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Hadith 'Ali ma' al-Haqq

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Hadith ʿAlī maʿa al-ḥaqq wa-l-ḥaqq maʿa ʿAlī (Arabic: حديث عَلِيٌّ مَعَ الْحَقِّ وَالْحَقُّ مَعَ عَلِيٍّ, ʿAli is with the truth and the truth is with ʿAli) is a hadith from the Prophet (s) concerning Imam 'Ali (a). The same content has been transmitted from the Prophet (s) in different words. Some of these appear in Shiite and Sunni sources and the hadith is deemed mutawatir (or frequently transmitted).

In the Six-Member Council for the selection of the caliph after 'Umar b. al-Khattab, 'Ali (a) cited this hadith to prove his competence for the position of caliphate. Moreover, a number of the Prophet's companions and Sunni scholars have made recourse to this hadith as a demonstration of the rightness of Imam 'Ali’s (a) deeds on different occasions.

The hadith has been thought to imply the superiority of Imam 'Ali (a) over other companions, his infallibility, the obligation of his obedience, and his priority for imamate and succession of the Prophet (s), and the prohibition of abusing or cursing Imam 'Ali (a).

Content and Text

Being with the truth is a virtue of Amir al-Mu'minin (a), as is pointed out in a hadith from the Prophet (s): “ʿAli is with the truth and the truth is with ʿAli.” The hadith has been transmitted with different wordings and on various occasions from the Prophet (s). According to al-Allama al-Hilli, hadiths to this effect are so frequent that cannot be enumerated. There are different transcriptions of this hadith in sources such as Kashf al-yaqin, Kashf al-ghimma, Bihar al-anwar, al-Ghadir, and Mizan al-hikma. In his Ghayat al-maram, Sayyid Hashim al-Bahrani discusses this and similar hadiths within two sections in terms of 26 points.

Validity

It is believed that some of these hadiths are unquestionable and indubitable, consensually agreed upon by both Shiite and Sunni Muslims, and mutawatir (i.e. frequently transmitted). Furthermore, it is said that some of the texts of these hadiths possess the highest degree of validity, their tawatur and incontrovertibility being accepted by Shiite and Sunni scholars of hadiths. In addition to these, no objection has been made against the chains of transmitters of this hadith.

According to Ibn Abi-l-Hadid, the chain of transmission of this hadith is accurate and indubitable. There are hadiths with the content of “ʿAli is with the truth” in some of the Six Books and other Sunni sources, allegedly amounting to about 130 cases.

Ibn Taymiyya's Claim

In his Minhaj al-sunna, Ibn Taymiyya holds that the hadith has not been transmitted by the Prophet (s) even via an invalid chain of transmission. He rebukes al-Allama al-Hilli for the citation of this hadith, referring to him as a liar. In response to Ibn Taymiyya, Shiite scholars have cited hadiths by the Prophet's (s) companions to this effect. Moreover, in his al-Ghadir, Allama Amini cites many hadiths from prominent Sunni scholars and their authoritative sources.

Transmitters

The hadith, “ʿAli is with the truth” has been transmitted by Imam ʿAli (a) and 23 companions of the Prophet (s), including the First Caliph, Sa'd b. 'Ubada, Abu Dhar al-Ghifari, Miqdad, Salman al-Farsi, Ammar b. Yasir, Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas, Abd Allah b. al-Abbas, Jabir b. Abd Allah al-Ansari, Hudhayfa b. Yaman, ʿAʾisha, and Umm Salama.

In hadiths from Ahl al-Bayt (a) (namely, the Prophet’s household), this hadith has been transmitted by Imam al-Sadiq (a) through his ancestors.

Arguments and Citations

There were different occasions on which Imam ʿAli (a) and other companions of the Prophet (s) cited the hadith of “ʿAli is with the truth” as evidence in favor of ʿAli (a):

  • In the Six-Member Council: formed after the death of the Second Caliph for the selection of the next caliph, Imam ʿAli (a) cited this hadith as evidence for his competence for the position of caliphate. He asked other members of the council to testify the accuracy of the hadith, and they did so.
  • The Battle of Jamal: Muhammad b. Abu Bakr, ʿAbd Allah b. Badil and his brother Muhammad, met ʿAʾisha after the battle and interrogated her upon the hadith that ʿAli (a) was with the truth and the truth was with ʿAli (a). After the Battle of Nahrawan, ʿAʾisha herself cited this hadith as evidence that ʾAli (a) was the right side of the battle.
  • The Battle of Siffin: Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, a companion of the Prophet (s), delivered a speech during the battle in which he warned Imam ʿAli's opponents and enemies that Ammar b. Yasir was on the Imam’s side and that the Prophet (s) said that ʿAli (a) is with the truth. Moreover, Saʿd b. Abi Waqqas, who was not friendly with Imam ʿAli (a), cited this hadith in the presence of Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan.

