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I generally blog on Iqra Online - however since ShiaChat has a much larger membership base I will be syndicating some of the interesting material on this blog as well.
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Miraculousness of the Qurān – Doctrine of al-Ṣarfah – A Historical Overview (Part 6)
قُل لَّئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ الْإِنسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَىٰ أَن يَأْتُوا بِمِثْلِ هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ لَا يَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِيرًا
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَا تَسْمَعُوا لِهَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ وَالْغَوْا فِيهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَغْلِبُونَ
اللَّهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُّتَشَابِهًا مَّثَانِيَ تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُدَى اللَّهِ يَهْدِي بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُضْلِلِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ
Miraculousness of the Qurān – Doctrine of al-Ṣarfah – A Historical Overview (Part 5)
Miraculousness of the Qurān – A Historical Overview (Part 4)
Miraculousness of the Qurān – A Historical Overview (Part 3)
Miraculousness of the Qurān – A Historical Overview (Part 2)
I have been uploading posts on my own personal blog (IqraOnline.net) regarding the miraculousness of the Qurān (I'jāz al-Qurān). These are posts where I have tried to avoid technical jargon as much as possible and the posts are also not super lengthy either. I am writing these for a very general audience - especially those who have absolutely no information regarding the subject - to get introduced to the matter. I have decided to put up these posts on the ShiaChat Blog as well since it may attract readers that are not following my blog already. Feel free to share feedback and comments, although I cannot promise responses to all or any of the comments due to other priorities.
Miraculousness of the Qurān – A Historical Overview (Part 1)
During the Imamate of Imam Baqir (s) and Sadiq (s), there was a lot of encouragement from the Imams to their students and companions to begin recording down traditions. As this shift from oral to a written tradition became a culture amongst them, there was naturally a large output of written works over the next century. Kufa being the hub for Shi’i activity naturally possessed the most written works at the time.
As scholars from Qom would initially travel to Kufa to acquire traditions of the Imams from the various scholars and companions that resided there, the tables would eventually turn as Kufa’s scholarly circles began to diminish and its heritage began being transferred to Qom. Scholars who played a role in transferring this heritage to Qom include personalities such as Muhammad bin Khalid al-Barqi, Husayn bin Sa’eed al-Ahwazi, Ahmad bin Muhammad bin ‘Isa al-Ash’ari, Ibrahim bin Hashim and others. To analyze this phenomenon in a little more detail, bibliographical works are utilized to see how books were being moved around from one place to another.
Muhammad bin Khalid al-Barqi and his son Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Barqi are two other individuals who played a role in this transfer. Most of their teachers appear to be from Kufa, whereas their students appear to be from Qom. Both father and son also seem to have traveled to Kufa like Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Ash’ari and tooks narrations from there and then returned back to Qom to transmit them. Muhammad bin Khalid al-Barqi seems to be the earliest person to have brought over some of the Kufan hadith heritage to Qom. However, he does not seem to have very cautious in who he would take narrations from and was accused of even narrating from weak narrators. There are also hardly any traditions that he narrates from reliable scholars such as Hasan bin Mahbub or Ibn Abi ‘Umayr. This eventually even leads to Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Ash’ari (the next scholar) exiling Muhammad al-Barqi out of Qom.
Ahmad bin Muhammad bin ‘Isa al-Ash’ari who was one of the greatest scholars of Qom during his time, played a great role in bringing over the Kufan heritage by traveling to Kufa himself. Some of the works that he was able to bring back to Qom with himself were the book of ‘Ala bin Zarin, Aban bin ‘Uthman al-Ahmar, Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Abi Nasr al-Bazanti, Hasan bin Mahbub al-Kufi, Hasan bin ‘Ali bin Fadhdhal, Safwan bin Yahya al-Bajali, ‘Abdul Rahman bin Abi Najran, ‘Ali bin Hadid al-Mada’ini, Ibn Abi ‘Umayr, Muhammad bin Ismail bin Bazi’, and Muhammad bin Sinan Zahiri.
What is of interest here is that the books Ahmad was bringing with him were those that were famous, well-known and reliable works within Shi’i scholarly circles. This indicates that Ahmad was very cautious of the narrations he accepted and transmitted, and we see this translating into him exiling many narrators from Qom (like the aforementioned al-Barqi) who he found to be narrating from weak narrators.
Husayn bin Sa’eed bin Hammad bin Sa’eed bin Mehran al-Ahwazi was another Kufan scholar who played a role in bringing over some works to Qom. Him and his brother Hasan first leave Kufa and travel to Ahwaz and then migrate to Qom. They bring with themselves the works of Rib’iyy bin ‘Abdillah al-Basri, Shu’ayb al-‘Aqr Qufiyy, Hamid bin Muthanna, Qasim bin Muhammad Jawhari al-Kufi, Qasim bin Sulayman al-Baghdadi, Qasim bin ‘Urwah al-Baghdadi, Hariz bin ‘Abdillah al-Sijistani, Zur’ah bin Muhammad al-Hadhrami and more. Husayn also brings with himself thirty of his own written works to Qom and transmitted them to various students.
Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin ‘Ali bin Ibrahim bin Musa al-Sayrafi – known as Abu Sumaynah, a Kufan narrator who was eventually exiled from Qom by Ahmad bin Muhammad as well, brought with him the book of Ishaq bin Yazid bin Ismail al-Ta’i, some books of Ismail bin Mehran bin Abi Nasr al-Sakuni, book of Hafs bin ‘Asim Salami, book of Sulaym bin Qays, book of Salam bin ‘Abdillah al-Hashimi, book of Haytham bin Waqid Jazari, book of Abu Badr al-Kufi and the book of Nasr bin Mazahim al-Kufi. He will be referred to again in a later post when we discuss the phenomenon of certain narrators being exiled from the city of Qom.
Muhammad bin ‘Abdul Jabbar al-Qumi – known as Ibn Abi al-Sahban, a companion of Imam Jawwad, Hadi, and ‘Askari. He was also one of those scholars who traveled to Kufa and brought back with him some of Kufa’s hadith heritage. His most important teachers in Kufa were Safwan bin Yahya, Muhammad bin Ismail Bazi’, and Hasan bin ‘Ali bin Fadhdhal. It doesn’t seem like he had any book of his own, and was merely recognized as someone who was able to transfer over some of the hadith works from Kufa to scholars in Qom. Most of his narrations in Qom are narrated by Ahmad bin Idris, ‘Abdullah bin Ja’far al-Himyari, Muhmmad bin al-Hasan al-Saffar and Muhammad bin Yahya al-‘Attar.
Perhaps the most prolific scholar who is renowned for bringing much of Kufa’s hadith heritage to Qom is Ibrahim bin Hashim. He is remembered as the first scholar to bring Kufa’s hadith to Qom and to have spread it. Some of the works he brought with him were: the Asl of Ibrahim bin ‘Abd al-Hamid, books of Ismail bin Abi Ziyad al-Sakuni, books of Hariz bin ‘Abdillah al-Sijistani, book of ‘Abdullah bin Sinan, books of Ibn Abi ‘Umayr, books of Muhammad bin Ismail bin Bazi’, Asl of Hisham bin Salim, some books of Mufadhdhal bin ‘Umar, book of Zayd Narasi, book of Sulaym Farra’, book of Yahya bin ‘Imran bin ‘Ali bin Abi Shu’ba al-Halabi just to name a few.
For at least the next 150 years, Qom would become the most important city when it came to Shi’i theological discourse. Eventually much of Qom’s hadith heritage does return back to Iraq, to the city of Baghdad when the likes of Shaykh Mufid begin gaining authority.
With regards to the topic of Kufa’s heritage moving over to Qom, Ibrahim bin Hashim is notably remembered by multiple scholars as being the first person to spread the hadith of the Kufans in Qom was him. However, when we look at the list above, we see that Muhammad bin Khalid al-Barqi, Husayn bin Sa’eed and Ahmad bin Muhammad bin ‘Isa were all scholars who had already brought with them a lot of traditions from Kufa much before Ibrahim bin Hashim. So why is it that the latter scholars gave this honour to Ibrahim rather than those who were prior to him? There could be a few possible reasons for this and a closer look at the other three scholars may help us in determining this.
One thing to note is that the attribution given to Ibrahim bin Hashim is that the works he brought to Qom were widely-spread, not that he merely transmitted them or passed them down to his students. That being said, when we consider al-Barqi, it is known that one of the reasons he was exiled from Qom by Ahmad al-Ash’ari was because he would narrate from unknown or weak people. This would have been enough of a reason for many of the scholars of Qom to act cautiously with regards to his narrations, leading to his narrations not having spread to such an extent where it would be deemed as spreading the Kufan heritage. Some have suggested that it is possible al-Barqi may have returned back to his own town on the outskirts of Qom called Barqah-Rud, and that would have been a plausible reason why his ahadith did not spread in Qom – however this seems far-fetched, simply because Qom seems to be the most sensible location for a scholar of hadith to have returned back to, and also when we see that Ahmad al-Ash’ari exiled him from Qom it indicates that he was in Qom to begin with.
As for Husayn bin Sa’eed, he had thirty of his own written works in Kufa which he brought with him to Qom. His main focus had been to spread these narrations which he had compiled himself, and not the rest of the heritage he had brought with him. Furthermore, Husayn bin Sa’eed did not live too long after coming to Qom, dying a short while after, which could mean that he simply didn’t have enough time to spread and transmit all the works he had brought with him to such an extent that would merit him the status of being the first one to widely-spread the heritage of Kufa in Qom.
