaq’ refers to a mother quarrelling with her daughter’s paternal relatives, such that each of them would say that he has a better right for her. However, what I think is that what is meant by ‘nass al-hiqaq’ here is a woman reaching a stage with which it is permissible to marry her and to dispose of her rights by herself, as a camel completes three years and enters into the fourth, so it is called ‘hiqqah’ or ‘hiqq’; that is a camel that, having completed three years, reaches the age when it is possible to ride on its back. This is closer to the way of the Arabs than the meaning stated earlier.

3- Traditions that require further reflection and verification on the part of the scholars at the science of Hadith in order to decipher their symbols and explain their true and hidden meanings. Rather, it may be difficult for the scholars at the science of Hadith to perfectly understand the purport of such traditions. The foregoing tradition may be a case in point.

A number of the scholars have paid attention to the explanation and clarification of such traditions and to the interpretation of their ambiguous words. They have also composed books and articles in this connection. Among these scholars is the late Sayyid Muhammad ‘Ali Hibat al-Din al-Shahristani in his eminent book al-Hay’ah wa al-Islam (Astronomy and Islam), which gained the admiration of all the scholars of his time. For he treated in it numerous sound traditions in the sphere of the heaven and the higher world, explained their strange words, and uncovered ambiguity thereof through scientific analysis, just as he clarified their lack of contradiction with the recent findings of science.

With regard to the tradition at issue, he (may God have mercy upon him) said, God has endowed me with the exposition of this tradition, so I have been guided to the following solution: This tradition, in line with the course of the Arabs, comprises an ellipsis and an implication. The tradition thus runs as follows: The earth is in the shape of a whale. What is meant by the whale here is the fish; to wit, the shape of the earth is oval, but not circular like the ball. So the word ‘shape’ is omitted and implied here. So is the case with his words: “upon a bull’s horn”, that is, in the shape of a bull’s horn; and the earth, as it has come in al-Durr al-Manthur by al-Suyuti, is situated between the two horns of the bull. Just as the bull’s two horns are, unlike the horns of cattle, egg-shaped and oval, so too the earth is not circular, or rather, it is in the shape of a bull’s two horns. The intended meaning is that its east and its west are separate, in the same way that the bull’s two horns are separate in the middle, though close together in their upper and lower ends, in a reference to the northern and southern poles.


This is a summary of that which he has stated in explaining and bringing home the tradition. It agrees with the recent findings of science which hold that the earth is not circular, or rather, oval. For further information, you may refer to Astronomy and Islam.

There is no doubt that the Imam (upon whom be peace) couldnot reply to the questioner’s inquiry at that time when scholars maintained that the earth was flat except with this clear statement. Moreover, the foregoing commentary is not conclusive, or rather, it may be interpreted otherwise.

Besides, when the emanation of a tradition from an infallible person (upon whom be peace) is established, it is not proper for us to hasten to refute or rebut it for the simple reason that it includes ambiguous words which we fail to correctly understand or interpret. Rather, what is correct is that we do not give a decided opinion respecting it until it becomes easy for us or for others to understand its meanings and uncover its symbols. When its purport is uncovered for us, we can then act and keep to its teachings.

There are numerous traditions and narrations that could not be well understood at the time of their emanation from the infallible person (upon whom be peace).

However, scientific progress has helped decipher their symbols, so it becomes clear that they would carry lofty meanings to which the infallible person (upon whom be peace) could not refer at his time except with this mode of expression due to one of the following two reasons:

1. The incapacity of the reporter or society’s understanding at that period.

2. The spread of some of the erroneous theories and doctrines that the governments used to adopt and impose on people, as if they were fixed truths that are not liable for discussion. How numerous are the scholars and discoverers who suffered from punishment and suppression for the doctrine of divergent opinions?!

What is more important is that we should not rush to pronounce judgement about such traditions for the simple reason that they include a kind of ambiguity in their words. Rather, we have to pause until favorable conditions and sufficient information exist in order to assess them in a correct and accurate manner.

1. That is Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ya‘qub, known as Thiqat al-Islam al-Kulayni al-Razi (d.329 AH), one of the most acclaimed Shiite jurisprudents and traditionists.

