Jazira Khadra' (The Evergreen Island)
- :Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini
The session began on time at Mr. Hoshyar's residence.
Dr. Jalali: If I remember correctly Dr. Fahimi had a question regarding Jazira Khadra' in the previous meeting.
Dr. Fahimi: I have been told that the twelfth Imam (peace be upon him) and his sons live in Jazira Khadra'. What is your opinion about this belief?
Mr. Hoshyar: This story about Jazira Khadra' is no more than a legend. 'Allama Majlisi has narrated the entire story in his Bihar al-anwar, the summary of which is as follows. Majlisi says:
I found a manuscript in the Amir al-Mu'minin library of Najaf which was a treatise on the story of Jazira Khadra'. The author of this manuscript is Fadl b. Yahya Tayyibi. He has written that he heard the story of Jazira Khadra' from Shaykh Shams al-Din and Shaykh Jalal al-Din in the shrine of Imam Husayn [in Karbala] on the 15th night of Sha'ban, 699 AH (1299 CE). They related the story on the authority of Zayn al-Din 'Ali b. Fadil Mazandarani. Thus I decided to hear the story from him myself.
Fortunately, in the beginning of the month of Shawwal of the same year, it so happened that Shaykh Zayn al-Din travelled to the city of Hilla. I met with him in the house of Sayyid Fakhr al-Din. I asked him to tell me the story he had related for Shaykh Shams al-Din and Shaykh Jalal al-Din. He said:
I was engaged in studying with Shaykh 'Abd al-Rahim Hanafi and Shaykh Zayn al-Din 'Ali Andalusi in Damascus. Shaykh Zayn al-Din was a pious man, and held good opinion about the Shi'a and their scholars, and used to respect them. I stayed with him for a while and benefitted from his lectures. It so happened that he had to travel to Egypt. Since we liked each other, he decided to take me with him. We travelled together to Egypt and he chose to live in Cairo. We lived in the most favorable condition there for nine months. On one of the days he received a letter from his father, requesting him to return because he was seriously ill and wished to see him before his death. The shaykh wept upon reading the letter and decided to travel to Andalusia. I also accompanied him in this journey. When we arrived in the first town of the peninsula, I became seriously ill and could not move at all. The shaykh became troubled over my condition. He entrusted me to the preacher of the town, asking him to take care of me and he continued on his journey to his city. My illness lasted for three days and gradually I started getting better. I came out of the house and strolled in the streets. There I saw some caravans that had come from the mountainous region with goods to sell. I engaged in conversation with them and they told me that they had come from the Berber region which is close to the islands of the Rafidis (Shi'is).
When I heard about the islands of the Rafidis I became eager to visit them. They told me that the distance between this town and the islands was twenty-five days of journey, of which for some two days there is no water or person to be found. To cross those two days I hired a donkey, and the rest of the journey I travelled on foot. I went on until I reached the islands of the Rafidis which were fortified with a strong wall and tall, sturdy watch towers. I entered the mosque of the city and it was a spacious mosque. I heard the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer in the way the Shi'is do, and following the call he prayed for the deliverance of the community through the immediate return of the Imam. I was crying with happiness. The people started coming to the mosque and following the Shi'i practice they performed their ablutions and entered. A handsome man entered the mosque and went towards the mihrab (the niche). The congregational prayer began and after it was over they offered their supplications. Then they saw me and inquired about me. I told them my story and informed them that I was originally from Iraq. When they found out that I was a member of the Shi'a, they respected me and fixed me a place in one of the rooms in the mosque. The leader of the prayer showed his respect to me and never left me alone at any time.
On one of the days I asked him as to where the food and other needs of the people come from. He replied that their provision comes from Jazira Khadra', which is located in the middle of the White Sea. Twice every year their food comes by ship from the Jazira. I asked him about the time when the ship was due to return and he said that it would be in four months. I was sad to learn that it would take that long. However, after forty days seven ships anchored off shore. From the largest vessel a handsome looking person emerged. He came to the mosque and performed his ablutions in accordance with Shi'i teachings and offered his noon and afternoon prayers. After the prayers were over he came towards me, greeted me -- mentioning my and my father's name. I was surprised and said: "Did you learn my name during the journey from Damascus to Cairo or from Cairo to Andalusia?" He replied, "No. Rather, your name, and your father's name, as well as your features and characteristics have reached me. I will take you to Jazira Khadra' with myself." He sojourned there at the island for a week and after completing his work we set off. After some sixteen days had passed on the sea, my attention was drawn by the clear waters in the middle of the sea. That man whose name was Muhammad, asked me as to what had drawn my attention. I said that the waters of this region had a different color. At that he told me that this was the White Sea and that the Jazira Khadra' was there. "These waters are a life fortification surrounding us and protecting us in such a way that, by God's help, if the ships belonging to our enemies try to get closer to this point, through the blessing of the Imam of the Age, they are drowned." I drank some of the water in that region. It was as sweet as the water of the Euphrates. After having crossed the white waters we arrived at the Jazira Khadra'. We disembarked from the ship and went to the city. The city was prosperous and full of fruit trees. It had a number of market places filled with goods and the inhabitants of the city lived most happily. My heart was filled with joy.
