Friday, 14 November 2014

An Analysis of the Hadits on Beginning a Meal with Salt

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from An Analysis of the Hadits, “Whoever Begins His Meals with Salt Will be Saved from Seventy Diseases” by Ustadz Muntaswir Zaman, on the 24th April 2014.

Several leading jurists, such as Imam Burhan al-Din al-Bukhari (r.a.) in his al-Muhith al-Burhani, from amongst the early jurists; and Imam ibn ‘Abidin (r.a.) in his Radd al-Muhtar, from the later ones; have stated that the etiquette mentioned in the hadits in reference is a sunnah.  Imam ibn ‘Abidin (r.a.) even alluded to the hadits in his comment in Radd al-Muhtar, “Not only is it a sunnah, but it also contains the cure for seventy diseases.”

The hadits in reference is related by Imam al-Harits ibn Abi ‘Usamah (r.a.) in his Musnad that ‘Ali (k.w.) mentioned that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) told him, “Begin your meals with salt, and complete it with salt, as it is a cure for seventy diseases, the first of which are insanity, leprosy, vitiligo, toothache, sore throat and abdominal pain.”  It is recorded by Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.) in al-Mathalib al-‘Aliyyah; and Imam al-Haytsami (r.a.) in Bughyat al-Bahits.  This is the first marfu’ narration from the Prophet (s.a.w.), which is attributed to ‘Ali (k.w.).  Muhadditsin have clearly mentioned that this report is unreliable, as its sanad, chain of transmission, contains multiple weak transmitters.

Imam Shihab ad-Din al-Buswiri (r.a.) wrote in his Ithaf al-Khayrah al-Maharah, “This is a chain of consecutive weak transmitters.  as-Sari [ibn Khalid], ‘Abd ar-Rahīm [ibn Waqid] and Hammad [ibn ‘Amr] are all weak.”  Imam Hasan as-Saghani (r.a.) added that, Hammad ibn ‘Amr an-Naswibi is the one who forged them, meaning that this is from a series of similar ahadits.  This is recorded in Imam ‘Ali al-Qari al-Harawi’s (r.a.) al-Maswnu‘ fi Ma‘rifat al-Hadits al-Mawdu’.

Commenting on this statement, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah (r.a.) wrote, “From the advices of ‘Ali which Hammad ibn ‘Amr an-Naswibi is accused of forging, and as-Suyuthi mentioned in al-La’ali al-Masnu’ah, is the hadits which some jurists and Sufis frequently quote before eating.  The hadits is as follows: ‘O ‘Ali, begin your meals with salt, and complete it with salt, as it is a cure for seventy diseases, the first of which are insanity, leprosy, vitiligo, toothache, sore throat and abdominal pain.’”  This is found in the footnotes of al-Maswnu’ fi Ma’rifat al-Hadits al-Mawdu’.

Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) wrote in al-Mawdhu‘at, “This hadits is not authentic from the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.).  The one accused of forging it is either ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn ‘Amir or his father, as they would narrate a collection ascribed to the Ahl al-Bayt filled with fabrications.”  Expressions such as, “it is not authentic,” when used in books of mawdhu‘at, fabrications, and biographical entries of weak transmitters mean, the hadits in question is a fabrication.  Coincidently, in explaining this principle, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah (r.a.) presented this very statement of Imam ibn al-Jawzi  (r.a.) in the prologue of al-Maswnu‘ fi Ma‘rifat al-Hadits al-Mawdu’.

The second marfu‘ narration is reported on the authority of Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adz (r.a.).  Furthermore, there is a mawquf narration attributed to ‘Ali (k.w.) in this regard.  After quoting the remarks of Imam ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) mentioned above, Imam Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuthi (q.s.) wrote, “Abu ‘Abdullah ibn Mandah mentioned in Akhbar ’Aswfahan, ‘… from Sa’d ibn Mu’adz (r.a.) that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said, ‘Enhance your food with salt, because, by the One in Whose Hands Lies my soul, it cures seventy-three types of calamities’ or he said ‘types of diseases.’”

Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.) mentioned in Shu’ab al-Iman, “… from Juwaybir from al-Dahhak from an-Nazzal ibn Sabra from ‘Ali (k.w.) who said, ‘Whoever begins his meals with salt, Allah will Relieve him of seventy types of calamities.’”  This is also found in Imam as-Suyuthi’s (q.s.) al-La’ali al-Masnu’ah.

In this statement, Imam al-Suyuthi (q.s.) was responding to Imam ibn al-Jawzi’s (r.a.) criticism by presenting the marfu‘ narration of Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adz (r.a.) and the mawquf narration of ‘Ali (k.w.), in an attempt to prove that there are other narrations on the topic.  It should be borne in mind that Imam as-Suyuthi (q.s.) considered the marfu’ report of ‘Ali (k.w.) a fabrication.

Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.) related the first part of this hadits and said, “This is a lengthy narration regarding virtues and etiquettes.”  Thereafter, he said, “It is a fabrication.”  This, too, is also found in Imam as-Suyuthi’s (q.s.) al-La’ali al-Masnu’ah.

However, muhadditsin have disagreed with Imam as-Suyuthi (q.s.) regarding the authenticity of both the reports he cited in response to Imam ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.).  In this regard, Imam ibn ‘Arraq al-Kinani (r.a.) wrote, “ibn al-Jawzi was criticised based on al-Bayhaqi having narrated it in Shu’ab al-Iman from ‘Ali (k.w.) mawqufan, ‘Whoever begins his meals with salt, Allah will Relieve him of seventy types of calamities.’”  He meant that ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) was disputed in his claim that the above report is a fabrication.

Moreover, Imam ibn Mandah (r.a.) recorded in Akhbar Aswfahan from Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adz (r.a.), “Begin your meals with salt, because, by the One in Whose Hands Lies my soul, it cures seventy-three types of calamities,” or he said, “types of diseases.”

On this, Imam ibn ‘Arraq (r.a.) commented in his Tanzih ash-Shari’ah, “This is transmitted by Ibrahim ibn Hayyan and, therefore, it is not suitable for corroboration.  As for the report of ‘Ali, it is weak; in its chain is Juwaybir who is abandoned, and from him, the narrator is ‘Isa ibn al-’Ash‘ats, who is unknown.”

It is clear from the analysis of Imam ibn ‘Araq (r.a.) that each of the two reports presented as corroboration for the abovementioned report contains discredited narrators and, therefore, are unreliable themselves and cannot corroborate another narration.  It is important to note that Ibrahim ibn Hayyan, the impugned narrator in Imam ibn Mandah’s (r.a.) narration, is also known as Ibrahim ibn al-Bara’ and Ibrahim ibn Hibban, because he would change his lineage.  After raising similar objections as Imam ibn ‘Arraq (r.a.), Shaykh ‘Abd ar-Rahman al-Mu’allimi (r.a.) wrote in the footnotes of al-Fawa’id al-Majmu’at, about Ibrahim ibn Hayyan, “I suspect that he is the same person who is also known as Ibrahim ibn al-Bara’ and Ibrahim ibn Hibban, as he would change his lineage.  In any case, he is an open liar.”

Regarding both the mawquf and marfu‘ narrations of ‘Ali (k.w.), Mawlana Yunus Saharanfuri wrote in al-Yawaqut al-Ghaliyah, “The hadits on commencing one’s meals with salt has been transmitted from ‘Ali (k.w.) both marfu’an and mawqufan through several chains.  However, not one chain is free from defects; some contain abandoned narrators, while others contain those accused of forgery.”

The third marfu’ narration is reported on the authority of Anas (r.a.).  Imam Abu al-Qasim al-Jurjani (r.a.) reported in his Tarikh al-Jurjan, on the authority of Anas (r.a.) that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said, “Begin with salt, because it contains about seventy cures.  Whoever begins his meals with salt, after which he recites, ‘In the name of Allah, all praise is Due to Allah.  O Allah!  Bless us in what You have Provided us with, and Grant us better than it,’ Allah will Save him from the punishment of the grave, and before the morsel reaches his stomach, Allah will Forgive him.”  After narrating this hadits, he says, “This hadits is detestable, and the narrator ‘Ali ibn Yazdad al-Jurjani is muttaham.”  This means he was accused of lying.

