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General Observations, scribbles, comments, glosses (annotations), critiques, doodles, or illuminations while translating Mu'jam al-Ahadith al-Mu'tabara of Shaykh al-Muhsini.

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Islamic Salvation

Abu Amra al-Ansari - A Forgotten Man in Early Shi`ism


“I Swear to Thee … Obedience unto Death”

و عدّه البرقي في أولياء أصحاب أمير المؤمنين عليه السّلام و في شرطة خميسه

Al-Barqi confirms that he was among the closest companions of the commander of the faithful عليه السّلام and adds that he was part of his Shurta al-Khamis.

There has been an ongoing debate about the etymology of Shurta al-Khamis and its origins.

The most convincing explanation is that Khamis, meaning five, is a synonym for the whole army, because armies at the time were normally divided into five divisions. Thus the ‘Shurta of the army’ would be its elite vanguard. Our sources inform us that Ali’s Shurta al-Khamis consisted of around 6000 soldiers. The Shurta would be at the tip of the formation bearing the brunt of any offensive. They would see the riskiest action being the first to penetrate enemy lines.

A clue as to what made them distinct from the rest of the army is provided by a narration in al-Ikhtisas of pseudo-Mufid where a man asks al-Asbagh b. Nubata, himself a member of the Shurta, the secret behind the name:

قلت له: كيف سميتم شرطة الخميس يا أصبغ؟ فقال: إنا ضمنا له الذبح وضمن لنا الفتح

I said to him: how was it that you came to be called the Shurta al-Khamis O Asbagh? He said: we guaranteed to fight for him and he guaranteed victory for us [in this world or the next].

This indicates that the Shurta were Ali’s most loyal soldiers because they had sworn a personal oath to him in their zeal for him. Agreeing to join the Shurta meant fighting Ali’s enemies until death or victory, whichever comes first, without turning back.

The Shurta were the backbone of Ali’s force whom he could expect to remain steadfast when others faltered. This contingent fought not for worldly gain or political expedient but because they recognized him as their only leader. They were always around him like worker bees around their queen. He said to them once:

أنتم الأنصار على الحقّ، والإخوان في الدين، والجُنَن يوم البأس، والبِطانة دون الناس، بكم أضرب المُدبِر، وأرجو طاعة المُقبِل، فأعينوني بمناصحةٍ خَلِيّة من الغشّ، سليمة من الريب؛ فوَاللَّه إنّي لأولى الناس بالناس

You are supporters of truth, brothers in religion, shields on the day of attack, you are the faithful apart from the rest, by you do I strike the one lagging behind, and by you do I compel the outriders to obedience, so aid me with an assistance free of any deception and safe from any doubt, for by Allah I am the most rightful of men among all men [Nahj al-Balagha]

If Ali could not mobilize enough men to renew his attack against Muawiya after Nahrawan it is only because most of the Shurta had already given their lives in previous battles. A fact which he never stopped grieving over.


Contribution to the War Effort

عمرو بن محصن ... هو الذى جهز أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام بمائة ألف درهم في مسيره إلى الجمل

Al-Tusi notes in his Rijal that Amr b. Mihsan [sic. Abu Amra b. Amr b. Mihsan] … supplied the commander of the faithfulعليه السلام with one hundred thousand Dirhams when he began his march to Jamal.   


Delegate to Muawiya

He was chosen by Ali to be part of the team that makes first contact with Muawiya at Siffin. This shows the level of trust the Imam had on this old hand [Ta`rikh al-Tabari]:

تاريخ الطبري عن عبدالملك بن أبي حرّة الحنفي - بعد ذكر القتال على الماء -: مَكث عليّ يومين لا يرسل إلى معاوية أحداً، ولا يرسل إليه معاوية. ثمّ إنّ عليّاً دعا بشير بن عمرو بن محصن الأنصاري، وسعيد بن قيس الهمداني، وشبث بن ربعي التميمي، فقال: ائتوا هذا الرجل، فادعوه إلى اللَّه، وإلى الطاعة والجماعة

Ali did not send anyone to Muawiya for two whole days nor did Muawiya send anyone to him. Then Ali called Bashir b. Amr b. Mihsan al-Ansari, Sa`id b. Qays al-Hamdani and Shabath b. Rib`i al-Tamimi and said to them: go to this man and call him to Allah and to obedience and unity. 

فقال له شبث بن ربعي: يا أميرالمؤمنين!ألا تُطمعه في سلطان تولّيه إيّاه، ومنزلة يكون له بها اُثرة عندك إن هو بايعك؟

Shabath b. Rib`i said to him: O commander of the faithful! won’t you tempt him with a rule which you could promise to hand over to him or by appointing him to a position which he desires so that he can incline towards you - if he were to give you the pledge of allegiance?  

فقال عليّ: ائتوه فالقوه واحتجّوا عليه، وانظروا ما رأيه. - وهذا في أوّل ذي الحجّة

Ali said: go meet him, reason with him, and observe what he intends. [This was in the beginning of Dhul Hijja]

فأتوه، ودخلوا عليه، فحمد اللَّه وأثنى عليه أبوعمرة بشير بن عمرو، وقال: يا معاوية! إنّ الدنيا عنك زائلة، وإنّك راجع إلى الآخرة، وإنّ اللَّه عزّوجلّ محاسبك بعملك، وجازيك بما قدّمت يداك، وإنّي أنشدك اللَّه عزّوجلّ أنْ تفرّق جماعة هذه الاُمّة، وأن تسفك دماءها بينها

They went and entered upon him, then Abu Amra Bashir b. Amr praised and extolled Allah and said: O Muawiya! this world will recede away from you and you are to be returned to the next abode wherein Allah the Mighty and Majestic will take you to account for your deeds, and recompense you for what your hands sent before. I beseech you in the name of Allah Mighty and Majestic that you shatter the unity of this Umma and you shed blood between them.  

فقطع عليه الكلام، وقال: هلّا أوصيت بذلك صاحبك؟

He (Muawiya) interrupted his speech and said: didn’t you say all this to your man [Ali]?

فقال أبوعمرة: إنّ صاحبي ليس مثلك، صاحبي أحقّ البريّة كلّها بهذا الأمر في الفضل والدين والسابقة في الإسلام، والقرابة من الرسول صلى اللّه عليه وآله وسلم

Abu Amra said: my man is not your equal, my man is the most rightful of all men in this matter [Khilafa] if you are to look at merit, religion, precedence in accepting Islam and closeness in ties to the messenger صلى اللّه عليه وآله وسلم

قال: فيقول ماذا؟

He (Muawiya) said: what does he (Ali) say?

قال: يأمرك بتقوى اللَّه عزّوجلّ، وإجابة ابن عمّك إلى ما يدعوك إليه من الحقّ، فإنّه أسلم لك في دنياك، وخير لك في عاقبة أمرك

He (Abu Amra) said: he (Ali) orders you to fear Allah Mighty and Majestic, and to submit to your cousin (Bani Hashim and Umayya are related afterall) in what he calls you towards which is the truth, for that is more secure in your worldy affairs and better for you in terms of your final destiny.

قال معاوية: ونُطلّ دم عثمان! لا واللَّه، لا أفعل ذلك أبداً

Muawiya said: and we are to leave the blood of Uthman unavenged! No by Allah! that will never happen!

فذهب سعيد بن قيس يتكلّم، فبادره شبث بن ربعي فتكلّم، فحمد اللَّه وأثنى عليه، وقال: يا معاوية! إنّي قد فهمت ما رددت على ابن محصن، إنّه واللَّه، لا يخفى علينا ما تغزو وما تطلب

Sa`id b. Qays wanted to speak but was beaten to it by Shabath b. Rib`i who praised and extolled Allah and then said: O Muawiya! I have understood your answer to Ibn Mihsan, by Allah it is not hidden from us what you are fighting for and what you seek! 



کان ابن محصن من اعلام اصحاب علي (ع)، قتل في المعرکه، و جزع علي (ع) لقتله

Nasr b. Muzahim: He was among the most knowledgeable of Ali’s companions. He died in battle [of Siffin]. Ali was greatly saddened by his death.

روى عبادة بن زياد عن محمد ابن الحنفية قال: رأَيت أَبا عَمرَةَ الأَنصاري يوم صِفَّيْن، وكان عَقَبيًا بَدْرِيًّا أُحُدِيًّا، وهو صائم يتلوّى من العَطَش، فقال لغلام له: تَرِّسْنِي، فَتَرَّسَه الغُلاَم، ثم رمى بسهم في أَهل الشام، فنزع نزعًا ضعيفًا، حتى رمى بثلاثة أَسهم، ثم قال: إِني سَمِعتُ رسول الله صَلَّى الله عليه وسلم يقول: مَنْ رَمَى بِسَهْمٍ فِي سَبِيْلِ الله، فَبَلَّغَ أَوْ قَصَّرَ، كَانَ ذَلِكَ الْسَّهْمُ لَهُ نُورًا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ، وقتل قبل غروب الشمس

Ubada b. Ziyad narrates from Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya who said: I saw Abu Amra al-Ansari at Siffin, he was an Aqabi [was there at the pledge at Aqaba], a Badri and an Uhudi, he was fasting and bent-over [weak] because of thirst, he said to a servant of his: shield me, and the servant shielded him, then he placed the arrow to his bow very weakly, and could only throw three of them, then he said: I heard the messenger of Allahصَلَّى الله عليه وسلم  say: whoever throws an arrow in the way of Allah, whether he hits the target or not, that arrow will be for him a light in the day of judgment, he was killed before the setting of the sun [al-Mustadrak ala al-Sahihayn]


In Memoriam

There could not be a greater honour among the Arabs then to have your death being important enough to merit poetry on your behalf. This is what happened for Ibn Mihsan. It came from opposing sides.

Najashi the poet of Iraq [who was on the side of Ali] composed a long poem mourning his death, it begins:

لنعم فتى الحيّين عمرو بن محصن

What a good man was Amr b. Mihsan …

On the other hand, an anonymous Syrian woman taunted Ali and his followers with this invective:

لا تعدموا قوما أذاقوا ابن ياسر

Do not deem as insignificant a people who have sent Ibn Yasir to his death

And ends with:

فنحن قتلنا اليثربي ابن محصن خطيبكم و ابني بديل و هاشم

For we are the ones who killed the Yathribi Ibn Mihsan … your pre-eminent speaker, and the two sons of Badiyl and Hashim [b. Mirqal] too

In conclusion, any historical study of early Islam must take into account the wealth of poetry we have about the period. These have not been analyzed thoroughly because of the difficulty of dealing with the highly complex language involved. An argument can be made that that these can serve as more reliable than prose documentation because of the difficulty of fabricating things in the medium. A treasure trove awaits any historian brave enough to delve into them.

Islamic Salvation

Abu Amra al-Ansari - A Forgotten Man in Early Shi`ism

قلت لأبي عبد الله عليه السلام: ارتد الناس إلا ثلاثة: أبو ذر، و سلمان، و المقداد؟ قال: فقال أبو عبد الله عليه السلام: فأين ... أبو عمرة الأنصاري؟

I said to Abi Abdillah عليه السلام: all the people turned back except for three - Abu Dhar, Salman and Miqdad? Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said: so where is … Abu Amra al-Ansari?


Who was Abu Amra?

There exists Ikthilaf over the real name of Abu Amra among the scholars but it is most likely Bashir. The problem is compounded when he is confused in the sources for his father Amr b. Mihsan.

al-Kalbi gives it as follows [See: Nasab Ma`ad wa al-Yaman al-Kabir]

ابو عمرة بشير بن عمرو بن مِحصن بن عَمرو بن عَتِيك بن عمرو بن مَبْذول، واسمه عامر بن مالك بن النجار بن ثعلبة بن عمرو بن الخزرج الأَنصاري

Abu Amra Bashir b. Amr b. Mihsan b. Amr b. Atik b. Amr b. Mabdhul - and his i.e. Mabdhul’s name was A`mir - b. Malik b. al-Najjar b. Tha`laba b. Amr b. al-Khazraj al-Ansari.

This means he was from the Ansar, helpers who welcomed the prophet in Madina, specifically, from the Amr b. Mabdhul of the Banu al-Najjar who were Khazraji.

Abu Nuaym says [See: Ma`rifat al-Sahaba]:

شهد بدرًا وأُحدًا والمشاهد

He witnessed Badr, Uhud and the rest of the battles.  

He was a very early convert to Islam and participated in all the battles which gives him a station that we cannot fathom. He has a few narrations from the prophet recorded in the books of Hadith.


The Banu Najjar Connection

The Muslim sources on genealogy assert that Ali and Muhammad’s great grandmother, the mother of Abd al-Muttalib b. Hashim, was Salma bint Amr from the clan of Banu Najjar of the Khazraj. Abd al-Muttalib spent his childhood with his mother in Madina, before he was claimed by his uncle Muttalib and brought to Makka after the death of his father Hashim.

This explains why the Banu Hashim always saw the Banu Najjar of the Khazraj as their Akhwal [maternal uncles].

Abd al-Muttalib said in verse [See: Ta`rikh al-Tabari]

أبلغ بني النجار إن جئتهم ... أني منهم وابنهم والخميس

Tell the Bani al-Najjar if you reach them … That I am one of them, their son and of their company

And also:

يا طول ليلي لأحزاني وأشغالي ... هل من رسول إلى النجار أخوالي

O how long is my night due to my sorrows and worries … Would someone serve as a messenger to my maternal uncles (the Bani) Najjar

Another piece of evidence is that most accounts regarding the circumstances preceding the death of the prophet’s father, Abdallah, place his final illness in Madina, where he is said to have stayed with his maternal uncles, the Banu Adiyy b. al-Najjar, among whom he eventually died and was buried

This pre-existing relation helps explain why this particular branch of the Khazraj were overly represented in the move of the prophet from Makka to Madina. A move which gave him safety when all other doors were closed.

As`ad b. Zurara of the Bani Najjar was critical to the prophet’s migration to Madina. He was the first to accept Islam from among the inhabitants of Yathrib. This happened when he and a small group of five others [all from Khazraj, including another member of the Bani Najjar] happened to meet the prophet when they went to seek settlement for a dispute from the Qurayshi elders [specifically Utba b. Rabi`a]. They returned next year in what is called the first pledge of Aqaba [delegation of the inhabitants of Yathrib that pledged their support to Muhammad prior to the Hijra].

