Alteration and Reorientation of Text in Twelver Shi'ism - II

The Khidr narration


In the Twelver corpus of hadiths, there is only one narration that lists out each of the twelve Imams by name which by their standards of isnad criticism would be deemed as sahih.  All other such hadiths would in some way fall sort from a rijali perspective, so as such it is an important narration to analyze, and often pointed to by them as a great proof of the veracity of their claim (see for instance Shaykh Jawad Tabrizi’s treatise on the twelve Imams)

The narration in question is found in al-Kafi as follows:


عدة من أصحابنا، عن أحمد بن محمد البرقي، عن أبي هاشم داود بن القاسم الجعفري، عن أبي جعفر الثاني عليه السلام قال أقبل أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام ومعه الحسن بن علي عليه السلام وهو متكئ على يد سليمان فدخل المسجد الحرام فجلس إذ أقبل رجل حسن الهيئة واللباس فسلم على أمير المؤمنين، فرد عليه السلام فجلس، ثم قال: يا أمير المؤمنين أسألك عن ثلاث مسائل إن أخبرتني بهن علمت أن القوم ركبوا من أمرك ما قضى عليهم وأن ليسوا بمأمونين في دنياهم وآخرتهم وإن تكن الاخرى علمت أنك وهم شرع سواء. فقال له أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام سلني عما بدالك، قال: أخبرني عن الرجل إذا نام أين تذهب روحه وعن الرجل كيف يذكر وينسى؟ وعن الرجل كيف يشبه ولده الاعمام والاخوال؟ فالتفت أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام إلى الحسن فقال: يا أبا محمد أجبه، قال: فأجابه الحسن عليه السلام فقال الرجل أشهد أن لا إله إلا الله ولم أزل أشهد بها وأشهد أن محمدا رسول الله ولم أزل أشهد بذلك وأشهد أنك وصي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله والقائم بحجته - وأشار إلى أمير المؤمنين - ولم أزل أشهد بها وأشهد أنك وصيه والقائم بحجته - وأشار إلى الحسن عليه السلام - وأشهد أن الحسين بن علي وصي أخيه والقائم بحجته بعده وأشهد على علي بن الحسين أنه القائم بأمر الحسين بعده وأشهد على محمد بن علي أنه القائم بأمر علي بن الحسين وأشهد على جعفر بن محمد بأنه القائم بأمر محمد وأشهد على موسى أنه القائم بأمر جعفر بن محمد وأشهد على علي بن موسى أنه القائم بأمر موسى بن جعفر وأشهد على محمد بن علي أنه القائم بأمر علي ابن موسى وأشهد على علي بن محمد بأنه القائم بأمر محمد بن علي وأشهد على الحسن بن علي بأنه القائم بأمر علي بن محمد وأشهد على رجل من ولد الحسن لا يكنى ولا يسمى حتى يظهر أمره فيملاها عدلا كما ملئت جورا والسلام عليك يا أمير المؤمنين ورحمة الله وبركاته، ثم قام فمضى، فقال أمير المؤمنين: يا أبا محمد اتبعه فانظر أين يقصد فخرج الحسن بن علي عليهما السلام فقال: ما كان إلا أن وضع رجله خارجا من المسجد فما دريت أين أخذ من أرض الله، فرجعت إلى أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام فأعلمته، فقال: يا أبا محمد أتعرفه؟ قلت: الله ورسوله وأمير المؤمنين أعلم، قال: هو الخضر عليه السلام.

وحدثني محمد بن يحيى، عن محمد بن الحسن الصفار، عن أحمد بن أبي عبد الله، عن أبي هاشم مثله سواء. قال محمد بن يحيى: فقلت لمحمد بن الحسن: يا أبا جعفر وددت أن هذا الخبر جاء من غير جهة أحمد بن أبي عبد الله قال: فقال: لقد حدثني قبل الحيرة بعشر سنين.


