The Science of Hadith lecture series Video English | Lessons in usool fiqh
Tadwin al-Hadith Part 1: Documentation and Recording of Hadith in Written Form Part 2 Part 3
|Above books in Arabic /Farsi al-shia|
|SUNNI HADITH & CORRUPTION EVIDENCES|
|The 4 Sunni schools of Fiqh Jurisprudence | 5 Madhabs||Corruptions in Hadith | Reasons for fabrication|
|In Defense of Hadith Extensive Research book||The Prohibition of the writing of Hadith|
|Fabricated Traditions book||Abu Huraira | Abu Huraira or Paul |Falsification of Hadith|
|A critical assessment of Sahih Bukhari & Sahih Muslim||Hanafi fiqh exposed|
Searchable Bukhari/ Muslim/Malik Hadith Sunni Refrences project
|<< 'Hadith' Related Articles >>|
|Imam Jafar Sadiq(as) founder of school of law||Documentation/Writing of Hadith|
|Tendency of Rationalizing laws of Shariah||Role of Analogical Reasoning in Islamic Jurisprudence|
|Sources of Authority|
|Why do Jurisprudents differ||How is Instability of Islamic Rulings Explained|
Background Introduction to Major Hadith books
Abu Rafeh is recognized by us as the First Tabqa (Stratum) of narrators of the traditions. Hazrat Ali (a.s) himself dictated the incidents to him to write down. The Second Tabqa was during the times of Imam Hassan and Imam Hussain (a.s). The Third Tabqa was during the period of Imam Zain al Abedin (a.s) when the Sahifa e Kamila was compiled. The Fourth Tabqa of the traditionalists was during the periods of the Fifth and Sixth Imams (a.s) who compiled as many as 400 books. During the Ghaibat e Sughra of the 12th Imam the difficulties of the followers became many- fold. Then it was decided to condense the contents of all the 400 books into one to facilitate easy access to the information.
Who are called Mohammedoon Thalatha & their achievements
Therefore three persons took upon themselves the task of condensing the 400 books into one. The first one was Mohammed Yaqub Kulaini who compiled the book “Usool e Kaafi” in Baghdad. Then at Qum, Sheik Sadooq wrote “Man la Yahdar al Faqih”. After these two great scholars passed away Sheik Toosi compiled 2 books. Thus the ‘Kutub e Arba’ --The Four Books, came about.
As the time passed research on the traditions continued. Khwaja Naseer ud Deen compiled his book after intensive research of 14 years. But the minister of that time consigned it to the waters of the River Dajla because of his bias against the Progeny of the Prophet (s.a). Those were the times when hands were bound and the tongues that praised the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) were severed. When the reins of administration came in the hands of the followers of the Progeny of the Prophet (s.a), the first thing they did on top priority was to compile the tomes on the Fiqh and to write the Commentaries on the Holy Quran. The first person to busy himself in this work was Mulla Kashani. He wrote “Al Waafi” and “Al Kaafi”. “Al Waafi” comprises of 14 volumes. Immediately after “Al Waafi” Sheik Hur al Amili wrote the book “Wasail ash Shia”. Then came Allama Majlisi who wrote the great book “Bahar al Anwaar”These three great scholars ---Mohammed Mohsin Faiz Kashani, Mohammed ibn e Hassan Hur al Amili and Mohammed Baqir Majlisi--- are called Mohammedoon Talata---The Three Mohammeds!
The need for completing these great works in the short time was that there were continuous skirmishes from the caliph of Turkey on Iran. Shah Abbas was tired of these uncalled for attacks and he made a pre-emptive attack on the Turkish territory. The Turkish Ambassador rushed to Najaf to appeal to the Mujtahids there whether the Fiqh of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) permitted unprovoked pre-emptive attacks? They ruled that such attacks are not permissible and the approval of the Mujtahids based on valid reasons was mandatory! Sheik Bahai had already expired and there wasn’t any senior Mujtahid in Iran at that time. The Mujtahids from Najaf wrote to Shah Abbas to call back his forces forthwith. Shah Abbas accepted the edict and called back his men from the front. Thus the three great scholars realized that the respite was short and they had to accomplish their great scholastic task in the time at their disposal. Thus came about the monumental works of these doyens of Shia Scholarship!