When it comes to Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Ash’ari – who was also the authority in Qom – it seems that there may been another reason he is not given this description. He not only had more of an opportunity to widely spread the heritage of Kufa that he had brought back with him to Qom, but he also had many of the same teachers as Ibrahim bin Hashim and both were living during the same era. The one factor that could have caused the scholars to still give Ibrahim bin Hashim the credit for spreading the heritage of Kufa in Qom the fact that Ibrahim was someone who was brought up and raised in Kufa, whereas Ahmad was originally a scholar of Qom. In other words, Ibrahim was the first Kufan scholar who have come to Qom and have the Kufan heritage widely-spread in the city.
Another side point that should be mentioned here is that Ibrahim bin Hashim is credited for carrying over the theological teachings of the school of the great theologian and companion Hisham bin Hakam from Kufa to Qom as well. Ibrahim bin Hashim is claimed to have been the student of Yunus bin ‘Abdul Rahman who himself was one of the strongest students of Hisham bin Hakam. Whether Ibrahim was indeed a student of Yunus or not is disputed as there is no narration which Ibrahim narrates directly from Yunus (as is the natural case in a student-teacher relationship), and every narration from Yunus appears to have an individual between them. Nevertheless, Ibrahim does seem to have been influenced by this school of thought, and likewise his son Ali bin Ibrahim who will be discussed in a later article as well.
This is important to know because figures such as Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Ash’ari and many later Qom scholars were staunchly against some of the theological ideas of Hisham bin Hakam, and had even written books against him and Yunus bin ‘Abdul Rahman. Despite this, they were still welcoming of Ibrahim bin Hashim and his narrations which indicates the level of trust and respect Ibrahim must have had in the city of Qom.
 One of the works I have heavily relied on for this blog post is the research paper: Sayr-e Intiqal-e Mirath-e Maktub-e Shi’eh dar Ayeneh-ye Fihrist-ha written by Ruhullah Shaheedi and Dr. Muhammad Ali Mahdawi-Raad.
 Al-Fihrist of Shaykh Tusi, pg. 52
 Refer to Najashi’s al-Rijal and Shaykh Tusi’s al-Fihrist. About 19 more works can be found in Shaykh Tusi’s al-Fihrist and 3 more in Najashi’s al-Rijal.
 The famous line as recorded in Najashi’s al-Rijal is this: أصحابنا يقولون: أوّل من نشر حديث الكوفيين بقم, هو (Our scholars have said: The first person to spread the hadith of the Kufans in Qom, was him)
Original full post: http://www.iqraonline.net/the-ashari-family-ii-history-of-imami-shii-theology-4/
In this post we will continue with the list of scholars from the Ash’ari family who have been categorized into the second and third group, post-migration to Qom.
- Zakariyyah bin Idris bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Considered a companion of Imam Sadiq, Imam Kadhim and Imam Ridha.
- Zakariyyah bin Adam bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Considered a companion of Imam Sadiq, Imam Kadhim, Imam Ridha and Imam Jawwad, but his narrations are all from Imam Ridha and Imam Jawwad. He was an important figure, to the extent that Imam Ridha (s) had informed one of his companions to refer to Zakariyyah for any religious inquiries.
- Sahl bin Yasa’ bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: A narrator of hadih from Imam Kadhim and Ridha. We have 11 narrations from him in our four-primary works of hadith.
- Isma’il bin ‘Isa bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: His name appears in certain narrations where he is narrating directly from Imam Kadhim and Imam Ridha.
- Marzban bin ‘Imran bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Kadhim and Imam Ridha.
- Idris bin ‘Isa bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Ridha.
- Ishaq bin Adam bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Ridha.
- Isma’il bin Adam bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: He most probably lived during the life of Imam Kadhim. Even though we have no records to show that he narrated anything directly from any of the Imams, he has still been described as an important scholar of Qom by Najashi.
- Muhammad bin ‘Isa bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: He had heard narrations from Imam Ridha and also narrates from Imam Jawwad.
- Sa’d bin Sa’d bin Malik bin Ahwas al-Ash’ari: From the companions of Imam Kadhim, Ridha and Jawwad. His name appears in 74 chains of narrations in the four-primary books.
- Isma’il bin Sa’d bin Sa’d bin Ahwas al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Kadhim and Ridha. 20 of his narrations from Imam Ridha appear in the four-primary books.
- Hamzah bin Yasa’ bin Yasa’ bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Sadiq and Kadhim and possibly had met Imam Ridha as well.
- ‘Imran bin Muhammad bin ‘Imran bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Ridha.
- Muhammad bin Sahl bin Yasa’ bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Ridha and Imam Jawwad. His name appears in 380 narrations in the four-primary works.
There are about 30 more names that can be added to this list. This list brings us to the end of the middle of the 3rdcentury Hijri. During this time period, Kufa had already severely declined, and while there is activity happening in Baghdad amongst the Shi’as, it is nothing compared to what had taken place in Kufa in the previous century. All narrators in this list were travelling to different cities to meet the Imams (depending on where the Imams were) and then coming back to Qom and spreading their narrations.
This list of forthcoming Ash’ari scholars begins from around the beginning of the 3rd century Hijri. These scholars were naturally influenced by the teachings of the previous two groups.
- Ahmad bin Ishaq bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Jawwad, Imam Hadi and Imam ‘Askari. He was known as Wafid ul-Qomiyyeen (the envoy of the Qomis) implying that he would travel often to meet the Imams with questions from Qom, and bring back what he had learned and heard. He was one of those individuals who had seen Imam Mahdi (s) and is deemed very reliable.
- ‘Ali bin Ishaq bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: It appears he did not directly narrate from any of the Imams, but he did possess his own book of hadith.
- Ahmad bin Muhammad bin ‘Isa bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Ridha, Jawwad and Hadi. He was one of the greatest scholars of Qom and is recognized as the main authority during his time. His name appears in 2290 narrations in the four-primary works. He is known to have been strict when it came to accepting narrations and exiling individuals who he deemed problematic. He will be discussed in greater lengthy in future posts.
- Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Ya’qub bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Jawwad, and had various books.
- Muhammad bin Rayyan bin Salt al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Jawwad.
- ‘Ali bin Rayyan bin Salt al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Hadi and Imam ‘Askari. He was one of the financial-agents of Imam Hadi in Qom, and his name appears in the chains of 27 narrations.
- Sa’d bin ‘Abdullah bin Abi Khalf al-Ash’ari: His name appears in the chains of 1142 narrations in the four-primary books. There is confusion over whether he was a companion of Imam ‘Askari or someone who did not narrate from any of the Imams.
- Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Abi Bakr bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: He has also been recognized as Ahmad bin Abi Zahir Musa Abu Ja’far al-Ash’ari. He is someone who did not narrate from the Imams directly, but was one of the great scholars of Qom.
- Adam bin Ishaq bin Adam bin ‘Abadullah al-Ash’ari: His name appears in 13 narrations in the four-primary books.
- ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad bin ‘Isa bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: His name appears in 110 narrations in the four-primary books.
- ‘Ali bin Ahmad bin Ishaq bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: His name appears in 2 narrations in the four-primary works.
- Muhammad bin ‘Ali bin Mahbub al-Ash’ari: His name appears in 1118 narrations in the four-primary books and Najashi considered him a senior scholar in Qom.
With this, we end the list of some of the most important names that left their mark in the history of Qom, and who helped shape religious discourse in the city. With the third group, we see an increase in scholarly activity within Qom, partly due to the Kufan heritage being transferred over in extensive amounts through important Kufan personalities like Ibrahim bin Hashim. With the first two groups, the trend more so for these scholars of Qom was to either meet the Imams directly, or visit Kufa to take narrations from teachers that were still present there. However, in the third century Hijri, and with the emergence of the third group, it was the physical transfer of Kufa’s heritage – such as books and manuscripts of various works – that played a huge role in giving Qom its authoritative position. This is not to say that some of the scholars were no longer traveling to meet the Imams, but rather this had slowly diminished, and after the occultation of the 12th Imam, no longer had any meaning.
Over here we should also point out that with the presence of the Ash’ari family in Qom, which was in essence a Shi’i presence, many individuals from the lineage of Ali (s) and Fatima (s) also migrated and settled in Qom. The Ash’aris were known to have welcomed them into the city and gave protection to those who were merely seeking refuge in Qom. The work Muntaqalah al-Talibiyyah of Ibn Tabataba (d. end of 5th century Hijri), records the name of thirty such individual who migrated to Qom with their families, many of these were either scholars of hadith themselves, or their children became scholars of hadith. Some of these individuals include Hamza bin Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Ja’far bin Muhammad bin Zayd (who Shaykh Saduq narrates a lot from), Hamza bin ‘Abdillah bin Hasan, ‘Ali bin Hamza, and Abu al-Fadhl Muhammad bin ‘Ali.
As mentioned above, during the years when scholars from the third group lived, Qom had slowly become an authority for Shi’i religious discourse, to such an extent that scholars had now begun traveling to Qom to hear and record traditions. For example, we see important figures like Rayyan bin Shabib, Husayn bin Sa’eed al-Ahwazi, Hasan bin Sa’eed al-Ahwazi, Qasim bin Hasan bin ‘Ali bin Yaqtin, ‘Abdul Rahman bin Abi Hammad Sayrafi and more traveling to Qom for this very reason. In the next few articles we will try to address the role and influence of specific individuals, and as well as certain trends that were prevalent in Qom. For this reason, I have created a rough timeline showing when certain specific scholars who will be mentioned in subsequent articles were living and who their contemporaries were. Most dates are rough, as they are either unknown or there are multiple dates given for them.
