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

The truthfulness of al-Saduq


Thus far we have been discussing how a pattern of alteration to ahadith in Twelver books can be detected, where previously non-Twelver narrations will be altered to reflect the later Twelver theology.  In this article, we will focus on one scholar in particular, Muhammad b. `Ali b. al-Husayn b. Babuwayh al-Qummi, famously known as Shaykh Saduq, one of the most prominent figures in Twelver Shi`i hadith collections, whose Man La Yahdaruhu a-Faqih is considered one of the found major canonical source collections of Shi`i hadith. Many – even most – of the very pro-Twelver narrations that people will cite are to be found in his books such as his Kamal ad-Deen, and so it is important to analyze how reliable the man himself was in what he would report.

What we propose to discuss here is how this pattern of alteration of texts is especially notable in his works, which thus would lead to the very pro-Twelver narrations he reports being especially questionable. To be clear though, we are not saying here that Saduq was someone who would wholesale be inventing narrations. Rather, it could be argued that from his perspective he would simply have been correcting what he probably thought to be errors and gaps in the transmissions of hadiths, reworking them to reflect what he would have considered correct doctrine since from his view, his belief would have been the same as what the Imams taught, and thereby justifying to himself to re-work the texts to accord with that.

A good place to start investigating this is in narrations that are not about the number of Imams and identity of the Qa’im, but where a pattern of alteration and “correction” can be found motivated by other ideological reasons. Muhammad Baqir Bahboodi, author of Sahih al-Kafi and other works, has done some in depth research on this topic, and we will be drawing on some examples that he has cited in his work.

So to start in al-Kafi, we read (parts to be particularly noted as difference will be put in {} brackets):


عليّ بن محمّد رفعه، عن شعيب العقرقوفي، عن أبي بصير قال: كنت بين يدي أبي عبداللَّه (ع) جالساً وقد سأله سائل فقال: جعلت فداك يا ابن رسول اللَّه! من أين لحق الشقاء أهل المعصية حتّى حكم اللَّه لهم في علمه بالعذاب على عملهم؟ فقال أبو عبداللَّه (ع): أيُّها السائل! {حكم اللَّه} عزّ وجلّ «لايقوم له أحد من خلقه بحقّه». {فلمّا حكم بذلك}، وهب لأهل محبّته القوّة على معرفته ووضع عنهم ثقل العمل بحقيقة ما هم أهله. ووهب لأهل المعصية القوّة على معصيتهم، لسبق علمه فيهم {ومنعهم} إطاقة القبول منه. فوافقوا ما سبق لهم في علمه {ولم يقدروا} أن يأتوا حالاً تنجيهم {من عذابه}، لأن علمه أولى بحقيقة التصديق. وهو معنى: «شاء ما شاء» وهو سرُّه. (كافى / ج1 / ص153)


`Ali b. Muhammad in a marfu` manner from Shu`ayb al-`Aqarqufi from Abu Basir. He said: I was sitting before Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام and a questioner had asked him and said: May I be made your ransom, O son of the Messenger of Allah. From where does misery become attached to the people of sin so that Allah rules punishment over their action for them in His knowledge? So Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام said: O questioner, {Allah عزّ وجلّ ruled}, no one from His creation stands with His right. {So when He ruled by that} He gave the people of His love the power to recognize Him and removes from them the weight of their action by the reality of what they are worthy of. And He gives to the people of sin the power to disobey Him, due to the precedence of His knowledge regarding them {and prevents them} from the ability (to have) acceptance from Him. So they agree by what was preceded for them in His knowledge {and they are not able} to come as a state which will save them {from His punishment}, for His knowledge is primary to the reality of affirmation. And is the meaning of “He willed what He willed”, and it is His secret.


Now let us take a look at how Saduq reports the same tradition, from the same source, in his Kitab at-Tawhid:


حدّثنا الدقاق، حدّثنا محمّد بن يعقوب، حدّثنا عليُّ بن محمّد رفعه، عن شعيب العقرقوفي، عن أبي بصير قال: كنت بين يدي أبي عبداللَّه (ع) جالساً وقد سأله سائل فقال: جعلت فداك يا ابن رسول اللَّه! من أين لحق الشقاء أهل المعصية حتّى حكم لهم في علمه بالعذاب على عملهم؟ فقال أبو عبداللَّه (ع): أيُّها السائل! {علم اللَّه} عزّ وجلّ أن «لايقوم أحد من خلقه بحقّه» {فلمّا علم بذلك}، وهب لأهل محبّته القوّة على معرفته ووضع عنهم ثقل العمل بحقيقة ما هم أهله. ووهب لأهل المعصية القوّة على معصيتهم لسبق علمه فيهم. {ولم يمنعهم} إطاقة القبول منه {[لأنّ علمه أولى بحقيقة التصديق]} فوافقوا ما سبق لهم في علمه {وإن قدروا أن يأتوا خلالاً} تنجيهم عن معصيته. وهو معنى «شاء ما شاء» وهو سرٌّ. (توحيد صدوق / ص354)


