Miytham al-Tammar (the date-seller), son of Yahya, was a slave purchased by Imam 'Ali. But very few people knew that he was a slave because 'Ali emancipated him and he became one of the closest friends of his ex-master. He is counted as one of his hawariyyun. It means "disciple" as in the twelve disciples of Jesus. Imam 'Ali had taught him the secret knowledge of Allah, and gave him insight into future events. He knew the details of death, of sufferings of future, which some times he described and people laughed at him; but the later events always proved him right. When 'Ali purchased him, he was called Salim. 'Ali told him that he had heard from the Prophet that "your father in Persia called you Miytham". Miytham was astonished to hear it as nobody in Arabia knew his original name. Then 'Ali told him to keep his original name; thus he became Miytham again, and adopted the agnomen, Abu Salim.43
Miytham was a very pious man. It is written that, "...he, may Allah have mercy upon him, was one of those who were very pious, and his skin had dried upon his body [because of fasting and continuous prayers)."
Abu Khalid al-Tammar says that once on a Friday they were sailing in a boat in Euphrates, when water became very stormy. Miytham looked up and told them to put anchor and secure the boat as the storm was to become more violent. Then he said that Mu'awiyah had died just then. The people noted down the date, which afterwards proved correct.44
Shaykh Kashshi narrates that one day Miytham al-Tammar was passing by a group from the tribe of Asad, when Habib bin Muzahir came there. They stood talking to each other. Habib said, "It is as though I am looking at an old man (whose head is bald and who has a big stomach, and sells dates and water-melons) that he has been captured and his enemies have crucified him because of his love for and devotion to the family of the Prophet; then they have pierced his stomach." All the characteristics were those of Miytham. Miytham replied that, "I too am looking at a man (whose face is reddish) who will come to help the son of the Prophet and will be martyred and his head will be brought to Kufah." He meant Habib bin Muzahir. Then they went their separate ways. The people who heard this conversation said that they had not seen any one more liar than those two. Just then Rushayd al-Hujri (who also was amongst the closest friends of Imam 'Ali and was given the knowledge of future events) came there and asked whether they had seen Habib and Miytham. The people repeated the conversation derisively. Rushayd said, "May Allah have mercy upon Miytham! He forgot to tell that the man who would bring the head of that red-faced man' would get hundred dirham more than the others in reward." When Rushayd went away, the people said that he was bigger liar than those two.45 Shortly afterwards all the prophecies were fulfilled exactly: Miytham was crucified, Habib was martyred in Karbala, and the man who brought Habib's head to Kufah was given hundred dirhams more. Amirul mu'minin 'Ali had told Miytham that, "You will be captured after me and they will crucify you, and will pierce you with a spear; on the third day blood will ooze out from your nose and mouth and your beard will become red with your own blood. You should wait for that hair-dye. They will crucify you at the door of 'Amr bin Hurayth with nine others; and your cross will be the shortest, but your honour in the presence of Allah will be the highest. Come with me; I will show you the tree upon which you are to be crucified." Then he showed Miytham that tree.46
Another tradition says that 'Ali bin Abi Talib asked Miytham, "What will be your position when the bastard of Bani Umayyah [i.e., 'Ubaydullah bin Ziyad] will compel you to curse me and to abuse me?" Miytham said, "By Allah, I will never do so." 'Ali said, "By Allah, then they will kill and crucify you." Miytham said that he would bear those tyrannies; and that such sufferings were nothing in the way of Allah. Then 'Ali gave him the good tiding: "O Miytham you will be with me in the hereafter in my grade."47
After the martyrdom of 'Ali, Miytham used to go and pray near the tree. He used to say, "May Allah bless thee, O tree; 1 have been created for thee, and thou art growing for me." Whenever he met 'Amr bin Hurayth, he would say to him, "When I come into your neighbourhood, you should remember my right as a neighhour."48
In 60 AH Miytham went for 'umrah (the minor pilgrimage). In Medina, he visited the house of Umm Salamah, the Prophet's wife. When he introduced himself, Umm Salamah said, "By Allah, many were the times when I heard the Holy Prophet mentioning and recommending you to 'Ali bin Abi Talib in the heart of night". Miytham learnt that Imam Husayn had gone outside Medina to one of his gardens. Miytham was in hurry so he told Umm Salamah to convey his greetings to Imam Husayn and tell him that very soon "we will meet in the presence of Allah". Umm Salamah told her maid to rub perfume onto the beard of Miytham. Rubbing perfume on the beard was a mark of high respect in Arabia. After that, Miytham said, "O Mother of the Faithfuls, you have put perfume on my beard; but very soon it will be dyed in my blood in the love for and devotion to you, the Ahlul Bayt." Umm Salamah said that Imam Husayn remembered him very much. Miytham said, "I too always remember him; but I am in a hurry, and there is a fate waiting for me and him both; and we both will reach it." On coming out he met 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas and told him to ask whatever he wanted to know from the interpretation of the Qur'an, as "I have read the Qur'an from Amirul mu'minin and I know both its revelation (tanzil) and interpretation (ta'wil)." Ibn 'Abbas called for paper and ink-pot and started writing Miytham's dictation. That a man like 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas did not frown from writing his dictation shows the high respect of Miytham in the learned circle of the Muslim community.49
Then Miytham said, "What will be your feeling, O Ibn 'Abbas, when you will see me martyred with nine others?" Hearing this Ibn 'Abbas started tearing the paper, saying that Miytham had become a sorcerer. Miytham said, "Do not tear that paper. If you see that what I have said does not happen, then you will have plenty of time to tear that paper.50
After the 'umrah, he returned to Kufah. During his absence, 'Ubaydullah bin Ziyad was made governor of Kufah. One day he asked the mu'arrif (a local informer) of Kufah about Miytham. On being informed that Miytham has gone to 'umrah, he told the mu'arrif that if he failed to produce Miytham he would be killed in his place. So the mu'arrif went to Qadisiyyah to wait for Miytham. On reaching Qadisiyyah, Miytham was captured and brought before Ibn Ziyad. The people told Ibn Ziyad that Miytham was the nearest of all to 'Ali bin Abi Talib. Ibn Ziyad was astonished: "Was 'Ali trusting this 'ajami (a non-Arab) so much?" Then the following conversation took place: Ibn Ziyad: "Where is your protector?"
