Selective Perception & Two Narrations Regarding Muʿāwiyah from Ansāb al-Ashrāf
Compiled by Mln. Yaqub Abdurrahman
Authenticating ḥadīth is governed by a set of methodical principles. A ḥadīth must pass the standards established to be ascribed to the Prophet (upon him be peace). Ibn Ḥajar expounded on some details regarding one such rule:
يقبل من لم يكن داعية إلى بدعته لأن تزيين بدعته قد يحمله على تحريف الروايات وتسويتها على ما يقتضيه مذهبه وهذا في الأصح وأغرب ابن حبان فادعى الاتفاق على قبول غير الداعية من غير تفصيل نعم الأكثر على قبول غير الداعية إلا أن يروي ما يقوي بدعته فيرد على المذهب المختار
“One who did not invite to his heresy is accepted. This is because when a report supports his heresy it creates an opportunity for him to support that by relating false information that supports his innovation. This is the relied-upon position. […] The majority of scholars maintain that the narration of one who does not invite is accepted except for when he is narrating what supports his innovation, that is rejected according to the relied-upon opinion.”
- Early authorities analyzed the case of a heretic relating what supports his innovation.
- They apprehended that his bias may impede his ability to objectively narrate.
- Consequently, they deemed what he relates in support of his innovation to be unacceptable.
This principle is logical. Science has established that one’s perception may be influenced by various emotional and psychological factors. Empirical studies have demonstrated how some maintain prejudices against others that lead them to constructing judgments, perhaps even at a subconscious level, that accord to their preconceived notions. This is termed “Selective Perception.”
One study, carried out in the United States, used a photograph of a well-dressed African American man who was standing next to a Caucasian American man. The Caucasian was holding a knife. That picture was shown to a pool of Americans, some of whom held preexisting racist tendencies. Later, they were asked regarding what they had seen. Many replied that the knife was in the hand of the African American.
This response was very different from those who viewed the picture without a preconceived bias. Those without an inclination to racism were able to accurately recall what they had seen.
Similar studies have been conducted on the followers of extremist groups. The subjects of these studies almost always retain only that which is in conformity with their beliefs. Preexisting inclinations may interpenetrate some individuals’ emotional faculties. Consequently, they construct and distort facts to support their views. The more one senses a threat from society because of his biases, the more he reinforces his Selective Perception.
Given that a biased individual may have a preset mental state by which his objectivity is obstructed, his Selective Perception would consequently be a detrimental impediment of his ability to convey the ḥadīth.
Two Narrations on Muʿāwyiah from Ansāb al-Ashrāf
Balādhurī related two ḥadīths. They are:
Ḥadīth #1: < Isḥāq & Bakr b. al-Haytham < ʿAbd al-Razzāq < Maʿmar < Ibn Ṭāwūs < Ṭāwūs < ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAmr who related that he was sitting with the Prophet (upon him be peace) when he said: “There shall come a man from between this pass who will die upon other than my religion.” ʿAbd Allāh said: “Then Muʿāwiyah appeared.” The Prophet (upon him be peace) said: “This is him.”
Ḥadīth #2: ʿAbd Allāh b. Ṣāliḥ < Yaḥyā b. Ādam < Sharīk < Layth < Ṭāwūs < ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAmr who related that he was sitting with the Prophet when he said: “There shall come upon you a man from between this pass who will die upon other than my religion.” ʿAbd Allāh said: “Then, Muʿāwiyah appeared.”
Comments on Ḥadīth #1
Problem 1: ʿAbd al-Razzāq had Shiite tendencies. ʿUqaylī related that he heard from Makhlad b. Khālid, who was once sitting with ʿAbd al-Razzāq when Muʿāwiyah was mentioned, that ʿAbd al-Razzāq said:
“Do not dirty my gathering by mentioning Abū Ṣufyān’s son.”
Ibn ʿAsākir mentioned that ʿAbd Allāh b. Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal related from his father that ʿAbd al-Razzāq had Shiite inclinations. Dhahabī mentioned his Shiite inclinations. ʿAbd al-Razzāq was further known for relating what would come in praise of the Ahl al-Bayt, while also relating what would vilify others. Mizzī pointed this out. Ibn ʿAdī mentioned:
ولعبد الرزاق بن همام أصناف وحديث كثير وقد رحل إليه ثقات المسلمين وأئمتهم وكتبوا عنه ولم يروا بحديثه بأسا إلا أنهم نسبوه إلى التشيع وقد روى أحاديث في الفضائل مما لا يوافقه عليها أحد من الثقات فهذا أعظم ما رموه به من روايته لهذه الأحاديث ولما رواه في مثالب غيرهم مما لم أذكره في كتابي هذا وأما في باب الصدق فأرجو أنه لا بأس به إلا أنه قد سبق منه أحاديث في فضائل أهل البيت ومثالب آخرين مناكير اهـ
“ʿAbd al-Razzāq has compilations and numerous ḥadīth. Many traveled to him, wrote from him, and did not see any problem with his reports except that they attributed Shiite tendencies to him. Also, he related ḥadīth on the virtues of Ahl al-Bayt that are not corroborated. This is a fault regarding him. He related mathālib, which I will not mention. Regarding his veracity, there is no problem with him except that his ḥadīth on the virtues of Ahl al-Bayt and his ḥadīth on the vilification of others are unfounded.”
