Rafed English

‘Ali: The Best of the Sahabah

‘Ali: The Best of the Sahabah by : Toyib Olawuyi This research is dedicated to Amir al-Muminin ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, salawatullah wa salamuhu ‘alaihi, who is my mawla and the mawla of all believers.

 

Acknowledgments
Special thanks to the following brothers and sisters for their encouragement: Shaykh Muhammad Nura Dass, Ahmad Olawuyi, Ali Baker, Tural Islam, Syed Jarry Haider, Syed Mansab Ali Jafri, Jaffer Abbas, Agbonika Salihu, Jibreel Ibn Mikael, Syeda Umme Rabab Bukhari, Aneela Sultan, Nasir Hasan, and Hassan Bokhari. May Allah bless them all and all our loving brothers and sisters from the Shi’ah Imamiyyah and the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah.
The question of who the best of the Sahabah, radhiyallah ‘anhum, was has always been a thorny issue within the Ummah, especially among the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah. Even the Sahabah disputed with one another over the topic. Specifically, the debate often revolves around Abu Bakr and ‘Ali, ‘alaihi al-salam, only. It is very difficult to see anyone - whether Sunni or Shi’i – arguing that ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, Talhah, Zubayr or some other Sahabi – was the best of the Sahabah. Rather, the exact point of contention is, and always was: was Abu Bakr their best or ‘Ali?

Expectedly, most of the Ahl al-Sunnah consider Abu Bakr to have been the best of the Sahabah, then ‘Umar, then ‘Uthman, and then ‘Ali. By contrast, the Shi’ah believe that Amir al-Muminin ‘Ali was the best, then al-Hasan, then al-Husayn, and then Sayyidah Fat.imah, ‘alaihim al-salam. There is a minority among Sunnis – including some Sahabah and a lot of Sufis – who share the Shi’i view on the matter.

Ordinarily, the debate over who was the best should have been a mere, healthy academic exercise. However, it is linked with Imamah and khilafah in the Ummah. So, it is a very big issue, and provokes the deepest emotions of some people. In fact, countless Shi’is and others have been murdered for more than a millenium by Sunni extremists, only for their belief in the superiority of ‘Ali. The best of the Ummah at each point in time is the only one qualified for the khilafah. This is the Command of Allah and His Messenger, sallallahu ‘alaihi wa alihi. Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 H) confirms:
 
