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  • 10/2/2011

Peshawar Nights: Misconption about Origin of the Shia Sect

Second Session-part 1


(Friday night, 20th Rajab, 1345 A.H.)

Hafiz: I was greatly impressed by your instructive conversation concerning your ancestral lineage. I admit that you are a descendant of the Holy Prophet, but I wonder how a man of your learning could be under the degrading influence of the enemies. Having left the ways of your illustrious ancestors, you have adopted the ways of the unbelievers of Iran. What I mean by the foolish ways of the enemies are those innovations which have entered Islam through the Israelites.

Well-Wisher: Kindly explain what you mean.



Hafiz: The Israelites' whole history is stained with deceit. Abdullah Bin Saba' San'a'i, Ka'abu'l-Ahbar, Wahhab Ibn Munabba, and others professed Islam and pretended to accept the hadith of the Holy Prophet and thus created confusion among the Muslims.

The third caliph, Uthman Bin Affan, pursued them, and they fled to Egypt, where they established a sect known as the Shia. They spread false reports about Caliph Uthman and fabricated hadith to the effect that the Holy Prophet had appointed Ali as caliph and Imam. With the formation of this sect, there was widespread violence, which led to the murder of Caliph Uthman and the assumption of the caliphate by Ali. A group inimical to Uthman stood high in Ali's favor. During the caliphate of the Umayyads, when the people of the family of Ali and his adherents were being killed, this group went into hiding. Still, some people, like Salman Farsi, Abu Dharr Ghifari, and Ammar Yasir, supported the cause of Ali. This struggle continued until the time of Harun ar-Rashid, and especially his son, Ma'mun ar-Rashid Abbasi, who subdued his brother with the help of the Iranians, and they then spread the idea that Ali was preferable to other caliphs. The Iranians, hostile to the Arabs who had conquered them, found an opportunity to challenge the Arabs in the name of religion. The Shia became powerful during the period of the Dailamites and the Safavid Kings and were finally recognized. They were then formally known as the Shia sect. Iranian Zoroastrians still call themselves Shias.

In short, the Shia sect was founded by a Jew, Abdullah Bin Saba. Otherwise, there would have been no such word as "Shia" in Islam. Your grandfather, the Holy Prophet, hated the word. In fact, the Shia sect is a part of the Jewish faith.

I wonder why you left the just ways of your ancestors and followed the path of your predecessors, who adopted Jewish ways. You should have followed the Holy Qur'an and the example of your grandfather, the Prophet.



Well-Wisher: It is unusual for a learned man like you to base his arguments on utterly false grounds. There is no sense in your associating the name of Abdullah Bin Saba with the Shias. Abdullah Bin Saba was a Jew, and, according to Shia sources, a hypocrite and is harshly condemned. If for some time he appeared to be a friend of Ali, what connection did he have with the Shias? If a thief puts on the attire of a learned man, mounts the pulpit, and injures the cause of Islam, should you be averse to learning and call learned men thieves?

In fact, Shia Muslims have never been merely a political party. They have always comprised a religious sect, which was not founded, as you say, in the time of Caliph Uthman, but was propagated through the words and commands of the Prophet during his own time. While you argue on the basis of the concocted evidence of enemies, I will cite for you verses from the Holy Qur'an and records of your own authors to establish the true position.


Well-Wisher: Shia, as you know, literally means "follower." One of your greatest ulema, Firuzabadi, in his Qamusu'l-Lughat, says, "The name 'Shia' commonly means every person who is a friend of Ali and his Ahle Bait. This name is peculiar to them." Exactly the same meaning is given by Ibn Athir in Nihayatu'l-Lughat. According to your own commentaries, the word Shia means "follower of Ali Bin Abu Talib" and was used in this way during the time of the Prophet. In fact, it was the Prophet himself who introduced the word Shia as meaning "follower of Ali Bin Abu Talib." And this word was used by the Holy Prophet about whom Allah says: "Nor does he speak out of desire. It is naught but revelation that is revealed." (53:3-4) The Prophet called the followers of Ali "The Shia," the "delivered," and the "rescued."

Hafiz: Where is such a thing? We have never seen it.