My friend Muhammad took me to his house. After we had rested for a while we went to the congregational mosque. Large crowds had gathered in the mosque. In the midst of all these people was a prominent and awe-inspiring person whose imposing features I cannot describe. His name was Sayyid Shams al-Din Muhammad. People were gathered around him studying the Arabic language, the Qur'an and other religious sciences. When I came into his presence he welcomed me and made me sit close to him. He enquired about my health and told me that it was he who had sent Shaykh Muhammad to fetch me. Then he ordered one of the rooms in the mosque to be prepared for my stay. I remained there and ate my meals with Sayyid Shams al-Din and his companions. Eighteen days passed in this way.
The first Friday that I was there I went to offer the special service of the jum'a. I saw Sayyid Shams al-Din reciting the two units of the Friday service as an obligatory act.1 I was surprised to observe this and when everything was over I asked Sayyid Shams al-Din in private: "Is it now the period of the presence of the Imam that you offered the jum'a as an obligatory act?" He said: "No, the Imam is not present, but I am his special deputy." I went on to ask: "Have you ever seen the Imam of the Age?" He said: "No, I have not seen him, but my father used to say that he used to hear his voice but could not see him. But my grandfather would hear his voice and see him too." So I asked him: "O my master, what is the reason that some people can see him and some others do not." He said: "This a special favor that God grants to some of His creatures."
Then the Sayyid took me by the hand and we went out of the city. I saw lush trees, and fruit and flower gardens, the like of which I had not seen in Syria and Iraq. While we were strolling we met a handsome looking man who greeted us. I asked the Sayyid if he knew the man. He said: "Do you see this tall mountain?" I answered, "Yes." "In the middle of this mountain there is a beautiful home, with a sweet water spring under the trees, and," he continued, "there is a dome made of bricks there. This man and his other companions are the servants of this dome and the court. Every Friday morning I go there and meet with the Imam of the Age. After saying two units of prayer I find the paper on which all the problems that I need a response for are written. It is appropriate that you too should go there and meet the Imam in that dome."
Hence, I began to walk towards the mountain. I found the dome as he had said, and saw the two servants I had seen before. I requested to see the Imam (peace be upon him). They said it was not possible and that they had no permission to admit anyone. So I said to them: "Pray for me." They agreed, and prayed for me. I descended the mountain and went to the house of Sayyid Shams al-Din. He was not at home. I went to the house of Shaykh Muhammad with whom I had been on the boat, and related to him my experience on the mountain and told him that the two servants did not permit me to see the Imam. Shaykh Muhammad told me that no one except Sayyid Shams al-Din had permission to go to that place because he was one of the sons of the twelfth Imam. Between him and the Imam of the Age there was a distance of five generations of the Imam and that he was his special deputy.
After that I sought permission from Sayyid Shams al-Din to ask him about his rulings on some religious problems which I could then cite on his authority. I also asked him if I could read the Qur'an with him so that he could teach me the correct pronunciation. He agreed and told me that we should start with the Qur'an first. During my recitation I would mention the differences in the reading among the Qur'an reciters. The Sayyid told me that we do not recognize those variations, and added: "Our recitation is in conformity with the Qur'an of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (peace be upon him)." At that point he told me the story of how the Qur'an was compiled by 'Ali b. Abi Talib. I asked him why some verses of the Qur'an had no connection with what was being said before and after. He agreed that the situation was as I described then related the story of how the Qur'an was compiled by Abu Bakr and how the caliphs rejected the compilation that was made by 'Ali b. Abi Talib. "It is for this reason that you see some verses not being related to those before or after," he said.
I asked the Sayyid's permission and reported from him some ninety rulings, which I cannot permit anyone to see except some very special individuals among the followers of the Imam ... .
At this juncture the narrator introduces another story which he had witnessed:
I asked the Sayyid about a tradition from the Imam of the Age that has been related to us that anyone who claims to have seen the Imam during the occultation is telling a falsehood. "How is this hadith compatible with what some of you are able to see?" He replied: "This is true. The Imam has said thus. However, it was said for that time when he had many enemies among the 'Abbasids and others. But at this time when the enemies have become disappointed and since our cities are distant from them where no body can get close to us, meeting the Imam does not pose any danger to him."
I then asked him if he knew about another tradition which is reported by the Shi'i scholars from the twelfth Imam regarding the khums -- that the Imam has made it lawful for the Shi'is. He replied: "The Imam has given the permission in regard to the khums to his Shi'a."
