The Sunnah of Being Shi`ah: Rejecting Division, Embracing the Qur’anic Term “Shi`ah”
The basis for the following article was originally published in 2002 by the Taliyah al-Mahdi. Edits and further additions have been made to the text, in order to reflect the evolving approach of the Inner Circle of the occulted group, and current events.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
“The People of my Household are for you like the Ark of Nuh (Noah). Whoever embarks on it will be saved and whoever turns away from it will be drowned.” – The Prophet Muhammad: hadith al-safinah, relayed by Abu Dharr al-Ghifari
Notes: al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, Vol. I, p. 250; Ibn Hajar, al-Sawa’iq, p. 75; al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak, Vol. III, p. 343; al-Qunduzi, Yanabi’ al-Mawaddah, p. 257. Ibn al-Sabbagh, al-Fusul al-Muhimmah, p. 10; al-Sabban, Is’af al-Raghibin, p. 111; al-Shiblanji, Nur al-Absar, p. 114.
Shi`ah literally means “follower.” In his Qamusu’l-Lughat, Firuzabadi says, “The name ‘Shi`ah’ 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 Sunni commentaries and admissions, the word Shi`ah means “follower of Ali Bin Abu Talib” and was used in this way during the time of the Prophet Muhammad . In fact, it was the Prophet Muhammad himself who introduced the word Shi`ah as meaning “follower of Ali Bin Abu Talib.” The Prophet Muhammad called the followers of Ali “The Shi`ah,” the “delivered,” and the “rescued.” And about the Prophet Muhammad Allah has said:
“Nor does he speak out of desire. It is Nothing but Revelation that is revealed.” Al-Quran, Sura 53:3-4
The term “Shi`ah” is an adjective used by Muslims who follow the Imams from the Family of the Prophet (Ahl al-Bayt). We do not use it for reasons of sectarianism or for causing divisions amongst Muslims. We use it because the Qur’an uses it, the Prophet Muhammad used it, and the early Muslims used it – before words such as Sunni, Wahabi or Salafi ever came into existence.
Myths Regarding the Origins of the Shi`ah
Abdullah ibn Saba’ San’a’i, Ka’abu’l-Ahbar, Wahhab Ibn Munabba, and others professed Islam and pretended to accept the Ahadith of the Prophet Muhammad and thus created confusion among the Muslims. Sunni’s often slander Shi`ah by falsely claiming that the third Khalif, Uthman ibn Affan, pursued these hypocrites and deceivers to Egypt, where they established a sect known as the Shi`ah. In short it is believed by many Sunni’s (due to the deliberate spreading of slander and lies on behalf of those “claiming Islam, yet being the furthest from it”), that Shi`ah Islam was founded by a Jewish man named Abdullah ibn Saba.
It is absurd to associate Abdullah ibn Saba with Shi`ah for one simple reason: he is an ahistorical, fictional character created centuries after the events described in Hadith literature. There is no validity whatsoever in associating the name of Abdullah ibn Saba with the Shi`ah, nor in associating him with anyone. Narratives about him are complete fabrications, invented as sectarian polemic. There is literally no third party historical record of such a person ever existing. According to the fiction, Abdullah ibn Saba was a Jew. According to Shi`ah sources, he was 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 Shi`ah? As it is said in Peshawar Nights regarding this kaffir:
“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?”
The reality is there was a historical community called the “Sabians” whom the Qur’an mentions repeatedly, without a word of criticism. Sunni hadith literature in fact describes Muhammad as a Sabian in dozens of narrations. This community and its relationship to Muhammad and the Ahl al-Bayt is fully described in the work by the author of this present work, Dr. Micah ben David Naziri. That work, the first of two masters theses, was entitled People of the Book: What the Religions Named in the Qur’an Can Tell Us About the Earliest Understanding of “Islam”, and it definitively identifies this group from third party historical records, and disproves the later false association with the Mandeans of Iraq. Furthermore, in this and another related work Revaluating and Interpreting the Sources on the `Isawiyah Jews (`Issuniyim) Revaluating and Interpreting the Sources on the `Isawiyah Jews (`Issuniyim), the `Isawiyah sect is proven to be the Late Antiquity group known as the Sabians by sources of Antiquity, and is further proven to have dozens of strong correlations with later forms of Shi`ism. While far beyond the scope of this work at hand, the serious researcher is directed to read the aforementioned works in full. It suffices to say that Abdullah ibn Saba myth was clearly a fictional mythization of these historical roots, not simply of Shi`ism but of Muhammad’s own orientation towards the Abrahamic paths.
Shi`ah Muslims have always comprised a community of Muslims, which was not founded in the time of Khalif Uthman, but was propagated through the words and commands of the Prophet Muhammad during his own time. And beyond that, the Qur’an clearly states that the followers of Islam under previous Prophets were “Shi`ah” as well. Shi`ah Islam is one and the same as Islam itself; the One Din of ALL 124,000 Prophets, and the only Din spoken of by the Seal of the Prophets, Muhammad ibn Abdullah .
The Title “Shi`ah” In the Qur’an
Allah has mentioned in the Qur’an that some of Hu’s righteous servants were Shi`ah of Hu’s other righteous servants.