There are Sunni scholars, such as Ahmad b. Hanbal, Ibn Abi-l-Hadid, Ibn al-Jawzi, and Sibt b. al-Jawzi, who have cited this hadith in praise of Imam ʿAli (a) and as evidence of the rightness of his actions.

Interpretations

There have been various interpretations of the hadith, “ʿAli is with the truth,” by Muslim scholars:

ʿAli (a) as the criterion of right and wrong

Imam ʿAli (a) is characterized as being right in all of his deeds, as insightful of the truth, and as a criterion for telling the true/right from the false/wrong. Some have invoked the hadith to show that ʿAli’s enemies are misguided and wrong. And others have cited the hadith as evidence that the only saved sect are the followers of Imam ʿAli (a). Fakhr al-Razi, a Sunni exegete, makes a recourse to this hadith to demonstrate that a person who follows ʿAli (a) in religious matters will be guided, just as the original hadith continues as follows: “Then the Prophet (s) told ʿAmmar b. Yasir: if all people go one way and ʿAli goes the other, then you follow ʿAli’s way as his is the right way.”

Imam ʿAli’s Imamate and Immediate Succession

Shiite scholars believe that a corollary of the hadith, “ʿAli is with the truth,” is his full-fledged superiority to all other companions of the Prophet (s), including his absolute competence in imamate, leadership, and immediate succession of the Prophet (s). ʿAli (a) would not be characterized in the way he was in this hadith had he lacked the highest degree of knowledge, morality, and political competence.

According to Allama al-Majlisi, Mu'tazila have also cited these hadiths as evidence for the superiority of Imam 'Ali (a) over other companions.

Imam ʿAli's Infallibility

Al-Shaykh al-Mufid believes that Imam ʿAli (a) could not commit any errors or doubts about divine rulings since he is characterized by the Prophet (s) as being with the truth, which amounts to saying that he would never go astray. Given the unconditional unqualified character of the hadith, some have argued that it constitutes evidence for Imam ʿAli's infallibility in all his deeds, encompassing all epistemic, conative, legislative, commonsensical, social, and moral contexts. For this reason, it was impossible for the Imam (a) to commit any errors or sins, since in that case ʿAli (a) could not be with the truth or the truth could not be with ʿAli (a), in which case the unqualified character of the Prophet’s words would be breached.

Obligatory Obedience of ʿAli (a) and the Prohibition of Any Hostility Towards ʿAli

Given this hadith, it is obligatory for everyone to obey ʿAli (a) in an unconditional way. Some have cited these hadiths as evidence for the highest degree of virtue, dignity, and greatness of Imam ʿAli (a), believing that at the very least the hadith implies the prohibition of fighting with, cursing, and expressing hostility towards ʿAli (a).

Simulation of the Hadith for the Second Caliph

There are Sunni sources in which a similar hadith is cited (s) concerning Umar b. al-Khattab, in which the Prophet (s) greets ʿUmar with mercy, adding that ʿUmar tells the truth, even if the truth abandons him.

A number of scholars believe that the hadith of ʿAli (a) being with the truth was so valuable in its content and chains of transmissions that it could not be reasonably denied. Thus, the Imam’s enemies have tried to fabricate similar hadiths from his rivals or to add virtues of the preceding caliphs to the hadith about Imam ʿAli (a), so that the virtue does not remain exclusive to the Imam (a).

Notes

References

  • Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd b. Hibat Allāh. Sharḥ Nahj al-balagha. Qom: Maktabat Ayatullāh al-Marʿashī al-Najafī, 1404 AH.
  • Ibn Taymīyya, Aḥmad b. ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm. Minhāj al-sunna al-nabawīyya fī naqd kalām al-shīʿa al-qadarīyya. Edited by Muḥammad Rashād Sālim. [n.p]: Jāmiʿat al-Imām Muḥammad b. Saʿūd al-Islāmīyya, 1406 AH/1986.