In this post I wish to shed some light on the authenticity of the extended version of Hadith al-Kisa that is popularly recited from Mafatih al-Jinan nowadays.


The event of the cloak is one of the best preserved historical events confirming the virtue of the Ahl al-Bayt and attesting to their purification, it has been mass transmitted in the books of the Shi’a and Sunnis to the extent that there is no doubt about the occurrence of this event.

What is agreed upon generally in these reports is that upon the revelation of the verse of purification [1] the Prophet ﷺ invited Ali ibn Abi Talib, Al-Hassan, Al-Husayn and Al-Zahra (upon them all be peace) under his cloak and attests to them being from the Ahl al-Bayt whom Allah keeps impurity away from.

This article is written to shed light on the extremely dubious transmission of Hadith al-Kisa that is attributed to Sayeda Fatima (peace be upon her) which has unfortunately become very popular among the Shia. This extended and detailed version that is popularly recited at almost every gathering today has many apparent issues which the critical scholars of hadith have mentioned and discussed.

Who narrated this hadith?

The Mafatih al-Jinan version of Hadith al-Kisa is the only transmission in existence that attributes this report to Sayeda Fatima (peace be upon her), supposedly on the authority of Jabir b. Abdullah al-Ansari. [2]

Because of the connection of this event with a Quranic verse we can also find the study of the Hadith al-Kisa transmission in the books of the mufasirin, what we notice is that this version of the report is not mentioned whatsoever, rather the mufasirin seem to be unanimous on the revelation of this verse in the house of the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, Um Salamah. This is in opposition to the Mafatih version which claims that the event occured in the house of Sayeda Fatima (peace be upon her).

Allamah Tabatabai says:

إن كثيراً من هذه الروايات وخاصة ما رويت عن أم سلمة – وفي بيتها نزلت الآية – تصرح باختصاصها بهم وعدم شمولها لأزواج النبي وسيجيء الروايات وفيها الصحاح

Many of these reports, especially those transmitted on the authority of Um Salamah – and the verse was revealed in her house – point to the verse being specifically about them [Ahl al-Bayt] and not about the wives of the Prophet and we shall mention these reports and among them are authentic ones

al-Mizan (16/311)

One of these authentic [3] narrations referred to is:

عمر بن أبي سلمة ربيب النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم قال لما نزلت هذه الآية على النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم { إنما يريد الله ليذهب عنكم الرجس أهل البيت ويطهركم تطهيرا } في بيت أم سلمة فدعا فاطمة و حسنا و حسينا فجللهم بكساء و علي خلف ظهره فجللهم بكساء ثم قال اللهم هؤلاء أهل بيتي فأذهب عنهم الرجس وطهرهم تطهيرا قالت أم سلمة وأنا معهم يا نبي الله ؟ قال أنت على مكانك وأنت على خير

‘Umar b. Abi Salamah, the dependent of the Prophet ﷺ, said: When THIS VERSE {Allah intends but only to keep impurity away all from you, O Ahl al-Bayt, and to purify you absolutely} was revealed upon the Prophet ﷺ in the house of Umm Salamah, he called FaṭimahHasan and Husayn and spread a cloak over them while ‘Ali was behind him. Then, he covered them with a cloak. Then, he said, “O Allah! These are my Ahl al-Bayt. So, keep impurity away from them and purify them absolutely”. Umm Salamah said, “Am I with them, O Prophet of Allah?” He replied, “You are upon your place and you are upon a good thing.”

Abu ‘Isa Muhammad b. ‘Isa al-Sulami al-Tirmidhi, al-Jami’ al-Sahih Sunan al-Tirmidhi (Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi) [annotator: Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani], vol. 5, p. 351, # 3205

Ayatollah Muhammadi Reyshari also mentions this discrepancy:

Allamah Majlisi, a leading Akhbarite, omitted it from his masterpiece, Bihar al-Anwar. Some Shi’ites accepted it as a polemical argument against the Sunnites. This, unwittingly, is problematic as the event, according to both Shia and Sunni sources, transpired in the house of Um Salamah, whereas the extended Hadith al-Kisa alleges Sayeda Zahra’s (peace be upon her) cottage.

کیهان فرهنگی212، ص17-33

So when did this altered story and attribution to Sayeda Fatima (peace be upon her) begin?