2. See al-Kafi (Tehran: Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah, 1365), vol.8,.89.

3. The Four Books are the four eminent collections of Hadith, which enjoy a lofty station among the scholarly Muslim circles in general and the Shiite group in particular, since they count as the most significant sources of Hadith to them. These collections include:

a) Al-Kafi, written by Shaykh Abu Ja‘far Muhammad ibn Ya‘qub, known as Thiqat al-Islam al-Kulayni al-Razi (d.329 AH).

b) Man la Yahdarahu al-Faqih, written by Shaykh Abu Ja‘far Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Musa ibn Babawayhal-Qummi, knows as Shaykh al-Saduq(d.381 AH).

c) Tahdhib al-Ahkam, written by Shaykh Abu Ja‘far Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Tusi, known as Shayk al-Ta’ifah (d. 460 AH).

d) Al-Istibsar fi ma Ukhtulifa min al-Akhbar, also written by Shaykh al-Tusi.

4. ‘Ilm al-Dirayah is the science of critical study of the content of hadith, including its text, its chain of transmission, the manner of transmission, etc. See Ja‘far al-Subhani, Usul al-Hadith wa Ahkamuh fi ‘Ilm al-Dirayah (Qum: Imam al-Sadiq Institute, 1419 AH), p.14.

5. Refer to Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar (Beirut: Al-Wafa Institute, 1414 AH), vol. 55, p.267 and vol.89, p.255.

6. That is Abu al-Hasan Muhammad ibn al-Husayn al- Musawi, known as al-Sharif al-Radi (d.406 AH). He collected the words, sermons, letters and short sayings of the Commander of the Faithful in a book which he entitled as Nahj al-Balaghah (The Peak of Eloquence).

Collection & Translation by darolhadith.net


On 7/3/2010 at 5:54 AM, Hannibal said:

Unlike certain literalists, these expressions are not taken literally in the Shi'i understanding. We have plenty of hadiths that use water, wind, rock, earth metaphorically, just as "throne" and "pen" is used metaphorically in the Qur'an. Such recurrences are normal and I suggest you see Nafahat al-Wilayah, v. 1 starting p. 79 under the sermon of the creation of the world where Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi discusses such metaphorical terminology thoroughly. Here is the book in pdf format to make things easy for you: http://www.makaremmedia.com/compilation/PDF/Arabic/nafahat_al_velayah/nafahat_al_velayeh_01.PDF


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I would like to note that even if the hadith were not "saheeh" or some level of reliable by rigid isnad standards, we should investigate and try to understand the content of such narrations and compare them with others. A weak isnad, especially in these books by the Mutqaddimeen who put effort into making sure no fabricated nor interpolated hadith entered their books, does not mean the hadith has no root in its origin from the immaculate Imams عليهم السلام. 


في أمان الله


Ahsant! Glad to have you back and active again.

Edited by PureEthics

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al-Radhy has an amazing article about this. Here is a summary of the article:


The narration mentioned as a Sahih isnad and it has been repeated ( The earth is upon a whale ) with the words differentiating according to the Sunni and Shee`ah, and it has been mentioned 22 times in Islamic sources, 13 times in Shia books and 9 times in Sunni books.


Shia sources:

al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, - 3 hadith transmitted

al-Saduq, Man La Yahduruh al-Faqih`ilal al-Shara'i`al-Tawhid - 6 hadith mentioned

`Ali b. Ibrahim al-Qummi, Tafsir  - 2 hadith

al-Tabarasi, al-Ihtijaaj - 2


A friend and I have tried in the past to look for this hadith in the books of Saduq, and we could not find it except in al-Kafi and tafsir al-Qummi. So, I don't understand why Radhy has stated that they are found in Saduq's books when they don't seem to be. Can you find it in Saduq's books yourself? If so, please provide references. If you cannot, do you think Radhy has erred or does he mean something else?

Since he may have erred in attributing this hadith to certain Shi`a books, it may be worth confirming the presence of this hadith in those cited Sunni books, and providing references (or links).


Also, al-Albani explains away this hadith as being one of the Israeliyyat, but he doesn't explain how that fits with it having a reliable chain back to Ibn `Abbas. Any thoughts?



