What is the status and authenticity of Nahj al-balaaghah and Musnad Ahmad. I have read on couple of places that these books were actually written by others and then ascribed to the Ali [rta] and Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal. Kindly educate me with the truth and the share the names of those who actually wrote these books.
As for Nahj al-Balagha, the famous view is that it was compiled by Sayyed Radhi (d. 406 H). There are some who believe there were other authors involved as well. The sermons, letters and statements that are narrated in Nahj al-Balagha do not have any chains of narrators in the book itself. However it is possible to find the chain of narrators of most of them in other sources. It is therefore not possible to consider the book to be wholly reliable or false. Each narration in it needs to be examined separately.
Musnad of Ahmad is in principle collected under the supervision of Imam Ahmad (d. 241 H), however according to some reports it was compiled and finalised by his son and students after his death who also added some more narrations to it. Overall the book is not in the level of the books of Bukhari or Muslim in terms of reliability. In particular it is reported from Imam Ahmad himself that he adopted Tasamuh (being easy on weak narrators) for the narrations that were in praise of good practices. Like Nahj al-Balagha, the Musnad of Ahmad too needs to be looked at on narration to narration basis, and one general rule cannot be issued about its reliability.