A number of our companions from Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Barqi from Abu Hashim Dawud b. al-Qasim al-Ja`far the Second (i.e. Muhammad al-Jawad).  He said: Amir al-Mu’mineen عليه السلام approached and al-Hasan b. `Ali عليه السلام was with him and he was leaning on the hand of Salman.  So he entered the Sacred Mosque and sat, when a man, of goodly appearance and clothing approached and gave salam to Amir al-Mu’mineen.  So he عليه السلام replied and he sat.  Then he said: O Amir al-Mu’mineen, I will ask you about three issues.  If you inform me of them I will know that the people who rode away from your authority have destroyed themselves and are not secure in this their world or in their hereafter.  And if it is the latter, I will know that you and they are in the same state.

So Amir al-Mu’mineen عليه السلام said to him: Ask me about whatever you want.  He said: Inform me about when the man sleep, where does his soul go?  And about how does the man remember and forget?  And about how does the man’s child resemble the paternal uncles and maternal uncles?

So Amir al-Mu’mineen عليه السلام turned to al-Hasan, and said: O Abu Muhammad, answer him.

He said: So al-Hasan عليه السلام answered him, and the man said: I testify that there is no god but Allah, and I will always testify to it, and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and I will always testify to it, and I testify that you are the wasi of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله and the one who stands (al-qa’im) with his proof – and he pointed to Amir al-Mu’mineen – and I will always testify to it, I testify that you are his wasi and the one who stands with his proof– and he pointed to al-Hasan عليه السلام – and I testify that al-Husayn b. `Ali is the wasi of his brother and the one who stands with his proof after him, and I testify that `Ali b. al-Husayn is the one who stands with the authority of al-Husayn after him, and I testify that Muhammad b. `Ali is the one who stands with the authority of `Ali b. al-Husayn, and I testify that Ja`far b. Muhammad is the one who stands with the authority of Muhammad b. `Ali, and I testify that Musa is the one who stands with the authority of Ja`far b. Muhammad, and I testify that `Ali b. Musa is the one who stands with the authority of Musa b. Ja`far, and I testify that Muhammad b. `Ali is the one who stands with the authority of `Ali b. Musa, and I testify that `Ali b. Muhammad is the one who stands with the authority of Muhammad b. `Ali, and I testify that al-Hasan b. `Ali is the one who stands with the authority of `Ali b. Muhammad, and I testify that a man from the offspring of al-Hasan is not called by a kunya and not named until his affair is made apparent, and he is will fill it (i.e. the Earth) with justice as it had been filled with tyranny.  And peace be upon you O Amir al-Mu’mineen and the mercy of Allah and His blessings.

Then he got up and left.  So Amir al-Mu’mineen said: O Abu Muhammad, follow him and look where he designs to (go).  So al-Hasan b. `Ali عليهما السلام went out.  And he said: It was not but that he placed his foot outside of the Mosque that I did not know where he took from the Earth of Allah.  So I returned to Amir al-Mu’mineen عليه السلام and told him.  So he said: O Abu Muhammad, do you recognize him?  I said: Allah and His Messsenger and Amir al-Mu’mineen know best.  He said: He is al-Khidr عليه السلام.

And Muhammad b. Yahya narrated to me from Muhammad b. al-Hasan as-Saffar from Ahmad b. Abi `Abdillah from Abu Hashim its like equally.  Muhammad b. Yahya said: So I said to Muhammad b. al-Hasan: O Abu Ja`far, I would love for this report to have come from (somewhere) other than the direction of Ahmad b. Abi `Abdillah.  He said: He had narrated it to me prior to the confusion (i.e. the ghayba) by ten years.


There are two isnads listed here, however both of them revert back to the same individual narrator, Ahmad b. Abi `Abdilllah Muhammad al-Barqi.  Historically there was some doubt about his reporting, even to the point he had been for a time exiled from Qum for it.  He was however later re-admitted to the city with the shaykh who had so exiled him repenting of this action, and so generally he is regarded to have been a trustworthy narrator by them.  We have in our possession today his book of hadith – al-Mahasin.