Earliest source

The first instance of this narration is found in al-Muntakhab by al-Ṭurayḥī (d. 1674 CE) where he did not provide a source or chain of narrators for the report whatsoever. [4] So the first time this version appeared was in the 17th century, a thousand years after the demise of Sayeda Fatima (peace be upon her) whom it claims to be narrated from. [5]

Among those who mention this is the author of Mafatih al-Jinan himself, Shaykh Abbas al-Qummi:

أما الحديث المعروف بحديث الكساء الشائع في عصرنا بهذا الشكل فلم يلحظ في الكتب المعتبرة المعروفة وأصول الحديث والمجامع المتقنة للمحدثين. وجاز لنا أن نقول: إنه من خصائص كتاب (المنتخب)

The hadith that is known as Hadith al-Kisa that is common in our era is not present in the known reliable books, classical hadith sources and the excellent hadith compilations by muhadithin. So we may say: this hadith is exclusive to al-Muntakhab.

Muntaha al-Amal, vol 1, pg 527

This is the reason that Shaykh al-Qummi has not included this Hadith al-Kisa in Mafatih al-Jinan. The reason you still find this hadith in publications of his book today is because it was added to the book by the publishers after his death, the controversy surrounding this is well known. [6]

So al-Muntakhab is the primary source for the report, the first time a chain was associated with the report is in the margins of a specific manuscript of ‘Awalem al-‘Ulum by Shaykh Abdullah Bahrani (d. 1723 CE)[7] it is not clear who wrote this chain down as the handwriting differs from that of the author, besides it being disputed who wrote this chain down, this chain has many glaring issues; firstly the chain starts off by the person saying they saw it written down in the handwriting of Sayed Hashim al-Bahrani (d. 1696 CE) this while he has never quoted this narration in any of his massive compendiums.

This issue repeats itself as the chain claims to go through some of the most popular Shi’a scholars in history, some of those mentioned in the chain:

  • Ali ibn Ibrahim
  • Shaykh al-Kulayni
  • Shaykh al-Mufid
  • Shaykh al-Tusi
  • Shaykh al-Tabarasi
  • Shaykh Muhammad ibn Shahrashub
  • Muhammad ibn Idris al-Hilli
  • Al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli
  • Allamah al-Hilli
  • Shaheed al-Awwal (Makki)
  • Shaheed al-Thani (Zayn Al-Deen)

If all these people have had this specific narration with them and they’ve somehow passed it down, then how come no one has recorded it in their books? This is one of the indicators that led to Ayatollah Hussain al-Radhi considering this chain fabricated. [8]

The problems of this chain have also also been mentioned by Grand Ayatollah Makarem al-Shirazi:

وقد ذکر سنداً لهذا الحدیث في کتابه لا یخلو من تأمّل في عدّة جوانب :

أ) سند هذا الحدیث لم یرد في الکتاب طبق النسخة الخطیّة في مکتبة یزد، بل وردت في حاشیته وخطّه یختلف عن خطّ المتن لصاحب العوالم.

ب) هناك فاصلة تقارب ثمانین سنة بین بعض أفراد سلسلة السند فلا یستطیع أحدهم روایة الحدیث عن الآخر.

ج) لم توثّق کتب الرجال بعض أفراد هذا السند

And there is a chain mentioned for this hadith in Sh. Abdullah Bahrani’s book that is not free from reservations from several angles:

A) The chain of transmission for this hadith was actually not included in the book, according to the handwritten manuscript of ‘Awalem al-‘Ulum in the library of Yazd. Rather, it was mentioned in the margins of the book, and its handwriting differs from the main text by the author of ‘Awalem.

B) There is an interval of nearly eighty years between some narrators of the chain of transmission, so it is not possible for one to narrate from the other.

C) The books of rijal do not authenticate some of the narrators in this chain

al-Mafatih al-Jadidah, pg 825

Content of the hadith

Besides the fact that the transmission of this variant of Hadith al-Kisa has no respectable basis, there are also reservations to the details that have been added to the report that are exclusive to this transmission, we read in one of the passages attributing these words to Allah (swt):

يَا مَلائِكَتِي وَيَا سُكَّانَ سَمَاواتِي
إِنِّي إمَا خَلَقْتُ سَماءً مَبْنِيَّةً وَلاَ أَرْضاً مَدْحِيَّةً وَلاَ قَمَراً مُنِيراً
وَلاَ شَمْساً مُضِيئَةً وَلاَ فَلَكاً يَدُورُ وَلاَ بَحْراً يَجْرِي وَلاَ فُلْكاً يَسْرِي
إِلاَّ فِي مَحَبَّةِ هَؤلاءِ الْخَمْسَةِ الَّذِينَ هُمْ تَحْتَ الْكِساءِ

O My angels! O Residents of My Heavens,
verily, I have not created the erected Sky, the stretched earth, the illuminated moon,
the bright sun, the rotating planets, the flowing seas and the sailing ships,
but for the love of these Five underneath the cloak

al-Muntakhab, pg 255-257

Ayatollah Sālehi Najaf Ābādī (d. 2006 CE) comments on this:

This Hadith al-Kisa is ineloquent. It contains a matn that is weak, unpleasant, obscene, and repugnant. Concocted it was by a dull-witted Ghali with the intention of popularizing it among the Shi’ite masses.

