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The Greatest Companion of the Two Imams

Islamic Salvation

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يقول لك جعفر بن محمد: ما حملك على أن رددت شهادة رجل أعرف بأحكام الله منك و أعلم بسيرة رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم منك 

Ja’far b. Muhammad says to you - what made you reject the witness of a man [i.e. Muhammad b. Muslim] who is more aware of the Ahkam of Allah than you and more knowledgeable about the Sirah of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم than you!? [Imam al-Sadiq challenging Ibn Abi Layla who was the Qadhi of Kufa]

فما يمنعك من محمد بن مسلم الثقفي فإنه قد سمع من أبي و كان عنده وجيها

What prevents you from [going to] Muhammad b. Muslim al-Thaqafi - for he had heard [narrations] from my father and had a most favorable position with him [Imam al-Sadiq answering Abdallah b. Abi Ya’fur who had asked for a reference point to ask questions to when he cannot meet the Imam directly]

فقال: الثقفي الطويل اللحية ؟ فقلنا: نعم قال: أما إنه لقد كان مأمونا على الحديث و لكن كانوا يقولون إنه خشبي

He said: al-Thaqafi - the one with the long beard? We said: Yes. He said: as for him - then - he was trusted in the matter of Hadith, but they used to say that he is a Khashshabi (derogatory term for Shi’as) [Sharik voices his opinion of Muhammad b. Muslim inadvertently revealing the size of his beard]

 

The Greatest Companion of the Two Imams

If someone were to ask the question: Who was the greatest companion of the two Imams al-Baqir and al-Sadiq? What would be the answer?

 

The Big Four

The starting point has to be four individuals.

حمدويه، عن يعقوب بن يزيد، عن ابن أبي عمير، عن هشام بن سالم، عن سليمان بن خالد الأقطع قال: سمعت أبا عبد الله عليه السلام يقول: ما أحد أحيا ذكرنا و أحاديث أبي عليه السلام إلا زرارة و أبو بصير ليث المرادي و محمد بن مسلم و بريد بن معاوية العجلي و لو لا هؤلاء ما كان أحد يستنبط هذا، هؤلاء حفاظ الدين و أمناء أبي عليه السلام على حلال الله و حرامه، و هم السابقون إلينا في الدنيا و السابقون إلينا في الآخرة

Sulayman b. Khalid al-Aqta said: I heard Aba Abdillah عليه السلام saying: There is no one who has enlivened our remembrance and the narrations of my father عليه السلام except for Zurara, Abu Basir Layth al-Muradi, Muhammad b. Muslim and Burayd b. Muawiya al-Ijli.  If it wasn’t for them then there wouldn’t be anyone who could derive these [i.e. the Ahkam]. They are the protectors of the religion and the trustees of my father عليه السلام upon the Halal of Allah and His Haram. They are the foremost to us in this world, and the foremost to us in the hereafter.

حمدويه بن نصير، عن يعقوب بن يزيد، عن محمد بن أبي عمير، عن جميل بن دراج قال: سمعت أبا عبد الله عليه السلام يقول: بشر المخبتين بالجنة بريد بن معاوية العجلي و أبو بصير ليث بن البختري المرادي و محمد بن مسلم و زرارة، أربعة نجباء أمناء الله على حلاله و حرامه، لو لا هؤلاء انقطعت آثار النبوة و اندرست

Jamil b. Darraj said: I heard Aba Abdillah عليه السلام say: Give glad tidings of paradise to the humble - Burayd b. Muawiya al-Ijli, Abu Basir Layth b. al-Bukhtari al-Muradi, Muhammad b. Muslim and Zurara. Four noble-ones and trustees of Allah upon his Halal and Haram. If it wasn’t for them the traces of prophethood would have perished and been destroyed.

حمدويه، عن محمد بن عيسى بن عبيد و يعقوب بن يزيد، عن ابن أبي عمير، عن أبي العباس البقباق عن أبي عبد الله عليه السلام أنه قال: أربعة أحب الناس إلي أحياء و أمواتا، بريد بن معاوية العجلي و زرارة بن أعين و محمد بن مسلم و أبو جعفر الأحول، أحب الناس إلي أحياء و أمواتا

Imam al-Sadiq عليه السلام said: The most beloved persons to me - whether alive or dead - are four: Burayd b. Muawiya al-Ijli, Zurara b. A’yan, Muhammad b. Muslim and Abu Ja’far al-Ahwal. They are the most beloved persons to me - alive or dead.

 

Knowledge Elevates

If one wishes to narrow it down further then it has to be between Zurara and Muhammad b. Muslim. This is because of their prodigious scholarly output.

With close to two thousand reports quoted on his authority in the four main collections of Shi‘ite Hadıth and many more in others, Muhammad b. Muslim was one of the most prolific transmitters of Shi‘ite Hadıth. This is why he was unanimously considered as one of the Ashab al-Ijma [‘People about whom there is consensus’].

قال أبو أحمد: فسمعت عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج و حماد بن عثمان يقولان: ما كان أحد من الشيعة أفقه من محمد بن مسلم

Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj and Hammad b. Uthman said: there was no one from the Shia more knowledgeable (in the Diin) than Muhammad b. Muslim.

His knowledge was not of the theoretical type, which in any case is not true knowledge, but of the type which is translated into action.

وقيل: إنه كان من العباد في زمانه

It is said that he was one of the greatest worshippers of his time.  

