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Hisham b. al-Hakam: Defender of the Madhhab (Pt 1)

Islamic Salvation

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ورفعه الصادق عليه السلام في الشيوخ وهو غلام. وقال: هذا ناصرنا بقلبه ولسانه ويده

al-Sadiq عليه السلام elevated him to be at par with the elders while he was still a youth. He said: This is our defender by his heart, tongue and hand [Manaqib of Ibn Shahr Ashub]

 

Hisham b. al-Hakam: The Defender of the Madhhab (Pt. 1)

 

Biographical Details

هشام بن الحكم أصله كوفي، ومولده ومنشؤه بواسط، وقد رأيت داره بواسط، وتجارته ببغداد في الكرخ، وداره عند قصر وضاح في الطريق الذي يأخذ في بركة بني زرزر حيث تباع الطرايف والخلنج

al-Fadhl b. Shadhan (d. 260) the great Imami scholar says about him: Hisham b. al-Hakam had his origins in Kufa (his family), but was born and raised in Wasit. I have seen his house in Wasit. His business was in Baghdad in the Karkh (district). His house (when he later relocated to Baghdad) was in Qasr Wadhah in the road which is taken to reach the pond of Bani Zurzur where is sold oddities and wooden utensils.        

بياع الكرابيس

al-Saduq identifies his profession as a seller of canvas (a strong and coarse cloth).

أبو محمد مولى كندة، وكان ينزل بني شيبان بالكوفة، إنتقل إلى بغداد

al-Najashi gives his Kunya as Abu Muhammad and declares him to be a client of the Kinda (an Arabian tribe with a lot of Christians in the Jahiliyya). He is said to have resided with the Bani Shayban (the patrons of the famous Shi’i family of the Bani A’yan) when in Kufa, before relocating permanently to Baghdad.

 تحول من بغداد إلى الكوفة] [مات سنة تسع وسبعين ومائة بالكوفة في أيام الرشيد] [كان لاستتاره قصة مشهورة في المناظرات] ]

He had to flee Baghdad for Kufa, because of an intrigue against him, where he died in concealment in the year 179 during the Khilafa of al-Rashid.

 

His Personality and Interests

Hisham was a close companion of the two Imams al-Sadiq and al-Kadhim. He can be considered the most prominent mutakallim [theologian] of the entire first three centuries of Shi’ite Islam.

al-Najashi says about him:

 وكان ثقة في الروايات

He was Thiqa [trustworthy] in narrations

al-Tusi says:

وكانت له مباحثات كثيرة مع المخالفين في الأصول وغيرها ... وكان ممن فتق الكلام في الإمامة وهذب المذهب بالنظر وكان حاذقا بصناعة الكلام حاضر الجواب وسئل يوما عن معاوية ابن أبي سفيان أشهد بدرا قال: نعم من ذلك الجانب ...

He held many debates with the opponents concerning the essentials of belief and other subjects … He was one of the first to make use of theological arguments for Imama and defend the Madhhab through reason. He was skillful in the techniques of theological disputation, possessing a quick wit and a ready answer. He was asked one time whether Muawiya b. Abi Sufyan witnessed the battle of Badr so he said: ‘Yea - on the other side [of the Kuffar]’

Hisham’s interest in theology can be gleamed from some of the titles of his authored works which include: a book on Tawhid (كتاب التوحيد), a book on the differences between people concerning Imama (كتاب اختلاف الناس في الإمامة), a book on predestination and free-will (كتاب في الجبر والقدر), a refutation of the Zanadiqa (كتاب الرد على الزنادقة), a refutation of the Dualists (كتاب الرد على أصحاب الاثنين), a refutation of the Mu’tazila (كتاب الرد على المعتزلة), a refutation of Aristotle (كتاب الرد على أرسطاطاليس) etc.

Hisham occupies a special place in proto-Sunni heresiographical works where he is presented as the quintessential bogeyman. This is because he was the first to expose Imami positions to a wider audience and gained notoriety as an unmatched polemicist. His role as the systemizer of central Shi’i ideas such as Isma (infallibility) of the ‘Aimma must have contributed to this depiction of him.

