When the Surah of Baraat was revealed (it is reported that) the holy prophet said “No one but one of my own family should announce this Surah”, he then sent Ali (RA) to join the pilgrimiage that was led by Abubakr (RA) and announce the Surah. In some reports it says that Abubakr remained the head of the pilgrims in some other it says that Abubakr got back to the prophet while asking if anything against him was revealed.
Question: What was the idea behind sending a member of family (Ali) to announce the Baraat. Why couldn’t a non-family member do it?
Almost all of the compilers of narratives of sayings ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) and his life have recorded that the Prophet (pbuh) sent Ali (ra) to declare the judgment revealed in Surah Bara’ah on the polytheists of Arabia. It is reported that the Prophet (pbuh) sent Abu Bakr (ra) to lead the Muslims during Hajj in 9 AH. After his departure, the verses of Surah Bara’ah were revealed so the Prophet (pbuh) sent Ali (ra) to declare the judgment before the gathering in Mekkah. However, the additional information about the incident you have referred to is only mentioned in some of the traditions, which are not sound enough to establish the reliability of the fact. Had the matter been so clear, more reliable narrators would not have ignored it.
Even if we ignore the element of weakness in the authenticity of these traditions, it is clear that we can not determine, with any degree of certainty, the reason why the Prophet (pbuh) put the referred responsibility on Ali’s shoulders or, for that matter, on that of any one else from among his ahl al-bayet. Only the Prophet (pbuh) and the Almighty could have explained the reason, which of course they did not. In the absence of any information from the Holy Prophet (pbuh) any opinion regarding why the Prophet (pbuh) selected Ali (ra) to make the announcement would be mere baseless conjecture. If someone comes up with a view on this issue, he must substantiate his claim with clear and authentic reports of any reason given by the Prophet (pbuh) himself, so that we may study the basis of this opinion and, subsequently, come to a conclusion.
Below is the text of the traditions that mention the Prophet’s (pbuh) statement that he needed to send someone from his family, followed by a brief analysis of their authenticity.
The First Narrative
حدثنا عفان حدثنا حماد عن سماك عن أنس بن مالك رضي الله عنه أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بعثه ببراءة مع أبي بكر فلما بلغ ذا الحليفة قال عفان لا يبلغها إلا أنا أو رجل من أهل بيتي فبعث بها مع علي بن أبي طالب رضي الله عنه
Affan narrated from Hammad who narrated from Sammak who reported from Anas Bin Malik that the Prophet (Pbuh) sent him with Abu Bakr with the verses regarding Bara`ah. When he reached Zul Haleefah (Affan said) that no body should announce them except he or someone from his family. So he sent those verses by the hand of Ali (ra). (Musnad Ahmad, narrative no. 13237)
This tradition is not that reliable because of presence of Sammak Bin Harab, about whom we find the following observations of the scholars who have analyzed the character and life history of the narrators of the traditions ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh):
قال أبو طالب عن أحمد مضطرب الحديث
Abu Talib said that he was Muztarib ul Hadith (one whose reports are contradictory to the one more reliable than him).
وقال بن أبي خيثمة سمعت بن معين سئل عنه ما الذي عابه قال أسند أحاديث لم يسندها غيره وهو ثقة وقال بن عمار يقولون أنه كان يغلط ويختلفون في حديثه
And Ibn Abi Khusaima said that he heard Ibn Mueen say, when he was asked about him, that he used to attribute the traditions, no one narrated except him and he was reliable. And Ibn Ammar said that scholars would say that he commits mistakes and they would differ about his narrations.
وكان الثوري يضعفه بعض الضعف
And Al-Thauriy would attach some weaknesses to him.
قال زكريا بن عدي عن بن المبارك سماك ضعيف في الحديث
Zikriyya Bin Adi said that Ibn Mubarak said that Sammak was not reliable in his narration.
وقال النسائي ليس به بأس وفي حديثه شيء
Nasai said that there is nothing wrong with accepting his reports however there is something wrong in his reports.
وقال بن حبان في الثقات يخطىء كثيرا
Ibn Hibban said in his book “Al-Thiqat” that he very often committed mistakes.