What is of relevance to this discussion here is that the above hadith can in fact be found in said book.  However, as we will see, there are some very key differences in the version he himself reports in his own book, and the version which al-Kulayni would record in al-Kafi, again purporting to be coming from al-Barqi himself (plus the intermediaries after him until it reaches al-Kulayni) in the chain.

In the text in al-Mahasin, the tradition reads as follows:


عنه، عن أبيه، عن أبى هاشم الجعفري رفع الحديث قال: قال أبو عبد الله (ع)، دخل أمير المؤمنين (صلوات الله عليه) المسجد ومعه الحسن (ع) فدخل رجل، فسلم عليه، فرد عليه شبيها بسلامه، فقال: يا أمير المؤمنين جئت أسألك فقال: سل، قال: أخبرني عن الرجل إذا نام أين تكون روحه؟ - وعن المولود الذى يشبه أباه كيف يكون؟ - وعن الذكر والنسيان كيف يكونان؟ - قال: فنظر أمير المؤمنين (ع) إلى الحسن (ع) فقال: أجبه، فقال الحسن: إن الرجل إذا نام فان روحه متعلقة بالريح، والريح متعلقة بالهواء، فإذا أراد الله أن يقبض روحه جذب الهواء الريح، وجذبت الريح الروح، وإذا أراد الله أن يردها في مكانها جذبت الروح الريح، وجذبت الريح الهواء، فعادت إلى مكانها، وأما المولود الذى يشبه أباه، فان الرجل أذا واقع أهله بقلب ساكن وبدن غير مضطرب وقعت النطفة في الرحم، فيشبه الولد أباه، وإذا واقعها بقلب شاغل وبدن مضطرب، فوقعت النطفة في الرحم، فان وقعت على عرق من عروق أعمامه يشبه الولد أعمامه، وإن وقعت على عرق من عروق أخواله يشبه الولد أخواله، وأما الذكر والنسيان، فان القلب في حق، والحق مطبق عليه، فإذا أراد الله أن يذكر القلب سقط الطبق، فذكر، فقال الرجل: " أشهد أن لا إلا الله وحده لا شريك له، وأشهد أن محمدا عبده ورسوله، وأشهد أن أباك أمير المؤمنين وصى محمد حقا حقا، ولم أزل أقوله، وأشهد أنك وصيه، وأشهد أن الحسين وصيك، حتى أتى على آخرهم "، فقال: قلت لابي عبد الله (ع): فمن كان الرجل؟ - قال: الخضر (ع)


From him (i.e. al-Barqi) from his father from Abu Hashim al-Ja`fari going up (the chain in) the hadith.  He said: Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام said: Amir al-Mu’mineen صلوات الله عليه entered the masjid and al-Hasan was with him.  So a man entered and he gave salam to him, so he replied to him with the like of his salam.  So he said: O Amir al-Mu’mineen, I have come to question you.  So he said: Ask.  He said: Inform me about when the man sleeps, where does his soul go?  And about the newborn who resembles his fathers (i.e. his uncles), how is he?  And about remembrance and forgetfulness, how are they?  He said: So Amir al-Mu’mineen عليه السلام looked to al-Hasan عليه السلام, and he said: Answer him.  So al-Hasan said: When the man sleeps, his soul is attached to the wind, and the wind is attached to the air.  So when Allah intends to apprehend his soul, the air pulls the wind, and the wind pulls the soul.  And as to the newborn who resembles his fathers, so when the man has intercourse with his wife, and the sperm has situated in the womb, so if it situated on a vein from the veins of his paternal uncles the child will resemble his paternal uncles, and if it situated on a vein from the veins of his maternal uncles the child will resemble his maternal uncles.  And as to remembrance and forgetting, then the heart is in a truth, and the truth is covered upon it, so when Allah intends for the heart to remember the truth the covering (lit. layer) is dropped so he remembers.  

