By Yusuf Abdullah
In the name of Allah who states “O you who believe! Stand out firmly For Allah, as witnesses To fair dealing, and let not The hatred of others To you make you swerve To wrong and depart from Justice. Be just: that is Next to piety: and fear Allah, For Allah is well – acquainted With all ye do” Q5:8May the everlasting peace and blessings of Allah be upon His noble servant, our master Muhammad and his pure progeny.
This piece was a short response to the need of our esteemed readers. No doubt, the need for Shi’ah to enlighten the world on its origin and relevance to debunk the widely circulated propaganda against the creed is very crucial. There are so much lies, so much tales and so much calumniations propagated against it! Blind critics were sponsored to write baseless versions that are freely distributed across the world. With the level of our society’s laziness in research at one hand and the calumnious efforts of the enemies and their paid agents on the other, all hands must be concertedly on deck to deliver facts as a trust from Allah without mischief. In view of this, I urge all adherents to do their best in this direction, and appeal to those who sincerely wish to know the truth to reflect on the general command of Allah, "… Ask those who know" Q21:7. On such enquiry however, one should never rely on the biased persons who always mislead. Allah states “O you who believe! Stand out firmly For Allah, as witnesses To fair dealing, and let not The hatred of others To you make you swerve To wrong and depart from Justice. Be just: that is Next to piety: and fear Allah, For Allah is well – acquainted With all ye do” Q5:8
To do justice as Allah enjoined in the verse above. Why shouldn’t the opponents defeat the Shiites by reasons? Discuss with them on the religion in its entirety? If proof is the weapon of a believer, why are those opposed to the creed afraid of reading their books or discussing with them on any topic of interest? Why does the creed super geometrically spread all over the world? Is it due to ignorance or brain wash? It is good that one establishes the fact before his or her children accept the faith ahead. The earlier one carries an unbiased study the better. Enough was enough on the propagated lies in the 21st century. The accusing fingers are mostly on Iran and Iraq as one could hardly lay hand on any book discussing a topic from a judicious point of view. But with the atmospheric change, only Allah knows what will happen in the next few decades. With religious freedom, development in information technology, intellectual discussions and discourses, there is no limit for the doctrine owing to the prophetic teachings on the principle of justice and unity. One with Allah is majority! No doubt, the terrorist measures of the enemies will never succeed and the victims weather in Yemen, Bahrain or Nigeria among others will finally emerge victors.
LITERAL AND TECHNICAL PERSPECTIVES
According to al-Munjid, the famous Arabic dictionary, 35th edition, published by Dar al – ulum in Beirut, Lebanon, 1987, page 411, the word Shi’ah etymologically is used for a person, two people or a group, male or female. However, it is technically applied on the people that believe in the divine leadership of Ali and his family. Company, to accompany or followers. In page 2,144 of volume 2 of the Lisanul Arab, a more advanced Arabic dictionary, the word Shi’ah originally refers to a group of people which equally applies to one or two, male or female with the same pronunciation and meaning. Technically, the word is applied on those that recognise the specific divine leadership of Ali and his family (may Allah be pleased with them). Whenever one is said to be Shi’ah, he or she is regarded as their adherent. Zuhry, a renowned scholar said, the Shi’ah are known for their love to prophetic progeny and recognition of their leadership. Abu Ishaq said when the word is related to somebody, it refers to the person’s followers. The word Shi’ah was used in the same context in the noble Qur’an, chapter 28 verse 15 in reference to one of the followers of prophet Musa (AS), just as it was used in chapter 37 verse 8 referring to prophet Ibrahim as a follower of prophet Noah (AS).
