Hadith al-Silsilah al-Dhahab (Arabic: حدیث سلسلة الذهب) (Hadith of the Golden Chain) is a hadith narrated from Ali al-Ridha, the eighth Imam of the Shia. The “chain” is a reference to the continuity of spiritual authority which is passed down from Muhammad to Ali ibn Abi Talib, through each of the Imams, to Imam Ridha. As transmitters of Hadith, the Imams link subsequent generations to the teachings of Mohammad. This transmission makes the Hadith of the Golden Chain valued as among the most truthful and accurate of all Hadiths for the Shi’ite.
The hadith is important to shia because it implies that, on one hand, monotheism takes the believers to “Allah’s fortress”, which is a safe shelter, and from the other hand Imamah is a fundamental precondition of entering this shelter .
The story is that when thousands of people gathered to welcome their Ali al-Ridha’s arrival at the entrance to Neyshabour , some of the scholars requested him to pronounce a hadith. According to some shia scholars, twenty (or ten or thirty) thousands have narrated this event, but only fifty narrations are available. The chain of the narrators of the hadith reaches the Prophet of Islam through Ahl al-Bayt, hence called Hadith of Golden Chain.
Several Important hadith collections quoted it as Al-Tawhid, Ma’ani al-Akhbar, and Oyoun Akhbar Al-Ridha of al-Shaykh al-Saduq and Al-Amali of Shaykh Tusi. The hadith is also narrated in sunni hadith books. Regarding the implications of the hadith, there are two extreme opinions by Sunni scholars; While some of them discrediting the hadith by implying that the Sunni books lack it, some others claim that all Sunni scholars accepted it.
According to shia, two important points may be derived from the Hadith. On one hand, monotheism takes the believers to “Allah’s fortress”, which is a safe shelter, and from the other hand Imamah is a fundamental precondition of entering this shelter .
Hadith al-Silsilah al-Dhahab is narrated by Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha while entering Neyshabour. Many historians have recorded it. Old documents quote the hadith with small different wordings.
When Ali al-Ridha was entering Neyshabour a large crowd had gathered outside the city and some of the great scholars such as Muhammad ibn al-Rafi, Ahmad ibn al-Harith, Ishaq ibn al-Rahuwayh, and Yahya ibn al-Yahya were accompanying him. Twenty (or ten or thirty) thousands have reported the event. The narrations mentioning “twenty thousands” reporters are more famous. Many sunni laymen and scholars participated in welcoming the Imam. Scholars asked Ali al-Ridha to narrate hadith for them. So Ali al-Ridha announced al-Silsilah al-Dhahab.
Different Shia hadith collections such as Al-Tawhid, Maani Al-Akhbar, and Oyoun Akhbar Al-Ridha of Shaykh al-Saduq and Al-Amali of Shaykh Tusi has narrated this hadith. Some of the sources are mentioned here:
- Ahsan al-Maqaal:
I have heard my father Musa ibn Ja’far (A.S.) saying that he heard from his father Ja’far ibn Muhammad (A.S.) saying that he heard his father Muhammad ibn Ali (A.S.) saying that he heard from his father Ali ibn al-Husain (A.S.) saying that he heard from his father al-Husain ibn Ali (A.S.) saying that he heard from his father Ali ibn Abi Talib (A.S.) saying that he heard from the Holy Prophet (pbuh) saying that he heard from Gabriel saying that Allah told him: The kalimatu Laa ilaaha illallah (the saying that there’s no god but Allah) is My fortress. Whoever chants it, enters My fortress; and whoever enters My fortress shall be safe from My punishment’”. The Imam (A.S.) then paused for a moment and continued, “There are few conditions entitling entrance to the fortress and I am one of its conditions 
- Ma’ani al-Akhbar, Oyoun Akhbar Al-Ridha, Al-Tawhid:
al-Silsilah al-Dhahab hadith painted on tilings on a wall at Neyshabour (The text is in accordance with Al-Ma’ani al-Akhbar, Oyoun Akhbar Al-Ridha, and Al-Tawhid of Shaykh al-Saduq)
Ishaq Ibn Rahwayh said: When Abu al-Hasan al-Ridha arrived at Neyshabour and decided to leave the city to join Ma’mun, the hadith scholars gathered around him and said: “O son of Allah’s apostle, are you leaving us without pronouncing a beneficial hadith for us?” He (Ali al-Ridha) while sitting in palanquin let his out head and said: “I heard from my father Musa ibn Jafar who said he heard from his father Jafar ibn Mohammad who said he heard from his father Mohammad ibn Ali who said he heard from Ali ibn Husayn who said he heard from his father Husayn ibn Ali who said he heard from his father, the commander of the faithful, Ali ibn abi Talib who said he heard from Allah’s apostle, peace be upon him and his household, who said he heard from Gabriel who said he heard that Allah said: “There is no god but Allah is my fortress whoever enters my fortress shall be safe from my punishment” and when the convoy moved he (Ali al-Ridha) shouted: “There are few conditions and I am one of its conditions”.[a]
Also other versions of this hadith are separately narrated in Oyoun Akhbar Al-Ridha, Al-Tawhid, and Al-Ma’ani al-Akhbar by Shaykh al-Saduq, al-Amali by Shaykh Tusi and Kashf al-Ghommah by Allamah Arbeli.