In the accounts of the first pledge of Aqaba, 10 of the 12 men listed were from the Khazraj and 3 of those were from the Banu al-Najjar. Of the 70 or so men and 2 women who pledged their allegiance to Muhammad during the second meeting of Aqaba, 62 men and one woman were from the Khazraj and 12 of these were of the Banu al-Najjar.

The prophet initially resided with them when he emigrated to Madina [specifically with Abi Ayyub al-Ansari who was of the Banu Najjar], similarly, his Masjid and later homes were built in the Najjari quarter.

No surprise then that the prophet said [See: Sahih al-Bukhari]:

خير دور الأنصار بنو النجار

The best of the Ansari homes [in terms of genealogical honour] are those of the Banu Najjar.

It is my thesis that Abu Amra being from the Najjar would have added reason to support Ali because there was a familial relation between them. But this is not the main reason why most of the Ansar placed their hope in Ali.

How do we explain Ansari support? There is no doubt that the major driving force behind it was the coalescing of grievance felt by the Ansar as a result of the consolidation of the Qurayshi monopoly. They saw in the sympathetic figure of Ali [who had also been sidelined by the Qurashis] someone who could redress that balance.


A Witness at Ghadir

وفي اسد الغابة لابن الاثير روى بسنده عن الاصبغ بن نباتة قال: نشد علي (ع) الناس في الرحبة: من سمع النبي (ص) يوم غدير خم ما قال الا قام، ولايقوم الا من سمع رسول اللّه (ص) يقول، فقام بضعة عشر رجلا فيهم ابو ايوب الانصاري، وابو عمرة بن عمرو بن محصن ... فقالوا: نشهد انا سمعنا رسول اللّه (ص) يقول: الا ان اللّه عزوجل وليي، وانا ولي المؤمنين، الا فمن كنت مولاه فعلي مولاه، اللهم وال من والاه، وعاد من عاداه، واحب من احبه، وابغض من ابغضه، واعن من اعانه

Ibn Athir reports in Usd al-Ghaba via his chain to al-Asbagh b. Nabata who said: Ali عليه السلام called out to the people in al-Rahba: whoever heard what the prophet صلى الله عليه واله وسلم said on the day of Ghadir should stand, no one should stand except if he heard the messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه واله وسلم directly. More than ten men stood up among them Abu Ayyub al-Ansari and Abu Amra b. Amr b. Mihsan … they said: we bear witness that we heard the messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه واله وسلم saying: Verily Allah Mighty and Majestic is my master, and I am the master of the believers, whomsoever’s master I am then Ali is also his master, O Allah be a guardian to the one who takes him as a guardian, and be an enemy to the one who makes him an enemy, and love the one who loves him and hate the one who hates him and aid the one who comes to his aid.


The Secret Bay`a

We are told that the first Bay`a [pledge of allegiance] to Ali was given at Abu Amra’s home by a few of the closest Ashab. Kufan tradition maintains that it was al-Ashtar who extended his hands first. This happened, in one of the greatest ironies of history, on Friday the 18th of Dhul Hijja 35 AH. It was followed by the public pledge at the Masjid the next day.

The fact that he got this private Bay`a from the Ansari warriors of the Bani Najjar [who were the core of the early Muslim armies] is significant. Ansari support in Madina was critical to nullifying the claims of Talha and Zubayr in that period of paralysis when Madina was over-run by forces from the provinces.

قال ابن السَّمَرْقَنْدِي: أخبرني العباس بن هشام عَن أبيه قال: بويعَ علي بن أبي طالب بن عَبْد المُطَّلِب بن هاشم بن عَبْد مَنَاف بالمدينة، يوم الجُمعة حين قُتِل عُثْمَان، لاثنتي عشرة ليلة بقيت من ذي الحجة فاستقبلَ المُحرم سنة ستّ وثلاثين وقال غير عباس: وكانت بيعتهُ في دار عمرو بن محصن الأنصاري ثم أحد بني عمرو بن مبذول يوم الجمعة، ثم بويع بيعة العامة من الغد، يوم السبت في مسجد رَسُول اللَّه (ص)

Ibn al-Samarqandi said: al-Abbas b. Hisham narrated to me from his father that: Ali b. Abi Talib b. Abd al-Muttalib b. Hashim b. Abd Manaf was given the Bay`a in Madina, on Friday, the day Uthman was murdered, twelve nights remaining from the month of Dhul Hijja, the coming Muharram being the new year thirty six [after Hijra]. And someone other than Abbas said: His Bay`a was in the house of Amr b. Mihsan al-Ansari whereupon Bani Amr b. Mabdhul swore fealty on a Friday, then the public oath was on the next day, Saturday, in the Masjid of the messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه واله وسلم  

ابي المليح قال: لما قتل عثمان، خرج علي الى السوق، وذالك يوم السبت لثماني عشره ليلة خلت من ذى الحجة، فاتبعه الناس وبهشوا في وجهه، فدخل حائط بني عمرو بن مبذول، وقال لأبي عمرة بن عمرو بن محصن: اغلق الباب فجاء الناس فقرعوا الباب فدخلوا ...

Ibn Mulayh said: when Uthman was killed, Ali came out to the market, and that was on Saturday, eighteen nights having passed from Dhul Hijja, the people followed him and thronged in front of him, so he entered the walled garden of Bani Amr b. Mabdhul and said to Abi Amra b. Amr b. Mihsan: close the door, but the people came and banged on the door and entered … 

To be continued ...

Islamic Salvation

Some Glimpes of Ismail b. Ja`far in Twelver Sources


His Boldness towards his Father

Ismail was very daring in his interaction with the Imam. So much so that he could directly contradict his father to his face.

جعفر بن أحمد بن أيوب، عن أحمد بن الحسن الميثمي، عن أبي نجيح، عن الفيض بن المختار، وعنه، عن علي بن إسماعيل، عن أبي نجيح، عن الفيض، قال: قلت لأبي عبد الله عليه السلام: جعلت فداك، ما تقول في الأرض، أتقبلها من السلطان ثم أؤاجرها آخرين على أن ما أخرج الله منها من شئ، كان من ذلك النصف أو الثلث أو أقل من ذلك أو أكثر؟ قال: لا بأس، قال له إسماعيل ابنه: يا أبه لم تحفظ! قال: فقال: يا بني أوليس كذلك أعامل أكرتي؟ إن كثيرا ما أقول ألزمني فلا تفعل، فقام إسماعيل، فقلت: جعلت فداك، وما على إسماعيل ألا يلزمك إذا كنت أفضت إليه الأشياء من بعدك كما أفضت إليك بعد أبيك، قال: فقال: يا فيض إن إسماعيل ليس كأنا من أبي، قلت: جعلت فداك، فقد كنا لا نشك أن الرحال ينحط إليه من بعدك، وقد قلت فيه ما قلت، فإن كان ما تخاف وأسأل الله العافية، فإلي من؟ قال: فأمسك عني، فقبلت ركبتيه، وقلت: إرحم سيدي، فإنما هي النار، إني والله لو طمعت أن أموت قبلك لما باليت، ولكني أخاف البقاء بعدك، فقال لي: مكانك، ثم قام إلى ستر في البيت فرفعه ...

[al-Kashshi] Ja`far b. Ahmad b. Ayyub from Ahmad b. al-Hasan al-Maythami from Abi Nujayh from al-Faydh b. al-Mukhtar; and from him [Ja`far b. Ahmad b. Ayyub] from Ali b. Ismail from Abi Nujayh from al-Faydh who said: I said to Abi Abdillah عليه السلام  - may I be made your ransom, what do you say about a piece of land which I accept from the Sultan then I lease it out to others [to cultivate therein] - with the condition that what Allah causes to be produced from it of anything then half or one-third of it or less than that or more is mine? He said: there is no harm in it, Ismail his son said to him: O father you haven’t remembered correctly [you have got it wrong]! He said: O my son, is this not how I too deal with my cultivators? How many times have I said that you should accompany me [to learn things] but you refuse? So Ismail got up and left, I said: may I be made your ransom, and what harm is upon Ismail if he does not accompany you considering you will hand over to him the things [books] after you the way they were handed to you after your father? he said: O Faydh, Ismail is not [to me] the way I was to my father, I said: may I be made your ransom - we never doubted that the saddles would be laid [journeys would be undertaken] to him after you [i.e. he would be the Imam], but you have just said about him what you have! so if it occurs that which we fear and I ask Allah to preserve you - then to whom? He said: he kept silent, I kissed his knees and said: have mercy O master, for it is the fire [if I fail to recognize the next Imam], by Allah if I expected to die before you then I would not have cared, but I fear that I may remain after you, so he said to me: remain where you are, then he stood until he reached a door-curtain in the room and raised it …            

This shows how independent minded Ismail was. It should be noted, however, that the remaining part of the Hadith and the exaggerations in it make one suspect whether the Hadith is not one of those proof-texts carefully invented to support the Imama of al-Kadhim.


Was he involved in Political Intrigue?

Ismail was summoned by al-Mansur (the Abbasid Caliph) for an unidentified reason. The fact that he was accompanied by one Bassam who was executed implies it had something to do with rebelling against the temporal powers.

محمّد بن مسعود قال: حدثني محمد بن نصير قال: حدثنا محمّد بن عيسى، عن الحسين بن سعيد، عن عليّ ابن حديد قال: حدثني عنبسة بن مصعب العابد قال: كنت مع جعفر بن محمد صلوات الله عليهما بباب الخليفة أبي جعفر بالحيرة، حين أتي ب‍: بسّام و إسماعيل بن جعفر فادخلا على أبي جعفر، قال: فاُخرج بسّام مقتولا، و اُخرج إسماعيل بن جعفر، قال: فرفع جعفر رأسه إليه قال: أفعلتها يا فاسق! أبشر بالنار!

[al-Kashshi] Muhammad b. Masud who said: Muhammad b. Nusayr narrated to me saying: Muhammad b. Isa narrated to us from al-Husayn b. Sa`id from Ali b. Hadid who said: Anbasa b. Mus`ab al-Abid narrated to me saying: I was with Ja`far b. Muhammad صلوات الله عليهما at the door of the Caliph Abi Ja`far [al-Mansur] in al-Hira when Bassam and Ismail b. Ja`far were brought and made to enter in the presence of Abi Ja`far, he [Anbasa] said: so Bassam came out a dead man [sentenced to be killed], then Ismail b. Ja`far was brought out [unpunished], he [Anbasa] said: so Ja`far raised his head to him and said: have you done it you corrupt sinner! receive tidings of the fire!

To whom did the Imam direct these words?

It could very well be to Ismail . For getting himself mixed up with militants, even whilst the Imam’s official policy towards the rulers was queitism. Maybe Ismail is also being blamed for implicating Bassam and thereby freeing himself of suspicion and leaving unharmed. Some scholars have gone against this interpretation even if it might be the more literal one.

توهّم أنّ الخطّاب متوجّه إلى إسماعيل بن جعفر، والجواب: أنّ الخطّاب متوجّه إلى ابو جعفر (المنصور) بتنزيله منزلة الحاضر، كما يظهر بأدنى تأمّل،

al-Khoei: It is wrongly thought that that the speech was addressed to Ismail b. Ja`far, the answer is that: these words were directed at Abu Ja`far al-Mansur as though he were physically present [it is allowed in the language to address the non-present as though he were present], as is obvious with the least bit of thinking.

Despite this, I maintain that the possibility [which is also most in line with linguistics] should not be rejected out-rightly.   

It may be for this very reason that he was struck off the Diwan [register] that lists people who were to be given stipends.

محمد بن مسعود قال: حدثني أحمد بن جعفر بن أحمد قال: حدثني العمركي، عن محمد بن علي وغيره، عن ابن أبي عمير، عن مفضل بن مزيد أخي شعيب الكاتب قال: دخل علي أبي عبد الله عليه السلام، وقد أمرت أن أخرج لبني هاشم جوائز، فلم أعلم إلا وهو على رأسي وأنا مستخلي، فوثبت إليه فسألني عما أمر لهم، فناولته الكتاب، قال: ما أرى لإسماعيل ههنا شيئا، فقلت: هذا الذي خرج إلينا. ثم قلت له: جعلت فداك، قد ترى مكاني من هؤلاء القوم فقال لي: انظر ما أصبت فعد به على أصحابك، فإن الله جل وعلا يقول: إن الحسنات يذهبن السيئات

[al-Kashshi] Muhammad b. Masud who said: Ahmad b. Ja`far b. Ahmad narrated to me saying: al-Amrikai narrated to me from Muhammad b. Ali and other than him from Ibn Abi Umayr from Mufadhal b. Mazid the brother of Shuayb the secretary who said: Abi Abdillah عليه السلام entered upon me and I had been ordered to take out the stipends for the Bani Hashim. I did not notice until he was stood over me and I was all alone at the time [no one was with me], so I sprung up [in deference] to him [and in attention]. He asked me about what had been apportioned for them [of the stipends], so I handed over the document to him. He said: I do not see for Ismail anything here? I said: this is what was given to us [from above], then I said to him: may I be made your ransom, you have seen my position [junior official] with these people [Banu Abbas] [how can I escape the tyranny involved in their financial activities]? He said: look at what you get [of payment] and transfer it to your fellows [oppressed Shias] for Allah Majestic and Elevated says: “the good drives away the evil” (11:114).         


Ismail was his own man

Another potential piece in the puzzle that can shed light on Ismail’s character is a letter written by Ibn al-Siyaba to al-Sadiq.

أحمد بن منصور، عن أحمد بن الفضل الخزاعي، عن محمد بن زياد، عن علي بن عطية صاحب الطعام قال: كتب عبدالرحمن بن سيابة إلى أبي عبدالله عليه السلام: قد كنت احذرك اسماعيل:

جانيك من يجني عليك وقد * يعدي الصحاح مبارك الجرب

فكتب اليه أبوعبدالله عليه السلام: قول الله أصدق * (ولاتزر وازرة وزر اخرى) * والله ما علمت ولا أمرت ولارضيت

[al-Kashshi] Ahmad b. Mansur from Ahmad b. al-Fadhl al-Khuzai from Muhammad b. Ziyad from Ali b. Atiyya the seller of food who said: Abd al-Rahman b. Siyaba wrote to Abi Abdillah عليه السلام - I used to warn you about Ismail

Your criminal is the one who commits a crime against you

 But mangy camels may often infect the healthy ones

Abu Abdillah عليه السلام wrote back to him: the words of Allah are more truthful “and no bearer shall bear the burden of another” (35:18) by Allah - I did not know! nor did I command him to do it! nor was I pleased with it!