So the man said: I testify that there is no god but Allah, He is unique, He has no partner, and I testify that Muhammad is His servant and His messenger, and I testify that your father, Amir al-Mu’mineen, is the wasi of Muhammad, truly, truly, and I will always say it.  And I testify that you are his wasi, and I testify that al-Huysan is your wasi – until he came to the last of them.  So he said: I said to Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام: So who was the man?  He said: al-Khidr.


As is clear, the two versions have some very major differences.  Again, this is not a case of a single narration being reported from multiple chains by different people with some variations in their reporting.  The latter is not entirely uncommon or unexpected as different people can remember things differently.  This is a single narration going back to a single person, where the version found in his own book is substantially different from the version purportedly reported through him and then suceeding intermediaries later on.  As to those differences:


The isnad of the Kafi version goes from al-Barqi to Abu Hashim to al-Jawad.  The earlier Mahasin version however goes from al-Barqi to his father to Abu Hashim and then becomes marfu` (missing a number of intermediary links) to Imam Sadiq عليه السلام.  Apparently then, the first version’s isnad has been cleaned up somewhat to appear more solid.  Abu Hashim could not have narrated directly from as-Sadiq عليه السلام directly of course (nor is that being claimed as such in the Mahasin version anyway), so instead the hadith is attributed to the Twelver Imam who would have been contemporaneous to him, that is, Muhammad al-Jawad.  The Kafi version skips the intermediary narrator between al-Barqi and Abu Hashim, most likely simply as an oversight, though it could possibly also due to the questions that have surrounded al-Barqi’s father for some in terms of his own reliability.

The Kafi version has a largely more developed dramatic narrative (with one exception, see below), describing in greater detail the location, the narrative dialogue and events.  Also in contrast the Kafi version ends off with Imam al-Hasan عليه السلام apparently not knowing who the questioner had been and so his father telling him, while in the Mahasin version it is the unnamed narrator from as-Sadiq عليه السلام who is asking of the questioner’s identity.

One narrative detail though lacking from the Kafi version is the actual answers to the three questions posed.  However, it is retained in other versions which we will mention shortly.

The greatest difference of course is that in the Kafi version, twelve Imams are listed and eleven explicitly named while in the earlier Mahasin version (whose compilation would have dated to before the set formation of a specifically Twelver belief) only the Imams up to al-Husayn عليه السلام are named, with the rest only stated generally (“until he came to the last of them”).  How this injection of names occurred is fairly easy to understand.  The Mahasin version says that al-Khidr named all of them.  To a later Twelver, that would mean he must have named the twelve Imams which he himself believed in.  So, in his mind by then filling in that detail, he would not have been being dishonest or lying, he simply would have been filling in what he believed al-Khidr عليه السلام would have actually said.  This of course though robs the narration of having any argumentative proof for the Twelver belief of today. 

It should also be noted that there are a couple more versions of the hadith in addition to the one cited in al-Kafi - all of them going back to al-Barqi - specifically the Kitab al-Ghayba of al-Nu`mani and the Tafsir al-Qummi of `Ali b. Ibrahim. Of course, the earliest citation of the hadith would still be the one found in al-Mahasin, Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Barqi's very own book. However, the earliest pro-Twelver version would be the one found in `Ali b. Ibrahim's Tafsir al-Qummi.

If this is the case (as it appears so), the hadith originally found in al-Barqi's al-Mahsain could not have been altered (in that it becomes pro-Twelver) later than the time of `Ali b. Ibrahim. The thing is that `Ali b. Ibrahim is listed as an intermediary narrator between al-Kulayni (the compiler of al-Kafi) and al-Barqi and his own tafsir does not mention the isnad (i.e. saying that he got it from al-Barqi). So, the hadith was evidently changed to conform to the Twelver view at some point between al-Barqi and by the time it reached `Ali b. Ibrahim (who himself could have possibly changed it for all we know).


