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Ever since I started exploring Sunnah.com (a website that hosts primary Sunni hadith sources), I have come across many questionable sets of hadiths which seem to reflect the influence of post-Prophetic partisan politics on the process of hadith narration. One striking example that I recently stumbled was upon searching the key word, "beloved" as a way to find out which things and people were most loved by the Holy Prophet according to these sources. Among my findings was a set of contradictory accounts from Tirmidhi on the most beloved woman and man to the Holy Prophet.

The first set is a hadith attributed by Amr bin al-As to the Holy Prophet quoted through different chains of narrators who all quote al-As:

Narrated 'Amr bin Al-'As: that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) appointed him as a leader of the army of Dhatis-Salasil. He said: "So I went to him and said: 'O Messenger of Allah! Who is the most beloved to you among the people?' He said: ''Aishah.' I said: 'From the men?' He said: 'Her father.'" (Source)

Narrated 'Amr bin Al-'As: that he said to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ): "Who is the most beloved of the people to you?" He said: "'Aishah." He said: "From the men?" He said: "Her farther." (Source)

Narrated 'Amr bin Al-'As: "It was said: 'O Messenger of Allah! Who is the most beloved of the people to you?' He said: ''Aishah.' It was said: 'From the men?' He said: 'Her father.'" (Source)

So according to al-As, the most beloved woman and man to the Holy Prophet have been his youngest wife Aisha and her father, Abu Bakr.

But this is contradicted by hadiths quoted by two other companions -- one of whom interestingly quoting Aisha herself in turn! --, reporting that the two most beloved woman and man to the Holy Prophet have been his cousin and son-in-law, Ali ibn abi Talib, and his wife and Prophet's daughter, Fatima:

Narrated Buraidah: "The most beloved of women to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was Fatimah and from the men was 'Ali." (Source)

Narrated Jumai' bin 'Umair At-Taimi: "I entered along with my uncle upon 'Aishah and she was asked: 'Who among people was the most beloved to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)?' She said: 'Fatimah.' So it was said: 'From the men?' She said: 'Her husband, as I knew him to fast much and stand in prayer much.'" (Source)

What is interesting with all of these sources and names, is how they fall meaningfully on the opposite sides of political disagreements and conflicts that broke out after the passing of the Holy Prophet.

We know that Amr ibn al-As was among the most staunch enemies of Ali, who along with Muawiya led the Battle of Siffin against Prophet's son-in-law and cousin. On the other hand, I learned that Buraidah who quotes several other hadiths in favor of Ali, has been among his loyal devotees since Prophet's time, and was notably among companions who protested election of Abu Bakr instead of Ali as the immediate successor to the Holy Prophet at Saqifa. But so far I could not find information on the second narrator, Jumai' bin Umair.

Now my thesis is, could have al-As the single narrator of this hadith been possibly fabricating this hadith in favor of Abu Bakr and Aisha in order to play down the status of Ali and Fatima who were among his enemies? For how could al-As know that Aisha and her father were the most beloved people the Prophet, without Aisha herself knowing that? The historians have described al-As as shrewd politician. This is while there seems to be no reason for Aisha to fabricate hadiths in favor of a man she felt jealous of and fought her own war against him. More interestingly Aisha has narrated other hadiths in favor of Ali and his wife such as this one! The impossibility for the forgery of the latter set of hadiths is further reinforced by several other hadiths quoted from the Holy Prophet wherein he expresses his special love for Ali and his family such as the hadith below:

Narrated Zaid bin Arqam:that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said to 'Ali, Fatimah, Al-Hasan and Al-Husain: "I am at war with whoever makes war with you, and peace for whoever makes peace with you." (Source)

I could think of no other explanation for these contradictory hadiths except by assuming that the Holy Prophet might have changed his mind on who he loves most over time. But the last hadith by Aisha obviously seems to express Prophet's eternal opinion. So if my thesis is correct, does this mean that we should take into account political affiliations of hadith narrators as one possible factor in determining reliability of the narrators?

Addendum:

goldPseudo pointed out a reasonable observation that I had failed to deal with in my argument. All the hadiths in favor of Ali that I have quoted particularly here are graded as dhaif (weak) (either by the editors of Sunnah.com or those of the original paper copies.) But I could've also quoted similar hadiths that are graded either as "good" or "correct" which seem to corroborate the previous hadiths. Here are two examples:

This hadith again narrated by Aisha, testifies to Fatima's excellent Islamic manners as well as Prophet's expression of unique respect for her:

