TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING SHIA I
So much misunderstandings and misconceptions have been surrounding Shia throughout the history of Islam. This is surprising considering the fact that there is abundant information and literature on Shia and Shiism. Similarly there Shia Muslims that live and intermingle with the society, yet Shia and Shiism remain ambiguous to many people. These fallacies may be attributed to ignorance about the religion of Islam in general to many. Another reason may be ascribed to the malicious forces (some of them in human form) at work that calculatingly confuse the credulous minds of those that want to know about Shiism.
Among the many made-up bunkum attributed to Shia are: they abuse the Sahaba (companions) and wives of the Prophet (SAW), they have their own version of the Holy Quran, they claim that Angle Jibril (AS) made a mistake of delivering the message of prophet ship to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) instead of Imam Ali (AS) and they engage in short term marriage (Mut’a).
These accusations and many more of their kind have been in circulation almost throughout the history of Islam. However, after the brutal massacre of innocent Muslims in Zaria by the Nigerian Army between 12 and 14th December, 2015 both active and latent antagonists of Shia and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria saw an opportunity to exhaust their malevolent thoughts. I had personally been thinking it is the innocent common men on the street that have been infected by these baseless deceptions and allegations against the Shia and Shiism. However the recent submissions made by some people at the ongoing sitting of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Kaduna State government to investigate the Zaria carnage have left me gaping. Among the people that made accusatory submissions were university professors and lecturers. Such crops of personalities are supposed to have the responsibilities of guiding and shaping the society, but they appear to either be muddled or have mortgaged their conscious. The root cause of the divide in Islam lies in historical facts, it is therefore unbelievable how a Muslim professor of history can fall short of understanding what Shiism is.
I am not an Islamic scholar to attempt in debunking the useless assertions made on Shia by the unapprised professors and their likes. However, I feel it a duty to share with the public the little I know about Shia and Shiism.
It will be indispensable to understand that all the Muslims agree that Allah is One, Muhammad (SAW) is His last Prophet, the Qur’an is His last Book for mankind, and that one day Allah will resurrect all human beings, and they will be questioned about their beliefs and actions. This is what it takes to be a Muslim. Unfortunately, Muslims have agreed to be divided in two major schools of thoughts of Shia and Sunnah with the major disagreements between the two schools in the following two areas:
1. The Caliphate (successorship/leadership) which the Shi’a believes is the right of the Imams of Ahlul-Bayt (the Prophets pure house hold).
2. The Islamic rule when there is no clear Qur’anic statement, nor is there a Hadith upon which Muslim schools have agreed.
The second issue has root into the first one. The Shi’a refer to Ahlul-Bayt for deriving the Sunnah of Prophet (SAW). They do this in conformity with the order of Prophet reported in the authentic Sunni and Shi’i collections of traditions beside what the Qur’an attests to their perfect purity.
Muslims agree that the caliphate of Abu Bakr came through election by a limited number of the companions of the Prophet. The election was conducted by a minority group, because the majority of the prominent companions of prophet had no knowledge of the election when it took place. Ali (AS), Ibn Abbas, Uthman, Talha, Zubair, Sa’d Ibn Abi Waqqas, Salman al-Farsi, Abu Dharr, Ammar Ibn Yasir, Miqdad, Abdurrahman Ibn Owf were among those who were not consulted nor even informed. Even Umar confessed to the fact that the election of Abu Bakr was without consultation of Muslims, as reported in Sahih al-Bukhari (Arabic-English, Tradition 8.817). On the other hand, election implies choice and freedom, and that every Muslim has the right to elect the nominee. Whoever refuses to elect him does not oppose God or His Messenger because neither God nor His Messenger appointed the nominated person by people. Both way, Muslims have been grouped as Shia (those that follow and support Ali (AS) and the pure house hold of the Prophet (SAW)) and Sunni (those that follow and support the companions of the Prophet (SAW)) based on the question of who was to succeed the Prophet. With this little background on Islam and the difference between Shia and Sunnah, let us see some traditions of the Prophet (SAW) to know whether Shia has a place in Islam.
