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Islamic Salvation

Basic Rules In Ilm Al-Rijal (Acc. To Al-Muhsini)

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The First Discussion


These are the rules which are required to be understood and followed by the one who wants to investigate the condition of the narrators, so that if even one of them is ignored, the truth will not be reached to, and these rules with their description are given below:

1. The Wathaqa of the one giving the Tawthiq or Tadhif

This rule is inferred by the the necessity of not depending (following) the words of a Kadhab or a Majhul person in the Ta’dil or Tadhif of somebody else.

And it is because of this rule that we do not accept the Tawthiqat and Tadhifat of a number of scholars, among them: Nasr b. Sabah, al-Uqayqi – both father and son – Ibn Nadim; for the lack of the establishment of their own Tawthiq [thus they are Majhul].

Similarly, we do not accept the witness of someone upon/about himself, for it results in circularity of logic.

So if a Majhul narrator narrates his own praise from the Imam, we do not rule upon his Tawthiq using his own narration, what we need to do is - first prove his Wathaqa (apriori) before we can accept any of his narrations, so how can we prove his Tawthiq using his own narration? Would this not constitute a clear infinite regression?

2. Similarity in meaning of Adalah

Know that Tawthiq is given to a narrator if he posesses Adalah, but the meaning of Adalah to the Muta’akhir scholar may be different than to the Mutaqadim scholar.

If we assume that Adalah to the one giving the Tawthiq simply requires him - being a Muslim and not exposing (or having apparent) Fisq [Asl al-Adalah] like it has been attributed to some of the past scholars, but to us it means a state/condition requiring much more than that, then the Tawthiq given by those who hold the former meaning of Adalah will not be beneficial to us, in fact, it will not even reveal the truthfulness of the narrator in question, and this is a rule whose ignorance cannot be tolerated.

[in other words – the meaning of Adalah must be the same between how we understand it today and how it was understood by the one giving the Tawthiq, for the Tawthiq to be relevant and useful to us, meaning - the Tawthiq given by the Mutaqadim who gives it due to his belief in Asl al-Adalah will not benefit us presently, since we do not consider Asl al-Adalah to be a valid principle] 

Adalah is defined by most modernist scholars as the performance of all the Wajibat and the protection of oneself against the all the Haramat, it is proactive not reactive as Asl al-Adalah was.


3. Hujiyyah of Hiss and Ibtal of Hadas in Ilm ar-Rijal

The one giving the Tawthiq must be contemporary to the narrator he is giving Tawthiq to, so that we are assured that his evaluation is based on his Hiss [sensory observation] and that he witnessed the signs of Adalah or the signs of Sidq from the subject of the Tawthiq


We must have (I) certain knowledge or (II) justifiable possibility
- that - the one giving the Tawthiq has obtained it (i.e. the Tawthiq) from a connected chain of predecessors, and that it was reported to him the signs of Adalah or Sidq through individual from individual (going upwards) until it reached to the contemporary of the subject of the Tawthiq.

And if we are to assume that both these options are not present, the words of the one giving the Tawthiq are not a Hujjah unto us, for he is deriving the Tawthiq from far-away (generational gap) Hadas (cognitive function), and Hadas is not a Mu’tabar Khabar Wahid.

One may say: Adalah as you define it is a condition which someone posesses, so it cannot be observed by the senses.

It is Answered: Yes, it is true that Adalah is a condition that someone posesses and therefore not tangible, but its signs can be observed, and this is enough.

So, in conslusion, there is no dependence upon the Tawthiq or Tahsin if we do not have certain knowledge or justifiable possibility that it is based (originates) from a connected chain to the contemporary of the subject of the Tawthiq who based it on his Hiss [sensory observation].

And it is because of this rule that we do not accept the independent Tawthiq and Tahsin of our Muta’akhir scholars - like the Allamah, and the Shahidayn, and al-Majlisi and their like, when they give it to the companions of the Sadiqayn, for they could not have witnessed the signs of Adalah and Sidq of these companions by observation, and also, we cannot possibly justify that their Tawthiqat and Tadhifat are coming through a connected chain from their predecessors and reaching to the contemporaries of these companions, except that any such chain if it exists would certainly have passed through the Shaykh and an-Najashi and their like, and if so – they do not have anything new to add which we cannot obtain from the Shaykh or an-Najashi and their like directly.

Using this rule, one can argue against the words of the Shaykh and an-Najashi in strengthening and weakening the companions of Amir al-Mu’mineen and al-Hasanayn, due to the lengthy gap in-between and the unjustifiability of even the possibility that these information coming down to them in a connected chain [since they have not mentioned the Turuq].

4. The Tawthiq should not be Mursal

[When we look at the Tawthiqat availabe to us from the three main sources of the accepted Tawthiqat, that is the Shaykh, an-Najashi and al-Kashi, and how they fulfill the previous rule, in the case of al-Kashi we have certain knowledge that the Tawthiqat of the companions of the Sadiqayn and others were obtained via a connected chain reaching to the contemporaries of the subjects of Tawthiq (since he recorded the Turuq in his book), and in the case of the Shaykh and an-Najashi we have justifiable possibility that they were basing the majority of their Tawthiqat on Naql that is via a connected chain - this judgement is due to the Indicators present in their own works [like their obvious dependence on their Shuyukh and the past books, and the words in their Muqadimma – Introductory prefaces].

But this fourth rule requires of them to mention the Wasita – intermediaries – between them and the original (principal) giver of the Tawthiq or Tahsin who is a contemporary of the subject of the Tawthiq or Tahsin (i.e. the narrator in question).

And this is what is not available, and more about this rule and what it means to Ilm ar-Rijal will follow in the Fourth Discussion in detail, and it is this that will decide whether Ilm ar-Rijal is more beneficial or less.

