People of Consensus
|People of Consensus
People of Consensus or Aṣḥāb al-Ijmāʿ (Arabic: أصحاب الإجماع) is a term which refer to a certain group of transmitters of hadiths who are considered by scholars of rijal to be in a high ranking of reliability. According to the majority of scholars, they are 18 people from the companions of Imam al-Baqir (a) through those of Imam al-Rida (a). They are considered as very reliable by all scholars. However, there are various views as to how reliable they are—from limiting the reliability to these people themselves to the reliability of everyone from whom they have transmitted hadiths.
In his Rijal, al-Kashshi highlighted the names of a number of transmitters of hadiths in three cases (in companions of Imam al-Baqir (a) and Imam al-Sadiq (a); companions of Imam al-Sadiq (a); and companions of Imam al-Rida (a)), claiming that Imami scholars have consensus over the accuracy of hadiths transmitted by these people. For example, he says about some companions of Imam al-Sadiq (a), "the Imamiyya have consensus over the accuracy of hadiths which accurately narrated by them as well as the truth of their sayings". Since al-Kashshi used the word "consensus" (ijma') with regard to these people, they came to be known as "People of Consensus" ("Ashab al-Ijma').
People of Consensus are trusted by Shiite scholars. However, there are different views as to how reliable they are. Such views can be classified into three categories:
- The reliability of all people from whom the People of Consensus have transmitted hadith: some people have claimed that any chain of transmission of hadiths in which one of the People of Consensus occurs implies the reliability of all other transmitters from whom they have transmitted hadith, supporting the idea with the saying that, "People of Consensus do not transmit hadiths from anyone except if that person is reliable". However, Ayatollah al-Khoei has rejected the claim, because these people have sometimes transmitted hadiths from unreliable transmitters of hadiths.
- The reliability of all hadiths: some people have claimed that if People of Consensus occur in the chain of transmission of a hadith, then the hadith counts as reliable and acceptable, even if they have transmitted the hadith from a non-righteous person. Al-Hurr al-'Amili has subscribed to such a view early in the 7th point at the end of his Wasa'il al-Shi'a. The view was also adopted by al-Sayyid Muhammad Mahdi Bahr al-'Ulum in his al-Durrat al-Najafiyya under Ibn Abi 'Umayr.
- The reliability of the People of Consensus only: some scholars, including Ayatollah al-Kho'i, maintain that there was a consensus over the reliability of these people only, that is, they never lied and were highly honored, but it does not mean that all hadiths attributed to them are acceptable.
Historically speaking, the formation of the term "Ashab al-Ijma'" (People of Consensus) traces back to the transition decades from the third/ninth century to the fourth/tenth century; indeed it goes back to al-Kashshi, the well-known Imami scholar of 'Ilm al-Rijal in parts of his book. The following words from al-Shaykh al-Tusi might point to People of Consensus:
- The Imamiyya relies on whatever Zurara b. A'yan, Muhammad b. Muslim, Burayd, Abu Basir, al-Fudayl b. Yasar, and people like them narrate, and prefer it to what others not as virtuous as them narrate.
The concept of People of Consensus (Ashab al-Ijma') was formed since the 6th/12th century among scholars of 'Ilm al-Rijal, and it was referred to by scholars such as Ibn Shahrashub, al-'Allama al-Hilli, Ibn Dawud al-Hilli, and then al-Shahid al-Awwal and al-Shahid al-Thani in different ways.
For al-Shaykh al-Baha'i, People of Consensus were very important: if a hadith was cited in a asl (hadith book) attributed to one of these people, he considered it as reliable. Mir Damad also considered hadiths involving these people to be reliable. On the basis of his understanding of al-Kashshi's words, he believed that hadiths involving these people are reliable, even if they drop part of the narrators between them and the Imams (a).
Akhbari scholars, such as Muhammad Amin Istarabadi, Fayd Kashani, Husayn b. Shihab al-Din al-Karaki, and al-Hurr al-'Amili, insisted that there is such a consensus over the reliability of hadiths narrated by these people in order to argue that every hadith in the Four Books and other Shiite hadith collections are correct. In fact, this has led to the issue coming under more attention by later scholars. Among later scholars, al-Shafti wrote an independent essay on this (published in 1314/1896).
Al-Kashshi introduces People of Consensus as follow:
Among the Companions of Imam al-Baqir (a)
Among the Companions of Imam al-Sadiq (a)
Among the Companions of Imam al-Kazilm (a) and Imam al-Rida (a)
The well-known quote from al-Kashshi mentions 18 people as People of Consensus. However, there are two other quotes in this regard as well.
In his Rijal, Ibn Dawud has quoted al-Kashshi's remarks about People of Consensus, adding Hamdan b. Ahmad to the list. Thus, Ibn Dawud takes People of Consensus to be 19 people. However, in manuscripts of Rijal al-Kashshi available to us, Hamdan is not mentioned as a Person of Consensus. Thus, Muhaddith Nuri has speculated that a manuscript of Rijal al-Kashshi was available to Ibn Dawud which is not available to us. This is supported by the fact that the manuscripts of Rijal al-Kashshi available to us are summaries of the original book, so it is possible that in the original books Hamdan is mentioned as well.
Muhaddith Nuri takes People of Consensus to be 22 or 23 people. He says although al-Kashshi has mentioned 18 people, he did not mean to restrict People of Consensus to them. He only reported the consensus that he had a reason to believe. So, there might have been another consensus which he had no reason to believe. Other people have replaced Abu Basir al-Asadi and al-Hasan b. Mahbub with other people, but they do not mean to say that there is no consensus other than this. Thus, al-Kashshi has just reported one consensus, and others have reported another consensus. We can accept both consensuses, taking all these people to be People of Consensus. Thus, he adds disputed people (Layth b. al-Bakhtari, al-Hasan b. Faddal, Faddala b. Ayyub, and 'Uthman b. 'Isa) to the list of People of Consensus.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from اصحاب اجماع in Farsi WikiShia.