In the religion of Islam, Jurists, theologians and philosophers alike agree that scripture is defined as encompassing the Qur’an (which is the revealed word of God), as well as the Sunnah (the sayings, actions and tacit approval of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w), and within Shi’ism, the successors of the Prophet also).
Unfortunately, since many Muslims have lived in both times and places when direct access to either the Prophet (s.a.w) or his successors has been impossible (for example during the current period of the Major Occultation), a systematic social network of people who transmit the sayings, deeds and tacit approval of the Prophet (s.a.w) and his successors was created. These chains of oral transmission are usually attached to the beginning of a Prophetic tradition (Hadith), solely for the purpose of verifying which men or women had transmitted these traditions and whether or not these individuals had the capacity to transmit traditions accurately.
The sciences of both Tarajim and al-Rijaal are then used to analyse the credibility of the individuals and to decipher whether or not the tradition is accurate or could potentially be a fabrication.
In this entry it would be implausible to sufficiently discuss every narrator of the ahadith of the Imams, and thus, the entry shall be restricted to discussing one group of the narrators of Hadith, known to jurists and traditionists as “Ashab al-Ijma’, a group to which there is no disagreement over their reliability.
The “Ashab al-Ijma’” or the “People of Consensus, are a group of eighteen individuals over whom there exists absolutely no disagreement about their reliability. These eighteen individuals are then divided into three further subcategories, related to the “Tabaqah” or Generation” that they lived in and the Imam at the time.
The details of the Ashab al-Ijma’a are derived primarily from the work “al-Ikhtiyar fi Ma’rifat Rijal al-Hadith,” which is the summary of an earlier work entitled “Rijaal al-Kashshi” of Muhammad b. ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-Aziz al-Kashshi (d. 350 A.H) which has been redacted by Shaykh al-Tusi (d. 460 A.H). According to all scholars of the Imamiyyah, these 18 individuals are themselves entirely reliable.
There are, however, numerous differences of opinion as a result of the reliability of these individuals.
Some scholars have argued that due to the reliability of the Ashab al-Ijma’a, the following conclusions can be made:
1) Any narration which has a sound chain of narrators that reaches an individual of the Ashab al-Ijma’a is rendered valid due to the fact that the Ashab al-Ijma’a do not report or transmit lies.
2) Any individual whom the Ashab al-Ijma’a transmit narrations from himself is raised or elevated to the status of reliable due to the fact they do not narrate from liars.
3) The third opinion is that the Ashab al-Ijma’a themselves are alone considered reliable and above dispute when neither of the above two opinions is applicable. This was the position of Sayyed al-Khu’i (d. 1992AD) and is an extremely rare opinion.
The function of the Ashab al-Ijma’a must therefore be viewed as an interpretive tool used by classical scholars in authenticating narrations attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) and the Imams (a.s). Such a method of creating a group of people, who are en masse recognised as being authentic, due to their belonging to a group rather than as individuals, is known within ‘Ilm al-Rijaal as “al-Tawtheeqat al-‘Amma” or “general authentication.”
According to classical scholars, the Ashab al-Ijma’a are the following individuals:
From the Companions of the Sadiqayn (Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s) and Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s)):
1) Zurarah b. A’yan al-Kufi - (d.148AH-149AD), a very prominent companion and Muhaddith from amongst the companions of Imam al-Baqir (a.s) and Imam al-Sadiq (a.s). He is believed to have overcome theological opponents of the Imamiyyah in many debates. According to Jahiz, in his work 'K. al-Haywan', Zurarah was one of the leaders of the Imami community of the time.
2) Ma’ruf b. Kharbud al-Makki - A companion of Imam al-Sajjad (a.s). He became a Faqih during the time of al-Sadiqayn. He is regarded as trustworthy by the non-Shia (al-Dhahabi in his Mizan is an example) and he is cited as a narrator by Muslim and Bukhari. He died in the year 200AH and was buried in Baghdad.
3) Burayd b. Mu’awiya - (d.150AH), a leading scholar of the Imamiyyah in Kufa during the first half of the second century. He also transmitted traditions in Sunni collections of Hadith.
4) Fudayl b. Yassar al-Basri - Unanimously described as trustworthy and a companion of the Imams, he is also noted as a scholar and all the four major works of Hadiths have narrations that cite him in the chain. Originally from Kufa and settled in Basra where he died during the time of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s).
5) Muhammad b. Muslim - (d.150 A.H), a prominent Kufan jurist and transmitter of the sayings of the Imams, he studied in Madinah for four years with Imam al-Baqir (a.s) and then afterwards with Imam al-Sadiq (a.s). He is also known as Al-Thaqir al-Tahhan.
6) Abu Baseer Layth al-Muradi- a Kufan transmitter of Shi’i narrations.
Companions of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s):
7) Jamil b. Darraj - a Kufan and client of Nakha, was a very prominent Shi’a jurist, according to al-Kashshi, one of the six most learned Imami jurists. Jamil passed away in the late second century.
8) Abdullah b. Muskan - a companion of both Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) and Imam al-Kadhim (a.s), a prominent Shi’a jurist from Kufa and a client of Banu Anaza. Abdullah passed away in the year 183 A.H
9) Abdullah b. Bukhayr b. A’yan - was from the prominent family Aal A’yan and a very prominent jurist and theologian. Following the death of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s), Abdullah b. Bukhayr deviated and joined the messianic movement known as the 'Fathis'.
10) Hamad b. Isa al-Juhni - A companion of several Imams due to his long life, he was both a discerning narrator and a Faqih, having authored books on Zakat and Salat. Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) prayed for him and informed him of his death. Originally from Kufa but settled in Basrah, he died in the year 209AH in a flood in a valley on his way to the Hajj.
11) Hammad b. ‘Uthman al-Nab - (90 A.H) a prominent narrator of the hadith from both Imam al-Sadiq and al-Kazim.
12) Aban b. Uthman al-Ahmar - A prominent traditionalist and early compiler of Sirah-Maghazi’s work.
Companions of Imam al-Kadhim (a.s) and Imam al-Ridha (a.s):
13) Yunus b. Abd al-Rahman
14) Safwan b. Yahya
15) Muhammad b. Abi Umayr
16) Abdullah b. Mughayra al-Bajjali
17) Ahmed b. Muhammad b. Abi Nasr al-Bizanti
18) Hassan b. Mahbub al-Kufi