Despite his predominant interest in rational theology, this did not stop him from being a prolific narrator of mostly Fiqhi [legal] narrations from the two Imams. He is an example of a hybrid-scholar i.e. the few companions who could bridge between the wholly rationalistic and the wholly traditionalistic trends among the early Shia. There are 167 narrations in whose chain he appears in our corpus as it stands today.

 

His special position with al-Sadiq

  • Hisham is said to have been influenced initially by the ideas of Jahm b. Safwan (d. 128). His ‘conversion’ to Shi’ism was borne out of an encounter with the master described below:  

It is narrated from Umar b. Yazid [who recounted] that - His nephew Hisham used to subscribe to the Jahmi Madhhab as far as religion was concerned and was devilishly adept at it. He asked me one day to arrange it so that he could enter in and meet Abi Abdillah عليه السلام. I requested permission [from the Imam] to allow Hisham to come meet him which he [Imam] approved. I stood to depart and took a few steps but began thinking about his [Hisham’s] viciousness and maliciousness [when arguing] so I returned back to Abi Abdillah عليه السلام and informed him of these traits of his. Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said to me: O Umar - do you fear for me? I became ashamed of what I had said and recognized that I had overstepped my limits [tripped up]. I departed in a state of shame until I came to Hisham and informed him that permission had been granted but requested him to delay going to meet him [i.e. because of my embarrasment to meet the Imam so soon], but Hisham could not wait and hurried to see him. He knocked and entered and I went with him.

When we were seated in his presence Abu Abdillah عليه السلام asked him a question which Hisham hesitated over and could not answer. Hisham asked him [the Imam] to give him time [to come up with the answer] which Abu Abdillah عليه السلام agreed to. Hisham went away and sought to find the answer for several days to no avail. He retuned to Abi Abdillah عليه السلام at which point Abu Abdillah عليه السلام solved it for him. He [the Imam] proceeded to ask him other questions which invalidated his [Hisham’s] beliefs and creed. This caused Hisham to leave in sadness and confusion. He [Hisham] said: I remained for days with my confusion unresolved.

Umar b. Yazid said: Hisham asked me to seek permission for him to enter and meet Abi Abdillah عليه السلام for the third time. I went to see Abi Abdillah عليه السلام who said: He should wait for me in such and such place - which he named - in Hira so as we can meet tomorrrow if Allah wills. Umar says: I proceeded to Hisham and informed him of his [the Imam’s] words and instruction. He [Hisham] was very pleased and delighted by that and preceded him [the Imam] in reaching the location that he [the Imam] had mentioned.

Then I saw Hisham after that and asked him what had happened between them. He informed me that he was the first to reach the location that Aba Abdillah عليه السلام had appointed for him, as he was waiting he saw Abi Abdillah عليه السلام approaching on a mule of his. Hisham says: When I got a glance of him and he came near me I was overcome by awe at his visage, so much so that I could not find the words to speak and my tongue was motionless. Abu Abdillah عليه السلام stopped before me for a moment waiting for me to speak, but this just added to my amazement and astonishment. When he saw this he struck his mule and continued on until he entered one of the roads in Hira. I was sure that what had happened to me and my awe of him was not but from Allah Mighty and Majestic because of his [the Imam’s] great position and station in the eyes of the Majestic Lord.

Umar said: Hisham attached himself to Abi Abdillah عليه السلام and abandoned his former Madhhab and converted to the true religion. Then he ascended to a position beyond that of all the companions of Abi Abdillah عليه السلام and all praise belongs to Allah.

  • al-Sadiq recognised the potential of Hisham as an able student almost instantly. He seems to have treated him preferentially to other disciples and favoured him beyond others. The Imam taught him the secrets of Tawhid and supplicated for him. It is this close nurturing of Hisham which allowed him to climb the ladder of ascent to the pinnacle of his field.

Ali b. Ibrahim his father al-Nadhr b. Suwayd Hisham b. al-Hakam - that he asked Aba Abdillah عليه السلام about the Names of Allah and their derivation [etymology] saying: What is Allah derived from? so he [the Imam] said to me: O Hisham, Allah is derived from … have you understood O Hisham? an understanding through which you can repel and defeat our enemies and those who betake another apart from Allah Mighty and Majestic [alone].