[..]

It was fabricated in an era in which geocentrism was popular, evident as the pseudo-hadith claims that the heavens orbit the Earth. Yet, the report’s forger alleged that the false Ptolemaic system was affirmed by God. [9]

H̯adīt̊ hāy K̊iyālī, pg 102-103

Conclusion

This variant of Hadith al-Kisa is unreliable and should be avoided, the school of the Ahl al-Bayt does not rely on fabrications for its arguments and having this story circulated only does the Ahl al-Bayt a disservice, especially when plenty authentic alternatives are available.

والحمد لله رب العالمين وصلى الله على محمد وآله الطاهرين

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Quran 33:33
2 In Ghayat al-Maram (3/177) the Akhbari scholar Sayed Hashim al-Bahrani (d. 1696 CE) quotes 41 narrations, 34 from Shi’ite sources, none of them on the authority of Sayeda Fatima (peace be upon her).
3 Sahih according to the annotator Shaykh al-Albani, Abu ‘Isa Muhammad b. ‘Isa al-Sulami al-Tirmidhi, al-Jami’ al-Sahih Sunan al-Tirmidhi (Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi) [annotator: Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani], vol. 5, p. 351, # 3205

This event was also authentically transmitted in classical Shi’a books:

From part of a long narration narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (upon him be peace):

قال: لا تعلموهم فهم أعلم منكم، وقال: إنهم لن يخرجوكم من باب هدى، ولن يدخلوكم في باب ضلالة، فلو سكت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله فلم يبين من أهل بيته، لادعاها آل فلان وآل فلان، لكن الله عز وجل أنزله في كتابة تصديقا لنبيه صلى الله عليه وآله ” إنما يريد الله ليذهب عنكم الرجس أهل البيت ويطهركم تطهيرا (1) ” فكان علي والحسن والحسين وفاطمة عليهم السلام، فأدخلهم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله تحت الكساء في بيت أم سلمة، ثم قال: اللهم إن لكل نبي أهلا وثقلا وهؤلاء أهل بيتي وثقلي، فقالت ام سلمة: ألست من أهلك؟ فقال: إنك إلى خير ولكن هؤلاء أهلي وثقلي،

[…] He [the Prophet ﷺ] said: “Do not teach them, for they are more knowledgeable than you.” And he said: “They will not take you out of the door of guidance, and they will not enter you in the door of deviance.” If the Messenger of Allah ﷺ was silent, it would’ve not been clear who the Ahlulbayt are. As so-and-so have claimed. However Allah (azwj) has sent down in His book confirmation of his Prophet ﷺ , “Verily Allah intends but to keep off from you (every kind of) uncleanness, O’ you the people of the House! And purify you (with) a thorough purification.” (3:33) So Ali, al-Hassan, al-Hussein, and Fatima, peace be upon them, were [purified]. So the Messenger of Allah ﷺ , brought them under the cloak in the house of Umm Salamah, then he said: “O Allāh for every Prophet has a family, and a weighty endowment, and this is my family, and weighty endowment.” Umm Salamah said: “Am I not from among your family?” He said: “You are upon a good thing but these are my family and my weighty endowment.”

Source: Al-Kafi, vol 1, pg 287-288

Grading: Sahih (Mir’at al-‘Uqool by Allamah Majlisi, Volume 2, pg. 248)

4 al-Muntakhab, pg 255-257
5 The book al-Muntakhab is not known for its reliability either.

Muhadith al-Nuri (d. 1902 CE) states:

Some parts are deficient, and some parts are non-deficient.

Source: Lu’lu’ wa Marjan, pg 287

Mirza Muhammad Arbāb (d. 1922 CE) concurs:

Much negligence is present within Muntakhab and its peculiar reports are untrustworthy.

Source: al-Arba’in al-Husayniyya, pg 243

6 Grand Ayatollah Makarem al-Shirazi mentions:

ومن هنا لم یذکره المحدّث القمّی فی مفاتیح الجنان وأضافه الناشرون خلافاً لرغبته.