Well-Wisher: We have seen it, and we do not think it proper to conceal facts. Allah condemned concealers and called them companions of Hell. Allah says, "Surely those who conceal the clear proofs and the guidance that We revealed after We made it clear in the Book for men, those it is whom Allah shall curse, and those who curse shall curse them (too)." (2:159) "Surely those who conceal any part of the Book that Allah has revealed and take for it a small price, they eat nothing but fire into their bellies, and Allah will not speak to them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them, and they shall have a painful chastisement." (2:170)

Hafiz: If we know the truth and conceal it, I agree we deserve condemnation as revealed in these holy verses.

Well-Wisher: I hope you keep these two verses in mind so that habit or intolerance may not overpower you. Hafiz Abu Nu'aim Ispahani is one of the most distinguished of your narrators of hadith. Ibn Khallikan has praised him in his Wafayatu'l-A'ayan' as one of the great Huffaz (men of wisdom), and one of the most learned narrators of hadith. He also states that the ten volumes of his Hilyatu'l-Auliya are among the most instructive of books. Salahu'd-din Khalil bin Aibak Safdi writes in his Wafiy bi'l-Wafiyat about him, "The crown of narrators of hadith, Hafiz Abu Nu'aim, was the foremost in knowledge, piety, and honesty. He enjoyed a high position in the narration and understanding of hadith. His best work is Hilyatu'l-Auliya in 10 volumes, consisting of derivations from the two Sahihs." Muhammad bin Abdullah al-Khatib praises him in Rijali'l-Mishkati'l-Masabih, saying that he is among the leading narrators of hadith whose narrations are utterly reliable.

In short, this respected scholar and traditionist, the pride of your ulema, relates from Abdullah bin Abbas through his own chain of narrators in his book Hilyatu'l-Auliya relates: "When the following verse of the holy Qur'an was revealed: '(As for) those who believe and do good, surely they are the best of men. Their reward with their Lord is gardens of perpetuity beneath which rivers flow, abiding therein for ever. Allah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Him; that is for him who fears his Lord.' (98:7-8), the Holy Prophet, addressing Ali, said: 'O Ali, the best of creatures (Khairu'l-bariyya) in this holy verse refers to you and your followers (Shia). On the Day of Resurrection, you and your followers (Shia) shall attain such a position that Allah will be pleased with you, and you will be pleased with Him.'"



Similarly, Abu'l-Muwayyid Muwafiq Bin Ahmad Khawarizmi in the 17th chapter of his Manaqib; Hakim Abu'l-Qasim Abdullah Bin Abdullahi'l-Haskani, in Shawahidu't-tanzil; Muhammad Bin Yusuf Ganji Shafi'i in Kifayatu't-Talib, p. 119, Sibt Ibn Jauzi in Tadhkira, p. 31, Munzir Bin Muhammad Bin Munzir, and particularly Hakim, have related that Hakim Abu Abdullah Hafiz (one of the greatest of your ulema) said: based on the testimony of narrators reaching back to Yazid Bin Sharafi'l-Ansari, the scribe of the Commander of the Faithful, Ali Bin Abu Talib, that Ali said that at the time of the Prophet's death, the Prophet rested on Ali's chest and said: "You have heard the holy verse: 'Those who believe and do good deeds, it is they who are the best of creatures.' (98:7) These are your Shia. My and your meeting place shall be at the fountain of Kauthar (in Paradise). When all created beings assemble for reckoning, your face will be bright, and you will be identified on that day as the leader of the bright-faced people."

Jalalu'd-din Suyuti, in his Durru'l-Mansur quotes Abu'l-Qasim Ali Bin Hasan (commonly known as Ibn Asakir Damishqi), who quotes Jabir Bin Abdullah Ansari, one of the greatest companions of the Prophet, as saying that he and others were sitting with the Holy Prophet when Ali Bin Abu Talib came in. The Holy Prophet said: "I swear by Him Who controls my life that this man (Ali) and his Shia shall secure deliverance on the Day of Resurrection." At that time the verse cited above was revealed. In the same commentary, Ibn Adi quotes Ibn Abbas as saying that when the above verse was revealed, the Prophet said to the Commander of the Faithful, Ali, "You and your followers (Shia) will come on the Day of Resurrection in such a condition that all of you will be pleased with Allah, and Allah will be pleased with you."

In the Manaqib of Khawarizmi, the following is related from Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari: "I was in the presence of the Holy Prophet when Ali joined us, and thereupon the Holy Prophet said: 'It is my brother that has come to you.' Then, facing towards the Ka'ba, the Prophet took hold of Ali's hand and said: 'By Him Who controls my life, this Ali and his Shia will be delivered on the Day of Judgement.'

