Sufi Chain : Did Hasan al-Basri gain knowledge from ‘Ali (r.a.) directly?

بسم الله

والحمد لله والصلاة والسلام علي رسول الله وعلي آله وصحبه أجمعين

Imam of Basra Hasan al-Basri is an important figure in islamic history. Besides being a great scholar of Fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence] and Tafsir [Qur’anic exegesis], he is also linked with well known sufi chains. People of Tasawwuf claim that the special knowledge which they call “secret knowledge” has been transferred from ‘Ali b. Talib (ra) to specific people whom he taught this knowledge. So this knowledge has been transferred from person to person up till our time. However the first link in their golden chain is broken as they claim Hasan al-basri took this ‘Ilm from ‘Ali directly while based on history we know that Hasan al-Basri never sit with Sayyiduna ‘Ali to gain knowledge. There has been unanimity among ‘Ulama of Hadith  in early times on this matter. However, later on people went overboard to establish this link. Hafiz Jalaluddin Al-Suyuti compiled one such treatise to establish the companionship of Hasan al-Basri with ‘Ali. Following is a response to all such arguments made to prove hearing of Hasan al-Basri with ‘Ali.

Claim – Hasan al-Basri took knowledge from ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (ra).

Response – Hasan al-Basri himself denied taking knowledge from any of the Sahaba who fought in Badr. This was narrated by his close companions and Huffaz like Qatada and Ayyub.

  1. Hammad b. Zaid narrated from Ayyub al-Sikhtiyani from Qatada who said:
    قَالَ قَتَادَةَ حَدَّثَنَا الْحَسَنُ أَنَّهُ مَا لَقِيَ أَحَدًا مِنَ الْبَدْرِيِّينَ شَافَهَهُ بِالْحَدِيث
    “Hasan al-Basri narrated to us that he did not met anyone from the Badri companions, listening directly to a hadith from him.” [Al-Fasawi (2/35)]
  2. Ayyub al-Sikhtiyani said:
    قَالَ مَا حَدَّثَنَا الْحَسَنُ عَنْ أَحَدٍ مِنْ أَهْلِ بَدْرٍ مُشَافَهَةً
    “Hasan did not narrate to us directly from any of the companions who fought in the battle of Badr.” [Al-Maraseel (95) Ibn Abi Hatim]

 

Claim: Hasan Basri lived in Madina when ‘Uthman was caliph he saw Zubair giving pledge to ‘Ali, therefore he has taken knowledge from ‘Ali.

Response: Here it is important to differentiate between following terminologies:

  1. Idraak [إِدْرَاكٌ]: This means a person found a specific time in which the person, whose companionship is being claimed, lived.
  2. Ru’yah [رأية]: This simply mean a person saw the one with whom him companionship is being discussed. This is enough to establish companionship with the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) where disconnected narration of a sahabi is unanimously accepted.

However, none of these is enough to establish hearing of Hasan from ‘Ali. It is accepted that Hasan Basri lived during the time of ‘Ali and he also saw him when they both were in Madina however there is no proof that he studied under him or even hear a single narration from him. In fact, it is not even known that he has started to seek knowledge when he was in Madina where he lived up to the age fourteen. [See comment of Hafiz Ibn Hajar in “al-Jawahir wa al-Durar” (2/939-940)]

Hafiz Bazzar said, “Hasan hearing from any of the companions who participated in the Battle of Badr is not proven, not even in a single narration.” [Nasb al-Rayah (1/91)]

Hafiz Abu Zur’ah al-Razi concluded it well. He was asked, “Did Hasan Basri met any of the people of Badr?” He replied, “He saw (some of) them. He saw ‘Ali.” I [Ibn Abi Hatim] asked, “Did he hear any narration from him?” He replied, “No.” [Al-Maraseel (94) Ibn Abi Hatim]

 

Claim: Hasan Basri have heard from seventy companions who fought in Badr.

Response: The reply comes from the Imam of ‘Ilal, ‘Ali b. Madeeni who said: “This is falsehood. I have counted people of Badr from whom Hadith is being narrated, so they did not reach the count of fifty. Among them migrants are twenty four.” [Siyar (4/566-567) by Al-Dhahabi]

This claim has been mentioned in some books but as Imam Ibn al-Madeeni said it is falsehood.

 

Claim: Hasan Basri hides the name of ‘Ali while narrating due to fear of Umayyids?

