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In the Name of God بسم الله
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Disseminating the teachings of Ahlul Bayt (عليه السلام) 

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Our duty against Bid'ah

Needless to say, before we can perform our duty against bid'ah, the pre-requisite step is to be able to see and identify it. How many people are aware of the dangers of bid'ah but due to lack of understanding are nevertheless a victim of it. The reason is that bid'ah is extremely deceptive - it is disguised as a praiseworthy act that promises to earn abundant reward for the performer and bring him closer to Ahlul Bayt (عليه السلام). The deception is increased because we see each and every Shia around us performing these acts. To add to this, the popular scholars keep promoting bid'ah as their standing and livelihood depends on it. 

It is sad to say that bid'ah has been so strongly established in the Shia religion that the actions performed under it are now considered to be pillars and foundation of religion. Anyone who dares speak against these actions risks being ridiculed and ostracized. If a Shia were to give up all the innovations practiced in the name of religion, he would find himself isolated, cut-off and lonely. But such is the path on which a true Shia must tread in order to prove his loyalty to Ahlul Bayt (عليه السلام).

Please refer to our previous two articles on bid'ah:

    Definition and Scope of Bid’ah
    Dangers of Bid’ah

Scholars must speak against bid'ah


رسولُ الله صلى الله عليه وآله : إذا ظهَرتِ البِدعُ في اُمّتي فلْيُظهِرِ العالِمُ علمَهُ ، فمَن لَم يَفعلْ فعَلَيهِ لَعنةُ اللّهِ

Rasool Allah (s) said: When the innovations appear in my community (ummah), the scholar must manifest his knowledge (I.e. speak against them). So the one who does not do so, upon him be the curse of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى).

[Al Kafi V 1 – The Book Of Intellect and Ignorance CH 19 H 2]


امام على عليه السلام : أفضَلُ عِبادِ الله إمامٌ عادِلٌ، هُدِِِىَ، فَأقامَ سُنَّةً مَعلومَةً، وأماتَ بِدعَةً مَجهولَةً

Imam Ali (عليه السلام) said: The most virtuous of Allah's servants near Allah is a just leader, who is guided and guides others, and who has established the known traditions, and who has abolished the doubtful/problematic (majhool) innovations.

[Nahjul Balagha, Serman 164]


رسولُ الله صلى الله عليه وآله : من أتى ذا بدْعةٍ فعطَّمهُ فإنَّما يَسْعى في هَدْمِ الإسلام

Rasool Allah (s) said: If one comes across an innovation and appreciates it (sides with it), so rather he has assisted in the demolition of Al Islam

[Al Kafi V 1 – The Book Of Intellect and Ignorance CH 19 H 3]

We must disassociate from the people of bid'ah
Below is a very strong hadith that highlights the danger of bid'ah.


مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَحْيَى عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ الْحُسَيْنِ عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ أَبِي نَصْرٍ عَنْ دَاوُدَ بْنِ سِرْحَانَ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص إِذَا رَأَيْتُمْ أَهْلَ الرَّيْبِ وَ الْبِدَعِ مِنْ بَعْدِي فَأَظْهِرُوا الْبَرَاءَةَ مِنْهُمْ وَ أَكْثِرُوا مِنْ سَبِّهِمْ وَ الْقَوْلَ فِيهِمْ وَ الْوَقِيعَةَ وَ بَاهِتُوهُمْ كَيْلَا يَطْمَعُوا فِي الْفَسَادِ فِي الْإِسْلَامِ وَ يَحْذَرَهُمُ النَّاسُ وَ لَا يَتَعَلَّمُوا مِنْ بِدَعِهِمْ يَكْتُبِ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ بِذَلِكَ الْحَسَنَاتِ وَ يَرْفَعْ لَكُمْ بِهِ الدَّرَجَاتِ فِي الْآخِرَةِ

The Messenger of Allah (s) said: When you will find people of bid'ah (innovation) and doubt/suspicion after me, do baraa' (disassociate) from them and increase in your insults (sabihim) to them, and oppose (them) and bring evidences against them so they may not become greedy in bringing fasaad (corruption) to Islam. You must warn people against them and do not learn their bid'ah (innovation). Allah will write for you hasanaat (good deeds) for this, and will raise you darajaat (levels) in the next life.

[Al Kafi V 2 – The Book Of Belief and Disbelief CH 163 H 4]


أَبُو عَلِيٍّ الْأَشْعَرِيُّ عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عَبْدِ الْجَبَّارِ عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ أَبِي نَجْرَانَ عَنْ عُمَرَ بْنِ يَزِيدَ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع أَنَّهُ قَالَ لَا تَصْحَبُوا أَهْلَ الْبِدَعِ وَ لَا تُجَالِسُوهُمْ فَتَصِيرُوا عِنْدَ النَّاسِ كَوَاحِدٍ مِنْهُمْ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص الْمَرْءُ عَلَى دِينِ خَلِيلِهِ وَ قَرِينِهِ

Abu Abd Allaah (عليه السلام) said: Do not befriend the Ahl Al-Bid'ah (People of Innovation), and do not sit with them, so you may become like one of them (according) to the people. The Messenger of Allaah (s) said: A man is upon the religion of his friends and associates.

[Al Kafi V 2 – The Book Of Belief and Disbelief CH 163 H 3]

Aabid vs Aalim


رسولُ الله صلى الله عليه وآله :  فَضلُ العالِمِ عَلى العابِدِ بِسَبعينَ دَرَجَةً، بَينَ كُلِّ دَرَجَتَينِ حُضْرُ الفَرَسِ سَبعينَ عاماً ؛ و ذلكَ أنَّ الشّيطانَ يَضَعُ البِدْعَةَ لِلنّاسِ فيُبصِرُها العالِمُ فَينهى عَنها، و العابِدُ مُقبِلٌ عَلى عِبادَتِهِ لا يَتَوَجَّهُ لَها و لايَعرِفُها

The Prophet (s) said: The knowledgeable man (aalim) is superior to the worshipper (aabid) by seventy degrees, the distance between two degrees spanning the gallop of a horse for seventy years; and this is because Satan plants an innovation (bid'ah) amongst the people which the knowledgeable man (aalim) notices and prohibits, whilst the worshipper attends to his worship neither taking any notice of it nor recognizing it.

[Rawdhat al Waaizin, #17]

An Aalim abolishes bid'ah because of his knowledge of the hadith. His knowledge leads him to limit his actions to those dictated by the Ahlul Bayt (عليه السلام) and will never overstep the defined boundaries. Of all the popular speakers today who are quick to jump on to the Mimbar, how many are true Aalims as defined by Ahlul Bayt (عليه السلام)?

(Also published on blog: https://ahlulbaytmission.org/2019/08/24/our-duty-against-bidah/)


Based on the hadith of Ahlul Bayt (عليه السلام), we should abstain from consuming the following parts of animals:

  1. Blood
  2. All reproductive parts (penis, testicles, vagina, vulva, cervix, uterus, cervix)
  3. Spleen
  4. Heart (certain parts only, refer to hadith)
  5. Gallbladder
  6. Glands (small organs found all over the body and in the brain)
  7. Spinal chords
  8. Placenta
  9. Anything in the loins
  10. Eyeballs
  11. Kidneys
  12. Bone marrow
  13. Skin (hadith reference pending)

The above list is based on the following hadith from Al Kafi:


Imam Reza (عليه السلام) said: Seven things are prohibited from the sheep – the blood, the two testicles, the penis, the bladder, the glands, the spleen and the gallbladder.
[Al Kafi – V 6 – The Book of Foodstuffs Ch 7 H 1]


Amir Al-Momineen (عليه السلام) passed by the butchers, so he (عليه السلام) forbade them from selling seven things from the sheep. He (عليه السلام) forbade them from selling the blood, the glands, the two ears of the heart (right and left ventricles/chambers), the spleen, the spine, the testicles, and the penis.
[Al Kafi – V 6 – The Book of Foodstuffs Ch 7 H 2]


Abu Abdullah (عليه السلام) said: Do not eat ten things from the sheep – the excrement, the blood, the spleen, the spine, the thyroid glands, the glands, the penis, the two testicles, the embarrassment (female private part) and the gallbladder.
[Al Kafi – V 6 – The Book of Foodstuffs Ch 7 H 3]