Then he said: 'Ali is the foremost of you all in belief, the most regardful about Allah's pledges, the most just of you all in deciding matters of the people, the most equitable of you in distributing allowances among the people, and the highest of you all in rank before Allah.'" On that occasion, the verse cited above was revealed. In Chapter II of his Sawa'iq, Bin Hajar quotes Hafiz Jamalu'd-Din Muhammad Bin Yusuf Zarandi Madani (a great scholar of your sect) as saying that when the above verse was revealed, the Holy Prophet said: "O Ali, you and your Shia are the best of created beings. You and your Shias will come on the Day of Judgement in such a condition that all of you will be pleased with Allah, and Allah will be pleased with you. Your enemies will be resentful, and their hands shall be tied round their necks." Then Ali asked who was his enemy. The Holy Prophet replied, "One who is hostile to you, and who reviles you."

Allama Samhudi, in Jawahiru'l-Iqdain, on the authority of Hafiz Jamalu'd-Din Zarandi Madani and Nuru'd-din Ali bin Muhammad bin Ahmad Maliki Makki, known as Ibn Sabbagh, who is regarded as one of your distinguished scholars and eminent theologians, in his Fusulu'l-Muhimma relates from Abdullah bin Abbas that when the verse under discussion was revealed, the Prophet said to Ali: "It is you and your Shias. You and they will come on the Day of Judgement fully pleased and satisfied, while your enemies will come in grief, with bound hands."

Mir Seyyed Ali Hamadani Shafi'i, one of your eminent scholars, in his Mawaddatu'l-Qurba, and the well known anti-Shia scholar, Ibn Hajar, in his Sawa'iq-e Muhriqa narrate from Ummu'l-Mu'minin Umme Salma, the wife of the Prophet, that the Holy Prophet said: "O Ali, you and your Shias will abide in Paradise; you and your Shias will abide in Paradise." The well known scholar of Khawarizm, Muwaffaq bin Ahmad, in his Manaqib, Chapter 19, relates on reliable authority that the Prophet said to Ali: "In my community you are like the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary." This statement implies that as the followers of the Prophet Jesus were divided into three groups: the true believers, known as hawari'in, the Jews, and the exaggerators, who associated him with Allah. In the same way Muslims would become divided into three groups. One of them would be the Shias, the true believers. The other group would be Ali's enemies, and the third group would be the exaggerators of his position.



The people then dispersed in response to the call for the Isha prayer. After the prayer, Mulla Abdu'l-Hayy returned with a commentary by Suyuti, Mawaddatu'l-Qurba, the Musnad of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, and the Manaqib of Khawarizmi. He read from them the hadith Well-Wisher had quoted in his discussions by way of verification. Since his references had been accurate, the expressions of all those in the opposite camp changed. In the meantime, in the Mawaddatu'l-Qurba, they came across another hadith. The Prophet said: "O Ali, on the Day of Judgement, you and your Shias will come before Allah fully satisfied and pleased, while your enemy will come in grief and with hands bound."

Well-Wisher: These are clear arguments supported by the Book of Allah, by authentic hadith, and by history. Support for my position comes from the books of your own eminent scholars. These are in addition to the numerous narrations that exist in the books and commentaries of Shias. Using the books now before you, I could go on presenting arguments in support of the point under consideration until tomorrow morning, by the grace of Allah; but I think that what I have presented should be enough to dispel your doubts about Shias. Respected audience, we Shias are not Jews. We are followers of the Prophet Muhammad. The originator of the word "Shia" as meaning "the followers of Ali," was not the accursed Abdullah bin Saba, but the Prophet himself. We never follow any individual without authoritative arguments in his favor. You said that it was after Uthman that the word "Shia" came to be used referring to the followers of Ali. In fact, even in the Prophet's day, several noted companions were called Shias. Hafiz Abu Hatim Razi, in his Az-Zainat, which he compiled for clarifying the meanings of certain words and phrases current among scholars, says that the first new word that came into general acceptance in Islam in the days of the Prophet was "Shia." The word was applied to four prominent companions: Abu Dharr Ghifari, Salman Farsi, Miqdad bin Aswad Kindi, and Ammar Yasir. Many more hadith were quoted in support of the same point. Now it is for you to consider how it was possible that during the time of the Prophet four of his chief companions were called Shia. If the Prophet thought it was innovation, why didn't he forbid the people to use it? The fact is that people had heard from the Prophet himself that the followers (Shias) of Ali were the inhabitants of Heaven. They were proud of it and openly called themselves Shias.



