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Blood on Hisham b. al-Hakam's Hands

Islamic Salvation

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Was Hisham Responsible for the Murder of al-Kadhim?

 

Hisham Culpable

There exist narrations in our sources which hold Hisham responsible (directly or indirectly) for the murder of al-Kadhim عليه السلام by the Abbasid authorities. He stands accused of continuing to engage in public debate despite an explicit order from the Imam for him to refrain from doing that. He went on making waves in Baghdad such that the authorities took notice of the Shia and extended their talons towards the Imam.

علي بن محمد قال: حدثني محمد بن أحمد، عن يعقوب بن يزيد، عن ابن أبي عمير، عن عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج قال: قال أبو الحسن عليه السلام: ايت هشام بن الحكم فقل له: يقول لك أبو الحسن: أيسرك أن تشرك في دم امرء مسلم فإذا قال لا فقل له: ما بالك شركت في دمي؟

  • Ali b. Muhammad – Muhammad b. Ahmad – Ya’qub b. Yazid – Ibn Abi Umayr – Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj who said: Abu al-Hasan عليه السلام said: Go to Hisham b. al-Hakam and say to him: Abu al-Hasan says to you: Are you pleased that you take part (have a role) in the murder of a Muslim man? If he says ‘No’ then say to him: Why do you take part in my murder?  

More detail about this delegation of Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj to Hisham is provided in the report below:

جعفر بن معروف قال: حدثني الحسن بن النعمان، عن أبي يحيى وهو إسماعيل بن زياد الواسطي، عن عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج قال: سمعته يؤدي إلى هشام بن الحكم رسالة أبي الحسن عليه السلام قال: لا تتكلم فإنه قد أمرني أن آمرك أن لا تتكلم، قال: فما بال هشام يتكلم وأنا لا أتكلم، قال: أمرني أن آمرك أن لا تتكلم وأنا رسوله إليك. قال أبو يحيى: أمسك هشام بن الحكم عن الكلام شهرا لم يتكلم ثم تكلم فأتاه عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج فقال له: سبحان الله يا أبا محمد تكلمت وقد نهيت عن الكلام! قال: مثلي لا ينهى عن الكلام. قال أبو يحيى: فلما كان من قابل، أتاه عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج فقال له: يا هشام قال لك أيسرك أن تشرك في دم امرء مسلم؟ قال: لا، قال: وكيف تشرك في دمي، فان سكت والا فهو الذبح؟ فما سكت حتى كان من أمره ما كان صلى الله عليه

  • Ja’far b. Ma’ruf – al-Hasan b. al-Nu’man – Abi Yahya (Ismail b. Ziyad al-Wasiti) – Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj. He (Abi Yahya) said: I heard him (Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj) relaying to Hisham b. al-Hakam the message of Abi al-Hasan عليه السلام saying: Do not speak - for he (the Imam) has ordered me to order you to abstain from speaking. He (Hisham) said: Why should Hisham (b. Salim) speak but I should refrain?! He (Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj) said: He (the Imam) has ordered me to order you to abstain and I am his messenger to you.
  • Abu Yahya said: Hisham b. al-Hakam abstained from speaking for a month then resumed again. Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj came to him and said to him: Glory be to Allah! O Aba Muhammad - You engage in theological disputations while you have been forbidden from it! He (Hisham) said: the likes of me cannot be forbidden to speak!
  • Abu Yahya said: Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj came to him after a year and said to him: O Hisham - he (the Imam) says to you: Are you pleased to participate in the murder of a believing man? He (Hisham) said: No. He (the Imam) says: then how come you are participating in my murder! For if you are to remain silent (murder can be avoided) but if not then it will be slaughter
  • (Abu Yahya comments:) but he did not refrain until it happened to him (the Imam) what happened! 

Even Imam al-Ridha عليه السلام is quoted as holding Hisham squarely responsible in the murder of his father:

محمد بن نصير قال: حدثني أحمد بن محمد بن عيسى، عن الحسين ابن سعيد، عن أحمد بن محمد، عن أبي الحسن الرضا عليه السلام قال: أما كان لكم في أبي الحسن عليه السلام عظة ما ترى حال هشام بن الحكم؟ فهو الذي صنع بأبي الحسن ما صنع وقال لهم وأخبرهم، أترى الله يغفر له ما ركب منا

  • Muhammad b. Nusayr – Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Isa – al-Husayn b. Sai’d – Ahmad b. Muhammad (b. Abi Nasr) – Abi al-Hasan al-Ridha عليه السلام who said: Is there not for you in (the case of) Abi al-Hasan (al-Kadhim) a warning! What do you think is the state of Hisham b. al-Hakam? For he is the one who did to Abi al-Hasan what he did, and he informed them and divulged to them (the secrets of the Madhhab). Do you think Allah will forgive him what he has perpetrated on us!