Source Urdu Lectures of Moulana Sadiq Hassan Book
An Extract from the Book 'A shi'ite Encyclopedia '
Ash-Shaikh Al-Baha’I has said in Al-Wajizah that the contents of our books on the Traditions are much more than the total contained in Sihah Sittah 1, as would be clear to a person who follows the Traditions collected by both the groups. A large number of scholars have written about these four collections of the Traditions in the forms of explanations, notes and commentaries. We cannot discuss all this work at this place. These books have been discussed at their proper places where we have taken up the life account of their authors. A few of these are:
i. Sharh-ul-Istibsar by Ash-Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Ash-Shaikh Hassan (the author of Al-Ma’alim) which contains many useful biographical pieces;
ii. Mirat-ul-Uqul Fi Sharhil Kafi by Al-Majlisi;
iii. Sharh Usul-il-Kafi by Mulla Saleh Al-Mazandarani;
iv. Sharh Usul-il-Kafi by Mulla Sadra;A large number of commentaries of At-Tahdhib and Al-Faqih the details of which will need much space and time here and are given in the latter chapters. In addition to these, a number of collections were prepared on the basis of the aforementioned four books,
Shi’ite Books On Tradition During The Period From Eleventh To Fourteenth Century
It was compiled by Ash-Shaikh Muhammad Bin Murtada who was actually called as Mulla Muhsin Al-Kashi. al Fayd( d1091 AH)He collected all the Traditions which are found in the Four Books and are related to Usul or Furu. He further arranged them into different chapters, explained difficult points wherever it was necessary and clarified the reasons for putting together some of the Traditions which appeared to be contradictory. He wrote about two hundred books. He died in 1091 AH. It contains 14 books & 50,000 traditions
2. Wasa’il-ush-Shai’ah Ila Ahadith-ush-Shariah.
It was compiled by Ash-Shaikh Muhammad bin Al-Hassan Bin Al-Hurr Al-Aamili. He collected the contents of the four books from the eighty books owned by him and seventy others. He edited these Traditions which related to Furu’a only, divided them into different chapters, explaining some of the important points. This book became he most popular book as a source of reference with the teachers as well as students. Al-Wafi did not meet such success in becoming popular as was w\written in store for Al-Wasa’il. This was because of the fact the arrangement of these traditions in Al-Wasa’il was better than Al-Wafi although the explanations given Al-Wafi are more convincing amd ore acceptable, but the success achieved by A;-Easail was much more than the former and the remaining four books are also based upon it. The author of Al-Wasail died in 1104 AH. It contains 35850 traditions & took 20 yrs to compile
3. Bihar-ul-Anwar Fi Ahadith-in-Nabiy Wal A’immatil Athar
it was compiled by Ash-Sahikh Muhammad Baqir Ibn Ash-Shaikh Muhammad Taqi, known as Al-Majlisi,(d1110) in 26 volumes. One needs a lifetime just to copy it not to speak of collecting the data on different branches of knowledge dealt with herein, including the biographies of the Prophet (SAWW) Sayyidah Fatimah Az-Zahra (S.A) and the Twelve Imams (A.S.) their virtues, merits, ideas and opinions. The authors collected all this material without exercising any choice. Most of it is not found in the four books. It was through the efforts of first mentioned three persons named Muhammad (Al-Kalini, As-Suddiq and At-Tusi) and the last mentioned three scholars named Muhammad (MuhsIin Kashi, Muhammad Al-Aamili and Al-Majilisi) that the information and sayings of Ahl-Al-Bait (A.S.) were save. They collected such information, edited it and arranged in book forms. All three persons mentioned first and the two of those mentioned last exercised their choice according to their authorities (which means Al-Majlisi did not).
4. Al-Awalim Fil Hadith.
It was compiled by the great Traditionist Al-Mawia Abdullah bin Nurullah Al-Bahrani in 100 volumes. It did not meet with such a success and did Bihar. The author died in the earlier twelfth century.
5. Ash-Shifa Fi Hadith-i-Aal-i-Mustafa
It is a voluminous book, containing many volume on the Traditions. It was completed by Ash-Shaikh Muhammad Ar-Rida Bhin Al-0Faqih Ash-Shaikh Abdullah At-Tabrizi who died in 1158 Ah.
6. Jami’ul Ahkam
It was compiled by As-Sayyid Abdullah Ash-Shabari in 25 big volumes, probably the biggest ever. The author died in 1242 Ah.
It was compiled by Mirza Hussain An-Nuri. He collected all those traditions which the author of Al-Wasail had missed out and arranged them into chapters.
