The Shia propagandists–-including the Answering Ansar website–-will oftentimes show us a Hadith from Sahih Muslim in which it appears that Ali thought of Abu Bakr and Umar as being a “liar, treacherous, and dishonest.” Of course–-as is usually the case–-the Shia propagandists are making use of a technique we like to call “Half Hadith-ing.” They post only half of the Hadith and thereby take it completely out of context.
“ In Sahih Muslim, we see that Umar said: “He (referring to Ali) demanded a share on behalf of his wife from the property of her father. Abu Bakr said: ‘The Messenger of Allah had said: We do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is (to be given in) charity.’ So both of you (Ali and Abbas) thought him (Abu Bakr) to be a liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest…When Abu Bakr passed away and (I have become) the successor of the Messenger of Allah and Abu Bakr, you (Ali and Abbas) thought of me (Umar) to be a liar, sinful, treacherous and dishonest.” (Sahih Muslim)
However, the Shia propagandist has purposefully withheld information here, and he neglected to show the entire Hadith, including the first half of it. And there is a very good reason that he has neglected to show this, because if he did, it would completely debunk his own claims!
Authenticity of Hadith
But before we analyze the entire Hadith, we must first establish the authenticity of this narration. This same narration appears in Sahih Bukhari, but in that version, we do not find the words “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest.” In Sahih Bukhari, it merely states:
…فقال عباس يا أمير المؤمنين اقض بيني وبين هذا وهما يختصمان فيما أفاء الله على رسوله صلى الله عليه وسلم من مال بني النضير …
ثم توفى الله نبيه صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال أبو بكر أنا ولي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقبضها أبو بكر فعمل فيها بما عمل رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم والله يعلم إنه فيها لصادق بار راشد تابع للحق ثم توفى الله أبا بكر فكنت أنا ولي أبي بكر فقبضتها سنتين من إمارتي أعمل فيها بما عمل رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وما عمل فيها أبو بكر والله يعلم إني فيها لصادق بار راشد تابع للحق
without the use of the phrase “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest.”
As the student of Hadith knows, the most authentic Hadith are those present in both Sahih Bukhari and Muslim (meaning: both of them agreed on a Hadith and both mentioned it in their books). If this is not the case, then the greatest authenticity is considered Sahih Bukhari and then after that Sahih Muslim. Thus, as a rule, the Ahlus Sunnah believes that the narrations from Sahih Bukhari take precedence over Sahih Muslim. In case of dispute between the two, the Sahih Bukhari version is accepted over the Sahih Muslim version. This is the case with not only this particular Hadith but all other Hadith as well.
There are many lay people who erroneously believe that every word in Sahih Muslim is considered authentic by the Ahlus Sunnah. This is incorrect. A Hadith can be Sahih overall, but contain Shadh (an anomaly). As for the Hadith that the Shia propagandists quote from Sahih Muslim, it is considered a sound Hadith overall but the words “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest” are Shadh (an anomaly).
Shadh (Anomaly) in the Sahih Muslim Version
It should be noted that those present at the scene of this argument did not remember exactly word for word what was said. In fact, even in the Sahih Muslim version we see that it said about the narrator:
“The narrator said: I do not know whether he also recited the previous verse or not.”
If he was unsure about one part, then clearly he could be unclear about another. The exact wording was not remembered, and there were various versions other than the words “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest.”
Shaikh al-Islam Ibn Hajar stated in his Sharh of Sahih Bukhari (i.e. Fath al-Bari) that there are variant versions of this narration:
زاد شعيب ويونس ” فاستب علي وعباس
Shuayb and Yunus added that Ali and Abbas called each other names without mentioning exactly what those names were.
وفي رواية عقيل عن ابن شهاب في الفرائض اقض بيني وبين هذا الظالم؛
In the version of Uqayl from Ibn Shihab (Zuhri) in “The Shares of Inheritance”, it says: “Decide between me (Abbas) and this unjust one (Ali).”
وفي رواية جويرية ” وبين هذا الكاذب الآثم الغادر الخائن ”
In the version of Juwariyya, it says: “Between this perfidious, deceitful, wrongdoing liar (Ali).”
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Hajar said regarding this Hadith:
وكأن الزهري كان يحدث به تارة فيصرح،
meaning, the narrator of the Hadith Zuhri would sometimes not mention it (i.e. the phrase “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest”) and sometimes he would.