When an Arab hears the first part of the couplet his memory immediately furnishes the next incriminating line:

ولربّ مأخوذ بذنب عشيره * ونجا المقارف صاحب الذّنب

Many a man may be accused of the crime of his familial relation

While the one who really committed the crime gets away

The poem notes how a crime by someone close to you can rub off on you and get you caught up in the accusation. The Imam makes clear, however, that the words of Allah are more truthful than this poem [as we say صدق الله وكذب الشاعر]. No one will bear the burden of another and the Imam did not endorse Ismail’s action in any way.

Which act of Ismail is the Imam distancing himself from?

Sayyid al-Damad says in his Ta`liqa:

كتب ذلك ابن سيابة الى أبي عبد الله عليه‌ السلام حيث تجنى اسماعيل في أمر معلى ابن خنيس، على من هو بري‌ء من ذلك وتعرض له وتحرش به

Ibn Siyaba wrote that to Abi Abdillah عليه‌ السلام after Ismail had committed a crime in the matter of Mualla b. Khunays against the one who was innocent of that after confronting him in a surprise attack.

I highly doubt that it was in relation to that because what Ismail did there seems to have been sanctioned by the Imam.


The Mualla incident

عن ابن أبي نجران، عن حمّاد الناب، عن المسمعى قال: لما أخذ داود بن علي المعلّى بن خنيس حبسه، وأراد قتله، فقال له معلّى بن خنيس: أخرجني إلى الناس، فإنّ لي ديناً كثيراً ومالاً، حتى أشهد بذلك، فأخرجه إلى السوق فلما اجتمع الناس، قال: ياأيها الناس أنا معلّى بن خنيس فمن عرفني فقد عرفنى، اشهدوا أنّ ما تركت من مال، من عين، أو دين، أو أمة، أو عبد، أو دار، أو قليل، أو كثير، فهو لجعفر بن محمد عليه السلام، قال: فشدّ عليه صاحب شرطة داود فقتله. قال: فلما بلغ ذلك أبا عبد اللّه عليه السلام خرج يجرّ ذيله حتى دخل على داود بن على، وإسماعيل ابنه خلفه، فقال: ياداود قتلت مولاي وأخذت مالى. فقال: ما أنا قتلته ولا أخذت مالك. فقال: واللّه لادعون اللّه على من قتل مولاي وأخذ مالى. قال: ما قتلته ولكن قتله صاحب شرطتى. فقال: بإذنك أو بغير أذنك. قال: بغير إذني. فقال: ياإسماعيل شأنك به. قال: فخرج إسماعيل، والسيف معه حتى قتله في مجلسه

[al-Kashshi] Ibn Abi Najran from Hammad al-Nab from al-Misma`i who said: when Dawud b. Ali [the governor of Madina] arrested al-Mualla b. Khunays, imprisoned him, and wanted to kill him - Mualla b. Khunays said to him: take me out to the people first, for I have a lot of debts and wealth which I want to declare, so he took him out to the market, when the people had gathered he [Mualla] said: O people, I am Mualla b. Khunays, whoever knows me has known me, I bear witness that what I leave of wealth, or debt, or slave-girl, or house, or less or more, then it is is for Ja`far b. Muhammad عليه السلام, he [al-Misma`i] said: so Dawud’s head of security struck him and killed him. When the news reached Aba Abdillah عليه السلام he came out dragging his cloak [on the ground - in his hurry] until he entered upon Dawud b. Ali with his son Ismail behind him and said: Dawud you killed my Mawla [client] and usurped my property?! He said: I did not kill him nor have I taken your property. He said: By Allah I am going to pray to Allah against the one who killed my Mawla and took my property! He [Dawud] said: I did not kill him - it was the head of my guards, he [the Imam] said: by your permission or without? He [Dawud] said: without my permission, he [al-Sadiq] said: O Ismail have your way with him! he said: so Ismail came out with a sword and killed him in his seating place. 


Affection of the Imam after his Death

What comes across in these narrations is the fact that Ismail was a fallible and in some ways flawed individual. Despite this, it is undoubted that he was greatly loved by the Imam who cared deeply for him [as a father is wont to do].

عن أبي رضي الله عنه قال: حدثنا سعد بن عبدالله، عن أحمد بن محمد بن عيسى، عن الحسن بن سعيد، عن فضالة بن أيوب، والحسن بن علي بن فضال، عن يونس بن يعقوب، عن سعيد بن عبدالله الاعرج قال: قال أبوعبدالله عليه السلام: لما مات إسماعيل، أمرت به، وهو مسجى، أن يكشف عن وجهه، فقبلت جبهته، وذقنه، ونحره، ثم أمرت به، فغطي ثم قلت: إكشفوا عنه، فقبلت أيضا جبهته، وذقنه، ونحره، ثم أمرتهم، فغطوه، ثم أمرت به، فغسل، ثم دخلت عليه وقد كفن فقلت: أكشفوا عن وجهه، فقبلت جبهته، وذقنه، ونحره، وعوذته، ثم قلت: أدرجوه، فقلت بأي شئ عوذته؟ قال عليه السلام : بالقرآن

[Kamal al-Diin] From my father who said: Sa`d b. Abdallah narrated to us from Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Isa from al-Hasan b. Sa`id from Fadhala b. Ayyub and al-Hasan b. Ali b. Fadhal from Yunus b. Ya`qub from Sa`id b. Abdallah al-A`raj who said: Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said: when Ismail died, and was covered with a sheet, I ordered that his face be exposed, then I kissed his forehead, his chin, and his throat, then I ordered that he be covered again, then I said: unveil him, so I kissed his forehead, and his chin and his throat, then I ordered that he be covered again, then I ordered that he be washed, then I entered upon him and he was already enshrouded, so I said: uncover his face, I kissed his forehead, his chin and his throat then I supplicated for him [protection against evil], then I said: wrap him up, I [Sa`id] said: with what thing did you supplicate for him? he عليه السلام said: with the Qur’an.  

This shows the real affection that the Imam had for him, but there was another secondary more important reason he went through these motions. It was was to prove to everyone the reality of his death against the claim that would emerge that he was in hiding.      

Islamic Salvation

Some Glimpes of Ismail b. Ja`far in Twelver Sources

When dealing with a historical figure, that is to say, with an individual who lived ages ago, and in a socio-cultural milieu quite different from us, we must acknowledge the difficulties of trying to answer such questions about them as - who were they? what motivated them? etc. Who can trace the subtle changes that unfailingly occur over a life time while penetrating the barrier of inner thought? This is compounded when we have access to only a limited number of textual sources to work with. 

Despite admitting the challenges facing any such reconstruction, there is no reason why such attempts not be made, with one caveat: the mind is always looking to make patterns out of disparate dots, sometimes a whole emerges that is consistent and self-sustaining. If the prism through which a single piece of data is seen enables it to better explain other totally independent pieces of data, then the whole reconstruction is on safer grounds and the pieces of data more likely to be historical. Other times, one can skew the different pieces of evidence in trying to fit a pre-configured narrative, introduce bias, over-reach and form a conclusions that is far-removed from reality.

In any case, what follows below is a collection of different Ahadith that involve Ismail in Twlever sources. It is felt that the incidental nature of some of them, where the details of his life are mentioned secondarily, consequently not tinged with polemical considerations, will yield the most qualitative results. This is purposely so because Ismail was a controversial figure. He was at the center of a polemical debate about the succession to al-Sadiq. There was no lack of people who would wish to besmirch his name with a “black legend” so as to justify his disqualification to the Imama. Similarly, and on the other side of the spectrum, there would be sectarians working to “white-wash” him having imbued theological meaning to his person.



Ismail b. Ja`far b. Muhammad was the eldest son of al-Sadiq and was born in Madina in 100 AH. He died circa 138 AH before his father [this last piece seems to be the most strongly anchored piece of info. about him because even his supporters had to explain it away]. His mother was Fatima bt. al-Husyan b. al-Hasan b. Ali. His full brother was Abdallah al-Aftah who also claimed the Imama after their father for brief period of time.


Did the Imam praise him?

عبدالله بن محمد، عن الحسن بن علي الوشاء، عن أحمد بن عائذ، عن أبي خديجة الجمال قال: سمعت أبا عبدالله عليه السلام يقول: إني سألت الله في إسماعيل أن يبقيه بعدي فأبى ولكنه قد أعطاني فيه منزلة أخرى إنه يكون أول منشور في عشرة من أصحابه ومنهم عبدالله بن شريك وهو صاحب لوائه

[al-Kashshi] Abdallah b. Muhammad from al-Hasan b. Ali al-Washsha from Ahmad b. A`idh from Abi Khadija the Cameleer who said: I heard Aba Abdillah عليه السلام saying: I asked Allah about Ismail - that he should preserve him to remain after me - but He refused, however He has given me another position for him, he (Ismail) will be the first one to be resurrected with ten of his companions, among them Abdallah b. Sharik, and he (Abdallah) will be the man who carries his banner.

Abu Khadija in the chain is Salim b. Mukram about whom al-Najashi says <<Thiqa Thiqa>> and Ibn Fadhal says <<Salih>>. However, he has a pre-history which is significant to our study.

وكان سالم من أصحاب أبي الخطاب، وكان في المسجد يوم بعث عيسى بن موسى بن علي بن عبد الله بن العباس وكان عامل المنصور على الكوفة إلى أبي الخطاب لما بلغه أنهم أظهروا الإباحات ودعوا الناس إلى نبوة أبي الخطاب وأنهم يجتمعون في المسجد، ولزموا الأساطين يرون الناس أنهم قد لزموها للعبادة، وبعث إليهم رجلا فقتلهم جميعا لم يفلت منهم إلا رجل واحد أصابته جراحات فسقط بين القتلى يعد فيهم فلما جنه الليل خرج من بينهم فتخلص وهو أبو سلمة سالم بن مكرم الجمال الملقب بأبي خديجة فذكر بعد ذلك أنه تاب وكان ممن يروي الحديث

Salim’s original Kunniya was Aba Khadija but the Imam changed it to Aba Salama. He was someone who owned camels and rented them out for others to travel with. Salim was at one point in time among the followers of Abu al-Khattab. They were accused of libertinism (making the Haram to be Halal) and proclaiming Abu al-Khattab to be a prophet. They then rose in revolt and barricaded themselves in the mosque of Kufa. He was the sole individual who escaped the massacre in the mosque that followed and lived to tell the tale. This is because the Abbasid forces thought him to have died in the assault, so when it was the night he stood up and fled.

Abdallah b. Sharik mentioned in the narration is considered a lying Mukhtari in proto-Sunni sources. He participated in Mukhtar’s revolt which indicates his militant bent. He then attaches himself to Ismail as can be seen  here.

The Hadith seems to be implying some status for Ismail in the Raj`a [eschatological return] and making this Abdallah b. Sharik al-Amiri as his chief liutenant.

It is my thesis that Ismail himself is someone who was courted by Abu al-Khattab and associated with the Khattabiyya in some manner. Thus, we have a prior Khattabi [who could be narrating before his conversion] narrating praise of Ismail and his associate the former Mukhtari Abdallah b. Sharik. This is enough to raise skepticism.


The Disapproval of the Imam

الحسن بن احمد بن إدريس، عن أبيه، عن محمد بن احمد الاشعري، عن ابن يزيد والبرقي، عن احمد بن محمد بن ابي نصر البزنطي، عن حماد، عن عبيد بن زرارة قال: ذكرت إسماعيل عند أبي عبد الله عليه السلام فقال: لا والله لا يشبهني ولا يشبه أحدا من آبائي

[Kamal al-Diin] al-Hasan b. Ahmad b. Idris from his father from Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Ash`ari from Ya`qub b. Yazid and al-Barqi from Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Abi Nasr al-Bazanti from Hammad from Ubayd b. Zurara who said: I mentioned Ismail to Abi Abdillah عليه السلام so he said: no by Allah - he does not resemble me or any one of my forefathers.

والجواب أنّه سأل الامام عليه السلام عن إسماعيل من جهة لياقته للامامة، على ماهو المرتكز في أذهان العامة من الشيعة، فأجابه الامام عليه السلام بأنّه لايشبهه، ولايشبه آباءه في العصمة، فانّه تصدر منه المعصية غير مرّة، وهذا لا ينافي جلالته، فإنّ العادل التقي أيضاً قد تصدر منه المعصية، ولو كانت صغيرة، لكنه يتذكّر فيتوب

al-Khoei claims that Ismail not resembling the `Aimma is just as far as the question of Isma (infallibility) is concerned i.e. he is not an Imam like them.

However, there is a variant which has an addition that seems to indicate that this extended to his personal habits which were not deemed upright.

ك: ابن المتوكل، عن محمد العطار، عن الاشعري، عن ابن يزيد، عن ابن أبي عمير، عن الحسن بن راشد قال: سألت أبا عبد الله عليه السلام عن إسماعيل فقال: عاص عاص لا يشبهني ولا يشبه أحدا من آبائي

[Kamal al-Diin] Muhammad b. Musa b. al-Mutawakkil from Muhammad b. Yahya al-Attar from Muhammad b. Ahmad b. Yahya b. Imran al-Ash`ari from Ya`qub b. Yazid from Muhammad b. Abi Umayr from al-Hasan b. Rashid who said: I asked Aba Abdillah عليه السلام about Ismail, he said: disobedient! disobedient! he does not resemble me nor any one of my forefathers.

Why would the Imam call him عاص if it was just about indicating that he is not infallible?


