An angelic word?
What is the sourcing for the following tradition, is it Ṣaḥīḥ (authentic)?
عَنْ سَهْلِ بْنِ سَعْدٍ قَالَ جَاءَ جِبْرِيلُ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ يَا مُحَمَّدُ عِشْ مَا شِئْتَ فَإِنَّكَ مَيِّتٌ وَاعْمَلْ مَا شِئْتَ فَإِنَّكَ مَجْزِيٌّ بِهِ وَأَحْبِبْ مَنْ شِئْتَ فَإِنَّكَ مُفَارِقُهُ وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ شَرَفَ الْمُؤْمِنِ قِيَامُ اللَّيْلِ وَعِزَّهُ اسْتِغْنَاؤُهُ عَنِ النَّاسِ
Sahl ibn Sa’d reported: The Angel Gabriel came to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and he said, “O Muhammad, live as you wish, for you will surely die. Work as you wish, for you will surely be repaid. Love whomever you wish, for you will surely be separated. Know that the nobility of the believer is in prayer at night and his honour is in his independence of people.”
- Some scholars have remarked that the tradition is Ṣaḥīḥ (authentic beyond reasonable doubt), such as al-Ḥākim. However, upon appraisal of the isnād (chain of transmission), this judgement is difficult to maintain, given the problems arising over three-narrators in who appear in succession.
- The matn (reported wording) too, is not without its problems. What is unusual about the narration is that this is not a report which is based upon something the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him said or did. Rather, it is a report about what was allegedly said to him.
- Looking at all evidence in the round, this tradition is judged to be ḍaef (weak).
The narration was recorded in al-Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ by Imām al-Ṭabarāni [Vol. 4, no 4278, pp. 187/188]. In full, it is as follows:
حدثنا عبد الله بن أحمد بن حنبل قال حدثني محمد ابن حميد الرازي قال نا زافر بن سليمان عن محمد بن عيينة عن أبي حازم عن سهل بن سعد قال جاء جبريل إلى النبي فقال يا محمد عش ما شئت فإنك ميت واعمل ما شئت فإنك مجزي به واحبب من شئت فإنك مفارقه واعلم أن شرف المؤمن قيام الليل وعزه استغناؤه عن الناس
Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Ḥanbal narrated to us he said Muḥammad ibn Ḥumayd al-Rāzi narrated to me he said Zāfir ibn Sulaymān narrated to us from Muḥammad ibn ‘Uyayna from Abu Ḥāzim from Sahl ibn Sa’d, he said: Jibreel came to the Prophet and he said – ‘O Muḥammad live as you wish, for you will surely die. Work as you wish, for you will surely be repaid. Love whomever you wish, for you will surely be separated. Know that the nobility of the believer is in prayer at night and his honour is in his independence from people.’
Other scholars have cited this tradition in their respective collections, such as al-Ḥākim in al-Mustadrak [Vol. 4, no. 8002, p. 469] and Bayhaqy in Sha’b al-‘Imān [Vol. 7, no. 10541, p. 349]. These are as follows:
حدثنا محمد بن سعيد المذكر الرازي حدثنا أبو زرعة عبيد الله بن عبد الكريم حدثنا عيسى بن صبيح حدثنا زافر بن سليمان عن محمد بن عيينة عن أبي حازم قال مرة عن ابن عمر وقال مرة عن سهل بن سعد قال جاء جبريل عليه السلام إلى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال يا محمد عش ما شئت فإنك ميت وأحبب من أحببت فإنك مفارقه واعمل ما شئت فإنك مجزي به ثم قال يا محمد شرف المؤمن قيام الليل وعزه استغناؤه عن الناس
هذا حديث صحيح الإسناد ولم يخرجاه وإنما يعرف من حديث محمد بن حميد عن زافر عن أبي زرعة عن شيخ ثقة الشك وتلك الرواية عن سهل بن سعد بلا شك فيه
Muḥammad ibn Sa’eed al-Mudthakir al-Rāzi narrated to us Abu Zur’a Ubaydallah ibn Abdul-Kareem narrated to us ‘Esa ibn Ṣabeeḥ narrated to us Zāfir ibn Sulaymān narrated to us from Muḥammad ibn ‘Uyayna from Abu Ḥāzim, once from Ibn Umar; and once from Sahl ibn Sa’d, he said: Gabriel came to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and he said, ‘O Muḥammad, live as you wish, for you will surely die. Love whomever you wish, for you will surely be separated; work as you wish, for you will be rewarded for it.’ Then he said: ‘Know that the nobility of the believer is in prayer at night and his honour is in his independence from people.’