“And most surely Ibrahim was among the Shi`ah…” – Qur’an, Sura 37:83
“And he (Musa) went into the city at a time when people (of the city) were not watching, so he found therein two men fighting, one being of his Shi`ah and the other being his enemy, and the one who was of his Shi`ah cried out to him for help against the one who was of his enemy.” – Qur’an, Sura 28:15
Clearly we see that Shi`ah is an official word used by Allah in Hu’s Seal of Revelation – Al-Qur’an -for Hu’s Prophets as well as their followers.
“Shi`ah” in Ahadith
When the following verse of the Qur’an was revealed: “(As for) those who believe and do good, surely they are the best of creatures.” – Qur’an 98:7 The Prophet Muhammad said to Ali : “It is for you and your Shi`ah.“
He further said: “I swear by the one who controls my life that this man (Ali) and his Shi`ah shall secure deliverance on the Day of Resurrection.”
Notes: 1. Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, Tafsir al-Durr al-Manthur, (Cairo) vol. 6, p. 379
2. Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tafsir Jami’ al-Bayan, (Cairo) vol. 33, p. 146
3. Ibn Asakir, Ta’rikh Dimashq, vol. 42, p. 333, p. 371
4. Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, (Cairo) Ch. 11, section 1, pp 246-247
The Prophet Muhammad said: “O Ali! (On the day of Judgment) you and your Shi`ah will come toward Allah well-pleased and well-pleasing, and there will come to Hu your enemies angry and stiff-necked.”
Notes: 1. Ibn al-‘Athir, al-Nihaya fi gharib al-hadith, (Beirut, 1399), vol. 4 p. 106
2. al-Tabarani, Mu’jam al-Kabir, vol 1 p 319
3. al-Haythami, Majma’ al-Zawa’id, vol. 9, number 14168
The Prophet Muhammad said: “Glad tiding O Ali! Verily you and your Shi`ah will be in Paradise.”
Notes: 1. Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Fadha’il al-Sahaba, (Beirut) vol. 2, p. 655
2. Abu Nu’aym al-Isbahani, Hilyatul Awliya, vol. 4, p. 329
3. al-Khatib al-Baghdadi , Tarikh Baghdad, (Beirut) vol. 12, p. 289
4. al-Tabarani, Mu’jam al-Kabir, vol. 1, p. 319
5. al-Haythami, Majma’ al-Zawa’id, vol. 10, pp. 21-22
6. Ibn ‘Asakir, Ta’rikh Dimashq, vol. 42, pp. 331-332
7. Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, (Cairo) Ch. 11, section 1, p. 247
What Sunni Hadith Literature Says About the Shi`ah As Being the Partisans of the Prophets
“Call unto the way of your Rabb with wisdom and good exhortation, and reason with them in the best way. Lo! your Rabb best knows those who go astray from Hu’s path, and Hu knows best those who are Rightly Guided”. – Quran 16:125
There are repeated Ahadith in the Sunni and Shi`ah books publically available today, which speak of the Khalifat of the twelve Imams and Khalifatun after the Holy Prophet Muhammad . These can be found in many of the famous Ahadith of the Sunnis, like Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Tarmadi, Sahih Muslim Sahih Abu Dawoud and Musnad Ahmad, etc. In the book Muntakhib al-Athar, there are 271 Ahadith in this area which have been recorded and a large part of them are from Sunni scholars.
For example, the Sahih Bukhari, the most famous book of the Sunnis says, “Jabir ibn Samarah says, ‘I heard the Prophet say, “There will be twelve leaders after me.” Then he said, ‘I heard that my father said he heard the Prophet say, “They will be from the Quraysh..”
Notes: Sahih Bukhari, part 9, Kitab al-Maqadam, p. 100
In Sahih Muslim, this same Hadith has been recorded in this way that Jabir says, “I heard the Prophet say, ‘Islam will always be dear until twelve Khalifatun and successors.” Then he said something which I did not understand. I asked my father and he said, ‘The Prophet said, “They are all from the Quraysh.”
Notes: Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-amanah, bab al-mal tih ‘l-quraysh
In Musnad Ahmad it has been recorded from ‘Abdallah ibn Mas’ud, a famous companion, that he asked the Prophet Muhammad about his vice-gerents. He said, “They are twelve people like the Israeli tribes who were twelve people.”
Notes: Musnad Ahmad, vol. 1, p. 398
The Meaning of the Traditions
In some books of the Ahadith, the power of Islam is referred to as resting in the hands of the twelve “Khalifatun.” In others, the survival and life of religion are in the hands of a group until the Day of Resurrection and all are from the Quraysh. In some, all of them are mentioned as being of the Bani Hashim. However it is, this Hadith does not conform to any group except the Shi`ahs sect because its explanation is very clear according to Shi`ah Islam where the ‘ulama of the Sunnis are at an impasse trying to explain it.
