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Appendix B: The Controversial Personality of Ibn Shihāb Zuhrī
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

The Controversial Personality of Ibn Shihāb Zuhrī44

His full name is Abū Bakr Muhammad Ibn Muslim Ibn ‘Abdullāh Ibn Shihāb Zuhrī (d:124 AH). While he has been generally regarded as a reliable personality by the scholars of ‘Ilmu’l-Rijāl, evidence is found to the contrary as well. In fact, this evidence coupled with the fact that he is inevitably found in the chain of narrators of many Ahādīth which disparage the status of the Qur’ān, that of the first two caliphs as well as that of Ā’ishah (rta), the beloved wife of the Prophet (sws)45 cast dense clouds of doubt on his personality.

This contrary evidence shows that Zuhrī is guilty of the following:


1. Idrāj

2. Tadlīs

3. Irsāl


1. Idrāj: In the text of a Hadīth, this means the insertion of something in it that does not belong to it without giving any indication of this insertion. (Mahmūd Tahhān, Taysīr Mustalih al-Hadīth, [Karachi: Qadīmī Kutub Khānah], p. 102)

Idrāj is prohibited by all the authorities:

Idrāj deliberately done by a narrator is totally prohibited in all its types. There is a consensus among the scholars of Fiqh, Hadīth and Usūl, besides others on this because it is camouflage and deceit and an attribution of something to someone who never said it. Ibn Sam‘ānī and others besides him say: ‘He who deliberately does Idrāj becomes unreliable, and a person who changes a passage in any way is a liar’. (Ahmad Muhammad Shākir, Al-Bā‘is al-Hathīth Sharah Ikhtisāru’l- ‘Ulūm al-Hadīth (Ibn Kathīr) 3rd ed., [Cairo: Dāru’l-Turāth, 1979], p. 64)

It is known that Zuhrī was a Mudrij (person who does Idrāj):

Zuhrī used to explain various Ahādīth a lot and many a time he would not mention the particle [of speech] from which would be known whether the words were from the Prophet (sws) or from Zuhrī. So some of his contemporaries would always ask him to separate his words from those of the Prophet (sws). (Sakhāwī, Fathu’l-Mughīs, vol. 1, [Beirut: Dāru’l Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1996], p. 267-8)

Rabī‘ah would say to Ibn Shihāb: My situation is totally different from you. Whatever I say, I say it from my own self and you say it on the authority of the Prophet (sws) and so you must be careful, and it is not befitting for a person to waste himself [like this]. (Bukhārī, Tacrīkhu’l-Kabīr, vol. 3, [Beirut: Dāru’l-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah], pp. 286-7)

Rabī‘ah would say to Ibn Shihāb: When you narrate something according to your own opinion, always inform the people that this is your own view. And when you narrate something from the Prophet (sws), always inform them that it is from the Prophet (sws) so that they do not consider it to be your opinion. (Khatīb Baghdādī, Al-Faqīh wa Al-Mutafaqqih, vol. 1, [Lahore: Dāru’l-Ahyā al-Sunnah], p. 148)

Ibn Rajab records the following opinion of Imam Bukhārī:

Zuhrī would narrate Ahādīth and on most occasions would insert sentences from his own self. Some of these would be Mursal and some of them would be his own. (Ibn Rajab, Fathu’l-Bārī, 1st ed., vol. 5, [Jaddah: Dār Ibn al-Jawzī, 1996], p. 286)

2. Tadlīs: In Asnād, this means the narration from a person, whom a narrator has met, of something which is not heard from him giving the impression that it has actually been heard from him. (Ibn Salāh, Muqaddamah, 4th ed., [Multan, Farūqi Kutub Khānah, 157 AH], p. 34)

Imam Shu‘bah comments on Tadlīs in the following words:

It is the brother of falsehood. (Khatīb Baghdādī, Al-Kifāyah, 1st ed., [Hyderabad: Dā’iratu’l-Ma‘ārif, 1357 AH), p. 355)

It is worse than committing fornication. (Khatīb Baghdādī, Al-Kifāyah, 1st ed., [Hyderabad: Dā’iratu’l-Ma‘ārif, 1357 AH], p. 356)

Ibn Mubārak says:

That we plunge down from the sky is dearer to me than we do Tadlīs in a Hadīth. (Khatīb Baghdādī, Al-Kifāyah, 1st ed., [Hyderabad: Dā’iratu’l-Ma‘ārif, 1357 AH], p. 356)

Imam Shāf‘ī says:

