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History of Shi'i Imami Theology (1)

Ibn al-Hussain

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Original: http://www.iqraonline.net/history-of-shii-imami-theology-1/

This is intended to be the first of many posts on the history of the development of Shi’i Imami theology.

There are various reasons why being familiar with the history of Imami theology can be of benefit for not just a Shi’a, but as well as a student of Shi’i Islam. As its history begins with the era of the Imams (s), to know how they and their companions dealt with various theological issues, challenges, and what sort of responses would they provide to those questions acts as a window through which we can attempt to learn about the religion itself. The presence of the Imams pre-Ghaybah itself makes it an important time-period to study as companions would engage in theological discussions and debates, while often bouncing off ideas and opinions off the Imams

, who were of course seen as sources of guidance. While there were companions whose views and opinions were incorrect at times, and we find reports where the Imams (s) had to correct them or point their errors out, nevertheless we also find that many of the companions had views which were a direct result of the teachings of the Imams (s). Furthermore, without being familiar with the history of the development of Imami theology, particularly the era during the lifetime of the Imams (s), it is difficult to understand the numerous theological narrations that exist in the hadith corpus, as we would be reading them without any context.

The history of Imami theology shows that it went through various phases and encountered numerous challenges during the course of these phases. We see various factions of companions forming due to differing methodologies, approaches, and understanding of religious teachings. As such, we can identify a few distinct groups forming during the lifetime of the Imams (s) themselves, such as that of Hisham bin Hakam, Hisham bin Salim and Mufadhdhal bin ‘Umar. Each of these figures influenced later individuals (for example: Yunus bin ‘Abdul Rahman, Hasan bin ‘Ali bin Yaqtin, and Muhammad bin Sinan respectively) and this transmission of methodology and inclinations was carried on until the next few centuries. On the other hand, we also see that various cities were the hub for these debates and discourses, in different time periods. In this series, we intend on covering some aspects of the history of some of these schools from the perspective of their geographic location.

In this introductory piece, we will very briefly glance over the most important cities where the Imamis were active (or at times inactive) in theological discourse during the course of time, and impacted subsequent generations (positively or negatively). These schools can be narrowed down to the following cities:

1) Medina: Generally speaking, historians will begin their discussions on the history of the development of Imami theology after the incident of Karbala with the Imamate of Imam Sajjad (s). After the incident of Karbala, two Shi’i theological schools of thought were prevalent in Medina, one that was centered upon Imam Sajjad (s) and one on the personality of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah (son of Imam Ali). This time period has not been heavily studied unfortunately, even though recent efforts have been made by some scholars to research this time period.

2) Kufa: Without much delay, the hub of the Imami theological school moved to the city of Kufa. While it is true that the presence of Imam Baqir (s) and Sadiq (s) was in Medina, for various reasons, it was Kufa where Imami theological discourse was prevalent and took a distinct form and shape. This shift took place in the beginning of the 2nd century Hijri, and various Muslim sects, such as the Khawarij and Mu’tazalites, were participating in theological dialogue in this city. It was in the city of Kufa where the earliest foundations for a distinct Imami identity were laid and extremely important figures were taught and trained by the Imams (s) themselves. Many Kufans would travel back and forth between Kufa and Medina in order to access the Imams (s) directly and then bring their teachings to the city of Kufa.

3) Baghdad: After theological discourse in Kufa began diminishing, Baghdad slowly began to flourish. However, the Shi’as – who were generally located in the suburbs of Karkh – had no substantial influence, nor participation for at least a century between 180 to 280 Hijri. Due to various political restrictions imposed on the Shi’ias, many companions of the Imams (s) were unable to participate in any theological dialogue nor defend their beliefs. Thus, we see narrations indicating that an Imam may have prohibited certain companions from further engaging in theological debates – evidently a political and strategic move. Important figures such as Yunus bin ‘Abdul Rahman and others were imprisoned during this time for their activities. All in all, we find no significant progress nor theological discourse by the Imamis during this century. A few names that appear here and there are also of those whose identify and biography is relatively unknown.

It was only a century later when we see the Nawbakhtis (such as Abu Sahl and Abu Muhammad) lifting up the fallen reins and re-enter theological discourse. Interestingly, we have no record of whose students the Nawbakhtis were and neither do they point towards any teacher. Although it is known that they had access to a personal library, so it is possible that they heavily utilized the heritage that had been passed down to them. In any case, this new phase in Baghdad reaches its climax during the time of Shaykh Mufid and Sayyid Murtadha, and ends with the departure of Shaykh Tusi to Najaf.