The best attempt that Sunni’s have set forth to date, in order to explain these Ahadith away, is that they refer to the first four Khalifatun of Sunnism and then the Umayyid and Abbascid Khalifatun. We know that the Khalifat did not end with the Umayyids or the Abbasids and the number twelve does not conform to anything in their history. In addition, among the Umayyid there are people like Yazid and among the Abbasids, people like Mansur Dawaniq, Harun al-Rashid, whose oppression, arrogance and crimes no one but Iblis himself could deny. It is simply not possible that they be considered to be the Khalifatun of the Prophet Muhammad , and among the Ummah of Islam. No matter how much we simplify the criteria, it clearly cannot include them. And beyond these, the number twelve only can apply to the Shi`ahs.
Furthermore, the famous scholar, Sulayman ibn Abraham Qanduzi Hanafi in Yanabi’a al-Muwadat said: “Some of the scholars have said that, ‘The Hadith which mentions the rule of the Khalifatun after the Prophet are twelve people is famous and it has been recorded in many places. That which we can surmise is that, after the passing of time, what the Prophet of Allah was referring to was twelve successors from the Ahl al-Bayt and his family because it is not possible that this Hadith refer to the first Khalifatun because they are only four people and it does not conform to the Umayyids because they were more than twelve people and all of them, other than Amr ibn Abdal Aziz were oppressors and also, they were not from the Bani Hashim and the Holy Prophet said, “All twelve are from the Bani Hashim.”
When Abdal Malik ibn Umar records from Jabir ibn Sahrah and how the Prophet Muhammad quietly said who they were from, he bore witness to what he said because some people were not happy about the Khalifat of the Bani Hashim and the Hadith does not conform to the Bani Abbas, either. This is because they were more than twelve people and beyond that, they did not conform to the Ayah:
“No reward do I ask of you except the love of those near of kin…” – Qur’an, Surah 42:23
Thus, the Ahadith only can relate to the twelve Imams and the family of the Prophet Muhammad . It refers to those whose knowledge is higher than that of any others, whose piety is unquestioned and from all points of view, are more knowledgeable and who gained their knowledge from the Prophet Muhammad. That which confirms this view is the Hadith of Thaqalin and many other Ahadith which have come from the Prophet Muhammad.
Notes: Yanabi’al-Muwadat, p. 446
Imams Mentioned By Name in Non-Shi`ah Hadith
It should be noted that in some of the Ahadith from the Sunni sects, the names of the twelve A’immah have clearly appeared and their names are specified. Shaykh Sulayman Qanduzi, a famous Sunni scholar, in the book, Yanabi’ al-Muwaridah says, “A Jewish man named Na’thal, went to the Prophet and among the questions he asked who would succeed him. The Prophet said, specifying them, ‘After me, `Ali ibn Abi Talib and then my two sons, Hasan and Husayn and after Husayn, nine A’immah will follow from his children.’ The Jewish man said, ‘Name them.’ “The Prophet said, ‘When Husayn leaves this world, his son, `Ali, and after him, his child Muhammad and after Muhammad, his son Ja`far and after Ja`far, his son Musa and after Musa, his son `Ali and after `Ali, Muhammad. After Muhammad, his child, `Ali and after `Ali, Hasan and after Hasan, his child Muhammad al-Mahdi. These are the twelve A’immah.”
Notes: Yanabi’ al-Muwadat, p. 431
In that same book another Hadith is quoted from Kitab Manaqib with their titles and it indicates that Imam Mahdi is in occultation and then “he will arise and replace the oppression and tyranny, which exists upon the earth, with justice. “
Notes: Yanabi al-Muwadat, p. 442
It is interesting to note that in the Sunni books, it is recorded from the Prophet, “A person who dies not knowing the Imam of his time is as a man who lived in the Age of Ignorance.”
Notes: al-Majim al-Mufrist, vol. 6, p. 302
This same Hadith in Shi`ah sources says, “A person who dies and does not recognize the Imam of his, dies in a time of ignorance.”
Notes: Sajad al-Aswar, vol. 6, p. 16
These Ahadith clearly show that a pure Imam lives in every age who must be recognized and whosoever does not do so, it is as if he had lived in an age (and thus a state), of kufr and ignorance. Thus it becomes clear that in every age and every period there is an infallible Imam who must be found and recognized.
Translation of Sahih Bukhari
Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: “Allah’s Apostle said, ‘This matter (Khalifat) will remain with the Quraysh even if only two of them were still existing.'”
Notes: Volume 9, Book 89, Number 254
Narrated Jabir bin Samura: “I heard the Prophet saying, ‘There will be twelve Muslim rulers (who will rule all the Islamic world).’ He then said a sentence which I did not hear. My father said, ‘All of them (those rulers) will be from Quraysh.’”
Notes: Volume 9, Book 89, Number 329
Translation of Sahih Muslim
Narrated Jabir ibn Samurah: “I heard the Messenger of Allah say: ‘The Islamic religion will continue until the Hour has been established, or you have been ruled by twelve Khalifatun, all of them being from the Quraysh.’”
Jabir bin Samurah, reported: “I joined the company of the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him) with my father and I heard him say: ‘This Khalifat will not end until there have been twelve Khalifatun among them.’ Then he (the Holy Prophet) said something that I could not follow. I said to my father: ‘What did he say?’ He said: ‘He has said: All of them will be from the Quraysh.’”