Connections with the Ghulat Abu al-Khattab and Mufadhal

Ismail was thought to be be his father’s successor even in the latter’s lifetime. There were some shady figures who coalesced around him like Abu al-Khattab [and the Khatabiyya incl. Mufadhal] who were spreading that rumour. Abu al-Khattab himself had a totally Gnostic and anti-nomian understanding of Islam underpinned by his Batini Ta`wil. He considered the recognition of the Imam to make Shari`a practices redundant. Abu al-Khattab led a rebellion in Kufa and was killed with seventy of his followers by the order of the governor Isa b. Musa (the nephew of the first two Abbasid Caliphs al-Saffah and al-Mansur) when they barricaded themselves in the mosque. [The incident alluded to above]

al-Mufadhal was initially connected to Abu al-Khattab and the Khatabiyya before later dis-associating from them and renouncing his former position. It is clear that the later Ismailiyya, despite the various off-shoots and splinter sects that arose [and the picture is further complicated by activities to mystify their origins and problems of lack of primary documents] can be traced back to the Khattabi movement. Whether Ismail is directly implicated or was just a figure-head around whom they built their theology remains to be seen.

حدثني حمدويه بن نصير، قال حدثنا يعقوب بن يزيد، عن ابن أبي عمير، عن هشام بن الحكم وحماد بن عثمان، عن إسماعيل بن جابر قال: قال أبو عبد الله: ايت المفضل قل له يا كافر يا مشرك ما تريد إلى ابني تريد أن تقتله

[al-Kashshi] Hamduwayh bin Nusayr who said: narrated to us Ya’qub bin Yazid from Ibn Abi Umayr from Hisham bin al-Hakam AND Hammad bin Uthman from Ismail bin Jabir who said: Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said: go to Mufadhal and say to him - O Kafir, O Mushrik, what do you want for my son Ismail (i.e. al-Sadiq's son)!? Do you want to kill him!?

جبرئيل بن أحمد قال: حدّثني محمّد بن عيسى، عن يونس، عن حماد بن عثمان قال: سمعت أبا عبداللّه عليه السلام يقول للمفضّل بن عمر الجعفي: يا كافر يا مشرك مالك ولابني، يعني إسماعيل بن جعفر، وكان منقطعا إليه، يقول فيه مع الخطابية، ثم رجع بعده

[al-Kashshi] Jibrail b. Ahmad who said: Muhammad b. Isa narrated to me from Yunus from Hamma b. Uthman who said: I heard Aba Abdillah عليه السلام saying to al-Mufadhal b. Umar al-Ju`fi: O Kafir, O Muhsrik, what do you have to with me son - meaning Ismail b. Ja`far? - and he [Mufadhal] was loyal to him [Ismail], believing about him [that he is the Imam and much more] together with the Khatabiyya, then he returned after him [Ismail’s death].

حدّثني حمدويه قال: حدّثني محمد بن عيسى، عن إبن أبي عمير، عن حمّاد بن عثمان، عن إسماعيل ابن عامر (جابر) قال: دخلت على أبي عبد اللّه عليه السلام، فوصفت إليه الائمة، حتى انتهيت إليه، فقلت: إسماعيل من بعدك؟ فقال عليه السلام: أم‏ا ذا فلا، فقال حمّاد: فقلت لاسماعيل: ومادعاك إلى أن تقول: وإسماعيل من بعدك؟ قال: أمرني المفضّل بن عمر

[al-Kashshi] Hamduwayh narrated to me saying: Muhammad b. Isa narrated to me from Ibn Abi Umayr from Hammad b. Uthman from Ismail b. Amir (should be Jabir) who said: I entered upon Abi Abdillah عليه السلام and named for him the `Aimma, until I reached him, then I said: Ismail after you? he said: as for that one then No, Hammad said: so I [Hammad] said to Ismail: what made you to say: ‘Ismail after you’, he said: Mufadhal b. Umar made me do it.

ويذكر لويس « إن الكنية ( أبو إسماعيل ) التي يضيفها الكشي على أبي الخطاب إنما تشير إلى إسماعيل بن جعفر وأن أبا الخطاب كان المتبني لإسماعيل والأب الروحاني له

Bernard Lewis quotes from his teacher the famous orientalist Louis Massignon the enigmatic claim that even the Kuniyya Abu Ismail, which al-Kashshi uses for Abi al-Khattab, actually refers to Ismail b. Ja`far. It originated from the fact that Aba al-Khattab considered himself a spiritual father to Ismail grooming him to assume leadership [see his: The Origins of Isma`ilism].


Nabidh Drinking

حمدويه قال: حدثني محمد بن عيسى ومحمد بن مسعود قال: حدثنا محمد بن نصير قال: حدثني محمد بن عيسى، قال: حدثنا صفوان، عن أبي الحسن عليه السلام قال صفوان: أدخلت على إبراهيم وإسماعيل ابنا أبي سمال ... ما كانوا مجتمعين عليه، كيف يكونون مجتمعين عليه وكان مشيختكم وكبراؤكم يقولون في إسماعيل وهم يرونه يشرب كذا وكذا، فيقولون هذا أجود ...

[al-Kashshi] Hamduwayh who said: Muhammad b. Isa narrated to me; and Muhammad b. Masud who said: Muhammad b. Nusayr narrated to us saying: Muhammad b. Isa narrated to me saying: Safwan narrated to us from Abi al-Hasan (i.e. al-Ridha) عليه السلام, Safwan said: I arranged for Ibrahim and Ismail - the two sons of Abi Sammal (prominent Waqifis) to enter upon him (i.e. al-Ridha عليه السلام) … [the Imam said]: they were not united upon him (i.e. al-Kadhim), how could they be united upon him while your elders and leaders used to say about Ismail - even though they used to see him drink ‘so and so’ - they would still say - this is one is better …

What is this ‘so and so’? It is Nabidh (intoxicating drink) [the narrator censors and obfuscates it because of sensitivity - but it is clear what is meant for those who are researchers in this field].

It was to explain this away that a Hadith like the one below was transmitted.

ابن الوليد، عن سعد، عن محمد بن عبدالجبار، عن ابن أبي نجران، عن الحسين بن المختار، عن الوليد بن صبيح قال: جاء ني رجل فقال لي: تعال حتى اريك أبن الرجل قال: فذهبت معه قال: فجاء ني إلى قوم يشربون فيهم إسماعيل بن جعفر فخرجت مغموما، فجئت إلى الحجر فاذا إسماعيل بن جعفر متعلق بالبيت يبكي، قد بل أستار الكعبة بدموعه، فرجعت أشتد فاذا إسماعيل جالس مع القوم، فرجعت فاذا هو آخذ بأستار الكعبة قدبلها بدموعه قال: فذكرت ذلك لابي عبدالله عليه السلام فقال: لقد ابتلي ابني بشيطان يتمثل في صورته

[Kamal al-Diin] Ibn al-Walid from Sa`d from Muhammad b. Abd al-Jabbar from Ibn Abi Najran from al-Husayn b. al-Mukhtar from al-Walid b. Subayh who said: a man came to me and said: come with me so that I show you the son of the man, he [Walid] said: so I went with him until he brought me to a group who were drinking and among them was Ismail b. Ja`far, so I came out of there saddened, then I went o the Hajar [at the Ka`ba] and found Ismail b. Ja`far clinging to the House crying, until the cloth [covering the Ka`ba] was drenched because of his tears, so I returned quicly to the gathering and found Ismail seated with the group, then I returned and found him clinging to the cloth of the Ka`ba which had wettened because of his tears, he [Walid] said: so I mentioned this to Abi Abdillah عليه السلام, he said: my son is afflicted with a devil who assumes his form.

This narration is also found in al-Imama wa al-Tabsira min al-Hayra of Ali b. al-Husayn b. Babawayh [al-Saduq’s father]. There the chain is Ahmad b. Idris and Muhammad b. Yahya > Muhammad b. Abd al-Jabbar > Ibn Abi Najran > al-Husayn b. al-Mukhtar > al-Walid b. Subayh.

The Hadith has been put to use to nullify the claim of Ismail’s to the Imam. As al-Saduq comments:

وقد روي أن الشيطان لا يتمثل في صورة نبي ولا في صورة وصي نبي، فكيف يجوز أن ينص عليه بالإمامة مع صحة هذا القول منه فيه

And it has been narrated that the Shaytan does not assume the form of a prophet or the successor to the prophet, so how is it possible that he [Ja`far] would designate him [Ismail] for the Imama while he [Ja`far] is the same one who authentically stated this about him.

However, it may have originally been circulated to explain Ismail’s Nabidh drinking in an apologetic manner.

Islamic Salvation

هلك الناس أجمعون قلت: من في الشرق و من في الغرب؟ قال: فقال: إنها فتحت على الضلال

All the people were destroyed. I said: whomever was in the east and the west? he said: it (the whole earth) was opened up to misguidance

هلكوا إلا ثلاثة ثم لحق أبو ساسان و عمار و شتيرة و أبو عمرة فصاروا سبعة

All were destroyed except three - then they were joined by Abu Sasan, Ammar, Shatira and Abu Amra, so they became seven [Ja`far al-Sadiq]


Did the Sahaba Apostatize?

There are narrations which indicate that all the companions were destroyed except three, these were then joined by four others, so they became seven who were saved. However, most of the scholars have understood this Halak [destruction] to be that of Dhalal [misguidance] i.e. perished in Salvific terms, not Kufr [disbelief] - which is the opposite of Islam.


Who are the three?

They are the pillars of the Madhhab. They are explicitly named in some of the narrations below:

أبي بصير قال: قلت لأبي عبد الله عليه السلام: ارتد الناس إلا ثلاثة: أبو ذر، و سلمان، و المقداد؟ قال: فقال أبو عبد الله عليه السلام: فأين أبو ساسان، و أبو عمرة الأنصاري؟

[al-Kashshi] Abi Basir said: I said to Abi Abdillah عليه السلام: all the people turned back except for three - Abu Dhar, Salman and Miqdad? Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said: so where is Abu Sasan and Abu Amra al-Ansari?!

أبي بكر الحضرمى قال: قال أبو جعفر عليه السلام: ارتد الناس إلاثلاثة نفر سلمان وأبو ذر والمقداد. قال: قلت: فعمّار؟ قال عليه السلام: قد كان جاض جيضة ثم رجع ... ثم أناب الناس بعد فكان أول من أناب أبو ساسان الانصاري وأبوعمرة وشتيرة وكانوا سبعة فلم يكن يعرف حق أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام إلاّ هؤلاء السبعة

[al-Kashshi] Abi Bakr al-Hadhrami said: Abu Ja`far عليه السلام said: the people turned back except three individuals - Salman, Abu Dhar and Miqdad, I said: what about Ammar? He عليه السلام said: he wobbled a bit then he returned [to the truth] … then the people repented after that, so the first ones to return [to the truth] were Abu Sasan al-Ansari, Abu Amra, Shatira, and they became seven, none recognized the right of the commander of the faithful عليه السلام except these seven.

  • 'then the people repented after that, so the first ones ...' This shows that it was not just these seven, rather, these were the foremost of them.

علي بن أبي طالب عليهم السلام قال: خلقت الارض لبسبعة بهم ترزقون وبهم تنصرون وبهم تمطرون منهم سلمان الفارسي والمقداد وأبو ذر وعّمار وحذيفة رحمة اللّه عليهم. وكان علي عليه السلام يقول: وأنا إمامهم وهم الذين صلوا على فاطمة صلوات الله عليها

[al-Ikhtisas] Ali b. Abi Talib عليه السلام said: the earth was created for seven, because of them you are given sustenance, and because of them you are assisted, and because of them is rain made to fall on you, among them are Salman al-Farsi and al-Miqdad and Abu Dhar and Ammar and Hudhayfa - may Allah have mercy on them. Ali عليه السلام used to say: and I am their Imam, and they are the ones who prayed [Salat al-Mayyit] upon Fatima صلوات الله عليها            


The Three had a higher status than the Four

حمران قال: قلت لأبي جعفر عليه السلام: ما أقلنا لو اجتمعنا على شاة ما أفنيناها قال: فقال: ألا أخبرك بأعجب من ذلك قال: فقلت: بلى قال: المهاجرون و الأنصار ذهبوا إلا (و أشار بيده) ثلاثة

[al-Kashshi] Humran said: I said to Abi Ja’far عليه السلام - how few we (the Shias) are! if we gather to eat a sheep we will not be able to finish it, he (Humran) said: so he عليه السلام said: should I not inform you of something even more bewildering? he (Humran) said: I said: yes (do so), he said: the Muhajirun and the Ansar all diverted (i.e. went astray) except for - and he gestured with his hand - three.

In al-Kulayni’s variant the narration continues:

قال حمران: فقلت: جعلت فداك ما حال عمار؟ قال: رحم الله عمارا أبا اليقظان بايع وقتل شهيدا، فقلت في نفسي: ما شئ أفضل من الشهادة فنظر إلي فقال: لعلك ترى أنه مثل الثلاثة أيهات أيهات

Humran said: may I be made your ransom - what is the status of Ammar? He said: may Allah have mercy on Ammar Aba al-Yaqdhan, he pledged allegiance and died a martyr, I said in my heart: what thing is better than martyrdom, so he [the Imam] looked at me and said: perhaps you think that he [Ammar] is like the three [in status], how far! how far! [from truth that opinion is]. 


Does this mean all others became apostates?

The crux is the meaning of Ridda (ردّة) in these narrations. Whether it is to be understood in a linguistic sense or the technical sense of apostasy. If the latter is taken then it means all the Sahaba became Kafir [out of Islam] for not sticking to Ali.

