Biographical evaluation (Arabic: عِلْمُ الرِّجال, romanized: `Ilm al-Rijāl), literally meaning 'Knowledge of Men' but more commonly understood as the Science of Narration, refers to a discipline of Islamic religious studies within hadith terminology in which the narrators of hadith are evaluated. Its goal is to distinguish authentic and reliable hadiths from unreliable hadiths in establishing the credibility of the narrators, using both historic and religious knowledge. `Ilm ar-rijal is synonymous with what is commonly referred to as al-jarḥ wa al-taʻdīl (discrediting and accrediting) – the criticism and declared acceptance of hadith narrators.
Hadeeth Kisa is one of the most authentic Hadeeths in both Sunni and Shia books. It was narrated by more than twenty authentic narrators like Umm Salamah, Abu Sa'eed Al-Khudri, Ayisha, Jabir ibn Abdillah Al-Ansari and others. Sunni and Shia books narrated Hadeeth Kisa in its brief version stating that the Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) called Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husain and put on them a cloak (Kisa') and said: O Allah, these are my Ahlul Bayt. He did not allow any of his wives to join them despite the request from Umm Salamah and Ayisha in two different occasions when the same happened in their presence.
Beside this narration, there is another long narration of Hadeeth e Kisaa' by Jaabir ibn Abdillah Al-Ansaari from Fatima (AS) which is been recited by the followers of Ahlul Bayt (AS) in their religious and social gatherings for getting the blessings. This narration of Hadeeth e Kisaa has been narrated by many great scholars with full chain of authentic narrators. In 'Awaalim of Shaikh Abdullah Al-Bahrani from Sayyed Hashim Al-Bahrani, from Sayyed Maajid Al-Bahrani, from Shaikh Hasan ibn Zain Al Abidin (Al-Shaheed the Thani), from Al-Muqaddas Al-Ardabili, from ibn Abd Al-AALI Al-Karaki, from Ali ibn Hilal Al-Jazaeri, from Ahmad ibn Fahad Al-Hilli, from Ali ibn Al-Khaazin Al-Haeri, from Ali ibn Al-Shaheed Al-Awwal, from Al-Shaheed Al-Awwal, from Fakhr Al-Muhaqqiqeen, from his father Hasan ibn Yousuf Al-Allama Hal-Hilli from Ibn Nama Al-Hilli, from Muhammad ibn Idrees Al-Hilli, from ibn Hamza Al-Toosi, from Muhammad ibn Shahr Aashoub, from Al-Tabrasi of al-Ehtijaj, from his Shaikh Al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan Al-Toosi, from his father Al-Shaikh Al-Toosi from his shaikh Al-Mufeed, from his Shaikh ibn Qawlawayh, from his shaikh Al-Kulaini, from Ali ibn Ibrahim, from Ibrahim ibn Hashim, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Nasr Al-- Bizanti, from Qasim ibn Yahya Al-Jallaa', from Abi Nassar, from Aban ibn Taghlib, from Jabir ibn Yazeed Al-Jo'fi, from Jabir ibn Abdillah Al-Ansari from Fatima (AS).
Many other great scholars have also narrated this Hadeeth like Fakhr Al-Deen Al-Turaihi in his book Al-Mubtakhab Al-Kabeer, Al-Dailami of al-Irshad in his book Al-Ghurar WAL-Dorar. Al-Husain Al-. Al-Hanafi who is a Sunni Hanafi Aalim has also narrated this Hadeeth.
Fadak was mentioned in many authentic narration in Shia and Sunni books. The narrations about Fadak in Shia books are so many that many scholars complied whole books on this matter.
There is a full field of knowledge called E'lm Al-Rijaal which deals with every narrator and searching and assessing his authenticity. Deviat persons are known by our scholars of E'lm Al-Rijaal and their narrations are never accepted.
Famous Shia books on E'lm Al-Rijaal are like Kitab Al-Rijaal by Al-Najaashi (450 Hijri),
Rijaal Al-Kashshi (350 Hijri) ,
and Al-Fahrist by Al-Shaikh Al-Tousi (460 Hijri) ,
Ma'aalim Al-Ulama' by Ibn Sharashoob 588 hijri.
Khulasat Al Awwal by Al-Allama Al-Hilli 726 hujri.
Tanqeeh Al-Maqaal by Al-Mamaqani 1351 hujri.
and Mu'jam Rijaal Al-Hadeeth by Al-Khoei 1413 hijri.
We only accept narrations from authentic narrators who were always in the right path.
It has been very clearly mentioned in many authentic narrations from our Infallible Imams e.g. Imam Ja'far Al-Sadiq (AS) that: My Hadeeth is the Hadeeth of my father, and it is the Hadeeth of my grand father, which is the Hadeeth of Imam Husain, which is the Hadeeth of Imam Hasan, which is the Hadeeth of Ameerul Mo'mineen, which is the Hadeeth of the Prophet (SAWA) which is the order of Allah.
(Kitab Al-Kaafi, V.1, P. 53.).
In the Shi'i view, it is held that the knowledge of the Prophet (S) passed directly to the Imams. Therefore, when one of the Imams speaks, they are speaking accurately and correctly on behalf of the Prophet, whether or not it is word for word.
In some cases, the Imam may have a dialogue with someone present with them, refer to people in their time by name, or discuss current events and questions. In these cases, these are not word for word quotations from the Prophet (S) but accurately reflect or expound upon the Prophet's teachings as applied to those situations.