You related a hadith from the Prophet saying: "Verily, my companions are like stars; whomever of them you follow, you will be properly guided." Abu'l-Fida writes in his history that these four men, who were companions of the Prophet, abstained, along with Ali, from paying allegiance to Abu Bakr, on the Saqifa day. Why don't you consider their refusal to pay allegiance to be worthy of emulation? Your own ulema have written that they were loved by Allah and His Prophet. We follow them, as they followed Ali. Hence, according to your own hadith, we are on the path of guidance.

With your permission, and keeping in view the shortness of time, I present to you a few narrations in support of my contention that these men were loved by Allah and the Prophet. Both Abu Nu'aim Isfahani in Hilyatu'l-Auliya, Vol. I, p. 172, and Ibn Hajar Makki in the fifth hadith of the forty hadith narrated in Sawa'iq-e Muhriqa in praise of Ali narrated from Tirmidhi, and Hakim from Buraida, that the Prophet said: "Verily, Allah has commanded me to love four persons and has told me that He loves them." When the people asked who these four persons were, he said: "Ali bin Abu Talib, Abu Dharr, Miqdad, and Salman." Again, Ibn Hajar in Hadith No. 39 has narrated from Tirmidhi and Hakim from Anas bin Malik that the Prophet said: "Paradise is eager for three individuals, Ali, Ammar, and Salman." Isn't the action of these eminent companions of the Holy Prophet a model for other Muslims? Isn't it shameful that in your view the companions are restricted to those persons who played the game of Saqifa, or who acquiesced in it, while the others who opposed the strategy behind Saqifa are seen as being unreliable? And if that be so, then the hadith you have quoted should have been: "Verily, a few of my companions are like stars, etc."



You have been unkind in saying that Shia'ism is a political religion, and that Iranian Zoroastrians accepted it in order to save themselves from Arab domination. You have said so in blind conformity to your predecessors. I have already proved that it is an Islamic religion, one which was commended by the Prophet to his followers. In fact, those who, without any sanction from the Prophet, laid the foundation of a Saqifa, were themselves politicians and not the followers of the holy family of the Prophet. It is characteristic of Iranians that they look into things. When they are convinced of their truth, they accept them, as they accepted Islam when Iran was conquered by the Arabs. They were not forced to do it. They gave up Zoroastrianism and sincerely embraced Islam. Similarly, when they were convinced by logic and by Ali's invaluable services, they accepted Shia'ism. Contrary to the assertion of many of your writers, the Iranians did not accept Ali during the caliphate of Harunu'r-Rashid or Mamunu'r-Rashid. They accepted Ali during the time of the holy Prophet. Salman Farsi was one of the most sincere followers of Ali. He reached the highest rank of faith. The ulema of both sects have unanimously written that the Prophet said: "Salman is from our Ahle Bait (i.e., he is one of the people of my house)." For this reason he was called "Salman Muhammadi" and he was admittedly the most staunch supporter of Ali, and a bitter opponent of Saqifa. If, according to your own books, we follow him, we are on the straight way. He heard the verses of the Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet about Ali and clearly understood that obedience to Ali was obedience to the Prophet and to Allah. He repeatedly heard the Prophet say: "One who obeys Ali obeys me; and one who obeys me obeys Allah; one who is hostile to Ali is hostile to me; and one who is hostile to me is hostile to Allah."

Every Iranian, however, who went to Medina and embraced Islam, whether during the time of the Holy Prophet or afterward, obeyed the orders of the Prophet. For this reason, the second caliph became intolerant and imposed several restrictions on Iranians. These hardships and sufferings bred enmity in their hearts. They questioned why the caliph denied them Islamic rights against the injunctions laid down by the Prophet.


