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Marrying/not marrying the Zanj

Q:

Salams

What’s the take of Shia on the ahadith for racism such as the following hadith?

Beware of marrying the Zanj, for verily, it is a deformed creation.

Is it authentic? If yes, how we justify it?

Thanks

A:

I assume you are referring to the hadith narrated by Sheikh Kulayni in al-Kafi:

عَلِيُّ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ هَارُونَ بْنِ مُسْلِمٍ عَنْ مَسْعَدَةَ بْنِ زِيَادٍ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ قَالَ أَمِيرُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ع إِيَّاكُمْ وَ نِكَاحَ الزِّنْجِ فَإِنَّهُ خَلْقٌ مُشَوَّهٌ
“Beware of marrying the Zanj, for verily, it is a deformed creation.”
Al-Kafi  vol. 5, pg. 352, h. 1;
 
Scholars normally have two different approaches towards such a hadith or ahadith
 
a. To justify it by interpretations. These scholars do not want to reject the ahadith because they are scared that if the door of criticism is opened on hadith, many things would be challenged.
 
b. To reject it by saying its completely against the tenets of Islam (Qur’an and Ahlul Bayt (as)). We need to remember that at times some ahadith with sound sanad do contradict with the spirit and sole of Qur’an which needs to be rejected.
 
As far as the chain of narrator is concerned, one of the narrators is Masadat b Ziyad (or Masadat b Sadaqah). If the name of the narrator is Masadat b Sadaqah, the narration is rated to be Muwatthaq which is considered to be okay by majority of the scholars. But this narration has one another problem too. There is some missing link between Harun and Masadah. Harun cannot quote directly from Masadah. It should be in the format of vijadah which is not a sound way to quote a hadith. This way hadith could become weaker.
 
NOTE: Ayatullah Shubayri Zanjani says that there is a greater probability that Masadah b Sadaqah and Masadah b Ziyad were one and the same. If one accepts this then Marhum Najjashi’s word will give more credibility to this narrator. The hadith then would be sound if there is no other problem in it. (Probably, he quoted this from Ayatullah Burujardi) 
 
Textual criticism:
 
Textual criticism instead of sanad criticism is a safer side to confront such ahadith.  Aulama always have tendencies to approve or reject the chains of narrator and is so vast that based on different principles, one would easily reject or authenticate a particular hadith.​ Few points in this regard:
 
One can say that these ahadith are in a clear contradiction to the spirit of Islam. Islam do not believe in racism. It doesn’t value people by their tribes and nationality. Slaves and free men are one and the same and are valued based on their piety. So we can’t understand these ahadith and cannot affirm its content.
 
Moreover, It is strange that Imam Ali (as) is reported to say such things about all these tribes. Muslims did confront these tribes in a much later period. There were no such big groups of Kurd, Sindis and Negroes that Imam Ali (as) should have said this. 
 
Allah (swt) knows best.
 
Kumail Rajani