وقال النسائي كان ربما لقن فإذا انفرد بأصل لم يكن حجة
Nisai said that perhaps he was of good memory but when he was alone in a report he was not considered to be reliable. (Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 4: 204)
The Second Narrative
وقال عبد الله بن أحمد بن حنبل حدثنا محمد بن سليمان حدثنا لوين حدثنا محمد بن جابر عن سماك عن حنش عن علي رضي الله عنه قال لما نزلت عشر آيات من براءة على النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم دعا النبي صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم أبا بكر فبعثه بها ليقرأها على أهل مكة ثم دعاني فقال أدرك أبا بكر فحيثما لحقته فخذ الكتاب منه فاذهب إلى أهل مكة فاقرأه عليهم فلحقته بالجحفة فأخذت الكتاب منه ورجع أبو بكر إلى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال يا رسول الله نزل في شيء فقال لا ولكن جبريل جاءني فقال لن يؤدي عنك إلا أنت أو رجل منك هذا إسناد فيه ضعف
And Abdullah Bin Ahmad Bin Hambal said that Muhammad Bin Suleman reported from Luwain who reported from Muhammad Bin Jabir who reported from Samamk who reported from Hanash who reported Ali say: when ten of the verses of Surha Bara`ah were revealed on the Prophet (pbuh) he called Abu Bakr (ra) and sent him to read them out to people of Mecca. Then he called me and ordered me to reach Abu Bakr and that when I meat him I should take the written material sfrom him and go to the people of Mecca and read it out to them. So I got him at Jafnah and got it from him. When Abu Bakr came back to the Prophet (Pbuh) he asked him if any thing was revealed regarding him. The Prophet (Pbuh) replied in negative and explained that Gabriel came and said that no one should take the message except himself and someone from his family. And this is a weak chain of narration. [Musnad Ahmad 1230]
The narrator himself has pointed to weakness of the report. One of the narrators Samamk we have dealt with above. In what follows is the observations of the scholars of the personalities of the reporter about Muhammad Bin Jabar Bin Sayar Bin Talaq:
قال الدوري عن بن معين كان أعمى واختلط عليه حديثه وكان كوفيا فانتقل إلى اليمامة وهو ضعيف وقال عمرو بن علي متروك الحديث
Al-Duwari said on authority of Ibn Moin that he was blind and he was much confused in his narrations. He was from Kufa and then shifted to Yamama and he was weak. And Amr Bin Ali said he was Matrook ul Hadith (i.e., it was not allowed to accept his reports)
قال أبو زرعة محمد بن جابر ساقط الحديث
Abu Zarhah said that Abu Zarhah was Saqit uo Hadith (i.e. his traditions were not accepted).
وقال البخاري ليس بالقوي يتكلمون فيه روى مناكير
Bukhari said that he was not reliable and scholars would say something which injured his reliability and he has reported baseless traditions.
وقال أبو داود ليس بشيء
Abu Daud said that he was nothing.
قال أحمد بن حنبل لا يحدث عنه إلا شر منه
Ahmad Bin Hambal has said that only those people report from him who are even worse than him. (Tahdhib al Tahdhib 9: 78)
The Third Narrative
وقال إسرائيل عن أبي إسحاق عن زيد بن يثيع قال نزلت براءة فبعث رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أبا بكر ثم أرسل عليا فأخذها فلما رجع أبو بكر قال نزل في شيء قال لا ولكن أمرت أن أبلغها أنا أو رجل من أهل بيتي
And Israel reported from Abu Ishaq who reported from Zaid Bin Yaseeh say: ‘When Surah Bara’ah was revealed the Prophet (pbuh) sent Abu Bakr (ra) (to announce the declaration). Then the Prophet (pbuh) dispatched Ali (ra) who took it from Abu Bakr (ra). When Abu Bakr returned he asked the Prophet (pbuh) whether something was revealed about him. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) replied in negative and explained that he was required to announce it himself or someone from his family. (Ibn Kathir 2: 334)
This report too does not hold water because of two things. A) The chain of reporters is broken as the reporter between Zaid and Ali is not present there. Yazid could not have witnessed the incident and he does not name the source. B) The presence of Israel Bin Yunas also casts doubt in the reliability of tradition. What follows are comment of some of the scholars about the said narrator.
وقال صالح بن أحمد عن أبيه إسرائيل عن أبي إسحاق فيه لين سمع منه بآخرة
And Saleh Bin Ahmad reported his father Israel’s saying that Israel’s reports from Abu Ishaq were lenient and he heard his in his last age.
وقال يعقوب بن شيبة صالح الحديث وفي حديثه لين وقال في موضع آخر ثقة صدوق وليس في الحديث بالقوي ولا بالساقط
Yaqoob Bin Shaibah said that he was Salikhul Hadith and there existed in his reports weakness and another time he said that he was reliable but in Hadith he was not strong enough to be taken from him nor are his reports rejected.
وقال النسائي ليس به بأس وروى بن البراء عن على بن المديني إسرائيل ضعيف
And Nisai said that there is nothing wrong in accepting traditions from him and Ibn Baraa reported Ali Bin al-Madayini say that he was Zaeef.
وأطلق بن حزم ضعف إسرائيل ورد به أحاديث من حديثه
Ibn Hazam charged him with weakness in his reports and because of that he rejected some of his reports.
وقال عثمان بن أبي شيبة عن عبد الرحمن بن مهدي إسرائيل لص يسرق الحديث
Usman Bin Abi Shaibah said on authority of Abdurrehman Bin Mehdi that Israel was a thief who used to steal traditions. (Tahdhib al Tahdhib volume 1 page 229)
The foregoing discussion shows that in spite of the fact that some of the scholars accepted tradition from him and declared him reliable there exist some contrary reports which cast doubts on the personality of the reporter and this dispute entails that we must not accept his traditions without strong corroboration. Ascribing any sayings to the Prophet (pbuh) is too serious a matter to be taken for granted on the bases of such weak reports.
Another surprising fact, as I have mentioned in the beginning, is that the reports found in more reliable books of Ahadith do not mention this part of the account. Had the matter been so clear, there would not have been such lack of information on the part of all those narrators who are considered more reliable.
I hope this helps
Tariq Mhmood Hashmi
January 21, 2003