But he has included Al-Fiqh-ur-Ridawi in this book, which is not finally proved to be the work of Imam Ali Rida (A.S.). There are many such instances in this book. It is not really supplementation of Al-Wasail to add such things, which were not reliable and certain in the opinion of the author of al-Wasail. He has given biographical data in the latter part of the book, which is not found anywhere else. Most of this data is obviously based upon Jamiur Rawat by Al-Hajj Muhammad Al-Ardbili who was a contemporary of Al-Majlasi. Mirza Hussain Nuri, the author of the book, died in 1320 AH.
8. Al-Bahr-uz-Zakhkhar Fi Sharh-i-Adadith-il-A’Immatil-Athar
It was started by Sayyid Muhsin Al-Amin (the author of the present work) and three volumes could be completed that he died.
Shi’ite books of traditions numbering 6600
The earlier Shi’ites belonging too the Athna ashariyyah group who were contemporaries to the Imams, from Ali Bin Abi Talib (A.S.) to the time of Imam Al-Hassan Al-Askari (A.S.) compiled 6600 books of the Traditions through the agency of Imams from the Ahl-Al-Bait. These books are mentioned in those relating to Rijal (biographies) and have been recorded by As-Shaikh Muhammad Bin Al-Hassan Bin Al-Hurr Al-Aamili, belonging to thirteenth century, in the fourth note of his book Al-Wasa’il. He got the names of these books from the accounts of their authors scattered in various other books. He collected what the authors of Rijal had recorded and the number came upto 6600. having reached this point of discussion, we would like to remind the reader that these books contain 400 volumes on the subject of Usul (Principles of Jurisprudence)( and four big selections. If this is against what we are following in distribution of these authors according to their groups, it is because of the fact that we do not like to make our discussion of the books of the Traditions disrupted; we rather like it to be in one place and complete.
Four Hundred Books Of Usul
Among these 6600 books, 400 were distinguished for their treatment of Usul which are known to the Shiite as Al-Usul-ul-Araba Miah. Ash-Shaikh Al-Mufid has said. The Imamite composed four hundred books which are named as Usul during the period from the life time of Imam Ali Hin Abi Talib A.S. to that Imam Al-Sasan Al-Askari. The meaning of Usul they say is that these books belong to the origin (Asl). Similarly At-Tabrisi has said in A’lam-ul-Wara that four hundred books were compiled from the replies given by Imam Jafar Sadiq A.S. These books are known as Usul and have been reported by his companions and the companions of his father Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir. According to Al-Muhaqqiq, the author of Al-Mutabar, that the number of books compiled from the replies given by Imam Jafar Sadiq A.S. to various questions is four hundred, which are named Usul.
What Al-Mufid has said, as referred to above, indicates that four hundred Usul have been reported from all the Imams, while what At-Tabrisi, Al-Muhaqqiq and Ash-Sahid have said, shows that these books were solely reported from Imam Jafar Sadiq A.S. It is possible to compromise between this. There might be Usul based upon the reports of Imam Jafar Sadiq A.S. and another collection based upon the report of all the Imams.
1. That is Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ya‘qub, known as Thiqat al-Islam al-Kulayni al-Razi (d.329 AH), one of the most acclaimed Shiite jurisprudents and traditionists.
2. See al-Kafi (Tehran: Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah, 1365), vol.8,.89.
3. The Four Books are the four eminent collections of Hadith, which enjoy a lofty station among the scholarly Muslim circles in general and the Shiite group in particular, since they count as the most significant sources of Hadith to them. These collections include:
a) Al-Kafi, written by Shaykh Abu Ja‘far Muhammad ibn Ya‘qub, known as Thiqat al-Islam al-Kulayni al-Razi (d.329 AH).
b) Man la Yahdarahu al-Faqih, written by Shaykh Abu Ja‘far Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Musa ibn Babawayhal-Qummi, knows as Shaykh al-Saduq(d.381 AH).
c) Tahdhib al-Ahkam, written by Shaykh Abu Ja‘far Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Tusi, known as Shayk al-Ta’ifah (d. 460 AH).
d) Al-Istibsar fi ma Ukhtulifa min al-Akhbar, also written by Shaykh al-Tusi.
4. ‘Ilm al-Dirayah is the science of critical study of the content of hadith, including its text, its chain of transmission, the manner of transmission, etc. See Ja‘far al-Subhani, Usul al-Hadith wa Ahkamuh fi ‘Ilm al-Dirayah (Qum: Imam al-Sadiq Institute, 1419 AH), p.14.