I said: Yes.

He said: May Allah benefit you by it and make you firm O Hisham.

Hisham said: By Allah no one has defeated me on the subject of Tawhid to this day when I stand in the position I do.   

  • That Hisham reached the pinnacle is clear in the incident of the famous debate with the Syrian. It is the young Hisham who speaks last and best despite the presence of all the other major students much older than him garnering the praise of the Imam in the process.

Ja’far b. Muhammad b. Qulawayh – Muhammad b. Ya’qub al-Kulayni – Ali b. Ibrahim – his father – a number of his men – Yunus b. Ya’qub who said: I was at Abi Abdillah’sعليه السلام when a man from the people of Syria came and said: I am a man who is proficient in theology, jurisprudence and the inheritance laws. I have come to debate your companions … He [the Imam] said to me: Go out the door and look for any of the experts and bring him in. He [Yunus] said: I brought in Humran b. A’yan who was good at debating, al-Ahwal who was also good, Hisham b. Salim who was good too, and I brought in Qays al-Ma’sir who was the best of them in my estimation. He [Qays] had learnt to debate at the hands of Ali b. al-Husayn عليهما السلام.  

When the gathering settled down – this was in pavillion which had been pitched on a mountain near the sanctuary (Ka’ba) where Abu Abdillah عليه السلام used to spend a few days before the Hajj – Abu Abdillah عليه السلام peered outside the pavillion and saw a camel ambling.

He [the Imam] said: It is Hisham by the Lord of the Ka’ba! He [Yunus] said: We thought that ‘Hisham’ was a reference to a man from the descendants of Aqil greatly beloved to him, but it turned out to be Hisham b. al-Hakam whose beard had just sprouted for the first time, and there was no one among us who was not older than him.

He [Yunus] said: Abu Abdillah عليه السلام made room for him … then he said: O Humran debate the man, Humran debated him and defeated him. He [the Imam] said: O Taqi debate the man, al-Ahwal debated him and won. Then he [the Imam] said: O Hisham b. Salim debate him, but they ended in a draw. Then Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said to Qays al-Ma’sir: debate him, so he debated him and Abu Abdillah عليه السلام began laughing at their talk because of what befell the Syrian [of defeat]. 

Then he [the Imam] said to the Syrian: debate this young man - that is Hisham b. al-Hakam ….

Yunus said: I thought that he [the Imam] would - by Allah - say to Hisham words similar to what he had said to the others [i.e. the Imam had found fault in all their argumentations] but instead he said: O Hisham, you never fall flat [settle on the ground], everytime it seems that you are about to come to ground [i.e. be defeated] you just bend your legs [to able to leap] and off you fly away again. The likes of you should debate the people. Therefore be wary of slipping and you will find that succor is around the corner if Allah wills.

  • al-Sadiq took great pride in Hisham’s achievements, and on at least one occasion asked Hisham to recount the details of a particularly momentous debate to the other disciples. Hisham had developed a decisive argument for the need for an Imam at all times in his debate with Amr b. Ubayd the Mu’tazili using an analogy of the centrality of the ‘heart’ relative to the other body functions to describe the centrality of the Imam to relative to the Umma.

al-Ayyashi – Ali b. Muhammad b. Yazid al-Fayruzani al-Qummi – Muhammad b. Ahmad b. Yahya – Abi Ishaq – Muhammad b. Hammad – al-Hasan b. Ibrahim – Yunus b. Abd al-Rahman – Yunus b. Ya’qub who said: There were with Abi Abdillah عليه السلام a large number of his companions. Among them were Humran b. A’yan, The Believer of Taq (al-Ahwal), Hisham b. Salim, al-Tayyar and others among them Hisham b. al-Hakam who was just a young man. Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said: O Hisham, he [Hisham] said: at your service O the son of the Messenger of Allah! He [the Imam] said: Will you not inform me how you dealt with Amr b. Ubayd and your questions to him? Hisham said: I revere you and am thus self-conscious in front of you! My tongue does not speak in your presence. Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said: If I order you to do something then do it … Abu Abdillah laughed with delight [after Hisham recounted his debate] and then said: Who taught you this O Hisham? He said: O the sone of the Messenger of Allah the words were made to flow through me tongue! He [the Imam] said: I swear by Allah that this is written in the scrolls of Ibrahim and Musa!