Thus, there are numerous versions of the Hadith, and the only thing which is absolutely clear is that Ali and Abbas were in disagreement, and so too were they at one point in time in disagreement with Abu Bakr and Umar. The details of these arguments (i.e. what words were used) is an unclear matter.
Sahih Bukhari Version is More Authentic
Again, in cases of dispute between two narrations–-one from Sahih Bukhari and one from Sahih Muslim-–preference is given to Sahih Bukhari. This is a general rule. Furthermore, the Sahih Muslim version of this narration is merely an Ahaad (single narrator) Hadith, which is another factor giving greater weight to the version in Sahih Bukhari.
Thus, for the Sunni believer, this Hadith brought up by Shia propagandists is a non-issue, because we take the version of Sahih Bukhari in which the words in question were not said.
Hadith in its Entirety
As for the Shia propagandists who simply want to debate with us, let us entertain them. Even if we were to accept the Hadith of Sahih Muslim over that of Sahih Bukhari, let us at least be honest about it and post the entire Hadith and not simply half of it. The Shia propagandists will post only the second part of this Hadith in which Umar says that Ali/Abbas said that Abu Bakr/Umar are liars, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest. However, the Shia willfully neglects to post the first part of the Hadith in which Abbas first calls Ali to be a “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest.”
The entire Hadith is a bit lengthy so after producing the entire Hadith, we shall bold the relevant parts as well as reproduce them afterwards:
Sahih Muslim Book 019, Number 4349:
It is reported by Zuhri that this tradition was narrated to him by Malik b. Aus who said: Umar b. al-Khattab sent for me and I came to him when the day had advanced. I found him in his house sitting on his bare bed-stead, reclining on a leather pillow. He said (to me): “Malik, some people of your tribe have hastened to me (with a request for help). I have ordered a little money for them. Take it and distribute it among them.” I said: “I wish you had ordered somebody else to do this job.” He said: “Malik, take it (and do what you have been told).” At this moment (his man-servant) Yarfa’ came in and said: “Commander of the Faithful, what do you say about Uthman, Abd al-Rabman b. ‘Auf, Zubair and Sa’d (who have come to seek an audience with you)?” He said: “Yes, and permitted them.” So they entered. Then he (Yarfa’) came again and said: “What do you say about ‘Ali and Abbas (who are present at the door)?” He said: “Yes,” and permitted them to enter. Abbas said: “Commander of the Faithful, decide (the dispute) between me and this sinful, treacherous, dishonest liar (Ali).” The people (who were present) also said: “Yes, Commander of the Faithful, do decide (the dispute) and have mercy on them.” Malik b. Aus said: “I could well imagine that they had sent them in advance for this purpose (by ‘Ali and Abbas).” ‘Umar said: “Wait and be patient. I adjure you by Allah by Whose order the heavens and the earth are sustained, don’t you know that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: ‘We (prophets) do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is (to be given in) charity?’” They said: “Yes.” Then he turned to Abbas and ‘Ali and said: “I adjure you both by Allah by Whose order the heavens and earth are sustained, don’t you know that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: ‘We do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is (to be given in) charity?’” They (too) said: “Yes.” (Then) Umar said: “Allah, the Glorious and Exalted, had done to His Messenger (may peace be upon him) a special favor that He has not done to anyone else except him.” He quoted the Quranic verse: “What Allah has bestowed upon His Apostle from (the properties) of the people of township is for Allah and His Messenger.” The narrator said: “I do not know whether he also recited the previous verse or not.” Umar continued: “The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) distributed among you the properties abandoned by Banu Nadir. By Allah, he never preferred himself over you and never appropriated anything to your exclusion. (After a fair distribution in this way) this property was left over.