 

Biographical Details

His full name was Abu Ja’far Muhammad b. Muslim b. Rabah (d. 150 AH, when he was about seventy years old). From Kufa. A Miller. The Client of Thaqif [a tribe based in Ta’if]. He was One-eyed.

al-Najashi says about him:

وجه أصحابنا بالكوفة، فقيه، ورع، صحب أبا جعفر وأبا عبد الله عليهما السلام، وروى عنهما، وكان من أوثق الناس

The eminent head of our companions in Kufa. Jurisprudent. Pious. He attached himself to Aba Ja’far and Aba Abdillah  عليهما السلامand narrated from them. He was the most trustworthy of people.

 

Long Period of Study

Muhammad b. Muslim says about his tutelage under the Imams:

حدثني حمدويه بن نصير، قال: حدثنا محمد بن عيسى، عن ياسين الضرير البصري، عن حريز، عن محمد بن مسلم قال: ما شجر في رأيي شئ قط إلا سألت عنه أبا جعفر عليه السلام، حتى سألته عن ثلاثين ألف حديث، وسألت أبا عبد الله عليه السلام عن ستة عشر ألف حديث

Nothing crossed my mind except that I asked Aba Ja’far عليه السلام  about it, until I had asked him about thirty thousand narrations. I also asked Aba Abdillah عليه السلام about sixteen thousand narrations.

قال محمد بن مسعود، حدثني علي بن محمد، قال حدثني محمد بن أحمد، عن عبد الله بن أحمد الرازي، عن بكر بن صالح، عن ابن أبي عمير، عن هشام بن سالم، قال: أقام محمد بن مسلم بالمدينة أربع سنين يدخل على أبي جعفر عليه السلام يسأله، ثم كان يدخل على جعفر بن محمد يسأله 

Hisham bin Salim said: Muhammad b. Muslim stayed in Madina for four years entering upon Abi Ja’far عليه السلام  and asking him questions, then he used to enter upon Ja'far b. Muhammad عليه السلام  to ask him.

 

Why Choose to be a Miller?

Muhammad b. Muslim chose the lowly profession of a miller not because of any material need, but because of the Imam’s command to ‘humble himself’. The Imam advised him to do this because he knew that his great knowledge combined with affluence could make him arrogant.

قال أبو النضر: سألت عبد الله بن محمد بن خالد عن محمد بن مسلم فقال: كان رجلا شريفا موسرا، فقال له أبو جعفر عليه السلام: تواضع يا محمد، فلما انصرف إلى الكوفة أخذ قوصرة من تمر مع الميزان، وجلس على باب المسجد الجامع، وصار (جعل) ينادي عليه، فأتاه قومه فقالوا له: فضحتنا، فقال: إن مولاي أمرني بأمر فلن أخالفه ولن أبرح حتى أفرغ من بيع ما في هذه القوصرة، فقال له قومه: إذا أبيت إلا أن تشتغل ببيع وشراء فاقعد في الطحانين، فهيأ رحا وجملا وجعل يطحن

Abu al-Nadhr said: I asked Abdallah b. Muhammad b. Khalid [al-Tayalisi] about Muhammad b. Muslim - he said: He was a noble and wealthy man so Abu Ja’far عليه السلام  said to him: ‘humble yourself O Muhammad’, so when he returned to Kufa he took a date-basket and a weighing scale and sat down at the door of the central mosque and began calling out [for people to come buy]. His tribesmen came to him and said to him: You have disgraced us! He said: My master has ordered me [to do something] so I will not disobey him nor will I depart until I finish selling what is in this basket. His tribesmen said to him: If you refuse giving up buying and selling then at least sit together with the millers [a more respectable profession], so he prepared a mill-stone and a camel and began grinding.



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      Ali b. Muhammad – Salama b. al-Khattab – Ali b. Hassan – Musa b. Bukayr: I was in the service of Abi al-Hasan  عليه السلام. Nothing [of the monetary dues] used to reach him [from any other route] except through Mufadhal b. Umar. I would sometimes see a man bringing something to the Imam directly and he [the Imam] would refuse to accept it and say: take it to Mufadhal.   
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      A Controversial Narrator
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       وأمّا أبو يعقوب إسحاق بن محمد البصري، فإنّه كان غالياً، وسرت إليه إلى بغداد لاكتب عنه وسألته كتاباً أنسخه، فأخرج إليّ من أحاديث المفضّل بن عمر في التفويض ، فلم أرغب فيه فأخرج إليّ من أحاديث مشيخته من الثقات
      As for Abu Ya’qub Ishaq b. Muhammad al-Basri then he was a Ghali. I went to him in Baghdad to write from him. I asked him a book to copy so he took out for me a collection of narrations from Mufadhal b. Umar regarding Tafwidh [that the ‘Aimma are independent beings who run the world after its initial creation] but I did not express any interest in that, then he produced narrations relayed by the trustworthy ones among his teachers …
      Traditionalist scholars like al-Najashi and Ibn al-Ghadhairi had a negative assessment of him for this very reason. They went through the works ascribed to him and found them to be unpalatable.
      Ibn al-Ghadhairi is scathing when he says:
      خطابي، وقد زيد عليه شئ كثير، وحمل الغلاة في حديثه حملا عظيما
      ‘A Khattabi. A lot of fabricated material has been attributed to him. The Ghulat have launched a full-scale attack on his narrations (i.e. they have invaded his original corpus infiltrating it with their own ideas)’
      al-Najashi warns:
      وقد ذكرت له مصنفات لا يعول عليها، وإنما ذكرنا للشرط الذي قدمناه
      ‘A number of books are listed as authored by him but they are not to be depended upon. I only include their names because of the condition which we have mentioned before [i.e. to list the titles of all Shi’i authors]’
      Even if he is not responsible for what circulates under his name, the fact that the Ghulat considered him one of their own should be reason enough for caution. Anonymous writers are  known to have penned material using his name seeking to enhance the authority of their works. It is an arduous task to sift the historical from the forged.
       
      A Khattabi?
      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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