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Sayyid Abd al-Azim al-Hasani, One of the Greatest Defenders of Ahlul Bayt (A.S.) - Part 1

I used to visit the grave of our master ‘Abd al-’Azim al-Hasani occasionally and whenever good fortune permitted me, for he was one of the descendants of the eldest grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (s), al-Hasan bin ‘Ali (‘a). He was a scion of that lofty and blessed tree (of Prophethood), whose branches are spread out in Iran , ‘ Iraq , Syria , Yemen and other places.

However, after I had delved thoroughly into his biography and read the words and statements of the biographers in his favour, as well as the descriptions of honour and respect with which Sahib bin ‘Abbad described him in a biographical treatise, which he devoted to his life, I was overcome with shame and realised my shortcomings and negligence with respect to him.

This is because Sayyid ‘Abd al-’Azim al-Hasani was one of the defenders of the true beliefs by his speech and conduct and he was one of the ‘sources of reference’ (مرجع) in matters of the faith. This is evidenced by the directive of the tenth Imam to his Shi’ites to turn to him (i.e. Sayyid ‘Abd al-’Azim al-Hasani) in respect of religious matters, which appeared ambiguous and complex to them. The text of that directive will be presented soon.

His Lineage

The Imami scholar and biographer Shaykh al-Najashi (d 450 AH/1058 AD) has recorded his lineage at the beginning of his biography as: ‘Abd al-’Azim bin ‘Abdullah bin ‘Ali bin al-Hasan bin Zayd bin al-Hasan bin ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (‘a) and this is his correct lineage. However, he then writes at the end of the biography: ‘He (i.e. ‘Abd al-’Azim) died and when he was undressed so that the funeral bath could be given to him, a small piece of paper was found in one of his pockets in which was written his lineage, as follows: “I am Abu al-Qasim ‘Abd al-’Azim bin ‘Abdillah bin ‘Ali bin al-Hasan bin Zayd bin ‘Ali bin al-Hasan bin ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (‘a).” But the first rendering of his lineage is correct for Imam al-Hasan’s progeny continued through the agency of two sons, who were:

1) Zayd bin al-Hasan, and

2) Al-Hasan al-Muthanna ‘.

Thus it is apparent that Imam al-Hasan (‘a) did not have a son by the name of ‘Ali through whom he may have had grandchildren (as the second version of Sayyid ‘Abd al- ‘Azim’s lineage above implies). Therefore on the basis of the above, Sayyid ‘Abd al-’Azim was separated from Imam al-Hasan (‘a) by four generations only (as implied by the first version of his lineage).

As a poet says, as if placing these words in the mouth of Sayyid ‘Abd al-’Azim,

ليس ما بيني و بين المجتبى غيرعينين وحاء ثم زاي

There is not between myself and al-Mujtaba ‘ (i.e. Imam al-Hasan (‘a)) Save two ‘ayns (ع] and a Ha ‘ (حاء), and then a zay (ز).

Did he meet Imam Reza (‘a)?

The Imami jurist, traditionist and biographer Shaykh al-Tusi (d 460 AH/1067 AD) has considered him in his biographical work (Rijal) to be from the companions of the Imams al-Hadi and al-’Askari (‘a), whilst Sayyid al-Tafrishi, Mirza ‘ al-Astarabadi and al-Quhpa ‘i have considered him among the companions of Imam al-Jawad (‘a).

There is no doubt that he was from the companions of the Imams al-Jawad and al-Hadi (‘a), on the basis of the many traditions which he transmits from them, but as for his being from the companions of Imam al-’Askari (‘a) during the period of his Imamate, that is a matter that needs careful scrutiny. This is because Imam al-Hadi died in 254 AH/867 AD and Imam al-’Askari undertook the responsibilities of the Imamate after the death of his father in that year in the month of Rajab, whilst Sayyid ‘Abd al-’Azim died in the year 252 AH/866 AD. Thus he did know the person of the Imam al-’Askari during the Imamate of his father but due to the fact that he died well before the tenth Imam, would negate the possibility of him being from the companions of the eleventh Imam.

The question now is: Did he meet Imam al-Ridha’ (‘a) or not? Now it may be inferred that he did so, on the basis of the tradition, which he transmits from Hisham bin al-Hakam[8][8] who died in 199 AH/814 AD (and it is said, perhaps even earlier).

This tradition is as follows: Al-Kulayni reports from Ahmad, who reports from ‘Abd al-’Azim al-Hasani, from Hisham bin al-Hakam, from Abu ‘Abdillah al-Sadiq (‘a) who said:

هذا صراط علي مستقيم

‘This is the path of ‘Ali, which is straight.’

Therefore if Sayyid ‘Abd al-’Azim al-Hasani’s age at the time of receiving this report was twenty years, then he would be from those who were born around 180 AH/796 AD, and Imam al-Ridha’ (‘a) died in 203 AH/818 AD, which may suggest that he did meet the eighth Imam. All this would stand true if this chain were authentic and correct.

However the chain itself provides a clue to our problem, which is: that it is known that Sayyid ‘Abd al-’Azim al-Hasani narrates a lot from those who died in the second and third decades of the third century hijri, while Hisham died before 200 hijri (815 AD) and so this indicates a missing link between the Sayyid and Hisham. Add to the above, the fact that the Sayyid narrates a lot from Imam al-Ridha’ (‘a) via intermediaries. All of this would combine to suggest that he did not meet the eighth Imam after all.

Perhaps it may be inferred that he met Imam al-Ridha’ (‘a) on the basis of a tradition which Shaykh al-Mufid (d 413 AH/1022 AD) records in his Kitab al-Ikhtisas where he writes: ‘it is narrated from Sayyid ‘Abd al-’Azim al-Hasani, from Abu al-Hasan al-Ridha’ (‘a) that he said: “O ‘Abd al-’Azim, convey my greetings to my friends and tell them not to let Satan have recourse to their souls.

Command them to be truthful in their speech and to return faithfully what is entrusted to them. Order them to maintain silence and leave off wrangling and disputations regarding that which does not concern them and to embark upon visiting each other for that is most beloved to me…They must not engage in maligning each other for I have vowed that one who does that and vexes a friend of mine, then I shall call upon Allah to punish him in this world with a severe punishment and he will be from the losers in the hereafter.

And inform them that Allah has forgiven and pardoned the evil deeds of the good-doers from among them except one who associates another with Allah or hurts a friend from my friends or harbours ill-will towards him, for Allah will not forgive him till he desists from it, if he desists. However if he does not, then the spirit of faith will be removed from his heart and he will secede from my friendship. Nor will he have any luck in this world and I seek refuge in Allah from that!”

But there seems to have occurred a mistake in the chain of this tradition, for the Imam identified by the epithet ‘Abu al-Hasan’ is Abu al-Hasan the third (i.e. the tenth Imam al-Hadi) rather than Abu al-Hasan the second (i.e. the eighth Imam al-Ridha’) while al-Mufid erroneously wrote ‘al-Ridha’’ in place of ‘al-Hadi’ (‘a). The evidence for this claim is that Sayyid ‘Abd al-’Azim would have been a young teenager throughout the life of al-Ridha’ (‘a) and it would have hardly been fitting for him to have been the carrier of the Imam’s message to his Shi’ites and friends, indeed it would not be fitting except for one advanced in age and well-know among men for his love and loyalty.

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