in Islamic Texts
The Kitab al-Ma'arif
of Ibn Qutaybah and the account
of Imam 'Ali's imprecation for Anas b. Malik
fi al-Kitab wa al-Sunnah wa al-Adab, Allamah al-'Amini, Beirut edition,
volume 1, p. 235]
Ibn Qutaybah al-Dinawari lived between the years 213 AH and 276 AH and was a famous early Sunni scholar with many important books on Qur'anic and hadith sciences to his credit. His book Kitab al-Ma'arif lists anecdotes and biographical information about various Muslims of preceding centuries.
The incident, as published in the Egyptian edition, can be seen in the
It should be noted that 'Abu Muhammad' is the patronym or kunyah of Ibn Qutaybah himself. It would therefore seem that Ibn Qutaybah included the anecdote but then commented that he didn't really think it had any truth in it.
So what's the problem with this statement?
Firstly: Allamah al-'Amini, in Al-Ghadir, volume 1, page 236, points out that from the beginning to the end of Kitab al-Ma'arif, there is no other place where Ibn Qutaybah mentions something and then casts doubt on it! The style of the book clearly indicates that the author has only written in the book what he believes to be true.
Secondly: The famous Mu'tazilite
Sunni scholar, Ibn Abi al-Hadid (d. 656 AH), has written:
It would seem that the copy of Kitab al-Ma'arif that Ibn Abi al-Hadid was looking at did not contain that last sentence that appears in the Egyptian edition above.
Finally: There exists a version
of Kitab al-Ma'arif in the form of a manuscript dating back
around 700 years, that confirms our suspicion.
Compare the text of this extract carefully with the Egyptian extract above. Although this page from the manuscript has the full incident of Imam 'Ali's (a) imprecation for Anas b. Malik and his disease, there is no sign of the alleged comment: "Abu Muhammad said: There is no basis for this." !
Also notice the honorific salawatu Allah 'alayh used for Imam 'Ali which is not to be found in the printed Egyptian edition.
But without a full chain of narration (isnad) how can you trust such a report?
The Kitab al-Ma'arif is not a book that quotes full chains of narrations for its contents. The fact that Ibn Qutaybah, a person who was famous for his disillusionment towards Imam 'Ali (a), would quote the anecdote implies that he must have felt there was truth in it.
Are there any other sources for this incident?
There are several places where we can find this account of Imam 'Ali's imprecation with full and reliable chains of narration. These have been researched in detail by Allamah al-'Amini and can be seen in Al-Ghadir, (Beirut edition), volume 1, pp. 207-238
When did the Prophet (s) say for 'Ali, "O God, be a friend of one who befriends him... "?
This was a part of the incident of Ghadir Khumm when Imam 'Ali (a) was clearly designated as successor by the Prophet (s) over the Muslims. See for details:
It has been shown how someone somewhere has tried to interfere with
the truth by inserting a fictitious statement attributed to Ibn Qutaybah
in his book.
Kindly send any comments or suggestions about this site, or any relevant factual data with full references to be included in it, to the Shi'a Encyclopedia team of the Ahlul Bayt DILP.
Case study created: January 2000
Last updated: January 2000