The word Shia literarily means supporters and has been used in this milieu in the Holy Qur’an in a number of places. The origin of Shiism is not separate from the origin of Islam since the Prophet himself sowed its seed by proclaiming the wisãya (successor ship) and khilãfat (caliphate) of Ali bin Abí Tãlib in the first open call to Islam that he made in Mecca.
When the verse “And warn thy nearest relations.” (The Qur’an 26:214) was revealed, the Prophet organized a feast that is known in history as “Summoning the Family – Da’wat dhu ‘l-‘Ashira”. The Prophet invited about forty men from the Banu Hãshim and asked Ali bin Abi Tãlib to make arrangements for the dinner. After having served his guests with food and drinks, the Prophet wanted to speak to them about Islam; Abu Lahab forestalled him and said, “Your host has long since bewitched you.” All the guests dispersed before the Prophet could present his message to them.
The Prophet then invited them the next day. After the feast, he spoke to them, saying: “O Sons of ‘Abdu ‘l-Muttalib! By Allah, I do not know of any person among the Arabs who has come to his people with better than what I have brought to you. I have brought to you the good of this world and the next, and I have been commanded by the Lord to call you unto Him. Therefore, who amongst you will support me in this matter so that he may be my brother (akhhí), my successor (wasiyyí) and my caliph (khalifatí) among you?”
This was the first time that the Prophet openly and publicly called the relations to accept him as the Messenger and Prophet of Allah; he also used the words “akhí wa wasiyyí wa khalífatí- my brother, my successor, and my caliph” for the person who will aid him in this mission. No one answered him; they all held back except the youngest of them – Ali bin Abí Tãlib. He stood up and said, “I will be your helper, O Prophet of God.”
The Prophet put his hand on the back of Ali’s neck and said: “Inna hadhã akhhí wa wasiyyí wa khalífatí fíkum, fasma’û lahu wa atí’û – Verily this is my brother, my successor, and my caliph amongst you; therefore, listen to him and obey.”
This was the first explicit statement because the audience understood the appointment of Ali very clearly. Some of them, including Abu Lahab, even joked with Abu Tãlib that your nephew, Muhammad (SAW), has ordered you to listen to your son and obey him! At the least, this shows that the appointment of Ali bin Abí Tãlib was clear and explicit, not just implied.
Ibn Hajar in his book As-Sawa’iq ul-Muhriqa p. 96 -Egyptian edition wrote that ad-Daylami mentioned a tradition saying that the Prophet (SAW) said, “O Ali, Allah has forgiven you, your progeny, your wives and your Shia (followers). Be delighted…”
The same hadith has been mentioned by ibnul-Maghazili in his book al-Manaqib, al-Hamawini in Fara’id us-Samtayn, al-Manaawi in Kunuz ul-Haqaayiq p. 202, al-Qanduzi in Yanabi’ ul Mawaddah p. 270, Abu Bakr bin Shihab in Rashfat us-Sadi p. 81, -Egyptian edition- and others. Furthermore, ad-Daylami recorded that the Prophet (SAW) said, “O Ali, you and your Shia will come to me at the Pond in Paradise quenched with shining faces, while your enemies will come to me thirsty and necks thrust forth.” This very tradition has been mentioned by al-Manaawi in Kunuz ul-Haqaayiq p. 203, -Bolaq edition-, by al-Qanduzi al-Hanafi in Yanaabi’ ul Mawaddah p. 182, -Egyptian edition-, and Muhammad Saalih at-Tirmidhi in al-Manaaqib ul-Murtazawiyya p.101, -Bombay Edition-.
Ad-Daylami mentioned in his book Firdous ul-Akhbar that Umm Salama (the Prophet’s wife) said that the Prophet (s.a.w.a) had said:
“Ali and his Shia (followers) are the winners on the Day of Resurrection.” The same was also mentioned by al-Manaawi in Kunuz ul-Haqa’iq p. 98, and al-Qanduzi in Yanabi’ ul Mawaddah p. 188 and 237, -Istanbul Edition-.