4) Qom: As the Kufan school was coming to its end, it was the city of Qom that slowly become its substitute. The Kufan heritage was transferred over to Qom by various different scholars. Although the Kufan school had both a theologian and traditionalist-theologian movement, in Qom it was primarily a traditionalist-theologian methodology that had importance. So while many of the scholars of Qom did have a methodology and a framework within which they would intellectualize, they were still distinct from someone who would be deemed a pure theologian.

5) Rey: A lot of Baghdad and Qom’s heritage was transferred to Rey with the immigration of some of the Imami scholars to the city. Thus it is seen as an important city where Imami theological discourse was prevalent for about one-and-half to two centuries.

6-7) Hilla and Jabal al-Amel: Much of Rey’s heritage was transferred over to Hilla, and the theological developments within Hilla were transmitted to Jabal al-Amel by Shahid Awwal and Shahid Thani. However, since there were no important works produced within the latter city on theology, Jabal al-Amel is essentially considered an extension of Hilla and not seen as a city where significant progress was made.

8) Najaf: One stream from Hilla’s theological school of thought moved to Najaf through the efforts of Fadhil Miqdad – a student of Shaheed Awwal. The former would accompany him till Damascus before the latter was martyred.

9/10) Fars & Isfahan: After Najaf, it was the school of Fars and Isfahan during the Safavid dynasty that took charge of being the hub of Imami theological discourse.

These 10 cities were without a doubt the most influential when it comes to discussing the history of the development of Imami theology. While the starting point of this historical timeline may be seen in Medina chronologically speaking, it was in the city of Kufa where a distinct Imami Shi’i theology was born. As much work has been done on the city of Kufa and Baghdad – some of it also available in English – we wish to begin our series of posts with the city of Qom, a city less discussed or often cast aside as insignificant. As the histories of some these schools are tightly connected (particularly that of Kufa, Qom and Baghdad’s), we will of course at times be forced to discuss certain aspects of the Kufan or Baghdad school in order to better understand certain aspects of Qom’s role and influence on Imami theology.



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      What can be asserted without doubt is that the historical Mufadhal was at one point in time connected to Abu al-Khattab and the Khatabiyya [there is even a splinter-sect of the Khatabiyya which was named after Mufadhal i.e. the Mufadhaliyya]. They are accused of deifying al-Sadiq in some way and of believing in continuation of prophecy. We have some narrations which indicate Mufadhal’s links with such beliefs:   
      حدثني الحسين بن الحسن بن بندار القمي، قال حدثني سعد بن عبد الله بن أبي خلف القمي، قال حدثني محمد بن الحسين بن أبي الخطاب و الحسن بن موسى، عن صفوان بن يحيى، عن عبد الله بن مسكان قال: دخل حجر بن زائدة و عامر بن جذاعة الأزدي على أبي عبد الله عليه السلام فقالا: جعلنا فداك، إن المفضل بن عمر يقول إنكم تقدرون أرزاق العباد ...
      al-Husayn b. al-Hasan b. Bundar al-Qummi – Sa’d b. Abdallah b. Abi Khalaf al-Qummi – Muhammad b. al-Husayn b. Abi al-Khattab and al-Hasan b. Musa from Safwan b. Yahya from Abdallah b. Muskan who said: Hujr b. Zaida and A’mir b. Judha’a al-Azdi entered upon Abi Abdillah عليه السلام and said to him: May we be made your ransom, Mufadhal b. Umar says that you are the ones who allot the Rizq of the slaves …
      علي بن محمد، عن صالح بن أبي حماد، عن محمد بن أورمة، عن ابن سنان، عن المفضل بن عمر قال: كنت أنا والقاسم شريكي ونجم بن حطيم وصالح بن سهل بالمدينة فتناظرنا في الربوبية، قال: فقال بعضنا لبعض: ما تصنعون بهذا نحن بالقرب منه وليس منا في تقية قوموا بنا إليه، قال: فقمنا فوالله ما بلغنا الباب إلا وقد خرج علينا بلا حذاء ولا رداء قد قام كل شعرة من رأسه منه وهو يقول: لا لا يا مفضل ويا قاسم ويا نجم، لا لا بل عباد مكرمون لا يسبقونه بالقول وهم بأمره يعملون
      Ali b. Muhammad – Salih b. Abi Hammad – Muhammad b. Awrama – Ibn Sinan – al-Mufadhal b. Umar who said:  I, al-Qasim al-Shariki, Najm b. Hutaym and Salih b. Sahl were in Madina when we disputed each other over the divinity [of the ‘Aimma]. He [Mufadhal] said: We said to each other - why are we speculating on this when we are nearby to him [the Imam] and he is not in Taqiyya with us [does not answer us in dissimulation], let’s go meet him. He [Mufadhal] said: We headed towards him - by Allah we had not reached the door before he came out bare-footed, without a cloak and all the hair on his head stood on end [in apprehension] saying: No - O Mufadhal, Qasim and Najm, No! “rather mere honored slaves, never preceding Him (Allah) in word, and they always follow His orders” (21:26-27)
      حدثني حمدويه وإبراهيم ابنا نصير، قالا: حدثنا محمد بن عيسى، عن علي ابن الحكم، عن المفضل بن عمر أنه كان يبشر أبا الخطاب وفلان أنكما لمن المرسلين
      Hamduwayh b. Nusayr and Ibrahim b. Nusayr – Muhammad b. Isa – Ali b. al-Hakam: That he [Mufadhal b. Umar] used to give glad tidings to Aba al-Khattab and one other saying: ‘verily you are messengers’
      قال الكشى: وذكرت الطيارة الغالية في بعض كتبها عن المفضل: أنه قال لقد قتل مع أبي اسماعيل يعني أبا الخطاب سبعون نبيا ... وأن المفضل قال: أدخلنا على أبي عبد الله عليه‌ السلام ونحن اثنى عشر رجلا، قال: فجعل أبو عبد الله عليه‌ السلام يسلم على رجل رجل منا ويسمي كل رجل منا باسم نبي، وقال لبعضنا: السلام عليك يا نوح، وقال لبعضنا: السلام عليك يا ابراهيم، وكان آخر من سلم عليه وقال: السلام عليك يا يونس، ثم قال: لا تخاير بين الانبياء
      al-Kashshi said: The Tayyara Ghulat say in one of their books that al-Mufadhal said: Seventy prophets were killed with Aba al-Khattab … Mufadhal is also supposed to have said: Twelve of us entered in to see Abi Abdillah عليه‌ السلام. He [the Imam] began greeting each one of us individually and calling each one of us by the name of a prophet, saying to one of us ‘peace be upon you O Noah’ to another ‘peace be upon you O Ibrahim’, he greeted the last one of us saying: ‘peace be upon you O Yunus’. Then he [the Imam] said: do not distinguish between the prophets! 
       
