‘Seal of the Prophets’: Transmission and authenticity of a key tradition by Hazrat Aisha

Iftekhar Ahmed, Ahmadiyya Archive & Research Centre

One of the traditions that the Promised Messiahas cited in order to explain his status as the Messiah promised by the Messengersa of Allah, is the following saying of ‘A’ishara (d. 58/678), one of the honourable wives of Allah’s Messengersa and beloved mothers of the believers. She said:

قُولُوا: خاتَمُ النَّبِيِّينَ، ولا تَقُولُوا: لا نَبِيَّ بَعْدَهُ

“Say, ‘The Seal of the Prophets,’ and do not say, ‘There is no Prophet after him’.” (Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. 2022. Malfuzat. Engl. trans. Vol. 10. p. 538.)

This particular tradition, which is also frequently cited by Ahmadi Muslims in general, is found, among other sources, in the exegetical secondary source ad-Durr al-manthur by Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti (d. 911/1505). In the beginning, Ahmadi Muslims cited this quotation exclusively from this source. as-Suyuti writes:

وأخرج ابْن أبي شيبَة عَن عائِشَة رضي اللّٰہُ عنها […]

“And Ibn Abi Shayba reports from ‘A’ishara […]”. (as-Suyuti. 2003. ad-Durr al-manthur fi t-tafsir bi-l-ma’thur. ed. ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abd al-Muhsin at-Turki. Vol. 12. p. 64.)

So, as-Suyuti is actually quoting Ibn Abi Shayba (d. 235/849) here, that is, from his work al-Musannaf. However, since as-Suyuti did not provide or cite a chain of transmission and an edition of Ibn Abi Shayba’s work was not available for a long period of time, it became an easy target for non-Ahmadi critics to wholly dismiss the tradition very early on.

It, nevertheless, is a damning indictment of the competency of those critics that they conveniently ignored the fact that many eminent scholars of early to late times engaged with this tradition and in its interpretation (ta’wil) instead of rejecting it. (Cf. Ibn Qutayba. 1999. Ta’wil mukhtalif al-hadith. ed. Muhammad Muhyi d-Din al-Asfar. Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami. pp. 271f.)

The matter took a first turn, when, in the latter half of the twentieth century, the first editions and publications of al-Musannaf began to emerge. Since a chain of transmission was now generally accessible, this tradition was also brought forward along with it by Ahmadi Muslims. This then heralded the next level of criticism of this tradition, namely on the basis of a critique of the authenticity of the chain of transmission.

The following is the chain of transmission found in early editions of al-Musannaf:

حَدَّثَنا حُسَيْنُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ، قالَ: حَدَّثَنا جَرِيرُ بْنُ حازِمٍ، عَنْ عائِشَةَ

“Husayn b. Muhammad narrated to us, he said: Jarir b. Hazim narrated to us from ‘A’ishara, […]”.

This chain can, for example, be found in the following editions of Ibn Abi Shayba’s al-Musannaf:

  1. 1981. ed. Mukhtar Ahmad an-Nadwi. Bombay: ad-Dar as-Salafiyya. Vol. 9. p. 109.

2. 1989. ed. Kamal Yusuf al-Hut. Beirut: Dar at-Taj. Vol. 5. p. 336.

3. 1995. ed. Muhammad ‘Abd as-Salam Shahin. Beriut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya. Vol. 5. p. 337.

The objection was that, because of the fact that, according to these editions, Jarir b. Hazim (d. 170/786) apparently narrated directly from ‘A’ishara, the chain of transmission was interrupted (munqati‘), as Jarir b. Hazim was born in the year 85/704, which makes the gap between his birth and ‘A’isha’sra death twenty-seven years. This is why, for example, Bakr b. ‘Abd Allah Abu Zayd (d. 1429/2008), a leading Saudi Salafi scholar, wrote about this tradition:

وهذا الأثر منقطع؛ جرير بن حازم لم يسمع من عائشة – رضي  اللّٰہ عنها –

“And this tradition is interrupted (munqati‘). Jarir b. Hazim did not hear [any traditions] from ‘A’ishara.” (Bakr b. ‘Abd Allah Abu Zayd. 1996. Mu‘jam al-manahi al-lafziyya. Riyadh: Dar al-‘Asima. p. 698.)

