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FaithHistory

Abu Talib: The authenticity of the hadith of al-Musayyib [Part 3]

FaithHistory

Abu Talib: The authenticity of the hadith of al-Musayyib [Part 3]

“Then Allah’s Messenger said, ‘I will keep on asking Allah’s forgiveness for you unless I am forbidden [by Allah] to do so.'”

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It is narrated by al-Imam al-Bukhari in his Sahih, who said: “It was narrated to us by Ishaq, who said: It was reported to us by Ya’qub b. Ibrahim, who said: It was narrated to me by my father [Ibrahim b. Sa’d], who said: From Salih, who said: From Ibn Shihab [al-Zuhri], who said: It was reported to me by Sa’id b. al-Musayyib, from his father [al-Musayyib b. al-Huzn], that he [al-Musayyib] told him [his son, Sa’id], ‘When the time of the death of Abu Talib approached, Allah’s Messenger went to him and found Abu Jahl b. Hisham and `Abdullah b. Abi Umaiya b. Al-Mughira by his side. Allah’s Messenger said to Abu Talib, ‘O uncle! Say: La Ilaha Illa Allah [There is no entity worthy of worship except Allah], a sentence by which I shall be a witness [i.e. argue] for you before Allah’. Abu Jahl and `Abdullah b. Abi Umaiya said, ‘O Abu Talib! Are you going to denounce the religion of `Abd al-Muttalib?’ Allah’s Messenger kept on inviting Abu Talib to say it [i.e. the shahadatayn] while they [Abu Jahl and `Abdullah] kept on repeating their statement until Abu Talib said as his last statement that he was on the religion of ‘Abd al-Muttalib and refused to say, ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.’ Then Allah’s Messenger said, ‘I will keep on asking Allah’s forgiveness for you unless I am forbidden [by Allah] to do so.’ So Allah revealed [the verse] concerning him, ‘It is not fitting for the Prophet and those who believe that they should invoke (Allah) for forgiveness for pagans even though they be of kin, after it has become clear to them that they are companions of the fire.’ [al-Tawba: 113]” [1].

This hadith has been narrated by a few Companions such as al-‘Abbas b. ‘Abd al-Muttalib, his son Ibn ‘Abbas, and Abu Sa’id al-Khudri. Among all of them, the narration from al-Musayyib b. Huzn has been transmitted the most and recorded in the most authentic collections of Prophetic reports. Nonetheless, if one were to analyze the report and examine it with an honest academic critique, issues would be found not only in the text [matn] but in the chain [sanad] itself. In this part of the article series on Abu Talib, I will discuss the narration of al-Musayyib b. Huzn, and the issues that are found in the transmission of the report. The crux of this research on the hadith has been published by hadith scholars and experts within Ahlul Sunnah, including contemporary scholars such as Shaykh Muhammad Faisal al-Husayni in his book Al-Wuhdan.

It is necessary for us to begin with examining the chain of transmission for this report. The prototype report for this topic, the one we will examine, is the narration I mentioned above from al-Musayyib b. Huzn, as it is the strongest and most widely transmitted of them all. Despite its fame and record in authentic collections, there are a couple issues with the report that must be addressed by which, if the analysis is sound, further support the argument of those who are in favor of Abu Talib’s salvation. Firstly, the chain of transmission begins with the narrator of the event, the father of the famous Follower [i.e. tabi’i: someone who met Companions but never met/narrated from the Prophet] Sa’id b. al-Musayyib, Musayyib b. Huzn, so it is important that we are familiar with him as a person.

Chain of transmission

He, Musayyib b. Huzn, is Abu Sa’id, al-Musayyib b. Huzn b. Abi Wahb b. ‘Amru al-Makhzumi, the father of Sa’id b. al-Musayyib. He transmits reports from the Prophet, from his father Huzn, and from Abu Sufyan; and his son, Sa’id b. al-Musayyib, was the only one who ever narrated [hadiths] from him [2]. Al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar stated that al-Waqidi and Abu Mus’ab al-Zubayri claimed that al-Musayyib and his father Huzn were among those who became Muslim at the Conquest of Mecca in 8AH [3]. This is contested by Ibn Hajar who states that they were both present and witnessed al-Hudhaibiya (the treaty in 7AH), and that they also witnessed the conquests of al-Sham later on [4].