ففي هذا الخبر إخبار عمر بين المهاجرين والأنصار أن أبا بكر سيد المسلمين وخيرهم وأحبهم إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم ذلك علة مبايعته فقال بل نبايعك أنت فأنت سيدنا وخيرنا وأحبنا إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم ليبين بذلك أن المأمور به تولية الأفضل وأنت أفضلنا فنبايعك
In this report is the declaration of ‘Umar among the Muhajirun and the Ansar that Abu Bakr was the sayyid of the Muslims and the best of them, and the most beloved of them to the Messenger of Allah. This is the reason for following him. So, he (‘Umar) said, “Rather, we will follow you because you are our sayyid, and the best of us, and the most beloved of us to the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him”. He wanted to make clear through it that: WHAT IS ORDAINED IS TO GIVE AUTHORITY TO THE BEST, and you are the best of us. So, we will follow you.1
The bottomline here is that khilafah by anyone who is not the best of his time is contrary to the Order of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger, and is therefore both illegal and a bid’ah. That makes the khalifah himself and all his supporters ringleaders of a bid’ah, as long as they are aware of his deficiency and still uphold his khilafah. In that way, they would be guilty of creating a new provision in the religion to supplant that of Allah. The grave danger of all this is captured perfectly in these words of the Messenger of Allah, documented by Imam al-Nasai (d. 303 H):
شر الأمور محدثاتها وكل محدثة بدعة وكل بدعة ضلالة وكل ضلالة في النار
The worst of the (religious) affairs are their innovations, and every innovation is a bid’ah, and every bid’ah is misguidance, and every misguidance ends to the Fire.2
‘Allamah al-Albani (d. 1420 H) comments:
صحيح
Sahih3
The Command of Allah and His Messenger is that the best of the Ummah should always be their khalifah, as testified by ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭab. Meanwhile, the innovation in this matter is to make or allow any inferior individual as the khalifah. This innovation is a bid’ah, and will land whosoever leads, practices or recognizes it in Hellfire. It is understandable then why some of our Sunni brothers are so hell-bent upon emphasizing the superiority over Abu Bakr over the whole Ummah, followed by ‘Umar and ‘Uthman, by all means – even to the extent of committing massacres. The survival of their madhhab depends very heavily on it. Should Abu Bakr, ‘Umar or ‘Uthman fall, Sunnism itself ceases to exist as a valid entity!
So, certain drastic steps were taken to address the challenge. First, a very wide re-definition was issued for Shi’ism. This, apparently, was to scare Sunnis away from researching into the issue. Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d. 852 H) takes the podium:
والتشيع محبة على وتقديمه على الصحابة فمن قدمه على أبى بكر وعمر فهو غال في تشيعه ويطلق عليه رافضي وإلا فشيعي فإن انضاف إلى ذلك السب أو التصريح بالبغض فغال في الرفض وإن اعتقد الرجعة إلى الدنيا فأشد في الغلو
Shi’ism is love of ‘Ali and the placing of him over the Sahabah (except Abu Bakr and ‘Umar only). Whoever places him above Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, such is an extremist in his Shi’ism, and he is called a Rafidi.
If he does not (place ‘Ali over the two), then he is only a Shi’i. If he added to that (i.e. preference of ‘Ali over Abu Bakr and ‘Umar) abuse, cursing or open hatred (of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar), he is then an extremist in Rafdh. If he believes in Raj’ah into this world, then he is severe in (Rafidhi) extremism.4
Therefore, a Sunni is only someone who considers ‘Ali as inferior to Abu Bakr, ‘Umar AND ‘Uthman. Whosoever places him above ‘Uthman is a Shi’i, and whosoever views him as superior to Abu Bakr or ‘Umar is a Rafidhi. In the Sunni creed, being a Shi’i is a bid’ah. Imam al-Dhahabi (d. 748 H) says:
أن البدعة على ضربين: فبدعة صغرى كغلو التشيع، أو كالتشيع بلا غلو ولا تحرف، فهذا كثير في التابعين وتابعيهم مع الدين والورع والصدق. فلو رد حديث هؤلاء لذهب جملة من الآثار النبوية، وهذه مفسدة بينة. ثم بدعة كبرى، كالرفض الكامل والغلو فيه
Bid’ah has two types:
The minor bid’ah: like extreme Shi’ism, or like moderate Shi’ism, for this was widespread among the Tabi’in and their followers, despite their devotion, piety and truthfulness. If the ahadith of these people were rejected, part of teachings of the Prophet would be lost, and that would be a clear evil.
Then the major bid’ah: like complete rafdh and extremism in it.5
By classifying the placing of ‘Ali above ‘Uthman as a bid’ah – which leads to Hellfire – the classical Sunni ‘ulama hoped to put a firm lid on all threats to their madhhab. However, their action has produced some horrible unintended consequences. Many of the Sahabah were Rawafidh by Sunni definition, and therefore heretics who will burn forever in the Fire! Imam Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (d. 463 H) identifies some of these Rafidhi Sahabah:
وروى عن سلمان وأبي ذر والمقداد وخباب وجابر وأبى سعيد الخدري وزيد بن الأرقم أن علي بن أبي طالب رضي الله عنه أول من أسلم وفضله هؤلاء على غيره
Salman, Abu Dharr, al-Miqdad, Khabab, Jabir, Abu Sa’id al-Khudri and Zayd b. Arqam narrated that ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, was the first to accept Islam, and they considered him the most superior (among the Sahabah).6
These senior Sahabah considered ‘Ali as superior to Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman! By Sunni standards, their bid’ah, therefore, was of the major type! They were complete Rafidhis. Another well-known Sahabi like them was Abu al-Tufayl, radhiyallah ‘anhu. Imam al-Dhahabi states about him:
واسم أبي الطفيل، عامر بن واثلة بن عبد الله بن عمرو الليثي الكناني الحجازي الشيعي. كان من شيعة الإمام علي.
The name of Abu al-Tufayl was ‘Amir b. Wathilah b. ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Amr al-Laythi al-Kanani al-Hijazi, the Shi’i. He was from the Shi’ah of Imam ‘Ali.7
Imam Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr adds:
وكان متشيعا في علي ويفضله ويثني على الشيخين أبي بكر وعمر ويترحم على عثمان
He was a Shi’i of ‘Ali and considered him the most superior. He used to extol the two Shaykhs, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, and would ask for Allah’s mercy upon ‘Uthman.8
Al-Hafiz explains the words of Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr above:
قال أبو عمر كان يعترف بفضل أبي بكر وعمر لكنه يقدم عليا
Abu ‘Umar said: He accepted the merit of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar but he considered ‘Ali to be the most superior.9
This creates an impossible dilemma for Sunni Islam. If Sunnis stick with their view that Shi’ism – as defined by them – is a bid’ah, then they must agree that all these fine Sahabah were heretics with no hope of salvation in the Hereafter. By contrast, if they free the Shi’i Sahabah, then they must equally free all other Shi’ah and Rawafidh! What is good for the goose is equally good for the gander. Besides, the Sahabah, who met the Prophet, are in an even more accountable position on any Islamic matter than all the generations after them. It gets scary when one considers the possibility that the Messenger of Allah could have been of the same opinion as the Shi’i Sahabah! If he did, then it would have been Sunnah to place ‘Ali over Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman. In that case, the majority view of the Ahl al-Sunnah on the matter would have been a bid’ah - in fact, a compounded bid’ah.
The other step taken by the Sunni ‘ulama was to confuse their followers on the status and meanings of explicit ahadith indicating the overall superiority of Amir al-Muminin ‘Ali b. Abi Talib over all Sahabah. The most guilty individual in this regard was none other than “Shaykh al-Islam” Ibn Taymiyyah. Others, such as Imam al-Mubarakfuri (d. 1282 H), ‘Allamah al-Albani, Shaykh al-Arnauṭ and others, have also followed his steps, albeit at a much lower level. In this book, we will be examining some of such ahadith, proving their authenticity absolutely, and analyzing their texts in the light of the Qur’an and mutawatir Sunnah. Our manhaj in this regard is open, transparent, mathematical and precise. For instance, we have relied very heavily upon the verdicts concerning the individual narrators by al-Hafiz al-‘Asqalani in his legendary reference work, al-Taqrib. The reasons for this approach are two. First, al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, often fondly referred to simply as al-Hafiz, is one of the greatest Sunni scholars of rijal and hadith. ‘Allamah al-Albani says about him:
لكن من كان في ريب مما أحكم أنا على بعض الأحاديث فليعد إلى فتح الباري فسيجد هناك أشياء كثيرة وكثيرة جداً ينتقدها الحافظ أحمد بن حجر العسقلاني الذي يسمى بحقٍ أمير المؤمنين في الحديث والذي أعتقد أنا وأظن أن كل من كان مشاركاً في هذا العلم يوافقني على أنه لم تلد النساء بعده مثله.
But, whoever is in doubt concerning the verdicts I have given concerning some ahadith (in Sahih al-Bukhari), let him refer to Fath al-Bari, and he will find there lots and lots of things (in Sahih al-Bukhari) which have been criticized by al-Hafiz Ahmad b. Hajar al-‘Asqalani, who is rightly named the Amir al-Muminin in Hadith, and whom I believe – and I suppose that anyone who has this knowledge (i.e. science of hadith) would agree with me – that no woman has ever given birth to anyone like him after him.10
The phrase “amir al-muminin” is of course a reference to the supreme master.
Secondly, al-Hafiz himself states in the Introduction to al-Taqrib:
أنني أحكم على كل شخص منهم بحكم يشمل أصح ما قيل فيه، وأعدل ما وصف به
I have graded every individual among them with a verdict that contains the most correct of what is said about him, and the most just of the descriptions given for him.11
In other words, a lot of things have been said about each of the narrators. But, not everything said about them is authentically transmitted, correct or accurate. So, al-Hafiz, who is a king in the Sunni science of hadith, has compiled only “the most correct” and “the most just” of the statements made about them. No wonder, top Sunni hadith scientists like ‘Allamah al-Albani and others have relied very heavily upon this al-Taqrib in all their works. We will be doing the same throughout this book and others. There are two clear advantages in doing this. One, it would ensure the accuracy of our conclusions on the various narrators. Two, it would keep our book concise and neat. As such, we will firstly quote the criticisms of a Sunni scholar, mostly Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah, against a particular hadith - which establishes ‘Ali’s superiorty over all the Sahabah – and then examines the trustworthiness of all its narrators, primarily through al-Taqrib. Where the name of the narrator is not present in al-Taqrib, then we go for the books of Imam al-Dhahabi, who is equally a superweight in Sunni hadith sciences, as well as others like ‘Allamah al-Albani and Shaykh al-Arnaut..