(al-Ḥākim said): This ḥadith has a Ṣaḥīḥ isnād but they didn’t cite it. (The tradition) is only known by way of the ḥadith of Muḥammad ibn Ḥumayd from Zāfir from Abu Zur’a from a trustworthy Shaykh, and that channel of reporting no doubt has Sahl ibn Sa’d within it.
أخبرنا أبو نصر بن قتادة أنا أبو علي الرفا الهروي ثنا أبو محمد جعفر بن أحمد بن نصر الحافظ ثنا محمد بن حميد الرازي ثنا زافر بن سليمان عن محمد بن عيينة عن أبي حازم عن سهل بن سعد الساعدي قال جاء جبريل إلى النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم فقال يا محمد أحبب من شئت فإنك مفارقة و اعمل ما شئت فإنك مجزى به وعش ما شئت فإنك ميت و اعلم أن شرف المؤمن قيامه بالليل و عزه استغناؤه عن الناس
و رواه أبو زرعة الرازي عن عيسى بن صبيح عن زافر بن سليمان عن محمد بن عيينة عن أبي حازم قال مرة عن ابن عمر و قال مرة عن سهل بن سعد
Abu Naṣr ibn Qatādah reported to us Abu Ali al-Rafā’ al-Harawi reported to us Abu Muḥammad ibn Ja’far ibn Aḥmad ibn Naṣir al-Ḥāfiz narrated to us Muḥammad ibn Ḥumayd al-Rāzi narrated to us Zāfir ibn Sulaymān narrated to us from Muḥammad ibn ‘Uyayna from Abu Ḥāzim from Sahl ibn Sa’d al-Sā’adi he said: Gabriel came to the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him and he said: O Muḥammad, love whomever you wish, for you will surely be parted. Work as you wish, for you will surely be repaid; live as you wish for you will die. Know that the nobility of the believer is in prayer at night and his honour is in his independence from people.
(Bayhaqy said): It is reported by Abu Zur’a al-Rāzi from ‘Esa ibn Ṣabeeḥ from Zāfir ibn Sulaymān from Muḥammad ibn ‘Uyayna from Abu Ḥāzim, he said once by Ibn Umar and once by Sahl ibn Sa’d.
Analysis I: Channel of transmission
Upon close inspection, the veracity of the isnād is not to the level of exactitude which is expected of a ḥadith that is judged to be Ṣaḥīḥ. Despite the slight variance at the beginning of the isnād which al-Ḥākim and Bayhaqy present, common to all three lines of reporting is that they all are routed through the narrator Zāfir ibn Sulaymān reporting from Muḥammad ibn ‘Uyayna. The remainder line is via Muḥammad ibn Ḥumayd al-Rāzi reporting from Zāfir ibn Sulaymān. It is important to consider the veracity of each of these narrators particularly since they appear in succession in the respective isnād’s.
Firstly, the narrator Muḥammad ibn Ḥumayd al-Rāzi is broadly judged to be ḍaef (weak). This is the summary judgment of al-Ḥāfiz, in Taqreeb [p. 558, no. 5834], he writes: ‘Muḥammad ibn Ḥumayd ibn Ḥayyān al-Rāzi, Ḥāfiz, ḍaef.’ In Tahzeeb [Vol. 9, no. 8181, p. 108] al-Ḥāfiz alludes to some of the accepting his narratives from Jarir and Abdullah ibn al-Mubārak. al-Ḥāfiz though cites other quite damning comments from Abu Ḥātim about the narrator, for example that he is ‘A liar who isn’t good at telling lies.’ The disparaging comments are clear in the judgment made by many scholars:
- al-Nasā’i: ‘He is not thiqa (trustworthy).’
- al-Bukhāri: ‘Fi ḥadithi nadthar.’ [sic. al-Bukhāri denoting that he is extremely weak as a narrator].
- Ya’qub ibn Shayba: ‘Muḥammad ibn Ḥumayd has a great deal of manākeer [pl. munkar narrations].
- Abu Nu’aym said: ‘I heard from Abu Ḥātim al-Rāzi in his house with Ibn Khirāsh, together with a group from among the scholars and ḥuffāz of the people of al-Rayy. They mentioned Ibn Ḥumayd and they agreed that he is ḍaef jiddan (very weak) in ḥadith. And, that he narrates what he did nor hear; he takes the ḥadith of the people of Basra and Kufa and narrates them upon the authority of the Razians.’
- Al-Bayhaqy: ‘He was the Imām of the Imām’s, that is to say Ibn Khuzaymah, and he did not narrate from him.’
Among the commonly known collections of ḥadith, Zāfir ibn Sulaymān only appears in two-narrations, one in the Sunan of Tirmidhi, the other in the Sunan of Ibn Majah. He is not a narrator that appears to have a large array of reporting, neither has he escaped scholarly criticism from the established authorities. In Tahzeeb al-Kamāl fi’ Asmā’ al-Rijāl [Vol. 9, no. 1947, pp. 269/270] al-Mizzi has a detailed entry of these criticisms:
- Bukhāri said: ‘He has marā’seel (pl. mursal) and wahm (delusion, known for misunderstanding).’