Musayyib’s son, Sa’id, was born in either the second or fourth year of ‘Umar b. al-Khattab’s caliphate. Imam Ibn Hibban recorded the father, al-Musayyib b. Huzn, as also being a tabi’i [i.e. Follower] and stated: “He narrates reports from his father Huzn who was killed at Yamama, but he never narrated anything from the Prophet” [5]. Furthermore, it is recorded that he is considered from among the narrators of hadith whose reports were only transmitted by a single narrator – no one else having ever narrated from him; a category of hadith narrators known as “wuhdan” [6]. The reports of such narrators are considered [potentially] problematic and require an extra-careful analysis, due to the very little corroboration that is available for verifying the person’s dabt (i.e. accuracy in transmission).

What furthers the issue is when such narrators are the sole transmitters of narrations that have no authentic corroborating reports. Imam Muslim mentioned in his book Kitab Al-Wuhdan wa’l Munfaridat that: “As for Al-Musayyib b. Huzn al-Makhzumi and Basra b. Aktham al-Khaza’i: No one narrated from them except Sa’id b. al-Musayyib.” Musayyib is also recorded as being from the wuhdan by al-Hakim [7], al-Darqutni [8], al-Nawawi[9], al-Hazimi [10], al-Maqdisi [11], al-San’ani[12], and al-Sakhawi [13].

Now that a brief introduction to al-Musayyib has been given, we must address the “an-anah used on his part in the transmission of this report. “An-anah is a term that the scholars of Hadith coined in reference to the usage of “that” in the transmission of a report. For example, when a narrator says: “It was narrated to me from so-and-so, from his father, that he reported to him that when…”, the usage of such ambiguous wording in relaying the chain of transmission does not affirm [nor deny] whether the transmitter did in fact see, hear, or witness anything from the Prophet. It is also a method used by those who camouflage their reports (i.e. tadlis); they did not actually hear or see the event, but narrate it as if they did, making it ambiguous as to who or what the direct source of the event was. 

Without going into too much more detail, “an-anah” does not bear any [authoritative] weight nor does it constitute [nor affirm] al-ittisal (i.e. affirmation of a connected/direct transmission) when used by a mudallis; a camouflaged narrator who uses ambiguous wordings when relaying his transmission. This can be genuine or malicious. Malicious intent is the intentional attempt to cover up the direct source of the narration, particularly if the source is known to be weak, in order to avoid discrediting the report itself.

Al-Musayyib’s an-anah

The an-anah of mudallis rather creates more ambiguity and room for other possibilities. Al-Musayyib makes no indication in the narration that he was actually present at the event of Abu Talib’s passing, nor whether he heard the account from somebody else who was. This leads us to beg the following questions: Was al-Musayyib b. Huzn actually present at the event of Abu Talib’s passing, and how old was he at that time? Or did he hear about the event from his father Huzn, and narrated it mursal? Or did he hear it from Abu Jahl himself, his fellow clan member from Banu Makhzum? Or from ‘Abdullah b. Abi Umaiyya, and thereafter transmitted it mursal? The mursal (i.e. loose) report is a report that is transmitted from a narrator who skips his immediate source(s) and narrates directly from a primary [or earlier] narrator whom he never met. Common cases of such reports are found where Tabi’in (i.e. Followers) narrate directly from the Prophet, skipping out on mentioning the Companion in their chain of transmission. Such a report is considered mursal, weak and non-authoritative.

The earliest record of al-Musayyib’s conversion was at the time of the Pledge of the Tree (i.e. Bay’atu’l Shajarah, 7AH), or during the Conquest of Mecca. In either case, there would have been a number of years between the death of Abu Talib and the conversion of al-Musayyib, the least being a decade between the two events. The fact of the matter is that just as much as it is possible that al-Musayyib was present at the event, it is just as likely that he was not – and therefore there is a solid level of ambiguity in the case. It is very possible that he heard this story from ‘Abdullah b. Abi Umaiyya al-Makhzumi (the other polytheist that the hadith does mention was present at the event) while ‘Abdullah was still a polytheist, or after he became Muslim at the Conquest of Mecca – making the hadith mursal at best. For the lack of evidence that al-Musayyib was at the event of Abu Talib’s passing, along with the manner of transmission, is sufficient enough to suggest that he did not witness the event himself.

Furthermore, since we know that Sa’id was not born until the earlier years of ‘Umar’s caliphate [13], then we can confidently say that at least two decades [approximately 23 years] stood between the death of Abu Talib and the birth of Musayyib’s son, Sa’id b. al-Musayyib, – the only transmitter of this report from his father, and the only narrator to ever transmit anything from al-Musayyib period. How many years would have had to pass for Sa’id to become old enough to hear this report from his father and understand it? If we give him the benefit of the situation, and agree that he was an incredibly intelligent and competent young child – then perhaps, between the death of Abu Talib and the transmission of this report from al-Musayyib [who was not present at the event of Abu Talib’s passing and most likely took the story from ‘Abdullah b. Abi Umaiyya al-Makhzumi and narrated it mursal] to his son Sa’id, there was a gap of about 26 or 27 years, along with the fact that no one else narrated it from al-Musayyib. 