This humble author has adopted a very strict takhrij style throughout the book. This is why he has excluded ahadith which he believes to be true, but which do not meet the strict standards of authenticity in the Sunni hadith sciences. In particular, we focus on the reliability of the narrators and the full connectivity of the chains. We also seek if there are corroborative supports for either the chains or the texts of the ahadith. Most importantly, we also investigate any possible hidden defects in the chains, such as tadlis, poor memory and irsal of the narrators and present detailed researches to make clarifications wherever necessary. Sometimes, in order to save space, we do simply rely upon explicit authentications of chains and ahadith by the topmost Sunni hadith scientists. Through this methodology, we hope to give the full opportunity to whoever is researching the topic in order to determine the real truth.

Meanwhile, we do not neglect Sunni arguments and reports in favour of the superiority of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar either. We query their authenticity too, in line with strict standards of Sunni rijal and further test their compatibility with the Qur’an and undisputed history. The full details of our investigations are provided in our book, so that our esteemed reader can verify, reason and make his independent conclusions too.

Throughout our book, we have relied upon Sunni books only, and specifically those of the highest standing in their respected categories. This way, we aim ensure full accuracy in everything. We implore Allah to forgive us all our mistakes, and to accept this as a worthy act of ‘ibadah.
________________________
1. Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad b. ‘Abd al-Halim b. Taymiyyah al-Harrani, Minhaj al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyyah (Muasassat Qurtubah; 1st edition, 1406 H) [annotator: Dr. Muhammad Rashad Salim], vol. 8, p. 565

2. Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman Ahmad b. Shu’ayb al-Nasai, al-Mujtaba min al-Sunan (Halab: Maktab Matbu’at al-Islamiyyah; 2nd edition, 1406 H) [annotator: Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani], vol. 3, p. 188, # 1578

3. Ibid

4. Ahmad b. ‘Ali b. Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Hajar al-‘Asqalani al-Shafi’i, Hadi al-Sari Muqaddimah Fath al-Bari (Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi; 1st edition, 1408 H), p. 460

5. Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad b. Ahmad b. ‘Uthman al-Dhahabi, Mizan al-I’tidal fi Naqd al-Rijal (Beirut: Dar al-Ma’rifah; 1st edition, 1382 H) [annotator: ‘Ali Muhammad al-Bajawi], vol. 1, pp. 5-6, # 2

6. Abu ‘Umar Yusuf b. ‘Abd Allah b. Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Barr b. ‘A-sim al-Nimri al-Qurtubi, al-Isti’ab fi Ma’rifat al-Ashab (Beirut: Dar al-Jil; 1st edition, 1412 H) [annotator: ‘Ali Muhammad al-Bajawi], vol. 3, pp. 1090, # 1855

7. Shams al-Din Muhammad b. Ahmad b. ‘Uthman al-Dhahabi, Siyar A’lam al-Nubala (Beirut: Muasassat al-Risalah; 9th edition, 1413 H) [annotators: Shu’ayb al-Arnaut, Muhammad Na’im al-‘Arqisusi and Mamun S.aghirji], vol. 3, p. 468, # 97

8. Abu ‘Umar Yusuf b. ‘Abd Allah b. Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Barr b. ‘A-sim al-Nimri al-Qurtubi, al-Isti’ab fi Ma’rifat al-Ashab (Beirut: Dar al-Jil; 1st edition, 1412 H) [annotator: ‘Ali Muhammad al-Bajawi], vol. 4, p. 1697, # 3054

9. Ahmad b. ‘Ali b. Hajar al-‘Asqalani, al-Isabah fi Tamyiz al-S.ahabah (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah; 1st edition, 1415 H) [annotators: Shaykh ‘A-dil Ahmad b. ‘Abd al-Mawjud and Shaykh ‘Ali Muhammad Ma’udh], vol. 7, p. 193, # 10166

10. Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Nasir al-Din b. al-Hajj Nuh b. Tajati b. A-dam al-Ashqudri al-Albani, Fatawa (Cairo: Maktabah al-Turath al-Islami; 1st edition, 1414 H), p. 525

11. Ahmad b. ‘Ali b. Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Taqrib al-Tahdhib (Beirut: Dar al-Maktabah al-‘Ilmiyyah; 2nd edition, 1415 H) [annotator: Mustafa ‘Abd al-Qadir ‘Ata], vol. 1, p. 24
Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 H) states:
 
