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Political Conditions at the Time of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.)

Political conditions, at any historical phase, appear to be the most dominant phenomenon of social life of human beings. That is because political conditions, the relations between the ruler and the ruled, the nature of the ruling power, the policies it adopts, are all closely connected to the security of the people, their living standards, the level of their faith, lifestyle, education, scientific progress and their inner stability. Political conditions become of high importance and their impact deepens especially when a given community holds onto a civilized mission, and to the political values and principles they believe in, but which are being pushed aside by the rulers who seized power by force.

Through the study of the history of the Muslim ummah, throughout the first six centuries, during the Umayyad and Abbasid hegemony, the driving factors working at the depth of the Islamic culture attended by struggles, activities, revolutions and reforms, one can clearly detect three key factors:

1. Islam's ability to renovate, create and give, at the levels of culture, originality of religious beliefs, political militancy, and protection of man's freedom and dignity against injustice and tyranny.

2. Rulers. deviation from Islam. There is a wide gap between Islam's principles and the ruling authorities. But there was an interval in which Umar bin Abdul-Aziz, an Umayyad caliph, tried to come to grips with the tragical condition of the ummah by detecting the causes of decay. Unfortunately, he failed to achieve lasting change.

3. During these two distinguished eras, we discover how energetic the Muslim ummah was in facing the rulers deviating from Islam. In this long, drawn out struggle, the role of the noble Ahlul-Bait (a.s.) appears as an in disputable historical fact. Ahul-Bait (a.s.) were themselves the leaders who guided the opposition. That is why they were persecuted, killed, tortured and made homeless at the hands of the Umayyad and Abbasid rulers.

Imam Ja'far bin Muhammad al-Sadiq (a.s.) lived with these three factors. He witnessed the oppression, terrorism and injustices directed at Muslims in general, and the Alawites, who descended from Imam Ali (a.s.), and Fatimah al-Zahra', (a.s.) in particular, for the last forty years of the Umayyad rule.

Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) was born in the days of the Umayyad caliph Abdul-Malik bin Marwan bin al-Hakam. He lived through the reigns of al-Walid bin Abdul-Malik, Sulaiman bin Abdul-Malik, Umar bin Abdul-Aziz, al-Walid bin Yazid, Yazid bin al-Walid, Ibrahim bin al-Walid, Marwan al-Himar, until the collapse of the Umayyad caliphate in 132 A. H. He lived under the reign of Abul-Abbas al-Saffah, the first Abbaside caliph, and nearly ten years under the reign of Abu-Ja'far al-Mansoor. The Imam (a.s.) lived through hard times, witnessed the tribulations of Ahlul-Bait (a.s.), felt the pains of the ummah, and heard its complaints and cries, but was unable to move to their defence. He could not openly challenge the Umayyads or the Abbasids because of the following reasons:

1. He was at the top ideological and social structure, the chief of Ahlul-Bait (a.s.), and the man to whom the ummah resorted at times of adversity. Therefore he was under constant surveillance by the Umayyads and Abbasids. Spies followed him, reporting to the authorities the slightest of his activities. That weakened his ability to indulge in political actions that aimed at destroying the successive rulers at the time.

2. Ahlul-Bait (a.s.) had a painfully bitter experience with the masses. All the uprisings and revolts led by Imam Ali (a.s.), his sons, Imam Hassan (a.s.), and Imam Hussein (a.s.), had been crushed due to the ineptitude of the ummah and its reluctance to respond to Ahlul-Bait's calls. Moreover, Ahlul-Bait would not even consider of using such base ways to seize power as treachery, hypocrisy, bribery, etc. But, their foes, on the contrary, would not leave a stone unturned to achieve their mean goals. Such wide gaps in political awareness and disharmony between Ahlul-Bait (a.s.) and their followers had the greatest harmful effect on the battles and uprisings led by them.

For these reasons Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) renounced open political struggle with the rulers and embarked, clandestinely, on building the resistance ideologically and morally in a way that would make it the embodiment of revolution. The revolution would have to be cared for away from the rulers' eyes so as to send its roots deep in the conscientiousness of the ummah.

Thus, he made the scholars, preachers and the masses boycott and oppose the unjust rulers through raising the religious and political awareness of the ummah, guiding them to learn Islam's beliefs and concepts, and enlightening them concerning their relations with the rulers. He is reported to have said:

"Whoever condemnes the injustice of an oppressor, Allah shall certainly place someone above him, who will persecute him. If he prays to Allah, Allah shall neither accept his prayer, nor shall He reward him in compensation for the injustices done to him." 11

"The one does injustices to others, the one who assists him in doing so, and the one who approves of that, are three accomplices." 12

11. Al-Usool min al-Kafi (Key Questions of al-Kafi), vol. 2, p.334.

12. Ibid, p.333.

Adapted from the book: "Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.)"

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