Abdullah bin ‘Umar, reported: “The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: ‘The Khalifat will remain among the Quraysh even if only two persons are left (on the earth).’”
Non-Shi`ah Fiqhs Originated From Shi`ah Islam
The scholars and leading figures of the Sunni community have regarded it as necessary to follow the views and teachings of the founders of the four schools of Sunni law, even though there is no Hadith from the Prophet Muhammad enjoining such obedience. We can therefore discern no adequate reason for these same scholars to ignore the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt, in the face of his clear declaration that the Qur’an and the Ahl al-Bayt will remain inextricably linked until the Day of Judgment.
Notes: Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Vol. V, p. 181.
What is most ironic, in light of the majority Sunni protesting against the Shi`ah, is that some of the founders of the Sunni four legal schools were themselves students of the Ahl al-Bayt and vastly benefited from their instruction. A leading Sunni scholar remarks:
“All Islamic scholars, irrespective of the school to which they belong, are unanimously agreed on the accomplishments and learning of Imam al-Sadiq, peace be upon him. Sunni Imams who were his contemporaries studied with him and derived knowledge from him. Malik learned from him, as did some of the contemporaries of Malik such as Sufyan b. ‘Uyaynah, Sufyan al-Thawri, and many others. Abu Hanifah, whose lifetime more or less corresponded to that of Imam al-Sadiq, peace be upon him, studied religious knowledge with him and regarded him as the most learned man of the age.”
Notes: Shaykh Muhammad Abu Zahrah, al-Imam al-Sadiq, p.66.
Ibn Hajar, another Sunni scholar, relates Imam al-Shafi’i to have said: “The Household of the Prophet is my means of salvation, and they are my means of drawing near to the Prophet. It is my hope that for their sake the record of my deeds will be given into my right hand on the Day of Judgment.”
Notes: Ibn Hajar, al-Sawa’iq, p. 108. See too al-Firuzabadi, Fada’il al-Khamsah, Vol. II, p.81.
Again al-Shafi’i said: “O Ahl al-Bayt, love for you has been made obligatory by Allah through mention in the Qur’an. Sufficient cause of pride it is for you that whoever fails to invoke blessings on you in his prayer will fail to have his devotions (salat) accepted.”
Notes: al-Shiblanji, Nur al-Absar, p. 104.
Unlike the views of the mujtahids who founded the four Sunni schools, there is no contradiction or divergence among the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt, for they were not engaged in independent reasoning on the ordinances of religion. Their teachings are identical with those of the Prophet of which the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt were infallibly aware. The utterances of the Imams therefore cannot be placed on the same level as the views of the founders of the four Sunni schools. In light of this, how can it be justified to ignore and neglect the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt?
Passing of Barakah To `Ali
“O people, I will soon be responding to the call of my Rabb and departing from your midst. I will be held to account, as you too will be. Will you not bear witness that there is none worthy of worship other than Allah, the One and Unique? Do you not testify that Muhammad is His servant and messenger? Are not paradise, hellfire and death all realities? Is it not true the day of requital and resurrection will definitely come, and that Allah will restore to life those who lie buried in the ground?”
The voice of the multitude arose in response: “Indeed we bear witness to all of that.”
Then he continued: “Now that the Day of Requital lies before us, and you believe in the raising of the dead on the Plain of Resurrection and that you will enter the presence of your Prophet on that day, pay heed to the manner in which you treat the two weighty (thaqalayn) and precious legacies I leave you as I depart for the hereafter.” – The Prophet Muhammad at Ghadir Khum
Notes: Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Vol. V, p. 181
“That which is the greater of the two is the Book of Allah. It is in your hands as well as His, so lay hold of it firmly lest you fall into misguidance. The lesser of the two legacies is my progeny and the Ahl al-Bayt. Allah has informed me that my two legacies shall never be separated from each other until the Day of Resurrection.
“O people, do not turn away from these two legacies. As long as you have recourse to them, you will never go astray the Book of Allah and my family.” – The Prophet Muhammad at Ghadir Khum
Notes: al-Tirmidhi, Jami’ al-Sahih, Vol. V, p. 328.
At this point, the Prophet called ‘Ali to his side. He took hold of his hand and raised it up high, thereby presenting him with all his qualities and attributes to the gathered throng. Then the Messenger of Allah asked: “O people, who is more deserving of the believers than their own persons?” They answered: “Allah and Hu’s Rasul know better.” He continued: “For whomsoever I was his master ‘Ali is now his master.” – The Prophet Muhammad at Ghadir Khum
Notes: al-Muttaqial-Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, Vol. XV, p. 123
It was not only at Ghadir Khum that the Prophet Muhammad proclaimed ‘Ali to be the leader of the Muslims and his successor, officially and in the presence of the people. In the third year of his mission, when he was commanded to proclaim his Prophethood openly, he appointed ‘Ali as his successor. It is known that for the first three years of his prophetic mission, the Prophet Muhammad did not make his summons public, instead calling people to Islam in secret. It was in the third year of his mission that he was instructed to invite his relatives to Islam openly. (Qur’an, 26:214) He thereupon instructed ‘Ali, , to invite forty of the leading personages of Quraysh to a banquet, and forty of the Prophet’s relatives accepted.