 

His special position with al-Kadhim

Hisham enjoyed an especially close relation with al-Kadhim عليه السلام

al-Tusi says:

كان من خواص سيدنا مولانا موسى بن جعفر عليه السلام

He was one of the intimates of our master Musa b. Ja’far عليه السلام

This can be seen in the examples below:

Hamduwayh b. Nusayr – Muhammad b. Isa – al-Hasan b. Ali b. Yaqtin who said: Whenever Abu al-Hasan [al-Kadhim] عليه‌ السلام wanted some neccessities for himself, or something of a personal nature, he would write to my father Ali: ‘purchase for me this and that or acquire for me such and such, and the one to undertake that should be Hisham b. al-Hakam’. But if it had to do with his [the Imam’s] more general responsibilities he would just write: ‘purchase for me this and that’ and not mention Hisham unless it was personal.

It is also said that his [the Imam’s] favour towards him [Hisham] and his [Hisham’s] status in his [the Imam’s] estimation reached such a level that he [the Imam] sent him [Hisham] fifteen thousand gold coins and said to him: ‘do business with them and keep the profits thereof returning to us only the capital’. Hisham did as instructed. May Allah bless Abi al-Hasan.    

Hamduwayh and Ibrahim the sons of Nusayr – Muhammad b. Isa – Zuhl – Asad b. Abi al-Ala who said: Abu al-Hasan the First عليه‌ السلام wrote to those who had come up from his Shia in one of the years during the pilgrimage season [to make the Hajj] about fulfilling a certain need of his, no one took it up [responded positively] except Hisham b. al-Hakam. He [Asad] said: He [the Imam] later wrote to him - that is Hisham b. al-Hakam - ‘may Allah make your reward paradise’.



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a great article on this seminal yet poorly understood personality of Imami shiaism 

again I recommend you post this to " ENcyclopedia of Islam " and get recognition for your work brother 

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      Occasionally the person who had hosted us in Lucknow would visit. He was a local politician and would arrive in a stately Ambassador car or even more excitingly a ‘jeep’. Not an eponymous one of course, but I still remember the fact that it had gun racks. Both that vehicle and the Ambassador were made in India. This was India before trade liberalisation. Not as familiar a place as the Pakistan we had travelled through to get here. Pakistan had the welcome familiarity of brands that I had grown up with; the ketchup was Heinz and the coke a recognisably friendly white swoosh on a red background. Billboard and television advertising was reassuring. Here unfamiliar names came across as peculiar. Why would a cola be called ‘Thums Up?’. 
      Such has been the irony of globalisation that a few weeks ago eating at Dishoom restaurant in London’s East End I saw the Thums Up logo once more. A symbol of rejecting western capitalism had itself become a brand, with a consumerist meaning, evoking a carbonated essence of India. 
      Like all children of Asian immigrants on visits to their parents’ country of origin, I was also overwhelmed with the extensivity and density of familial connections. There were first cousins, second cousins, and quite a lot more complicated combinations, for which there are no words in English. Added to this, a matriarchal aunt could also be a cousin. My wife came up with a novel way of explaining one such relationship to me. “If that aunt were Mary Queen of Scots, your mum would be Elizabeth I”. Indeed, an artefact of such complex and inter-related ties was the obvious existence of rivalries, jealousies, and squabbles spanning generations. In England, my younger brother and I had been protected from this aspect of extended family life. The protection came at a price: we didn’t know how to deal with it at all. At the age of 10 this did not matter, but on future visits, it would become more significant and certainly by the time my brother and I reached marriageable age. For the time being, it was just nice that as I wandered from apartment to apartment in the mahal, everyone I met was a relative and I was too young to understand any political dimension of that relationship. It would also be in subsequent visits to the mahal, when I was older, that I’d appreciate the tensions with the communities who lived outside the mahal.
      On my daily walks, I’d see hand powered sewing machines and food being prepared more laboriously than anything I had seen at home. The dirt floor did not afford the comfort of sitting cross legged and sitting on my haunches was not something my leg muscles were prepared for. Unlike the urban homes, I had come across in the sub-continent, the toilet here was a platform raised above the multi-coloured offerings beneath. So large was the place that any smells remained distant from any other rooms.
      The cold had not left us in Fatehpur. At night, they would light braziers which were wonderful for bringing around family members, sitting together on the Indian style wooden beds, sharing each other’s warmth, stories and gossip. 
       