The Ash’ari Family | History of Imami Shi’i Theology (3)
The Traditionalist-Theologian Phenomenon | History of Shi’i Imami Theology (2)
The earliest distinct Shi’i Imami school was that of Kufa’s, which began taking form in the beginning of the 2nd century Hijri during the time of Imam Baqir (s). This era itself is worthy of being studied and as a matter of fact has been studied extensively by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars alike. The various theological trends that existed in Kufa for a century-and-a-half, were without a doubt some of the earliest and most influential trends that shaped the future of Shi’i thought and identity.
During this period, companions of the Imams considered the Imams to be sources of guidance and recognized their authority when it came to being the source of true knowledge. A large network of students and companions of the Imams were involved in narrating their teachings and spreading their teachings. This group of individuals generally came to be known as Muhaddithun (narrators). Many of these narrators however, were also considered Mutakallimun (theologians) and are deemed some of the greatest Imami companions of the time. While many definitions have been given for what constitutes a theologian, at the very least it can be said that it was someone who attempted to work out their religious beliefs within a given epistemological framework. Unlike a Muhaddith, a theologian would generally have been more attentive towards contradictory narrations and would pay closer attention to the words being narrated in order to argue for whether such information fits within their established framework or not. Furthermore, most theologians were heavily involved in debates and discussions against opponents in order to defend their beliefs.
Thus, we can identify three major trends in Kufa during the era of Imam Baqir (s) and Imam Sadiq (s): 1) those who were merely deemed as narrators of traditions and would generally avoid getting into theological disputes, 2) those who were deemed pure theologians, and 3) those who happened to be narrators of traditions and as well as theologians at the same time. This last group is what we refer to as the traditionalist-theologian. The Shi’i companions of the Imams (s), whichever segment they fit into, would still consider themselves bound to the teachings of the Imams in all cases, and would often refer back to them for assistance and guidance. This can be seen in the numerous reports that have been preserved in primary Shi’i texts like Usul al-Kafi.
The fundamental difference between the traditionalist-theologians and the narrators was that the former would attempt to rationalize, justify and fit the teachings of the Imams in a specific established framework of thought. The narrators generally speaking, would not involve themselves in such activities, and would suffice with simply quoting the traditions as evidence for their views when it required. In other words, what was deemed sufficient as guidance for them was the Nass (words of the Imam – orally narrated or written down) on its own, and they saw no necessity in adding their own opinions to the subject matter as it would be deemed irrelevant in front of the words of someone divinely appointed as a source of guidance. Despite this, it must be said that this group, just like the traditionalist-theologians and the theologians, did indeed have a framework in which they would understand things. That framework was the Nass it self. Therefore we find many examples where narrators were seen attempting to explain the contents of a Nass by utilizing other traditions themselves.
Though Shi’i traditionalist-theologians were different from mere theologians as far as the former would often narrate traditions from the Imams (s), in essence it seems that this method was simply an extension of the theologians and the difference was not as extensive. Many companions were considered traditionalist-theologians, such as Zurarah bin A’yun and others from his family, Abu Basir, Muhammad bin Muslim, Ibn Abi ‘Umayr etc.
Both these movements – after having benefited from the presence of the Imams in 2nd century Hijri – had very different fates by the middle of the 3rd century. Theological discourses that had given life to Kufa’s highly engaged society, eventually died out. This is largely to be blamed on certain decisions made by the ‘Abbasid government, such as the implementation of various sanctions, restrictions, and limitations on the Imamis in Kufa and certain theologians who held specific views in general. However, the Imami traditionalist-theologians were able to preserve a lot of their written works and transfer much of their heritage to the next generation as the middle of the 3rd century Hijri approached.
As activity in Kufa slowly died out, another school began taking form as the Kufan traditionalist-theological heritage transferred over to it, and slowly became a substitute for Kufa. This school found its home in the city of Qom.
In the next few posts we will try to address a range of different topics, including – but not limited to: how Qom became the hub for Shi’i theological discourse, why was it seen as the most reasonable destination after the decline of Kufa, a brief history of the earliest Shi’as to have migrated there, the transfer of Kufa’s hadith heritage to Qom, important companions and scholars who lived in Qom and their theological methodologies, the case of scholars exiling Imami narrators of hadith who were accused of certain flaws, prevalent theological views in Qom, the role of the intellect amongst scholars of Qom.
 See for example see Usul al-Kafi, Volume 1, Book 3, Chapter 1, Hadith #4; Book 4, Chapter 1, Hadith #3, #4. The examples are too many to list here.
 The political situation had become so tense that that Imam Kadhim (s) eventually had to tell Hisham bin Hakam to stop any theological debates and discussions. See Rijal al-Kashi, Hadith #479, Page 265-26
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.
Original Post: Time Concepts in the Qur’an – a Historical Perspective
This is based on my understanding of a recorded lecture posted online a few days ago, of Dr. Ahmad Pakatchi speaking at The International Conference on Interdisciplinary Quranic Studies in Tehran. I hope any written material by him or other researchers will become accessible on this subject, especially given that Dr. Pakatchi is one of Iran's qualified and well known professors.
Time plays an important and often times a complicated role in various different fields, and history is definitely not an exception to this rule. One specific discussion pertaining to time and its role in history is with regards to a division of time from two different perspectives. The first division is that of Relative and Absolute - a division that also exists in archaeology and geology, and the second is into Comparative and Structural.
Absolute time is a numerical measurement that is calculated based on an origin, and by which we can date various events and instances. For example, making the Hijrah of the Prophet (s) or the birth of 'Isa (s) the initial point of our time, we can subsequently give time-stamps to events in history mentioning their date, month or year of occurrence.
On the other hand, Relative time does not provide any specific date or timestamp, as it is a comparison of two events with one another, and only tells us about their relative order. Saying that the revolt of Mukhtar took place after the event of Karbala is an example of Relative time.
Based on the second type of division, Comparative time is when we look into a historical event or an event that is considered historical, in relation to other historical events from the perspective of time. For example, when we say that a certain event took place 60 years after such and such event, this is a case of Comparative time. Here we are not looking at our incident on its own, rather in relation to other events.
Structural time on the other hand, is when we look into a historical instance in it and of itself as a singular structure, without comparing it with any other events. For example, saying that so and so person lived for 70 years is a case of Structural time. We are referring to a time (i.e. the person’s age) whose origin and end is the person himself.
These divisions can subsequently be combined with one another to produce four separate concepts of time. Each of these concepts will be explained with an example:
1) Absolute-Comparative: For example, if we say that the event of 'Ashura took place in 61st Hijri, we are applying the concept of time to the day of 'Ashura by comparing it with a specific origin (i.e. the migration of the Prophet) while at also mentioning the date of its exact occurrence within a historical timeline.
2) Relative-Comparative: For example, if we say that the event of 'Ashura took place after the death of Imam Hasan (s), we are looking into one event while comparing it with another, and then giving it its own relative order. There is a comparison here, and also an indication of what happened first, but there is no numerical measurement which gives us a timestamp for either of the events.
3) Absolute-Structural: For example, if we say that the duration of Imam Husayn's (s) Imamate was eleven years, we are applying a structural understanding of time as far as we are only concerned about Imam Husayn (s) on his own, yet also giving an exact numerical value to the duration of his Imamate.
4) Relative-Structural: For example, if we say that Hurr bin Yazid al-Riyahi was the commander of Ibn Ziyad's army before coming to the Imam's side. In this case, we are looking at the life of Hurr as an individual, and giving a relative order to some of his actions based on what he did before and after the event of Karbala. We are not occupying ourselves with the details of any other historical events, rather our concern is the life of Hurr himself.
Relative-Comparative time is perhaps the most often used concept of time in the Qur'an. It is primarily this specific combination that is used to cite examples of historic recurrence in philosophy of history. Absolute-Comparative cases do not seem to exist in the Qur’an, and coincidently, it is this concept of time that implies that an event has taken place and will not recur. This does not seem to be because the culture and society of the time wasn't aware of such a mode of conveying history – especially given that you can find examples of this in previous books - rather there is Divine Wisdom behind its absence.
Within the Qur'an, Relative-Comparative cases are often those which make use of words that signify concepts of before and after, such as ba’d (بعد), qabl (قبل), ula (اولي), ukhra (اخرى). In some verses this meaning is also signified through the verb khalafa (خلف), meaning to succeed, and waritha (ورث), meaning to inherit. See for example when the Qur’an in 53:51-52 speaks about the destruction of Thamud, and before them the people of Noah (wa qawma Nuhin min qabl), or when it refers to the appointment of a king for the Israelites after Moses (2:246-247). In both these cases, we have no information about when these events took place on a measurable timeline, but we do know which event occurred first and which occurred second.
Some Relative-Comparative cases of time in the Qur’an follow a specific style and pattern, where it mentions two events, but does not give us any information about the event between those two. See for example, in 40:5 The people of Noah denied before them and the [heathen] factions [who came] after them. In this verse, we know about the situation of those who denied Prophet Muhammad (s), and the verse tells us that previously the same had occurred with Noah (s). However, based on this verse alone, we are not told any real information about those groups that came between these two events and those historic events are kept vague. This style, along with signifying recurrence and emphasis, seems to also allude to and emphasize the concept of lengthiness and span of time.