At their very first session, the raging anger and unbridled arrogance of Abu Lahab, caused the meeting to break up in confusion. The following day, when again everyone was gathered in accordance with the instructions of the Prophet Muhammad , the first food was served to the guests, and then it was time for spiritual nourishment. The Prophet Muhammad stood up among his relatives, praised and supplicated the Creator, and said:
“I swear that there is none worthy of worship other than the One Allah, and that I am Hu’s envoy to you and the entirety of mankind. I have brought you the means of felicity in both worlds. My Rabb has commanded me to summon you to the religion of Islam, and I give you glad tidings that whoever among you accepts my summons the soonest and aids me in my mission will be my brother (akhi), my legatee (wasiyyi) and my successor (khalifati).”
Those words greatly disturbed those present at the gathering, for their pride was offended, and it almost seemed that the voice of truth and the summons of Prophethood would remain unheeded. Suddenly ‘Ali arose and cried out: “O Muhammad, I believe in the oneness of Allah and your ar-Rasul Allah and I distance myself from the idol worshippers.”
The Prophet ordered ‘Ali to sit down. He then repeated twice more his earlier proclamation, but those words of truth made no impact on the hearts of those gathered in that assembly. No one apart from ‘Ali responded to the call of the Prophet Muhammad . ”Ali’s acceptance of that summons and his declaration of agreement with Prophet Muhammad came at a time when he was just entering manhood. While everyone else sat voiceless and silent, he arose courageously and affirmed his acceptance of the Prophet Muhammad’s call a second time. Thereupon Muhammad turned to the assembly and said:
“‘Ali is my brother and legatee and my successor among you. Obey him, follow him, and pay heed to his words.”
Notes: Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Vol. I, pp. 111, 159. Ibn al-Athir, al-Kamil, Vol. II, p.22; al-Tabari, al-Tafsir, Vol. II, p. 216; Abu al-Fida’, al-Tarikh, Vol. I, p. 119; al-Ganji, Kifayatal-Talib, p.89. al-Nasa’i, al-Khasa’is, p. 18; al-Halabi, al-Sirah, Vol. I, p.304; Ibn Abi ‘l-Hadid, Sharh, Vol. III, p. 255; al-Suyuti, Jam’ al-Jawami’, Vol. VI, p. 408; al-Khifaji, Sharh al-Shifa’, Vol. III, p. 37.
The reaction of the assembled guests was extremely hostile, for they wished to strip this declaration by the Prophet Muhammad of its effect, and they therefore stood up and quit the meeting in the most unworthy and discourteous fashion. This event constitutes one of the plainest and most significant chapters in history, and none of the well known historians has ever seen fit to deny its occurrence, Not even the most narrow-minded among them have been able to excise this historic occurrence from their writings.
At that delicate and dangerous juncture, when the Prophet Muhammad found himself alone in pursuing his great and glorious goal, he needed a helper and ally capable of supporting him powerfully. Such a person could only be one who was prepared to devote himself fully to the Prophet Muhammad and who had attained the highest degree of sincerity, courage, and obedience to Allah, so that once he came to exercise the office of successor, he would be a mirror reflecting all the knowledge, wisdom and moral purity of the Prophet Muhammad .
Someone who was ready to make himself a protective shield for the Prophet Muhammad under those unfavorable conditions and even to risk him own life had to be an extraordinary individual. Without doubt there was none among the relatives of the Prophet Muhammad who possessed the necessary qualities apart from ‘Ali who was indeed destined to demonstrate in the bitter and punishing events that were to occur extraordinary and even unique qualities of heroism and devotion.
“When the Prophet’s illness became serious, he said: ‘Bring me writing materials that I may write for you something, after which you will not be led into error.’ Umar said: ‘The illness has overwhelmed the Prophet. We have the Book of Allah and that is enough for us.’ Then the people differed about this and spoke many words. And he [the Prophet] said: ‘Leave me! There ought not to be quarrelling in my presence.’ And Ibn Abbas went out saying: ‘The greatest of all calamities is what intervened between the Apostle and his writing.'” – (Sunni Hadith) relayed on the authority of Ibn Abbas.
Notes: Al-Bukhari, Sahih, Kitab al-`Ilm, Bab 40 Vol. 1, p 41.
How Could Muhammad Teach Division?