Miytham: "He is waiting for the tyrants, and you are one of them."
Ibn Ziyad: "Do you dare to speak like this before me? Now there is only one way to save your life: you must curse Abu Turab."
Miytham: "I do not know who Abu Turab is."
Ibn Ziyad: "Abuse and curse 'Ali bin Abi Talib."
Miytham: "What will you do if I refuse?"
Ibn Ziyad: "By Allah, I will kill you."
Miytham: "My master [i.e., 'Ali] had informed me that you would kill and martyr me, together with nine others, at the door of 'Amr bin Hurayth."
Ibn Ziyad: "I will not do so, thus proving your master a liar."
Miytham: "My master did not say any lie. Whatever he said, he had heard it from the holy Prophet, who had heard it from Jibra'il, who had heard it from Allah. How, therefore, can you prove them wrong? Not only this, I even know how you will kill me and where you will martyr me. And I know that I will be the first man in Islam who will be reined in the mouth to prevent me from speaking and the first man whose tongue will be cut out".
Ibn Ziyad imprisoned Miytham and Mukhtar bin Abu 'Ubaydah al-Thaqafi. Miytham informed Mukhtar that he would be freed from the prison and that he would avenge the blood of Imam Husayn and would kill this man (i.e., Ibn Ziyad). And it happened that when Mukhtar was taken out to be killed, a messenger came from Yazid with an order to release Mukhtar. Then Miytham was taken out and crucified on a tree at the door of 'Amr bin Hurayth. Now 'Amr understood what Miytham meant by his request; and so, he ordered his maid to burn incense at his cross and clean the earth beneath him. Miytham turned the cross into pulpit. He started narrating the traditions of the holy Prophet extolling the virtues and superiority of the Ahlul Bayt, and also the traditions concerning the wickedness of Banu Umayyah and their being cursed in the Qur'an and hadith; and how they would be destroyed at last. Ibn Ziyad was informed of this unfailing courage and self-sacrificing spirit of Miytham. He feared lest Miytham's lectures turn the masses against the Umayyads and humiliate them in the eyes of the public. So he ordered that a rein be put into Miytham's mouth to prevent him from speaking. After sometime, his tongue was cut off. On the third day, some one wounded him with a spear saying, "I am wounding you though I know that you always fasted during the day and stood the whole night in prayers." In the evening blood came oozing out from his nose and mouth, reddening his face and chest, and he left this world. He was martyred in the cause of Islam, ten days before the arrival of Imam Husayn in Karbala. It means that he died on 21st or 22nd Dhu'l hijjah, 60 AH. At night seven date-sellers secretly took away his body and buried him on the bank of a canal and erased the signs of the grave.51
Later on when there was no danger, the grave was shown to the public. Now there is a big shrine upon it where the devotees go for pilgrimage. One of the graces of Allah upon Miytham was that knowledge and piety remained in his progeny, generation after generation. His sons, grandsons and great-grandsons were among the respected companions of the Shi'ite Imams. Miytham had six sons: Muhammad, Shu'ayb, Salih, 'Ali, 'Imran and Hamzah. All of them were among the companions of the fourth, fifth and sixth Imams. Among his grandsons, Isma'il, Ya'qub and Ibrahim (all sons of Shu'ayb) were companions of the fifth, sixth and seventh Imams. 'Ali bin Isma'il bin Shu'ayb bin Miytham is counted among the most prominent theologians of Shi'ism. His discussions with his adversaries show his knowledge, intelligence and presence of mind. Moreover, we find many other names in the progeny of Miytham mentioned in the books of traditions and biographies (rijal).
43. al-Mufid, Kitab al-Irshad, trans. I.K.A. Howard (London: Muhammadi Trust) pp. 243-244; and al-Kashshi's Rijal as quoted by Qummi, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 157.
44. Qummi, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 157.
45. Kashshi, Rijal, as quoted by Qummi, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 143-4.
46. Qummi, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 157; al-Mufid, op. cit., p. 244.
51. Ibid, pp. 158-9.
Adapted from the book: "Slavery; From Islamic and Christian Perspectives" by: "Sayyid Sa'eed Akhtar Rizvi"
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