Ad-Diqqaq from Muhammad b. Ya`qub from `Ali b. Muhammad in a marfu` manner from Shu`ayb al-`Aqarqufi from Abu Basir. He said: I was sitting before Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام and a questioner had asked him and said: May I be made your ransom, O son of the Messenger of Allah. From where does misery become attached to the people of sin so that Allah rules punishment over their action for them in His knowledge? So Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام said: O questioner, {Allah عزّ وجلّ knew}, no one from His creation stands with His right. {So when He knew that} He gave the people of His love the power to recognize Him and removes from them the weight of their action by the reality of what they are worthy of. And He gives to the people of sin the power to disobey Him, due to the precedence of His knowledge regarding them {and He did not prevent them} from the ability (to have) acceptance from Him {[for His knowledge is primary to the reality of affirmation]}. So they agree by what was preceded for them in His knowledge {and if they are able to come khilalan (?)} it will save them from sinning against Him. And is the meaning of “He willed what He willed”, and it is His secret.


One can see what Saduq's rendering does here. A narration that originally appeared to be more jabri, that is, more predestinarian, has been changed in its orientation and altered it to read very differently. Instead of Allah ruling it to be such, he changes it to be that Allah knows it to be such. And then even there, he alters other parts of the hadith to still leave room for a greater latitude of free will over predestination and thus make it more in conformance to the Imami theology of his time that would have been getting more and more influence by the Mu`tazali kalam, with its doctrines on `Adl and such.

We see him doing the same thing in other hadiths as well for the same reason as above. So, you have this narration in al-Kafi:


محمّد بن إسماعيل، عن الفضل بن شاذان، عن صفوان بن يحيى، عن منصور ابن حازم، عن أبي عبداللَّه (ع) قال: إنّ اللَّه خلق السعادة والشقاء قبل أن يخلق خلقه. {فمن خلقه اللَّه سعيداً} لم يبغضه أبداً... الحديث.


Muhammad b. Isma`il from al-Fadl b. Shadhan from Safwan b. Yahya from Mansur b. Hazim from Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام. He said: Allah created felicity andd misery prior to creating His creation. {So whoever He created as felicitous}, He will never be wrothe with him (- al-hadith)

But now see how Saduq renders the hadith:


ابن الوليد، عن الصفار، عن يعقوب بن يزيد، عن صفوان بن يحيى، عن منصور بن حازم، عن أبي عبداللَّه (ع) قال: إنّ اللَّه عزّ وجلّ خلق السعادة والشقاوة قبل أن يخلق خلقه. {فمن علمه اللَّه سعيداً} لم يبغضه أبداً... الحديث


Ibn al-Walid from as-Saffar from Ya`qub b. Yazid from Safwan b. Yahya from Mansur b. Hazim from Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام. He said: Allah عزّ وجلّ created felicity and misery prior to creating His creation. {So whoever Allah knew as being felicitous}, He will never be wrothe with him (- al-hadith)


So again, in the first version Allah has created the servant as felicitous. In Saduq’s version, this becomes Allah knowing that the servant is felicitous, which changes the hadith from being more predestinarian to being more free-will oriented.

And again here, in al-Kafi:


عدّة من أصحابنا، عن أحمد بن محمّد بن خالد، عن أبيه، عن النضر بن سويد، عن يحيى بن عمران الحلبيّ، عن معلّى بن عثمان، عن عليّ بن حنظلة، عن أبي عبداللَّه (ع) أنّه قال: يسلك بالسعيد في طريق الأشقياء حتّى يقول الناس ما أشبهه بهم بل هو منهم ثمّ يتداركه السعادة... {إنّ من كتبه اللَّه سعيداً} وإن لم يبق من الدُّنيا إلّا فواق ناقة ختم له بالسعادة.