Abu Abdullah (عليه السلام) said: Do not eat from what happens to be in the camel, and the cow, and the sheep and other than that, from what its meat is permissible – the genitals with what is its apparent and its hidden, the penis, the two testicles, the placenta and it is the place of the birth, the spleen because it is blood, the glands with the veins and (glands of) the brain, that which happens to be in the loins, the gallbladder, the eyeball, the cords (spinal) which happens to be in the brain, and the blood.
[Al Kafi – V 6 – The Book of Foodstuffs Ch 7 H 4]


Amir Al Momineen (عليه السلام) disliked the two kidneys and said: These two are the reservoir of the urine.
[Al Kafi – V 6 – The Book of Foodstuffs Ch 7 H 6]


Stripping the bones (to eat the marrow):
Abu Hamza made food for us and we were a group. So when we were presented (the meal), he saw a man stripping the bone and taking its marrow, so he shouted at him saying: Do not do it, for I heard Ali Bin Al-Husayn (عليه السلام) saying: Do not strip the bone (taking out the marrow) for therein is a share for the Jinn, and if you were to do it, there would go away from the house what is better than that.
[Al Kafi – V 6 – The Book of Foodstuffs Ch 73 H 1]

Also published on blog: https://ahlulbaytmission.org/2019/07/21/animal-parts-to-avoid-consuming/


Abu Jafar (عليه السلام) said: O Abdullah! There is none from an Eid of the Muslims, be it Adha or Fitr, except that it renews grief (yujaddidu huznan) of the Progeny (عليه السلام) of Muhammad (s). I said: And why is that so? He (عليه السلام) said: Because they (the Progeny) are seeing their (عليه السلام) rights in the hands of others (haqqahum fi yad-e-ghayr). 

[Al Kafi Vol 4 The Book of Fasts Ch 74 H2]



Imam Baqir (عليه السلام) said: On every Eid, either Eid-ul-Fitr or Eid-ul-Adha, it brings grief to Aal-e-Muhammad (the Progeny of Muhammad). I (the narrator) asked: Why is that? The Imam (عليه السلام) said: Because they (the Progeny) see their rights have been taken away by the others (their enemies).

[Man la yahdharul faqih, V1, P507, #1480]

Should we rejoice on the day of Eid and celebrate it in a festive mood? Or should we observe the aamaal in a melancholy mood?

Also published on: https://ahlulbaytmission.org/2019/08/09/grief-of-aal-e-Muhammad-renewed-on-eid/


According to modern Usuli school it is not permissible to do taqleed (of the mujtahid) in Usul-e-Deen. However this was not the view of all the scholars in the past.

Here we will look at the thoughts of one of the oldest and most renowned scholar Shaykh Tusi (of 5th/11th century), compiler of two of the four canonical collections of hadith (kutub-e-araba). In his famous book “Uddat al Usul” he argues that taqleed should be promoted not only in furu (branches) but should be extended to include usul (beliefs) as well. Note that usul includes not just tawhid, risalat and qayamat but also includes belief in angels, satan, raja'at, wilayat, creation of the Imams (from the clays), the hierarchy of spirits, nature of ilm, the night of power, taslim, taqiyyah, faith and works, status of the sinner, intercession, kalam, badaa (predestination), free will, vision/nature of God, etc.

Sheikh Tusi argues that the ignorance in usul of the layperson not guided by a mujtahid is more likely to expose him to error than the possibility of following an errant belief (usul) held by a mujtahid. In other words, the layperson is better off following the beliefs (usul) of a mujtahid even if some of those beliefs turn out to be incorrect on the day of judgement, because not refering to the mujtahid for beliefs at all is even more dangerous. He therefore extends the doctrine of taqlid to the usul and as a result to the legal probabilism (meaning the ijtihad based on zann [conjecture]) that goes along with it. Below is an excerpt from his famous book “Uddat al-Usul”:



The opinion that seems strongest to me is that the muqallid has the right (haqq) in the ‘roots’ (usul) of religious matters. Even if he falls into error through his taqlid, he shall not be punished for it, but pardoned [in the same way that he is pardoned for errors having to do with the ‘branches’ (furu)]

For I find not one person among the Shia who gave his allegiance [walaa] to any of the Imams toward whom the Imam then terminated his responsibility [mawala] because he had [merely] heard their words and then adopted their beliefs, not relying on any proof based on reason or revelation.

[Source: Uddat al-usul – Shaykh Tusi]

Sheikh Tusi argues above that when the Imams (عليه السلام) were physically accessible people did taqleed of them even in Usul I.e. accepted their words (on matters of beliefs) without asking for proof. Therefore, the layperson should do the same for the mujtahids as it is a safer option. He continues:



Nor can anyone say that [taqlid in usul] is not permissible because it leads to enticement [of the laity] to [beliefs] that might be foolish — for it does not lead to anything of the kind. It is impossible for a muqallid to conceive, unaided, that such a thing [I.e. knowledge of the usul] is feasible for him.

Rather he fears [attempting] to approach such knowledge! Neither is it possible for him to be aware that the punishment of God would fall away from him [if he were to hold the correct beliefs] and sustain belief—for he could only be aware of this if he had knowledge of the usul [in the first place].

But if we assume [as I do] that he is a muqallid in all these things, then how could he be aware of the dropping away of the punishment of God and be [at the same time] enticed to belief that might be foolish, or how could he sustain [such a false belief]? Someone other than himself—from among those learned men who possess knowledge of the usul and who have studied all the matters relevant to it—would know [of the falling away of the punishment of God from those who hold the correct beliefs], and learned men do not terminate the responsibility they have toward their charges, nor do they abandon them.

It is not possible for them to do such a thing unless they know that the possibility of divine punishment has dropped away [from those for whom they are responsible].

This puts the muqallid beyond the reach of enticement.

[Source: Uddat al-usul – Shaykh Tusi, 115]


In the above excerpt, Sheikh Tusi points out a circularity in the argument of those who are against taqleed in the usul — awareness of the danger of divine retribution which supposedly leads the “ignorant” (jahil) layperson to seek knowledge of the fundamental beliefs itself depends on knowledge of those beliefs.

Reference: Shia Construction of Taqleed By Linda Clarke

Also published on blog: https://ahlulbaytmission.org/2019/07/18/taqleed-in-usul-e-deen-beliefs/


History of the Turban

Origin of the Turban
The first person who wore a turban was Prophet Adam (عليه السلام) after he was expelled from Paradise [1]. A tradition states that the angel Gabriel descended from heaven and dressed him in an amaama (turban). This became a substitute for the crown that he had reportedly worn in Paradise [2]. In the hadith literature, the turban is also projected as a headgear of the angels. Imam Ali b. Abi Talib (عليه السلام) narrates that the Holy Prophet (s) once bound a turban on his head, allowing the ends to hang down in front and behind and said, "The crowns of the angels are thus. [3]" When the Prophet ascended to heaven he saw that the majority of the angels were wearing turbans [4]. The angels sent to assist the Muslims at the Battle of Badr are also recorded to have worn turbans, some yellow and others white [5].

Sheikh Kulayni, in Al Kafi, narrates several traditions which state that Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) had sent four angels to destroy the community of Prophet Lut (عليه السلام). When they passed by Prophet Abraham (عليه السلام) he did not recognize them as they wore turbans. It was only when Gabriel removed his turban that Prophet Abraham (عليه السلام) recognized him [6]. Sheikh Kulayni cites another hadith stating that besides the angels, jinns also wore turbans [7]. Other reports indicate that even Satan wore a turban when he came down from heaven [13]. Reports such as these depict the turban as an angelic dress and enhance its importance.

Merits of wearing a Turban
There are many traditions reported from the Holy Prophet (s) regarding the merits of wearing a turban. He (s) is reported to have said that the "turban is the crown of Arabs [14]. Imam Musa al-Kazim (عليه السلام), reportedly stated that the Holy Prophet (s) called the turban "the authority of Allah" [15]. Other traditions state that it is Allah's dominion (sultan) [16]. Due to the proliferation of hadith about the turbans, the Holy Prophet (s) was known as "sahib ul-amaama" (the wearer of the turban).

Both Shia and Sunni texts cite various hadith regarding the significance of wearing a turban at all times. According to a hadith, wearing a turban brings a person closer to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) since it is a sign of angels [20]. The only time it is forbidden is when a person is in a state of ihram during the pilgrimage. Even in that state, Ima Ja'far al-Sadiq (عليه السلام) states that the pilgrim can tie the amaama around his stomach [21]. Traditions such as these underscore the importance of the turban; they also amplify the status of those who wear it and differentiate them from non-believers.