Sabt bin al-Jawzi in his book Tadhkirat ul-Khawaas p. 59, has narrated a hadith by Abu Sa’id al-Khudri that the Prophet (SAW) looked at Ali bin Abu Talib and said: “This Man and his Shia are the winners on the Day of Resurrection.”
Al-Khatib al-Khawarizmi mentioned in al-Manaaqib p. 178 a hadith reported by Yazid bin Shurahil al-Ansari, Imam Ali’s clerk, that he had heard Imam Ali(AS) saying, “The Prophet (SAW) said to me while he was leaning on my chest, O Ali, you have heard Allah’s saying: Those who believe and do good; they are surely the best of men. (The Qur’an 98:7). They are you and your Shia. My rendezvous and yours will be at the Pond when the nations gather for the Judgment and you (and your Shia) will come with honor and radiance.” This tradition was also mentioned by as-Suyuti in his ad-Durr ul-Manthur vol. 6 p. 379 -Egyptian edition-. The same tradition has been reported by Muhammad Ib Jarir adDabariy who is considered Imamul Mafassarin in the Sunni world (died about 1125 years ago) while commenting on the same verse.
Al-Khatib ul-Baghdadi mentioned in his Muwazzih Awham uj-Jam’ wa at-Tafriq vol. 1 p. 43; a tradition from Muhammad bin Amr bin al-Hasan, from Zaynab, from Fatima (a) the daughter of the Prophet (SAW) that the Prophet said to Ali, “O Abul-Hasan (Ali), you and your Shia will be in Paradise.” Al-Haythami also mentioned in his book Majma’uz-Zawa’id vol. 10 p. 21 -Egyptian edition- that Umm Salama(r) said: “When the Prophet (SAW) was in my house one night, Fatima and Ali sat with him. He raised his head towards them and said: “O Ali, be delighted. You and your Shia will be in Paradise.”
He (Al-Haythami) also mentioned, in vol. 9 p. 173, a tradition narrated by Abu Hurayra that the Prophet (SAW) said to Ali, ‘You and your Shia are with me in Paradise.” The same was mentioned by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi in his book The History of Baghdad vol. 12 p. 289 –Egyptian edition-. Ibnul-Maghazili ash-Shafie has mentioned, in al-Manaqib p. 293 tradition No. 335, a hadith from Anas bin Malik that the Prophet (s) had said, “Seventy thousand from among my ummah will enter Paradise without there being any reckoning.” Then he looked at Ali and said: “They are from your Shia and you are their Imam.”
This hadith was mentioned by al-Khawarizmi in his al-Manaqib p. 229, ibn Hasnawayh al-Musily in Durr Bahr il-Manaqib p. 119, and al-Qanduzi in Yanabi’ ul Mawaddah p. 124.
History has reported that just two months before his departure from this world, the Prophet clearly appointed ‘Ali in Ghadir Khumm as the leader (religious as well as political) of the Muslims. He said, “Whosoever’s Master I am, this ‘Ali is his Master.” He also said, “I am leaving two precious things behind, as long as you hold on to them both you will never go astray: the Book of Allah and my progeny”.
I hope with these few sayings of the Holy prophet of Islam (SAW) all from Sunni sources, the meaning of Shia and Shiism will have different meaning to the ‘informed’ dons and the right seeking people from the misconstrued bosh associated with Shia and Shiism by their enemies.
To those that are hallucinating to the end of Shia with the barbaric clamp down on the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, they may have rethink. The tragedy of Ashura, where Imam Husain and his family and companions were mercilessly killed has not brought an end to Shia. Ideas are best confronted with ideas and since the idea of Shia is from the Prophet of Islam (SAW) no idea can crush it. In my next writing insha Allah, I will touch on some of the issues of abusing the Companions and wives of the Prophet and other impish issues being raised against Shia by the enemies of truth and justice.
Professor Abdullahi Danladi
Islamic Movement in Nigeria.