و إما قوله قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم لاقضاكم علي والقضاء يستلزم العلم و الدين فهذا الحديث لم يثبت و ليس له إسناد تقوم به الحجة ... لم يروه أحد في السنن المشهورة و لا المساند المعروفة لا بإسناد صحيح و لا ضعيف و إنما يروي من طريق من هو معروف بالكذب
As for his statement, “The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said: ‘The best judge among you is ‘Ali’”, and justice dispensation requires knowledge and religious devotion. But, this hadith is not authentic, and it has no chain of transmission which makes it a valid proof ... It is not recorded by anyone in the famous Sunan books, and not (by anyone) in the well-known Musnad books – not with a sahih chain, nor with a dha’if chain. It is only narrated through the route of notorious liars.1
Meanwhile, Imam Ibn Majah (d. 273 H) records in his Sunan:
حدثنا محمد بن المثنى ثنا عبد الوهاب بن عبد المجيد ثنا خالد الحذاء، عن أبي قلابة، عن أنس بن مالك، أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال :أرحم أمتي بأمتي أبو بكر وأشدهم في دين الله عمر وأصدقهم حياء عثمان وأقضاهم علي بن أبي طالب.
Muhammad b. al-Muthanna – ‘Abd al-Wahhab b. ‘Abd al-Majid – Khalid al-Haza – Abi Qilabah – Anas b. Malik:
The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said, “The most merciful of my Ummah to my Ummah is Abu Bakr. The most severe of them in the religion of Allah is ‘Umar. The most shy of them is ‘Uthman. And the best judge among them is ‘Ali b. Abi Talib.”2
This report cancels out the first leg of our Shaykh’s claims: that the hadith is not documented in any of the authoritative Sunan and Musnad books – whether with a sahih chain or even a dha’if one!
So, the next question is: has the hadith truly been narrated by a liar or liars?
The first narrator, Muhammad b. al-Muthanna is thiqah (trustworthy) without absolutely any doubt. Al-Hafiz (d. 852 H) for instance says about him:
محمد بن المثنى بن عبيد العنزي بفتح النون والزاي أبو موسى البصري ….ثقة ثبت
Muhammad b. al-Muthanna b. ‘Ubayd al-‘Unaza, Abu Musa al-Basri.... Thiqah (trustworthy), thabt (accurate).3
Elsewhere, he adds about him:
روى عنه) خ (مائة حديث وثلاثة أحاديث ومسلم سبعمائة واثنتين وسبعين حديثا
Al-Bukhari narrated 103 ahadith from him (in his Sahih), and Muslim also narrated 772 ahadith (from him in his Sahih).4
Apparently, he was a super-weight in Sunni ahadith.
Al-Hafiz also says about the second narrator:
عبد الوهاب بن عبد المجيد بن الصلت الثقفي أبو محمد البصري ثقة تغير قبل موته بثلاث سنين
‘Abd al-Wahhab b. ‘Abd al-Majid b. al-Salt al-Thaqafi, Abu Muhammad al-Basri: Thiqah (trustworthy). He changed (i.e. his memory weakened) 3 years before his death.5
In his Lisan, he gives further, crucial information about him:
لكنه ما ضر تغيره حديثه فإنه ما حدث بحديث في زمن التغير
But, his change (in memory) does not harm his ahadith, for he never narrated a single hadith during the period of the change.6
So, what about the remaining narrators? Shaykh al-Arnauṭ saves us a lot of time with this tahqiq:
حدثنا عبد الله حدثني أبي ثنا عفان ثنا وهيب ثنا خالد الحذاء عن أبي قلابة عن أنس بن مالك عن النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم .... إسناده صحيح على شرط الشيخين
‘Abd Allah (b. Ahmad) – my father (Ahmad b. Hanbal) – ‘Affan – Wuhayb – Khalid al-HazaAbu QilabahAnas b. Malik – the Prophet, peace be upon him .... Its chain is sahih UPON THE STANDARD OF THE TWO SHAYKHS.7
We understand from this that both Khalid al-Haza and Abu Qilabah are thiqah (trustworthy) narrators of both Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, like Muhammad b. al-Muthanna.
Interestingly, Imam al-Hakim (d. 403 H), Imam al-Dhahabi (d. 748 H) and ‘Allamah al-Albani (d. 1420 H) also confirm that the second narrator is like the others too in this regard. The ‘Allamah writes:
أخرجه الترمذي (2 / 309) وابن ماجه (154) وابن حبان (2218) و (2219) والحاكم (3 / 422) من طريق عبد الوهاب بن عبد المجيد الثقفي حدثنا خالد الحذاء عن أبي قلابة عن أنس قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: فذكره، وقال الترمذي: " حديث حسن صحيح ". وقال الحاكم: " هذا إسناد صحيح على شرط الشيخين ". ووافقه الذهبي وهو كما قالا.
Al-Tirmidhi (2/309), Ibn Majah (154), Ibn Hibban (2218) and al-Hakim (3/422) narrated it through the route of ‘ABD AL-WAHHAB B. ‘ABD AL-MAJID AL-THAQAFIKhalid al-HazaAbu QilabahAnas – the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him. Al-Tirmidhi said: “The hadith is hasan sahih”. Al-Hakim (also) said, “This chain is sahih UPON THE STANDARD OF THE TWO SHAYKHS”. Al-Dhahabi concurred with him, and it is (indeed) as they both have stated.8
In a simple summary, Hadith al-Qadha – as documented by Imam Ibn Majah – has a chain of transmission that is sahih upon the standard of al-Bukhari (d. 256 H) and Muslim (d. 261 H). All its narrators are relied upon in both Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, and there is no disconnection anywhere in the chain. Apparently, Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah’s weird, unfounded claim that the hadith is narrated only by notorious liars is itself a sickening rape of the truth!
There is equally a mutaba’ah for Muhammad b. al-Muthanna copied by Imam al-Haythami (d. 807 H):
أخبرنا أحمد بن مكرم بن خالد البرتي، حدثنا علي بن المديني، حدثنا عبد الوهاب الثقفي، حدثنا خالد الحذاء، عن أبي قلابة عن أنس بن مالك قال: قال رسول الله - صلى الله عليه وسلم :ارحم أمتي بأمتي أبو بكر، وأشدهم في أمر الله عمر، وأصدقهم حياء عثمان، وأقضاهم علي
Ahmad b. Makram b. Khalid al-Birti‘Ali b. al-Madini – ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Thaqafi – Khalid al-Haza – Abu Qilabah – Anas b. Malik:
The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said: “The most merciful of my Ummah to my Ummah is Abu Bakr. The most severe of them concerning the Command of Allah is ‘Umar. The most shy of them is ‘Uthman. And the best judge among them is ‘Ali.9
We already know that the last four narrators – including Anas – are thiqah narrators of both Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. So, we only have to find out the status of the first two narrators. Once again, Shaykh al-Arnauṭ saves us time. Imam Ibn Hibban (d. 354 H) records this chain in his Sahih:
أخبرنا أحمد بن مكرم بن خالد البرتي قال حدثنا علي بن المديني قال حدثنا معن بن عيسى قال حدثنا مالك بن أنس عن صفوان بن سليم عن عطاء بن يسار عن أبي سعيد الخدري
Ahmad b. Makram b. Khalid al-Birti‘Ali b. al-Madini – Ma’n b. ‘Isa – Malik b. Anas – Safwan b. Sulaym – ‘Aṭa b. Yasar – Abu Sa’id al-Khudri10
Al-Arnauṭ says:
إسناده صحيح على شرط البخاري رجاله ثقات رجال الصحيح غير علي بن المديني فمن رجال البخاري
Its chain is sahih upon the standard of al-Bukhari. Its narrators are thiqah (trustworthy), narrators of the Sahih, except ‘Ali b. al-Madini because he is from the narrators of (Sahih) al-Bukhari (only).11
So, both al-Birti and ‘Ali b. al-Madini are thiqah (trustworthy) narrators of Sahih al-Bukhari too. As such, the mutaba’ah of ‘Ali b. al-Madini to Muhammad b. al-Muthanna in Hadith al-Qadha is sahih as well, upon the standard of Sahih al-Bukhari!
The hadith has equally been transmitted from other Sahabah, apart from Anas. Imam al-Haythami for instance records:
عن جابر بن عبد الله الأنصاري قال : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم : أرحم أمتي بأمتي أبو بكر وأرفق أمتي لأمتي عمر وأصدق أمتي حياء عثمان وأقضى أمتي علي بن أبي طالب
Narrated Jabir b. ‘Abd Allah al-Ansari:
The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said: “The most merciful of my Ummah to my Ummah is Abu Bakr. The kindest of my Ummah to my Ummah is ‘Umar. The most shy of my Ummah is ‘Uthman. The best judge of my Ummah is ‘Ali b. Abi Talib”.12
He comments:
رواه الطبراني في الأوسط وإسناده حسن
Al-Tabarani narrated it in al-Awsaṭ, and its chain is hasan.13
In modern prints of Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ of Imam al-Tabarani (d. 360 H), this hadith, unfortunately, is no longer present! The previous existence of this report in al-Awsat is further confirmed by Imam al-Haytami (d. 974 H):
و في رواية الطبراني في الأوسط أرحم أمتي بأمتي أبو بكر وأرفق أمتي لأمتي عمر وأصدق أمتي حياء عثمان وأقضى أمتي علي بن أبي طالب
In the report of al-Tabarani in al-Awsat, it is recorded: “The most merciful of my Ummah to my Ummah is Abu Bakr. The kindest of my Ummah to my Ummah is ‘Umar. The most shy of my Ummah is ‘Uthman. The best judge of my Ummah is ‘Ali b. Abi Talib”14
It has gone missing in the same al-Awsat after the time of al-Haytami.
Finally, ‘Allamah al-Albani has copied Hadith al-Qadha from yet another Sahabi, namely Ibn ‘Umar:
أرأف أمتي بأمتي أبو بكر وأشدهم في دين الله عمر وأصدقهم حياء عثمان وأقضاهم علي
The most compassionate of my Ummah to my Ummah is Abu Bakr, and the most severe of them in the religion of Allah is ‘Umar. The most shy of them is ‘Uthman and the best judge among them is ‘Ali.15
The ‘Allamah says:
(صحيح) ... [ع] عن ابن عمر.
Sahih ... (Narrated) by Ibn ‘Umar16
________________________
1. Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad b. ‘Abd al-Halim b. Taymiyyah al-Harrani, Minhaj al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyyah (Muasassat Qurtubah; 1st edition, 1406 H) [annotator: Dr. Muhammad Rashad Salim], vol. 7, pp. 512-513