Besides the traditions enunciating the merits of wearing a turban, the headgear symbolized, among other things, authority, power, dignity, and respect. When the Arabs wanted to treat someone with respect they adorned him with a turban; preferably with their own turban. In contrast, the removal of a man's turban in public by an authoritative figure was a form of public humiliation and punishment. The turban was so important that people sometimes swore oaths on their turbans [26].

Burial with a Turban
The practice of being buried with a turban can be traced to the times of the Imams (عليه السلام) even though the traditions clearly enunciate that the amaama is not a part of the shroud (kafan) hence it is not obligatory to bury a person with it [94]. Before his death, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (عليه السلام) made his last testimony to his son Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (عليه السلام). He (عليه السلام) asked him to shroud him in the cloak in which he used to perform the Friday prayer, to put on him his turban, make his grave square, and raise it to the height of four fingers above the ground [95]. In another tradition, Imam Baqir (عليه السلام) commands Imam al-Sadiq (عليه السلام) to bury him with his own turban which he used during his life [96]. The eleventh Imam, al-Hasan al-Askari (عليه السلام) buried his father in the following manner: "I shrouded my father with two pieces of winter clothes that he had used as the clothes for Ihram […]. Also one of his shirts and the amaama that belonged to 'Ali b. al-Husayn and a gown that he had bought for forty dinars were used" [97]. However, a turban can only be buried with the corpse if a person had willed it before his death.

Color of the Turban
The Holy Prophet (s) and his companions wore different colors of turbans ranging from white, blue, black to even red [54]. He would sometimes wear a white-colored turban for which he was referred to as Sahab (cloud) [55]. The Holy Prophet (s) wore a yellow turban on the day of Badr [56]. A tradition states that he would sometimes dye his clothes, including the turban, in yellow [57]. The Imams also wore different colored turbans. For example, Imam Zayn al-'Abidin often wore a white turban. Other reports indicate that he would also wear a black turban [58]. When Asbagh b. Nubata went to see Imam Ali (عليه السلام) on his death bed, Imam Ali (عليه السلام) was wearing a yellow turban [59]. Al-Mufid notes that on the day of his coronation to succeed al-Ma'mun (d. 833), the eighth Imam al-Reza (عليه السلام) wore a white turban [60]. During his time, the 'Alids would wear green as that was their preferred color [61]. Al-Ma'mun changed the official color of the 'Abbasids to green after he appointed Imal al-Reza (عليه السلام) as his heir. After the death of Imam al-Reza (عليه السلام), al-Ma'mun changed it back to black [62]. 

Although the color of the turban is not stated, al-Majlisi states that when Imam Mahdi (ajtf), reappears he will wear the turban of the Prophet [63]. Significantly, although the traditions mention the different colored turbans the Imams used to wear, they do not state what color of turbans their followers should wear. Neither do they tell us what color they should not wear. Stated differently, the color of the turban is left to the followers of the Imams to decide. When did the Shia 'Alids start wearing black turbans to the exclusion of other colors?

Given that black was the official color of the Abbasids, where and when did the Shia practice of wearing black turbans by the descendants of the Prophet start from? Without quoting his source, Ibn Anbah claims that Syed Razi (d. 1016) was the first 'Alid to wear black. It was only after him, it is said, that black turbans became a prominent feature among sayyeds (those that claim to be the desendents of the Holy Prophet) and those from the tribe of Bani Hashim [64]. 

"White is the best color to wear; the next best color is yellow and then comes green. After that are pale red, purple, and brown. Dark red is considered an abominable (makruh) due, especially during prayer. One must avoid wearing it [dark red], and wearing black is loathsome for everything except for the turban, aba (inner robe), and high boots. However, if the turban and aba are not black, it is better [65]. Significantly, in the chapter dedicated to the wearing of turbans, one would have expected Majlisi to discuss the various colors of the turban that should be worn. The fact that he does not mention anything suggests that in his period, the color of the turban was not significant. 

Safavids and the rise of the Black Turban
The significance attached to the black turban probably increased during the Safavid period when turbans became important to identify a person's socio-political affiliations. Given the Holy Prophet's (s) penchant to the color black, descendants of the Prophet gradually came to favor wearing black turbans. It is within this context that we can discern why the sayyeds became especially fond of black.

When the Safavids came to power in Iran in 1501 they adopted Shiasm as the state religion. They resorted to different ways to promote their new faith. They popularized Shiasm by encouraging the public cursing of the first three caliphs, enacting public mourning ceremonies to mark the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (عليه السلام) and by pronouncing the name of 'Ali in the adhan (call to prayer) [70]. The political ideology of the Safavids was demonstrated in the headgear of its rulers. They used the turban to enunciate their dissociation from the Sunni Ottomans and to proclaim their religious affiliation.

Apart from political affiliation, the color of the turban was used to demarcate different religious groups and social rankings. In Safavid culture, white was the dominant color of the turbans. It is within this context that we may be able to surmise the exclusive use of black turbans by sayyeds [75]. As mentioned earlier, since the time of the Holy Prophet (s), black symbolized power and authority. Amidst the plethora of different colored and types of turbans, in order to enhance their unique status and authority in society, the sayyeds adopted the black turban as their official emblem. Although it is not possible to know exactly when the black turban became an exclusively sayyed insignia, the importance given to sayyeds, especially in the Safavid era, suggests that it probably started in this period. To understand why the sayyeds chose a specific color that differentiated them from the masses, it is important to comprehend the importance given to the descendants of the Prophet in Muslim societies.

Sayyeds and religious authority in Shia Islam
The social and financial advantages that accrue from being recognized a sayyed can be corroborated from the fact that throughout history there have been many false claimants to Prophetic descent. In fact people devised ingenious ways to fabricate their genealogy. People falsely claimed descent from extinct Prophetic lines in places such as Egypt, Rayy, Hamadan, Khurasan and Kufa [87]. The fact that special punishments had to be invented to expose false claimants (including having their heads shaven and/or being exiled) further demonstrates the extent of fabricated genealogies [88]. Due to the forgeries, an official system of monitoring of genealogies had to be established in many cities [89]. Various groups, agnate descendants claimed to be sayyeds. The descendants of Imam Ali's (عليه السلام) father Abu Talib through his other sons Ja'far and Aqil claimed to be sayyeds through Hashimi descent. Some have claimed that even Zaynabis, the descendants of Zaynab (sa), daughter of Imam Ali (عليه السلام) and Bibi Fatima (sa), should also be considered as sayyeds [90]. 

In the Shia religion khums is payable on savings, not just on war booty. This means that the share payable to sayyeds was enormous, fifty percent of the khums payable, a sum that not only encouraged people to proclaim their lineage but also enticed some to fabricate their genealogy. Sayyeds are also believed to have inherited the baraka (blessings) of the Prophet. These sacred personages may transmit baraka to the masses, either during their lifetime or after their deaths. Due to the principle of Prophetic lineage, it is also believed that children of holy men become contemporary recipients of the baraka that is transmitted by the saint. The emphasis on honoring the descendants of the Prophet precipitated the cult of the shrines of sayyeds, or imamzadeh as they came to be called. Especially in Safavid Iran, the tombs of many sayyeds became a focus of pilgrimage, a phenomenon widely prevalent in many parts of the Shia world today. It should be remembered that when they came to power, the Safavids claimed Prophetic genealogy. They reportedly forged descent from Imam Musa al-Kazim [91]. This empowered the kings to invoke their noble ancestors in the legitimization of their rule. As Arjomand says, "The rulers possessed great charisma of lineage as descendants of the Imams, and even claimed an attribute of the Imams: infallibility or sinlessness [92]. The devotional attachment to the Imams and their descendants helped the Safavids enhance their own stature as the progeny of these noble figures. The claim to 'Alid descent also helped them win wider acceptance among the masses.

Since the Safavids claimed prophetic descent, the sayyeds enjoyed great respect and prestige under their rule. In all probability, the social prestige combined with the financial benefits that accrued to sayyeds led to their public proclamation as the descendants of the Prophet. As previously mentioned, white was the dominant color of the majority of turbans in that period. The sayyeds had to differentiate themselves from the laity by deploying a color that was not in common usage, and, as descendants of the Prophet, a color that could be closely linked to him. In the Islamic world, sayyeds generally wore green turbans. For example, when Mustafa Celebi wore a green turban in Turkey in 1632, people raised questions whether he was a real sayyed. He claimed sayyed descent from his mother's side. The right to wear a green turban was accorded only to those whose father was a sayyed [93].