- al-Nasā’i said: ‘He has ḥadith munkar from Mālik.’ On another occasion, he said: ‘He is not that strong.’
- Ibn Ḥibbān said: ‘He made many mistakes and had widespread wahm; (though) truthfulness is apparent within him, it is (the reports)considered.’
al-Ḥāfiz has some disparaging remarks levelled against him too against, in his summary in Taqreeb [p. 215, no. 1979] stating: ‘Saduq (truthful), (but) with much awhām (pl. wahm).’ In Tahzeeb [Vol. 3, p. 270, no. 2568], there are some additional comments that he records, including that from Aḥmad and Ibn Ma’een who said of him – thiqa (trustworthy); but the disparagement isn’t far off, like al-Mizzi. He records: ‘Al-‘Ijli said: Write his ḥadith, but they are not strong.’ In al-Kāmil fi Du’afā’ al-Rijāl [Vol. 4, p. 206], Abu Aḥmad ibn ‘Adi provides a poignant comment: ‘His aḥādith were maqlub (mixed up) in the isnād, maqlub in the matn. In general, what he narrates doesn’t have follow-ons (i.e. attesting narratives), and his ḥadith are written despite it being ḍaef.’
Lastly, with regards to the third-narrator in the channel, al-Ḥāfiz provides the summary judgement in Taqreeb [p. 591, no. 6213] as: ‘Muḥammad ibn ‘Uyayna al-Hilāli – brother of Sufyān, saduq with much awhām.’ Broadly, scholarly authorities are not generally as critical of him as a narrator, nor as copious in comment, although al-Dhahabi in Mizān al-‘Itidāl [Vol. 3, no. 8041] records Abu Ḥātim as saying, ‘His ḥadith are not utilised (as) he has manākeer.’
Given the above, looking at all evidence in the round, it would be very difficult to judge this narration as being Ṣaḥīḥ (authentic beyond reasonable doubt). While al-Ḥākim brings forward his isnād independent of Muḥammad ibn Ḥumayd al-Rāzi, it is still reliant upon the reporting through Zāfir ibn Sulaymān. What compounds this problem is that there doesn’t appear to be any other independent channels of reporting which can provide or act as an attestation to this, and we cannot assure ourselves that Zāfir ibn Sulaymān hasn’t erred or even mixed the isnād / matn as noted by Ibn ‘Adi. Hence, in light of all available evidence, this tradition is judged to be ḍaef (weak).
Analysis II: Reported wording
Altogether there isn’t a huge disparity in the matn (reporting textual wording) as outlined by the three-narratives which are presented. What is unusual to begin with is where the Ṣaḥābi is alleged to be reporting what the the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) said to the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him. There is no indication within the reported wording as to how the Ṣaḥābi would have been able to discern that. There is no mention of him saying that the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him told him the conversation or that it was recounted by the Prophet to the Ṣaḥābi. As we know from the famous ḥadith of Ijbreel, he came in the form of a man and the multiple authentic narratives which have reached us show that the Ṣaḥāba in general who were present, did not recognise him as being the angel Jibreel until he had left the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him told them that he was the one asking the questions. In fact, this is major lacuna appearing within the text of the tradition.
Other areas of the reported wording contain some conceptual problems. To present that the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him could live or work ‘as he wished’ doesn’t seem to strictly sit with the various Qur’ānic verses that outline it was incumbent upon him to fulfil his Prophetic mission:
يا أيها الرسول بلغ ما أنزل إليك من ربك وإن لم تفعل فما بلغت رسالته والله يعصمك من الناس
O Messenger, proclaim everything that has been sent down to you from your Lord if you do not, then you will not have communicated His message – and Allah will protect you from people.
[Qur’an, 5: 68]
وما ينطق عن الهوى ان هو الا وحي يوحي
Nor does he speak out of desire; it is naught but revelation that is revealed.
[Qur’an, 53: 3/4]
Confirmation of his death, peace and blessings be upon him, is mentioned by way of the verse:
أنك ميت وانهم ميتون
You [Prophet] will certainly die, and so will they.
[Qur’an, 39: 30]
Finally, we have certainty from Allah the Exalted, that not only is the revelation complete and preserved, but that it is free from inconsistency and contradiction.
ولو كان من عند غير الله لوجدوا فيه اختلافا كثيرا
If it had been from anyone other than Allah, they would have found much inconsistency in it.
[Qur’an, 4: 82]
And ultimately, Allah knows best.