2. Ibn Majah Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad b. Yazid al-Qazwini, Sunan (Dar al-Fikr) [annotator: Muhammad Fuad ‘Abd al-Baqi], vol. 1, p. 55, # 154

3. Ahmad b. ‘Ali b. Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Taqrib al-Tahdhib (Beirut: Dar al-Maktabah al-‘Ilmiyyah; 2nd edition, 1415 H) [annotator: Mustafa ‘Abd al-Qadir ‘Ata], vol. 2, p. 129, # 6283

4. Shihab al-Din Ahmad b. ‘Ali b. Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib (Dar al-Fikr; 1st edition, 1404 H), vol. 9, p. 378, # 698

5. Ahmad b. ‘Ali b. Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Taqrib al-Tahdhib (Beirut: Dar al-Maktabah al-‘Ilmiyyah; 2nd edition, 1415 H) [annotator: Mustafa ‘Abd al-Qadir ‘Ata], vol. 1, p. 626, # 4275

6. Shihab al-Din Abu al-Fadhl Ahmad b. ‘Ali b. Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Lisan al-Mizan (Beirut: Manshurat Muasassat al-A’lami li al-Matbu’at; 2nd edition, 1390 H), vol. 4, p. 88, # 168

7. Abu ‘Abd Allah Ahmad b. Hanbal al-Shaybani, Musnad (Cairo: Muasassat Qurtubah) [annotator: Shu’ayb al-Arnaut], vol. 3, p. 281, # 14022

8. Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Nasir al-Din b. al-Hajj Nuh b. Tajati b. A-dam al-Ashqudri al-Albani, Silsilah al-Ahadith al-S.ahihah wa Shayhun min Fiqhihah wa Fawaidihah (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ma’arif li al-Nashr wa al-Tawzi’; 1st edition, 1415 H), vol. 3, p. 223, # 1224

9. Nur al-Din ‘Ali b. Abi Bakr al-Haythami, Mawarid al-Zaman ila Zawaid Ibn Hibban (Damascus: Dar al-Thaqafah al-‘Arabiyyah; 1st edition, 1412 H) [annotators: Husayn Salim Asad al-Darani and ‘Abd ‘Ali al-Kushk], vol. 7, pp. 161-162, # 2218

10. Abu Hatim Muhammad b. Hibban b. Ahmad b. Hibban b. Mu’adh b. Ma’bad al-Tamimi al-Darimi al-Busti, S.ahih Ibn Hibban bi Tartib Ibn Balban (Beirut: Muasassat al-Risalah; 2nd edition, 1414 H) [annotators: Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani and Shu’ayb al-Arnaut], vol. 16, p. 404, # 7393

11. Ibid

12. Nur al-Din ‘Ali b. Abi Bakr al-Haythami, Majma’ al-Zawaid (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr; 1412 H), vol. 9, p. 235, # 14918

13. Ibid

14. Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Muhammad b. ‘Ali b. Hajar al-Haytami, al-S.awaiq al-Muhriqah ‘ala Ahl al-Rafdh wa al-D.alal wa al-Zindiqah (Beirut: Muasassat al-Risalah; 1st edition, 1997 CE) [annotators: ‘Abd al-Rahman b. ‘Abd Allah al-Turki and Kamil Muhammad Khurat], vol. 1, p. 226

15. Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Nasir al-Din b. al-Hajj Nuh b. Tajati b. A-dam al-Ashqudri al-Albani, S.ahih al-Jami’ al-S.aghir wa Ziyadatuhu (Al-Maktab al-Islami), vol. 1, p. 211, # 868

16. Ibid
The companions of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alaihi wa alihi, used to admit, unanimously, that Amir al-Muminin ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, ‘alaihi al-salam, was indeed the best judge among them. Imam Ahmad (d. 241 H), for instance records:
 