Next we turn to a discussion of the one narrating this event in the first place, Abu Hashim Dawud b. al-Qasim al-Ja`fari.  Twelver standards judge him to not only be reliable and trustworthy (thiqa), but count him as someone who possessed a great status with the Imams and as such his narrations would be considered to carry a high level of authenticity by them.  Presumably if he had in fact heard this hadith from al-Jawad listing out the names of the twelve Imams, then this knowledge would have been with him from at least that time.  However, there is an incident which occurs during the time of `Ali al-Hadi (i.e. after this supposed narration from al-Jawad) that would belie that, and moreover raise questions of its own in regards to the foreknowledge of the identity of the Imams, even by the Imams themselves.

We read in al-Kafi:


فروى سعد بن عبد الله الاشعري، قال حدثني أبو هاشم داود بن القاسم الجعفري، قال: كنت عند أبي الحسن العسكري عليه السلام وقت وفاة إبنه أبي جعفر، وقد كان أشار إليه ودل عليه وإني لافكر في نفسي وأقول هذه قصة [ أبي ] إبراهيم عليه السلام وقصة إسماعيل فأقبل علي أبو الحسن عليه السلام وقال: نعم يا أبا هاشم بدا لله في أبي جعفر وصير مكانه أبا محمد كما بدا له في إسماعيل بعدما دل عليه أبو عبد الله عليه السلام ونصبه وهو كما حدثتك نفسك وإن كره المبطلون، أبو محمد ابني الخلف من بعدي، عنده ما تحتاجونه إليه، ومعه آلة الامامة والحمد لله


[Ghayba at-Tusi] Sa`d b. `Abdullah al-Ash`ari narrated that he said: Abu Hashim Dawud b. al-Qasim al-Ja`fari narrated to us, he said: I was with Abu ‘l-Hasan al-`Askari (`Ali al-Hadi) at the time of the death of his son Abu Ja`far (i.e. Muhammad), and he had pointed to him and indicated upon him (i.e. for the Imamate), and I was thinking to myself and saying this is the story of Abu Ibrahim (Musa al-Kazhim عليه السلام) and the story of Isma`il (b. Ja`far). So Abu ‘l-Hasan approached me and said: Yes, O Abu Hashim, bada’ has occurred for Allah regarding Abu Ja`far, and his position has been rendered to Abu Muhammad (al-Hasan al-`Askari) as bada had occurred for Him regarding Isma`il after Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام had indicated upon him and appointed him, and it is as you had in mind, even if the nullifiers dislike. My son Abu Muhammad is the successor after me, and what they have need of to him is with him, and the instrument of the Imamate is with him, wa ‘l-hamdu lillah.


We will discuss this further in another article, in sha Allah, but the context of the above is that originally `Ali al-Hadi had designated another son of his, Abu Ja`far Muhammad, as the next Imam after him.  Muhammad however died before his father, and so the question arose about how this could have happened, as well as who would then be the next Imam in his place.  The Imamis thereafter split into three factions, some upholding the original designation of Muhammad, speculating that he had in fact gone into ghayba for instance, another faction following another son, Ja`far, and then the faction we have today which followed al-Hasan al-`Askari, which the above narration is attempting to prove to be the correct position, explaining the change in designation to have been an instance of bada’ with Allah, similar to the past where Ja`far al-Sadiq is supposed to have designated his son Isma`il to succeed him and the latter predeceasing his father.

The point here is that if Abu Hashim had already learned the names of the Imams from his hearing of the Khidr narration from al-Jawad, why then would he have been in any confusion about the identity of the Imam to follow after al-Hadi?  He would have already known him to have been al-Hasan, not Muhammad, yet the above narration portrays him as surprised by the turn of events, requiring al-Hadi to explain it to him.


This is a clear demonstration how earlier, more general and non-Twelver specific hadiths had undergone a revision to then fit in with the later theology, and how this can have happened even in a case where the isnad of a narration would (by Twelver standards) be considered solid and unassailable.  It – and other narrations of this sort – then calls into question other such explicitly Twelver reports where we might not have the privilege of comparing an earlier recension of them.  One has to ask that if such narrations (explicitly pro-Twelver with their specific line of Imams) were truly in circulation prior to the death of al-`Askari and formation of the Twelver sect, why then was there such a need to alter reports like the above to “prove” the theology?