Narrated 'Aishah: "I have not seen anyone closer in conduct, way, and manners to that of the Messenger of Allah in regards to standing and sitting, than Fatimah the daughter of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)." She said "Whenever she would enter upon the Prophet (ﷺ) he would stand to her and kiss her, and he would sit her in his sitting place. Whenever the Prophet (ﷺ) entered upon her she would stand from her seat, and kiss him and sit him in her sitting place. So when the Prophet (ﷺ) fell sick and Fatimah entered, she bent over and kissed him. Then she lifted her head and cried, then she bent over him and she lifted her head and laughed. So I said: 'I used to think that this one was from the most intelligent of our women, but she is really just one of the women.' So when the Prophet (ﷺ) died, I said to her: 'Do you remember when you bent over the Prophet (ﷺ) and you lifted your head and cried, then you bent over him, then you lifted your head and laughed. What caused you to do that?' She said: 'Then, I would be the one who spreads the secrets. He (ﷺ) told me that he was to die from his illness, so I cried. Then he told me that I would be the quickest of his family to meet up with him. So that is when I laughed.'" (Source)

This hadith suggests that Allah literally sent his most beloved creature, Ali, to the Prophet upon his request:

Narrated Anas bin Malik: "There was a bird with the Prophet (ﷺ), so he said: 'O Allah, send to me the most beloved of Your creatures to eat this bird with me.' So 'Ali came and ate with him." (Source)

So given the above supportive hadiths, how do we explain Al-As's contradictory account? And given this latter observation of the grading disparity, I would also appreciate knowing why the earlier three hadiths have been graded as weak by the editors when the content seem to have been corroborated by many other good, correct, and weak hadiths from the same book and others.

  • What is even more interesting about all these sources and names is that every single hadith you've presented in support of your argument are are graded da'if (according to the very links you've provided); failing to address the weaknesses therein — especially while trying to discredit multiple sahih narrations — is sloppy scholarship at best, if not outright academic fraud. – goldPseudo Jun 19 '16 at 19:32
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    @goldPseudo, You're right! I should've addressed the grading as well. We know that grading is not something imprinted on the text of hadiths but is based on the judgement of the scholars, who in the case of Sunnah.com are intuitively Sunni scholar(s) who are naturally biased against hadiths that might undermine their orthodox views or strengthen those of Shiism. What do you think are the odds for most hadiths that admire Ali and his family to have been graded dha'if only by accident? We can to the very least argue for a systematic methodological bias by Sunni scholars in their science of rijal – infatuated Jun 19 '16 at 19:46
  • You'll need to do a lot better than "Everybody who disagrees with my opinion is obviously lying" if you want to be taken seriously. – goldPseudo Jun 19 '16 at 19:55
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    @goldPseudo, but how else one can explain the glaring contradiction between what has been quoted from Al-As and Aisha? Hadith fabrication is a phenomenon whose occurrence in Islamic history has been agreed by all sects as far as I know. The difference only lies in which hadiths each sect holds to have been actually fabricated. – infatuated Jun 19 '16 at 19:59
  • @goldPseudo, You may want to also have a look at the updated version of my question. (Addendum added. – infatuated Jun 19 '16 at 20:19
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All perfect praise be to Allah

First of all i would like to encourage you on starting exploration of ahadees, but i would like to add that you need to keep in contact with a good shiekh al hadith for getting all the answers of your questions side by side, and have a book on history of sunni ahadees, their rules and history, such book will also be suggested by a good shiekh al-hadith accordingly.

Now coming to your question, i will present analogy in the above ahadees in original question.

The hadees you mentioned:

Narrated Buraidah: "The most beloved of women to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was Fatimah and from the men was 'Ali."
Grade : Da'if

Is clearly his own observation of the sahabi reporting. Even if you WANT to consider it sahi hadees even than it does not contradict with the second hadees

Narrated 'Amr bin Al-'As: that he said to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ): "Who is the most beloved of the people to you?" He said: "'Aishah." He said: "From the men?" He said: "Her farther."
Grade : Sahih

Which is the answer this sahabi got from asking the prophet ﷺ. Now Even if you insist that the first hadees is falsely graded zaeef, and we should consider it, even then there is no contradiction, one is observation and other is answer of a question. This should be enough for clearing the ambiguity.

But there is another point, which is, that Buraidah as of his observation, he concluded that prophet loves daughter most and in men Ali R.A, that might be because it was his family, and love with daughter or children is something different and is shown differently than love with wife or someone else. So, we can safely say that when prophet has himself said in the other sahi hadees who are his most beloved woman and man than there is nothing left to question and both of these ahadees DO NOT CONTRADICT!



Now about your addition in question

after goldPsuedo pointed that the hadith is zaeef.

The first long hadees you have quoted has no issue, this hadees tells about the manners of her and prophet ﷺ love with her daughter. You will find many ahadees like these and also many for Aisha and other Sahaba. Praising one does not mean that we should conclude one is superior to other, we should also conclude the love and respect between members of the holy family, and other positive things.