 

Hisham Explains

It is clear that this accusation levied against Hisham became widespread and needed a response from the pro-Hisham camp. Let us look at what Yunus (the principal exponent of Hisham's school) has preserved for us when he confronted his master directly about it.

حدثني حمدويه، قال حدثني محمد بن عيسى، عن يونس قال: قلت لهشام أصحابك يحكون أن أبا الحسن عليه السلام سرح إليك مع عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج أن أمسك عن الكلام و إلى هشام بن سالم قال: أتاني عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج و قال لي يقول لك أبو الحسن عليه السلام أمسك عن الكلام هذه الأيام، و كان المهدي قد صنف له مقالات الناس و فيه مقالة الجواليقية هشام بن سالم، و قرأ ذلك الكتاب في الشرقية و لم يذكر كلام هشام، و زعم يونس أن هشام بن الحكم قال له: فأمسكت عن الكلام أصلا حتى مات المهدي، و إنما قال لي هذه الأيام فأمسك حتى مات المهدي

  • Hamduwayh – Muhammad b. Isa – Yunus who said: I said to Hisham - Your companions (fellow Shia) relate that Aba al-Hasan عليه السلام sent (a message) to you via Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj saying ‘stop speaking’ and also (the same message) to Hisham b. Salim.
  • Hisham said: Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj came to me and said to me: Abu al-Hasan عليه السلام says to you: Stop speaking in these days. For it was authored for al-Mahdi (the Abbasid Caliph) (a treatise which contained) the different theological stances of the people. In it was the stance of the Jawaliqiyya (followers of) Hisham b. Salim. That treatise was read in the Sharqiyya (Eastern quarter) and it did not mention the stance of Hisham (b. al-Hakam).
  • Yunus asserted that Hisham b. al-Hakam said to him ‘I stopped speaking totally until al-Mahdi died, for he (the Imam) had said to me ‘these days’.
  • Thus he stopped until al-Mahdi died.   

More detail about what Hisham said to Yunus in his defense is available in the report below:

وحدثني محمد بن مسعود العياشي قال: حدثنا جبريل بن أحمد الفاريابي، قال: حدثني محمد بن عيسى العبيدي، عن يونس قال: قلت لهشام انهم يزعمون أن أبا الحسن عليه‌ السلام بعث إليك عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج يأمرك أن تسكت ولا تتكلم، فابيت أن تقبل رسالته، فأخبرني كيف كان سبب هذا؟ وهل أرسل إليك ينهاك عن الكلام أولا؟ وهل تكلمت بعد نهيه إياك؟ فقال هشام: انه لما كان أيام المهدي شدد على أصحاب الاهواء، وكتب له ابن المفضل صنوف الفرق صنفا صنفا، ثم قرأ الكتاب على الناس، فقال يونس: قد سمعت هذا الكتاب يقرأ على الناس على باب الذهب بالمدينة، ومرة أخرى بمدينة الوضاح. فقال ان ابن المفضل صنف لهم صنوف الفرق فرقة فرقة، حتى قال في كتابه: وفرقة منهم يقال لهم الزرارية، وفرقة منهم يقال لهم العمارية أصحاب عمار الساباطي، وفرقة يقال لها اليعفورية، ومنهم فرقة اصحاب سليمان الاقطع، وفرقة يقال لها الجواليقية. قال يونس: ولم يذكر يومئذ هشام بن الحكم ولا أصحابه، فزعم هشام ليونس ان أبا الحسن عليه‌ السلام بعث اليه فقال له: كف هذه الايام عن الكلام فان الامر شديد، قال هشام: فكففت عن الكلام حتى مات المهدي وسكن الامر، فهذا الذي كان من أمره وانتهائي الى قوله

  • Muhammad b. Masud al-Ayyashi – Jibril b. Ahmad al-Fariyabi – Muhammad b. Isa al-Ubaydi – Yunus who said: I said to Hisham: They claim that Aba al-Hasan عليه‌ السلام sent Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj to you ordering you to keep silent and not to speak (in defense of the Madhhab) but you refused to accept his message to you. Inform me what was the reason for this? and did he really send to you prohibiting you from speaking or not? and did you speak after his prohibition?
  • Hisham said: Back in the days of al-Mahdi - he (the Caliph) severely restricted those he considered heterodox. Ibn al-Mufadhal wrote for him a treatise outlining all the different sects one after the other, this treatise was then read to the people.
  • Yunus said: I heard this treatise being read to the people at the Golden Gate in the city (Baghdad) and also another time in the town of Wadhah.
  • Hisham continued: Ibn al-Mufadhal authored for them (the authorities) the classification of all sects one after the other, such that he even said in his treatise ‘a sect among them called Zurariyya, a sect among them called Ammariyya the companions of Ammar al-Sabati, a sect called Ya’furiyya, a sect consisting of the companions of Sulayman al-Aqta, and a sect called the Jawaliqiyya’. Yunus said: He (Ibn al-Mufadhal) did not name Hisham b. al-Hakam or his companions at that time.
  • Hisham asserted to Yunus that Aba al-Hasan عليه‌ السلام had sent to him a message saying ‘abstain from speaking in these days for the matter is serious’.
  • Hisham said: I stopped speaking until al-Mahdi died and the matter became settled, this then is what he had ordered me to do and my abiding with his command.  