We also find examples of Relative-Comparative usage of time in the Qur’an. These cases are mostly recorded in a narratological manner. Surah al-Kahf is a great example of this, or the story of Dhu al-Qarnayn, or the story of Moses (s) and Khidhr and of course the story of Yusuf (s). In Surah al-Saaffat, we have short stories or rather verses that recall incidents from the lives of various Prophets (s) such that we understand that each Prophet is essentially a continuation of the story of the previous Prophet.
Absolute-Structural cases also exist in the Qur’an. For example, in 29:20 the Qur’an mentions that Noah’s life was a thousand-less-fifty years until the flood overtook his people. Over here Noah (s) and his life alone is the subject of discussion, but the verse also gives us a numeric value which makes it absolute since his age is being measured from the time of his birth. This verse however, is not Absolute-Comparative because we do not know when Noah lived precisely and neither do we know when the flood took place in absolute terms.
This term I have been engaging in an independent (i.e. not part of curriculum) study session on Kitab al-Sawm (Book of Fasting) where we try to analyze the reasoning and arguments of the various rulings and verdicts the jurists give. I am almost done with the section on niyyah (intention) for fasting - thus the previous post. This post will be regarding one of the rulings that appears in most practical law books today and a few simple observations. This is by no means an attempt to show which ruling makes more sense or not - please follow the rulings of your own Marj'a (in case I end up presenting a stronger case for a view that is against what one's own marj'a says). The ruling is as follow:
Ayatullah Sistani: 1579. If somebody is undecided in his niyyat whether to break or not an obligatory fixed fast, like that of Ramadhan, or decides to do so, immediately his fast becomes invalid even if he does not actually break it or is repentant of his intention.
Ayatullah Khamenei: Q 754: During the month of Ramadan, A mukallaf decides to break his fast but he changes his mind before doing so. Is his fast valid? What about the fast other than that of Ramadan?
A: During the month of Ramadan if he ceases intending to fast, i.e. he does not have intention to continue his fast, it invalidates his fast and intending again to proceed with the fast is to no avail. However, if he just decides to perform or take anything that would invalidate the fast, the validity of his fast is problematic and there is an obligatory caution to complete the fast and later perform its qaḍā’ as well. The same rule is applied to any fast which is obligatory for a specific day like that of nadhr.
This topic is generally referred to as Niyyah of Qat' (قطع), and Niyyah of Qati' (قاطع). The former is an instance of a person merely deciding during the course of the day while fasting, that they will break their fast (either now or later), whereas the latter is someone who physically begins the process of breaking their fast (intentionally), but discontinues before the actual act (for example lifting a glass of water up to drink, but then puts it back down). The former is inclusive within the latter by nature.
This is one of those rulings where jurists (both Sunni and Shi'a) have had a lot of dispute over. To begin with, there are three different opinions on the matter:
Niyyah of Qat' or Qati' does not invalidate the fast (this seems to be the view of many of the older jurists)
- To name a few: Shaykh Tusi in his al-Mabsut and al-Khilaf, Muhaqqiq Hilli in al-Sharai' and al-Mu'tabar, and 'Allamah Hilli in his al-Muntaha
- Shaykh Ansari and his student Ayatullah Ridha Hamadani (d. 1322 Hijri) held the same view
- Some contemporary scholars like Ayatullah Mazaheri hold the same view and the now deceased Ayatullah Fazel Lankarani (d. 2007)
Niyyah of Qat' or Qati' invalidate the fast
- This is the opinion of some of the earlier jurists like Sayyid Murtadha and Abu al-Salah al-Halabi
- Sayyid Muhammad Kazim Yazdi (d. 1919) in his al-'Urwah al-Wuthqa holds this view and many jurists of the 20th and 21st century hold this view, including Ayatullah Khoei, Ayatullah Sistani (as can be seen from the ruling above), Ayatullah Makarem Shirazi, Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani, Ayatullah Shubeyri Zanjani, Ayatullah Wahid Khorasani and Ayatullah Sayyid Kamal al-Haydari
Niyyah of Qat' breaks the fast, but not the Niyyah of a Qati'
- This is the opinion of Shaykh Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi (d. 1850) in his al-Jawahir, as well as Imam Khomeini
- There are not too many adherents of this view
There are different ways to argue for each position, and I do not plan on doing justice to any one of them, rather provide a very simple summary of how jurists discuss this. In fact, different jurists may approach the subject in completely different manners to begin with. One such jurists addresses the issue as follow:
They ask, what is the reality of a fast? Is a fast one single constructed reality which begins at the time of Fajr and ends at the time of Maghrib, in which a person refrains from engaging in things like eating, drinking etc. with an intention? Meaning, not only does the intention give the fast its meaning, but rather it is a part and parcel of it. Thus, it has to be present there in every single instance of a person's fast - in order for them to be considered a person who is fasting. If this is the case, then by nature, breaking this intention even for a moment, whether one actually eats something or not, should technically break their fast. This is because the intention was part of what constituted the fast. In other words, once one does an intention - for example - such as: "I have decided to break my fast", or "I am lifting this glass of water to drink and subsequently break my fast with it", they are already in a state in which they are not considered a person who is fasting. In Usuli and Fiqhi jargon, this would be referred to as "Niyyah having Mawdhu'iyyah".
The other possibility is when "Niyyah has Tareeqiyyah". Meaning intention isn't part of the reality of a fast, rather a fast is essentially the act of refraining from those limited things that have been mentioned in the sources that break the fast. Intention is only a means by which a fast is validated, but it isn't its reality.
If we are to go with the first opinion, we will generally conclude that Niyyah of Qat' or Qati' will indeed break one's fast, however if we go with the second opinion we will say that the fast isn't broken. Those who say the fast is broken, at times will also bring this narration from Tadheeb ul-Ahkam of Shaykh Tusi:
سَمَاعَةَ قَالَ: سَأَلْتُهُ عَنْ رَجُلٍ أَتَى أَهْلَهُ فِي شَهْرِ رَمَضَانَ مُتَعَمِّداً فَقَالَ عَلَيْهِ عِتْقُ رَقَبَةٍ وَ إِطْعَامُ سِتِّينَ مِسْكِيناً وَ صِيَامُ شَهْرَيْنِ مُتَتَابِعَيْنِ وَ قَضَاءُ ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمِ وَ أَنَّى لَهُ مِثْلُ ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمِ
Sama'ah said: I asked about a man who engages in intercourse with his spouse (lit. approaches his ahl) in the month of Ramadhan intentionally. He (s) said: Upon him is the freeing of a slave, and the feeding of 60 poor, and the fast of 2 consecutive months, and the Qadha of that specific day, and anna lahu dhalika al-yawm (not sure how to precisely translate this into English. It is a phrase referring to the person having lost the opportunity to fasting on that day and is deprive of its rewards despite all the penalties and Qadha he has to do).
This narration is generally used in the discussion of when on the day of doubt (if it is the 30th of Sha'ban or 1st of Ramadhan) a person wakes up without the intention to fast, and does an act that breaks a fast, but later in the day figures out it is the 1st of Ramadhan. His fast is definitely invalid, but does this person now also have to refrain from committing an act that breaks a fast generally, until Maghrib out of respect for the month of Ramadhan? How this narration is used for that discussion is outside the scope of this post, but nevertheless this narration is brought as an example of showing that what became necessary on this person was not just all 3 penalties, but also the Qadha. Some jurists say, the Qadha had become necessary simply by means of him having the intention to have intercourse since he had broken his fast, whereas the 3 penalties came upon him after he went ahead and actually performed the act. There is a lot of discussion on this narration itself, but will suffice with just this simple explanation.
Those who say the fast is not broken (which seem to be fewer in number today), bring two main arguments:
1) Some apply the principle of continuity (Istishab). Meaning, we were certain that our fast is valid, and now after doing a Niyyah of Qat' or Qati', we are unsure whether our fast is broken or not. We apply the principle and assume that our fast is correct. There are numerous problems with applying this principle in this specific case, but it will over-complicate this post.
2) The more common argument is that we actually have numerous narrations that explicitly tell us and list for us the things that invalidate one's fast. Things like, eating, drinking, sexual intercourse, etc. Not in one narration or verse, do we find anything about such an intention being one of those cases that invalidate one's fast. Furthermore, in accordance to the second perspective that one can take on what is the reality of a fast, they can argue that we have an example of a Mustahabb fast. In a Mustahabb fast, we know that one can not have an intention the whole day, and as long as they have not done an act that breaks a fast generally, they can do an intention even a few minutes before Maghrib and that day will count as a Mustahabb fast for them. This - these jurists argue - shows that the Niyyah does not have "Mawdhu'iyyah", rather "Tareeqiyyah".
Some other jurists argue that if the intention of Qat' or Qati' invalidates the fast, then we cannot say there are 7, or 8, or 9, or 12 etc. things (depending on the jurist) that invalidate a fast. Rather we should say only one thing breaks the fast, and that is the mere intention. Saying that eating, drinking etc. breaks the fast does not make sense since with the mere intention, there is no longer a fast existent which can be broken (i.e. it is already broken). They further argue that if the intention of Qat’ or Qati’ was such an important matter, we would have had some narrations on it listing it out as one of the things that invalidate a fast, or some questions and answers pertaining to it by the companions, but we see that our narrations are completely silent on the matter.