It is reported by Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawud and others, that Muhammad said “My nation shall be divided into 73 sects, all of whom are in the Fire except one.” It is unlikely that the historical Muhammad believed everyone was going to Jahannam as some eternal punishment if they did not hold to a particular set of theological beliefs. This is a particularly Christian doctrine, that over time seems to have crept into the Islamic world. What seems probable, however, is that this hadith was rooted in an oral tradition of the 70 nations of humanity…
The Torah lists 70 descendants of Noah after the Great Flood, and tells us, “These are the families of the sons of Noah . . . the nations were separated on the earth after the flood” (Genesis 10.32). From here the sages learn that humanity comprises 70 nations, each with its own language (Commentary of Rabbeinu Bechayei ad loc.). The Midrash tells us that due to the profoundness and multifacetedness of G‑d’s Torah, there are 70 valid ways or perspectives of understanding the Torah (which is one reason given for the 70 members of the Sanhedrin) (Bamidbar Rabbah 13.15)
The most frequently cited hadith regarding the 73 divisions of the Muslim faith is reported as: the Jews are divided into 71 sects (firqa), the Christians into 72 sects, and my community will divide into 73 sects (Ibn Majah, Abu Daud, al-Tirmidhi and al-Nisa’i). The hadith also occurs in many other versions as well and seems to be a clear distortion of the earlier Jewish concepts of the 70 nations (with the Jewish people as the 71st, and thus the 72rd in this manner of interpretation being Christianity, and Islam as the 73rd. This of course ruins the standard dawah talking point of the eternal nature of Islam as the Din al-Fitrah.
Today, all Muslim sects today happily proclaim that their sect is the “saved one” (naji) in this hadith, and the “others” are destined for hell. This hadith, if we were to follow the traditional line of argument, divides the Muslim ummah into two sections: the saved ones and the hell-bound ones. So that is hardly 73.
According to Mottahedeh, Fakhruddin Razi (d. 1209) reports that some have questioned the authenticity of this tradition, saying that if by 72 they mean the fundamentals of religious belief (usul), then they do not reach this number and if they mean the practices (furu), then the number passes this number by several multiples.
The other view of this hadith is that the figure 73 is not meant literally, but is a relative and figurative number, identified because of a context. Mottahedeh gives extensive historical examples wherein the figure was used as a symbolic number. The author says that “70 meant ‘a sizeable number’ and 70-odd meant ‘a sizeable number and then some’ is fairly clear. In many cases, the expressions are meant to be pictorial numbers and not exact ‘head counts’”.
He further adds that 70 assumed the role of a metaphor for numerousness and thus is “rhetorically significant”. The author cites a hadith that says, ‘He who helps a believer in distress, God will remove him from 73 afflictions’. Here again, probably what is meant is a generous indication towards God’s reward. Religious language is often couched in symbolic language and not meant to be literally understood.
Two famous personalities, al-Baghdadi (d. 1037) and al-Shahrastani (d. 1153) give different accounts of the sectarian numbers and their backgrounds. There is no standard explanation; each, according to his background and time, has highlighted the sectarian beliefs and backgrounds as they understood them in their times.
Talking about the quarrelling of sects, Hafiz (d. 1389-1390), a great Muslim poet, says, “Forgive the war of the 72 sects; since they did not see the truth they have struck out on the road to fancy”.
Hafiz regards the sectarian quarrels as afsana that preoccupies those who fail to understand the diversity of faith. Similarly, Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi, according to Mottahedeh, thinks that the “deeper religion is the trans-religious mystery of love of God … This manifests itself in many (ie 72) ‘madnesses’ and takes the soul beyond the world of being. Ultimately, we not only accept pluralism among Muslims, but among all the mysterious paths of the love of God” (Diversity and Pluralism).
Truth cannot be contained and constrained by communities’ quarrels among themselves. When we step outside the narrow confines of our communities, we realise that there is so much to learn from others. This point is reinforced by Abdul Aziz Sachedina in his remarkable book The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism by demystifying the mystery of different religions and sects, and how Islam views this diversity. It is no wonder then that sectarian scholars, who market theirs as the “one and only true sect” hate Sachedina so much, even declaring it mandatory to oppose him, as in the case of Sistani’s ridiculous hukm to this effect.
The Prophet Muhammad did not teach sectarian division through instructing his “Shi`ah” to be the “Shi`ah” of Ali and his Family after his death. Was Prophet Ibrahim a sectarian? Was the Prophet Nuh and Prophet Musa? If “Shi`ah” was a divisive or sectarian term, neither Allah would use it for Hu’s earlier Prophets nor would Prophet Muhammad have praised them. “Shi`ah” is a term used throughout the Ahadith and the Qur’an to describe those who follow Islam and the Prophets who brought it.
It should be emphasized that the Prophet never wished to divide Muslims into groups. He ordered all people to follow Imam Ali as his agent during his lifetime, and as his Successor and Khalifah after him. Unfortunately those who heeded the Prophet Muhammad’s wish were few and were known as “Shi`ah of Ali.” They were subjected to all types of discrimination and persecution, and suffered from the day that the Prophet Muhammad, passed away. If all the Muslims had obeyed what the Muhammad had wished, then there wouldn’t exist any group or school within Islam. In a Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad said:
“Shortly after me discord and hatred will arise among you, when such a situation arises, go and search out Ali because he can separate the Truth from falsehood” – The Prophet Muhammad
Notes: Ali Muttaqi al-Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, (Multan) vol. 2 p. 612, number 32964
Regarding the Qur’anic verse quoted earlier, some Sunni scholars narrated from Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq , the sixth Shi`ah Imam from the Ahl al-Bayt that:
“We are the Rope of Allah about whom Allah has said: And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah and be not divided among yourselves”
Notes: 1. al-Tha’labi, Tafsir al-Kabir, under commentary of verse 3:103
2. Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, (Cairo) Ch. 11, section 1, p. 233
Thus, if Allah denounces sectarianism, Hu denounces those who separated from Hu’s Rope, and not those who hold firmly to it!