A number of our companions from Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Khalid from his father from an-Nadr b. Suwayd from Yahya b. `Imran al-Halabi from Mu`alla b. `Uthman from `Ali b. Hanzhala from Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام that he said: The felicitous behaves in the path of the miserable until the people say how like he is to them, rather, he is from them, then the felicitous correct him… {Indeed, whoever Allah has written as a felicitous one}, even if he did not remain in the dunya but for the hiccup of a she-camel, He will seal for him (or: it will end for him) with the felicitous.


Once more you can see that the above narration could be understood more along the lines of predestination, Allah having written (i.e. decreed, ordained) for him to be from the felicitous. But then turning to Saduq’s Tawhid, again this key part is changed:


حدّثني أبي، حدّثنا سعد، عن أحمد بن محمّد بن خالد، عن أبيه، عن النضر بن سويد، عن يحيى بن عمران الحلبيّ، عن معلّى أبي عثمان، عن عليّ بن حنظلة، عن أبي عبداللَّه (ع) أنّه قال: يسلك بالسعيد طريق الأشقياء حتّى يقول الناس ما أشبهه بهم بل هو منهم ثمّ يتداركه السعادة... {إن من علمه اللَّه تعالى سعيداً} وإن لم يبق من الدُّنيا إلّا فواق ناقة ختم له بالسعادة.


Saduq’s father from Sa`id from Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Khalid from his father from an-Nadr b. Suwayd from Yahya b. `Imran al-Halabi from Mu`alla b. `Uthman from `Ali b. Hanzhala from Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام that he said: The felicitous behaves in the path of the miserable until the people say how like he is to them, rather, he is from them, then the felicitous correct him… {Indeed, whoever Allah تعالى has known to be a felicitous one}, even if he did not remain in the dunya but for the hiccup of a she-camel, He will seal for him (or: it will end for him) with the felicitous.


So there are some examples of narrations being altered to move away from a predestinarian view and be more compatible with the `Adliyya view that he and his contemporary Twelver scholars would have been adopting and favoring.

Such alterations though were hardly limited to the above. So for instance, take the following narration from al-Kafi:


محمّد بن أحمد بن يحيى، عن محمّد بن عبدالجبّار، عن عليّ بن مهزيار قال: كتبت إليه (ع): امرأة طهرت من حيضها أو من دم نفاسها في أوّل يوم من شهر رمضان، ثمّ استحاضت فصلّت وصامت شهر رمضان كلّه من غير أن تعمل ما تعمل المستحاضة من الغسل لكلّ صلاتين؛ هل يجوز صومها وصلاتها أم لا؟ فكتب (ع): تقضي صومها ولا تقضي صلاتها لأنّ رسول اللَّه (ص) {كان يأمر فاطمة (ع) والمؤمنات من نسائه بذلك}


Muhammad b. Ahmad b. Yahya from Muhammad b. `Abd al-Jabbar from `Ali b. Mahzyar. He said: I wrote to him (likely al-Jawad): A woman who became pure from her menstruation or from the blood of her nifas in the beginning of the month of Ramadan, then he has istihada. So she prayed and fasted all of the month of Ramadan without acting by what the mustahada does of the ghusl for every two salat. Is her fast and her salat permissible or no? So he said: She does qada of her fast and does not do qada of her salat, for the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله {used to command Fatima عليه السلام and the believers from his woman to that}


This narration is from al-Kafi, but you can also find it in the same wording in Tusi’s Tahdhib, where we find:


محمد بن أحمد بن يحيى عن محمد بن عبد الجبار عن علي ابن مهزيار قال كتبت إليه: امرأة طهرت من حيضها أو من دم نفاسها في أول يوم من شهر رمضان ثم استحاضت فصلت وصامت شهر رمضان كله من غير أن تعمل ما تعمل المستحاضة من الغسل لكل صلاتين هل يجوز صومها وصلاتها ام لا ؟ فكتب عليه السلام تقضي صومها ولا تقضي صلاتها لان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله كان يأمر فاطمة عليها السلام والمؤمنات من نسائه بذلك.


Which is the same narration we find in al-Kafi. Keep in mind, Tusi is a later source than Saduq too. However, when we go to the latter’s recension of this hadith in his Faqih, we find it thus:


روى عليُّ بن مهزيار قال: كتبت إليه (ع): امرأة طهرت من حيضها أو دم نفاسها في أوّل يوم من شهر رمضان ثمّ استحاضت فصلّت وصامت شهر رمضان كلّه من غير أن تعمل ما تعمله المستحاضة من الغسل لكلّ صلاتين. هل يجوز صومها وصلاتها أم لا؟ فكتب (ع): تقضي صومها ولا تقضي صلاتها {لأنّ رسول اللَّه (ص) كان يأمر المؤمنات من نسائه بذلك}.