حدثنا عبد الله حدثني أبي ثنا وكيع ثنا سفيان عن حبيب بن أبي ثابت عن سعيد بن جبير عن بن عباس قال قال عمر رضي الله عنه: علي أقضانا وأبي أقرؤنا
‘Abd Allah (b. Ahmad b. Hanbal) – my father (Ahmad b. Hanbal) – Waki’ – Sufyan – Habib b. Abi Thabit – Sa’id b. Jubayr – Ibn ‘Abbas:
‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “‘Ali is the best judge among us, and Ubayy is the best reciter among us.”1
Shaykh al-Arnauṭ says:
إسناده صحيح على شرط الشيخين
Its chain is sahih upon the standard of the two Shaykhs.2
Imam Ahmad further records:
حدثنا عبد الله حدثني أبي ثنا يحيى بن سعيد عن سفيان حدثني حبيب يعنى بن أبي ثابت عن سعيد بن جبير عن بن عباس رضي الله عنهما قال: قال عمر علي أقضانا وأبي أقرؤنا
‘Abd Allah (b. Ahmad b. Hanbal) – my father (Ahmad b. Hanbal) – Yahya b. Sa’id – Sufyan – Habib b. Abi Thabit – Sa’id b. Jubayr – Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with them both:
‘Umar said: “‘Ali is the best judge among us, and Ubayy is the best reciter among us.”3
Al-Arnauṭ again comments:
إسناده صحيح على شرط الشيخين
Its chain is sahih upon the standard of the two Shaykhs.4
This is the third athar recorded on the same matter by Ahmad b. Hanbal:
حدثنا عبد الله حدثني أبي ثنا سويد بن سعيد في سنة ست وعشرين ومائتين ثنا علي بن مسهر عن الأعمش عن حبيب بن أبي ثابت عن سعيد بن جبير عن بن عباس قال خطبنا عمر رضي الله عنه على منبر رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم فقال: علي رضي الله عنه أقضانا وأبي رضي الله عنه اقرؤنا
‘Abd Allah (b. Ahmad b. Hanbal) – my father (Ahmad b. Hanbal) – Suwayd b. Sa’id – ‘Ali b. Mashar – al-A’mash – Habib b. Abi Thabit – Sa’id b. Jubayr – Ibn ‘Abbas:
‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, delievered a sermon on the pulpit of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, and said: “‘Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, is the best judge among us, and Ubayy, may Allah be pleased with him, is the best reciter.”5
Shaykh Shu’ayb al-Arnauṭ has a simple verdict on it:
صحيح
Sahih6
Notably, ‘Umar mentioned this publicly and none among the Sahabah present – including the most senior ones - objected. This evidences their unanimous concurrence with him on the matter.
Imam al-Bukhari (d. 256 H) records the same athar in his Sahih:
حدثنا عمرو بن علي حدثنا يحيى حدثنا سفيان عن حبيب عن سعيد بن جبير عن ابن عباس قال قال عمر رضي الله عنه: أقرؤنا أبي وأقضانا علي
‘Amr b. ‘Ali – Yahya – Sufyan – Habib – Sa’id b. Jubayr – Ibn ‘Abbas:
‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “The best reciter among us is Ubayy, and the best judge among us is ‘Ali.”7
Apart from ‘Umar, all the other Sahabah also explicitly declared that the best judge among them – including their most senior ones living in Madinah - was none other than Amir al-Muminin. Imam al-Hakim (d. 403 H) records:
أخبرني عبد الرحمن بن الحسن القاضي بهمدان ثنا إبراهيم بن الحسين ثنا آدم بن أبي إياس ثنا شعبة عن أبي إسحاق عن عبد الرحمن بن يزيد عن علقمة عن عبد الله قال كنا نتحدث أن أقضى أهل المدينة علي بن أبي طالب رضي الله عنه
‘Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hasan al-Qadi – Ibrahim b. al-Husayn – Adam b. Abi Iyas – Shu’bah – Abu Ishaq – ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Yazid – ‘Alqamah – ‘Abd Allah (b. Mas’ud):
We used to SAY that the best judge among the people of Madinah was ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him.”8
Al-Hakim says:
هذا حديث صحيح على شرط الشيخين
This hadith is sahih upon the standard of the two Shaykhs.9
Imam al-Dhahabi (d. 748 H), on his part, keeps silent about it. The reason is unclear since the athar has a perfectly sahih chain. Meanwhile, he has personally authenticated the sanad and all its narrators in the same book in other ahadith! For example, al-Hakim records this chain:
أخبرنا عبد الرحمن بن الحسن القاضي ثنا إبراهيم بن الحسين ثنا آدم بن أبي إياس ثنا شعبة عن منصور عن إبراهيم عن علقمة عن عبد الله رضي الله عنه
‘Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hasan al-QadiIbrahim b. al-HusaynAdam b. Abi IyasShu’bah – Mansur – Ibrahim – ‘Alqamah‘Abd Allah (b. Mas’ud), may Allah be pleased with him.10
The only differences in this sanad from that of the athar are Mansur and Ibrahim. Al-Hakim declares:
هذا حديث صحيح على شرط الشيخين
This hadith is sahih upon the standard of the two Shaykhs.11
Interestingly, al-Dhahabi confirms the verdict:
على شرط البخاري ومسلم
(Sahih) upon the standard of al-Bukhari and Muslim.12
This proves that ‘Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hasan al-Qadi, Ibrahim b. al-Husayn, Adam b. Abi Iyas, Shu’bah and ‘Alqamah are thiqah (trustworthy) narrators!
But, what is the status Abu Ishaq and ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Yazid – the only remaining narrators of Ibn Mas’ud’s athar? Note this chain documented by Imam al-Hakim:
أخبرنا أبو زكريا العنبري ثنا محمد بن عبد السلام ثنا إسحاق أنبأ يحيى بن آدم ثنا إسرائيل عن أبي إسحاق عن عبد الرحمن بن يزيد عن عبد الله رضي الله عنه
Abu Zakariyah al-‘Anbari – Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Salam – Ishaq – Yahya b. Adam – Israil – Abu Ishaq‘Abd al-Rahman b. Yazid – ‘Abd Allah (b. Mas’ud), may Allah be pleased with him.13
Al-Hakim comments:
هذا حديث صحيح على شرط الشيخين
This hadith is sahih upon the standard of the two Shaykhs.14
Al-Dhahabi also reiterates:
على شرط البخاري ومسلم
(Sahih) upon the standard of al-Bukhari and Muslim.15
As such, all the narrators of the athar are thiqah (trustworthy).
But then, is there any break between Shu’bah and Abu Ishaq? We have seen the unbroken connection between all the other narrators except these two. This chain, recorded by al-Hakim, puts the seal on things:
حدثني محمد بن صالح بن هانئ ثنا المسيب بن زهير ثنا عاصم بن علي ثنا شعبة عن أبي إسحاق قال : سمعت وهب بن جابر يحدث عن عبد الله بن عمرو رضي الله عنهما
Muhammad b. Salih b. Hani – al-Musayyab b. Zuhayr – ‘Asim b. ‘Ali – Shu’bahAbu Ishaq – Wahb b. Jabir – ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Amr, may Allah be pleased with them both16
Al-Hakim states:
هذا حديث صحيح على شرط الشيخين
This hadith is sahih upon the standard of the two Shaykhs.17
Al-Dhahabi agrees:
على شرط البخاري ومسلم
(Sahih) upon the standard of al-Bukhari and Muslim.18
Simply put, the chain of the athar of Ibn Mas’ud is sahih. All the narrators are thiqah (trustworthy), and there is no disconnection whatsoever in the sanad.
________________________
1. Abu ‘Abd Allah Ahmad b. Hanbal al-Shaybani, Musnad (Cairo: Muasassat Qurtubah) [annotator: Shu’ayb al-Arnaut], vol. 5, p. 113, # 21122