      Mufadhal, The Khattabiyya and Ismail
      The Khatabbiya seem to have taken Ismail the son of al-Sadiq as their figure-head and pinned their hopes on him as the next Imam. It is hard to discern from the meager sources available whether Ismail’s participation in this was of his own volition or not.
      رجال الكشي: حمدويه بن نصير، عن 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
      Hamduwayh b. Nusayr – Ya’qub b. Yazid – Ibn Abi Umayr – Hisham b. al-Hakam and Hammad b. Uthman –  Ismail b. 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? Do you want to kill him!?
      The narration above has the Imam using very harsh language with Mufadhal in the context of the latter’s ‘grooming’ of Ismail which al-Sadiq felt was dangerous. 
      On the other hand, there also exists a countervailing narration as below:

      الكافي: محمد بن يحيى، عن أحمد بن محمد بن عيسى، عن علي بن الحكم، عن يونس بن يعقوب قال: أمرني أبو عبد الله عليه السلام أن آتي المفضل واعزيه باسماعيل وقال: اقرأ المفضل السلام وقل له: إنا قد اصبنا بإسماعيل فصبرنا، فاصبر كما صبرنا، إنا أردنا أمرا وأراد الله عزوجل أمرا، فسلمنا لامر الله عزوجل
      Muhammad b. Yahya – Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Isa – Ali b. al-Hakam – Yunus b. Ya’qub who said: Abu Abdillah عليه السلام ordered me to go to Mufadhal and condole him for [the death of] Ismail. He [the Imam] said: Convey my greetings of peace to Mufadhal and say to him: We have been tried through Ismail and have remained patient, so be patient the way we have been patient. We wanted something but Allah Mighty and Majestic wanted something else so we have submitted to the command of Allah Mighty and Majestic.   
      This one is much more warm. The Imam condoles Mufadhal on the occasion of Ismail’s death - the two must have been especially close - and commends him to be patient in emulation of the Imam’s own patience.   
      How can we explain this difference in tone?
       
