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In the Name of God بسم الله
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Et tu, Ismail? Pt. 1

Islamic Salvation

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

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

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

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

 

Introduction

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

 

Did the Imam praise him?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Disapproval of the Imam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Connections with the Ghulat Abu al-Khattab and Mufadhal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nabidh Drinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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      A person like you and me would respond by saying ‘what do you mean not fight, I am the best warrior in the Army’ ‘they would be attacking me and I can kill so many of them’ ‘this is a battlefield, what else a person does if not use swords and arrows’. But this was Abbas(عليه السلام) who was a master not only in combat on the battlefield but also in combat with the nafs,hence he submitted without question to what Imam(عليه السلام) had ordered.
      This was Abbas(as)’s real test. Just take a moment to think what an order like this would do to the soul of a person, a person whose whole life right from the time he was born revolved around defending Husayn(عليه السلام), a person whose is known for his courage, a person whose name alone evoked fear in the heart of his enemies. He has been ordered not to fight at such a critical time in Imam Hussain(as)'s life even though he is being sent in the battlefield surrounded by enemies who will attack him. But when the Imam (عليه السلام) of our time orders us something, we don't ask questions, when? why? how come? We just SUBMIT.

      Hazrat  Abbas(عليه السلام) went out in the battlefield, the soldiers of Yazid(LA) attacked him from all sides,he scattered and repelled the ones who came in his way, reached Furaat, filled the bag with water. He has been thirsty for three days, his tongue is dry and he is exhausted because of being dehydrated. His hands are touching the water. He can take a sip or two before he rides his horse again? Does he? No. He cannot think of drinking water while Husayn(عليه السلام) and the children are thirsty in the camps. Water right in front of Abbas(عليه السلام),the burning plains of Karbala, three days of thirst vs loyalty and servitude to Imam Husayn(عليه السلام). Who wins? Abbas(عليه السلام) wins. He defeated his nafs again.
      On 10th of Muhrram, Abbas(عليه السلام) fought the battle and won like no other. 

      What does this tell us? Even when you are Abbas(عليه السلام) and the army you are facing is one like Yazid’s,even then your greatest battle is with yourself.

      Felicitations and greetings to the Imam(عليه السلام) of our time and to all brothers and sisters on the birth of Qamar Bani Hashim. 
       
    • By starlight in Light Beams
         5
      I have two wedding invitations in front of me and a whole lot of thoughts going in my head. One is from a pre wedding party of a school friend. I talked about her here briefly 
      To add a few more details, she got divorced after 8 or so years of marriage, no kids. Her ex got remarried within 2 months of divorce, not sure but probably this could be the reason behind the divorce. It's been just a year since they divorced and now she is marrying this Christian guy. After advice from my fellow SCers I asked her to reconsider, but then there is this invitation now. The response from the rest of the group surprised me, everyone was going oooh and aaahh and congrats and best wishes and asking about her honeymoon plans. I believe that quiet a few of my school friends are practicing Muslims, the kind who regularly attend and organize Islamic gatherings. Maybe they felt the same as me but didn't speak up like I did.When I talked to her about a month back, she was obviously uncomfortable with the conversation.I wanted to tell her that it hadn't even been a year and she should wait and eventually Allah will send a suitable Muslim man in her life. 
      Then there is this second wedding invitation. It is from a coworker. I have known him for more than 10 years, early 40s, two kids, unhappily married(separated) and looking for a second wife. He had been introduced to no less than a dozen divorced girls in our work and social circle in the last two years but none of it went beyond the initial introductions.I didn't understand at the time why. All the girls,and I knew a few of them personally, seemed good matches; good looking, pleasant disposition, educated, perfectly capable of becoming good wives ... but as I read the name of the bride I suddenly understood why.She is an old student of mine and his,who changed departments to come and work very briefly with us,18 years his junior,never married before read: virgin. The last two 'qualities' have apparently made him overlook the stark difference in their intellectual and maturity levels, which is so significant that everyone is commenting on it. He is someone whom all of us believed to be a notch above the rest when it came to maturity, principles and moral values but he made the same decision as the regular run of the mill divorced single dad working in the next department made when he married a 9 years his junior previously unmarried girl.................................................................................................................................. which makes me think would it have been practical advice to tell my friend to wait and eventually she would find a Muslim man to marry???? 
       
       (please let's not start a polygamy battle here, they have come to the mutual decision of separating after years of unhappiness, she didn't ask for divorce and he has no plans to hand it to her and is taking care of her financially) 
       
    • By Hameedeh in Think Positive
         16
      The Seventh Imam, Musa Ibn Ja'far Al-Kadhim AS was living in the Holy City of Medina, and while he was praying at the tomb of the Holy Prophet SA, he was arrested, then the tyrant Harun ar-Rashid kept him in prison in Baghdad for almost four years in a cell so small he could not stand up tall to say his prayers. On the 25th of Rajab, Harun had Imam Kadhim AS martyred by poison. Even his corpse was desecrated and taken from the prison and left in view on the Bridge of Baghdad. His devotees managed to bury Imam Kazim AS in al-Kazimiyyah (Iraq). Although Imam Kazem AS was living under complete oppression, he kept positive. May Allah SWT keep us all on the straight path and keep us positive.
      ♥ May your days be sunny, your nights restful, and your heart satisfied with the blessings that Allah has given you. Think Positive. ♥
    • By 3wliya_maryam in deep poetry
         1
      In a time of ignorance
      A period of injustice and profanity 
      Where it was filled with insanity 
      Hearts were filled with vanity
       
      He sent a true messenger 
      To fulfill a mission that would change humanity
      To forbid atrocity and spread morality
      To guide His creatures towards the true message
      To remove the calamities and wreckage
       
      The hypocrites wouldn't stop mocking him
      Calling him names and throwing dirt
      He let them do so freely, for he was never hurt
      'Cause the Lord was always by his side
      Every night he raised his hands and cried
      Praying that his people would follow the truth
       
      A man of respect and dignity 
      A man who preached unity 
      He who gave women their rights 
      He who gave the nation its might 
       
      The Holy Book and the Holy Progeny
      The two things that held the nation together
      But he still knew about the bad prophecy
      He could already sense the wild weather
       
      Ya Rasullulah,
       
      Can you see how your nation tore apart 
      When it used to be only one
       
      Can you see the amount of bloodshed
      Leaving thousands of your Muslims dead
       
      Can you see the amount of hatred and sedition
      Leaving thousands of your Muslims in a heartless condition 
       
      Waiting for your chosen ancestor
      To free the Earth from the oppressors
      To fill it with justice and remove the tyranny
       
      You were the chosen one to mankind 
      An immaculate soul that He designed.
       
      السلام عليك يا رسول الله ❤️
      اللهم صلي على محمد و آل محمد
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