This is a very important report because it gives us a glimpse of the socio-historical context of the time, the prevalent need for Taqiyya, the names of the most important companions of the Imams and their ‘Madhhabs’ (which as has been clarified are not really ‘sects’ in the traditional sense). It shows us that the Imami community was vibrantly engaged in theological argumentation such that they came under the radar of the authorities of the day.

 

To Blame or not to blame

Returning back to the all-important question - did Hisham have a role in al-Kadhim’s death? There certainly was a historical memory among some in the community that held him responsible. The fact that Hisham gained infamy as a Shi’i debater with a combative style must have attracted a lot of attention towards the Shia.

However, the more specific information given by Hisham himself seems to vindicate him. He interpreted the Imam’s instruction as a temporary order and obeyed it by abstaining from ‘speaking’ for a certain time during al-Mahdi’s Caliphate before resuming.

In any case, the fact that the Imam al-Kadhim was murdered in Harun al-Rashid’s time and the role of Muhammad b. Ismail b. Ja’far (al-Kadhim’s nephew) is more suggestive.  

It is no surprise to find that the Yaqtin family, specifically the Ubaydi brothers, who were also members of Hisham and Yunus’s school, supporting him against this charge as the report below indicates:

و حدثني حمدويه بن نصير قال: حدثنا محمد بن عيسى العبيدي، قال حدثني جعفر بن عيسى قال: قال موسى الرقي لأبي الحسن الثاني عليه السلام: جعلت فداك روى عنك المشرقي و أبو الأسد أنهما سألاك عن هشام بن الحكم فقلت ضال مضل شرك في دم أبي الحسن عليه السلام فما تقول فيه يا سيدي نتولاه؟ قال نعم. فأعاد عليه نتولاه على جهة الاستقطاع قال نعم تولوه نعم تولوه، إذا قلت لك فاعمل به و لا تريد أن تغالب به، اخرج الآن فقل لهم قد أمرني بولاية هشام بن الحكم، فقال الرقي لنا بين يديه و هو يسمع ألم أخبركم أن هذا رأيه في هشام بن الحكم غير مرة

  • Hamduwayh b. Nusayr – Muhammad b. Isa al-Ubaydi – Ja’far b. Isa who said: Musa al-Raqqi said to Abi al-Hasan the Second (al-Ridha) عليه السلام: May I be made your ransom - al-Mashriqi and Abu al-Asad relate from you that they had asked you about Hisham b. al-Hakam so you said: “Misguided and Misguiding others. He participated in the murder of Abi al-Hasan”. So what do you say about him O My Master - should we associate with him? He said: Yes. He (Musa) repeated the same question aiming to obtain certainty - ‘should we associate with him?’ He said: Yes. Associate with him. Associate with him. If I tell you something then abide by it and do not seek to overturn it. Go out now and say to them (those assembled): He has ordered me to associate with Hisham b. al-Hakam.
  • Al-Raqqi said to us in in front of him (the Imam) while he (the Imam) was listening: Did I not inform you that this (i.e. approval) was his opinion of Hisham b. al-Hakam - more than once!? 


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A relevant tradition to meditate on:

- علي بن إبراهيم، عن محمد بن عيسى، عن بعض أصحابنا، عن أبي الحسن موسى عليه السلام قال: إن الله عز وجل غضب على الشيعة (1) فخيرني نفسي أوهم، فوقيتهم والله بنفسي.

Narrated by Imam Musa b. Ja’far [a], "Allah became angry with the Shi`a, so he gave me the choice between myself or them, so I redeemed them by Allah with my own self."

al-Majlisī suggests that it refers to a time where the Shīʿah had abandoned the practice of taqiyyah (dissimulation) during the reign of Hārun al-Rashīd (d. 763/766 or 809 AD) and as a result, al-Kāim had to put himself forward as a sacrifice in order to save them.

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      When I'm here for you, but you're just like ice
       
      I am always contemplating
      And always wondering
      Whether I've done more than enough 
       
      I want to be there for you
      But you keep pushing me away
      So I chose to do the same
       
      Please let me help you 
      Let me help you get this through
      We share the same blood
      And I want you to be loved.
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