And it is for this reason Muhadith al-Qummi did not include it in Mafatih al-Jinan and it is the publishers that have added it in opposition to what he had wished

Source: al-Mafatih al-Jadidah, pg 825

Worthy of mention is the following. There was a covenant between Sh. Qummi and the late Sayyid Ahmed Kitābcī, [the publisher] and then manager of the library and Islāmiya bookstore, that Mafatih al-Jinan would be calligraphed by T̯āhir K̊ūšnawīs and published by 1360 AH (c. 1941), which coincided with Sh. Qummi’s unfortunate passing. Except for a two-page foreword by the publisher, no other addition occurred. Sayyid Ahmed Kitabchi stipulates that sirs Sh. Muhammad Ali K̊iyābānī Tabrizi, Sh. Muhammad Ali Adīb Tehrani, and Muhammad S̯ādiq Wā’iz̯ Zāda were responsible for ensuring that Muhadith Qummi’s holograph match the calligraphed facsimile. [Alas], following Kitabchi’s demise, his son, Sayyid Ismail, gained control of the family business. Ismail dictated interpolations be made in the beginning and end of Mafatih al-Jinan with Tahir Khushnawis’s pen in 1379 (c. 1960) and 1381 (c. 1962) (of course, the calligrapher specifies that the insertions were at the behest of Sayyid Ismail). Additions in this recension, which Kitabchi’s manuscriptal version lacked, include an afterword, the phrase “Islamiya Offset Printing,” and, pertinent to this investigation, the extended version of Hadith al-Kisa.

Source: Hadith al-Kisa’s Vexed History, Transmission, and Interpolation into Mafatih al-Jinan

7 ’Awalem al-‘Ulum, vol 11, pg 930
8 Rather he concludes the entire hadith to be fabricated, see his Arabic research published here
9 In astronomy, the geocentric model (also known as geocentrism, often exemplified specifically by the Ptolemaic system) is a superseded description of the Universe with Earth at the center. Under the geocentric model, the Sun, Moon, stars, and planets all orbit Earth.

5 Comments Hadith al-Kisa – between Truth and Fabrication

  1. Brother

    Thank you brother for this work!!! Amazing and I hope you get very high rewards for this from swt. I also quoted you and shared this on my blog to get this out there more.

    I have one small issue/request though. The hadith you quoted from Al-Kafi. Al-Kafi, vol 8, pg 93. I looked it up, and its known as hadith 14514 (pages differ in different editions of Al-Kafi). I believe this hadith to be problematic. In “Selections from Usul Al-Kafi, written by Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni he states:

    “The entire al-Kafi is said to contain 16,199 traditions, including 11,156 traditions of the Furu` al-Kafi. Not all traditions of al-Kafi are of equal reliability. According to the great Imami scholar Zayn al-Din al-`Amili, known as al-Shahid al-Thani (911-966/1505-1559), who examined the asnad or the chains of transmission of al-Kafi’s traditions, it consists of 5072 sahih, 144 hasan, 1118 muwaththaq, 302 qawi and 9485 traditions which are categorized as daif” (I think the author of Al-Kafi said somewhere that he never intended that the entire book be considered sahih, rather he just complied the information he had).

    I cannot find the book written by Zayn al-Din al-`Amili, however I am willing to guess that he would consider that hadith to be weak. I consider it weak because its not narrated in Al-Kafi from other sources rather, its stands alone. Further, the narrators are many as it was verbally relayed by four people. Also, I don’t know the narrators however I’m willing to guess some of them were unreliable. This hadith advocates for a new form of worship and that would make me question it even more. Is there any way you can look into that hadith? I don’t have the training, resources, or fluency in arabic to be able to figure it out myself. Greatly in your debt!

    Reply
    1. Admin

      Salam alaykum brother,

      I am not entirely sure what you mean by that the hadith advocates for a new form of worship as I don’t see anything even remotely pointing to that.

      The chain of the hadith is reliable with explicit authentication by the classical authorities of Rijal:

      Muhammad b. Yahya al-‘Attar – Trustworthy (See Rijal al-Najashi, p. 353)
      Ahmad b. Muhammad b. ‘Isa – Trustworthy (See Rijal al-Najashi, p. 81)
      ‘Ali b. al-Hakam – Trustworthy (See Al-Fehrest by Shaykh Tusi, p. 151)
      Isma’il b. ‘Abd al-Khaliq – Trustworthy (See Rijal al-Najashi, p. 27)
      from Imam al-Sadiq (a)

      Also it should be noted that hadith transmission in the Shi’i school did not rely as heavily on verbal transmission as the Sunni school rather if there is no explicit mention that it was transmitted by hearing, usually the ‘an would indicate it was likely transmitted by permission, this could be in the form of these narrators inheriting / copying books from one another

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    The article mentions that Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi and Shaheed Muttahari believe that version of Hadith al Kisa to be weak. But what’s your source? Where are you getting that from?

    Reply
  3. Musa

    Bro this is a little unrelated to the topic but I was wondering if you’ve read the paper by Dr. Sa’d al Shanfa’s al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil ‘Inda al Shia. If you have what are your thoughts? I’ve finished 1/3 of it and some of the issues he raises are deeply concerning.

    Reply

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