Ibn Ḥibbān noted his Shiite tendencies. In addition, he mentioned that during the latter part of his life ʿAbd al-Razzāq went blind. Moreover, he relied on books. When he related from memory, he would err. He passed in AH 211. Imām Aḥmad said:
أتيته قبل المئتين وهو صحيح البصر ومن سمع منه بعدما ذهب بصره فهو ضعيف السماع
“I met him before the year 200 while he still had good eyesight. Whoever heard from him thereafter, when his vision had gone, it is a weak transmission.”
ʿAbd al-Razzāq had various students. In the chain mentioned in Ansāb al-Ashrāf the names of the ḥadīth’s transmitters that took from him are “Isḥāq & Bakr b. al-Haytham.” Regarding Bakr, Balādhurī relates from him. Nonetheless, biographical information regarding Bakr and his relation to Balādhurī is scarce in the historical and biographical source material.
Regarding Isḥāq, Ḥāfiẓ Mizzī mentioned various Isḥāqs who relate from him. Some of these individuals’ links to ʿAbd al-Razzāq are questionable. For instance, Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm al-Dabarī’s father would bring him as a very small boy to study ḥadīth with ʿAbd al-Razzāq. This was only after he had become very old and lost his eyesight. Ibn al-ʿImād mentioned:
إسحاق بن إبراهيم الدبري المحدث راوية عبد الرزاق بصنعاء عن سن عالية اعتنى به أبوه وأسمعه الكتب من عبد الرزاق في سنة عشر ومائتين
“Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm al-Dabarī narrated from ʿAbd al-Razzāq in Sana’a during his old age. His father would bring him and have him hear books from ʿAbd al-Razzāq in the year 210.”
There is a break in the chain between Ibn Ṭāwūs and his father. Ibn Qudāmah al-Maqdisī cited that there are two problematic features found in this ḥadīth.
Firstly, Khallāl relates that Imām Aḥmad was asked regarding the ḥadīth and he replied:
إنما رواه ابن طاوس عن أبيه عن عبد الله بن عمرو أو غيره وشك فيه
“Ibn Ṭāwūs related it from his father from ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAmr or another person; and Imām Aḥmad doubted in that.”
Also, Khallāl said:
رواه عبد الرزاق عن معمر عن ابن طاوس قال سمعت فرخاش يحدث هذا الحديث عن أبي عن عبد الله بن عمرو
“ʿAbd al-Razzāq related it from Maʿmar from Ibn Ṭāwūs who said: ‘I heard Furkhāsh relating this ḥadīth from my father from ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAmr.’”
Imām Bukhārī mentioned:
ويروى عن معمر عن ابن طاوس عن أبيه عن رجل عن عبد الله ابن عمر رفعه في قصته وهذا منقطع لا يعتمد عليه
“It is related from Maʿmar < Ibn Ṭāwūs < his father < a man < ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAmr who ascribed it to the Prophet (upon him be peace). This is interrupted and it is not relied on.”
Sufyān al-Thawrī mentioned that Ṭāwūs had Shiite inclinations. The Shiite authority Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-Ardabīlī listed Ṭāwūs. Ṭāwūs is also listed by Sayyid Ḥāmid ʿAlī al-Ḥusaynī.
Concluding Remark on Ḥadīth #1:
Amid the Shiite inclinations of ʿAbd al-Razzāq and Ṭāwūs, a questionable narrator, and the doubt expressed by Imām Aḥmad, there is little scope to accept the ḥadīth’s isnād.
Comments on Ḥadīth #2
Sharīk b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Nakhaʿī had Shiite inclinations. Abū Dāwūd al-Dahhān mentioned that he heard him say:
علي خير البشر فمن أبى فقد كفر
“ʿAlī is the best human being. Whoever rejects this fact has disbelieved.”
ذكر معاوية بن أبي سفيان عنده ووصف بالحلم فقال شريك ليس بحليم من سفَّه الحق وقاتل علي بن أبي طالب رضى الله عنه
“Muʿāwiyah b. Abī Sufyān was mentioned in his presence and described with clemency. Then, Sharīk said: ‘He is not a clement person who depreciated the truth and fought against ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib!’”