“The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) would meet from its income his annual expenditure, and what remained would be deposited in the Bait-ul-Mal.” (Continuing further) he said: “I adjure you by Allah by Whose order the heavens and the earth are sustained. Do you know this?” They said: “Yes.” Then he adjured Abbas and ‘All as he had adjured the other persons and asked: “Do you both know this?” They said: “Yes.” He said: “When the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) passed away, Abu Bakr said: ‘I am the successor of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him).’ Both of you came to demand your shares from the property (left behind by the Messenger of Allah).” (Referring to Hadrat ‘Abbas), he said: “You demanded your share from the property of your nephew, and he (referring to ‘Ali) demanded a share on behalf of his wife from the property of her father. Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) said: ‘The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) had said: We do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is (to be given in) charity.’ So both of you (Ali and Abbas) thought him (Abu Bakr) to be a liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest. And Allah knows that he was true, virtuous, well-guided and a follower of truth. When Abu Bakr passed away and (I have become) the successor of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him), you (Ali and Abbas) thought me (Umar) to be a liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest. And Allah knows that I am true, virtuous, well-guided and a follower of truth. I became the guardian of this property. Then you as well as he came to me. Both of you have come and your purpose is identical. You said: Entrust the property to us. I said: If you wish that I should entrust it to you, it will be on the condition that both of you will undertake to abide by a pledge made with Allah that you will use it in the same way as the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) used it. So both of you got it.” He said: “Wasn’t it like this?” They said: “Yes.” He said: “Then you have (again) come to me with the request that I should adjudge between you. No, by Allah. I will not give any other judgment except this until the arrival of the Doomsday. If you are unable to hold the property on this condition, return it to me.”
The Hadith can thus be broken down into relevant parts:
1) Abbas calls Ali to be a “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest”
2) Umar repeats the words of Abbas and says that Ali and Abbas thought of Abu Bakr and Umar to be “liar[s], sinful, treacherous, and dishonest”
If the Shia propagandists are going to accept this Hadith and use it against the Ahlus Sunnah, then they must accept the entire narration. In order to accept the second part, they must accept the first part in which Abbas-–who is revered by the Shia and comes from the House of Muhammad-–called Ali to be a “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest.” Of course, the Shia will never accept this!
The Shia are thus left with two options: either they accept the Sahih Bukhari version of this Hadith as the Ahlus Sunnah does (in which case their claims that Ali called Umar such-and-such are no longer valid), or else they accept the fact that Abbas accused Ali of being a “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest.”
Context of the Hadith
The truth is that oftentimes Shia propagandists who post this Hadith on various forums have absolutely no idea what this Hadith is about. This is a narration of a story in which Ali and Abbas come to seek Caliph Umar’s arbitration in a dispute. In this dispute, Abbas was of the opinion that he should be given a portion of Fadak and the Prophet’s property as inheritance, whereas Ali thought that the property should be his based on his relation to Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter. This is mentioned in the above Hadith:
(Referring to Hadrat ‘Abbas), he said: “You demanded your share from the property of your nephew, and he (referring to ‘Ali) demanded a share on behalf of his wife from the property of her father.”
While presenting his case to the Caliph, Abbas referred to Ali as “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest.” Firstly, Umar knew that both of them were wrong, and that neither inherits from the Prophet because of a Hadith which says that Prophets do not leave behind inheritance. Secondly, Umar did not approve of Abbas’s accusation against Ali; Umar took the correct view that people can get in arguments and make honest mistakes and nobody should simply jump to strong personal attacks like Abbas did against Ali, calling him a “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest.” Therefore, Umar repeated the words of Abbas verbatim in order to prove a point.
Umar was making use of rhetoric. The problem is that these Shia propagandists have no hold of Arabic Balagha. If they did, they would know that direct translation in English would not give the proper understanding. If we apply the Arabic Balagha, the phrase actually means: “So you both thought Abu Bakr was a liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest?” This is an example of reductio ad absurdum. Reductio ad absurdum (Latin: “reduction to the absurd”) also known as an apagogical argument, reductio ad impossibile, or proof by contradiction, is a type of logical argument where one assumes a claim for the sake of argument, derives an absurd or ridiculous outcome, and then concludes that the original assumption must have been wrong as it led to an absurd result. The following dialogue is an example of reductio ad absurdum:
Father- Why did you start smoking?
Daughter – All my friends were doing it.
Father- You’re saying that if all your friends jumped off a cliff, you would do that too?
In this case, Umar used the exact same words (i.e. verbatim) that Abbas used for Ali in order to make a point. Umar was basically saying: “If you think Ali is such-and-such, then you must also think that Abu Bakr and Umar are also that?”