Irtidad in the linguistic sense refers to ‘turning back from something’. It has been used with this meaning in a number of verses such as:

فَلَمَّا أَن جَاء الْبَشِيرُ أَلْقَاهُ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ فَارْتَدَّ بَصِيرًا قَالَ أَلَمْ أَقُل لَّكُمْ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مِنَ اللّهِ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ

(i) So when the caravan herald [fore-runner] came he threw it on his face so he returned to seeing, he said: did I not say to you that I know from Allah what ye do not (12:96)

قَالَ الَّذِي عِندَهُ عِلْمٌ مِّنَ الْكِتَابِ أَنَا آتِيكَ بِهِ قَبْلَ أَن يَرْتَدَّ إِلَيْكَ طَرْفُكَ

(ii) The one who had knowledge of a part of the Book said: I will bring it to you before your glance returns back to you [i.e. you blink and open your eyes again] (27:40)

مُهْطِعِينَ مُقْنِعِي رُءُوسِهِمْ لاَ يَرْتَدُّ إِلَيْهِمْ طَرْفُهُمْ وَأَفْئِدَتُهُمْ هَوَاء

(iii) Racing ahead, their heads bowed down, their glances not returning back to them [i.e. unblinking] and their hearts void (14:43)

Whenever Irtidad from the Diin - ‘turning back’ from the Diin i.e. apostasy in the technical sense is meant, the Qur`an qualifies it by explicitly mentioning Diin.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ مَن يَرْتَدَّ مِنكُمْ عَن دِينِهِ فَسَوْفَ يَأْتِي اللّهُ بِقَوْمٍ يُحِبُّهُمْ وَيُحِبُّونَهُ

(i) O you who believe, whoever turns back from his Diin from among you then Allah will bring about a people whom He loves and they love Him (5:54)

وَمَن يَرْتَدِدْ مِنكُمْ عَن دِينِهِ فَيَمُتْ وَهُوَ كَافِرٌ فَأُوْلَئِكَ حَبِطَتْ أَعْمَالُهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالآخِرَةِ

(ii) And whoever among you turns back on his Diin and dies whilst being a Kafir then those are they whose deeds have been nullified in the world and the hereafter (2:217)

It is clear that the narrations about the Irtidad of the Sahaba are not qualified by Diin. To understand that meaning from it would require further proof.


The Chosen Interpretation

The Irtidad in the narrations should be understood [in light of other narrations] as people turning away, after the messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله, from what they had made incumbent on themselves in his صلى الله عليه وآله lifetime, when they gave the Bay`a to Ali b. Abi Talib as the leader of the believers i.e. Irtidad from Wilaya not apostasy from Islam. 

Instead, they decided to give the Bay`a to someone else because of expediency and other reasons. This was a betrayal of epic proportions that opened up the door of misguidance and innovation in the Diin, however, they had not exited the apparent Islam, nor were all on the same level of liability for this.

This interpretation is aided by the following texts:

أبي جعفر عليه السلام قال: كان الناس أهل ردة بعد النبي صلى الله عليه وآله إلا ثلاثة. فقلت: ومن الثلاثة؟ فقال: المقداد بن الأسود، وأبو ذر الغفاري، وسلمان الفارسي، رحمة الله وبركاته عليهم، ثم عرَف أناسٌ بعدَ يسير. وقال: هؤلاء الذين دارت عليهم الرحا وأبوا أن يبايعوا، حتى جاؤوا بأمير المؤمنين مكرَهاً فبايع، وذلك قوله تعالى: وَمَا مُحَمَّدٌ إِلاَّ رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ أَفَإِن مَّاتَ أَوْ قُتِلَ انقَلَبْتُمْ عَلَى أَعْقَابِكُمْ وَمَن يَنقَلِبْ عَلَىَ عَقِبَيْهِ فَلَن يَضُرَّ اللّهَ شَيْئًا وَسَيَجْزِي اللّهُ الشَّاكِرِينَ

(i) [al-Kafi] Abi Ja`far عليه السلام said: the people were the people of Ridda after the prophet صلى الله عليه وآله except three. I said: who are the three? He said: al-Miqdad b. al-Aswad, Abu Dhar al-Ghiffari and Salman al-Farsi, may Allah’s mercy and blessings be upon them, then the people came to know after a while [the truth], these [three] are those around whom the banner revolved and they refused to give Bay`a [to Abu Bakr], until when they brought the commander of the faithful عليه السلام by coercion and he gave the pledge of allegiance, and that is His words the Elevated - “Muhammad is not but a messenger, messengers have come and gone before him, if he dies or is killed, will you turn back on your heels, and whoever turns back on his heels then he will not harm Allah a thing and Allah will recompense those who are grateful” (3:144).

  • The narration indicates that the uniqueness of the three was that they did not give the Bay`a to the usurper because of knowing the true status of Ali, it was only when Ali was forced to give the Bay`a, and he did [for the Masliha which Allah willed], that the three also agreed to do it.
  • The meaning of 'then the people came to know after a while ...' is that some people recognized their fault, and acknowledged that the commander of the faithful was the most rightful person to assume leadership.

That all the others apart from the three were paralyzed by fear is shown in the narration below:

أبي جعفر عليه السلام قال: جاء المهاجرون والأنصار وغيرهم بعد ذلك إلى علي عليه السلام فقالوا له: أنت والله أمير المؤمنين وأنت والله أحق الناس وأولاهم بالنبي عليه السلام هلم يدك نبايعك فوالله لنموتن قدامك! فقال علي عليه السلام: ان كنتم صادقين فاغدوا غدا علي محلقين فحلق علي عليه السلام وحلق سلمان وحلق مقداد وحلق أبو ذر ولم يحلق غيرهم؛ ثم انصرفوا فجاؤوا مرة أخرى بعد ذلك، فقالوا له أنت والله أمير المؤمنين وأنت أحق الناس وأولاهم بالنبي عليه السلام عليه السلام هلم يدك نبايعك فحلفوا فقال: إن كنتم صادقين فاغدوا علي محلقين فما حلق إلا هؤلاء الثلاثة قلت: فما كان فيهم عمار؟ فقال: لا؛ قلت: فعمار من أهل الردة؟ فقال: إنّ عمارا قد قاتل مع علي عليه السلام بعد ذلك

(ii) [al-Kashshi] Abi Ja`far عليه السلام said: the Muhajirun and Ansar and others came after that [the coup at Saqifa] to Ali عليه السلام and said to him: you are by Allah the commander of the faithful, and you are by Allah the most rightful person and closest to the prophet, put forth your hand so that we can pledge allegiance to you, for by Allah we are going to die in front of you [in your defense], Ali said: if you are truthful then come to me tomorrow having shaved your head [which would visually identify the ‘rebels’ to the authorities], so Ali shaved, so did Salman, Miqdad and Abu Dhar, and no one else did, then they came a second time after the first and said: you are by Allah the most rightful person and closest to the prophet, put forth your hand so that we can pledge allegiance to you, and they swore an oath, he said: come to me tomorrow having shaved your head if you are truthful, so no one shaved except three. I said: Ammar was not among them? He said: No, I said: Ammar is from the people of Ridda? He said: Ammar fought together with Ali after that.

  • This reaffirms that the uniqueness of the three is related to them not giving in and remaining with Ali to the end as far as his right is concerned. Note also how Ammar is not included among the Ahl al-Ridda, even in a historical sense, because of his later support for Ali.

In fact, one of the reasons behind Ali accepting to give Bay`a after his show of dissent was so that the masses do not renounce the faith totally. Recall that the Islamic polity was still unstable and there were a lot of Arab tribes whose allegiance had been personally to the prophet and not the Diin per se, the Jahiliyya was not far from their psyche.

أبي جعفر عليه السلام قال: إن الناس لما صنعوا ما صنعوا إذ بايعوا أبا بكر لم يمنع أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام من أن يدعو إلى نفسه إلا نظرا للناس و تخوفا عليهم أن يرتدوا عن الاسلام فيعبدوا الاوثان ولا يشهدوا أن لا إله إلا الله وأن محمدا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وكان الاحب إليه أن يقرهم على ما صنعوا من أن يرتدوا عن جميع الاسلام وإنما هلك الذين ركبوا ما ركبوا فأما من لم يصنع ذلك ودخل فيما دخل فيه الناس على غير علم ولا عداوة لامير المؤمنين عليه السلام فإن ذلك لا يكفره ولا يخرجه من الاسلام ولذلك كتم علي عليه السلام أمره وبايع مكرها حيث لم يجد أعوانا

(iii) [al-Kafi] Abu Ja'farعليه السلام  said: When the people did what they did - when they gave allegiance to Abu Bakr, nothing prevented the commander of the faithful عليه السلام from calling to himself (i.e. gather support to rival them publicly) except his fear for the people - that they would apostate from Islam, and begin worshiping the idols anew, and reject witnessing that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad is his messenger; and it was more beloved to him to acquiesce to what they had done rather than them apostatizing from the whole of Islam. Verily, those who clambered upon this (opposing Ali for rulership) have been destroyed. As for the one who did not contribute anything to that (opposing Ali for rulership) and entered into what the people entered into without knowledge (about his status) nor enmity towards him then this act of his does not make him a disbeliever, and it does not remove him from Islam, and this is why Ali kept quiet about his matter (status), and gave allegiance while displeased, when he could not find any supporters.

  • The narration makes it clear that had the Imam fought for his leadership i.e. a civil war it would cause irreparable damage, this is because of the tenuous position that Islam had, even the outward Islam (the Islam of the Shahadatyn) would have been wiped out. There were a lot of external and internal enemies waiting for this infighting to make sure that the whole foundation of Islam crumbles.



The Umma became, for the most part, misguided after their prophet. This is something that had also happened to the communities of past prophets. But this misguidance should not be understood to have taken all of them out of Islam as a whole, rather, by ignoring a central commandment of the prophet they have done a great sin which struck a blow to the pristine Islam.

Furthermore, the protagonists differ relative to their role in the fiasco. Some were quite unaware of the whole thing and lacked full knowledge of the Haqq of Ali and his Ma`rifa, this could be because they were blind to the order of the prophet (total ignorance); had some doubts; did not have the ability to influence the outcome because of some constraints [swept away by the wave of events]; or because they showed cowardice and faltered in coming to Ali’s aid. Others later acknowledged their mistake and made up for it in the following years. All these in their different categories can be said to be the majority. Their fate in the next world of “realities” is left to Allah

On the other hand, there were those who administered the whole thing. They had full knowledge of what the prophet had ordered them and what the divine commandment required them to do. They also knew the position of Ali. Despite this, they fought against this explicitly. These are those who should be treated as apparent Muslims in the daily life in this world [according to most scholars]. This is, after all, how Ali himself treated them, praying in their mosques, visiting them in sickness, helping them out when they faced challenges, eating with them etc. part of which is Taqiyya and safeguarding the greater principles of Islam, but they are undoubtedly people of the fire in the next world.

Note that this interpretation is dependent on the position of differentiating between the Dharuriyat of the Diin and that of the Madhhab and considering the Shahdatayn alone to be enough in making someone a Muslim [unless taken out for some other reason]. Whilst this is a popular position among scholars today, it has had its detractors among the scholars of the past, one of them being someone like Shaykh Yusuf al-Bahrani, who considered the rejectors of the Wilaya as Kafirs with the fullest implication this has [even in this world].  

Islamic Salvation

إن بيانا تراءى له الشيطان في أحسن ما يكون صورة آدمي من قرنه إلى سرته

The Devil appeared to Bayan in the most handsome form that a human can have from the top of the head to the navel [Ja`far al-Sadiq]

God caused the holy pre-existent spirit which had created the whole of creation to dwell in flesh that He desired  [Shepherd of Hermas]

He keeps appearing every now and again ... he takes Adam’s clothes off and puts it on again [Epiphanius]


Bayan b. Sam`an and the Bayaniyya

The status of the Imam was a question that was fiercely debated in the second century of the Islamic Era before the different positions crystallized. It is important to go back to history to hear the different voices in the debate. This is relevant because we find some unease to this day between what is believed in the popular Shi`i consciousness and our literary sources. One such key figure who participated in developing a peculiar Imamology was Bayan b. Sam`an.

Who was Bayan?

Bayan b. Sam`an (most likely from the South Arabian tribe of Nahd) was a seller of straw in Kufa. We would classify him as a Ghali and he was indeed cursed by the `Aimma. He is said to have associated himself with Hamza b. `Ammara, a speculator about the divinity of Ibn al-Hanafiyya [heading a splinter of the Kaysaniyya]. Bayan later attached himself to the claim of Abu Hashim the son of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya.

What did the Bayaniyya believe?

We do not have any extant documentary evidence that comes directly from Bayani circles, but we have early statements of contemporaries reformulating their beliefs, we also have the entries of the heresiographers whose work it was to classify different sects based on their belief-systems.


The concept of a Demiurge

In a report in al-Kashshi, Hisham quotes Bayan as saying:

 إن بيانا يتأول هذه الآية وَ هُوَ الَّذِي فِي السَّماءِ إِلهٌ وَ فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلهٌ، أن الذي في الأرض غير إله السماء، و إله السماء غير إله الأرض، و أن إله السماء أعظم من إله الأرض، و أن أهل الأرض يعرفون فضل إله السماء و يعظمونه فقال: و الله ما هو إلا الله وحده لا شريك له إله من في السماوات و إله من في الأرضين

'Bayan interprets this verse “and He is the one who is God in Heaven and God on Earth” (43:84) that the one on Earth is not the God of Heaven, and the God of Heaven is not the God of Earth, and that the God of Heaven is greater than the God of Earth, and that the people of the Earth recognize the merit of the God of Heaven and magnify Him'

This is an important piece of evidence, because it shows that the sectarians were influenced by the concept of the Demiurge in their cosmology. I use this word in the sense of a second divine power in heaven. This powecould assume many different names like Wisdom of God, Spirit of God, Logos, Metatron etc. It owes its origins to Gnosticism [and Middle-platonic notions], which had a long pre-Islamic pedigree in the melting pot that was Kufa. Gnosticism presents a distinction between the highest, unknowable God and the lesser power that was pre-existing with the unknowable God. The latter is the ilah al-ard [lesser god] in Bayan’s terminology, the site of God's power on the Earth. The real unknown God is so distant and incomprehensible to humans that they can only know him through a lesser being which can interact with matter.


Who is the Lesser God on Earth?

The Bayaniyya held that the Imam was deified because of housing the indwelling Demiurgic divine-light particle. This particle transmigrated (Tanasukh) i.e. passed down - from the Biblical patriarchs, to the Prophet Muammad, to the Shiʿi Imams.

قال بيان بالهية علي عليه السلام، وأن جزءا إلهيا متحد بناسوته، ثم من بعده في ابنه محمد بن الحنفية ثم في أبي هاشم ولد محمد بن الحنفية، ثم من بعده  في بيان هذا

In other words, the bodies of prophets and `Aimma were receptacles to be filled with a divine spark or Spirit. It would at some point leave the body of the Imam when he dies and transmigrate to another. All the supernatural abilities of the Imam derives from being a host to the divine particle, without it the Imam is just an ordinary human.

I term this a “possessionist” Imamology. Anyone who has studied early Jewish-Christian Christologies will notice how closely those parallel what has been presented here.