5. Refer to Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar (Beirut: Al-Wafa Institute, 1414 AH), vol. 55, p.267 and vol.89, p.255.
6. That is Abu al-Hasan Muhammad ibn al-Husayn al- Musawi, known as al-Sharif al-Radi (d.406 AH). He collected the words, sermons, letters and short sayings of the Commander of the Faithful in a book which he entitled as Nahj al-Balaghah (The Peak of Eloquence).
IS THE HOLY SAYING (HADITH QUDSI)?
A saying (hadith) is synonymous with speech (kalam) in meaning. It is called a ‘hadith’, saying, in consideration of its renewal and step-by-step occurrence.
As for ‘quds’(lit. holy, divine),it means the pure. When a saying is qualified by the ‘holy’ or the ‘divine’, it denotes the divine words sent down not out of inimitability or challenge. Based on this, the Holy Qur’an is not called, according to the conventional application, a holy saying, even though it is a divine speech.
As regards the manner of the transmission of the holy saying to us, it is through the prophets and their executors.
On the meaning of the holy saying, Ayatollah Shaykh Ja‘far Subhani thus explains: The holy saying is a divine speech revealed not out of inimitability and is related by one of the prophets or the executors, such as His words: ‘Fasting belong to Me, and I will recompense it’. One ofthe differences between it and the Qur’an is that the latter has been revealed for the sake of challenge and inimitability, counter to the holy saying. For the Messenger of God (upon whom) used to deliver spiritual counsels to his Companions, which he related from his Lord (exalted and majestic be He). These were neither a revelation sent down so it may be called a Qur’an, nor were they an explicit tradition traced back to himself directly so it may be called a hadith. Rather, these were sayings which the Prophet carefully purposed to introduce with words indicative of their ascription to God’s words:, so that he would clearly state that his task was to relate them from God with a style that was distinctly different from that of the Qur’an. Nonetheless, it includes a breeze from the realm of holiness, a light from the world of the unseen, and an awe from the Possessor of Majesty and Munificence. These are the holy sayings which are also called the divine or lordly sayings.
In this connection too, the scholar Martyr Sayyid Hasan al-Shirazi says: It (the holy saying) is the pure word that God has preserved from the excessively elegant clear statement. He has not adorned it with inimitability because He has withheld it except from the possessors of brilliant intellects free from the turbidity of sense-intuitions and suppositions. It is then the word of God, and the word of God is the highest. Does any word in the earth or the heaven ascend to the word of God, with the exception of the Qur’an, that Book wherein there is not doubt from the Lord of the worlds? He also mentions: With all that the holy saying became the twin brother of the Qur’an, that came to perform the role of the Qur’an among bygone communities and to help perfect the task of the Qur’an among the best community ever brought forth for mankind.
Examples of Holy Sayings
1. God (high exalted be He) revealed to David: ‘Tell My servants, I have not created you in order to profit from you, or rather, in order for you to profit through Me’.
Moses (upon whom be peace) said: ‘O my Lord! Which acts are better with You? He said: Love for children. For I have originated them with a disposition to My Unity. If I make them to die, I admit them by My mercy to My Garden.’
2. The Prophet (upon whom) said: ‘God (glory be to Him) says, I am the best partner. He who associates a partner with Me in his act, it will be to his partner to the exclusion of Me. For I only accept that which is purely dedicated to Me.’
‘My servant! I have created things for your sake, and I have created you for My sake. I have given you the world through doing good ( to men) and the afterworld through faith.’
3. God (high exalted be He) said: ‘When I desire to bring together the good of the world and the afterworld for a Muslim, I appoint for him a humble heart, a remembering tongue, a body that bears patiently the trials and tribulations, and a faithful wife who pleases him when he looks at her and safeguards him when he is absent in respect to her soul and his property.’
Books on the Holy Saying
A number of scholars devoted books to the holy saying, so they collected a great number from among those of them which they chose or could collect. Among these scholars are the following:
1. The master of traditionists Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali al-Husayn al-Hurr al-‘Amili (may God sanctify his pure soul). He compiled a book on the holy sayings which he entitled al-Jawahir al-Saniyyah fi al-Ahadith al-Qudsiyyah (The Splendid Jewels in the Holy Sayings). The book was published in 1405/1984 by al-Wafa Institute in Beirut, Lebanon.
