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Authenticity of Nahj al Balagha and al Sahifa al Sajjadiyya

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by Seekersguidance.org

Question: How authentic are the books Nahj al Balagha and al Sahifa al Sajjadiyya in the eyes of Sunni scholars?

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Dear questioner,

Thank you for your important question.

Short Answer:

Scholars have criticized the authenticity of Nahj al Balagh because of its lack of chains of transmission and unique religious and linguistic content that is unreflective of a work of its nature.

Scholars have also failed to find a solid and reliable chain of transmission for Al Sahifa al Sajjadiyya.

The objectivity of authentication the past

First of all, authenticity is an objective historical judgment and has nothing to do with madhhabs or sects. The authenticity of a hadith, saying, or book is judged according to the accuracy of the sources, not the religious affiliation of the narrator or critic. Many Sunni and Shi’i hadith narrators and hadith critics have deemed authorities in hadith narration and hadith criticism respectively.

Nahj al Balagha

With regards to Nahj al Balagha which is a collection of sayings and sermons ascribed to Sayyidna Ali (May Allah ennoble his face) that was gathered by Sharif al Radi (359 AH – 406 AH), there are a number of problems.

Firstly, for the most part, the sayings and sermons ascribed to Sayyidna Ali (May Allah ennoble his face) lack any full chain of transmission. Given that the sayings were collected by a scholar approximately 350 years after Sayyidna Ali, this calls into question the authenticity of the work.

Secondly, most of the book’s content is not found anywhere else. When we look at any normal book of hadith or sayings of the early Muslims, we generally find a lot of cross-over with other sources. A saying ascribed to Sayyidna Umar, for example, will often turn up in a number of other primary works. This enables us to cross-reference, pinpoint, and ultimately critique the origin of the quote. Finding a hadith in Jami al Tirmidhi, for example, that honestly does not exist anywhere else is quite rare. The fact that a whole host of quotes and sermons of Sayyidna Ali should just appear nearly four centuries after his death is very questionable indeed.

For this reason, al-Khatib al Baghdadi says that the likes of the Book of Danyal and the sermons of Ali ibn Abi Talib of those useless interests that are not authentic and should not be busied with (Kitab al Jami li Akhlaq al Rawi wa Adab al Sami). According to Imam al Dhahabi, the book is not authentic and merely a fabrication by Sharif al Radiyy (359 AH – 406 AH) (Siyar Alam al Nubala, Dhahabi; Tarikh al Islam, Dhahabi).

A further problem with the work is that the language used in the Nahj al Balagha is also suggestive of the fact that it is fabricated. The great scholar of Arabic language and literature, and hadith, Mahmoud Shakir (1909-1997), mentioned that the work Nahj al Balagha contains a noticeably large number of uncommon Arabic words (gharib). These words, said Shakir, are the kind of words that the scholars of gharib al-hadith (uncommon words used in hadiths and sayings of the early Muslims) recorded, examined, and explained in multiple works. Despite the exhaustive efforts of such scholars as Nadr ibn Shumail (d. 203 AH), Abu Ubayd (d. 224 AH), and Ibn Qutayba (d. 276 AH) who were closer to the time of Sayyidna Ali than Sharif Al Radiyy, who amongst many others ferreted out rare words and phrases of the Early Muslims, and went to great pains to explain even their passing remarks, it is more than uncanny that these words should not be found in such dictionaries. From a lexicographical point of view, Nahj al Balagha seems to have been born in the four Hijri century, as it were, by immaculate conception (Mawaqif, Mahmoud Muhammad Shakir).

Al Sahifa al Sajjadiyya

As for al Sahifa al Sajjadiyya, Shi’i scholars themselves, such as Khomeini, have said that there is no sound chain of transmission for it back to Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin (Allah show him mercy) (d. 95 AH) (Al Makasib al Muharramah, Khomeini).

I pray this helps.

[Ustadh] Farid

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language

This answer was collected from Seekersguidance.org. It’s an online learning platform overseen by Sheikh Faraz Rabbani. All courses are free. They also have in-person classes in Canada.

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