Then the narrator quotes some more rulings given by the Sayyid, who tells him: "Until now you too have seen the Imam twice without recognizing him." The story ends with his declaration: "The Sayyid imposed upon me the duty of not extending my stay in the Maghreb and of returning immediately to Iraq. And I obeyed his command."2
Mr. Hoshyar: The story of Jazira Khadra' is as I have narrated for you in brief. Let me hasten to add that this story has no credibility and that it resembles a legend and a fiction for the following reasons:
First, its chain of transmission (sanad) is unreliable. The story has been taken from an unidentified manuscript. 'Allama Majlisi himself says thus: "Since I have not found this story in any authentic book, I created a special section to report it [so that it does not get mixed up with the other reliable contents of Bihar al-anwar]."
Second, there are a number of inconsistencies in the narrative. I am sure you noticed that in one place Sayyid Shams al-Din tells the narrator that he was the deputy of the Imam, but he had not seen him. Moreover, he says: "... but my father used to say that he would hear his voice but could not see him. But my grandfather used to hear his voice and see him too." The same Sayyid later on says that he sees the Imam every Friday morning and encourages the narrator to do the same. The Shaykh who brought the narrator to that island also tells him that the Sayyid and those like him are the only ones who can meet with the Imam. As you have noticed this is a contradictory statement. The interesting part of the story is that if the Sayyid knew that he was the only one who could meet with the Imam, why did he propose to the narrator that he should go to the mountain and see the Imam?
Third, the story makes reference to alterations in the Qur'an, and such a view is impossible to maintain. Muslims scholars have unanimously rejected such a contention about the Holy Book of God.
Fourth, the lawfulness of the khums has been touched upon in the story, which, according to the jurists, is unacceptable.
At any rate, the story has been created like a fiction, and seems strange and far from the truth. A person by the name of Zayn al-Din leaves his home in Iraq for education in Syria. From there he accompanies his teacher to Egypt, and from Egypt to Andalusia in Spain. He travels all this distance, becomes ill, his teacher leaves him and after getting well he hears the name of the Jazira of the Rafidis. He becomes so desirous of visiting this place that he forgets his teacher and takes off until he reaches the island. The island appears to be without any vegetation because he asks about the people's food and where it comes from. In response he hears that it comes from Jazira Khadra'. Although he is told that the next ship with food would arrive after four months, it arrives in forty days! After a week's sojourn he is taken to sea. In the middle of the White Sea he observes clear, white waters ... and finally arrives at Jazira Khadra'. Well, you know the rest of the story!
It is remarkable that a person from Iraq would travel all that distance through the different countries and would speak the languages of the people everywhere. Did the people in Spain also speak Arabic?
Another fantastic point is that part which deals with the White Sea. As you all know the White Sea is located in the northern part of Russia. The story as related takes place in a different region. Of course, the Mediterranean Sea, where the story takes place, is also known as the White Sea. However, the entire sea is called the White Sea, and not only a spot in it, as the narrator indicates.
Any person examining the story closely would realize that it is fabricated. In the final analysis, let me point out that we have previously noted that the hadith-reports mention that the Imam of the Age (peace be upon him) lives among the people and associates with them. He also participates in some important occasions, including the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, and helps people in trouble.
In the light of these traditions, to introduce a distant place, difficult to access and in the middle of the sea, as the Imam's domicile -- the Imam who is the hope of the downtrodden and the redresser of the wrongs committed against them, is, to say the least, unfair and unreasonable. Finally, let me apologize to you for taking your valuable time to analyze and discuss such an unreliable story.
Dr. Jalali: Does the Imam of the Age have any offspring or not?
Mr. Hoshyar: We do not have convincing proof supporting or rejecting the subject of the Imam's marriage and the existence of offspring for him. It is quite likely that he has been married and does have offspring without anyone knowing about it. He can do whatever is in his interest, which, in the view of some, might suggest that he already has offspring or that they will be born for him later.3
1 As a rule, during the absence of the twelfth Imam, since there is no directly appointed deputy of the Imam, the Friday service is offered as a recommended act, which is immediately followed by the noon prayer as the obligatory act. In this case Sayyid Shams al-Din, as the deputy of the twelfth Imam, in the context of this narrative offers the Friday service as an obligatory act. Tr.
2 Bihar al-anwar, Vol. 52, p. 159-174.
3 This is the point of the prayer mentioned in the Mafatih al-jinan in which a believer prays to God: "O God, give him (i.e., the twelfth Imam), his family, his children, his descendants, his community and his subjects in their entirety, that which is pleasing in his eye." Also, in another supplication, received from the twelfth Imam himself, he says: "O God, grant him in himself, in his descendants, his followers, his subjects, his associates, his general supporters, his enemies, and all the inhabitants of the world that which will be pleasing in his eye." However, it is important to keep in mind that such prayers can not serve as hard core evidence to prove that the twelfth Imam (peace be upon him) has offspring. At the same time, one cannot rule out altogether that he does not have any offspring. Imam Sadiq has related a tradition in which he says: "As if I am seeing the Qa'im descending in the mosque of Kufa with his relatives and his family." See Bihar al-anwar, Vol. 52, p. 317.
Adopted from the book : "Al-Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.); the Just Leader of Humanity" by : "Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini"
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