       
       
       
    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
         3
      There is a populist theory that the pyramids must have had an alien inspiration. This is because of the range of innovations that they represent and knowledge across multiple disciplines and their orientation towards certain constellations.
      My problem with this theory is the bent pyramid at Dahshur. It's bent, because they got the maths wrong. Weird that aliens who managed to get to this planet but then got their measurements for a stone structure wrong. Seems pretty clear to me that the pyramids we see represent the refinement and development of Egyptian technology, rather than discrete alien intervention.
      In contrast, this planet is stuffed full of interesting resources in quantities just right for exploitation at the time that they'd be needed and human development would have reached a stage to take advantage. That's a far more likely candidate as evidence of extra-terrestrial involvement in the seeding of this planet with the correct quantities of resources at the time of its creation. Given the nature and extent of such material, it's likely to have been something more advanced than aliens doing the seeding.
      I was reminded of this by the current horseshoe crab shortage affecting north America. It seems as if they have been over-exploited because their blood contains a substance used to test medical products for the presence of bacteria.
    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
         1
      Summary
      The factors which allow countries to produce lots of brains may be the very factors that mean such brains will find better opportunities in countries that are better able to pay brains.
      Whether the countries producing the brains are able to benefit from their education-positive actions depends on whether the brains who leave for better opportunities consider their success to be a function of their childhood country or their own hard work.
      Countries that produce brains need to work hard in order to ensure that people recognise the source of their success.
      Brain drainees
      Brain drainees are countries that lose qualified people to other countries. Brain drainees typically need to create the brains in the first place and typically there are some conditions that need to be met in order to do this. In order to develop an educated population you need pupils who have enough to eat and drink, feel secure and who are not compelled to work as child labourers. Ideally, they should not have so much wealth that they have too much access to distractions that will keep them away from their studies. 
      You need parents who are willing to provide the time and attention needed for children to learn i.e. people who don't feel compelled to work excessive hours in their employment activities either because such work is badly paid or because it is so well paid but competitive that they have to work those hours to keep up with their peers. You need a social system that keeps parents with children rather than in bars.
      You need teachers who are qualified, i.e. those who know their subjects well enough that they want to impart knowledge rather than rote learning. And you need education leaders who see their leadership positions as ones that serve society rather than their own pockets.
      Countries can create brains for export without the above conditions, but the above represent an ideal, a sort of goldilocks zone. Societies that are neither too dysfunctional or too successful.
      Being in the goldilocks zone also means that parents, teachers and children see the value of utilitarian, functional subjects such as maths and engineering. In contrast in more developed societies there may be a tendency to study more values-expressive subjects such as the arts and social sciences.
      Brain drainers
      These are societies that systematically draw brains from other countries. Typically these societies are rich. People with brains do not move to poor countries unless they are on a World Bank or an NGO contract.
      The wealth of these societies means that the children within them have access to distractions, X-boxes do not play themselves, this means that they don't create as many brains as they could. There are other factors at play as well. Parents may find it more economically beneficial to spend time at work rather than with kids and they may also find it more productive to have less kids to begin with. Both factors reduce brains. 
      In such societies, there are good teachers, (obviously). But supply may be limited, this is because people who are well-qualified have a lot of other employment opportunities that are typically better paid than education. Teachers could be paid more, but typically these societies find it more effective to reduce tax rates in order to encourage commerce and enterprise and/or spend their budgets on the military which in turn create non-education job opportunities.
      The lack of parental support at home, the availability of distractions and other social forces that challenge traditional teacher/pupil relationships can also mean that teaching becomes more demanding and challenging.
      Because these societies are rich, however, it remains relatively easy to recruit qualified people in a range of different activities from other countries that are effective at producing them.
      Assessments of cause and effect
      It may well be that the very factors that allow countries to produce brains are the ones which reduce the opportunities for those brains to exploit the skills that they have developed in their home countries.
      Crucial to this issue is the perception of the brains themselves. If they attribute their success to their own labours and that of the brain drainee country that allowed them in, then there will be a net loss to the brain drainee country, it may be less likely to see any future returns to its investment.
      If however, the brains feel that they either owe a debt to the drainee country and/or that the drainee country offers opportunities in the long-term they may make a contribution to it.
    • By Qa'im in Imamology
         5
      The idea that the world is composed of four or five elements (fire, water, earth, wind, and aether) was almost universal in the ancient world. The science and mythology of many ancient civilizations, from Greece to Japan, operated on this understanding.