      A Rapprochement?
      It seems that one way to reconcile between them is to posit that Mufadhal had a period of estrangement from the Imam - because of his involvement with the Khattabis and their intentions for Ismail, however, he later repented from this and broke away with Abu al-Khattab, consequently the relation with the Imam improved.
      Evidence for this can be found in the narration below:
      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 ما لك ولابني، يعني إسماعيل بن جعفر، وكان منقطعا إليه، يقول فيه مع الخطابية، ثم رجع بعد
      Jibrail b. Ahmad – Muhammad b. Isa – Yunus – Hammad b. Uthman who said: I heard Aba Abdillah عليه السلام saying to al-Mufadhal b. Umar al-Ju’fi: O Kafir, O Mushrik, what do you have to do with my 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 afterwards.
      That Mufadhal returned back to the truth after deviation can be proved also by the fact that he was not among those followers of Abu al-Khattab who died with their leader when they were attacked by the men of Isa b. Musa [the Abbasid governor of Kufa] after barricading themselves in the central mosque as part of an aborted revolt.
      Another piece of evidence for this view is that Mufadhal seems to have a more cordial relation with al-Kadhim after the death of al-Sadiq [indeed there are no censures against him quoted from this Imam, which would tally with his reform in his later years]. 
      محمد بن مسعود، قال: حدثني عبد الله بن خلف، قال: حدثنا علي بن حسان الواسطي، قال: حدثني موسى بن بكير قال: سمعت أبا الحسن يقول لما أتاه موت المفضل بن عمر، قال: رحمه الله، كان الوالد بعد الوالد، أما انه قد استراح
      Muhammad b. Masud – Abdallah b. Khalaf – Ali b. Hassan al-Wasiti – Musa b. Bukayr who said: I heard Aba al-Hasan saying when he was informed of the death of al-Mufadhal b. Umar - May Allah have mercy on him, he was a father after the father [al-Sadiq i.e. a second father to him]. Verily he is now resting in peace.
       
      Summary 
      The case of al-Mufadhal is a complicated one. More needs to be done to collect all the relevant evidence and formulate a coherent position, if at all possible. This is obviously not the place for an in-depth study. Such research should also consider the provenance of famous books attributed to him like Tawhid al-Mufadhal, al-Ihlilaja etc. Having said all this, caution must be exercised as regards narrations attributed to him, specifically if the contents have to do with Imamology.
    • By shadow_of_light in From Earth to Heaven
         0
      St. 12 part 4

      By the high sky where there are glorious huge palaces;
      By the promised day when the creatures will meet the Creator;
      By night traveller, that shiny star whose glaring light cleaves the dark.
      By all of these that there is a protector, assigned by God, for every soul.

      قسم به آسمان بلندی که دارای کاخهای عظیم و با شکوه است.
      قسم به روز موعود، به روز دیدار که وعده گاه خلایق است.
      قسم به مسافر شب، به آن ستاره درخشانی که نور خیره کننده اش تاریکیها را میشکافد
      قسم به همه اینان که هر شخصی را از طرف خداوند مراقب و نگهبانی است

      Finally, the promised day came.
      Hoopoe again came and sat behind the window. This time, it held a leaf of ziziphus in its beak.

      After some hours, I noticed it and opened the window. Hoopoe entered and sat on the table. I patted it and said: What a beautiful bird!
      Then I went to bring food and water for it.
      But hoopoe didnt eat or drink anything.
      I touched the statue and it started singing. I thought hoopoe would like the song but it didnt.

      Instead, it put the leaf on the table and looked at me expecting me to remember something.
      I said: Maybe you need some leaves! There are many trees is my garden. You can use their leaves as much as you wish
      Hoopoe's eyes filled with tears for it realized that I didnt remember it and ziziphus tree.
      For a few moments, it remained silent. Then it flew toward the window and left the house.
      I stood by the window and watched hoopoe flying in the sky.
      Hoopoe flew high and high.
      I said: I wish I could fly like it.
      Suddenly I remembered that once I had 2 wings which I lost after my fall on the earth; I remembered the seventh heaven, the angels, God, banishment from paradise and my rendezvous.
      There was not much time... I left that mansion quickly.

      But when I reached there, it was late.
      The sun had already set. I had lost the best opportunity in my life.
      I sat under ziziphus tree and cried. Hoopoe came. I patted it and said:
      You, kind bird, you tried your best. Alas! I remembered too late!
      Gabriel appeared and said:....
      ....
      ...
      .....

      Whether you are close to the sun or far from it, its light and warmth dont change. But the closer you are to the sun, the more you benefit from its warmth...
      God is source of mercy and compassion; How much you benefit from his mercy depends on how close you are to him.
      The path which Satan and his friends follow, leads to the darkness. The more they proceed, the darker the path will get. And finally they reach total darkness. They will go astray so much that even if they want to return, it will be very difficult for them.
      You are free to choose your path. A path leads to light, to magnificence and grandeur. And a path leads to disgrace, aberrance and regret. You can choose: ascending to A'laa Eleein or descending to Asfal al-Saffelin!*

      Gabriel was about to leave. But before he did, he turned his face to me and said: Angels told me that they missed Human a lot. They are still awaiting you. What about you, Human? Do you still remember them?!
      ...
      ....
      ...

      The stars were shining in the dark sky. And it meant that there was still hope. Because the stars are torches of the angels who had been waiting in the heavens for many centuries to welcome those who travelling to paradise.
       
      * A'laa Eleein: the uppermost place in the heavens اعلی علیین
      Asfal al-Safelin: the lowermost place in the hell اسفل السافلین
       
       
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