2. Ibid

3. Ibid, vol. 5, p. 113, # 21123

4. Ibid

5. Ibid, vol. 5, p. 113, # 21124

6. Ibid

7. Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad b. Isma’il b. Ibrahim b. Mughirah al-Bukhari al-J’ufi, al-Jami’ al-S.ahih al-Mukhtasar (Beirut: Dar Ibn Kathir; 3rd edition, 1407 H) [annotator: Dr. Mustafa Dib al-Bagha], vol. 4, p. 1628, # 4211

8. Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah al-Hakim al-Naysaburi, al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-S.ahihayn (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-’Ilmiyyah; 1st edition, 1411 H) [annotator: Mustafa ‘Abd al-Qadir ‘Ata], vol. 3, p. 145, # 4656

9. Ibid

10. Ibid, vol. 4, p. 372, # 7963

11. Ibid

12. Ibid

13. Ibid, vol. 2, p. 244, # 2888

14. Ibid

15. Ibid

16. Ibid, vol. 4, p. 536, # 8505

17. Ibid

18. Ibid
There is no dispute about the fact that Amir al-Muminin, ‘alaihi al-salam, was the most competent in justice dispensation among all the Sahabah. In fact, he is the best judge in our whole Ummah till the Day of al-Qiyamah after its Prophet, sallallahu ‘alaihi wa alihi. On a specific level, he was better - in terms of justice dispensation - than Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman. So, what is the direct implication of this?

In Islam, justice dispensation is based squarely upon the Qur’an and Sunnah:
 
فاحكم بينهم بما أنزل الله
So, judge between them by what Allah has revealed.1
The Qur’an itself, in its entirety, is described as “a judgment” by its Master:
وكذلك أنزلناه حكما عربيا
And thus We have sent it down as a judgment in Arabic2
As such, complete knowledge of everything in it is required for effective justice dispensation.
Moreover, the Sunnah is the divinely inspired explanations of this “judgment” called al-Qur’an:
وأنزلنا إليك الذكر لتبين للناس ما نزل إليهم
And We have sent down unto you (Muhammad) al-Dhikr (i.e. the Qur’an) that you may explain clearly to mankind what is sent down to them.3
Apparently, a person does not know the Book of Allah until he has known its explanations by the Messenger of Allah. These explanations, according to the same Book, only originated from the Lord as well:
وما ينطق عن الهوى إن هو إلا وحي يوحى
He (Muhammad) never speaks of (his own) desire or caprice. It is nothing but a wahy that is revealed (to him).4
It is obvious. If anyone were more knowledgeable of the Qur’an and Sunnah than ‘Ali in this Ummah, he (‘Ali) would not have been its best judge. It is simply unfathomable that Allah and His Messenger would have conferred upon him such a rank while there was/is another – in the Ummah as a whole - who was/is more competent with the tools of justice dispensation than he was!
It is noteworthy that knowledge of the revelations of Allah surpasses mere knowledge of al-halal (the permissible) and al-haram (the prohibited). It covers everything from the Lord to humanity. Most importantly, merely knowing the legal status of a thing is not enough for justice dispensation. The judge must equally be fully aware of the penalties (if any) prescribed for it, and the best ways and circumstances to exercise personal discretion in different cases in line with the Wish of Allah. None, apparently, is as competent in these fields as ‘Ali.
At this point, it is apposite to quote this groundbreaking riwayah referenced by al-Hafiz Ibn Kathir (d. 774 H):
قال شعبة بن الحجاج ، عن سِمَاك ، عن خالد بن عَرْعَرَة أنه سمع عليا وشعبة أيضًا ، عن القاسم بن أبي بزَّة ، عن أبي الطُّفَيْل ، سمع عليًا. وثبت أيضًا من غير وجه ، عن أمير المؤمنين علي بن أبي طالب : أنه صعد منبر الكوفة فقال : لا تسألوني عن آية في كتاب الله ، ولا عن سنة عن رسول الله ، إلا أنبأتكم بذلك.
Shu’bah b. al-Hajjaj, from Simak, from Khalid b. ‘Ar’arah that he heard ‘Ali; and Shu’bah again narrated from al-Qasim b. Abi Barrah from Abu al-Tufayl that he heard ‘Ali; and IT IS ALSO AUTHENTICALLY TRANSMITTED through many chains that Amir al-Muminin ‘Ali b. Abi Talib climbed the pulpit of Kufah and said, “You will not ask me about ANY verse in the Book of Allah, or about ANY Sunnah from the Messenger of Allah, except that I will inform you about that.”5
None of the Sahabah was ever able to make a similar claim!
Secondly, justice must be administered with utmost fairness and equity:
وإن حكمت فاحكم بينهم بالقسط
If you judge, judge between them with fairness and equity.6
This verse allows the use of personal discretion in the administration of justice, especially in all cases where no divinely fixed penalties or judgments are available. But even then, it also reiterates the notion that the judge must know everything in the Qur’an and the Sunnah! Full knowledge of both is required to determine whether or not there is a fixed penalty or judgment concerning a particular case. If there is none, then the judge uses his discretion. Where the judge does not know whether Allah has already fixed the judgment for the issue before him – due to an insufficient knowledge of the Book and the Tradition - he is most likely to effect a miscarriage of justice, without even realizing it!
Moreover, the judge must give his judgments with the best interests of fairness and equity at heart. This is the second message of the above verse. Where there is a divinely fixed penalty or judgment, he must apply it in the fairest and most equitable manners. Where there is no such fixed penalty or judgment, then he equally must adopt his personal discretion in ways that best ensure a completely fair and equitable dispensation of justice.
Amir al-Muminin has been declared the best judge by Allah and His Messenger. Apparently, he is the one, within Islam, with the best knowledge and practice in justice dispensation. Most importantly, he is the fairest and the most equitable among us all – including the Sahabah - in the application of Allah’s Fixed Verdicts and in the just administration of personal discretion.
The most crucial part of this discourse, probably, is stated in this verse:
يا داوود إنا جعلناك خليفة في الأرض فاحكم بين الناس بالحق
O Dawud! We have appointed you a khalifah over the earth. Therefore, judge between mankind with the truth.7
First and foremost, it is clear from this verse that justice dispensation is the job of the khalifah, to the exclusion of all others. He is the judge of “mankind”. Every single other human beings comes under his juridical authority. Of course, he might appoint subordinate judges to assist him, under his close supervision. However, the job belongs to him alone. Therefore, whoever is the most qualified to be judge is also the most qualified for the khilafah!