Edited by Cake

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Food for thought. For those of our ulema who rejected it due to aql standards. Would you think it was due to the limitations in science during their time? I would like to see the reasons why, for example Sheik Mufeed rejected the hadith. Maybe they would have changed their view on it now?



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If you attempted to look for the same wording, then you wouldn't have found it. al-Radhy does say that the wording of the hadith is different in the different sources. But the meanings of the hadith are relatively the same. Here are 5 of 6 sources he mentioned about this.


`ilal al-Sharaa'i
 1-  أبي رحمه الله قال حدثنا محمد بن يحيى العطار عن محمد بن أحمد عن يعقوب بن يزيد عن بعض أصحابه عن محمد بن سنان عمن ذكره عن أبي عبد الله ع قال إن الله تعالى خلق الأرض فأمر الحوت فحملتها فقالت حملتها بقوتي فبعث الله تعالى حوتا قدر شبر فدخلت في منخرها فاضطربت أربعين صباحا فإذا أراد الله تعالى أن يزلزل أرضا نزلت تلك الحوتة الصغيرة فزلزلت الأرض فرقا 
 3-  حدثنا محمد بن الحسن رحمه الله قال حدثنا محمد بن الحسن الصفار بإسناده رفعه إلى أحدهما ع أن الله تبارك و تعالى أمر الحوت بحمل الأرض و كل بلدة من البلدان على فلس من فلوسه فإذا أراد الله تعالى أن يزلزل أرضا أمر الحوت أن تحرك ذلك الفلس فتحركه و لو رفع الفلس لانقلبت الأرض بإذن الله عز و جل 
 20-  و بهذا الإسناد قال قال رسول الله ص إن لله عز و جل عمودا من ياقوتة حمراء رأسه تحت العرش و أسفله على ظهر الحوت في الأرض السابعة السفلى فإذا قال العبد لا إله إلا الله اهتز العرش و تحرك العمود و تحرك الحوت فيقول الله تبارك و تعالى اسكن يا عرشي فيقول كيف أسكن و أنت لم تغفر لقائلها فيقول الله تبارك و تعالى اشهدوا سكان سماواتي أني قد غفرت لقائلها 
Man La Yahduruh al-Faqih
1512-  وَ قَالَ الصَّادِقُ ع إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَبَارَكَ وَ تَعَالَى خَلَقَ الْأَرْضَ فَأَمَرَ الْحُوتَ فَحَمَلَتْهَا فَقَالَتْ حَمَلْتُهَا بِقُوَّتِي فَبَعَثَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ إِلَيْهَا حُوتاً قَدْرَ فِتْرٍ فَدَخَلَتْ فِي مَنْخِرِهَا فَاضْطَرَبَتْ أَرْبَعِينَ صَبَاحاً فَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ أَنْ يُزَلْزِلَ أَرْضاً تَرَاءَتْ لَهَا تِلْكَ الْحُوتَةُ الصَّغِيرَةُ فَزَلْزَلَتِ الْأَرْضَ فَرَقاً 
1513-  وَ قَالَ الصَّادِقُ ع إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَبَارَكَ وَ تَعَالَى أَمَرَ الْحُوتَ بِحَمْلِ الْأَرْضِ وَ كُلُّ بَلَدٍ مِنَ الْبُلْدَانِ عَلَى فَلْسٍ مِنْ فُلُوسِهِ فَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ أَنْ يُزَلْزِلَ أَرْضاً أَمَرَ الْحُوتَ أَنْ يُحَرِّكَ ذَلِكَ الْفَلْسَ فَيُحَرِّكُهُ وَ لَوْ رُفِعَ الْفَلْسُ لَانْقَلَبَتِ الْأَرْضُ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ  

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Additionally, why did the Imam a.s simply not give this verse?


"Indeed, Allah holds the heavens and the earth, lest they cease. And if they should cease, no one could hold them [in place] after Him. Indeed, He is Forbearing and Forgiving." QURAN


The verse states it is Allah swt who is holding the heavens(stars, planets, everything) as well as the earth itself, and one can stipulate this means his power - or perhaps the power of gravity which he has created. The verse gives the impression everything is suspended and it is Allah swt who has the power to keep it in that way. In-fact, it's obvious Allah swt holds the heavens, but what about the earth ?


