Is there a narration meaning “Ali and the Prophet’s uncle Abbas regarded Abu Bakr as a liar, sinner, trickster and traitor”?

The Details of the Question

According to a narration in Muslim, “The Caliph Umar bin Khattab said, ‘Ali and the Prophet’s uncle Abbas regarded Abu Bakr as a liar, sinner, trickster and traitor.’” (Muslim ibn Hajjaj, “Sahih - Muslim”, Volume: 2, Book: “Jihad wa Sayr”, Chapter: “Hukmul fay”, page: 588, hadith: 1147, Saudiyya, year: 2000.) – Is there a hadith like that? If yes, is it true?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The statement above is a distortion made by picking certain words from a true text.

As it is known, when a statement is removed from its content and used independently, it may assume a different meaning and be misunderstood. The way of presentation in the question is a remarkable example of it. Let us have a look at the text of the hadith first in order to see the place of that statement in the context.

“Malik b. Aws narrates: Umar b. Khattab sent for me and I came to him when the day had advanced. He said to me:

O Malik! Some people of your tribe have hastened to me. 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,

—  O Malik! Take it. At this moment, Umar’s male servant, Yarfa came in and said,

—  O leader of the believers! Uthman, Abdurrahman b. Awf, Zubayr and Sad ask for permission to enter. Will you give permission? Umar said,

—  Yes. Yarfa gave them permission to enter. Then, he came again and said,

—  Will you give permission for Abbas and Ali too? Umar said,

—  Yes. He gave them permission too. Abbas said,

—  O leader of the believers! Decide the dispute between me and this sinful, treacherous, dishonest liar. The people who were present said,

—  O leader of the believers! Yes, decide the dispute between them and make them peaceful.  (Malik b. Aws said: I think, they sent those people before them for this reason.) Thereupon, Umar said to Abbas and Ali,

—  Wait and be patient. (Then, he turned to the people there). I adjure you by Allah, by whose order the heavens and the earth are sustained: Do you not know that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “We (prophets) do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is sadaqah (charity)”? The people there 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. Do you not know that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “We (prophets) do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is sadaqah (charity)”? They said,

—  Yes. Thereupon, Umar said,

—  Allah had done to His Messenger a special favor that He has not done to anyone else except him. (That favor is in the following verse:)

“What Allah has bestowed on His Messenger (and taken away) from the people of the townships,- belongs to Allah,- to His Messenger and to kindred and orphans, the needy and the wayfarer.” (al-Hashr, 59/7)

 (The narrator said: I do not know whether he also recited the previous verse or not.) The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) distributed among you the properties abandoned by Sons of Nadir. By Allah, he never preferred himself over you and never appropriated anything to your exclusion. This property was left over. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) met from its income his annual expenditure, and what remained was deposited in the Baytul-Mal.” Then, Umar said,

“I adjure you by Allah, by whose order the heavens and the earth are sustained. Do you know this?” The people there said,

—  Yes. Then, he turned to Abbas and Ali and asked them as he asked the other people: “Do you know this?” They said,

—  Yes. Umar continued as follows:

—  When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) passed away, Abu Bakr said: I am the successor of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Both of you came to demand your shares from the property left behind by the Messenger of Allah. You demanded your share from the property of your nephew; and he demanded a share on behalf of his wife from the property of her father. Abu Bakr said to you: “The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: We (prophets) do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is sadaqah.” You thought him to be a liar, sinful, treacherous and dishonest. However, Allah knows that he was true, virtuous, well-guided and a follower of truth.

When Abu Bakr passed away, I became the successor of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and Abu Bakr. You thought me to be a liar, sinful, treacherous and dishonest. However, 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. You were together and you wanted the same thing. You said: Entrust the property to us. I said to you: 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 (pbuh) used it: Was it not like this?” They said,

  Yes. Umar continued:

—  Now, you have come again to me with the request that I should judge 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.” (Muslim, Jihad/Sayr, Fay decree, 48-1757-)

According to the apparent expression of the narration above, three people were accused of lying:

a) Hz. Abbas accused his nephew Hz. Ali of lying. The following statement shows it: “O leader of the believers! Decide the dispute between me and this sinful, treacherous, dishonest liar.”

According to what scholars state, those attributes are unthinkable to exist in Hz. Ali. Although nobody other than the prophets is sinless, we need to have good thoughts about the Companions. From this viewpoint, we can accept that the statement above belongs to some narrators who used an exaggerated language, not to Abbas. Or, we can say that Hz. Abbas used those exaggerated words - though he did not believe them - to express that his nephew was wrong because he regarded his nephew as his son.

Besides, it is possible to accept that Hz. Abbas used those words for Ali, as a joke. His aim was to dissuade his nephew from that attitude.

However, the distinguished Companions who were there did not object to those words of Abbas due to the situation there, which shows that they perceived it as an exaggerated expression uttered out of anger, not as an expression of the truth and that they understood that even Abbas could not believe what he said. (See Nawawi, the explanation of the hadith in question; İbrahim Canan, Kütüb-i Sitte Tercüme ve Şerhi, h. no: 1127)

b) According to Hz. Umar, Hz. Abbas and Hz. Ali regarded Hz. Abu Bakr as a liar: “...You thought him to be a liar, sinful, treacherous and dishonest.”

The statement of Hz. Umar meaning “However, Allah knows that he was true, virtuous, well-guided and a follower of truth” shows that it is accepted by all the Companions that it is not possible to accuse Hz. Abu Bakr of lying because no one objected when he said it though there were distinguished Companions there.

Besides, that statement of Umar does not necessarily indicate that they uttered those words orally. On the contrary, their disapproval of Abu Bakr's judgment about them might mean that they did not regard him as honest - even if they did not think so. Hz. Umar exaggerated this attitude of theirs, which he did not like, by saying so.

c) The third one is Hz. Umar’s being regarded as a liar: “You thought me to be a liar, sinful, treacherous and dishonest. However, Allah knows that I am true, virtuous, well-guided and a follower of truth.” With that statement, he wanted to say that their not fully adhering to the judgment he had given about them before meant that they accused him of lying.

Look at those words uttered in context, and look at the following statement in the question that was used out of context: "Caliph Umar bin Khattab said, “Ali and the Prophet’s uncle Abbas regarded Abu Bakr as a liar, sinner, trickster and traitor”. There is a great difference between them.

The summary of the narration is as follows: Hz. Abbas and Hz. Ali fell into a disagreement about the fay property, which was considered to be the inheritance of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), and applied to the Caliph Umar. Hz. Umar reminded them that they had previously applied to Hz. Abu Bakr regarding the same issue and that Abu Bakr had not given them any share from that property and told them that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “We (prophets) do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is sadaqah.” Then, he said that he was of the same opinion. He added that he could entrust them that property based on some conditions.

As it is understood from the narration above and other narrations, the Prophet (pbuh) spent his share of the aforementioned fay property for his needs and the needs of his family when he was alive; he spent the remaining revenue on general services such as the welfare of Muslims, the purchase of horses and weapons. When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) passed away, his daughter Hz. Fatima applied to the Caliph Hz. Abu Bakr and wanted that property to be divided according to the inheritance law and demanded her share. However, Hz. Abu Bakr reminded her of the hadith “We (prophets) do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is sadaqah” and said that the property left by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) could not be treated as inheritance.

Note: The word Kadhib in the hadith was translated as "liar" in the question and we translated it like that but it also means to err, to make a mistake in Arabic. Therefore, we think that it would be more appropriate to use the word "kadhib", which Hz. Abbas said to Hz. Ali in anger, in the sense of a person making a mistake, not in the sense of a liar.”

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