The fourth marfu’ narration is reported on the authority of ‘Aishah (r.a.).  There is a lengthy narration on the authority of ‘Aishah (r.a.) regarding the benefits of numerous fruits, including the benefits of eating salt before and after meals.  Despite the peculiar contents of the hadits, Imam as-Suyuthi (q.s.) merely quoted it and remained silent regarding its authenticity.  Thereafter, Imam ibn ‘Arraq (r.a.), in his Tanzih ash-Shari’ah, quoted the very narration and mentioned only a minor criticism by stating that one of the narrators is unknown.  He wrote, commenting on Imam as-Suyuthi’s (q.s.) silence, “‘Whoever eats salt before and after meals will be saved from three hundred and sixty types of diseases, the least of which is leprosy and vitiligo.’  al-Qasim at-Tuyuri narrated it in at-Tuyuriyyat on the authority of ‘Aishah (r.a.).  I say, he did not explain the defect in this narration.  The sanad contains Muhammad ibn Musa ibn Ibrahim who narrated from Hisham ibn ‘Urwah, and I do not know who he is.  It is mentioned in Lisan al-Mizan, ‘Muhammad ibn Musa ibn Ibrahim: he is an unknown shaykh.’  I am not certain if they are the same.”

In this passage, Imam ibn ‘Arraq (r.a.) only noted that Muhammad ibn Musa ibn Ibrahim is unknown, without mentioning any other criticism.  However, he does not conclude that the narration is a fabrication merely because of this.  Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah (r.a.) explained in the footnotes of al-Maswnu‘ fi Ma‘rifat al-Hadits al-Mawdu’, “ibn ‘Arraq’s statement regarding this narrator was not to demonstrate that this narration is a forgery.  His intention was to disclose the lie and the liar, as the hadits in reference has the stench of forgery emanating from all sides, such that there is no need to analyse its sanad.”

Mufti Rashid Ahmad Ludzyanwi (r.a.) was asked about the ruling of eating salt before and after meals, if it is not sunnah or mustahabb, then why do reliable books, such as Radd al-Muhtar and ‘Ihya’ al-‘Ulum, mention it from the etiquettes of eating.  He responded in his Ahsan al-Fatawa, that the views purported in widely circulated books regarding the commencement and completion of meals with salt is not substantiated by any authentic narration.  All the narrations in this regard are forgeries.  Therefore, to regard this etiquette as a sunnah is an oversight.  Thereafter, he quoted several muhadditsin to prove that the narrations in this regard were all forgeries.  Thus far, it has proven that the ahadits regarding the benefits of commencing and completing meals with salt are unreliable, and that this etiquette cannot be termed a sunnah.  However, some people claim that since multiple jurists have adduced this hadits as evidence for the etiquette being sunnah, it is sufficient for its authentication.  While the principle they cite is correct, their application of it is invalid, as a ‘jurist’ in this context only refers to a mujtahid.

Imam al-Kawtsari (r.a.) wrote in the footnotes of Shuruth al-A’immah al-Khamsah that analysing their chains was an easy task for the mujtahidun due to their chronological proximity, particularly because when a mujtahid adduces a hadits as evidence, it is authentication of it.  The need for the six canonical books, al-kutub as-sitta’, and to examine their chains is only for those after the mujtahidun.

In view of the above, it cannot be said that because many jurists adduce this hadits as proof, it is sufficient for its authentication, because only when a mujtahid uses a hadits will it be regarded as authentication of it.  Furthermore, we learn that this etiquette is only recorded from those after the early scholars of the madzhab.  In conclusion, it should be borne in mind that by mentioning unreliable narrations, the jurists and their books will not be regarded as unreliable, as every art has its experts, so one cannot be blamed if he falters outside his expertise.


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