How can you say it lays on a fish, even if you mean it allegorically? Why not give the simple answer, everything is suspended in space and held there by the power of Allah swt.


In my own opinion, there is someone in that chain who has made this up. Just my view. I could be wrong and may Allah swt forgive me. I take the view of some classical scholars who out-right reject it.

Edited by Tawheed313

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السلام عليكم

On 8/7/2014 at 2:42 PM, Cake said:

Also, al-Albani explains away this hadith as being one of the Israeliyyat, but he doesn't explain how that fits with it having a reliable chain back to Ibn `Abbas. Any thoughts?


Here is the ḥadīth in sunnī literature:


  أَخْبَرَنَا أَبُو زَكَرِيَّا يَحْيَى بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ الْعَنْبَرِيُّ ، ثنا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عَبْدِ السَّلامِ ، ثنا بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ ، أَنْبَأَ جَرِيرٌ ، عَنِ الأَعْمَشِ ، عَنْ أَبِي ظَبْيَانَ ، عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ الله عَنْهُمَا ، قَالَ : " إِنَّ أَوَّلَ شَيْءٍ خَلْقَهُ الله الْقَلَمُ ، فَقَالَ لَهُ : اكْتُبْ ، فَقَالَ : وَمَا أَكْتُبُ ؟ فَقَالَ : الْقَدَرُ ، فَجَرَى مِنْ ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمِ بِمَا هُوَ كَائِنٌ إِلَى أَنْ تَقُومَ السَّاعَةُ ، قَالَ : وَكَانَ عَرْشُهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ ، فَارْتَفَعَ بُخَارُ الْمَاءِ ، فَفُتِقَتْ مِنْهُ السَّمَاوَاتُ ، ثُمَّ خَلَقَ النُّونَ فَبُسِطَتِ الأَرْضُ عَلَيْهِ ، وَالأَرْضُ عَلَى ظَهْرِ النُّونِ فَاضْطَرَبَ النُّونُ فَمَادَتِ الأَرْضُ ، فَأُثْبِتَتْ بِالْجِبَالِ ، فَإِنَّ الْجِبَالَ تَفْخَرُ عَلَى الأَرْضِ " , هَذَا حَدِيثٌ صَحِيحٌ عَلَى شَرْطِ الشَّيْخَيْنِ وَلَمْ يُخَرِّجَاهُ .


3768- Reported to us Abū Zakirīyā Yaḥyā b. Muḥammad al-‘Anbarī, told us Muḥammad b. ‘Abd al-Salām, told us Ibn Ibrāhīm, reported to us Jarīr, from al-‘Amash, from Abī ẓabyān, from Ibn ‘Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them), said: "The first thing Allāh created was the pen (al-Qalam), so He [Allāh] said to it, 'write', so it said: 'and what shall I write?', so He said: 'write the fate (of everything)'. So it came to pass (the pen wrote) from that day, from everything existing, until the hour rises (judgment day). Said: And His throne was upon water, then the water of the oceans elevated, so the skies from it gashed. Then He created the whale, upon which the earth was laid flat on, and the earth upon the back of the whale. So then the whale quivered (became nervous) and the earth began to sway, so then it stabilized by the mountains. For the mountains be proud upon the earth (/lest the earth should move). [And this ḥadīth is Ṣaḥīḥ on the conditions of the Shaykhayn, and they did not issue it].


Sources [sunnī]:

  1. al-Ḥākim al-Nīsābūrī, al-Mustadrak ‘Ala al-Ṣaḥīḥayn, vol. 2, pg. 497, N. 3768.
  2. Ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī, al-Tarīkh, vol. 1, pg. 28-9, N. 72, 73, 74, 75. 
  3. al-Bayhaqī, Sunan al-Kubrā, vol. 8, pg. 344 N. 16265.
  4. al-ḍiya’ al-Maqdisī, al-Aḥādīth al-Mukhtārah, N. 3379.
  5. ‘Abd al-Razāq al-Sin‘ānī, vol. 3, pg. 329, N. 3186.
  6. Muḥammad b. Isḥāq b. Mundah, al-Tawḥīd, vol. 1, pg. 43, N. 59. 