SHI’AH IN PROPHETIC TRADITIONS
In a prophetic tradition narrated by Ibn Athir who died in 606 AH, the prophet (S) addressed Ali as "O Ali! you and your Shi’ah will reach Allah being pleased with him and well pleasing Him, and your enemies will reach Him, being angry and will be seized by their necks. Then the prophet demonstrated how this would be by putting his hand on his neck"
In another tradition by the same narrator, the prophet said "Surely there is a spring in paradise sweeter than nectar, smoother than butter, cooler than ice and more fragrant than musk. In that spring is the clay (tinah) from which we (my household and I) were created and our Shi’ah are made from the same clay" Volume 1 page 129, no. 180. In some traditions, the prophet (S) used the term "Shi’ah of your descendents" -believing in the divinely appointed institution. In the narration of Ibn Abbas by Ibn Hajar who died in 974, the prophet said to Imam Ali after the revelation of "Surely those who believe and do good deeds are the best of creation" Q98:7. Those are you and your Shi’ah. On the day of resurrection, you will be pleased and well pleasing (to Allah) and your enemies will come angry and will be seized by their necks. Then the prophet demonstrated how this would be by putting his hand on his neck. (Ibn Hajar, section 11, chapter 1, verse 11. In a prominent narration by Ibn Asakir who died in 571 AH, from Jabir Bn Abdullah who said: "Once we were with the prophet Muhammad, when Ali arrived, upon which the prophet said, I swear by Him who has my life in His hand that surely this man and his Shi’ah will be happy on the day of resurrection" then the verse "Surely those who believe and do good deeds are the best of creation"Q98:7 was revealed. From then, whenever the companions saw Ali coming, they would say, the best of creation has come. -Ibn Asakir, Volume, 2, page 442 and al-Suyuty, Volume, 6, page 589
In al-Milal wa al-Nihal, a famous source on different sects in Islam by Shahrestani who died in 548 AH mentioned "the Shi’ah are those who followed Ali in particular and believed in his Imamate and caliphate according to the explicit teachings and will of the prophet Muhammad" On the other hand, Al-Hasan Ibn Musa al-Nawbakhti, a renowned Shi’ah scholar who died in 313 AH, mentioned in his book, Firaq al-Shi’a, "the Shi’a are the party of Ali son of Abi Talib. They were called Shi’ah of Ali during and after the life of the prophet and were known as the followers of Ali and believers in his Imamate" Page 17.
Sheikh al-Mufeed, a remarkable Shi’a scholar who died in 413 AH defined Shi’ah as the followers of Ali and believers in his immediate successorship to the noble prophet, with further elaboration on Imamiyyah they are also known. This is a title for those who believe in the necessity of Imamate and continuity in all ages and that every Imam must be explicitly designated and must also be infallible and perfect. In the light of the above definition, the Shi’ah believe that successorship to the noble prophet was absolutely divine appointment. As the prophet was appointed, so also the Imam on prophet’s promulgation, starting with Imam Ali to Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdy (AS). Some of the well known Shi’ah -followers of Imam Ali- among the companions were Abdullah bn Abbas, Naufal bn Harith, Salman al-Farisy, Miqdad bn al-Aswad, AbuDharr, Ammar bn Yassir, Huzaifa bn al-Yamani, Khuzaimah bn Thabit, Abu Ayyub al-Ansary, Saad bn Ubadah, Ubayyu bn Kaab, Bilal al-Habashi, Hujr bn Addy, Jabir bn Abdullah al-Ansary, Muhammad bn Abi Bakr and Sahl bn Hunaif among others.
Unlike Ahl al-Sunnah wa al Jama’a which sprang in the year of Jama’ah during the Umayyad Mu’awiya-led regime, the Shi’ah, otherwise original Islam was first heard from the Great Messenger (S). Although more attention is focused on the political aspect in most discussions on the Shi’ah/Sunna, theological and jurisprudential aspects are very important. Interestingly, books are generally available in soft and hard copies. The living religious authorities that issue religious verdicts and their jurisprudential books and sites are also there. We also have scholars that could be referred to in search of truth and guidance.
Beside the five fundamentals (Usool el-deen); tauheed-monotheism, adl- justice of Allah, nubuwwat- prophethood, imamate -institution of the Imams and ma’ad- the day of judgment, we have the ten branches that comprises of prayer, fasting, poor rate, pilgrimage to Mecca, Khums, enjoing what is rights and prevention of bad, allegiance to the Ahlul-bait and dissociation from their enemies and jihad which is multifaceted on general context. Conclusively, shiism is simply a belief on fundamentals and branches as elaborated above. It has nothing to do with belonging to one registered NGO or the other. Whoever believes in the creeds and practices is a Shi’ah.
While urging our esteemed readers on the need to refer to Shi’a scholars, books and sites for more information and guidance, the need for the unconditional release of Sheikh el-Zakzaky and all his disciples cannot be overemphasized.