This particle is said to have passed through Ali > Ibn al-Hanafiyya > Abu Hashim and potentially Bayan himself.

Al-Baghdadi says in al-Farq bayn al-Firaq:

ان بَيَانا قَالَ لَهُم: ان روح الْإِلَه تناسخت فى الانبياء والائمة حَتَّى صَارَت الى ابى هَاشم عبد الله ابْن مُحَمَّد بن الْحَنَفِيَّة ثمَّ انْتَقَلت اليه مِنْهُ يعْنى نَفسه فَادّعى لنَفسِهِ الربوبية على مَذْهَب الحلولية

Bayan said: the Divine Spirit transfused into the prophets and the `Aimma until it reached Abi Hashim Abdallah b. Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya then it went into me [i.e. he deified himself].

al-Shahristani says in al-Milal wa al-Nihal:

قال بيان:  حل في علي جزء إلهي، واتحد بجسده، فيه كان يعلم الغيب اذا اخبر عن الملاحم وبه قلع باب خيبر

Bayan said: The divine particle transfused into Ali, and united with his physical body, with it [in this divine particle] did he know the knowledge of the Unseen when he used to inform others about the trials [at the end of times] and by it [not his physical body] was he able to uproot the door of Khaybar.


What is the Implication of this?

In essence, the Bayaniyya and many other Ghulat were marked out from other 'orthodox' Muslim communities in that they did not close the door to prophecy. Prophecy continues because the access to the divine realm did not end with the Muhammad. Since they deified the Imams, anyone who is a legitimate deputy of this Imam-god would be a “prophet”. At first, Bayan saw himself as the “prophet” of the one with the divine spark.

Sa`d b. Abdallah says in his al-Maqalat that Bayan sent a letter to al-Sadiq announcing his prophethood and commanding him among other things “to surrender so as to be safe … for you cannot know where God will place his prophethood .. and whoever warns has been excused”. The Imam ordered the messenger who brought the letter, a hapless man called Umar b. Abi Afif al-Azdi, to eat the letter in front of him, and that was his reply.

There are clues, however, that he later evolved from this position and claimed to have possessed the spark himself. Consequently, he claimed to have access to special kind of knowledge which enabled him to predict the future [as a corollary] among other powers.


Interpretation of the Qur`an

The Ghulat in general are characterized by dabbling in Ta`wil [esoteric interpretation of the Qur`an]. The Bayaniyya, in particular, developed a literalist anthropomorphic interpretation of the Qur`an. They considered the unknowable God as being  a Man of Light based on Q. 24:35. This Man of Light has various constituent parts e.g. having a hand based on Q. 48:10. In this vein, they considered that all will be destroyed [including God’s other parts] except for His face based on Q. 28:88.


Apocalyptic Expectations

A key feature of most of the Ghulati groups was the belief in the return of the dead before the day of judgment initiated by the eschatological return of of the expected messianic deliverer. The Bayaniyya believed in the Raj`a of Abu Hashim as the Mahdi. 


The End

In 119/737 AD, Bayan and another Ghali al-Mughira b. Sa`id joined forces and rose in revolt against the Umayyad governor of Iraq, Khalid b. `Abdallah al-Qasri. The rebellion was quickly put down and the leaders as well as some of their followers were executed and then burned.

As the Imam says:

كان بيان يكذب على علي بن الحسين عليه السلام، فأذاقه الله حرَّ الحديد، وكان المغيرة بن سعيد يكذب على أبي جعفر عليه السلام فأذاقه الله حرَّ الحديد

Bayan used to lie about al-al-Sajjad عليه السلام and al-Mughira b. Sa`id used to lie about al-Baqir عليه السلام so Allah made them to taste of the heat of the iron [put to the sword].

Islamic Salvation

 المسلم أخو المسلم لا يظلمه ولا يخذله، إن كان عندك معروف، فعد به على أخيك

وإلا فلا تزده هلاكا إلى هلاكه

The Muslim is a brother of a Muslim, he is not unfair with him nor does he cheat him,

If you want to make him a good turn then hand it over to your brother, and if not then do not contribute to his financial destruction [The Messenger of God]


The Real Wolves of Wall-Street Pt. II

  « ويبايع المضطر – وقد نهى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله عن بيع المضطر » 

<< deals are conducted with the one in distress, while the messenger of Allah prohibited transaction with the one in distress >>

Al-Tusi narrates from al-Sadiq a similar narration:

يأتي على الناس زمان عضوض يعضّ كلّ امرئ على ما في يديه ، و ينسى الفضل ، و قد قال تعالى و لا تنسوا الفضل بينكم ثمّ ينبري في ذلك الزمان أقوام يبايعون المضطرين اولئك هم شرار الناس

There will come upon people a severe age wherein every man will cling to what is in his hand, and forget giving, while Allah the Exalted said: “and do not forget liberality between yourselves” (2:237), then will arise in that age groups who will conduct business deals with the distressed and they are the worst of the people.


Distress Deals

Some scholars have tried to interpret مضطر which I have rendered as ‘distressed’ to be مكره that is ‘compelled’ [to buy or sell]. They claim that it is this latter (compelling someone to buy or sell something) which is forbidden because all transactions must be entered in with full consent. They point out that even if someone is in distress it is still his decision to engage in the transaction. 

But I consider this to be a limited definition restricting the range of the narration’s applicability, rather, I would say that the مضطر in the context of the society which these narrations describe and the stinginess they attribute to the wealthy - should  be taken to mean those whom economical forces (completely out of their hands) exploit and make desperate enough to do anything including allowing the sharks to come out and take advantage of them.

Distress sale is particularly associated with not being able to cover mortgage payments and foreclosures. There are some who are always on the lookout for such deals. In fact they openly brag about finding such deals:

“The main reason to buy a distressed property is the price. In most cases, a foreclosure or short sale will be priced below market value, the valuation of the asset is artificial because it was not sold under open and competitive market conditions. From the buyer's perspective, however, property that is sold in a distressed sale can present an opportunity to purchase the asset at a substantial discount to market prices”.

Another example which is relevant to our modern age and would fall under the spirit of this Hadith is Big Pharma. Many of these global corporations hike up the prices of important and life-saving drugs to developing countries which cannot afford them. We have psychopathic CEO’s who claim to care only about the balance sheet and answerable only to the shareholders with no shred of mercy in their hearts, while the sick have no option but to pay up.

This interpretation is backed up by narrations such as the one found below:

إسماعيل بن عبد الله القرشي قال: أتى إلى أبي عبد الله عليه السلام رجل فقال له: يا ابن رسول الله رأيت في منامي كأني خارج من مدينة الكوفة في موضع أعرفه وكان شبحا من خشب أو رجلا منحوتا من خشب على فرس من خشب يلوح بسيفه وأنا أشاهده، فزعا مرعوبا فقال له عليه السلام: أنت رجل تريد اغتيال رجل في معيشته، فاتق الله الذي خلقك ثم يميتك فقال الرجل: أشهد أنك قد أوتيت علما واستنبطه من معدنه اخبرك يا ابن رسول الله عما فسرت لي إن رجلا من جيراني جاءني وعرض علي ضيعته فهممت أن أملكها بوكس كثير لما عرفت أنه ليس لها طالب غيري فقال أبو عبد الله عليه السلام: وصاحبك يتولانا ويبرأ عدونا ؟ فقال: نعم يا ابن رسول الله رجل جيد البصيرة مستحكم الدين وأنا تائب إلى الله عز وجل وإليك مما هممت به ونويته فأخبرني يا ابن رسول الله لو كان ناصبا حل لي اغتياله فقال: أد الأمانة لمن ائتمنك وأراد منك النصيحة ولو إلى قاتل الحسين عليه السلام

Ismail b. Abdallah al-Qarashi who said: a man came to Abi Abdillah عليه السلام and said: O the son of the messenger of Allah I saw in a dream as though I am outside the town of Kufa in a place which I know, and there was something like an apparition made of wood or a man carved out of wood on a wooden horse brandishing his sword while I look on in fright and terror, so he عليه السلام said to him: you are a someone who wants to cheat a man out of his livelihood so be fearful of Allah who created you and will make you to die, so the man said: I bear witness that you have been given knowledge and have derived it from its real source (treasure-mine), I will inform you O the son of the messenger of Allah the background to that which you have interpreted for me, a man from among my neighbors came to me and offered me his walled-up land so I wished to own it at a very low price since I knew that there isn’t anyone else who wants to buy it, so Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said to him: is your fellow someone who follows us and disassociates from our enemies? He said: yes - O the son of the messenger of Allah, he has good insight and follows the religion, and I repent to Allah Mighty and Majestic and to you from what I wanted and had intended to do, but inform me O the son of the messenger of Allah - if he was a Nasibi [a hater of the Ahl al-Bayt] could I have cheated him in this way? He said: return back the trust to whomsoever has placed his confidence in you and expects good-counsel from you - even if he be killer of al-Husayn!    

--> Some of the people of Ilm in Ta’wil of Ru’ya (scholars learned in dream interpretation) claim that the Imam’s interpretation is wholly consistent with their methods. They interpret wooden things in dreams as having association to Nifaq (hypocrisy) because of the verse from Surat al-Munafiqun “as though they were pieces of wood propped up” (63:4). The sword as an allegory for his evil intention. That this intention harbors some financial aspect can be inferred from the horse which symbolizes “the world” and “livelihood” because it is in of itself a steady source of income and the potential to earn.

Islamic Salvation

ثم يكون ملكا عضوضا يشربون الخمور ويلبسون الحرير ويستحلون الفروج

وينصرون ويرزقون حتى يأتيهم أمر الله

Then will come a tyrannical regime, they will imbibe wine, wear silk and promote lewdness

And they will win for a while and be given sustenance until suddenly the affair of God will come to them [The Messenger of God]

The Real Wolves of Wall-Street Pt. III


« وعن بيع الغرر »

<< and [also prohibited] the deceptive sale >>

The whole Hadith has also been narrated in Sunan Abi Dawud from an old man of Banu Tamim who heard this address of Ali.

حدثنا محمد بن عيسى حدثنا هشيم أخبرنا صالح بن عامر قال أبو داود كذا قال محمد حدثنا شيخ من بني تميم قال خطبنا علي بن أبي طالب أو قال قال علي قال ابن عيسى هكذا حدثنا هشيم قال سيأتي على الناس زمان عضوض يعض الموسر على ما في يديه ولم يؤمر بذلك قال الله تعالى ولا تنسوا الفضل بينكم ويبايع المضطرون وقد نهى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم عن بيع المضطر وبيع الغرر وبيع الثمرة قبل أن تدرك

This is an important variant because it gives us a clue as to the kind of deal which can fall under Gharar i.e. selling or buying something [in this case fruits] before they have matured and are ready i.e. وبيع الثمرة قبل أن تدرك


Deceptive Deals

غرر is an Arabic word which is associated with uncertainty, deception and risk. It is a significant concept in Islamic finance and is used to measure the legitimacy of a hazardous sale or risky investment. This can be pertaining to the selling of goods or assets of ambiguous quality or delivery, but also includes contracts that are not drawn out in clear terms.

Gharar is generally prohibited in Islam, as there are strict rules in Islamic finance against transactions that are highly uncertain or that may cause any injustice or deceit against any of the parties.

Elements of Gharar can be observed within derivative transactions such as forwards, futures and options, as well as in short selling and in speculation. In Islamic finance, most derivative contracts are forbidden and considered invalid because of the uncertainty involved in the future delivery of the underlying asset.

However, Muslim Jurists disagree on the degree of uncertainty in a transaction to be considered a Gharar transaction.

الغرر هو البيع المجهول العاقبة. ومن نوع الغرر ما نهى عنه صلى الله عليه واله من بيع حبل الحبلة، والسمك في الماء، وبيع الثمرة قبل بدو صلاحها ونحو ذلك. قال النووي: النهي عن بيع الغرر أصل من أصول الشرع يدخل تحته مسائل كثيرة جداً، فكل جهالة تؤدي إلى فساد البيع فهي غرر ولا عكس 

Gharar is a kind of transaction whose future outcome is uncertain. Examples of Gharar include those which the prophet صلى الله عليه واله explicitly prohibited such as selling the unborn animal (Habal-al-Habalah), the fish in the sea [whom you have not already caught], selling the fruit before it has ripened and etc.

al-Nawawi says: Prohibition of Gharar transaction is a principle from among the principles of Shariah under which come a lot of sub-issues, so any kind of uncertainty which can lead to damage of the sale then it is a kind of Gharar.

Other examples of Gharar taken from the narrations of the prophet include:

1. The “Pebble” “touch” and “toss” sale.

2. Selling the fetuses and embryos.

3. Selling the find of the diver in advance.

4. Selling the object of unknown identity without the buyer having the right to specify it.

This is particularly relevant because some of these derivatives are so complex that no one knows exactly what is being transacted, while Islam does not want the buyer to be in ignorance of what he is buying.

5. Deferment of the price to an unknown future date.

Derivatives in particular have an additional problem in that they are not representing a physical asset. In Islam something must be under your control (physically) before you can conclude a transaction. You cannot just create a virtual asset - not backed by a physical good - and start selling it. What exactly are you selling?!

And this point is what is used by some Islamic scholars to call for a return to the gold standard because the fiat currency has been the cause of a lot of inflation and destabilization that have even led to world-wars.


Derivatives and the 2008 Crash

It is interesting to note that Warren Buffet one of the most successful investors had this to say way back in 2002 about derivatives:

“I view derivatives as time bombs, both for the parties that deal in them and the economic system. Basically these instruments call for money to change hands at some future date, with the amount to be determined by one or more reference items, such as interest rates, stock prices, or currency values … Derivatives contracts are of varying duration, running sometimes to 20 or more years, and their value is often tied to several variables.

The derivatives genie is now well out of the bottle, and these instruments will almost certainly multiply in variety and number until some event makes their toxicity clear. Central banks and governments have so far found no effective way to control, or even monitor, the risks posed by these contracts. In my view, derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal”

An increasingly dominant analysis of the causes of the crash consider unregulated derivatives to be at the root of the problem.

1. "The arguments of the cause of the financial collapse may go on for a long time, and there may never be a consensus explanation. However, we know that the use of derivative securities played a pivotal role in the system that collapsed" - Did Derivatives Cause The Recession?