The Dissenting Opinion
“Allah’s hand is over the group, follow the largest mass, for verily whoever dissents from them departs to Hell,” Narrated from Abu Umama by Ibn Abi Shayba in his Musannaf as well as Tabarani
“My Community shall never agree upon misguidance; therefore, if you see divergences, you must follow the greater mass or larger group.” Narrated by al-Hakim from Ibn ‘Abbas and Ibn ‘Umar, and al-Lalika’i in al-Sunna.
The above Sunni Ahadith are all perfectly correct when understood within their proper context. Consider the following Hadith once again:
Abu Umama’s narration from the Prophet: “This Community will separate into 73 sects, all of them are in the fire except one which will enter Paradise.” We said: “Describe it for us.” The Prophet said: “The sawad al-a’zam.” Haythami said in Majma’ al-zawa’id: Tabarani narrated it in al-Mu’jam al-Kabir and al-Awsat, and its narrators are trustworthy (thiqat).
72 is the majority over 1. Only the 73rd group – we are told – is actually practicing Islam as intended by the Prophets. So with that in mind, among the 73rd sect the Ahadith about following the majority, and the Divine guidance of the community is absolutely correct. But one cannot suppose that the majority who claim Islam are actually the same as “My Community” that Muhammad spoke of. For even Muhammad truthfully spoke that in the latter days MOST who profess Islam… will be the furthest from it.
“The Apostle of Allah said: “There will come a time for my people when there will remain nothing of the Qur’an except its outward from and nothing of Islam except its name and they will call themselves by this name even though they are the people furthest from it. Their mosques will be full of people but they will be empty of right guidance. The religious leaders (fuqaha) of that day will be the most evil religious leaders under the heavens; sedition and dissension will go out from them and to them will it return.” – The Prophet Muhammad
Notes: Ibn Babuya, Thaqab al-Amal, quoted in Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar (old ed.), Vol. 13. p. 152
So bearing this in mind, the majority professing Islam are – according to Muhammad – not Muslim at all. They are the 72 sects whose feet are in the HellFire. Now, among the 73rd group, one can be sure not to stray from the generally agreed upon consensus that has been handed down and verified by the Ahl al-Bayt. The Hadith does not tell us to stay with the consensus of the 72 sects, it tells us to stay with the consensus of the one that is the 73rd. Clearly this is none other than the Shi`ah Ummah. Context is the key to Understanding with Wisdom. Taking a Message out of its context is like trying to grow a tropical plant in an artic environment.
Shi`ah Islam is not obedient to the “majority opinion” of the status quo. Shi`ah Islam is vibrant, alive, revolutionary, and constantly adapting to changing times and conditions. It is this flexibility that allows Shi`ah Islam to grow and remain applicable in any given context or time.
“Islam is a religion which made its appearance in the history of mankind with the cry of ‘No!’ from Mohammad (PBUH), the heir of Abraham, the manifestation of the religion of the Unity of God and the oneness of mankind; a ‘No’ which begins with the cry of ‘Unity’, a cry which Islam reiterated when confronted with aristocracy and compromise.
“Shi’ism is the Islam which differentiates itself and selects its direction in the history of Islam with the ‘No’ of the great Ali, the heir of Mohammad and the manifestation of the Islam of Justice and Truth, a ‘No’ which he gives to the Council for the Election of the Caliph, in answer to Abdul Rahman, who was the manifestation of Islamic aristocracy and compromise. This ‘No’, up until pre-Safavid times, is recognized as part of the Shi’ite movement in the history of Islam, an indication of the social and political role of a group who are the followers of Ali, known for their association with the kindness of the family of the Prophet. It is a movement based upon the Qoran and the Traditions; not the Qoran and the traditions as proclaimed by the dynasties of the Omayyids, Abbasids, Ghaznavids, Seljuks, Mongols and Timurids, but the ones proclaimed by the family of Mohammad.” – Dr. `Ali Shariati, world renowned Sociologist and follower of Shi`ah Islam.
