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Offline Reader Questions

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The Unreliability of Shihab Zuhri
« on: July 01, 2013, 09:00:44 PM »
Dear brother.

I came across an interesting article about the character of Imam Zohri, a famous hadith narrator. The author of this article asserts that the personality of Imam Zohri is rather suspicious. I read somewhere that many ahadith which talk about the 2nd coming of Prophet Isa (pbuh) have been narrated by Imam Zohri.

Here's the article:

I thought you might find it interesting, and maybe you can shed some more light on this.


Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: The Unreliability of Shihab Zuhri
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2013, 09:03:25 PM »
As-salam alaykum

Notwithstanding what you have shared in the linked article, there is undoubtedly much discussion in Islamic academia (especially in Western scholarship) as to the reliability of the traditions by Shihab Zuhri and those generally ascribed to him.

As was noted by Joseph Schacht and later supported by examples:

"But towards the end of the second century A.H., Zuhri had already been credited with many spurious and often contradictory opinions, and his name inserted in isnads of traditions which did not yet exist in his time and from which fictitious statements on his supposed doctrine were abstracted. He appears as the common link in the isnads of a number of traditions from the Prophet, from Companions and from Successors; Zuhri himself was hardly responsible for the greater part of these traditions." [1]

Laith ibn' Sa'd's alleged letter written to Malik ibn Anas, the early Jurist, is already well acknowledged as is evident in the article you have shared:

"Ibn Shihab (al-Zuhri) would give many contradicting statements, when we would meet him. While if any one of us would ask him something in writing, he, in spite of being so learned, would give three contradictory answers to the same question. He would not even be aware of what he had said about the issue in the past. This is what prompted me to give up what you do not approve of [i.e. quoting a narrative on the authority of ibn Shihab]" [2]

Zuhri's traditions were also taken by the earliest 'professional' biographers of the Prophet such as Ibn Ishaq whose own credibility has often attracted much criticism [3]. See the popular narrative of the 'Night journey and ascent to heaven' (Isra and Mi'raj) that the Prophet undertook where he also received the alleged 'reduced' command for 5 prayers which has today become the mainstay of popular Muslim belief [4].

The whole elaborate narrative with its fine details has arguably very dubious, fluid beginnings. [5]

For a detailed analysis, please see 'Between History and Legend: The Biography of the Prophet Muhammad by Ibn Shihāb al-Zuhrī' by Boekhoff-van der Voort, N.A. (298200716), which is a 376 page dissertation published in 2012 (ISBN: 9789081840804). Please also see an article by Harald Motzki, Chapter One, entitled 'The Jurisprudence of Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri. A Source-Critical Study', which is published in a Book published by Brill (2010), entitled 'Analysing Muslim Traditions: Studies in Legal, Exegetical and Maghāzī Ḥadīṯ'' by Nicolet Boekhoff- van der Voort and Sean W. Anthony.

I hope that helps, God willing.


[1] SCHACT. J, The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, Oxford At The Clarendon Press, first published 1950, Chapter 5, The Medinise and Meccans, B. Zuhri, page 246
[2] QAYYIM. I A’laam al-Muwaqqi’in, Daru’l-Jayl, Beirut, Volume 2, Page 85
[4] THE NIGHT JOURNEY AND THE ASCENT TO HEAVEN, "...The following account reached me from 'Abdullah b. Mas'ud and Abu Sa'id al-Khudri, and Aisha the prophet's wife, and Mu'awiya b.Abu Sufyan, and al-Hasan b. Abul-Hasan al-Basri, and Ibn Shihab al Zuhri and Qatada and other traditionalists, and Umm Hani' d. of Abu Talib. It is pieced together in the story that follows, each one contributing something of what he was told about what happened ..." GUILLAUME. A, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, Oxford University Press, Page 181
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell