Muhammad Ibn ‘Umar al-Waqidi as a Narrator
He is the famous historian, the author of Maghazi and other books on history. His reliability is an issue of debate among scholars. Most of the scholars do not consider him reliable although they do not see any problem in quoting his narrations and reports related to history but not for evidence. The correct view is that of the majority scholars who do not take him as evidence.
His full name was Muhammad bin ‘Umar bin Waqid Al-Waqidi Al-Aslami, Abu ‘Abdullah Al-Madani. He was a Qadhi in Baghdad. He has narrated from the likes of Zaid bin Aslam, Thawr bin Yazid, Sufyan Ath-Thawri, Al-Awza’I, Ibn Juraij, Malik bin Anas, Ibn Abi Dhi’b, Ma’mar, Ibn Abi Saburah and many others. Those who have narrated from him include Ahmad bin Mansur Ar-Rammadi, Harith bin Abi Usamah, Husain bin Marzuq, Sulaiman Ash-Shadhkuni, Abu Bakr Ibn Abi Shaibah, Qasim bin Sallam, Ibn Sa’d (his scribe) and many others. He died in the year 207 AH.
Those who have made criticism on him are:
- Ibn Mubarak who abandoned him as reported by Bukhari.
- Ibn Numair who abandoned him as reported by Bukhari.
- Isma’eel bin Zakariyyah
- Ishaq bin Rahwayh
- Ahmad bin Hanbal
- Ali bin Madeeni
- Ibn Ma’een
- Al- Bukhari
- Abu Zur’ah Ar-razi
- Abu Hatim Ar-Razi
- Abu Dawud
- Ibn ‘Adi
- Ibn Hibban
- Abu Ahmad Al-Hakim
Refer to Tahdheeb al-Kamal (26-180-194) by Al-Mizzi, Tahdheeb at-Tahdheeb (9/363-368) by Ibn Hajar, Meezan al-I’tidal (3/662-666) by Dhahabi etc.
There are those who have praised him include: Al-Darawardi, Muhammad bin Salam Al-Jumahi, Ibrahim al-Harbi, Mus’ab Az-Zubairi, Abu ‘Aamir al-‘Uqdi, Mujahid bin Musa, As-Saghani, Al-Musayyibi, Ma’n bin ‘Isa, Abu Yahya al-Azhari, Ibn Numair, Qasim bin Sallam, ‘Abbas al-‘Anbari
- Ad-Darawardi who said that Al-Waqidi was Ameer al-Mumineen in the field of hadith. Besides that, Ad-Darawardi himself did not have the status as compared to the scholars quoted against Al-Waqidi. Al-Darawardi was criticized for his memory.
- Muhammad bin Sallam al-Jumahi said regarding him that he was the scholar of his time. This does not necessitate Tawtheeq in the terminology of hadith science. No wonder Hafiz Dhahabi says in Meezan (3/567) that he [Al-Waqidi] was one of the people of knowledge along with the weakness in him. Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani said, “He was Matrook along with the vastness of his knowledge.”
- Ibrahim al-Harbi said that he was the most knowledgeable person regarding the Islamic history. He also considered that Al-Waqidi was most reliable regarding the opinions of Malik and Ibn Abi Dhi’b.
- Mus’ab az-Zubairi said, “I have never seen someone like him.” Ibrahim al-Harbi narrates from him that Al-Waqidi was Thiqah.
- Abu ‘Aamir al-‘Uqdi said, “We are being asked regarding him? He is to be asked regarding us.” The same was said by Ma’n bin ‘Isa regarding him.
- Mujahid bin Musa said, “I have not written from anyone greater in memorizing than Al-Waqidi.” Al-Dhahabi said, “He said the truth. He was on the peak in memorizing the historical reports, Seerah, Maghazi, incidents, the timeline of people, Fiqh and other things.”
- Muhammad bin Ishaq al-Musayyibi said, “He was Thiqah.”
- Abu Yahya Az-Zuhri said, “He was Thiqah Ma’moon.”
- Ibn Numair said, “His narrations from us is alright, as for his narration from people of Madinah then they are more aware of it.”
- Abu ‘Ubaid said, “He was Thiqah.”
- Muhammad bin Ishaq As-Saaghani also declared him Thiqah.
- Yazeed bin Haroon declared him Thiqah.
- ‘Abbas Al-‘Anbari said as reported by Khateeb, “Al-Waqidi is more beloved to me than Abdur-Razzaq.” In a report of Ibn ‘Adi he said, “Al-Waqidi was more truthful than Abdur-Razzaq.” This statement doesn’t necessitate Tawtheeq because according to ‘Abbas, Abdur-Razzaq was a liar and to downgrade him he compared him with Al-Waqidi as Al-Waqidi was famous as a rejected narrator. Note that no one from the scholars rely on ‘Abbas in his Jarh on Abdur-Razzaq As-San’ani.
- Ibn Sa’d praised him with knowledge.
Comparison between praise and disparagement:
After listing out all the statement of scholars regarding him we see that:
- Jarh regarding him is explained. For instance Imam Ahmad said, “We never cease to defend him until he narrated from Ma’mar from Az-Zuhri from Nabhan from Um Salamah that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) to his wives, “Are you blind too?” And this is the hadith of Yunus, no one else narrates it besides him.” Similarly Ibn Ma’een said, “He used to mix up the hadith of Yunus to the hadith of Ma’mar. He was not reliable.” Abu Ahmad said, “He was Dhaahib al-Hadith.” Muslim said, “He was Matrook al-Hadith.” Similarly Ibn al-Madeeni accused him of fabricating hadith. The most conclusive statement was given by Ibn Adi who said, “These are the hadith which I mentioned and with it also those which I did not mention, none of them are preserved. Those narrations are not preserved from those Thiqaat through whom al-Waqidi narrates except through the route of al-Waqidi, and the evil is from al-Waqidi. The texts of the reports of al-Waqidi are not preserved and his weakness is obvious.” Ibn Hibban said, “He would narrate from Thiqaat reversed [Maqloob] reports, and from Thabt narrators severely disconnected narrations so much so that sometimes it appears to the heart that he does it intentionally.” Ad-Daarqutni said, “Weakness is clearly apparent in his narrations.” I say: Anyone who is slightly familiar with the methodology of scholars of hadith would smell weakness in the reports of Al-Waqidi for the weakness of a narrator is observed in his narrations.
- Majority criticized him as compared to very few scholars who made Tawtheeq. Those who made Tawtheeq were not famous for their criticism and praise on narrators, hence barely anyone will see them commenting on narrator’s status in the books of Jarh and Ta’deel.
So based on these conclusions we are sure about the unreliability of Muhammad bin ‘Umar al-Waqidi. Finally I quote a beautiful observation of Hafiz Dhahabi: It has already been mentioned that Al-Waqidi is weak,but he is needed in case of incidents of Battles and History. We mention his works without taking evidence from them. As for Faraidh then it is not good to mention him. Here are the six books of Hadith and Musnad Ahmad and you will see them reporting the narrations of several weak narrators, rather even Matrook reporters, but they do not mention al-Waqidi. This is besides the fact that his status according to me is that his hadith narrations are to be written as I do not accuse him of fabricating hadith. There is extremism, from some point of view, in the statement of those who totally left him just like there is nothing to rely on in the statement of those who declared him Thiqah like Yazeed, Abu ‘Ubayd, As-Saghani, Al-Harbi, Ma’n and all ten hadith scholars because there is agreement among scholars in these days that he is not Hujjah and his narrations are of the category of severely weak narrations (waahi).” Siyar (9/469).