Notes: Taken from the book: “Red Shi’ism vs.Black Shi’ism”
The Shi`ah In the Era of Dajjal
“I heard Abu Abdullah saying: the believer, in the time of Qa’im, while in the east will be able to see his brother in the west and he who is in the west will be able to see his brother in the east” – The Sixth Imam Ja`far As-Sadiq :Az-Zanjani, Aqa’id, p. 255
There is no question, according to Shi`ah Ahadith, as to when the reign of “al-Masih ad-Dajjal” that Muhammad spoke of, will take place. Additionally, we are told by the Prophets and the Ahl al-Bayt that the return of Al-Mahdi and Isa will occur during this time period. Beyond all of the myriad of issues that this brings up in terms of how we choose to live our lives and engage in a struggle for a better world, this calls into question the nature of the majority claiming Islam in this age. For just as Sunni’s would claim that Shi`ah are in error (if not outrightly dammed), for living and speaking contrary to the majority consensus claiming Islam in this age, Muhammad’s himself as well as his own family, claimed just the opposite; that the majority professing Islam in this age are the furthest from it! Furthermore, Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq spoke repeatedly about the corruption of the majority claiming Islam in this age:
“When you see that truth has died and people of truth have disappeared, and you see that injustice prevails through the land; and the Qur’an has become despised and things are introduced into it that are not in it and it is turned towards men’s desires; and you see the people of error having mastery over the people of truth; and you see evil out in the open and the doers of evil are not prevented nor do they excuse themselves; and you see moral depravity openly manifest and men being content with men and women satisfied by woman; and you see the believer silent, his word not being accepted; and you see the sinful lying and he is not refuted nor does his deceit redound upon him; and you see the lowly despising the great; and you see the wombs cut open; and you see he who boasts of moral depravity is laughed at and is not spurned; and you see young men being handed over like women and women cohabitating with women and their numbers increasing; and you see men spending their wealth on things other than pious deeds and no-one opposes or hinders them; and you see the onlooker turn his back on the efforts of the believer; and you see one person molesting his neighbor and no one prevents it; and you see the unbeliever joyful because he does not see gladness in the believer when he sees corruption in the world; and you see alcoholic drinks being drunk openly… and you se women occupying places in the assemblies just as men do and usury is carried out openly and adultery is praised… and you see the forbidden things made legal and the legal things forbidden; and you see that religion becomes a matter of opinion and the Book and its laws fall into disuse; and you see the leaders drawing close to the unbelievers and away from good people; and you see the leaders corrupt in their rule… and you see men eating what their wives have obtained as a result of their immorality and knowing this and persisting in it… and you see places of entertainment appearing which no one who passes them forbids them and no one is bold enough to put an end to them; and you see a worshipper only praying in order that the people may see him; and you see the experts in religious law devoting themselves to things other than religion, seeking the world and leadership; and you see the people living together like animals; and you see the pulpit from which fear of Allah is enjoined but the speaker does not act in the manner he has enjoined others to act… and when you see the tokens of truth that I have taught, then be aware [of the advent of the Mahdi] and seek salvation from Allah.” – The Sixth Imam Ja`far As-Sadiq
Notes: Az-Zanjani, Aqa’id, p. 261 quoting Kulayni, al-Kafi (Rawda). Zanjani concludes this tradition by stating that most of these signs are without a doubt occuring today.
And also Ali , the First Imam spoke similarly of the state of the Ummah in these times:
“I do not know when [the reign of Dajjal] will be any more than you do, but some signs and conditions will follow one another· When the people allow the sayings of prayer to die out; and they destroy trust; and they regard lying as permissible · and they sell religion in exchange for the world · and they cut open the wombs; and they follow their lusts; and they take the spilling of blood lightly; and their discernment is weak; and tyranny becomes a source of pride; and the leaders become profligate, the ministers oppressors, the ulama faithless and the poor depraved; and false testimony is made; immorality, lies, crime and repression are carried out openly; and books are embellished, the mosques adorned and the minarets made tall;… and women assist their husbands in trade out of greed for the things of this world; and sinners are extolled and listened to; and the leader of the people is the most despicable of them and he is wary of the libertine, fearing his evil, and he gives credence to the liar and has faith in the traitor, and he imitates the young girls; and men appear as women and women appear as men;… the best place to live on that day will be Jerusalem, for there will certainly come a day for the people when each of them will eagerly desire to be one of its inhabitants.” – `Ali the First Imam
Notes: Az-Zanjani, Aqa’id, p. 258-9
So I say again, that context is the key to Understanding with Wisdom. In Muhammad’s day, to stray from the majority would be to lead astray and to be led astray. But in an age that Muhammad , Ali and the Imam’s all unanimously proclaimed that most of those claiming to be Islam will be living in a manner quite contrary to it, it would be foolish and destructive to follow the false leadership of those who ad-Dajjal has set up in a position of self-professed leadership of the Ummah in these times of ignorance. About them it is said:
“Be quiet O you with filthy mouth and broken teeth! May Allah not forgive you! When truth and justice were in power, you were in a disgraceful state, and when inequity and sin started their reign, you began assuming power and suddenly appeared like the horns of a goat.” Imam Ali
For those such as the Salafi’s and Wahabi’s are the very sects that Muhammad spoke of standing in the HellFire, while only the 73rd group would enter Paradise. That 73rd group are those who “Hold fast to the Rope of Allah.” Those are they who are among the Shi`ah of Ibrahim (37:83), of Musa (28:15), of Muhammad and of Ali and the Ahl al-Bayt. For to think otherwise would be to assume Muhammad’s own Family to be liars and delusional misleaders, in spite of the fact that both Sunni and Shi`ah Ahadith bear witness to the contrary.
So come, let us “argue in the best of ways” as Al-Qur’an states (16.125). Let us use our minds to divide fact from fiction, and separate myths from truths. Let us cut away the dogma of traditions that we cling to because our family may have raised us this way or that, or because our first introduction to the Din of Islam was through those who less than accurately represent it. For there can be vast deceit from the heart and emotions, but there is no denying what the Ahadith themselves clearly state. Either one accepts them or they do not. Those who accept them are the Shi`ah.