However, as the story would turn out, this was a misjudgement based only on the fact that the previous editors had done abysmal work when it comes to their editorial practice. There is a missing link between Jarir b. Hazim and ‘A’ishara, namely Muhammad b. Sirin (d. 110/729), who is actually present in the manuscripts. So, the actual chain of transmission is the following:

حَدَّثَنا حُسَيْنُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ، قالَ: حَدَّثَنا جَرِيرُ بْنُ حازِمٍ، عَنْ مُحَمَّدٍ عَنْ عائِشَةَ

“Husayn b. Muhammad narrated to us, he said: Jarir b. Hazim narrated to us, from Muhammad [b. Sirin], from ‘A’ishara, […]”.

This complete chain can, for example, be found in the following editions of Ibn Abi Shayba’s al-Musannaf:

  1. 2004. ed. Hamad b. ‘Abd Allah al-Jum‘a; Muhammad b. Ibrahim al-Lahidan. Riyadh: Maktabat ar-Rushd. Vol. 8. p. 620.

2. 2006. ed. Muhammad ‘Awwama. Jeddah: Sharikat Dar al-Qibla; Damascus: Mu’assasat ‘Ulum al-Quran. Vol. 13. p. 522.

3. 2008. ed. Abu Muhammad Usama b. Ibrahim b. Muhammad. Cairo: al-Faruq al-Haditha li-t-Tiba‘a wa-n-Nashr. Vol. 8. p. 622.

4. 2015. ed. Sa‘d b. Nasir b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Abu Habib ash-Shathri. Riyadh: Dar Kunuz Ishbiliya li-n-Nashr wa-t-Tawzi‘. Vol. 14. p. 521.

This poor editing work is also noted in the more recent editions. For example, footnote 2 in (3) after Ibn Sīrīn’s name, states:

زيادة من الأصول سقطت من المطبوع

“An addition from the original sources that was omitted from the [previous] printed edition[s].”

And in (4) it says in footnote 3 on the name of Ibn Sirin:

سقط من: [ﻫ].

“Omitted in ha’.”

i.e., omitted in the edition of ad-Dar as-Salafiyya.

Having resolved this issue, the critics then came up with their next contention, i.e., that this is a mursal tradition. For example, the al-Faruq edition writes in footnote 3, which was added to the end of the tradition:

إسناده مرسل، محمد بن سيرين لم يسمع من عائشة رضي اللّٰہ عنها كما قال أبو حاتم وغيره.

“Its chain of transmission is mursal. Muhammad b. Sirin did not hear [any traditions] from ‘A’ishara as Abu Hatim and others have stated.”

A tradition is mursal (pl. marasil/mursalat) when a tabi‘i does not name the direct source from which he transmitted it. The emergence of mursal traditions can be attributed to the fact that early Muslim scholars did not place as much emphasis on providing detailed chains of transmission for every report. This tendency was prevalent in the first few generations of Muslims, and scholars at that time would, for example, sometimes reference the Prophet’ssa traditions while discussing a legal issue informally without necessarily providing a chain of transmission.

And indeed, as two experts on hadith criticism, namely Ibn Ma‘in (d. 233/848) and Abu Hatim ar-Razi (d. 277/890), affirm, Ibn Sirin did not in fact hear any traditions directly from ‘A’ishara (See: Yahya ibn Ma‘in. 1985. Ma‘rifat al-rijal. ed. Muhammad Kamil al-Qassar. Damascus: Majma‘ al-Lugha al-‘Arabiyya. Vol. 1. p. 127. And: Ibn Abi Hatim. 1998. Kitab al-marasil. ed. Shukr Allah b. Ni‘mat Allah Quchani. Beirut: Mu’assasat ar-Risala. p. 188.)

Since mursal reports have incomplete chains of transmission and one cannot be sure from whom a tabi‘i is narrating, these traditions are mostly considered unreliable by hadith critics. However, after extensive research on mursal reports of some early transmitters, hadith critics approved of the mursal reports of certain transmitters.

This was precisely the case with the mursal reports transmitted by Ibn Sirin.

Imam Ahmad (d. 241/855), for example, said:

مرسلات ابن سيرين صحاح، حسنة المخرج.