So what is clear, based on everything thus far, is that the hadith is mursal (see earlier definition if necessary) from a narrator, al-Musayyib b. Huzn, who was not present at the event of the passing of Abu Talib and is classified as being from the wuhdan narrators – none having narrated anything from him except his son Sa’id. The very source of his narration is questionable and incredibly unclear, which means, at the very least, there is an element of unreliability.

Along with the fact there is a gap of at least a decade between the event itself and the conversion of the narrator al-Musayyib, and another gap of at least 25 years between the event itself and the very transmission of that event, from the narrator al-Musayyib to his son Sa’id – the only one who ever transmitted hadiths from him out of the entire corpus of narrators. This leads us to leave a question mark on the report at the very least, and seriously consider the arguments of those who argue in favor of Abu Talib’s salvation. However, the part of al-Musayyib’s transmission is not the only issue with this report, as there are a few other angles we can examine to get a better overall understanding of what we’re dealing with. This brings us to the next part of the article series, in which I will discuss another [infamous] narrator of this report.


Sources:

[1] Sahih al-Bukhari

[2] Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat

[3] Fathul Bari

[4] Fathul Bari

[5] Ibn Hibban, al-Thiqqat

[6] ‘Adab al-Hamsh, al-Wuhdan 

[7] Ma’rifat ‘Ulum al-Hadith

[8] al-Ilzamat

[9] al-Taqrib

[10] Shurut al-A’immat al-Khamsa

[11] Shurut al-Sitta

[12] al-Tawdhih

[13] Fathu’l Mughith

[14] Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat

Whilst you’re here…

The Muslim Vibe is a non-profit media platform aiming to inspire, inform and empower Muslims like you. Our goal is to provide a space for young Muslims to learn about their faith as well as news stories affecting them, so we can reclaim the Muslim narrative from the mainstream.

Your support will help us achieve this goal, and enable us to produce more original content. Your support can help us in the fight against Islamophobia, by building a powerful platform for young Muslims who can share their ideas, experiences and opinions for a better future.

Please consider supporting The Muslim Vibe, from as little as £1 – it will only take a minute. Thank you and Jazakallah.

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“Then Allah’s Messenger said, ‘I will keep on asking Allah’s forgiveness for you unless I am forbidden [by Allah] to do so.'”

It is narrated by al-Imam al-Bukhari in his Sahih, who said: “It was narrated to us by Ishaq, who said: It was reported to us by Ya’qub b. Ibrahim, who said: It was narrated to me by my father [Ibrahim b. Sa’d], who said: From Salih, who said: From Ibn Shihab [al-Zuhri], who said: It was reported to me by Sa’id b. al-Musayyib, from his father [al-Musayyib b. al-Huzn], that he [al-Musayyib] told him [his son, Sa’id], ‘When the time of the death of Abu Talib approached, Allah’s Messenger went to him and found Abu Jahl b. Hisham and `Abdullah b. Abi Umaiya b. Al-Mughira by his side. Allah’s Messenger said to Abu Talib, ‘O uncle! Say: La Ilaha Illa Allah [There is no entity worthy of worship except Allah], a sentence by which I shall be a witness [i.e. argue] for you before Allah’. Abu Jahl and `Abdullah b. Abi Umaiya said, ‘O Abu Talib! Are you going to denounce the religion of `Abd al-Muttalib?’ Allah’s Messenger kept on inviting Abu Talib to say it [i.e. the shahadatayn] while they [Abu Jahl and `Abdullah] kept on repeating their statement until Abu Talib said as his last statement that he was on the religion of ‘Abd al-Muttalib and refused to say, ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.’ Then Allah’s Messenger said, ‘I will keep on asking Allah’s forgiveness for you unless I am forbidden [by Allah] to do so.’ So Allah revealed [the verse] concerning him, ‘It is not fitting for the Prophet and those who believe that they should invoke (Allah) for forgiveness for pagans even though they be of kin, after it has become clear to them that they are companions of the fire.’ [al-Tawba: 113]” [1].