Now remains the last hadees.

Narrated Anas bin Malik: "There was a bird with the Prophet (ﷺ), so he said: 'O Allah, send to me the most beloved of Your creatures to eat this bird with me.' So 'Ali came and ate with him."
Grade : Hasan (Darusalam)

Interesting thing about this hadees is that sunnah.com has written hassan in this hadees although to my search this hadees is weak... it has many asnaad but all of them are weak. You can see the تخريج حديث الطير in which you will find all the isnaad and the issues in them. الطريق الثالث and issues in this sand are also mentioned alongside.

Also it is strange why sunnah.com has written hasan with it, while it clearly states in arabic text هَذَا حَدِيثٌ غَرِيبٌ that this hadees is gareeb/weak.

As for the short version of takhreej you can read here which states:

((اللهم ائتني بأحب خلقك إليك يأكل هذا الطير فجاء علي))

رواه الحاكم 3/130 بسند موضوع تعقبه الذهبي وحكم عليه بالوضع. وتناقض الحاكم في الحكم عليه. قال أبو عبد الرحمن الشاذياخي » كنا في مجلس السيد أبي الحسن فسئل أبو عبد الله الحاكم عن حديث الطير فقال: لا يصح، ولو صح لما كان أحد أفضل من علي – رضي الله عنه- بعد النبي. قال الذهبي: ثم تغير رأي الحاكم وأخرج حديث الطير في مستدركه« (تذكرة الحفاظ2/1042). وقال الذهبي » هو خبر منكر« (1/602). وقال الشيخ الألباني « ضعيف» (مشكاة المصابيح ح رقم6085 ضعيف الترمذي ص500 ح رقم3987). ورواه الترمذي (3721) وقال حديث غريب. أي ضعيف. قال الحافظ ابن حجر »هو خبر منكر« (لسان الميزان2/354) وفي أجوبته عن الأحاديث الموضوعة في مشكاة المصابيح ذكر للحديث شواهد: غير أن المعول عليه هو المتأخر من قوليه كما في اللسان. قال الزيلعي في نصب الراية »كم من حديث تعددت طرقه وكثرت رواياته وهو ضعيف كحديث الطير« (نصب الراية1/361 وانظر تحفة الأحوذي10/224). وقال ابن كثير في البداية والنهاية (7/351) »إن كل من أخرجوه بضعة وتسعون نفسا أقربها غرائب ضعيفة.. ووقفت على مجلد كبير في رده وتضعيفه سندا ومتنا للقاضي أبي بكر الباقلاني« (مختصر مستدرك الحاكم للحميد3/1446). وقال ابن الجوزي في العلل المتناهية1/225 » ذكره ابن مردويه من نحو عشرين طريقا كلها مظلم«.

Anyway, the point is that this hadees is weak according to majority of scholars of hadees. And you can post a separate question about this hadees concerning the validity of this hadees.

Other than this last hadees, i think the main point of your question "Contradictory hadiths on the most beloved individuals to the Holy Prophet in Jami at-Tirmidhi" is cleared.

Allah knows best

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    Of note, there is another (and stronger) hadith which explicitly names Ali and Fatimah among his most beloved family members, as compared to the narration from 'Amr bin Al-'As which clearly asked of "among the people". – goldPseudo Jun 20 '16 at 4:53
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    Thank you for your care and time to respond! I have two main general objections to your analysis. First as regards with the examination of the reliability of hadith, I'm interested in why a certain hadith, isnad or narrator is declared weak, good or sound rather than just accepting the hadith authority's opinion at face value for grading hadith can be influenced by subjective factors as evidenced by the difference you yourself noticed in the opinion of different scholars. – infatuated Jun 20 '16 at 8:12
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    Now in regards with the grading of the Hadith of the Bird, AFAK, the label "gharib" doesn't necessarily undermine the soundness of a hadith. Gharib simply means a hadith has not be narrated by multiple authorities. There's been a useful Q&A on this concept on the site, see: islam.stackexchange.com/questions/7952 So that hadith probably warrants a separate question as you suggested. – infatuated Jun 20 '16 at 8:14
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    Other than this specific hadees related discussion, i think the main point of your question which was about contradiction of two ahadees is clear. And you didn't asked any question about that. – Zia Ul Rehman Mughal Jun 20 '16 at 8:29
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    @Abcd Some people do it purposely, and some do it not intentionally but because their mind is still not clear about it. second case is good one while 1st one is incurable. And only Allah knows whats in the heart, we assume the second case :) – Zia Ul Rehman Mughal Jun 20 '16 at 20:26

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