“The mursal traditions of Ibn Sirin are authentic reports (sihah), with good sources [of narration].” (Abu Ya‘la. 1993. al-‘Udda fi usul al-fiqh. ed. Ahmad b. ‘Ali Sayr al-Mubaraki. Riyadh: al-Mamlaka al-‘Arabiyya al-Sa‘udiyya. vol. 3. p. 924.)

The renowned hadith scholar Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr was the most explicit in elaborating the quality of the mursal reports of Ibn Sirin. He said:

وكل من عرف أنه لا يأخذ إلا عن ثقة فتدليسه ومرسله مقبول فمراسيل سعيد بن المسيب ومحمد بن سيرين وإبراهيم النخعي عندهم صحاح

“And every narrator about whom it is known that he only took from trustworthy transmitters (thiqa), his tadlis and mursal transmission is accepted, so the mursal traditions of Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyab, Muhammad ibn Sirin and Ibrahim an-Nakha’i are in their view authentic reports (sahih).” (Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr. 1967. at-Tamhid li-ma fi l-Muwatta’ min al-ma‘ani wa-l-asanid. ed. Mustafa b. Ahmad al-‘Alawi; Muhammad ‘Abd al-Kabir al-Bakri. Rabat: Matba‘at al-Fadala. Vol. 1. p. 30.)

And he said that there was a consensus (ijma‘) among hadith scholars to accept Ibn Sirin’s mursal reports:

أجمع أهل العلم بالحديث أن ابن سيرين أصح التابعين مراسل وأنه كان لا يروي ولا يأخذ إلا عن ثقة وأن مراسله صحاح

“The hadith scholars unanimously agree that Ibn Sirin was the most reliable of the tabi‘un in transmitting mursal reports, and that he only narrated and took reports from trustworthy transmitters, and that his mursal reports were authentic.” (Ibid. Vol. 8. p. 301.)

He further said:

ورواه محمد بن سيرين عن عائشة وما أظنه سمعه منها ومراسيل ابن سيرين عندهم صحاح كمراسيل سعيد بن المسيب

“And Muhammad b. Sirin narrated this from ‘A’ishara, and I do not think that he heard it directly from her. However, Ibn Sirin’s mursal reports are considered authentic by them, just like the mursal reports of Sa‘id b. al-Musayyab.” (Ibid. Vol. 24. p. 48.)

Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328) regards a particular mursal report that is narrated by Ibn Sirin as highly authentic. He says:

وهذا الإسناد من أصح إسناد على وجه الأرض. ومحمد بن سيرين من أورع الناس في منطقه، ومراسيله من أصح المراسيل.

“And this chain of transmission is one of the most authentic chains of transmission on the face of the earth. Muhammad b. Sirin is one of the most scrupulous individuals in his speech, and his mursal reports are among the most authentic mursal reports.” (Ibn Taymiyya. 1986. Minhaj as-sunna an-nabawiyya: fi naqd kalam ash-Shi‘a wa-l-Qadariyya. ed. Muhammad Rashad Salim. Riyadh: Jami‘at al-Imam Muhammad ibn Sa‘ud al-Islamiyya. Vol. 6. pp. 236f.)

He also repeats that Ibn Sirin exclusively transmits from reliable narrators:

ومنهم من يميز بين من عادته لا يرسل إلا عن ثقة، كسعيد بن المسيب، وإبراهيم النخعي، ومحمد بن سيرين، وبين من عرف عنه أنه قد يرسل عن غير ثقة

“[A]nd some of them distinguish between those who were known to only transmit from trustworthy sources, such as Sa‘id b. al-Musayyab, Ibrahim an-Nakha’i, and Muhammad b. Sirin, and those who were known to transmit from unreliable sources”. (Ibn Taymiyya. 1998. Iqtida’ as-sirat al-mustaqim li-mukhalafat ashab al-jahim. ed. Nasr b. ‘Abd al-Karim al-‘Aql. Riyadh. Dar Ishbiliya. Vol. 2. p. 350.)

Further details and more on the specific reasons why scholars accepted Ibn Sirin’s mursal reports can, for instance, be found in this work: Hissa bint ‘Abd al-‘Aziz as-Saghir. 2000. al-Hadith al-mursal bayna l-qabul wa-r-radd. Jeddah: Dar al-Andalus al-Khadra’; Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm.

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here