We will not accept the narration of a Muddalis unless he says Haddathanī [It has been narrated to me] or Sami‘tu [I have heard]. (Shāf‘ī, Al-Risālah, [Beirut: Dāru’l-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah], p. 380)

Zuhrī’s Tadlīs is recorded in the following words: 

Imam Shāf‘ī, Dāra Qutanī and many others have attributed Tadlīs to Zuhrī. (Ibn Hajar, Tābaqātu’l-Mudallisīn, [Cairo: Maktabah Kulliyyāt al-Azhar], pps. 32-3)

3. Irsāl: It means that the person before a Tābi‘ī at the beginning of the chain is not mentioned. (Mahmūd Tahhān, Taysīr Mustalih al-Hadīth, [Karachi: Qadīmī Kutub Khānah], p. 70)

On the status of Mursal Ahādīth (Ahādīth afflicted with Irsāl), authorities say:

In reality, Mursal Ahādīth are weak and worthy of being forsaken because they do not fulfil one condition of Maqbūl Ahādīth [Ahādīth which are acceptable], which is Ittisāl [continuity in the chain of narrators], and because the status of the person who is not mentioned is unknown as there is a chance that he may not be a Sahābī [companion]. (Mahmūd Tahhān, Taysīr Mustalih al-Hadīth, [Karachi: Qadīmī Kutub Khānah], p. 71)

Imam Abū Dā’ūd says:

Out of the twenty two hundred Ahādīth narrated by Zuhrī only half are Musnad46 [the rest are Mursal]. (Dhahabī, Tadhkiratu’l-Huffāz, vol. 1, [Beirut: Dāru’l-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah], p. 109]

Ibn Hajar records the following words about Zuhrī in this regard:

Yahyā Ibn Sa‘īd Qattān is of the opinion that the Mursalāt of Zuhrī are baseless. (Ibn Hajar, Tahdhību’l-Tahdhīb, 1st ed., vol. 5, [Beirut: Dāru’l-Ma‘rifah, 1996], p. 269)

Imam Dhahabī has reported the following words of Yahyā Ibn Sa‘īd Qattān:

The Mursalāt of Zuhrī are the worst of all since he is a Hāfiz. Whenever, he wants he can disclose the name of a person, and whenever he wants he can conceal his name. (Dhahabī, Sayar A‘lām al-Nubalā, 8th ed., vol. 5, [Beirut: Mu’ssasah al-Risālah, 1992], p. 338)

Imam Shāf‘ī says:

The Mursalāt of Zuhrī are baseless since he even narrates from [a person as unreliable as] Sulaymān Ibn Arqam. (Dhahabī, Sayar A‘lām al-Nubalā, 8th ed., vol. 5, [Beirut: Mu’ssasah al-Risālah, 1992], p. 339)

Besides these three major aspects, it seems that Zuhrī is guilty of other blemishes as well:

Sometimes, a group of people would present a Hadīth to him to corroborate something. So, at times, he would narrate from the whole group and sometimes from one person of that group. This would be according to the way he felt during the narration. Sometimes, he would insert the Hadīth narrated by one into that narrated by someone else as he has done so in the Hadīth of Ifk besides others. When he would feel lazy, he would narrate Mursal Ahādīth, and when he would be feeling fresh, he would narrate Muttasil ones. It is because of this that his companions differ a lot about him. (Zarqānī, Sharah Mu’attā, vol. 3, [Beirut, Dāru’l-Fikr], p. 377)

In a letter to Imam Mālik, Imam Layth Ibn Sa‘ad writes:

When we would meet Ibn Shihāb, there would arise a difference of opinion in many issues. When any one of us would ask him in writing about some issue, he, in spite of being so learned, would give three very different answers, and he would not even be aware of what he had already said. It is because of this that I have left him – something which you did not like. (Ibn Qayyim, I’lāmu’l Mūwaqqi‘īn, vol. 3, [Beirut: Dāru’l-Jayl], p. 85)

In the light of this evidence, any narrative none of whose texts is without Zuhrī in its chain of narrators becomes suspect.



44. For more details see Tamannā ‘Imādī. Imam Zuhrī and Imam Tabarī, Rahman Publishing Trust, Karachi, 1994.

45.See Khālid Mas‘ūd, Muhammad Ibn Shihāb Zuhrī, Tadabbur, No. 21 (May 1987), 7-9).

46. Ahādīth in which there is no break in the chain of narrators and they are continuous up to the Prophet (sws). (See: Mahmūd Tahhān, Taysīr Mustalih al-Hadīth, [Karachi: Qadīmī Kutub Khānah], p. 134)

47. John Burton, Collection of the Qur’ān, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1977.

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