Besides, the competent judge is he who is able to discern the truth, and who judges with the truth. Judgment with the truth involves the objective application of Allah’s Fixed Verdicts over relevant issues, as well as the selfless administration of personal discretion in deserving cases. The judge therefore must be very intelligent and completely truthful. Application of personal discretion to reach true justice requires an extremely high level of intelligence, selflessness, sincerity and honesty. An unintelligent person cannot be expected to skillfully detect the truth from a clog of complex arguments and proofs before him. Moreover, a corrupt or self-serving fellow cannot be expected to judge others with the truth, or to apply his personal discretion fairly. With these facts in mind, one can then safely conclude and proclaim that Amir al-Muminin - being the best judge in this Ummah - was the most qualified for the khilafah immediately after the Prophet. In addition, he is the most truthful, the most intelligent, the most selfless, the most sincere, the most honest, and the best in recognizing and applying the truth in this Ummah after the Messenger.
________________________
1. Qur’an 5:48

2. Qur’an 13:37

3. Qur’an 16:44

4. Qur’an 53:3-4

5. Abu al-Fida Isma’il b. ‘Umar b. Kathir al-Qurshi al-Dimashqi, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-‘Azim (Dar al-T.aybah li al-Nashr wa al-Tawzi’; 2nd edition, 1420 H) [annotator: Sami b. Muhammad Salamah], vol. 7, p. 413

6. Qur’an 5:42

7. Qur’an 38:26
The khalifah of Muslims is also their sovereign judge:
 
يا داوود إنا جعلناك خليفة في الأرض فاحكم بين الناس بالحق
O Dawud! We have appointed you a khalifah over the earth. Therefore, judge between mankind with the truth.1
Since ‘Umar was recognized by most Muslims of his time as their khalifah, it follows naturally that he was also their sovereign judge. The question is: was ‘Umar a competent judge? To find the answer, we must look at some iconic cases decided by ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭab.
Imam Ibn Khuzaymah (d. 311 H) records about an interesting case:
ثنا يونس بن عبد الأعلى و محمد بن عبد الله بن الحكم قالا ثنا ابن وهب أخبرني جرير بن حازم عن سليمان بن مهران عن أبي ظبيان عن ابن عباس قال: مر علي بن أبي طالب بمجنونة بني فلان قد زنت أمر عمر برجمها فردها علي و قال لعمر : يا أمير المؤمنين أترجم هذه ؟ قال: نعم قال : أما تذكر أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم قال: رفع القلم عن ثلاثة عن المجنون المغلوب على عقله و عن النائم حتى يستيقظ و عن الصبي حتى يحتلم قال : صدقت فخلى عنها
Yunus b. ‘Abd al-A’la and Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah b. al-Hakam – Ibn Wahb – Jarir b. Hazim – Sulayman b. Mihran – Abu Zibyan – Ibn ‘Abbas:
‘Ali b. Abi Talib passed by a lunatic woman from so-and-so tribe, and she had committed adultery. ‘Umar ordered that she be stoned to death. So, ‘Ali returned her and said to ‘Umar, “O Amir al-Muminin! Do you want to stone this (woman)?” He (‘Umar) replied, “Yes”. He (‘Ali) said, “Do you remember that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said: ‘The pen has been lifted about three people: the mentally ill, the person sleeping until he wakes up, and the child until he becomes an adolescent.” He (‘Umar) responded, “You have said the truth”. So, ‘Umar freed her (i.e. the lunatic woman).2
‘Allamah al-Albani (d. 1420 H) comments:
حديث صحيح رجاله ثقات
It is a sahih hadith. Its narrators are thiqah (trustworthy).3
Elsewhere, Imam Ibn Khuzaymah also records:
أنا أبو طاهر نا أبو بكر نا يونس بن عبد الأعلى و محمد بن عبد الله بن عبد الحكم قالا أخبرنا ابن وهب أخبرني جرير بن حازم عن سليمان بن مهران عن أبي ظبيان عن ابن عباس قال: مر علي بن أبي طالب بمجنونة بني فلان قد زنت أمر عمر برجمها فرجعها علي وقال لعمر : يا أمير المؤمنين ترجم هذه ؟ قال : نعم قال : أو تذكر أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم قال : رفع القلم عن ثلاث عن المجنون المغلوب على عقله وعن النائم حتى يستيقظ وعن الصبي حتى يحتلم قال : صدقت فخلى عنها
Abu Tahir – Abu Bakr Yunus b. ‘Abd al-A’la and Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah b. al-Hakam – Ibn Wahb – Jarir b. Hazim – Sulayman b. Mihran – Abu Zibyan – Ibn ‘Abbas:
‘Ali b. Abi Talib passed by a lunatic woman from so-and-so tribe, and she had committed adultery. ‘Umar ordered that she be stoned to death. So, ‘Ali returned her and said to ‘Umar, “O Amir al-Muminin! Do you want to stone this (woman)?” He (‘Umar) replied, “Yes”. He (‘Ali) said, “Do you remember that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said: ‘The pen has been lifted about three people: the mentally ill, the person sleeping until he wakes up, and the child until he becomes an adolescent.” He (‘Umar) responded, “You have said the truth”. So, he freed her (i.e. the lunatic woman).4
‘Allamah al-Albani rules:
إسناده صحيح
Its chain is sahih5
The exact narration above is documented by Imam Ibn Hibban (d. 354 H) in his Sahih through the route of his teacher, Imam Ibn Khuzaymah, with the same chain.6 ‘Allamah al-Albani again says:
صحيح
Sahih7
Shaykh al-Arnauṭ also comments:
رجاله ثقات رجال مسلم
Its narrators are thiqah (trustworthy), narrators of (Sahih) Muslim.8
Imam al-Hakim (d. 403 H), a student of Ibn Hibban, records the hadith as well:
حدثنا أبو بكر بن إسحاق الفقيه وعبد الله بن محمد بن موسى قالا : أنبأ أحمد بن عيسى المصري أنبأ ابن وهب أخبرني جرير بن حازم عن سليمان بن مهران عن أبي ظبيان عن ابن عباس قال مر علي بن أبي طالب بمجنونة بني فلان وقد زنت وأم

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