There are other fabricated narrations that have come via Sharīk either in excessive praise of ʿAlī or in the vilification of Muʿāwiyah. For example:
Ibn al-Jawzī mentioned a fabricated narration via Sharīk:
لكل نبي وصي وإن عليا وصيي ووارثي
“Every Prophet has an inheritance. Verily, ʿAlī is my inheritance and my heir.”
Also, Dhahabī mentioned a fabricated ḥadīth related via Sharīk:
إذا رأيتم معاوية على منبري فاقتلوه
“If you see Muʿāwiyah on my pulpit, kill him.”
Thus, it does not seem objective to consider the narrations from Sharīk that support his Shiite tendencies as reliable. Additionally, Sharik is listed by Ardabīlī. And the Shiite scholar Abū Ṭālib al-Tibrīzī mentioned him too.
Layth b. Abī Sulaym is not a strong narrator. In fact, Ibn Ḥajar clearly stated that what he relates from Ṭāwūs is weak:
كان ليث ضعيف الحديث عن طاوس
“Layth is weak in ḥadīth when narrating from Ṭāwūs.”
Many, such as Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, Yaḥyā b. Saʿīd al-Qaṭṭān, and Yaḥyā b. Maʿīn criticized Layth’s reliability.
The ḥadīth is also transmitted via Ṭāwūs, and reference to his Shiite inclinations has been presented above.
Concluding Remark on Ḥadīth #2:
Considering Ṭāwūs and Sharīk’s Shiite inclinations and the weak chain link between Layth and Ṭāwūs, this ḥadīth is unacceptable.
Shiite Narrators from Among the Early Generation?
One may question how some narrators, like ʿAbd al-Razzāq, Ṭāwūs, and others with Shiite tendencies ascribed to them, are related from in Sunnī ḥadīth literature. Perhaps Dhahabī’s following explanation may clarify:
فلقائل أن يقول: كيف ساغ توثيق مبتدع وحد الثقة العدالة والإتقان؟ فكيف يكون عدلا من هو صاحب بدعة؟ وجوابه 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، والحط على أبي بكر وعمر – رضى الله عنهما – والدعاء في ذلك؛ فهذا النوع لا يحتج بهم ولا كرامة. وأيضا فما أستحضر الآن في هذا الضرب رجلا صادقا ولا مأمونا؛ بل الكذب شعارهم، والتقية والنفاق دثارهم؛ فكيف يقبل نقل من هذا حاله! حاشا وكلا. فالشيعي الغالي في زمان السلف وعرفهم هو من تكلم في عثمان والزبير وطلحة ومعاوية وطائفة ممن حارب عليا – رضى الله عنه، وتعرض لسبهم. والغالي في زماننا وعرفنا هو الذي يكفر هؤلاء السادة، ويتبرأ من الشيخين أيضا، فهذا ضال معثر إلخ
“One may say: ‘How is vindicating a heretic possible when the definition of a thiqah narrator includes ʿadālah (trans. uprightness) and itqān (trans. accurateness)? How can a heretic be considered upright?’ The answer is that innovation is divided into two:
1) Bidʿah Ṣughrā (trans. minor heresy). This includes Shiite inclinations without interpolation. This is frequent amongst the Followers and the Successors, who were exceptional in religiosity, scrupulousness, and truthfulness. If their narrations were rejected, many narrations would have to be discarded. This is clearly a mistaken approach.
2) Then, there is Bidʿah Kubrā (trans. major heresy). This is being an extreme, complete Shiite who debases the likes of Abū Bakr and ʿUmar. Regarding this second type, their narrations are not taken nor are they held in high repute.
Those whom I am mentioning are not truthful. In fact, lying, taqiyyah (trans. concealing one’s beliefs), and hypocrisy is their norm. How could a narration of one who is in this condition be accepted?! Never shall it be so!
The extreme Shiite from the early generation would speak about ʿUthmān, Zubayr, Ṭalḥah, Muʿāwiyah, and others who fought against ʿAlī. Conversely, the extreme Shiite in our times and custom is one who calls these Companions disbelievers and denounce Abū Bakr and ʿUmar. This is, without a doubt, misguidance.”
Dhahabī’s passage may be summarized as follows:
- Innovation is divided into two: (1) Bidʿah Kubrā and (2) Bidʿah Ṣughrā.
- Some of our predecessors had Shiite inclinations.
- Only individuals whose inclinations were Bidʿah Ṣughrā would be considered.
- Amongst the early generations of Muslims, the word “Shiite” retained a different meaning than what it would eventually signify.