And `Ali b. Mahzyar narrated that he wrote to him: A woman who became pure from her menstruation or from the blood of her nifas in the beginning of the month of Ramadan, then he has istihada. So she prayed and fasted all of the month of Ramadan without acting by what the mustahada does of the ghusl for every two salat. Is her fast and her salat permissible or no? So he said: She does qada of her fast and does not do qada of her salat, for the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله {used to command the believers from his woman to that}


Here Saduq has dropped the part that would have been problematic to him (and to many Shi`as today), namely the mention of Fatima عليه السلام as likely he thought the latter had never menstruated so why would she have been commanded to do this, and hence his altering of this significant but problematic part.

Likewise we can find him doing this with fiqh hadiths to make them accord to what he would have believed to be the correct fiqhi position. So for example in al-Kafi:


عدّة من أصحابنا، عن سهل بن زياد، عن أحمد بن محمّد بن أبي نصر، عن عبدالكريم بن عمرو، عن زرارة، عن أحدهما (ع) أنّه قال: من لم يجد هدياً وأحَبّ أن يقدّم الثلاثة الأيّام في أوّل العشر فلا بأس.


A number of our companions form Sahl b. Ziyad from Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Abi Nasr from `Abd al-Karim b. `Amr from Zurara from one of the two of them عليه السلام that he said: One who did not find a hadi and would like to proffer the three days in the beginning of the ten, there is no harm.


And in at-Tahdhib:


سعد بن عبداللَّه، عن أحمد بن محمّد، عن عليّ بن النعمان ومحمّد بن سنان، عن عبداللَّه بن مسكان قال: حدّثني أبان الأزرق، عن زرارة، عن أبي عبداللَّه (ع) أنّه قال: من لم يجد الهدي وأحبّ أن يصوم الثلاثة الأيّام في أوّل العشر فلا بأس بذلك.


Sa`d b. `Abdullah from Ahmad b. Muhammad from `Ali b. an-Nu`man and Muhammad b. Sinan from `Abdullah b. Sinan from Aban al-Azraq from Zurara from Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام that he said: One who did not find a hadi and would like to fast the three days in the beginning of the ten, there is no harm with that.


So somewhat different wording, but the gist is still talking about the first three days of the ten days of the month of Dhu ‘l-Hijja. This is problematic though and goes against the standard Shi`i view (so can be explained as taqiyya). However, in Saduq’s rendering of Zurara’s hadith in Faqih:


روى زرارة، عن أبي عبداللَّه (ع) أنّه قال: من لم يجد ثمن الهدي فأحبّ أن يصوم الثلاثة الأيّام في العشر الأواخر فلا بأس بذلك.


Zurara narrate from Abu `Abdillah عليه السلام that he said: One who did find the price of the hadi and would like to fast the three days in the last ten, there is no harm.


Now instead of the problematic “in the beginning/first of the ten” it has been altered to read “in the last ten”, lining it up thus with the accepted view.

And this is certainly not a lone example, there are a number of places where you can find Saduq’s rendition of a hadith found elsewhere will be different from the latter, but in way that lines it up to his own view of what he would have considered correct doctrine.

One of the most blatant examples of this is in the epistle attributed to ar-Rida written for al-Ma’mun summarizing the religion. The treatise can be found in two sources, Saduq’s `Uyun `Akhbar ar-Rida and in al-Harrani’s Tuhaf al-`Uqul. The two are largely the same (clearly it is the same epistle being narrated) but there are some very key variations between them, specifically in areas that would have contradicted Saduq’s views or where he has Twelverized the document to reflect his sect’s doctrine. So for instance, in the Tuhaf version, we read:


والوضوء كما أمر الله في كتابه غسل الوجه واليدين ومسح الرأس والرجلين واحد فريضة واثنان إسباغ ومن زاد أثم ولم يوجر


The wudu is as Allah commanded in His book: washing of the face and the arms, and wiping of the head and the feet – once as an obligation, and twice as a proper observance.


So this might not seem anything out of the ordinary, it fits in with the majority view of the Imamis, however it contradicts with Saduq’s own view on the subject which was that the second washing was impermissible. So in his version in `Uyun, it instead reads:


ثم الوضوء كما أمر الله تعالى في كتابه غسل الوجه واليدين من المرفقين ومسح الرأس والرجلين مرة واحدة


Then the wudu is as Allah تعالى commanded in His book: washing the face and the arms from elbows, and wiping the head and feet, one time.


