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Hadith al-Safina

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Imam 'Ali (a)
First Imam of Shi'a

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Ḥadīth al-Safīna (the narration of the ark) is a famous hadith narrated from Prophet Muhammad (s). In this Hadith, the Ahl al-Bayt (a) of the Prophet are likened to Noah's Ark. The Hadith is counted as one of the narrative proofs of the special situation of the Prophet's household in guidance and leadership of Muslims.


According to the narration of Abu Dhar al-Ghifari from the Prophet (s), the hadith reads:

Hadith al-Safina is narrated through about 50 chains of transmission in various hadith collections with slightly different words, in a way that has reached the level of Tawatur of the Content. The Hadith is narrated by six infallible Imams (a) (Imam Ali, Imam al-Hasan, Imam al-Sajjad, Imam al-Baqir, Imam al-Sadiq and Imam al-Rida (a)), some Sahabas (the Companions of the Prophet (s)) (Abu Dhar, Abu Sa'id al-Khudri, Ibn 'Abbas, Anas b. Malik, Salama b. Akwa', 'Abd Allah b. Zubayr and Abu Musa Ash'ari) and a group of Tabi'in (the Followers).


Shi'a scholars paid a special attention to this Hadith as a proof of the rightfulness of Ahl al-Bayt (a). 'Allama Sharaf al-Din has mentioned this Hadith as the second proof for their rightfulness in his book, al-Muraji'at.

The Hadith is used as evidence for proving the following points:

  • Necessity of obedience and adherence: In this Hadith, Ahl al-Bayt (a) are introduced as a means of salvation; to obey the means of salvation is necessary to attain salvation. Thus, it is necessary to obey Ahl al-Bayt (a).
  • Infallibility of Ahl al-Bayt (a): if someone whose obedience is obligatory is fallible, there will be no guarantee that he does not make any mistakes in his guidance. While in the Hadith, the salvation through Ahl al-Bayt (a) has been guaranteed. Therefore, Ahl al-Bayt (a) must be infallible.
  • Superiority of Ahl al-Bayt (a): If there were other people who were superior to Ahl al-Bayt (a), they should have been mentioned in the Hadith as the rescue ark.
  • Affection for Ahl al-Bayt (a): Entering the rescue ark without having affection for Ahl al-Bayt (a) is not possible.

Sunni Sources

Having narrated this Hadith in his book al-Mustadrak from Abu Dhar, al-Hakim al-Nayshaburi explicitly says that based on Muslim al-Nayshaburi's criteria this Hadith is Sahih, i.e. this Hadith is similar to other Hadiths mentioned by Muslim in his book Sahih, which is the second most reliable Hadith collection in Sunni school of thought.

After narrating this Hadith from early sources, Sayyid Ali Milani has mentioned that Sunni Muslims have counted it as a Sahih Hadith.

As Abu Dhar held the door of Ka'ba while narrating this Hadith, al-Tayyibi believes that this act is an emphasis on the authenticity of it and his appearance publicly and especially, in Masjid al-Haram shows the importance of this Hadith to Abu Dhar, and that he wanted to draw the attention of the public to it. Al-Tayyibi adds that in another narration Abu Dhar introduced him in the beginning by saying "who knows me, knows me; and who does not, I am Abu Dhar. I heard the Prophet …." By introducing himself, he wanted to remind people of another Hadith from the Prophet (s) about himself: "There is no one under the sky and on the earth more truthful than Abu Dhar." In Hadith al-Safina the Prophet of God (s) has mentioned this ark as the only way for redemption of this world and its seductions.

Al-Samhudi writes in al-Jawahir al-'iqdayn that the ark of Ahl al-Bayt (a) will rescue those who board it as Noah's Ark did. The Hadith wants to encourage people to hold firmly to the rope of Ahl al-Bayt (a), honor them and have affection for them.

Likewise, al-Manawi writes in his book Fayd al-qadir that Ahl al-Bayt (a) were likened to Noah's Ark as they rescue and guide people, i.e. as the people who were on Noah's Ark survived and were rescued, the salvation of the Islamic nation depends on adherence to Ahl al-Bayt (a); for they are the leaders and bright lights of guidance.

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