A mural of al-Silsilah al-Dhahab hadith on the ceiling of Al-Ghadir library located in Neyshabour.
Many sunni scholars have narrated this event. [b] Only fifty narrations have survived since third century out of ten thousands or twenty thousands or thirty thousands narrations. Besides, there are many other hadiths titled “al-Silsilah al-Dhahab hadith” varying from the one in question. Two of the important narrations are the “Fortress narration” and the “Faith narration“.
The Fortress narration
There exists two different viewpoints among Sunni scholars regarding the Fortress Narration. Some of them mention Abu al-Salt Abd al-Salam ibn Heravi as the only narrator of this hadith and have disqualified him as a narrator, and consequently disregard the hadith. On the other hand, some of the sunni scholars regard Abu al-Salt as highly credible and therefore confirm the hadith, and some others even suggested healing powers for the hadith.
Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha, peace be upon him, said: “My father Musa al-Kazim told me from his father Jafar al-Sadigh, from his father mohammad al-Baghir, from his father Ali Zayn al-Abidin, from his father Husayn, the martyr of Karbala, from his father Ali ibn abi Talib, peace be upon him, who said: I heard from, the apple of my eye, Allah’s apostle peace be upon him and his household, who heard from Gabriel saying that Allah said:”There is no god but Allah is my fortress whoever chants this, enters my fortress and whoever enters my fortress shall be safe from my punishment.” “[c]
The part specifying ‘condition´
Although the last part of the hadith (“There are few conditions and I am one of its conditions”) is omitted in most sunni hadith books, some of the sunni scholars such as Khaje Parsa Hanafi and Qazi Bahjat Affandi Shafi’i have mentioned this part in their narration.
Al-Silsilah al-Dhahab in Hadith terminology
Hadith terminology categorize Hadith into several sections. According to authenticity or weakness of Hadith, Each hadith can be placed in different categories. The following are some important topics that are discussed about Al-Silsilah al-Dhahab.
Al-Silsilah al-Dhahab is a Hadith Qudsi, i.e., the word of God, but differs from Quran. The Gabriel transmitted hadith from God to prophet. Al-Silsilah al-Dhahab is Mutawatir. Shia and sunni scholars have narrated the hadith by Different expressions with authenticity. This hadith is Musalsal meaning that it’s a word of God and is conveyed from Prophet of Islam through Ahl al-Bayt to Ali al-Ridha. In other word, narrators of the hadith are Prophet and Ahl al-Bayt. According to shia view they are infallible and immune from error in practical matters, in inviting people to the religion and in perceiving the realm of cognition. because of that the hadith is called golden chain. Because of that, this hadith was named Al-Silsilah al-Dhahab. Al-Silsilah al-Dhahab is Musnad. Twenty (or ten or thirty) thousands have narrated this event, but only fifty narrations are available. The chain of the narrators of the hadith reaches the Prophet of Islam through Ahl al-Bayt, hence called Hadith of Golden Chain.
accessed 19th December 2019