In other cases the Imams provide a direct quotation from one of their forebears.
Apart from that, it would be very lengthy to always give the full chain of narration back to the Prophet (S) through all the Imams. However, it is understood that this is intended to be the chain of transmission of knowledge.
This principle is mentioned in al-Kafi and is related from Imam al-Sadiq (A) as follows:
"My hadith is the hadith of my father. The hadith of my father is the hadith of my grandfather. The hadith of my grandfather is the hadith of al-Husayn. The hadith of al-Husayn is the hadith of al-Hasan. The hadith of al-Hasan is the hadith of the Commander of the Faithful. The hadith of the Commander of the Faithful is the hadtih of the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him and his family). The hadith of the Messenger of God is the word of God, the Mighty and Glorious."
علي بن محمد، عن سهل بن زياد، عن أحمد بن محمد، عن عمر بن عبد العزيز عن هشام بن سالم وحماد بن عثمان وغيره قالوا: سمعنا أبا عبد الله عليه السلام يقول: حديثي حديث أبي، وحديث أبي حديث جدي، وحديث جدي حديث الحسين، وحديث الحسين حديث الحسن، وحديث الحسن حديث أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام وحديث أمير المؤمنين حديث رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وحديث رسول الله قول الله عز وجل.
Here, of course, the "word of God" does not mean the same thing as the Qur'an being the "word of God" in the sense of the literal divine word, but rather is the correct teaching given from God to the Prophet (S).
So, from a Shi'i perspective, the Imam has full knowledge of the teachings of the Prophet (S) and full authority to speak about it. Therefore the Imam can speak authoritatively without giving a further chain of narration back or may provide a further chain of narration back.
Hope that helps!
I don't think there is a full resource on this in English available presently (online or in print). However, you can purchase the Dirayat al-Noor software from Iran and it offers an easy to use database for hadith narrators in Arabic (not sure about Farsi). Another useful resource is Mu'jam Rijal al-Ahadith by Ayatollah al-Khoei, which is also available online in Arabic.
Sometimes, you can find information about some of the narrators in some other books in English. For instance, some of the biographies of the Imams by Baqir Sharif Qarashi have information on some of the companions of the Imams. There is a book called Tradition and Survival by Hossein Modarressi which also has some bibliographic information on some early Shi'i narrators.
So if there is someone specific you want to know more about, you may be able to find information in other sources. However in general I don't think there is a comprehensive source available in English. Perhaps someone will update this answer with one, or perhaps you will create one!
There are many books on the subject of unreliable narrators. Such books are within the science of Al-Jarh wal-Ta'deel. Famous books among Sunni sects are Kitab Al-Dhu'faa' Al- Kabeer by Al-Oqaili,
Al-Dhu'faa Al-Sagheer by al-Bukhari,
al-Kaamil fil Dhu'afaa by Ibn Oday Al-Jarjaani.
You can also refer to Shia books like Al-Ghadeer to read about famous narrators who used to lie and fabricate narrations to serve the purpose of the rulers who were enemies of Ahlul bayt (AS).
Ahmad ibn Hanbal is considered among the Hanbali sect as the most important in Ilm al-Rijaal.
There is famous book ( Tabaqaat al-Hanaabilah)طبقات الحنابلة لابن أبي يعلى complied by Ibn Abi Ya'la who classified the Hanbali Ulama in to six degrees.
Ahmed Ibn Hanbal died on 241 Hijri. His sons Abdullah and Salih are considered prominent after him.
Yes of course. Ilm al-Rijal is the knowledge which makes us know the trust worthy person from others. Allah orders us in Quran to verify any information or news and not to take it blindly. Sura 49, Verse 6. With out proper verification things will be mixed and we will not know which narration is authentic and one is not. Liars in history till today are too many. Thousands or more narrations were fabricated for political reasons and other worldly reasons. Ilm al-Rijal enables us to verify and avoid false narrations and take and act upon authentic narrations narrated by pious trustworthy persons.
Ahlul Bayt Library.
This is indeed an interesting question, especially in regards to the famous book Kitab Sulaym ibn Qays al-Hilali.
There is no doubt regarding the authenticity, nobility and reliability of Sulaym ibn Qays al-Hilali.
In regards to the narrator Aban ibn Abi 'Ayyash, there are rijali scholars who weaken him, and also classify him as a fabricator or a liar.
However, as far as the book is concerned, as some scholars like Ayatullah Milani say, its chain is not solely from Aban ibn Abi 'Ayyash.
Seyyid al-Milani says there are multiple chains to the book.
As you know, like other cases in our Shi'a heritage, there is no unanimous view regarding this. There are also a few editions of this book as well. One is a 3 volume edition, researched and edited by Ayatullah Muhammad Baqir al-Ansari al-Zanjani. In this edition, volume one has been dedicated to researching all the views regarding the book and the narrators of the as well. It is worth the read for those familiar with Arabic.
An interesting article that deals with this book and its narrators, written byAyatullah Badri in his website:
In brief, there are those who completely accept the book, those who completely reject it, and those who say it has a mixture of authentic and weak statements.
Whatever the case may be, it is an interesting book to read, and for those eager to expand on the rijali side of this book, you must engage in the detailed research in this field.
With prayers for your success.
Sanad is who related the hadith (chain of narrators) and matn is the text/content of the hadith.
Hope that helps!