5. The Tawthiq or Tadhif should reach US via a Mu’tabar chain

And it is because of this rule that we do not accept what has been attributed to Ibn Uqdah, Ibn al- Ghadhairi and al-Barqi about the Tawthiq and Tadhif of narrators, for their books have not reached us through a Mu’tabar chain. 

6. The Reasons for the Tawthiq and Tadhif mentioned by the scholars of Jarh and Ta’dil should be acceptable based on Shariah, Aql and Urf (customary usage)

And more detail about this rule, and what has happened in contravention to it - due to the misunderstandings of most scholars will follow in the Second Discussion.

And you will come to know there, that some have understood Adalah or Sidq due to matters that do not allow such an understanding at all.

[Example: some have based the word of the Shaykh about Ali b. Muhammad b. Qutayba, wherein he said about him 'Fadhil' to be revealing his Tawthiq or Tahsin, and this is not acceptable to al-Muhsini]

[For the Madh/Husn (praise) that al-Mushini accepts to give Tahsin is the one that reveals the Sidq of the narrator in question, so what is the relation between being Fadhil and being Sadiq he asks?]


7. The words of the one giving the Tawthiq or Tahsin should be clear – based on the rules of the language and not general or given to contradiction

And due to the contravening of this rule, there has occurred Ikhtilaf over the Tawthiq of al-Husayn b. Ulwan, this is due to the difficulty in understanding the apparent words of an-Najashi – on whether the Tawthiq refers back to al-Husyan (the subject of the Tarjama) or his brother al-Hasan.

8. The Tawthiq or Tadhif should not have a contradicting Mu’tabar opponent

When there is a Mu’tabar Tawthiq and a Mu’tabar Tadhif about the same narrator, they clash and both are dropped (none is followed) except if one is closer/more in accordance – like the words of the Shaykh and an-Najashi in the case of the narrator Salim b. Mukrim, where the scholars have found an opening in not following this rule, by ruling that an-Najashi is more aware in this field, and so his decision takes precedence.

These, then are the important rules for Ta’dil and Tajrih and Tahsin and Tadhif, which we repeat once more, are necessary to keep in mind and follow, and there is no dependence on the words of the Rijaliyun in proving Madh and Dhamm that are outside (do not follow) these rules. 

Edited by Islamic Salvation

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It should be noted that this method of Jarh and Ta`dil is based on the foundational principles of Sayyid al-Khu'i رحمه الله for the purpose of attain probativity of action by narration in order to act upon it and give fatwa. It only provides probability and not a tool on its own - in its most basic sense - to reach historicity. This methodology assumes things such as that the jarh and ta`dil of Qudama was Hissi, which is disputed by other scholars.


والله الأعلم

في أمان الله

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It would not constitute an infinite regress but circularity only.

However, what does constitute an infinite regress in way too many cases is the Shaykh's claim that the reliability of a narrator must first be determined outside of his narration.

This is because of the following:


All our knowledge is based on narrations, and our narrations are of two kinds, wahid and ghayr wahid (mustafid and mutawatir), and for every narrator that is not proven reliable by either ghayr wahid narrations or wahid narrations in which the narrators are directly or indirectly, but in any case ultimately, proven reliable by ghayr wahid narrations, then that narrator is proven through a chain of wahid in which all narrators are proven through further ahad and so on, and thus their reliability is never proven

For ease of comprehension, this is analogous to Avicenna's proof for wajib ul wujud, so it is a burhan and its conclusion is known with certitude.

The Shaykh's claim undermines the validity of the 'indirect' grounding in ghayr wahid, and therefore every narrator would require immediate ghayr wahid tawthiq.


How many of these chains of tawthiq and tad'if are grounded at each level in ghayr wahid

Too few if any.

If not, then the Shaykh's claim would either have to be abandoned and replaced by a more accommodating maxim or only narrators proven reliable by ghayr wahid narrations should be relied upon, and this would render most narrators unproven, and this would make the 'ilm useless for its ultimate purpose, which is to aid in making known the genuine reports from the Infallible.



al-Muhsini says Dawr which is circularity in Logic, it is my mistake to choose another word which is not synonymous to it as you rightly point out.


The model of Rijali information evolution that would avoid this problem that you raise here [of infinite regression] include the following:


One is that each Shaykh would only take Rijali information from someone whom he considers Thiqah (otherwise it defeats the whole purpose of gathering this info). He can evaluate this (without recourse to Naql) because he can establish the Wathaqa of his Shaykh directly and without needing any intermediaries and so on it goes up and beyond. We know of the Ahad Turuq al-Kubra that have brought down the legacy of most things including Hadith in our Madhhab.


Another possibility that can modify the above is that there was initially a group of unassailable Shuyukh in the critical two Tabaqa’s immediately after al-Sadiq [where the most number of narrations began circulation and there was a Rijali awakening due to the increase in fabrications] whose Tawthiq is beyond actually needing verbatim disclaimers to that effect [meaning their Wathaqa proven through Shuhra and not testimony – this is further strengthened by considering their status with the Aimma as part of the collective memory], and these would have begun to evaluate the direct narrators whom they were taking Hadith from as part of their scholarship [there is enough Qarain to show that they did indeed practice Rijali evaluations], they would then pass down their findings which were accepted as the normative base of men from whom the Deen is taken which were finally codified in the books we know today. 


These findings once widely disseminated to their peers came down by being corroborated numerous times and thus solid - the scholars of the whole Taifah seem to be unanimous in their censure of certain figures [i.e. most Rijali info seem to originate from a close group of scholarly kingpins who practiced this and their conclusions accepted and any dissension noted]. In others words a core group of trustworthy pillars setting the agenda from whom everything else arose and can be traced back to.   

Edited by Islamic Salvation

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