The Safavids sought a distinctive stratification of the Shia community into believers and sayyeds. It was through Prophetic descent that they sought to legitimize their privileges and superior status. The best way that a person could publicly proclaim himself to be a sayyed and differentiate himself from a non-sayyed was either by adopting the title sayyed or by donning a black turban. Undoubtedly, the turban was the more powerful tool since it conveyed one's nobility without having to verbalize it. It should be remembered that during the Safavid period, the wearing of turbans was not restricted to scholars. On the contrary, the masses wore turbans since these were popular costumes. Thus, the black turban became an important tool of identifying and signifying a sayyed, bestowing him, thereby, the respect, honor, and financial rewards that was due to him. Although a national costume, the westernization policies of Reza Shah in the 1930s forced most Iranians to abandon their traditional headgear in favor of western clothing. Only scholars were exempt from this proscription. With time, the turban became what it is today: a headgear worn primarily by scholars to distinguish them from the rest of society. Within the scholarly elite, color was used to mark Prophetic genealogy. The turban was used not only to differentiate between Muslims and non-Muslims but also between Muslims themselves. The reason for this genealogical distinction was both social status and financial benefits.

It is not possible to know exactly when the sayyeds chose to wear black turbans. Majlisi, who died in 1699, does not cite any special merit for wearing a black turban; in fact, he discourages it. It is possible that sayyeds started wearing black turbans after his time or during the Qajar period. Why did the sayyeds choose to wear black turbans? It has to be remembered that when the Safavids came to power, they encouraged the public expression and enactment of various forms mourning rituals for the family of the Prophet in general and for Husayn in particular. These rituals ranged from passion plays to flagellations and self-immolation. It is possible that the sayyeds decided around this time to wear black as it was the color of mourning. They wished to proclaim that they were the descendants of the family that was being publicly mourned and venerated. Another possible reason why the sayyeds switched to black turbans was because, as previously discussed, the Holy Prophet (s) himself had worn a black turban on various important occasions. Gabriel had donned him with a black turban; the Holy Prophet (s) also wore black when he was delivering sermons and when he conquered Mecca. He had put a black turban on'Ali before sending him to fight. Another possible reason for switching from green to black was because of sectarianism. With the increased sectarian tensions with the Ottoman Sunnis and the public cursing of the first three caliphs under the Safavids, it is possible that the Shia sayyeds wanted to differentiate themselves from Sunni sayyeds who wore green turbans.

The form (style) of a Turban and how to wear it
The turban, its color, form and size impacted one's social and financial standing. The method of wearing the turban is also important. The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have left the "tail" ('adhaba) of his turban hanging between his shoulder blades. This practice was imitated by the companions, and became a part of the Prophetic sunna [98]. According to the Holy Prophet's (s) companion Abd al-Rahman b. Awf (d. 653): "The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) put a turban on me and let the ends hang in front of him and behind me [99]. The letting down of the 'adhaba was included in the Prophetic injunction on wearing the amaama.

Besides letting the fringe down, some traditions also required the tying of the turban under the chin. Sunni scholars are divided on this practice. Jurists like Malik b. Anas favored this mode of dressing but the Shafi'is did not consider the fastening of the amaama under the chin as sunna [100]. This practice was also used as a mark of differentiation from non-Muslims who wore turbans. Hence, it was not only wearing the turban that was important, the method of wearing it was also significant. According to some traditions, the Holy Prophet (s) said: "Disagree with the Jews and do not wear turbans that are not fastened under the chin, or with their fringes not let down, as this method of wearing the turban is the fashion of the Jews [101].

Importance of Tahannuk
Within the Shia school, both the 'adhaba and the fastening the under the chin (called the tahannuk) were important in identifying true believers. Sheikh Kulayni narrates in Al Kafi, that <strong>al-Tabiqiyah (a layered turban without tahannak is the turban of Iblees</strong> [102]. Al-Saduq cites a tradition from the Holy Prophet (s) stating that the difference between a Muslim and a polytheist is the hanging down (talahi) of the amaama [103]. This was a Prophetic practise that was replicated by the Imams. When the eighth Imam Ali al-Reza went out in public for his coronation, he hung one part of the turban on his breast and the other between his shoulders [104]. <strong>The Imams also urged their followers to observe the custom of fastening the turban under their chin since this was also considered a mark of a true believer.</strong> The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have stated: "The distinction between the Muslims and the unbelievers is the fastening of the turbans under their chin [105]. The Shia emphasized the tahannuk even more than the Sunnis did. So important was this practice that disregarding it could lead to incurable ailments. A tradition from al-Sadiq states: "He who wore the amaama and did not fasten it under his chin, let him not blame anyone except himself if he is inflicted with a disease for which there is no remedy [106]. In another tradition, the same Imam is reported to have guaranteed one who travels while observing the tahannuk that he will return home safely [107]. At one point in history, within the Shia circles it was considered detestable to wear the amaama without tying it under the chin [108].

When he discusses the question of how to wear a turban, Majlisi states in Chapter 7 entitled dar bayan-e bastan-e ammameh (on how to wrap the amaama): "To wear an ammameh is a tradition and to wrap it under the chin is also a tradition. Wearing the amaama with one end thrown at the back and one end kept loose in the front is also the tradition of the sadat (I.e. sayyeds)...to wrap an ammameh while in a standing position is also a tradition. According to the Holy Prophet (s), ammameh is the crown of the Arabs. When a man stops wearing his turban Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) will stop honoring him. Imam Reza (عليه السلام) said that the Holy Prophet (s) wrapped his turban with the ends, one in the front and one at the back and Jibrail (Gabriel) did the same.109 Most Shia scholars have recommended that the tahannuk be practiced at all times. The medieval jurist Allama Hilli (d. 1325) states: The tahannuk is recommended by the words of Imam al-Sadiq, "Whoever wears the turban and does not put the tahannuk an ailment has struck him for which there is no cure. Thus, he should blame nobody but himself [110]". Hilli further states: it is abominable to pray in black clothes [...] and to abandon the tahannuk [111]". He concludes by stating, "It appears from these narrations that the tahannuk is recommended at all times, whether one is praying or not [112]". Hilli's ruling is shared by scholars like Muhammad Jamal al-din al-Makki al-Amili (also known as Shahid al-Awwal - d. 1385) who states in his Lum'a Dimishqiyya, "It is makruh to abandon the tahannuk at any time [113]". Baha' al‐Din Muhammad b. Husayn al‐'Amili (also known as Shaykh Baha'I - d. 1621) further emphasizes the point stating that "the tahannuk is recommended for anyone who wears the turban -whether he is praying or not. There is nothing in the traditions to suggest that it is recommended only during prayers [114]. Other scholars like Ja'far Kashif al-Ghita (d. 1812) go even further, quoting al-Saduq (d. 991) as saying: "I heard our teachers say that it is not permitted for one who wears a turban to pray unless if he observes the tahannuk [115]. Although Shia traditions greatly emphasize the tahannuk it is not practiced by most contemporary scholars. In explaining this, the commentator of Majlisi's Hilya al-Muttaqin states that in the past, the tahannuk was observed at all times. However, this is no longer a common practice.

Tahannuk Ignored by the Usuli Shias
Despite the numerous traditions on the merits and virtues of observing the tahannuk and the negative ramifications for ignoring it, most Shia scholars who wear turbans do not observe it. In all probability, this is because, in the past, tahannuk was performed by the Akhbaris, the dominant school in the medieval ages. Most contemporary scholars are Usulis who consider the Akhbaris as literalists and their nemesis. They have thus labeled the tahannuk as a sign of Akhbarism [116]. Whereas medieval scholars emphasized the importance of observing the tahannuk, later scholars like Fayd al-Kashani (d. 1680) claimed that the changing milieu and custom had dictated that the tahannuk be avoided in public. He states that, in his time, the tahannuk had become an abandoned sunna because it had become a mode of dressing that attracts attention (libas shuhra) and could be an object of derision, which is prohibited. Hence, he argues, it is not necessary to observe it [117]. With time, the tahannuk became symbolic of the ideological battle between the two schools within Shiasm. An act that was highly emphasized by the Imams (عليه السلام) was abandoned by the very scholars who claimed to transmit their teachings. This is further proof of how the turban and the method of wearing it has been used as a tool of differentiation not only between Muslims and non-Muslims but also within the Shia community itself.

Although a pre-Islamic costume, the turban was endorsed by Islam which subsequently became an important component of Islamic clothing.  Shia traditions on the turban are replicated in Sunni hadith literature which also sees the turban as the crown of Arabs. Within the Shia tradition, the importance of the turban was further highlighted by reports which recommended that turbans accompany the dead to their graves. Clearly, the attachment to the turban was so deep that it accompanied the wearer to the hereafter. 

Subsequently, the turban started to perform various functions in society; one of them was to differentiate Muslims from others. The turban (through its color) was also used in the Safavid era as a tool for social stratification. In order to enhance the status of the sayyeds in Safavid Shiasm, black turbans were reserved exclusively for the sayyeds. White turbans were used for non-sayyeds since this was the norm in much of Safavid society. The differentiation between black and white turbans was thus a historical construct, based on social and financial rather than religious considerations. Wearing a black turban for sayyeds became a customary rather than religious requirement. 

Also published on blog: https://ahlulbaytmission.org/2019/07/28/history-of-the-turban/

This article is based on the paper: Black or White: Turbanization of Islam By Liyakat Takim

[1] M. J. Kister, "The Crowns of This Community...: Some Notes on the Turban in the Muslim Tradition," in Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 24 (2000): 230.
[2] Hamid Algar, Amama, http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/amama-or-ammamaarabic-emama-the-turban.
[3] Mottaqi Hindi, Kanz al-'Ummal, ed. M.'Abd-al-Mu'id Khan (Hyderabad: Deccan, 1973), 10/45.
[4] M. J. Kister, "The Crowns of This Community," 243.
[5] Algar, "Amama." Traditions on the color of the turbans worn by the angels. 
[6] Al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi fi 'Ilm al-Din (Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyya, Tehran, 1986), 5/546.
[7] Kulayni narrates that: "Ahmad b. Idris and Muhammad b. Yahya narrated from alHasan b. 'Ali al-Kufi from ibn al-Faddal from a group of our people from Sa'd al-Askaf who said: "Once I asked permission to meet Abu Ja'far (Muhammad alBaqir). I found saddles of camels lined up in front of the door and I heard very loud noises coming from inside. Then a people came out with turbans like those of Indian gypsies. I asked Abu Ja'far about them and said, "May Allah take my soul be in service for your cause. Today it took a long time to receive permission to meet you. I saw a people coming out with turbans whom I could not recognize." He said, "Do you know, O Sa'd, who they are?" I said, "No, I do not know." The Imam said, "They were your brethren in religion from the Jinns. They come to us for religious instructions, to learn the lawful and unlawful matters and the principles of their religion." Kulayni, Kitab al-Kafi, 1/394-5; Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Saffar, Basa'ir al-Darajat fi Fada'il Al Muhammad (Qom: Maktabat Ayat Allah al-Mar'ashi, 1983), 1/97, hadith # 18; 1/100, hadith #10.
[13] M. J. Kister, "The Crowns of This Community," 227.
[14] Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani, Fada'il al-Qur'an al-Karim, (Beirut: 1986), 144.
[15] Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni al-Razi, Kitab al-Kafi, translated into English by Muhammad Sarwar, vol. 1-8 (n.p., the Islamic Seminary, n.d.), 453; H 827, Ch. 72, h 14.
[16] Muhammad al-Baqir Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar: al-Jami'a Lidurari Akhbar alA'imma al-Athar, 110 vols (Beirut: Dar al-Ihya al-Turath al-'Arabi, 1983), 48/310; 50/26. Kulayni, al-Kafi, 2/82.
[17] Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, Al-Musnadu Al-Sahihu bi Naklil Adli known as Sahih Muslim, Converted by Bill McLean, http://www.mclean.faithweb.com. last accessed 6 August 2015, 167-168.
[18] M. J. Kister, "The Crowns of This Community," 242-3.
[19] On wearing a turban especially in salat, see Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, 80/193. In another tradition, al-Sadiq says "one who offers the prayers on the days of the two eids must wear an amaama. See Muhammad b. al-Hasan al
[20] Muhammad Fahad Badri, Al-Imama (Baghdad: Government Publication, 1968), 10.
[21] al-'Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi'a, 12/533.
[22] Kulayni, al-Kafi, 3/145.
[23] Al-'Amili, Wasail, 1/455.
[24] In Shiasm, the maraji' are the sources of reference for ordinary believers on issues pertaining to Islamic law.
[25] Email communication July 2015.
[26] Shelagh Weir, Palestinian Costumes (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1989), 6.
[27] See al-'Amili, Wasa'il, 5/57; al-Majlisi, Bihar, 80/199.
[28] Al-Mufid, al-Amali (Qom: International Congress of Millennium of Shaykh Mufid, 1992), 318.
[29] Al-Mufid, Kitab al-Irshad, trans I. Howard (London: Balagha & Muhammadi Trust, 1981), 67.
[30] M. J. Kister, "The Crowns of This Community," 233.
[31] John Alden Williams, Themes of Islamic Civilization (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), 159-60.
[32] Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 15.
[33] For other restrictions and acts of humiliation inflicted on the dhimmis see, Majid Khadduri, War and Peace in the Law of Islam (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1955), 197-98.
[34] Abu Dawud, Sunan, Book 32: hadith 4067; Hafidh al-Tirmidhi, Jami'I, https://islamfuture.wordpress.com/2013/06/22/jami-at-tirmidhi-6-vol-set/, vol. 3, chapter 42, hadith 1784.
[35] M. J. Kister, "The Crowns of This Community," 225.
[36] Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Ahkam ahl al-Dhimma (Damascus: 1961), 2/742-44.
[37] Ibid., 2/739-40.
[38] Muslim, Sahih, The Book of Pilgrimage (Kitab Al-Hajj), Book 7, Hadith 3146; 3148; Tirmidhi, Jami', vol.3, chapter 11; hadith 1735.
[39] al-'Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi'a, 5/57.
[40] Bukhari, Sahih, Penalty of Hunting while on Pilgrimage Book 3: Volume 29 Hadith 72; Book 5; Volume 59, Hadith 582: Book 7; Volume 72, Hadith 699; Malik b. Anas, al-Muwatta', K. al-Hajj: Book 20: Hadith 20.76.256.
[41] Muslim, Sahih, The Book of Pilgrimage, Book 7, Hadith 3149.
[42] M. J. Kister, "The Crowns of This Community," 237.
[43] Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, 16/250.
[44] Ibid., 41/77.
[45] M. J. Kister, "The Crowns of This Community," 221, fn. 16.
[46] Ibid., 233.
[47] See the example cited of Abu Nadra in Muhammad b. Sa'd, Tabaqat al-Kubra. 9 vols. (Beirut Dar Sadir, n.d.), 7/208.
[48] Ibn Dawud, Sunan, Kitab al-Libas, Book 32, Hadith #4027.
[49] Kulayni, al-Kafi, 3/403; Muhammad b. 'Ali b. al-Husayn al-Saduq, Man La Yahduru'l Faqih (Qom: Jamia Mudarrisin Islamic Publications office, 1992), 1/251. al-'Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi'a, 4/382, 4/387.
[50] Nazemian Fard, Vakavi-e Karbord-e Rang-e Siah dar Mian-e Abbasian, 2, 7, (2011): 147-148.
[51] Teresa Bernheimer, The 'Alids: the First Family of Islam 750-1200 (Edinburgh: Edinburg University Press, 2014), 43.
[52] See the example of Qasim b. 'Abdullah cited by Bernheimer, The 'Alids, 70.
[53] al-'Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi'a, 4/385.
[54] See the example cited of the famous companion Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari seated in the mosque of Medina looking for al-Baqir while wearing a black turban. Muhammad b. Ya'qub al-Kulayni al-Razi, Kitab al-Kafi, trans. Muhammad Sarwar, vol. 1-8 (n.p., the Islamic Seminary, n.d.), H 1267, Ch. 118, h 2, p. 664.
[55] Abdul-Hussein Ahmad Amini Najafi, Al-Ghadir fil-Kitab wal-Sunnah wal-Adab, vol. 3/290-293. Stillman, "Libas," EI.
[56] 'Abd al-Rahman Jalal al-Din Suyuti, al-Durr al-Manthur fi tafsir bi'l ma'thur (Cairo, 1896), 2/70.
[57] Ibn Dawud Sunan, Book 32, hadith, 4053.
[58] al-'Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi'a, 5/57.
[59] Al-Mufid, al-Amali, 352.
[60] Al-Mufid, Kitab al-Irshad, trans. I. Howard (London: Balagha & Muhammadi Trust, 1981), 474. Kafi, 686, H 1234, Ch. 121, h 7.
[61] Even in Syria in the 1960s, among the Sunni community, the green turban was reserved for the descendants of the Prophet. See Thomas Pierret, Religion and State in Syria: The Sunni Ulama from Coup to Revolution (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013), 21.
[62] Muhammad b. Jarir al-Tabari, Ta'rikh al-Umam Wa'l-Muluk. 8 vols. (Beirut: Mu'assasa al-A'lami), 1983, 3/1013, 1037.
[63] Majlisi, Bihar, 52/302. Ibn Abu Zaynab, Kitab al-Ghayba, trans. Abdullah al-Shahin (Qom: Ansariyan, 2003), 439.
[64] http://www.erfan.ir/Arabic/article/view/78723.
[65] Muhammad al-Baqir al-Majlisi, Hilyat al-Muttaqin (Tehran: Yas Publication 1993), 5-6. The text is closely studied by Faegheh Shirazi in her article entitled "Manly Matters in Iran: From Beards to Turbans", In Critical Encounters, Essays in Persian Literature and Culture in Honor of Peter Chelkowski. Mohammed Mehdi Khorrami and M.R. Ghanoonparvar eds., (Costa Mesa: Mazda Publications, 2007), 146-166.
[66] al-Majlisi, Hilyat al-Muttaqin, 3.
[67] Ibid., 10.
[68] Ibid.
[69] Ibid.Sayyids and the Black Emblem
[70] Liyakat Takim, "From Bid'a to Sunna: The Wilaya of 'Ali in the Shia Adhan." Journal of the American Oriental Society 120, no. 2 (2000): 66-77.
[71] Yedidah Stillman, "Libas," 749.
[72] Cambridge History of Islam. Edited by Peter Holt, Ann Lambton, and Bernard Lewis. 2 vols. (Cambridge: l970), 1/396. 
[73] http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/safa_f/hd_safa_f.htm. See also http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/clothing-x
[74] Faegheh Shirazi-Mahajan, "The Semiotics of the Turban: the Safavid Era in Iran," in Journal of International Association of Costume, 9, 67-87 (1992):72.
[75] Pierret notes that the white turban in Syria was a symbol of religious knowledge, and is worn by religious scholars even today. Pierret, Religion and State in Syria, 9 – 10, 41.
[76] al-Mufid, Kitab al-Irshad, 296.
[77] Bosworth, "Sayyid," Encyclopedia of Islam, 9:115. See also Muhammad b. 'Ali b. al-Husayn al-Saduq, Risala al-I'tiqadat (A Shi'ite Creed), trans. A. Fyzee (Oxford: 1942), 108-9.
[78] Bernheimer, The 'Alids, 17.
[79] Bosworth, "Sayyid," Encyclopedia of Islam, 9/115. See also Liyakat Takim,
[80] Ruya Kilic, "The Reflection of Islamic Tradition on Ottoman Social Structure: The Sayyids and Sharifs" in Morimoto Kazuo ed., Sayyids and Sharifs in Muslim Societies: The Living Links to the Prophet (Routledge: New York, 2012), 123.
[81] Ibid., 132-133.
[82] Mercedes Garcia-Arenal, "Shurafa in the Last Years of al-Andalus and in the Morisco Period: Laylat al-Mawlid and Genealogies of the Prophet Muhammad," in Morimoto Kazuo ed., Sayyids and Sharifs, 162.
[83] Valerie Hoffman, "The Role of the Masharifu on the Swahili Coast in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries" in Morimoto Kazuo ed., Sayyids and Sharifs, 191.
[84] Arthur Buehler, "Trends of Ashrafization in India" in Morimoto Kazuo ed., Sayyids and Sharifs, 235.
[85] See Morimoto Kazuo, "How to Behave towards Sayyids and Sharifs: a TransSectarian Tradition of Dream Accounts, in Morimoto Kazuo ed., Sayyids and Sharifs, 22-25. Other stories talk of the inviolability of Sayyids, ibid.
[86] Abu al-Qasim al-Khu'I, Minhaj al-Salihin, 9th edition, 1:371.
[87] Bernheimer, The 'Alids, Ibid., 24 – 6.
[88] Ibid., 26 – 8.
[89] Arthur Buehler, "Trends of Ashrafization in India" in Morimoto Kazuo ed., Sayyids and Sharifs, 235.
[90] Teresa Bernheimer, Genealogy, Marriage, and the Drawing of Boundaries among the 'Alids (Eighth-Twelfth Centuries), in Morimoto Kazuo ed., Sayyids and Sharifs,83-85.
[91] This was reiterated under Shah Tahmasp. See Kathryn Babayan, "Sufis, Dervishes and Mulla: the Controversy over Spiritual and Temporal Dominion in Seventeenth-Century Iran" in Charles Melville ed., Safavid Persia (Tauris: London, 1996), 123. See also op. cit. page 135 fn. 26 for details of tampering with Safavid genealogy.
[92] Sa'id Amir Arjomand, The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam: Religion, Political Order and Societal Change in Shi'ite Iran from the Beginning to 1890 (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1986), 211.
[93] Ruya Kilic, "The Reflection of Islamic Tradition" in Morimoto Kazuo ed., Sayyids and Sharifs, 130-131. In his descriptions of contemporary Ottoman society Nicolas de Nicolay (d. 1583) discusses the green turbans worn by the emirs (another title for the family of the Prophet).
[94] Kulayni, al-Kafi, 3/144. In another tradition, al-Sadiq states that my father told me to bury him with three items of clothing, but the amaama is not a part of the kafn. Kulayni, al-Kafi, 3/144. The donning of the amaama on a male corpse is considered a sunna. Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, 110/342.
[95] Al-Mufid, Kitab al-Irshad, 410; al-Kafi, 443; h. 797,ch. 70, #8.
[96] al-Kafi, 537.forty dinars were used".97 However, a turban can only be buried with the corpse if a person had willed it before his death.
[97] al-Kafi, 672.
[98] Tirmidhi, Jami', vol.3, Chapter 12, hadith 1736.
[99] Ibn Dawud, Sunan, Kitab al-Libas, Book 32: Hadith 4068.
[100] "M. J. Kister, The Crowns of This Community," 227-228.
[101] Ibid., 229.
[102] Al Kafi V6 Ch 15 - The book of outfits and beautification
[103] Al-Saduq, Man La Yahduru, 1/266 hadith # 821.
[104] Al-Mufid, Kitab al-Irshad, 474.
[105] Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, 83/194.
[106] Yusuf al-Bahrani, Hadaiq al-Nadhira (Najaf, 1379), 7/126. Majlisi, Bihar, 83/194. Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Khalid al-Barqi, Kitab al-Mahasin (Qom: Dar alKutub al-Islamiyya, 1951), 378.
[107] Al-Saduq, Man La Yahduru, 1/265.
[108] Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, 80/193. The tenth century jurist al-Saduq considered that one who wears an amaama has to observe tahannuk. Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, 80/193-4.
[109] Majlisi, Hilya, p.7.
[110] Hilli, Tadhkira al-Fuqaha' (Qom: Mu'assassa Al-Bayt, 1993), 2/451.
[111] Qawa'id al-Ahkam (Qom: Mu'assassa al-Tabi'a al-Jami'a, 1992), 1/257.
[112] Hilli, Muntaha al-Matlab, 4/251.
[113] Muhammad Jamal al-din al-Makki al-Amili, al-Lum'a al-Dimishqiyya (Qom: Manshurat Dar al-Fiqr, 1990), 2/62.
[114] Al-Amili, al-Habl al-Matin (Qom: Manshuurat Maktab al-Basirat, 1999), 187.
[115] Al-Ghita, Kashf al-Ghita' (Isfahan: Intisharat al-Mahdawi, 1999), 1/202.
[116] Observation of Ayatullah al-Sayyid Fadhil Milani.
[117] See al-Saduq, Man La Yahduru, 1/266 fn 2.

Also published on blog: https://ahlulbaytmission.org/2019/07/28/history-of-the-turban/


There are two conflicting hadith on shrimp called Irbiyaan in Arabic. One hadith refers to it as a morsel of Shaitaan. Another classifies it as a type of fish and therefore  permissible. In this situation, the Usuli ijtihad applies the principle of al-bara'a al-asliyya, which makes a thing permissible if it can not be conclusively proven to be forbidden and even if there are conflicting indicators. However, in the school of Ahlul Bayt (عليه السلام) the preferred approach is to exercise caution (ihtiyaat) and refrain from consuming it. 

Shrimp - Morsel of Shaitaan

وعن محمد بن الحسن عن الصفار عن أبي طالب عبد الله بن الصلت عن عثمان بن عيسى عن سماعة بن مهران عن أبي عبد الله (عليه السلام) قال: لا تأكل جريثا ولا مارماهيجا ولا طافيا ولا اربيان ولا طحالا لانه بيت الدم ومضغة الشيطان
Imam Abdullah ( peace be upon him ) said: DO NOT EAT (1) the eel (jareesa) (2) and the dead floating fish (marmahiga) (3) and the snake fish (taafiya) (4) and SHRIMP (IRBIYAAN) (5) and spleen (tahaala) because these harbor the blood and are THE MORSEL OF SHAITAN. [Reference: Wasailushia Vol-24 Page-185, Bihar Vol-62 Page-177 and 205 Ilalusharia Vol-2 page 562]

Shrimp is a type of fish

وباسناده عن محمد بن الحسن الصفار ، عن محمد بن عيسى بن عبيد ، بن يونس بن عبد الرحمن ، عن أبي الحسن ( عليه السلام ) ، قال : قلت له : جعلت فداك ، ما تقول في أكل الاربيان ؟ قال : فقال لي : لا بأس بذلك والاربيان ضرب من السمك ، قال : قلت : قد روى بعض مواليك في أكل الربيثا ، قال : فقال : لا بأس به
Yunus bin abdurrehman narrates that I asked Imam Musa Kazim (عليه السلام) about eating IRBIYAAN. He (عليه السلام) said: 'There is no problem because Irbiyaan is a type (species) of fish'. The narrator said: 'Some of your followers (mavaali) are also narrating about RIBBITHA (that it is permissible to eat)'. He (asws) said: 'Yes there is no problem with it too'. [Reference: Wasail us Shia Urdu volume 16 page 271]

Hadith on Ribbitha (Shrimp Fish)
Added confusion is caused by several hadith on a type of fish called ribbitha. What exactly is ribbitha? Most likely it is a type of fish that has some physical resemblance to shrimps - possibly Shrimp Fish. From the hadith we can glean that it is a type of fish that has scales. In Arabic, scales are called Qishr. 

ـ محمد بن يعقوب ، عن علي بن ابراهيم ، عن أبيه ، عن ابن أبي عمير ، عن هشام بن سالم ، عن عمر بن حنظلة ، قال : حملت الربيثا يابسة في صرة ، فدخلت على أبي عبد الله ( عليه السلام ، فسألته عنها ، فقال : كلها ، وقال : لها قشر
Umar b. Hanzhala said: I carried a dried ribbitha in a package, and I entered upon Abu Abdillah (عليه السلام), so I asked him about it. And he said: Eat it. And he said: It has a qishr (scales). [Reference: Wasail us Shia H30181]

ـ وعنه ، عن أبيه ، عن حنان بن سدير ، قال : أهدى فيض ابن المختار إلى أبي عبد الله ( عليه السلام ) ربيثا ، فأدخلها عليه ـ وأنا عنده ـ فنظر اليها ، فقال : هذه لها قشر ، فأكل منها ونحن نراه .
And from him from his father from Hanan b. Sadir. He said: Fayd b. al-Mukhtar gave Abu `Abdillah a ribbitha as a gift, so he brought it in to him – and I was with him – so he looked at it. So he said: This has a qishr (scales), and he ate from it and we were seeing him. [Reference: Wasail us Shia H30184]

ـ وعن السياري ، عن محمد بن جمهور ، عن رجل ، عن أبي عبد الله ( عليه السلام ) ، أنه سأله عن الاربيان ، وقال : هذا يتخذ منه شيء يقال : له الربيثا ، فقال : كل ، فانه جنس من السمك ، ثم قال : أما تراها تقلقل في قشرها .
And from as-Sayyari from Muhammad b. Jumhur from a man from Abu Abdillah (عليه السلام), that he asked him about shrimp. And he said: This, something is taken from it, which is called the ribbitha. So he said: Eat, for it is a species of fish. Then he said: Do you not see it quivering in it's qishr? [Reference: Wasail us Shia H30190]

In the above hadith, the person asks the Imam about Shrimp. Imam responds that it is in fact ribbitha (and not irbiyaan). That it is a type of fish and it has a qishr.

Also note that in all the above hadith Imam (عليه السلام) keeps referring to the two characteristics that makes it halal - that it is a fish and that it has scales.

General hadith on seafood
Besides the hadith above on Irbiyaan and Ribbitha, every other hadith on seafood again emphasize the two characteristics that make it permissible:

• It must be classified as a fish
• It must have scales (qishr)

Below are the rest of the hadith on seafood:

ـ محمد بن يعقوب ، عن عدة من اصحابنا ، عن سهل بن زياد ، وعن محمد بن يحيى ، عن أحمد بن محمد جميعا ، عن ابن محبوب ، وأحمد بن محمد بن أبي نصر جميعا ، عن العلاء ، عن محمد بن مسلم ، عن أبي جعفر ( عليه السلام ) ـ في حديث ـ قال : قلت له : رحمك الله ، إنا نؤتى بالسمك ليس له قشر ، فقال : كل ما له قشر من السمك ، وما ليس له قشر فلا تأكله .
Narrated from Abu Ja'far (عليه السلام) in a hadith wherein he said: May Allah have mercy upon you. We are brought the fish that does not have a qishr (scales). So he (عليه السلام) said: Eat that which has a qishr from the fish, and that which does not have scales, then do not eat it. [Reference: Wasail us Shia H30146]

ـ وعن الحسين بن محمد ، عن معلى بن محمد ، عن الحسن بن علي ، عن حماد بن عثمان ، قال : قلت لابي عبد الله ( عليه السلام ) : جعلت فداك ، الحيتان ما يؤكل منها ؟ قال : ما كان له قشر الحديث .
I said to Abu Abdillah (as): May I be made your ransom, the fish, what do we eat of it? He said: Whatever has a qishr (scales). [Reference: Wasail us Shia H30147]

ـ وعنه ، عن أبيه ، عن عبد الله بن المغيرة ، عن عبد الله بن سنان ، عن أبي عبد الله ( عليه السلام ) قال : كان علي ( عليه السلام ) بالكوفة يركب بغلة رسول الله ( صلى الله عليه وآله ) ، ثم يمر بسوق الحيتان ، فيقول : لا تأكلوا ، ولا تبيعوا ما لم يكن له قشر من السمك .
Imam Ali (عليه السلام) would be at Kufa riding the mule of the Messenger of Allah (s) then he would pass by the fish market, saying: Do not eat and do not sell whatever does not have a qishr (scales) from the fish. [Reference: Wasail us Shia H30149]

ـ وعنه ، عن أبيه ، عن حنان بن سدير ، عن أبي عبد الله ( عليه السلام ) ـ في حديث قال : ما لم يكن له قشر من السمك فلا تقربه .
Abu Adillah (عليه السلام) in a hadith said: Whatever does not have a qishr (scales) from the fish then do not come near it. [Reference: Wasail us Shia H30150]

ـ وعنه ، عن هارون بن مسلم ، عن مسعدة بن صدقة ، عن أبي عبد الله ( عليه السلام ) : أن امير المؤمنين ( عليه السلام ) كان يركب بغلة رسول الله ( صلى الله عليه وآله ) ، ثم يمر بسوق الحيتان ، فيقول : الا لا تأكلوا ، ولا تبيعوا ما لم يكن له قشر .
And from him from Harun b. Muslim from Mas`ada b. Sadaqa from Abu `Abdillah (عليه السلام) that Amir al-Mu’mineen (عليه السلام) would ride the mule of the Messenger of Allah (s), then pass by the fish market, and he would say: Indeed do not eat and do not sell whatever does not have a qishr (scales).
[Reference: Wasail us Shia H30151]

Shrimp in Jewish Law

Of the things that are in the waters, you may eat anything that has fins and scales. Lev. 11:9; Deut. 14:9. Thus, shellfish such as lobsters, oysters, shrimp, clams and crabs are all forbidden. Fish like tuna, carp, salmon and herring are all permitted. [Reference: http://www.jewfaq.org/kashrut.htm]

To draw a conclusion we must review all the hadith on a given topic collectively (as opposed to picking one of them in isolation). When there is conflict or confusion in hadith, we must adapt the safest course - ihtiyaat (precaution) and tawaqquf (suspend judgement). Tawaqquf means that we label it neither as halal nor haram. Imam (عليه السلام) on his re-appearance will clarify insha Allah.

Based on scientific classification, shrimp is classified as a crustacean in the same category as crabs and lobsters which are not permissible. Neither does shrimp have scales in the same way that a fish does. Shrimp is outlawed in the Jewish law too. Lastly, and non-religiously it does not appear to be a healthy source of food.

Given all this, there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason to consume it. Therefore, the safest course is to keep away from it.

(Also published on blog: https://ahlulbaytmission.org/2019/05/25/shrimp-morsel-of-shaitan/)


Regarding the words of Allah ((سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى)): "Surely this Qur'an guides (yahdi) to that which is most upright (aqwam)" [Surah Al Isra, 17:9],
Abu Abdullah (asws) said: (It means that the Qur'an) guides to the Imam (عليه السلام) (yahdi illal imaam).

[Al Kafi V 1 – The Book Of Divine Authority CH 26 H 2]



Imam Ali said: We (the Ahlul Bayt) are the near ones, companions, treasure holders and doors. Houses are not entered safely except through their doors. Whoever enters them from other than the door is called a thief. The delicacies of the Qur'an are about them (I.e. the Ahlul Bayt) and they are the treasurers of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى). When they speak they speak the truth, but when they keep quiet no one can speak unless they speak. 

[Wasail us Shia H 33411; Nahjul Balagha]



Regarding the Words of Allah ((سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى)): "And most surely it is a reminder for you and your people, and you shall soon be questioned - 44:44", Abu Abdullah (عليه السلام) said: Al Zikr is the Qur'an, and we (asws) are its people. And we (عليه السلام) should be asked.

[Wasail us Shia, H 33204]

The purpose of the Qur'an is to guide us to the Ahlul Bayt (عليه السلام). Even the verse which we read every day in Surah Hamd - "Guide us to the Straight Path (1:6)", there are many hadith where the Imams (عليه السلام) have explained it as the the path of Muhammad (s) and his Progeny (عليه السلام).

(Also published on blog: https://ahlulbaytmission.org/2019/08/17/Qur'an-guides-to-the-Imams/)


Definition of bid'ah (innovation in religion)
Although the definition of bid'ah is simple and straight forward, people are often confused and are unable to differentiate between sunnah (practice of the Prophet), bid'ah (innovation in religion) and mub'ah (neutral non-religious actions). Simply stated, anything added (increased) in religion or in the name of religion is bid'ah irrespective of the motive or reason for the addition, even if the intention is that of extreme love and devotion.


   و بهذا الإسناد عن أحمد بن أبي عبد الله عن عبد الله بن محمد الحجال عن عاصم بن حميد رفعه قال جاء رجل إلى أمير المؤمنين ع فقال أخبرني عن السنة و البدعة و عن الجماعة و عن الفرقة فقال أمير المؤمنين ع السنة ما سن رسول الله ص و البدعة ما أحدث من بعده و الجماعة أهل الحق و إن كانوا قليلا و الفرقة أهل الباطل و إن كانوا كثيرا 

A man came to Amir al-Mumineen (عليه السلام), and said: Inform me about al-sunnah, al-bid'ah, al-jama'ah, and al-firqah. So Amir al-Mumineen (عليه السلام) said: al-sunnah is whatever the Messenger of Allah (s) performed, al-bid'ah is whatever has been innovated after him (s), al-jama'ah are the people of truth, even if they are little, and al-firqah are the people of falsehood even if they are a lot.

[al-Sadooq, Ma`aani al-Akhbaar (Qom: Inshārāt Islāmī, 1361), pg. 154 - 155, hadeeth # 3]

Domain of bid'ah
It is important to understand that bid'ah pertains only to religious actions. By religious actions we mean those actions that define an individual's religious identity. These are the actions that are performed in the name of religion and are connected one way or another to the religious choice of the individual. All other actions can be termed as non-religious and they may be classified as mub'ah - being neither good nor bad from a religious point of view and which merit neither reward nor punishment.

Non-religious actions
These are the actions that don't define the religious identity and are usually practiced by people across all religions. Some examples are travelling by a car, wearing a cultural dress, speaking a particular language and following a regional diet. None of these define the religious identity of the individual. The distinction between religious and non-religious actions is important otherwise all the modern inventions and cultural practices would (God forbid!) come under bid'ah - since they were not practiced by the Holy Prophet (s). 

Clarification on some confusing actions
Certain religious actions are performed using means that did not exist during the time of the Prophet (s). For example praying on a carpet, using a loudspeaker for adhaan or playing audio recording of a dua. Are these bid'ah? It depends on the intention of the performer and which aspect of the action he/she considers as part of religion. If the carpet or loudspeaker is considered as an obligatory or recommended part of religion then it is a bid'ah. If the performer simply uses it out of convenience and understands that its use itself is not a part of religion then it is not a bid'ah. Carpets, loudspeakers and audio technology are also used by non-Muslims for other purposes so they don't define a religious identity and therefore cannot be bid'ah if used with the intention of convenience. 

Bid'at-ul-hasanah (Good Bid'ah)
In the school of Ahlul Bayt (عليه السلام), there is no concept of bid'at-ul-hasanah (good innovation). This concept was invented by the Ahlul Sunnah in order to justify the bid'ah of their caliphs. For example, after establishing the Tarawih prayers in the month of Ramadhan, Umar bin Khattab remarked: "How good this bid'ah is!". The scholars of Ahlul Sunnah have confused the people by complicating the simple definition of bid'ah, created different categories of bid'ah, and wrote lengthy tortuous explanations using reason and logic. See for example: The Concept of Bid'ah in the Shari'ah

Some people argue that if a new practice is established in the name of religion and there are no express statements of Ahlul Bayt (عليه السلام) forbidding it then it is not a bid'ah. This line of argument is the same as those who practice bid'at-al-hasanah.

Actions should be based only on Sunnah


وعن عدة من أصحابنا، عن أحمد بن محمد بن خالد، عن أبيه، عن أبي إسماعيل إبراهيم بن إسحاق الأزدي، عن أبي عثمان العبدي، عن جعفر، عن آبائه، عن أمير المؤمنين ( عليه السلام ) قال: قال رسول الله ( صلى الله عليه وآله ): لا قول إلا بعمل، ولا قول و لا عمل إلا بنية، ولا قول و لا عمل و لا نية إلا بإصابة السنة. ورواه الشيخ مرسلا عن الرضا ( عليه السلام )، نحوه. ورواه المفيد في ( المقنعة ) مرسلا. ورواه البرقي في ( المحاسن ) عن أبيه، بالإسناد.

The Messenger of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) said: There is no saying but through action (la qawl illa bi amal), and there is no saying and no action but by intention (la qawl va la amal illa bi niyyah), and there is no saying and no action and no intention but by achieving the Sunnah (la qawl wa la amal va la niyyah illa b'isabatil sunnah).

[Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, H 207, Ch. 22, h9]

According to the above hadith every saying, action and intention should be based on sunnah. Whatever is not done to fulfill the sunnah has no value and no merit in the eyes of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى).

Better to have fewer actions
Nowadays, adherants of the Usuli school are steeped in innovations. They are worried that if all the practices are weakened there will not be much to do. The following hadith should be an eye-opener for them:


The Holy Prophet (s) said: Few actions in sunnah are better than many in bid'ah.

[Al-Tūsī, Tahdhīb al-Aḥkām, 10 vols., (Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmiyyah, 4th Edition, 1407 AH), vol. 3, pg. 70, hadeeth # 29]

Duty of the scholars in the face of bid'ah


"When innovations emerge it is obligatory for the scholars to make their knowledge public (I.e. expose the bid'ah), otherwise, Allah will send la'anat (condemn) on them." 
[Al Kafi Chapter: 19, Hadith: 157, Number: 2]

(Also published on blog:  https://ahlulbaytmission.org/2019/08/22/definition-and-scope-of-bidah)

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