      While Islam is not really married to the idea of four elements (it is not supported in an explicit way in the Quran or hadiths), it is interesting to note that Islamic metaphysics and cosmology use this system.

      This is especially the case in the spiritual world. The jinn are made from a smokeless Fire, the humans are made from Earth (Teen), and the soul (ruH) comes from the word for Wind (reeH). The Throne of Allah was settled upon Water (11:7), until that water was separated into the heavens and earth. The angels are from light (Noor, a word related to Nar).

      Allah does not raise a prophet except that he speaks the language of his people. He may have used these literary devices to explain a realm that is ultimately beyond our understanding (ghayb). The Quran is a book that needs to be intelligible to people, especially when speaking on the unseen and unknown.

      While the universe is simply not made up of H2O, the image of Water as a fluid, clear, shapeless structure is befitting to understanding the world. In physics, the concept of fields (gravitational, spatial) operate largely on fluid mechanics. “Water” is a chaotic substance that was then categorized, compartmentalized and distinguished into the world we know today.

      Similarly, a simple sample of the water (saliva) in your body can create an entire profile of who you are: your DNA, and therefore, your family lineage, your appearance, your susceptibility to diseases, and even parts of your personality.

      There are some things that are beyond literal and metaphorical. The dichotomy of literal and metaphorical is sometimes not just inaccurate, but harmful to our readings of scripture.
    • By 3wliya_maryam in deep poetry
         6
      Why am I always agitated
      To the point where I'm just irritated
      At every small thing that comes my way
      I throw a tantrum not realising what I say
      Sometimes I reassure myself
      It's okay, your human, you can control yourself
      But everytime I try, its only temporary
      And I try to push away the guilt that I carry
      No matter how many times you fall
      Keep breaking through that strong immense wall
      Even if you still haven't been able to and you just wanna stop
      Be proud that you still didn't drop
      That you still haven't given up.
    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
         0
      and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?
      I think it most likely does, but I think the issue misses the point about the significance of that tree to our existence.
      There are lots of things happening in the universe that we cannot observe when they happen, but they are important for our understanding of natural history when we reach a point in our own development when we can observe their effects.
      So millions of years ago there were trees that were falling that we could not hear or observe, but we see their effects today when we dig and drill for hydrocarbons and we can reconstruct their ecosystem in such a manner that it provides us with a scientific understanding of why we are where we are today together with clues as to where we may be heading.
      At the level of the individual plant, then, we may never have been able to hear or see what happened to it. But the important aspect of its life, what it left behind has been useful for us.
      In the case of frozen mammoths, the evolution life and death of an entire species may have been of value to us in the form of the handful of specimens that have been observed. Had the millions of other mammoths not lived (whose sounds we'd obviously never hear) we would not have been able to acquire those specimens that serendipitously died in a manner that preserved them and learn more about them.
      The same point applies to the stars and the universe. Many of them have existed for billions of years, it seems, for the exclusive benefit of us being able to see them at this point in time, when their light could reach us.
       
    • By shadow_of_light in From Earth to Heaven
         0
      "Sardaar" by Ali Ashabi
       
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