So how do those who hold on to the opinion that it does not break the fast, deal with the notion of not having an intention in the middle of the day, albeit for a moment, yet the fast still being valid? They say, if the person changes their intention in the middle of the day and decide not to fast and persistently remain on this intention to such an extent that in the minds of the people - if they were to become aware of this person's intention - this person would be deemed someone who is not fasting, only then would their fast be considered invalid. Otherwise, it is the actual act (of eating, drinking etc.) that invalidates the fast. Having an intention of breaking one's fast, or physically lifting a glass up to drink water and then deciding otherwise, does not make one's original intent of fasting go away completely.
It seems that in order to reach the conclusion that the fast is not invalidated, these jurists have taken a more 'Urfi (customary) approach to the matter, rather than a purely theoretical and abstract approach. This is also why they claim this issue is non-existent in our hadith works, because people do not generally consider someone who has one of the two aforementioned intentions and then goes back to his original intention to have broken their fast.
PS - I didn't reference this post too much as the point of it was to present the arguments - who makes the argument is not too necessary. But in general, I can say the 3 main sources looked into were the Behas al-Kharij of Ayatullah Shubeyri Zanjani, Ayatullah Mazaheri, and Ayatullah Nuri Hamadani.
Most books on jurisprudence and practical law that deal with fasting, open up with a discussion on Niyyah (intention). Some books make the rules seem quite complicated and the deductive discussions present in many books or transcribed notes from the Behas al-Kharij of some of the jurists are even more complicated at times. This is all the while our classical scholars did not spend so much time on this subject at all. In fact most earlier jurists are relatively silent on the matter in their works of jurisprudence. For example, in rulings of Wudhu, we find no mention of anything to do with Niyyah in Shaykh al-Saduq’s al-Muqni’ and neither Shaykh al-Mufid in his al-Ishraf. Or in his al-Muqni'ah, Shaykh al-Mufid discusses the method of praying in detail, yet is completely silent on the matter of Niyyah. Elsewhere, some of these jurists would simply say that Niyyah is to seek closeness towards Allah and to have sincerity (Shaykh al-Mufid for example uses 98:5 to prove this).
Complicated discussions on Niyyah seem to have slowly crept in during the end of the 6th century Hijri, and by 7th & 8th century with the appearance of Muhaqqiq Hilli and 'Allamah Hilli this discussion had become part of mainstream jurisprudential discussions.
We began seeing discussions on whether Niyyah is something that one has to literally notify themselves of, and if this is to be done in the heart, or in the mind or by tongue; or whether it is a mere result of another entity that calls them to perform an action. Furthermore, does one have to specify in their intention whether they are performing an obligatory or recommended action - and if obligatory, is it Qadha or not? Or if there is a need to specify in the month of Ramadhan that one is indeed doing the obligatory fast of Ramadhan or not? Does Niyyah have to be continuous or is one Niyyah in the beginning of a worship enough? All these and other related discussions had become mainstream for centuries and can still be seen in the books of practical law.
Interestingly enough, we have also seen a few scholars speaking out against this during the course of time. Some Shi'i scholars - like Muhaqqiq Sabzwari (d. 1090 Hijri) - even deemed these discussions as outright innovations (bid'ah). Over the last few weeks, having gone through the transcribed lessons of Ayatullah Shubeyri Zanjani, Ayatullah Mazahari and Ayatullah Nuri Hamadani's on this topic, it is clear that some contemporary scholars also look at these discussions unfavourably (yet seem to be forced to discuss it in their Behas al-Kharij due to the format their lessons follow).
One figure who spoke out against this matter was Shaykh Baha'i (d. 1621 CE). In his Miftah al-Falah [http://en.wikishia.net/view/Miftah_al-falah_(book)] he writes (very quick, rough and slightly paraphrased translation):
"And know that some of our later jurists have exaggerated and extended their discussion on the matter of Niyyah, while there is nothing in the narrations of the Imams (s) as such. Rather, what can be utilized based on what has been reported on behalf of them (s) on the topics of Wudhu, Salat and all other forms of worship, which their followers would act upon, is that the matter of Niyyah is easy. It is needless from being mentioned, present in the minds of all rational people when they carry out an act out of their own free-will. Due to this, our classical jurists (r) did not enter into discussions regarding it.
It was only a group of later jurists who embarked on it and initiated a discussion on it, such that it now becomes the subject of doubt for whether it had been abandoned from various parts of one’s actions, brings about difficulty for most people, and leads them into Waswas. In fact, Niyyah is nothing in reality but a simple intent to carry out a specific action for a specific cause; and it is a part and parcel of that action which is intended.
This intent can almost never be separated from a rational person at the time of every action, to the extent that some of our scholars have said that if Allah had made us responsible of carrying out a specific action without having its Niyyah, our responsibility would be towards that which we have no ability of performing.
Thus, the notion of bringing into presence that which is intended, into the mind, such that it is differentiated from another, and the intent of carrying out an action to fulfill a command of Allah is at the height of simplicity. Take Zuhr prayers - an act we are responsible for performing at a specific time for example - which can be conceptualized with its specific characteristics by which it is differentiated from all other actions deemed worship and non-worship, and the intent of performing it to fulfill a command: there is no difficulty in any of this at all, like the working conscious of anyone will testify. If anyone finds this difficult, then they should ask Allah to correct their conscious, for He is omnipotent over all things."
As the school-term comes to an end, and there was some time that I could spare for my self, I've thought a lot about how my views on life, religion, man's relationship with God, and the world around me, have changed over the years. This is going to be a pretty random rant - but I guess that is what blogs are for .
As of now, it has been 4 years since I moved to the seminary in Qom, and while there are many brothers and sisters here who spent many years on ShiaChat, many of them have either asked for their accounts to be deleted, with all of their posts, or have completely abandoned the forum all together or visit once in a while. I'm one of the handful of those who have not asked for my account to be deleted. All my posts from my early teenage years to now mid and late-20s are there. Personally, I never felt I had anything to hide - my posts are pretty much who I am. One can clearly see the early phase of an excited teenager learning a thing or two about the religion, with very deep-rooted presumptions about life, to a hyper kid getting accustomed to a some-what celebrity status, loved & hated by so many, to then entering university life and maturing up (some may disagree ), and eventually entering into the work-force, married, moving to a different country, kids etc. While browsing through my earliest posts back in 2004, I was really able to just reflect on not just how much I have changed, but even how much influence (positive or negative) people on this forum have had on me. Of course this was not happening in a vacuum. I was interacting with all sorts of people - albeit behind a screen. There are so many real names, user-names, and names that I don't even remember - all of them - that I can recall, and in hindsight, see how each and everyone of them played a role in the development of my ideas, the stances and decisions I made in life, the open-mindedness I developed, or even the doubts I may have developed over various issues, and the questions that would remain unanswered for months and years.
This is very obvious for me even while I study in the seminary. The questions I may ask, the extent of tolerance I may show, the critiques I may mention, the willingness to really question some of our "famous" theological or historical views - some of these things make other students and at times even teachers really uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I believe this is in part due to what transpired on this forum and I am happy for it. This forum was like a large community center. It wasn't a community center for a specific ethnicity, or a culture, or converts or a specific gender. This forum for a large part was a community for those who either didn't have access to a real community where they lived, or were not satisfied with the communities that they belonged to. I believe it represented quite accurately the state of the Shi'a (primarily in the West) for a large part. It collectively represented the views that persisted and continue to persist amongst the Shi'a. Unfortunately, it is this portion of the Shi'a populous that often gets unnoticed outside of virtual reality. The inability of those leading us (for the most part) to really dissect and decipher the state of an average Shi'a's mindset, has really been one of the major issues for our communities in the West. The ignorance towards the epistemological framework that an average Shi'a growing in the West acquires through the education system or simply by living there, the delusional presumption that somehow a sub-culture contained within the 4-walls of a building will be able to preserve itself and overcome a dominant culture outside, the satisfaction of merely entertaining the audience with shallow lectures & speeches - while not addressing important and crucial matters: the cure for all of this seems to be have been missing in the last few decades, primarily due to ignorance towards it.
On a rare encounter I may have with a lost-long SCer, Its interesting to see how many stayed religious as they were, or were irreligious and become religious, or remained irreligious, or how so many are now going through a faith crisis as they have grown and began questioning and pondering over life's crucial mysteries.
Reflecting back on what views I held and what views I hold now, nostalgia overtook me and I started browsing through old posts, old pictures, audio and video files that I still have saved from a decade ago (had a seriously good laugh over some audio files of @SO SOLID SHIA I still have with me). It is really weird how all of a sudden around 2012/2013 the forum just died. As if everyone switched off their plugs and disappeared. People definitely have to move on with their lives, no doubt about that. Of course there were some people who left much earlier, but this sudden silence is really absurd and that it wasn't replaced with a new batch of talented, and educated individuals is really hard to explain.
Perhaps those members who are still lingering around from the early 2000s ( @Gypsy @DigitalUmmah @Darth Vader @Abbas. @Haji 2003 @Abu Hadi @Wise Muslim @Qa'im @notme) and are still in touch with those who have left, maybe they can work on a ShiaChat Reunion of some sort. Perhaps get in contact with old members and request them to make a moment's appearance and leave some remarks on what they are up to in life! What changes have taken place in your lives, in your views, in your lifestyle - if any? There were some members I had such a great time with, and it felt as if we would remain friends forever. It would be great to be able to reconnect with them.
@Baatil Ka Kaatil @Matami-Shah @Zain @Hasnain @Abdulhujjah @Peer @fyst @Syedmed @Nida_e_Zahra @hmMm @SpIzo @venusian @sana_abbas @fatimak @HR @asifnaqvi @Bollywood_Hero @phoenix @blessing @zanyrulez @wilayah @Hajar @Zuljenah @LaYdee_110 @fadak_166 @raat ki rani @Friend of All @queenjafri @Simba @Path2Felicity @3ashiqat-Al-Batoul @-Enlightened @karateka @A follower @hameedeh @lethaldefense @kaaju barfi @Friend of All @Ya Aba 3abdillah ...there are dozens of other members if I keep going.
In many Shi'i communities, it is the 9th of Rabi' al-Awwal that marks the end of the two-month mourning period that begins with the first of Muharram. The day is celebrated in most communities, for different reasons, and is referred to by a few names, such as Eid al-Zahra, Farhat al-Zahra, Eid-e Shuja, Taj Poshi-e Imam, Yawm Raf' ul-Qalam, Umar Kushshun etc. The significance of the day is due to four different reasons, all of which have been attributed to it:
- 'Umar ibn al-Khattab (the 2nd caliph) was killed on this day
- The angels lift their pens up for the Shi'as and they do not record anything (i.e. one can commit sins and not be held accountable for them)
- The transfer of the Imamate from Imam Hasan al-'Askari to his son, Imam al-Mahdi
- Mukhtar killed 'Umar ibn Sa'd which resulted in the happiness of Imam Sajjad and the women of Bani Hashim
Some communities may celebrate the day for some of the reasons, while some misinformed ones may celebrate the day for all four reasons - particular the first two reasons. In this post, I will simply be looking at the historical validity of all four of these reasons.
The killing of 'Umar and the Lifting of the Pens
The killing of 'Umar and as well as the angels lifting up their pens, have both been mentioned in one narration that has been recorded in the works of some mainstream Shi'i scholars. The narration speaks of two individuals (who are completely unknown and no information regarding them exists in biographical works and history books) disputing over 'Umar ibn al-Khattab (or in some books it says Abu al-Khattab Muhammad bin Abi Zaynab the founder of the extremist Khattabiyah sect). They make their way to Ahmad bin Ishaq, a companion of Imam al-'Askari, in the city of Qum while their visitation coincided with the 9th of Rabi' al-Awwal. His female slave opens the door and informs them that Ahmad is celebrating the day as a day of 'Eid and that he informed her of the words of Imam al-'Askari considering this day to be the best of 'Eids according to the Ahl ul-Bayt.
When they eventually meet Ahmad, they notice he has bathed specifically for this day and he begins to narrate a lengthy tradition from Imam al-'Askari. He describes his meeting with the Imam during one of the years, which also happened to coincide with the 9th of Rabi' al-Awwal, and noticed that the Imam had informed those who were at his house to perfume themselves and wear new clothes. He questions the Imam about this, and the Imam begins to narrate a story from the time of the Prophet, which speaks of Hudhayfa ibn al-Yaman meeting the Prophet and Imam Ali on a similar date while they were partaking in a meal with smiles on their faces, congratulating each other for the blessings of this day. Hudhayfa asks for the reason, and the Prophet informs him that this is the day on which Allah (swt) destroyed their enemies. The Prophet begins to inform Hudhayfa about the blessings that Allah (swt) has bestowed upon this day, and while relaying this, he mentions that Allah has also ordered the angels to lift their pens on the onset of this day, and to not record any sins of the Shi'as in honour of the Prophet and his successor.
Then the narrative changes to Hudhayfa, who says that he witnessed what the hypocrites did after the demise of the Prophet and when the second caliph died - on the 9th of Rabi' al-Awwal - he visited Imam Ali to congratulate him. The Imam reminds him of the time when he visited them on a similar date and they were celebrating. He says that the celebration was to do with Allah (swt) foretelling them about this day. The Imam proceeds to give about seventy names for this day, such as The Second Ghadeer, The Great Eid of Allah, The Day of Charity etc.
The narrative changes back to the two individuals who say that after having heard Ahmad narrate this report, they kissed his forehead and thanked Allah for having learned the virtues of this blessed day before dying.
Before going any further, since I will be mentioning certain authors and their books, it is befitting for the readers to be aware of the chronological order by year of when these individuals lived.
- Ahmad bin Ishaq al-Qummi: died 263 Hijri
- Shaykh Saduq: 305 - 381 Hijri
- Maymun ibn Qasim al-Tabarani (author of Majmu' al-A'yad): 350/358 - 426/427 Hijri
- Hashim ibn Muhammad Ali (author of Misbah al-Anwar): Alive in 558 Hijri
- Ali ibn Ta'us (author of Iqbal al-A'mal): 589 - 664 Hijri
- Ali ibn Ali ibn Ta'us (author of Zawaid al-Fawaid): 647 - 711 Hijri
- Shaykh Hasan ibn Sulayman (author of al-Mukhtasar): Possibly before 742 - till after 802 Hijri
- Shaykh Hurr al-Amili (author of Ithbat al-Huda): 1033 - 1104 Hijri
Allamah Majlisi (author of Bihar al-Anwar): 1037 - 1110 Hijri
The earliest book of a mainstream Shi'a scholar, in which this specific narration appears in is Misbah al-Anwar by Shaykh Hashim ibn Muhammad (scholar from 6th century Hijri but the book may have been written in 7th century Hijri). Its chain of narration is as follow:
قال: أخبرنا أبو محمد الحسن بن محمّد القمّي بالكوفة، قال: حدثّنا أبو بكر محمد بن جعدويه القزويني، وكان شيخاً صالحاً زاهداً (سنّهُ إحدى واربعين وثلاثمائة) صاعداً الى الحج، قال: حدثني محمد بن علي القزويني، قال: حدثنا الحسن بن الحسن الخالدي بمشهد أبي الحسن الرضا عليه السلام قال: حدثنا محمد بن العلاء الهمداني الواسطي و يحيى بن محمد جريح البغدادي قالا :تنازعنا في أمر أبي الخطّاب محمد بن زينب الکوفي فاشتبه علينا أمره فقصدنا جميعاً أبا علي أحمد بن إسحاق بن سعد الأشعري القمّي صاحب أبي الحسن العسکري عليه السلام بمدينته بقم
Shaykh Hashim said: Abu Muhammad al-Hasan bin Muhammad al-Qummi narrated to me in Kufa saying: Abu Bakr Muhammad bin Ja'dawayh al-Qazwini - he was a righteous and ascetic scholar - narrated to me while on his way to Hajj (in the year 341 Hijri) saying: Muhammad bin Ali al-Qazwini narrated to me saying: Hasan bin al-Hasan al-Khalidi narrated to me in the shrine of Imam Ridha (as) saying: Muhammad bin al-'Ala al-Hamdani al-Wasiti and Yahya bin Muhammad Jarih al-Baghdadi both narrated to me saying: We were disputing regarding Abi al-Khattab Muhammad bin Zaynab al-Kufi, and his affair confused us. So we decided to go to Ahmad bin Ishaq bin Sa'ad al-Ash'ari al-Qummi the companion of Imam Hasan al-'Askari (as) in the city of Qom.
In this report, we see that the two main narrators (Muhammad bin al-'Ala al-Hamdani and Yahya bin Muhammad Jarih al-Baghdadi) who are completely unknown, are reporting the tradition to yet another unknown person by the name of Hasan al-Khalidi. In this report it says explicitly that the two individuals were arguing over Abi al-Khattab - rather than 'Umar ibn al-Khattab. We also do not know much about the life of the author himself, besides what is available through this book of his.
The next book that the narration exists is in al-Mukhtasar of Shaykh Hasan bin Sulayman. This report has slight differences in its text, and its chain of narrators is cut severely short, however the two main reporters are the same, namely Muhammad bin al-'Ala al-Hamdani and Yahya bin Jarih al-Baghdadi. The chain is as follow:
الشيخ الفاضل علي بن مظاهر الواسطي عن محمد بن العلا الهمداني الواسطي ويحيى بن جريح البغدادي
al-Shaykh al-Fadhil Ali bin Mazahir al-Wasiti from Muhammad bin al-'Ala al-Hamdani al-Wasiti and Yahya bin Muhammad bin Jarih al-Baghdadi.
Over here, they are narrating this report to a person by the name of Ali bin Mazahir al-Wasiti (another unknown person).
The next book in which this report appears is Zawaid al-Fawaid of Ali ibn Ali ibn Ta'us, which we know of through Allamah Majlisi's work Bihar al-Anwar. The chain of narrators is as follow:
رَوَى ابْنُ أَبِي الْعَلَاءِ الْهَمْدَانِيُ الْوَاسِطِيُ وَ يَحْيَى بْنُ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ حُوَيْجٍ الْبَغْدَادِيُّ
Ibn Abi al-'Ala al-Hamdani al-Wasiti and Yahya bin Muhammad bin Huwayj al-Baghdadi narrate...
In Allamah Majlisi's work Zaad al-Ma'ad, he records this tradition from Zawaid al-Fawaid and quotes additional words from Ali ibn Ali ibn Ta'us himself:
The author of Zawaid al-Fawaid said: I copied this narration from the handwriting of Ali bin Muhammad Tayy (ra), and I found in other books various reports that are in line with this tradition, and I have relied on them. It is appropriate for the Shi'a to honour this day and express delight and happiness.
The narration with Ali bin Mazahir in its chain (as recorded in al-Mukhtsar) has been briefly referenced by Shaykh Hurr al-Amili in his book Ithbat al-Huda as well, however note the significant difference between this chain and the other ones:
And some of our scholars narrate in a treatise regarding the killing of 'Umar, from Ali bin Mazahir al-Wasiti with a connected chain, from Muhammad bin Ali al-Hamdani from Hasan bin al-Husayn al-Samiri from Ahmad bin Ishaq al-Qummi from Imam Hasan al-'Askari.
In this chain, Yahya bin Muhammad is completely dropped and is replaced by another person by the name of Hasan al-Samiri (unknown). Two individuals are not reporting from Ahmad bin Ishaq in this chain, rather only one person (al-Samiri) is narrating from Ahmad bin Ishaq. Some have also mistakenly confused Ali bin Mazahir with Zayn ul-Din Ali bin 'Izz al-Din Hasan bin Mazahir al-Hilli (8th century Hijri scholar), a student of Muhammad bin Hasan al-Hilli (son of Allamah Hilli and famously known as Fakhr al-Muhaqqiqeen). There is no evidence to suggest that it was him.
Other than the chain of narrators present in Misbah al-Anwar, the rest of the books all possess broken chains with gaps of 300 years and more, between their authors and the time when Ahmad bin Ishaq was living.
There also exists a great amount of inconsistencies in these chains. For example at one point Ali bin Mazahir is narrating from Muhammad bin al-'Ala al-Hamdani al-Wasiti and Yahya bin Muhammad bin Jarih al-Baghdadi, who are in fact narrating the actual story of their visit to Ahmad bin Ishaq, whereas in Ithbat al-Huda, Ali bin Mazahir is narrating from Muhammad bin Ali al-Hamdani who then quotes from Hasan bin al-Husayn al-Samiri who narrates the tradition from Ahmad bin Ishaq. The names are not consistent and scriptural errors can also be witnessed, there is no mention of Yahya bin Muhammad in Shaykh Hurr al-Amili's work at all and rather Hasan al-Samiri - a completely different and unknown individual - is mentioned in the chain.
Since we have not been able to identify who these individuals are, and with a gap of a few centuries between the authors and the unknown narrators, there is really no way to claim that we have a good level of assurance that this narration is reliable or that the wordings that have been recorded were indeed the words of Imam al-'Askari, the Prophet, Imam Ali or any other individuals that have been referred to in the lengthy narration.
The narration also appears with another chain in an 11th century Hijri work, Anwar al-Nu'maniyah of Sayyid Nematullah Jazairi, with a slightly different rendition of the text and a different chain. The author is supposedly quoting from Abu Ja'far Muhammad bin Jarir al-Tabari:
Narrated to us al-Amin al-Sayyid Abu al-Mubarak Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Ardshir al-Dastani saying: Sayyid Abu al-Barakat bin Muhammad al-Jurjani narrated to us saying: Hibatullah al-Qummi (whose name was Yahya) narrated to us saying: Ahmad bin Ishaq bin Muhammad al-Baghdadi said: Narrated to us Hasan bin Hasan al-Samiri who said: Myself and Yahya bin Ahmad bin Jarih al-Baghdadi decided to go to Ahmad bin Ishaq al-Qummi who was a companion of Imam Hasan al-'Askari in the city of Qom...
This chain when seen in light with the rest of the chains, once again has contradictions and inconsistencies. There are narrators that are both known and unknown (particularly the main narrators of the tradition) in this chain. In this narration, there is no mention of Muhammad bin al-'Ala who is one of the individuals who supposedly visits Ahmad bin Ishaq with Yahya.
One last book by a mainstream Shi'i scholar that I will be mentioning in which this report is mentioned in with a different chain is al-'Iqd al-Nadhid wa al-Durr al-Farid, of someone by the name of Muhammad bin al-Hasan al-Qummi. Once again, not much is known about the author except that he authored this book. The book was written after 7th century Hijri and the chain on page 60 is as follow:
الحديث السادس والأربعون: عن الحسن بن الحسين السامري قال: كنت أنا ويحيى بن أحمد بن جريح البغدادي
Hadith Forty-Six: From Hasan bin al-Husayn al-Samiri who said: Myself and Yahya bin Ahmad bin Jarih al-Baghdadi
This chain is once again broken and shows similar inconsistency. A chart depicting the chains from the 6 books mentioned is presented below so the readers can see the inconsistencies (please note that all the individuals are unknown except Ahmad bin Ishaq al-Qummi):
Before one can begin using a narration or a historical report, the most fundamental thing that needs to be attained, is a level of assurance that these words were essentially said. This is generally done either by looking at the chain of narrators and determining whether they were trustworthy individuals with good memories, or there exists sufficient contextual evidence, or redundancy in the same narration or its contents by multiple different individuals, to support the fact that these words were indeed said. With regards to this narration, after what we have witnessed, no reliable methodology will result in a level of assurance suggesting that this narration is reliable. In fact, the chains have major contradictions between each other whose result would be that the incident actually took place twice in exactly the same manner with different individuals. Names are dropped and added from book to book and even the names of the two main narrators who supposedly visit Ahmad bin Ishaq appear inconsistently. The hadith seems to have begun appearing in mainstream Shi'i works during the 6th century Hijri.
The Narration in an Earlier Work
This narration appears in one other book, earlier than any of the works mentioned above. It is a book authored by Abu Sa'eed Surur bin Qasim al-Tabarani (358 - 426 Hijri) by the name of Majmu' al-A'yad. The author was a Nusayri, and a lot has been written and researched about him, however it is outside the scope of this article to get into it. It suffices to say that he possessed leadership of the Nusayri community after Muhammad bin Ali al-Jali and al-Khasibi and would not be considered a mainstream Shi'i scholar by any definition.
The chain of narrators in this book is as follow:
حدثنا محمد بن محمد بن العبّاس الخراساني قال أخبرنا أبو علي احمد بن اسماعيل السليماني قال حدثنا الحسين بن أحمد بن شيبان القزويني قال حدّثني أبو أحمد بن علي الکهجشي قال حدثنا محمد بن العلاء الهمداني الواسطي و يحيی بن محمد بن جدع البغدادي قالا تنازعنا في باب أبي الخطاب
Muhammad bin Muhammad bin al-Abbas al-Khorasani narrated to us saying: Abu Ali Ahmad bin Ismail al-Sulaymani narrated to us saying: Husayn bin Ahmad bin Shayban al-Qazwini narrated to us saying: Abu Ahmad bin Ali al-Kahjashi narrated to me saying: Muhammad bin al-'Ala al-Hamdani al-Wasiti and Yahya bin Muhammad bin Jad' al-Baghdadi narrated to me saying: There was a dispute between us regarding Abi al-Khattab.
Regarding Ahmad bin Isma'il al-Sulaymani, he appears in the book Kifayah al-Athar of Ali bin Muhammad al-Khazaz and so does Husayn bin Ahmad bin Shayban al-Qazwini. The latter is considered a Shaykh ul-Ijazah and has also been mentioned in Tarikh Baghdad (Volume 8, #3991) of Khatib Baghdadi. The rest of the individuals are unknown.
This is perhaps the earliest work we have today in which this narration can be found (with many inconsistencies throughout the text). The book itself essentially lists out the important days and dates during the year, alongside any corresponding acts of worship or supplications. The narration appearing in a book belonging to an extremist Shi'i sect with serious theological flaws, and a sect that was known for fabricating plenty of traditions, raises a lot of serious concerns. This fabricated tradition seems to crept its way into mainstream Shi'i works, which is something really not unheard of.
The discussion so far had to do with establishing the reliability of this tradition by looking at how this report has come down to us. We can confidently affirm that with many unknown individuals, inconsistencies present in the chains, names being misspelt or moved around, added or removed, and its earliest version found in a Nusayri text, there is no way to attain any level of assurance that this report is reliable.
Moving on to the content of this narration, it causes even more problems. All credible - early or later - historians suggest that 'Umar ibn Khattab died in the last few days of Dhi al-Hijjah. There does exists a difference of opinion with regards to the actual date, however, no early historian has ever suggested that he died in a different month. Ibn Idris al-Hilli writes that whoever from among the Shi'as confuse his death date with the 9th of Rabi' al-Awwal is mistaken and is going against the unanimous opinion of all historians. He further references the opinion of Shaykh Mufid to support his claim. This aforementioned report, which is completely solitary in its nature, is the only report that we have at our disposal today which states the death of 'Umar being the 9th of Rabi' al-Awwal.
Another point in the narration that assists us in determining its fabricated nature is the remark regarding angels lifting up their pens so that no sins of ours will be recorded on the day. When the tradition is seen in light of having its roots in a Nusayri text, it makes contextual sense that they would fabricate something like this. Tabarani in one of his other famous works Kitab al-Ma'arif attributes many fabricated traditions to Imam Hasan al-'Askari, one of them implying that God exempted His creatures from worshiping Him through religious commandments and only wanted them to know Him, for gnosis is the worship of God. With beliefs in such pseudo-esotericism, it is very plausible that a concept such as lifting of the pen was fabricated so that men are not bound by Islamic laws that pertain to the exoteric aspect of one's life.
It seems that the first scholar to insist on 9th Rabi' al-Awwal being the death date of Umar was 'Allamah Majlisi in his Bihar al-Anwar. He brings the opinions of numerous Shi'a scholars and admits that the famous opinion amongst the Shi'a Imamiyah scholars is that 'Umar died in Dhi al-Hijjah, but in a strange statement, uses the fact that in his day and age, people believed (either referring to people in Isfahan or those living under the Safavid government in general) that he died on the 9th of Rabi' al-Awwal, as support for this opinion and chooses this view over the other.
Ibn Ta'us does mention in his Iqbal al-A'maal that he saw a meritorious narration regarding the 9th of Rabi' al-Awwal and that some people express happiness because they believe someone had been killed on this day. While he does not mention any names, from the rest of his discussion it is not far-fetched to assume that he is speaking about the killing of 'Umar. In any case, this narration that Ibn Ta'us is referring to can't be the one that we have already spoken about, because the narration he is speaking about is in one of the books of Shaykh Saduq who is reporting it from Imam Sadiq (as). However, Ibn Ta'us does not mention the name of the book, nor the tradition. Since Ibn Ta'us is not convinced that this individual was killed on the 9th of Rabi' al-Awwal and states that he has not found anything else reliable to confirm this tradition from Saduq, he attempts to make sense of the tradition by giving possible explanations. For example, he says that it is possible that when it is said this individual was killed on this day, it could metaphorically mean that his killer decided to kill him on this day, or that it was the day that his killer arrived in Medina, or it was the day that his killer left his own city to travel towards Medina. Ibn Ta'us even quotes the view of some others who have tried to explain it away by saying: it was the day that the report of the killing of this individual reached the city where Shaykh Saduq lived - although he refutes this explanation.
Ibn Ta'us further suggests that if there is anything to be happy about, it would be that Imam al-Mahdi (as) officially became the Imam on this day (as his father left the world on the 8th).
While there are reports that some people would celebrate the killing of 'Umar in Kashan on this day (where there exists a grave attributed to Abu Lu'lu - though it is highly unlikely to be his actual grave), however at one point in history even that was done on the 26th of Dhi al-Hijjah.
Historically speaking, 'Umar ibn al-Khattab being killed on the 9th of Rabi' al-Awwal was never taken seriously by mainstream Shi'i scholars (since the majority did not believe he was killed on that day to begin with), let alone celebrate it for this reason. It was only during and after the Safavid dynasty that this practice found any fame.
The Beginning of Imam al-Mahdi's Imamate
Another reason why the 9th of Rabi' al-Awwal is celebrated is because it marks the beginning of the Imamate of al-Mahdi. Ibn Ta'us says in his Iqbal al-A'mal that if anyone wishes to celebrate the 9th of Rabi' al-Awwal, it would be more suitable for them to do so by celebrating it as the beginning of the Imamate of al-Mahdi since it was on the 8th that his father, Imam al-'Askari left this world. While many different dates have been given for the demise of al-'Askari, I do not wish to come to any conclusions as to which date is correct or most plausible. Nevertheless the 8th of Rabi' al-Awwal is the most famous opinion among the scholars and historians. The main point that I wish to allude to is that we know from a report which Shaykh Saduq mentions in his Kamal ul-Din that Imam al-'Askari left this world at Fajr time on the 8th of Rabi al-Awwal. Therefore the actual Imamate of al-Mahdi would have begun on the morning of the 8th itself, not the following day on the 9th as Ibn Ta'us suggests.
The Killing of 'Umar ibn Sa'ad
The actual killing of 'Umar ibn Sa'ad by Mukhtar has been described in a few history books. However I was not able to find any early historical reference for him being killed on this specific day. The closest thing I was able to find was in Allamah Majlisi's Zaad al-Ma'ad while discussing the merits of 9th Rabi' al-Awwal, he writes one sentence in passing:
And some have said that on this day 'Umar bin Sa'ad - may curse be upon him - was sent to Saqar (one of the names of hell). If this is the case, then this is also a sufficient reason for the nobility of this day.
Majlisi is evidently not sure about this. Mukhtar's reign was from around the middle of Rabi' al-Awwal in 66 Hijri till the middle of Ramadhan in 67 Hijri (around 18 months). We also know that 'Umar bin Sa'ad was killed in 66 Hijri through multiple sources. This means he never lived to see a 9th of Rabi' al-Awwal under Mukhtar's reign.
Dhahabi in his book Tarikh al-Islam writes under the events that took place in the year 66 Hijri that some of the individuals who partook in the killing of Imam al-Husayn were killed this year, namely 'Umar bin Sa'ad bin Abi Waqas, and Shimr bin Dhi al-Jawshan al-Dhababi and a group of others. Ibn Kathir in his al-Bidayah wa al-Nihaya documents the details of the killing of 'Umar bin Sa'ad under the year 66 Hijri. Ibn Khaldun in his Tarikh writes that when Mukhtar was done with the killing in Kufa near the end of 66th Hijri, he sent Ibrahim bin Ashtar to go kill Ubaydallah bin Ziyad. From Ansab al-Ashraf of Baladhuri we know that Ibrahim bin Ashtar began this journey in Dhi al-Hijjah of the 66th Hijri. This means that Umar bin Sa'ad was killed between the middle of Rabi' al-Awwal and Dhi al-Hijjah of the 66th century (most probably closer to Dhi al-Hijjah of 66th Hijri rather).
There are other historical events that can further help us confirm that 'Umar bin Sa'ad was definitely killed before the 9th Rabi' al-Awwal of 67th Hijri and that he never lived to see that day under Mukhtar's reign, but it will unnecessarily lengthen the discussion and we will suffice with what has been written.
Historically speaking, there is no reliable evidence to suggest that 'Umar bin al-Khattab was killed on the 9th of Rabi' al-Awwal and the famous tradition that is referred to is a fabrication, most likely by the Nusayris. The concept of lifting of the pens, so that sins are not recorded, goes against the explicit verses of the Qur'an (99:7-8). There is also no real evidence to suggest that it is the day that Mukhtar killed 'Umar ibn Sa'ad. In fact it is possible that due to dissimulation, some scholars may have wished to change the focus from the second caliph to 'Umar bin Sa'ad.
The only event that remains is the beginning of the Imamate of al-Mahdi. While his Imamate would have definitely begun on the 8th of Rabi' al-Awwal, but due to it being a day of mourning, it is befitting to postpone any celebrations to the following day and mark the symbolic beginning of the Imamate of al-Mahdi on the 9th of Rabi' al-Awwal.
 See Fihris al-Turath, of Sayyid Muhammad Husain Husayni Jalali; Volume 1, Page 573. Amal al-Amil, of Shaykh Hurr al-Amili; Volume 2, Page 341, Entry #1050. al-Dhari'ah of Agha Buzurg Tehrani; Entry #4136
 In some manuscripts his name will appear as Huwayj instead of Jarih
 al-Mukhtasar, of Shaykh Hasan bin Sulayman al-Hilli; Page 45
 A'yan al-Shi'a, of Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin; Volume 2, Page 268 - he would have been living around 6/7th century as well
 Zaad al-Ma'ad, of Allamah Majlisi; page 257
 Ithbat al-Huda, of Shaykh Hurr al-Amili; Volume 3, page 211
 Anwar al-Numaniyah, of Nematullah Jazairi; Volume 1, Page 84
 In light of other chain of narrators, this is most probably a copyist error, and it should be Husayn
 Extremist Shi'ites: The Ghulat Sect of Matti Moosa
 Kitab al-Sarair of Ibn Idris Muhammad bin Mansur al-Hilli; Volume 1, Page 419
 Bar-Asher, Meir M., and Aryeh Kofsky. “Dogma and Ritual in "kitāb Al-maʿārif" by the Nuṣayrī Theologian Abū Saʿīd Maymūn B. Al-qāsim Al-ṭabarānī (D. 426/1034-35)”. Arabica 52.1 (2005): 43–65. Web...
 Iqbal al-A'mal, of Sayyid Ibn Ta'us; Section on 9th Rabi' al-Awwal
 Masaib al-Nawasib fi al-radd 'ala Nawaqidh al-Rafawidh, a refutation work written by a Shi'i scholar Sayyid Nur Allah bin Sharaf al-Din al-Mar'ashi al-Tustari, on the polemical work of a Sunni scholar Mirza Makhdum al-Sharifi (d. 988 Hijri); Volume 2, Page 240
 فيكون ابتداء ولاية المهدي ع على الأمة يوم تاسع ربيع الأول - Thus the beginning of the Wilayah of al-Mahdi (as) on the Ummah is the day of 9th Rabi al-Awwal - Iqbal al-A'mal of Sayyid ibn Ta'us
 Kamal al-Din of Shaykh Saduq; Volume 2, Page 473
 Zaad al-Ma'ad, of Allamah Majlisi; Page 258
 Tarikh al-Islam of al-Dhahabi; Volume 5, Page 50
 al-Bidayah wa al-Nihaya of Ibn al-Kathir; Volume 8, Page 272 - مقتل عمر بن سعد بن أبى وقاص و هو أمير الجيش الذين قتلوا الحسين
 Tarikh Ibn Khaldun; Volume 3, Page 37
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