Response: In this regard, Hafiz al-Mizzi has mentioned a story. Yunus b. ‘Ubaid said: I asked Hasan al-Basri, “O Abu Sa’eed, you often say “the Messenger of Allah said so and so” while you have not found his time?” Hasan said, “O my nephew, you have asked me about something no one before have asked me about. If it is not for your status near me I would not have informed you about it. We are in a time as you see – He lived during the time of Hajjaj – so all what I say “The Messenger of Allah said…” then it is from ‘Ali b. Abi Talib. But we are in a time when I am not capable of mentioning ‘Ali (openly). [Tahdheeb al-Kamaal (6/124)]

Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali said regarding it, “This chain is weak. And it is not proven that Hasan heard from ‘Ali.” [Sharh al-‘Ilal (1/537)]

This report goes through Thumama b. ‘Ubaida from ‘Atiyyah b. Muharib from Yunus who narrated it from Hasan al-Basri. Thumama, in this chain, was highly unreliable narrator and I could not trace the details of ‘Atiyya b. Muharib in books of Rijal. That is why Ibn Rajab al Hanbali declared this unreliable and Hafiz Ibn Hajar excluded this report from Tahdheeb al-Tahdheeb.

This report also goes against the statement of Hasan Basri where he denied having narrated from any Sahabi who participated in Badr.

Besides that, it is also not true that Hajjaj b. Yusuf ever punished anyone simply for narrating from ‘Ali b. Abi Talib.

 

Claim : Hasan Basri himself narrated from ‘Ali (ra) wherein he clearly said that he heard it from ‘Ali. So this proves he met him and heard narrations from him.

Response: One such narration is quoted by Hafiz Mughaltay al-Hanafi in “Al-Ikmaal” (4/78). He attributed this to Musnad of Abu Ya’la with the chain of Juwairiya b. Ashras  [correct is Hawthara b. Ashras] from ‘Uqba b. Abi Sahbaa who said: I heard from Hasan b. Abi Hasan [al-Basri] saying: I heard from ‘Ali b. Abi Talib that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, “Similitude of my Ummah is like the rain..” [See also “Al-Haawi (2/125) by Al-Suyuti who quoted it from Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Al-Jawahir wa al-Durar (2/938) by Al-Sakhawi]

This tradition has been narrated in three different form:

  1. Hasan Basri from ‘Ali [which is being discussed]
  2. Hasan from ‘Ammar b. Yasir [Musnad Ahmad]
  3. Thabit al-Bunani from Anas
  4. Hasan from the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam)

However, as per Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal the correct version is the third one and it is clearly a Mursal. Imam Ahmad did not mention the first one from ‘Ali as he might not have come across any such chain [or it could be that this chain is only a mistake that is why nobody noticed it before]. Three great Huffaz and students of Hasan Basri viz. Thabit al-Bunani, Yunus and Humaid, narrate it through Hasan from the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) directly without mentioning anyone between them. [See, “Al-‘Ilal” (3/314-315) by Abdullah b. Ahmad]

It seems this narration is not present in all manuscripts of Musnad that is why Hafiz Ibn Hajar did not mention it in “al-Mutalib al-‘Aliya”. In any case, this isolated report on its own cannot be taken as a proof to reject Hasan’s own admission which was reported by Huffaz from his students.

Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani was asked about those people who take this report as Hujjah to establish companionship of Hasan with ‘Ali, so he replied:

“This argumentation which was given by al-Sairafi is not correct on the guidelines of the Imams of Hadith. It is correct as per the methodology of some of the usulis and people of Fiqh. That is because it is from the methodology of the Imams of Hadith, in case of dispute between different versions (of a narration), to give preference to the version narrated by majority, or by people greater in Hifz, or the one who was more knowledgeable about the sheikh from whom the narration is being narrated…”

Then Hafiz says:

“Unlike the Jurist and Usuli I have pointed at, for his methodology is to give preference to those with whom there is extra knowledge. So when a narrator attributes something to his teacher while others who were greater in Hifz, or more in numbers, or someone who had long companionship with that teacher negate it then they [the group of some Jurists and Usulis] prefer the report which establishes something over those who negate it…” [al-Jawahir (2/938)]

Note that in our case even the methodology of the Usuli and Faqih whom Ibn Hajar mentioned would not approve the companionship of Hasan Basri from ‘Ali. This is for the following reason:

  1. Hasan Basri himself denied any such possibility.
  2. Narrators of the given narration are not strong enough to stand against companions of Hasan who were Ayyub al-Sikhtiyani and Qatada.

In conclusion, such thing cannot be established based on an isolated narration that too which came through an obscure source not present in any other sources. Also it is narrated in different forms, the correct one of them being the mursal one narrated directly from the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam).

And Allah knows best.

English Translation of Mukhtasar Minhaj as-Sunnah

All praises due to Allah, the abridgement of the classic Minhaj as-Sunnah of Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah has been translated in english from Arabic. The original abridgement which is Mukhtasar Minhaj as-Sunnah was done by Shaykh ‘Abdullah Ghunayman. The brother who translated it from arabic is Nasir Garbu from Nigeria. May Allah reward him abundantly for his hard work.

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For any errors or mistake in the translation kindly send an email at [ahlussunnah.moin@gmail.com]

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