1. Subhani, Ayatollah Ja‘far, Usul al-Hadith wa Ahkamuh fi ‘Ilm al-Dirayah. (Qum: Imam al-Sadiq Institute, 1414).
2. Kalimat Allah, p.18.
4. Ibid., p.169.
5. Ibid., p.23.
6. Ibid., p.169.
7. Ibid., p.191.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE FOLLOWING HADITH? WHAT IS YOUR OPINION THEREABOUT? IS IT OPEN TO ANY INTERPRETATION? IS IT PROPER FOR THE SCHOOL OF THE AHL AL-BAYT TO INCLUDE SUCH A HADITH IN THEIR BOOKS?
The hadith runs as follows:
مُحَمَّدٌ عَنْ أَحْمَدَ عَنِ ابْنِ مَحْبُوبٍ عَنْ جَمِيلِ بْنِ صَالِحٍ عَنْ أَبَانِ بْنِ تَغْلِبَ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ (عليه السَّلام) قَالَ سَأَلْتُهُ عَنِ الْأَرْضِ عَلَى أَيِّ شَيْءٍ هِيَ قَالَ هِيَ عَلَى حُوتٍ قُلْتُ فَالْحُوتُ عَلَى أَيِّ شَيْءٍ هُوَ قَالَ عَلَى الْمَاءِ قُلْتُ فَالْمَاءُ عَلَى أَيِّ شَيْءٍ هُوَ قَالَ عَلَى صَخْرَةٍ قُلْتُ فَعَلَى أَيِّ شَيْءٍ الصَّخْرَةُ قَالَ عَلَى قَرْنِ ثَوْرٍ أَمْلَسَ قُلْتُ فَعَلَى أَيِّ شَيْءٍ الثَّوْرُ قَالَ عَلَى الثَّرَى قُلْتُ فَعَلَى أَيِّ شَيْءٍ الثَّرَى فَقَالَ هَيْهَاتَ عِنْدَ ذَلِكَ ضَلَّ عِلْمُ الْعُلَمَاءِ .
Muhammad reportedfrom Ahmad, from ibn Mahbub, from Jamil ibn Salih, from Aban ibn Taghlib, from Abu ‘Abd Allah (upon whom be peace), who said, I asked him about the earth: Upon which does it stand forth? To which he replied: It stands forth upon a whale. I asked: Upon which does the whale stand forth? To which he replied: Upon water. I asked: Upon which does water stand forth? To which he replied: Upon a rock. I asked: Upon which does the rock stand forth? To which he replied: Upon a bull’s smooth horn. I asked: Upon which does the bull stand forth? To which he replied: Upon the ground. I asked: Upon which does the ground stand forth? To which he replied: What an idea? Therewith is lost the knowledge of the men of knowledge.
In order to correctly understand the meaning of the foregoing hadith and the like and in order to know how to deal with such kind of hadiths in general, the scholar must take into account several points so that he may arrive at the correct meaning.
As for the points relatedto the strangely worded hadiths in general and the hadith at issue in particular, these are as follows:
1. This hadith has been narrated by the traditionist al-Kulayni  in his al-Kafi , which is one of the four most reliable books  on Hadith and one of the most significant collections among the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (upon whom be peace).
2. Even though some Shiite books and collections of Hadith enjoy a high status and a lofty position among the scholars and traditionists, this does not mean that all that which they include is correct and reliable, so they must be taken for granted without any discussion or reflection. Rather, the entirety of the hadiths and narrations must be exposed to the principles of defamation and authentication before we take them upon ourselves. This process is undertaken by specialist scholars at the science of Hadith with regard to narration and critical study of traditions.
Moreover, the traditions and narrations, after their emanation from an infallible person, are divided in respect to authoritativeness and signification into the following:
1- Clear and explicit traditions that do not require an explication, a clarification or a interpretation, so the majority of people can understand them. Such traditions are numerous. An example is that which is related by al-Majlisi on the authority of the Messenger of God (upon whom); to wit, “Fast, you all, and you will be in good health”.
2- Traditions that require accuracy, reflection and reference to specialists in order to correctly understand their purport. These traditions are not few in number either. An example is that which is reported by Sayyid al-Sharif al-Radi on the authority of the Commander of the Faithful ‘Ali (upon whom be peace); that is his words, “When girls come of age (nass al-hiqaq), the relatives on the father’s side have a greater claim”.