  1. al-Ḥākim said this ḥadīth is Ṣaḥīḥ (Authentic) on the conditions of the Shaykhayn, and they did not issue it.
  2. al-Dhahabī said on the conditions of Bukhārī and Muslim.
    al-Mustadrak ‘Ala al-Ṣaḥīḥayn, vol. 2, pg. 497, N. 3768.
  3. I say: the narration is Mawqūf Mawṣūl (Connected halted), hence, this would be classified as `Athar (account). 


  • al-Albanī includes a similar version of the narrative from the Prophet [sa], in his compilation of fabricated and weak ḥadīths, and denounces the narrative to be from the Isrā’īlīyat (Israeli ḥadīth), followed by weakening of the chains. (see: al-Albanī, Silsilat al-Aḥādīth al-ḍa‘īfah wa al-Mawḍū‘ah, vol. 1, pg. 462-3, N. 294) However, he does not go through the chain that leads to Ibn ‘Abbas, with the similar content, because there are significant differences overall in the matn, and the narration is Mawqūf (halted)It is not far, that the narrative is from Israeli literature, as some have deduced, more specifically from Ka‘ab al-Aḥbār. That is to say: Ibn ‘Abbas, either received the narrative from an external Israeli source, or a highly potential Israeli source Ka‘ab al-Aḥbār. This stems from the following indications: Firstly, the narrative above is not from the Prophet , rather they are the words of Ibn ‘Abbas alone. Secondly, Ka‘ab al-Aḥbār narrates a ḥadīth mentioned in Abū Na‘īm's Ḥilyat al-Awlīya’ (vol. 6, pg. 8-9) that corresponds with the above narration from Ibn ‘Abbas, and Ka‘ab al-Aḥbār does not narrate it from the Prophet , rather on his own account. The narrative says that Shayṭan entered to the whale and whispered to him, to overthrow the earth, so Allah sent a creature into his brain, so it clamored to Allah, and the creature left, so the whale stabilized. The investigators of Tafsīr al-Tabarī, Dr. ‘Abd Allāh b. ‘Abd al-Muḥsin al-Turkī and Muḥammad Raḍwān ‘Arqaswasī, comment in the footnotes after al-Tabarī had mentioned the narrative: 'This report is an Israeli, no basis for it, and the author should have deemed his work higher above such reports' (see: al-Tabarī's , vol. 1, pg. 385). See how this narrative specifies further intricacies, which returns back to Ka‘ab al-Aḥbār. It is well known that Ka‘ab al-Aḥbār use to narrate Isrā’īlīyat (Israeli aḥadīth) to the companions from his previous texts (but not attributing them to the Prophet ), according to Sunnī rijāl compilers/scholars (see: al-Dhahabī, Sīyar `A‘lām al-Nubalā’, vol. 3, pg. 490). However, whether they have been ascribed to the Prophet or not, externally (e.g. scholars, copyist, compilers..etc) or internally (e.i, narrator), or whether they are deemed true for consistency with Islamic Law, Qur'an, and ḥadīth, that is an entire different matter. According to the conditions set by Ibn Taymīya concerning these narratives (Isrā’īlīyat), if it is silent in the Islamic Law, and there is no form of indication (Dalīl), in proving its falsehood, then it is halted upon. On the other hand, if it does coincide with the Islamic Law, then it is acceptable taken. Otherwise, it is false (Bāṭil) (see: Ibn Taymīya, Muqadimat Fī Uṣūl al-Tafsīr, pg. 26-29). The principle derives from the following Sunnī Ṣaḥīḥ (Authentic) ḥadīth, from the Prophet , said: "Convey from me even an Ayah of the Qur'an; relate traditions from Banu Israel, and there is no restriction on that; but he who deliberately forges a lie against me let him have his abode in the Hell." (see: al-Bukhārī's Ṣaḥīḥ, vol. 4, Book of knowledge [13], N. 1380). 

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Your faith should be increased when you come across a hadith such as this, don't be alarmed or worried from the wordings of the hadith, the Imam [as] is not misinformed nor is he a liar. He is speaking in a way where the meaning lies under what is being represented as is obvious from the flow of the hadith.

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