- By Dhahabī’s era the word “Shiite” had already signified an individual who vilified the Prophet’s Companions, accusing them of unfaithfulness and infidelity.
- Individuals who did this are not accepted.
The Shiite scholar Sayyid ʿAbd al-Ḥusayn Sharaf al-Dīn listed several Sunnī authorities who also held Shiite inclinations and transmitted ḥadīth recognized by Sunnī scholarship. The presence of Shiite narrators in Sunnī books should not come as a surprise. Their narrations have been accepted after being evaluated according to the standards of ḥadīth criticism.
In Similar Narrations, Muʿāwiyah is a Man of Jannah
Ibn al-Jawzī mentioned some narrations expressing Muʿāwiyah as being from the people of Jannah. We shall present them relying on Dhahabī’s Talkhīṣ. The wording of the ḥadīth is:
الآن يطلع عليكم رجل من أهل الجنة فطلع معاوية
“Right now, there shall come upon you a man from the people of Jannah; and then Muʿāwiyah came.”
This is transmitted from ʿAbd Allāh b. Yaḥyā al-Muʾaddib < Ismāʿīl b. ʿAyyāsh < ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Dīnār < his father < Ibn ʿUmar. Also, ʿAbbās b. Muḥammad al-Dūrī < ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Baḥr al-Marwazī < Ismāʿīl, with a textual addition:
أنت مني يا معاوية وأنا منك لتزاحمني على باب الجنة كهاتين السبابة والوسطى
“You are from me, O Muʿāwiyah, and I from you! You will be with me at the gate of Jannah like these two: the index finger and the middle finger.”
ʿAbd Allāh b. Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal related it from ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz in a summarized fashion like the first. This ḥadīth is also related by Ibn ʿArrāq and by Ibn Ṭāhir al-Maqdisī. The intent here is not to claim authenticity. In fact, these sorts of ḥadīth also need to be objectively subjected to the same standards and criterion, just like the ḥadīth that vilify Muʿāwiyah.
The purpose of including them in this article is to illustrate to the reader that they exist. And the reader should be made aware of the fact that there exists other ḥadīths very similar to these.
In fact, the ḥadīth is also related by Balādhurī. Astonishingly, it is located right on the same page as the two that malign Muʿāwiyah, featured just before them. It is surprising that one could locate the two ḥadīths that vilify Muʿāwiyah without also seeing the one that vindicates him. In order to preserve objectivity, one would need to consider all the ḥadīths that speak of Muʿāwiyah, along with considering related discussions pertaining to the ḥadīths’ narrators. It makes one wonder why the ḥadīths are being related without more in-depth dialogue on details surrounding it. Perhaps, this is a practical example of Selective Perception.
And Allāh knows best.
 Nuzhat al-Naẓar, 103-04.
 This section on Selective Perception relies on Dr. Muḥammad Muṣṭafā al-Aʿẓamī’s Manhaj al-Naqd.
 Ansāb al-Ashrāf, 5:134.
 al-Ḍuʿafāʾ al-Kabīr, 3:109.
 Tārīkh Dimashq, 36:186.
 Tadhkirat al-Ḥuffāẓ, 1:364.
 Tahdhīb al-Kamāl, 18:61.
 al-Kāmil fī Ḍuʿafāʾ al-Rijāl, 5:315; Tārīkh Dimashq, 36:191.
 al-Thiqāt, 8:412.
 Siyar, 9:563.
 Tahdhīb al-Kamāl, 18:52.
 Shadharāt al-Dhahab, 3:356.
 al-Muntakhab min al-ʿIlal li al-Khallāl, 227-28.
 al-Tārīkh al-Awsaṭ, 2:801, #549.
 Siyar, 5:43.
 Jāmiʿ al-Ruwāt, 2:420.
 Fahāris Aʿyān al-Shīʿah, 219.
 al-Kāmil, 4:10; Tārīkh Dimashq 42:372.
 Wafayāt al-Aʿyān, 1:411.
 Kitāb al-Mawḍūʿāt, 2:150.
 Mizān al-Iʿtidāl, 4:45.
 Jāmiʿ al-Ruwāt, 1:399.
 Muʿjam al-Thiqāt, 295.
 Tahdhīb al-Tahdhīb, 8:467.
 Tahdhīb al-Kamāl, 24:282-83.
 Mizān al-Iʿtidāl, 1:118-19.
 al-Murājaʿāt, 127-87.
 al-ʿIlal al-Muntāhiyah, 1:277-79.
 Talkhīṣ al-ʿIlal al-Muntāhiyah, 95-96.
 Tanzīh al-Sharīʿah, 2:20.
 Tadhkirat al-Ḥuffāẓ, 2:1072.
 Ansāb al-Ashrāf, 5:134.