After he mentioned this narration, al-Sharif al-Radi (may God have mercy upon him) said, ‘Nass’ means the last end of things or their furthest limit, such as ‘nass fi al-sayr’ in the sense of the maximum limit that a beast can walk. You may say, ‘nasast al-rajul ‘an al-amr’ when you questioned a man so closely as to bring forth what he has. Based on this, ‘nass al-hiqaq’ denotes prudence because it is the last limit of childhood and is the time when a child crosses childhood into maturity. This is a very eloquent reference to the point and a strange one, too. He intends to say, when a girl comes of age, her relatives on the father’s side have a greater claim to her than her mother, provided that they are from among those with whom marriage is prohibited, such as brothers and paternal uncles, and to the arrangement for her marriage if they so desire. Moreover, ‘al-hiqaq’ refers to a mother quarrelling with her daughter’s paternal relatives, such that each of them would say that he has a better right for her. However, what I think is that what is meant by ‘nass al-hiqaq’ here is a woman reaching a stage with which it is permissible to marry her and to dispose of her rights by herself, as a camel completes three years and enters into the fourth, so it is called ‘hiqqah’ or ‘hiqq’; that is a camel that, having completed three years, reaches the age when it is possible to ride on its back. This is closer to the way of the Arabs than the meaning stated earlier.
3- Traditions that require further reflection and verification on the part of the scholars at the science of Hadith in order to decipher their symbols and explain their true and hidden meanings. Rather, it may be difficult for the scholars at the science of Hadith to perfectly understand the purport of such traditions. The foregoing tradition may be a case in point.
A number of the scholars have paid attention to the explanation and clarification of such traditions and to the interpretation of their ambiguous words. They have also composed books and articles in this connection. Among these scholars is the late Sayyid Muhammad ‘Ali Hibat al-Din al-Shahristani in his eminent book al-Hay’ah wa al-Islam (Astronomy and Islam), which gained the admiration of all the scholars of his time. For he treated in it numerous sound traditions in the sphere of the heaven and the higher world, explained their strange words, and uncovered ambiguity thereof through scientific analysis, just as he clarified their lack of contradiction with the recent findings of science.
With regard to the tradition at issue, he (may God have mercy upon him) said, God has endowed me with the exposition of this tradition, so I have been guided to the following solution: This tradition, in line with the course of the Arabs, comprises an ellipsis and an implication. The tradition thus runs as follows: The earth is in the shape of a whale. What is meant by the whale here is the fish; to wit, the shape of the earth is oval, but not circular like the ball. So the word ‘shape’ is omitted and implied here. So is the case with his words: “upon a bull’s horn”, that is, in the shape of a bull’s horn; and the earth, as it has come in al-Durr al-Manthur by al-Suyuti, is situated between the two horns of the bull. Just as the bull’s two horns are, unlike the horns of cattle, egg-shaped and oval, so too the earth is not circular, or rather, it is in the shape of a bull’s two horns. The intended meaning is that its east and its west are separate, in the same way that the bull’s two horns are separate in the middle, though close together in their upper and lower ends, in a reference to the northern and southern poles.
This is a summary of that which he has stated in explaining and bringing home the tradition. It agrees with the recent findings of science which hold that the earth is not circular, or rather, oval. For further information, you may refer to Astronomy and Islam.
There is no doubt that the Imam (upon whom be peace) couldnot reply to the questioner’s inquiry at that time when scholars maintained that the earth was flat except with this clear statement. Moreover, the foregoing commentary is not conclusive, or rather, it may be interpreted otherwise.
Besides, when the emanation of a tradition from an infallible person (upon whom be peace) is established, it is not proper for us to hasten to refute or rebut it for the simple reason that it includes ambiguous words which we fail to correctly understand or interpret. Rather, what is correct is that we do not give a decided opinion respecting it until it becomes easy for us or for others to understand its meanings and uncover its symbols. When its purport is uncovered for us, we can then act and keep to its teachings.
There are numerous traditions and narrations that could not be well understood at the time of their emanation from the infallible person (upon whom be peace).
However, scientific progress has helped decipher their symbols, so it becomes clear that they would carry lofty meanings to which the infallible person (upon whom be peace) could not refer at his time except with this mode of expression due to one of the following two reasons:
1. The incapacity of the reporter or society’s understanding at that period.
2. The spread of some of the erroneous theories and doctrines that the governments used to adopt and impose on people, as if they were fixed truths that are not liable for discussion. How numerous are the scholars and discoverers who suffered from punishment and suppression for the doctrine of divergent opinions?!
What is more important is that we should not rush to pronounce judgement about such traditions for the simple reason that they include a kind of ambiguity in their words. Rather, we have to pause until favorable conditions and sufficient information exist in order to assess them in a correct and accurate manner.