Another analogy of this is a mother and father who had told their two sons that the capitol of France was Paris. A few days later, the two sons get in an argument over the capitol of France. One brother says the capitol is Berlin, whereas the other says the capitol is London. When they go to their father to arbitrate over this matter, one brother says about the other: “Father, can you settle this dispute of mine with my idiot brother who thinks the capitol of France is Berlin?” The father is not appalled at the fact that his two little sons forgot the capitol of France; this is a mistake that anybody can make. But what he is appalled at is the language used by this son, calling his brother an “idiot.” The father then says: “So you thought of Mom as an idiot when she said that Paris was the capitol of France, and you thought I was an idiot when I said that too?” By saying this, the father is trying to dissuade the son from jumping to conclusions about his brother’s character, because in such a process, he would also believe his mother and father to be idiots as well.
Umar was simply repeating the words of Abbas verbatim. How can the Shia propagandists ignore this “coincidence” especially in light of Arabic Balagha? It is obvious from this that Umar was proving a point, and his words should thus be analyzed in this context.
Another important observation is that the Shia propagandists will say that it was Ali who called Abu Bakr and Umar to be a “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest.” But the reality that it was merely Umar who said that Abbas was implying this. There is a significant point.
Regardless of whether we accept the Sahih Muslim version or the Sahih Bukhari version, this Hadith actually makes Umar look good, not bad. Abbas disagreed fervently with Ali; in one narration, he supposedly called Ali to be a “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest.” In the more accurate narration of Sahih Bukhari, Abbas simply disagreed with Ali. Whatever the case, it was Umar who then repeated the same logic and questioned if both Abbas and Ali thought of Abu Bakr and Umar that way. This was in a way correcting Abbas and telling him to refrain from accusing Ali of such things.
In conclusion, the Shia can never use this Hadith against the Ahlus Sunnah; acceptance of this Hadith dooms the Shia case because then we could easily question the integrity of Ali who was accused by Abbas of being a “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest.” And the Shia can never accept this, because they revere Abbas and believe him to be part of the House of Muhammad.
The Shia-–if they accept the Sahih Muslim version-–would have to agree that Abbas, the senior member of Ahlel Bayt and the uncle of the Prophet, called Ali these things. So then why condemn Abu Bakr for what Ali thought when Abbas thought the same of Ali? Was it because Ali was “actually” a liar or simply that Abbas said this in an emotional disagreement and with heated emotions? The Shia can answer this for themselves.
Nobody is Infallible
In any case, it is worthwhile to mention that unlike the Shia–-who have (Ghullat) tendencies of exaggeration in religion-–the Ahlus Sunnah does not consider anyone to be infallible. Thus, whatever errors may be attributed to Ali, Abbas, Abu Bakr, or Umar are a result of what arises due to being human. The truth is that everyone gets into arguments, and we find disagreements between Abu Bakr and Umar, and even between two members of the Ahlel Bayt!
An argument between two pious people does not negate our religion nor does it affect our basic beliefs. We already accept that there were disagreements after the Prophet’s death. There were disagreements between who would be the Caliph, and not just between Abu Bakr and Ali, but also between others. There were arguments about Fadak, and other such matters. These arguments may have historical meaning but they have no religious significance. Even if we accept the Shia propaganda that Umar and Ali hated each other, this does not change the belief system of Islam. Unlike the Shia, the Ahlus Sunnah does not allow civil and political arguments to change religious fundamentals.
In any case, although Umar and Ali were in disagreement on the matter of Fadak, this was a singular issue. The Shia cannot possibly bring up an Ahaad (single-chained) Hadith to somehow invalidate the plethora of Hadith which show that Ali and Umar were friends; Ali even gave his own daughter, Umm Kulthoom, to Umar in marriage!
In conclusion, this Hadith brought up by Shia propagandists in Sahih Muslim is considered authentic, but it contains Shadh (anomaly) and the words “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest” do not appear in the more authentic version of Sahih Bukhari. Even still, if the Shia insist on us accepting the Sahih Muslim version in its entirety, then they must also accept that Abbas, whom they revere, thought of Ali as a “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest.” In such a case, if the Shia can disregard Abbas’s words to Ali, then what prevents the Ahlus Sunnah from disregarding Ali’s words to Abu Bakr and Umar? As is usually the case, the Shia propagandist is debunked with just a little bit of analysis and common sense. After the Shia is forced to either accept Ali as being a “liar, sinful, treacherous, and dishonest” or of rejecting this Hadith, he will no doubt choose the latter option, in which case the entire argument of the Shia is lost and this Hadith becomes a non-issue.