2. During the financial crisis in 2008, the root cause of the meltdown was derivatives. Specifically, CDOs, or Collateralized Debt Obligations related to mortgages and CDSs, or Credit Default Swaps. Why would banks and holdings companies (whose primary asset is a bank), increase their risk to such a high level? There are a number of factors but it all boils down to one issue “ GREED!  The Root Cause Of The 2008 Financial Meltdown: Derivatives

3. The root cause wasn’t just the reckless lending and the excessive risk taking. The problem at the core was a lack of transparency. After Lehman’s collapse, no one could understand any particular bank’s risks from derivative trading and so no bank wanted to lend to or trade with any other bank. Because all the big banks’ had been involved to an unknown degree in risky derivative trading, no one could tell whether any particular financial institution might suddenly implode. Big Banks and Derivatives: Why Another Financial Crisis Is Inevitable

Just imagine if an Islamic-inspired humane economy was in place - most of these shenanigans would have been avoided including the massive damage caused which has wiped out whole economies and caused untold human suffering. Having said this, derivatives remain a de facto pillar of the financial markets (ironically, if you trace the origins of the instrument - it was to provide resistance against risk, instead it creates risk out of thin air!). And there is a great need to develop an alternative for it or the Islamic finance market will not be able to develop further.

Islamic Salvation

يا جابر كم من عبد إن غاب لم يفقدوه و إن شهد لم يعرفوه  

            في أطمار لو أقسم على الله لأبره قسمه                    

O Jabir - how a many a man there is - if he is absent they do not ask about him, and if he is present they do not recognize him,

In ragged clothes, but if he swears an oath upon Allah - then Allah surely fulfills his oath for him. [Ja’far al-Sadiq]


The Real Wolves of Wall-Street

A better metaphor for a certain type of ambitious, cut-throat, high level banker than wolf [or other members of the extended canine family for that matter] is not easy to find. This is because they share the same aggression combined with a very low regard for the financial health of the many innocent whose wealth they play around with.

A narration from the commander of the faithful, which in some variants is attributed to the prophet (via Ali), predicts just such persons in a future age, going on to describe their practices with an accuracy that only prophetic insight can bring.

The narration is found in Uyun Akhbar al-Rida of al-Saduq (and other sources), and is represented below:

ن: بالاسانيد الثلاثة، عن الرضا، عن آبائه، عن الحسين بن علي عليهم السلام قال: خطبنا أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام فقال: سيأتي على الناس زمان عضوض يعض المؤمن على ما في يده ولم يؤمر بذلك، قال الله تعالى: وَلَا تَنْسَوُا الْفَضْلَ بَيْنَكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ وسيأتي زمان يقدم فيه الاشرار وينسئ فيه الاخيار، ويبايع المضطر – وقد نهى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله عن بيع المضطر وعن بيع الغرر – فاتقوا الله يا أيها الناس واصلحوا ذات بينكم، واحفظوني في أهلي

Uyun: Via the three chains from al-Ridha from his forefathers from al-Husayn b. Ali عليهم السلام  who said: the commander of the faithfulعليه السلام  addressed us and said: there will come upon people an extremely severe age, the believer will cling on tightly to that which is in his hand while he was not ordered to do that - Allah the Exalted says: “and do not forget liberality between yourselves, verily Allah is aware of what you do” (2:237), and there will come a time wherein evil men will be given precedence and the righteous will be forgotten, deals are conducted with the one in distress, while the messenger of Allah prohibited transaction with the one in distress, and [also prohibited] the deceptive sale, so fear Allah O people and mend the ties between you, and safeguard me through [honoring] my descendants.

Ref: Muhammad Asif al-Muhsini, Mu'jam al-Ahadith al-Mu'tabara, Bab al-Sakha wa al-Bukhl, Kitab al-Akhlaq (Qum: Dar Nashr Adyan; 1st edition, 1434 H), Vol. 3, Pg. 172, No.6.



« يأتي على الناس زمان عضوض »

<<There will come upon people an extremely severe age>>

زمان عضوض  is a key phrase which I have rendered as ‘an extremely severe age’, but it has its subtleties which need to be fleshed out.

عض  originally means

العَضُّ الشدُّ بالأَسنان على الشيء

‘to bite onto/take hold of something using teeth’

عَضُوضٌ  is derived fromعض  and primarily used as a descriptive adjective for an animal, and one animal in particular, it is said:كلب عَضُوضٌ  a dog that bites habitually.

This was extended analogically to derive other meanings (but is still intimately associated with its original meaning):


[I] When applied to rule or dominion it has the special significance of tyranny, as though the subjects thereof are being bitten by a dog.

It has been used with this meaning in the famous narration of the prophet in Sunni sources:

إن الله عز وجل بدأ هذا الأمر نبوة ورحمة ، وكائناً خلافة ورحمة، وكائناً ملكاً عضوضاً

Allah Mighty and Majestic began this affair with prophethood and mercy, and then will be succession and mercy, and then will be aملكاً عضوضاً  (tyrannical kingdom). This is how various annotators defined ملكاً عضوضاً:

شديد الظلم على الناس، يعضهم كالكلب

Excessive in tyranny on the people, tearing into them like a dog.

قال  ابن الأثير في النهاية: يصيب الرعية فيه عسْفٌ وظُلْم، كأنَّهم  يُعَضُّون فيه عَضًّا

Ibn Athir says in al-Nihaya: The civilians will be inflicted in it with oppression and tyranny, as if they are being bitten in it with bites.

وهو نص على عدم شرعية حكم معاوية وأنه حكم جائر يعض المسلمين كالكلب

And this is a clear proof-text proving the illegitimacy of the rule of Muawiya, and that he was an unjust ruler who will bite the Muslims like a dog.

Very early evidence for this usage is also found in a letter of Talha to the people of Misr (inciting them against Uthman) in al-Imama wa al-Siyasa of pseudo-Ibn Qutayba

وكانت الخلافة بعد نبيّنا خلافة نبوّة ورحمة، وهي اليوم ملك عضوض، مَن غلب على شي ء أكَلَه

The Khilafa after our prophet was a Khilafa of prophethood and mercy, but it is today a tyrannical kingdom, whoever over-powers something eats it up.


[II] When applied to a time-period or an age it has the special significance of severe, as though the age is biting those living through it because of various difficulties that it contains.

It has been used with this meaning in the poem below:

إليك أشكو زمناً عَضوضاً         مَن يَنْجُ منه ينقلب حَرِيضا

To you I complain زمناً عَضوضاً  (a severe age)     whoever is saved from it returns back sickened

A commentator says about this زمناً عَضوضاً:

أي كلب يقال: كلب الدهر على أهله إذا ألحّ عليهم واشتدّ

Meaning hard. It is said: the time has become hard on the people if it constantly presses on them and becomes extreme.

زمان يعضّ الناس ككلب كلب

Al-Tustari: an age which bites the people like a rabid dog.

I say: We can see thatعضوض  connotes both unjust rule and an extremely severe [austere] period to come in the future. What is the most common way in which the modern economic system is described? A rapacious and increasingly ravenous dog eat dog world with great wealth owned by a few and austerity for the rest. And all this is alluded to in the narration!

زمان الضيق و الشدّة على أهله من جهة ضيق المعاش و كثرة القوانين و الحدود الموضوعة من الظلمة و الجبّارين على الضّعفاء و المساكين و غير ذلك

Mir Habib Allah al-Khoei: This age is characterized by poverty and troubles on its people, this is due to the constriction in their living, and the numerous man-made laws and rules which are enacted by unjust and tyrannic rulers over the weak and poor.

I say: Global poverty (inequality) is the main scourge of the modern economic system.


  « يعض المؤمن على ما في يده »

<<the believer will cling on tightly to that which is in his hand>> 

There is surely a mistake in this clause since it is not something we expect a believer to do, sure enough, when we look at the Nahj al-Balagha variant of this same tradition it says:

« يعض الموسر على ما في يديه »

<<the well-off will cling on tightly to that which is in his hands>>

فلا يدع أن يخرج منه خير إلى غيره

Al-Tustari: so he will not allow any of his wealth to go to anyone else.

عض الرجل على ماله اذا جمعه لنفسه فلا ينفقه و لا يعطى شيئا منه

Al-Rawandi: a man clings on to his wealth if he amasses it only for himself and does not give anything of it to anyone.

و عض فلان على ما في يده أي بخل و أمسك

Ibn Abi al-Hadid: someone clings to what is in his hands, that is: becomes stingy and withholds.

I say: Greed is the main driver of this.


« و لم يؤمر بذلك »

<<while he was not ordered to do that>>

بل بضدّه قال اللّه سبحانه: وَلَا تَنْسَوُا الْفَضْلَ بَيْنَكُمْ

Al-Tustari: rather he was ordered to do its opposite, Allah Glorified is He says: “and do not forget liberality between yourselves” (2:237).

The language used is not of command but encouragement, this shows that what is spoken of here is generosity in giving not the obligatory dues like Zakat.

 و لا تنسوا الفضل بينكم و قال تعالى نسوا اللّه فنسيهم أي تركوا أمر اللّه و طاعته فترك اثابتهم، و اصل النسيان الترك

al-Rawandi says: “and do not forget liberality between yourselves” in another verse He said: “they forgot Allah so He in turn made them to forget themselves” (9:67), that is, they abandoned the orders of Allah and obedience to Him so he abandoned giving them. And the essence of forgetting is abandoning.


Examples of Liberality in the Hadith

و عن الصادق عليه السّلام : من يضمن أربعة بأربعة أبيات في الجنّة؟ أنفق و لا تخف فقرا، وأنصف الناس من نفسك، و أفش السلام في العالم، و اترك المراء و إن كنت محقّا

[al-Khisal]: al-Sadiqعليه السّلام  said: who will guarantee for me these four in exchange of four houses in paradise? Give and do not fear poverty, be just to the people even against your own self-interest, spread peace in the world and abandon arguing even if you are in the right.

و عن الرضا عليه السّلام قال لمولى له: هل أنفقت اليوم شيئا؟ فقال لا فقال فمن أين يخلف اللّه علينا أنفق و لو درهما واحدا

[al-Kafi]: From al-Ridhaعليه السّلام  who said to a Mawla of his: have you spent anything on charity today? he said: no, he said: how is Allah going to compensate us (in what we spend - if it is not in charity)? Give in charity even if it be a single silver coin.


Three Main Signs of that Age

  « يقدّم فيه الأشرار، و ينسى ء فيه الأخيار »

1. << the evil men will be given precedence and the righteous will be forgotten >>

Let no one be in doubt about the moral decadence of a tax-evading global elite, a handful of whom own the wealth of almost half the earth’s population, or that of politicians who acquire positions of power deceitfully, in fact the lower they debase themselves the higher they rise, while the righteous are shunned, mocked and demeaned, or as is more likely, considered irrelevant, a pathetic remnant of a bygone era where virtue still counted. Relativism and Nihilism are after all what characterize this age.

To be continued …

Islamic Salvation

The Narration

 الكافي: محمد بن يحيى، عن محمد بن الحسين، عن عبدالرحمن بن أبى هاشم، عن سالم بن أبي سلمة، عن أبي عبدالله عليه السلام قال: حضر رجلا الموت فقيل: يارسول الله إن فلانا قد حضره الموت فنهض رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله  ومعه اناس من أصحابه حتى أتاه وهو مغمى عليه، قال: فقال: ياملك الموت كف عن الرجل حتى أسأله فأفاق الرجل، فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وآله: ما رأيت؟ قال رأيت بياضا كثيرا وسوادا كثيرا قال: فأيهما كان أقرب إليك؟ فقال: السواد، فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وآله: قل: اللَّهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لِيَ الْكَثِيرَ مِنْ مَعَاصِيكَ وَ اقْبَلْ مِنِّي الْيَسِيرَ مِنْ طَاعَتِكَ فقاله، ثم اغمي عليه، فقال: ياملك الموت خفف عنه حتى أسأله، فأفاق الرجل، فقال: ما رأيت؟ قال: رأيت بياضا كثيرا وسوادا كثيرا، قال: فأيهما كان أقرب إليك؟ فقال: البياض، فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله: غفر الله لصاحبكم قال: فقال أبوعبدالله عليه السلام: إذا حضرتم ميتا فقولوا له هذا الكلام ليقوله

al-Kafi: Muhammad b. Yahya from Muhammmad b. al-Husayn from Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Hashim from Salim b. Abi Salama from Abi Abdillah عليه السلام who said:

A man was suffering the pangs of death, so it was said: O messenger of Allah so and so is on his death-bed, so the messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله set out with some men from among his companions until they came to him while he had fallen unconscious, he said: O angel of death - stop your workings on the man until I can ask him! so the man regained consciousness, the prophet صلى الله عليه وآله said to him: what did you see? He said: I saw a lot of darkness and a lot of brightness, he said: which one of them was nearer to you? he said: darkness, so the prophet صلى الله عليه وآله said: say - “O Allah forgive me the great number of transgressions to you and accept from me the small number of obediences to you” so the man repeated that then fell back into unconsciousness, he said: O angel of death - stop your workings on him so that I can ask him! so the man regained consciousness, he said: what did you see? He said: I saw a lot of brightness and a lot of darkness, he said: which one was closer to you? he said: the brightness, so the messenger of Allah said: Allah has forgiven your fellow! Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said: if you witness someone dying then remind him these words so that he can say them.

Ref: Muhammad Asif al-Muhsini, Mu'jam al-Ahadith al-Mu'tabara, Bab Talqin al-Muhtadhar, Kitab Ahkam al-Mayyit (Qum: Dar Nashr Adyan; 1st edition, 1434 H), Vol. 8, Pg. 492, No.5.


Modern research has shown that the ubiquitous themes featuring in most near-death experience narratives include:

1. “A ‘tunnel experience’ - a sense of moving up, or through, a passageway or staircase”.

2. “About half report seeing a tunnel of light, and the other half report seeing a tunnel of darkness”.

3. “The tunnel of light is reported as being bright and golden. The tunnel of darkness is reported as being as black as a void of nothingness. About ten percent of people manage through the tunnel to the other side. Everyone reports this place as peaceful and beautiful”.

4. “A rapid movement toward and/or sudden immersion in a powerful light”.

5. “Encountering ‘Beings of Light’, ‘Beings dressed in white’, or similar”.

