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Schools of Thought

imam sadiq (a.s)

The time of the sixth Infallible Imam marks the period of developments in ideologies and the emergence and growth of various Islamic and non-Islamic schools of thought and sects. Some sects with relatively long history had managed to institutionalize a framework for their line of thought and attracted some followers. Imam Sadiq (A.S) as the Imam of the Shia nation and the guardian of the school of Islam could not be indifferent towards these developments. He had to express his views on non-Islamic approaches, echo the strict view of Islam on them and respond to the questions and ambiguities posed by the deviated schools of thought and sects. The schools of thought and sects in the time of Imam Sadiq (A.S) fell into two major categories: Islamic and non-Islamic.

A-  Islamic Sects

During the time of Imam Sadiq (A.S) many sects were formed. The most notable Islamic sects in the time of Imam Sadiq (A.S) were the following:

1- Mu’tazila: Mu’tazila sect came to being in early 2nd H. century during the religious leadership of Imam Muhammad Baqir (A.S). Ma’bad Jahni, Qilan Damasqi and Younis Asvari were the first leaders of this sect who denied attribution of human deeds to God. They said: “Man is able and independent in his deeds and creeds and God has no role in the deeds of his creatures.”‌

The companions and the followers of the Prophet (PBUH) – who were alive until the birth of Mu’tazila – did not welcome this newly founded sect and recommended the Muslims to avoid making relations with the Qadriyah (determinists) sect.

Upon the assassination of Ma’bad, Vasel bin Ata – a Persian local ruler and a student of Hassan Basri – began open publicity for Ma’bad. His followers were recognized as Mu’tazila afterwards.

Amidst the intellectual conflicts on determinism and free will, Imam Sadiq (A.S) said both absolute determinism and absolute free will were wrong and the right path was something between the two.

He rejected both belief in absolute determinism or absolute free will, thus saved his followers from wondering in between the two approaches.

2- Murji’ah : Murji’ah  sect came into being in the beginning because of political motivations and the Omavids (Umayyad) played a key role in creation of this sect. They believed that faith was something in the heart and hence no sin could ever befallen on man. He who is believer in the heart will dwell in the Heaven after death although he utters blasphemous words or worships idols or behaves like non-Muslims. Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani in his commentary on the exquisite work “Al-Melal val-Nahl”‌ says:

“Murji’ah believed that deeds are not part of faith, and sins never harm the faith as such blasphemy has no relation with obeying God.”‌

Such a belief encouraged individuals to commit sin easily and to support the cruel rulers.

The Infallible Imams in their lessons always stressed combination of mind and heart or deeds and creeds in their beliefs. According to the Imams a real Muslim is he whose deed and creed approve his faith.

Once Imam Sadiq (A.S) was asked to explain the truth behind faith, and he replied: “Faith is confession by tongue, belief in heart and deed by the body organs.”‌

It is emphasized that the love of the Infallible Imams will not end in forgiveness without good deed. The author of Ma’ani al-Akhbar quotes a narration about Imam Sadiq (A.S). One day one of his companions asked: “Some of your friends commit sins and say we pin our hopes in God’s forgiveness. This means that they commit sins and expect forgiveness because of their love for the Infallible Imams.”‌

Imam Sadiq (A.S) replied: “I swear by God, they are liars; they are not our friends. This is because he who wants to gain something he must endeavor a lot and he who is afraid of something must keep away from it.”‌

3- Keysaniyah: Shiism did not experience new branch or sect until the end of the leadership of the third Infallible Imam. Upon martyrdom of Imam Hussein (A.S), although the majority of his followers tended to his son Imam Sajjad (A.S), a minority known as Keysaniyah followed the doctrine of Muhammad bin Hanafiya, Imam Ali’s son.

4- Zaidiyyah: It is the second sect stemming from Shiism after the martyrdom of Imam Sajjad (AS). This little group believed in the Islamic leadership of Zaid, a son of Imam Sajjad (A.S), instead of Imam Baqir (A.S) and they were called Zaidiyyah.

5-Ghullat : The sect was formed in the closing years of the leadership of Imam Ali (A.S) within the Islamic community. These people exaggerated the foretelling power of Imam Ali (A.S) and worshipped him like a god. In the time of Imam Sadiq (A.S) and Imam Baqir (A.S) the atmosphere was open for publicity of various schools of thought and also for the followers of Ghullat. The key people supporting this sect were Moqayyerah bin Saeed and Abulkhattab. Ghullat thought was seriously rejected by the Infallible Imams. Imam Sadiq (A.S) strongly opposed this sect and warned the youth to avoid establishing ties with these people. According to the Imam, Ghullat are not on the right path. Imam Sadiq (A.S) in his personal contacts used to warn people against the influence of such sects.

6- Sufism: In early 2nd century Hegira, some people rose to fame as Sufis or the pious people within the Muslim community. These people practiced a special manner in making use of Divine Blessings and natural attractions. Extremist Sufis maintained that the best way toward the path of religion is what they practice. They maintained that man should completely turn his back to the material blessings. According to this school of thought, a real believer is the one who avoids wearing good cloths, eating delicious food, and living in a luxury house. Imam Sadiq (A.S) was against extremist Sufism. Instead of practicing extreme Sufism, the Imam recommended spiritual purification, paying attention to spirituality and enjoying the nature and its manifestations as recommended by Islam.

Imam Sadiq (A.S) used to hold talks with the leaders of Sufism to convince them that their religious practice was not seasoned. Extreme Sufism was supported by the rulers of the time because they needed Muslims to live in seclusion to refrain from publicizing Shiasm.

Translated by: Sadroddin Musawi

Other links:

A Brief Introduction of Imam Sadiq (A.S)

Shia Followers are Supporters of Islamic Leadership (Vilaya)

Imam Sadiq’s Students and Disciples

Imam Sadiq (A.S), Malik ibn Anas and Abu Hanifa

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