So here two changes have been introduced, one clarifying that the washing of the arms is from the elbows, but more importantly that it is one time, thus conforming to Saduq’s view but contradicting the Tuhaf version of the narration.

We can also find in the Tuhaf version doctrinal difference that a Twelver like Saduq would have found objectionable, with it reading:


وذنوب الانبياء صغار موهوبة لهم بالنبوة.


The minor sins of the prophets are granted to them due to prophethood.


Of course this contradicts the doctrine of `isma as generally understood and accepted by Twelver scholars, so in Saduq’s version the above sentence is simply dropped.

To be fair though, Saduq mentions these differences in a note at the end of the narration saying that he prefers this version, so this simply could be an alternate version that has come to him that someone else had “corrected”. However, then we see a part where the narration has been heavily Twelverized when it comes to the listing of the Imams. So in the Tuhaf version, it reads after mentioning Amir al-Mu’mineen عليه السلام as the first Imam:


وبعده الحسن والحسين عليهما السلام، واحدا بعد واحد إلى يومنا هذ


And after him (are) al-Hasan and al-Husayn عليهما السلام, one after the other until this day of ours


In other words, after al-Husayn عليه السلام the list of Imams is left general, not being laid out, named or numbered. Come to the `Uyun version though:


وبعده الحسن والحسين سيدا شباب أهل الجنة، ثم علي بن الحسين زين العابدين، ثم محمد بن علي باقر علم النبيين ثم جعفر بن محمد الصادق وارث علم الوصيين، ثم موسى بن جعفر الكاظم، ثم علي بن موسى الرضا ثم محمد بن علي ثم علي بن محمد، ثم الحسن بن علي ثم الحجة القائم المنتظر صلوات الله عليهم أجمعين


And after him are al-Hasan and al-Husan, masters of the youths of the people of the Garden, then `Ali b. al-Husayn Zayn al-`Abideen, them Muhammad b. `Ali Baqir `Ulum an-Nabiyyeen, then Ja`far b. Muhammad as-Sadiq Warith `Ilm al-Wasiyyeen, then Musa b. Ja`far al-Kazhim, then `Ali b. Musa ar-Rida, then Muhammad b. `Ali, then `Ali b. Muhammad, then al-Hasan b. `Ali, then al-Hujja al-Qa’im al-Muntazhar صلوات الله عليهم أجمعين


Here we can clearly see that what originally would have been written vaguely and generally is now made to be very specific, listing out all twelve Imams of the Ithna `Ashariyya. Also keep in mind this treatise was being written for al-Ma’mun the Abbasid caliph, and ask how likely would it have been anyway for ar-Rida to be handing him a list of all the future Imams, especially considering the Twelver belief that the twelfth had to be born in such ultra-secrecy to protect him from the Abbasid authorities?  (As a side note, it would appear this treatise is not even the work of ar-Rida in the first place, as the majority of it exists in a completely separate version narrated on the authority of as-Sadiq عليه السلام, much of it word for word the same.  The other possibility though is that ar-Rida took the same treatise, emended it with some additions at the beginning, and re-issued it under his name, though it would seem more likely that a pre-existing treatise (whether actually authored by as-Sadiq عليه السلام or not) was later re-attributed to ar-Rida by someone who accepted his Imamate, something we see happen a fair bit with him in particular)

If these were just very rare examples, where it was possible that Saduq was simply transmitting an alternate version of a narration from a different source, that would be one thing. But what we find is this fairly consistent pattern of narrations getting “corrected” to line up with his views. Yes, it could have instead been the people that Saduq was himself narrating from, his teachers and shuyukh, that were themselves doing this and thus not himself, but then it would not really solve the problem for the Twelver, in that instead of it being one major Twelver hadith scholar altering narrations, it would be an indeterminate number of them since it would be spread out over a number of people. In the end, it would not make a practical difference anyway since we would still be left with this question mark over the material found in his books, regardless of who was the actual culprit. As such, when we find these very explicit, pro-Twelver narrations in books of his such as Kamal ad-Deen (which is where much of these sorts of hadiths are to be found), there is a justified skepticism over the provenance of their content, regardless of what isnad has been attributed to them, especially as this pattern can be demonstrated elsewhere in various contexts.