While most studies attribute this to oxygen starvation others refute this. Several alternative possible hypotheses bandied about include a flood of endorphin to neural-noise theory and memory recall. 

This  narration indicates that seeing such colours is not something unaccounted for in Islam and is to be interpreted metaphysically. 

لعل البياض عقائده وأعماله الحسنة والسواد أعماله القبيحة وفى بعض الاخبار أنه قال: رأيت أبيضين وأسودين فيمكن أن يكون الابيضان الملكان والاسودان شيطانان يريدان اغواء أو أتاه الملائكة بصور حسنة وقبيحة لانه إذا صادفوه من السعداء توجه إلى ملائكة الرحمة وإن كان من الاشقياء توجه إليه ملائكة الغضب

al-Majlisi says: it is possible that the ‘brightness’ is his belief and good-deeds and the ‘darkness’ is his evil actions, and in some reports he said: I saw two white lights and two black ones, it is possible that the two white lights are the two angels, and the two black-ones are the devils wanting to mislead him, or it could be that the angels came to him with a beautiful face and an ugly face, for if they find him from among the people of good an angel of mercy faces him, and if he is from the wretched an angel of anger does so”.

Islamic Salvation

Who is Ibn Jurayj?

Ibn Jurayj, ʿAbd al-Malik b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, was an early Meccan scholar considered to be from the Taba’ Tabi’ina. According to the sources he was born in the city in 80/699 and died in 150/767. His grandfather Jurayj (George) had been a slave of Byzantine origin who belonged to a woman of the Meccan Khālid b. Asīd clan, part of the Banū Umayya of Quraysh. Either Jurayj or his son was set free, and thus became a client (mawlā) of this clan, a legal status that their offspring inherited.

Despite his affiliation with Umayya, there is evidence that he had excessive love for the Ahl al-Bayt, as sometimes happens when a good fruit is borne of an accursed tree.

محمد بن إسحاق، ومحمد بن المنكدر، وعمرو ابن خالد الواسطي وعبد الملك بن جريح، والحسين بن علوان الكلبي هؤلاء من رجال العامة، إلا أن لهم ميلا ومحبة شديدة، وقد قيل إن الكلبي كان مستورا ولم يكن مخالفا

al-Kashshi says: Muhammad b. Ishaq, Muhammad b. al-Munkadir, Amr b. Khalid al-Wasiti, Abd al-Malik b. Jurayh (sic. Jurayj) and al-Husayn b. Ulwan al-Kalbi, these were men from the `Amma (proto-Sunnis), except that they had an inclination and excessive love (for the Ahl al-Bayt), and it is said that al-Kalbi was hiding (his faith) and was not of the Mukhalifin. 


Praise for Ibn Jurayj

Many famous narrators narrated from him, among them Ibn Ulayya and Yahya b. Said al-Qattan, and the authors of the Sihah included his narrations in their compilations. 

قال الذهبي: هو الإمام، العلاّمة، الحافظ، شيخ الحرم، وصاحب التصانيف، وأوّل من دوّن العلم بمكّة

al-Dhahabi: He is the Imam, the Allama, the Hafidh, the Shaykh of the sacred precinct, the author of works, and the first one to write down knowledge in Makka.

I say: the book of Ibn Jurayj has a very good claim at being the first written compilation of Hadith predating the Muwatta of Malik

وعن عطاء بن أبي رباح: إنّه: سيّد شباب أهل الحجاز

Ata b. Abi Rabah: He is the leader of the youths of the people of Hijaz.

وعن علي بن المديني: الإسناد يدور على ستّة، فذكرهم وذكر ابن جريج

Ali b. al-Madini: the Isnad revolves around six, so he mentioned them and he included in these Ibn Jurayj.

وعن يحيى بن سعيد: كنّا نسمّي كتب ابن جريج كتب الأمانة

Yahya b. Said: we used to call the books of Ibn Jurayj “the books of trust”.

وعن يحيى بن معين: ابن جريج ثقة في كلّ ما روي عنه في الكتاب

Yahya b. Main: Ibn Jurayj was Thiqa in all that which is narrated from him in the book.

أضاف الذهبي: الرجل في نفسه ثقة. وقد كان شيخ الحرم بعد الصحابة: عطاء ومجاهد،وخلفهما: قيس بن سعد وابن جريج، ثمّ تفرّد بالإمامة ابن جريج فدوّن العلم، وحمل عنه الناس، وعليه تفقّه مسلم بن خالد الزنجي، وتفقّه بالزنجي الإمام الشافعي

Al-Dhahabi concludes: the man is Thiqa in of himself, and the Shaykhs of the sacred precinct i.e. Makka after the Sahaba were - Ata and Mujahid, and after them came - Qays b. Sa’d and Ibn Jurayj, then he assumed sole leadership and wrote down knowledge, and the people carried it from him, and under him tutelaged Muslim b. Khalid al-Zanji and tutelaged under this al-Zanji the Imam al-Shafi’i.

وروايات ابن جريج وافرة في الكتب الستّة وفي مسند أحمد ومعجم الطبراني الأكبر، وفي الأجزاء

And the narrations of Ibn Jurayj are aplenty in the six books and in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad and in the Mu’jam of al-Tabarani and etc.

قال عبدالرزّاق: كنت إذا رأيت ابن جريج علمت أنّه يخشى الله

Abd al-Razzaq said: if you saw Ibn Jurayj you could tell that he feared Allah.

[Siyar al-A’lam al-Nubala 6/333]

قدم ابن جريج إلى العراق قبل موته وحدّث بالبصرة وأكثروا عنه

وعن يحيى بن سعيد: كان ابن جريج صدوقاً

Ibn Jurayj travelled to Iraq before his death and narrated in Basra and its denizens narrated a lot from him.

Yahya b. Said: Ibn Jurayj was truthful.

[Tahdhib al-Kamal 12/55]

Thus, as we can see - Ibn Jurayj is unanimously considered Thiqa according to the Sunnis, and he was depended upon by the Hadith scholars and the narrators, and he was truthful and God-fearing, despite all that he ruled on the permissibility of Mut’a and acted upon it.

قال التستري: وكما روى ـ اى ابن جريج ـ حلّيّة المتعة كالأماميّة، كذلك روى كون الأذان من وحي السماء لا من رؤيا عبدالله بن زيد

al-Tustari says: And just as Ibn Jurayj narrated the permissibility of Mut’a as the Imamiyya did, similarly, he narrated that Adhan was a heavenly revelation and not a dream seen by Abdallah b. Zayd [as the common Sunni view holds]. [Qamus al-Rijal 7/12]


Proof that Ibn Jurayj permitted Mut’a

قال الذهبي: هو أحد الأعلام الثقات... وهو في نفسه مجمع على ثقته مع كونه قد تزوّج نحواً من سبعين امراة نكاح متعة. كان يرى الرخصة في ذلك، وكان فقيه أهل مكّة في زمانه

al-Dhahabi: He was one of the most-knowledgeable scholars and from among the Thiqat … and he is in of himself agreed upon as far as his trust-worthiness is concerned despite having married approximately seventy women in Mut’a marriages. He considered it as permissible. And he was the jurist of the people of Makka in his time. [Mi’zan al-I’tidal 2/659]

وقال محمد بن عبدالله بن عبدالحكم: سمعتُ الشافعي يقول: استمتع ابن جريج بتسعين امراة، حتى إنّه كان يحتقن في الليل بأُوقية شيرج طلباً للجماع

Muhammad b. Abdallah b. Abd al-Hakim: I heard al-Shafi’I saying: Ibn Jurayj made Mut’a with 90 women, such that he would apply in the nights sesame oil to help him in intercourse. [Siyar A’lam al-Nubala 6/333, and in Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 6/360: seventy women instead of ninety].

قال جرير: ... أمّا ابن جريج فإنّه أوصى بنيه بستّين امراة، وقال لا تزوّجوا بهنّ فإنّهنّ اُمّهاتكم وكان يرى المتعة

Jarir:  … As for Ibn Jurayj then he willed to his son [the names of] seventy women and said: do not marry them for they are your mothers and he used to accept Mut’a. [Ta’rikh Baghdad 7/255, Sharh al-Zarqani 8/76]

الذهبي: و قيل: إنّه عهد إلى أولاده في أسمائهنّ لئلاّ يغلط أحدٌ منهم ويتزوّج واحدة ممّا نكح أبوه بالمتعة

al-Dhahabi: and it is said: he (Ibn Jurayj) gave his sons the names (of those women) so that they do not fall into the mistake of ever marrying a woman their father had married via Mut’a. [Siyar A’lam al-Nubala 6/331]

الماوردي: و حكى عن... وابن جريج والإماميّة جوازه ...

al-Mawardi: And it is attributed to … and Ibn Jurayj and the Imamiyya its permissibility … [al-Hawi al-Kabir 11/449]

Islamic Salvation

The modern economic system and the immoral capitalism that it can engender have given rise to preposterous inequality, greed-based wars and rampant poverty.

The two engines for this exploitative system continue to be ‘interest’ and ‘gambling [stock speculation]’ both of which were outlawed by Islam in its quest to build a humane society. Take away both and most of the inflated ‘bubble’ will collapse hopefully to be replaced by a worth-based economy.

A pillar of this system is ‘debt’, millions tethered to their credit cards, having to service the seemingly ever-increasing burden on them whilst employed in under-paid jobs. The wealth floods upwards instead of 'trickling down' making a few fat cats richer without having to sweat a single drop.

Islam is more generous in its allowance for a grace period to the one struggling and even encouraging full cancellation of the debt as an act of charity.

وَإِنْ كَانَ ذُو عُسْرَةٍ فَنَظِرَةٌ إِلَىٰ مَيْسَرَةٍ ۚ وَأَنْ تَصَدَّقُوا خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ ۖ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

“And if the debtor is in straitened circumstances, then (let there be) postponement to (the time of) ease; and that you remit the debt as almsgiving would be better for you if you did but know” (2:280).

Sharks give loans to under-privileged and desperate people whom they prey on and then auction off their homes [which was placed as warranty] the moment they default or even before.

In under-developed countries, a wide-spread practice is for the house of the defaulter to be putatively sold off at a paltry price – equal to the loan and far below the real value of the house – but that is only as far as records on the books are concerned, everyone knows that in reality a sweet confidential deal has been agreed upon with a pre-selected buyer who pays a large commission for being given the privilege of first dibs.

This Hadith which al-Muhsini places in the Bab on Usul al-Fiqh - as it indicates the Hujiyya [authority] of Khabar al-Wahid [solitary report] because Ibn Abi Umayr is citing Dharih’s narration as evidence for his action, reveals another even more important principle in Islam as taught by the Imam i.e. creditors should not demand and take away someone’s home for the sake of recovering a loan.

A note of caution: Since the need to fulfill contractual obligations is stressed in Islam, and considering the technical nature of the subject, this narration should not be seen as a ruling [a field which is left to the Maraji who are the experts], however, we can still gleam from it a general spirit encouraged by Islam.

[-/11] الفقيه: بإسناده عن ابراهيم بن هاشم ان محمد بن ابي عمير كان رجلا بزازا فذهب ماله وافتقره وكان له على رجل عشرة آلاف درهم فباع دارا له كان يسكنها بعشرة آلاف درهم وحمل المال إلى بابه فخرج اليه محمد بن ابي عمير فقال: ما هذا؟ فقال: هذا مالك الذي لك علي قال: ورثته؟ قال: لا قال: وهب لك؟ قال: لا قال: فهل هو ثمن ضيعة بعتها؟ قال: لا قال: فما هو؟ قال: بعت داري التي اسكنها لاقضي ديني فقال محمد بن ابي عمير: حدثني ذريح المحاربي عن ابي عبدالله عليه السلام انه قال: لا يخرج الرجل عن مسقط رأسه بالدين، ارفعها فلا حاجة لي فيها والله اني لمحتاج في وقتي هذا إلى درهم واحد وما يدخل ملكي منها درهم واحد

[11/-] al-Faqih: Via his chain from Ibrahim b. Hashim that - Muhammad b. Abi Umayr was a cloth merchant whose wealth perished and he fell into indigence, he had however loaned out ten thousand silver coins to someone, so the one he owed sold his house which he used to live in at a price of ten thousand silver coins and carried the whole sum to his (Ibn Abi Umayr’s) door, so Muhammad b. Abi Umayr came out to him and said: what is this? he said: this is your money which was due upon me, he said: you have inherited it? he said: no, he said: it has been gifted to you? he said: no, he said: is it the price of a land you have sold? He said: no, he said: then what is it? he said: I sold my house in which I live in so that I can repay my debt, so Muhammad b. Abi Umayr said: Dharih al-Muharibi narrated to me from Abi Abdillah عليه السلام  that he said: "a man is not driven out of his place of residence (home) because of debt" take it away for I have no need of it, by Allah even though I do have a need of even a single silver coin at this time - I will not take a single one of them into my possession.

Islamic Salvation

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم 
الحمد لله رب العالمين حَمْدًا يُوافِي نعمه ويكافئ مزيده

Those who have spent time poring over old tomes in the way of medieval scribes can witness the pleasure and solace that delving into their words can give. There is no greater joy in noticing hidden links and joining the dots as it were - gaining in confidence that the Aimma were building for us a supra-structure of the Deen the bricks of which fit intricately.      

It is hoped that through this blog: wisdom might be uncovered that jurists looking for the law might have overlooked, the socio-historical context of those times can be brought into sharp relief, obscure lexical etymology of words can be highlighted, but perhaps more importantly - an invitation can be given to all and sundry to aid a translator who can sometimes find himself at sea in the face of the daunting challenges such as having to explain away abstruse passages, mystical-philosophical language and the pre-modern consmology that runs through our corpus. 

The Ahadith of the `Aimma are rich in connotation and different individuals who come to it bring different perspectives based on their back-ground (No one can have all the tools to decode every implication). This should be encouraged as it enriches understanding and can flesh out meanings not considered before, especially those that are relevant to our times. Despite this, not every subjective thinking which we have can be elevated and considered definite. Caution should prevail and the Shuruh of the Ulama [as found in numerous Hashiya] should be given preference.  


We have to adopt a highly critical attitude towards our own theories if we do not wish to argue in circles: the attitude of trying to refute them.
– Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
–  Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

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