This hadith has been narrated by a few Companions such as al-‘Abbas b. ‘Abd al-Muttalib, his son Ibn ‘Abbas, and Abu Sa’id al-Khudri. Among all of them, the narration from al-Musayyib b. Huzn has been transmitted the most and recorded in the most authentic collections of Prophetic reports. Nonetheless, if one were to analyze the report and examine it with an honest academic critique, issues would be found not only in the text [matn] but in the chain [sanad] itself. In this part of the article series on Abu Talib, I will discuss the narration of al-Musayyib b. Huzn, and the issues that are found in the transmission of the report. The crux of this research on the hadith has been published by hadith scholars and experts within Ahlul Sunnah, including contemporary scholars such as Shaykh Muhammad Faisal al-Husayni in his book Al-Wuhdan.

It is necessary for us to begin with examining the chain of transmission for this report. The prototype report for this topic, the one we will examine, is the narration I mentioned above from al-Musayyib b. Huzn, as it is the strongest and most widely transmitted of them all. Despite its fame and record in authentic collections, there are a couple issues with the report that must be addressed by which, if the analysis is sound, further support the argument of those who are in favor of Abu Talib’s salvation. Firstly, the chain of transmission begins with the narrator of the event, the father of the famous Follower [i.e. tabi’i: someone who met Companions but never met/narrated from the Prophet] Sa’id b. al-Musayyib, Musayyib b. Huzn, so it is important that we are familiar with him as a person.

Chain of transmission

He, Musayyib b. Huzn, is Abu Sa’id, al-Musayyib b. Huzn b. Abi Wahb b. ‘Amru al-Makhzumi, the father of Sa’id b. al-Musayyib. He transmits reports from the Prophet, from his father Huzn, and from Abu Sufyan; and his son, Sa’id b. al-Musayyib, was the only one who ever narrated [hadiths] from him [2]. Al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar stated that al-Waqidi and Abu Mus’ab al-Zubayri claimed that al-Musayyib and his father Huzn were among those who became Muslim at the Conquest of Mecca in 8AH [3]. This is contested by Ibn Hajar who states that they were both present and witnessed al-Hudhaibiya (the treaty in 7AH), and that they also witnessed the conquests of al-Sham later on [4].

Musayyib’s son, Sa’id, was born in either the second or fourth year of ‘Umar b. al-Khattab’s caliphate. Imam Ibn Hibban recorded the father, al-Musayyib b. Huzn, as also being a tabi’i [i.e. Follower] and stated: “He narrates reports from his father Huzn who was killed at Yamama, but he never narrated anything from the Prophet” [5]. Furthermore, it is recorded that he is considered from among the narrators of hadith whose reports were only transmitted by a single narrator – no one else having ever narrated from him; a category of hadith narrators known as “wuhdan” [6]. The reports of such narrators are considered [potentially] problematic and require an extra-careful analysis, due to the very little corroboration that is available for verifying the person’s dabt (i.e. accuracy in transmission).

What furthers the issue is when such narrators are the sole transmitters of narrations that have no authentic corroborating reports. Imam Muslim mentioned in his book Kitab Al-Wuhdan wa’l Munfaridat that: “As for Al-Musayyib b. Huzn al-Makhzumi and Basra b. Aktham al-Khaza’i: No one narrated from them except Sa’id b. al-Musayyib.” Musayyib is also recorded as being from the wuhdan by al-Hakim [7], al-Darqutni [8], al-Nawawi[9], al-Hazimi [10], al-Maqdisi [11], al-San’ani[12], and al-Sakhawi [13].

Now that a brief introduction to al-Musayyib has been given, we must address the “an-anah used on his part in the transmission of this report. “An-anah is a term that the scholars of Hadith coined in reference to the usage of “that” in the transmission of a report. For example, when a narrator says: “It was narrated to me from so-and-so, from his father, that he reported to him that when…”, the usage of such ambiguous wording in relaying the chain of transmission does not affirm [nor deny] whether the transmitter did in fact see, hear, or witness anything from the Prophet. It is also a method used by those who camouflage their reports (i.e. tadlis); they did not actually hear or see the event, but narrate it as if they did, making it ambiguous as to who or what the direct source of the event was. 

Without going into too much more detail, “an-anah” does not bear any [authoritative] weight nor does it constitute [nor affirm] al-ittisal (i.e. affirmation of a connected/direct transmission) when used by a mudallis; a camouflaged narrator who uses ambiguous wordings when relaying his transmission. This can be genuine or malicious. Malicious intent is the intentional attempt to cover up the direct source of the narration, particularly if the source is known to be weak, in order to avoid discrediting the report itself.