Apart from these conditions, Iranians were grateful to Ali for his compassion regarding the treatment of Iranian princesses taken prisoner by the Arabs. When the prisoners of Mada'in (Taisfun) were brought to Medina, the second caliph ordered that all the female prisoners be made slaves of the Muslims. Ali forbade this and said that the princesses were exceptions and were to be honored. Two of the prisoners were the daughters of King Yazdigerd of Iran and could not be made slaves. The caliph asked what should be done. Ali said that each of them should be allowed to select a husband from the Muslims. Accordingly, Shahzanan selected Muhammad Bin Abu Bakr (who had been brought up by Ali), while the other princess, Shahbanu, selected Imam Husain, the Prophet's grandson. Both went to the homes of these men after a lawful wedding. Shahzanan gave birth to a son, Qasim Faqih, father of Umme Farwa, who was the mother of our Sixth Imam, Ja'far as-Sadiq. Imam Zainu'l-Abidin, our fourth Imam, was born of Shahbanu. So the establishment of Shia'ism had no connection with the time of Harun and Ma'mun or with the rule of the Safavid Dynasty in Iran, as you said earlier. It was openly propagated seven centuries before the Safavid Kingdom (i.e., in the 4th century Hijri), when the Dailamites (the Buwayyids) were rulers. In 694 A.H. the Iranian Kingdom was ruled by Ghazan Khan Mughul (whose Islamic name was Mahmud). Since at that time, belief in the Prophet's Ahle Bait was commonly expressed, Shia'ism grew steadily. After the death of Ghazan Khan Mughul in 707 A.H., his brother, Muhammad Shah Khuda Bandeh became the ruler of Iran. He arranged a religious debate between Allama Hilli, a learned Shia scholar, and Khwaja Nizamu'd-Din Abdu'l-Malik Maraghe'i, the chief justice of the Shafi'ites and the greatest Sunni scholar of that time.



The subject of this debate was the Imamate. The Allama put forward such cogent arguments to prove that Ali was the immediate successor of the Prophet, and so convincingly refuted the claims of the other side, that all those present were completely satisfied with the reasoning of the Allama. Khwaja Nizamu'd-Din acknowledged that the Allama's arguments could not be refuted. But he said that, since he was following the path of his predecessors, it was not proper to leave it. He felt that it was important to maintain solidarity among the Muslims.



The King listened to the arguments with keen interest, accepted the Shia position himself, and announced the legitimacy of Shia'ism in Iran. He subsequently proclaimed to the governors of the regions that the weekly Khutba's (sermons given in the Mosques) should proclaim Ali's right as the successor of the Prophet. He also ordered that the Kalima be inscribed on the dinars (gold coins) in this way: "La ilaha ill'allah; Muhammadan Rasulullah; Aliyyan Waliullah," meaning, "There is no God except Allah; Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah, and Ali is Allah's Wali" (vicegerent or divinely appointed guardian of the people). In this way the roots of Shia'ism were firmly established. Seven centuries later, when the Safavid kings came to power, the clouds of ignorance and fanaticism were further removed, Shia'ism flourished everywhere in Iran. Yes, there are Zoroastrians in Iran and those who exaggerate the position of Ali and consider him Allah. But they should not be associated with the common Iranian people, who believe in Allah and the Prophet Muhammad as the last of the prophets. These follow Ali and his eleven descendants as commanded by the Prophet.

Hafiz: It is strange that although you originally came from the Hijaz (Arabia) and have been living in Iran for a short time, still you support the Iranians, and call them the followers of Ali, who was himself obedient to Allah. But Iranian Shias, to a man, regard Ali as Allah. Here are some couplets from the works of Iranian poets indicating this view, while Ali himself condemned such beliefs. The last of these couplets shows Ali saying: "Who helps at the time of difficulties? It is I, who am Allah! It is I." A couplet of another poet says: "According to the belief of those who are intelligent and recognize Allah, Allah is Ali, and Ali is Allah."

Well-Wisher: I wonder why, without making inquiries, you should accuse all Iranians of regarding Ali as Allah. Your own ulema have made fanatical claims of this sort. They have said that the Shias are the worshipers of Ali and as such they are infidels. Therefore, murdering them is obligatory. As a result, Muslims of Uzbekistan and Turkestan have recklessly shed the blood of Iranian Muslims. The common people among the Sunnis are often misguided by some of your ulema, and your people consider the Iranians infidels. In the past, your people, the Turkomans, have attacked Iranian caravans near Khorasan, plundered and murdered the people, and said that whoever killed seven Rafizis (Shias), would certainly go to Paradise. You should bear in mind that the responsibility of such murders rests squarely on your leaders, who tell ignorant Sunnis that Shias worship Ali.

To be continued ...

Other Links:

The Tendency of Rationalizing the Laws of the Sharia

Peshawar Nights (perface)

Peshawar Nights: first session-part 1

Peshawar Nights: first session-part 2

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