Al-Musayyib’s an-anah

The an-anah of mudallis rather creates more ambiguity and room for other possibilities. Al-Musayyib makes no indication in the narration that he was actually present at the event of Abu Talib’s passing, nor whether he heard the account from somebody else who was. This leads us to beg the following questions: Was al-Musayyib b. Huzn actually present at the event of Abu Talib’s passing, and how old was he at that time? Or did he hear about the event from his father Huzn, and narrated it mursal? Or did he hear it from Abu Jahl himself, his fellow clan member from Banu Makhzum? Or from ‘Abdullah b. Abi Umaiyya, and thereafter transmitted it mursal? The mursal (i.e. loose) report is a report that is transmitted from a narrator who skips his immediate source(s) and narrates directly from a primary [or earlier] narrator whom he never met. Common cases of such reports are found where Tabi’in (i.e. Followers) narrate directly from the Prophet, skipping out on mentioning the Companion in their chain of transmission. Such a report is considered mursal, weak and non-authoritative.

The earliest record of al-Musayyib’s conversion was at the time of the Pledge of the Tree (i.e. Bay’atu’l Shajarah, 7AH), or during the Conquest of Mecca. In either case, there would have been a number of years between the death of Abu Talib and the conversion of al-Musayyib, the least being a decade between the two events. The fact of the matter is that just as much as it is possible that al-Musayyib was present at the event, it is just as likely that he was not – and therefore there is a solid level of ambiguity in the case. It is very possible that he heard this story from ‘Abdullah b. Abi Umaiyya al-Makhzumi (the other polytheist that the hadith does mention was present at the event) while ‘Abdullah was still a polytheist, or after he became Muslim at the Conquest of Mecca – making the hadith mursal at best. For the lack of evidence that al-Musayyib was at the event of Abu Talib’s passing, along with the manner of transmission, is sufficient enough to suggest that he did not witness the event himself.

Furthermore, since we know that Sa’id was not born until the earlier years of ‘Umar’s caliphate [13], then we can confidently say that at least two decades [approximately 23 years] stood between the death of Abu Talib and the birth of Musayyib’s son, Sa’id b. al-Musayyib, – the only transmitter of this report from his father, and the only narrator to ever transmit anything from al-Musayyib period. How many years would have had to pass for Sa’id to become old enough to hear this report from his father and understand it? If we give him the benefit of the situation, and agree that he was an incredibly intelligent and competent young child – then perhaps, between the death of Abu Talib and the transmission of this report from al-Musayyib [who was not present at the event of Abu Talib’s passing and most likely took the story from ‘Abdullah b. Abi Umaiyya al-Makhzumi and narrated it mursal] to his son Sa’id, there was a gap of about 26 or 27 years, along with the fact that no one else narrated it from al-Musayyib. 

So what is clear, based on everything thus far, is that the hadith is mursal (see earlier definition if necessary) from a narrator, al-Musayyib b. Huzn, who was not present at the event of the passing of Abu Talib and is classified as being from the wuhdan narrators – none having narrated anything from him except his son Sa’id. The very source of his narration is questionable and incredibly unclear, which means, at the very least, there is an element of unreliability.

Along with the fact there is a gap of at least a decade between the event itself and the conversion of the narrator al-Musayyib, and another gap of at least 25 years between the event itself and the very transmission of that event, from the narrator al-Musayyib to his son Sa’id – the only one who ever transmitted hadiths from him out of the entire corpus of narrators. This leads us to leave a question mark on the report at the very least, and seriously consider the arguments of those who argue in favor of Abu Talib’s salvation. However, the part of al-Musayyib’s transmission is not the only issue with this report, as there are a few other angles we can examine to get a better overall understanding of what we’re dealing with. This brings us to the next part of the article series, in which I will discuss another [infamous] narrator of this report.


Sources:

[1] Sahih al-Bukhari

[2] Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat

[3] Fathul Bari

[4] Fathul Bari

[5] Ibn Hibban, al-Thiqqat

[6] ‘Adab al-Hamsh, al-Wuhdan 

[7] Ma’rifat ‘Ulum al-Hadith

[8] al-Ilzamat

[9] al-Taqrib

[10] Shurut al-A’immat al-Khamsa

[11] Shurut al-Sitta

[12] al-Tawdhih

[13] Fathu’l Mughith

[14] Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat

Whilst you’re here…

The Muslim Vibe is a non-profit media platform aiming to inspire, inform and empower Muslims like you. Our goal is to provide a space for young Muslims to learn about their faith as well as news stories affecting them, so we can reclaim the Muslim narrative from the mainstream.

Your support will help us achieve this goal, and enable us to produce more original content. Your support can help us in the fight against Islamophobia, by building a powerful platform for young Muslims who can share their ideas, experiences and opinions for a better future.

Please consider supporting The Muslim Vibe, from as little as £1 – it will only take a minute. Thank you and Jazakallah.

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