The Bleakest Days of Shi'ism
- :Allamah Tabataba'i
The most difficult period for Shi'ism was the twenty-year rule of Mu'awiyah, during which the Shi'ites had no protection and most of them were considered as marked characters, under suspicion and hunted down by the state. Two of the leaders of Shi'ism who lived at this time, Imams Hasan and Husayn, did not possess any means whatsoever to change the negative and oppressive circumstances in which they lived. Husayn, the third Imam of Shi'ism, had no possibility of freeing the Shi' ites from persecution in the ten years he was Imam during Mu'awiyah's caliphate, and when he rebelled during the caliphate of Yazid, he was massacred along with all his aides and children.
Certain people in the Sunni world explain as pardonable the arbitrary unjust and irresponsible actions carried out at this time by Mu 'awiyah and his aides and lieutenants, some of whom were, like Mu'awiyah himself, among the companions. This group reasons that according to certain hadiths of the Holy Prophet, all the companions could practice ijtihad, that they were excused by God for the sins they committed, and that God was satisfied with them and forgave them whatever wrong they might have performed. The Shi'ites, however, do not accept this argument for two reasons:
1. It is not conceivable that a leader of human society like the Prophet should rise in order to revivify truth, justice and freedom and to persuade a group of people to accept his beliefs—a group all of whose members had sacrificed their very existence in order to accomplish this sacred end—and then as soon as this end is accomplished give his aides and companions complete freedom to do with these sacred laws as they will. It is not possible to believe that the Holy Prophet would have forgiven the companions for whatever wrong action they might have performed. Such indifference to the type of action performed by them would have only destroyed the structure, which the Holy Prophet had built with the same means that he had used to construct it.
2. Those sayings which depict the companions as inviolable and pardoned in advance for every act they might perform, even one unlawful or inadmissible, are most likely apocryphal; the authenticity of many of them has not been fully established by traditional methods. Moreover, it is known historically that the companions did not deal with one another as if they were inviolable and pardoned for all their sin's and wrongdoings. Therefore, even judging by the way the companions acted and dealt with each other, it can be concluded that such sayings cannot be literally true in the way some have understood them. If they do contain an aspect of the truth, it is in indicating the legal inviolability of the companions and the sanctification which they enjoyed generally as a group because of their proximity to the Holy Prophet. The expression of God's satisfaction with the companions in the Holy Qur'an, because of the services they had rendered in obeying His Command, 1 refers to their past actions, and to God's satisfaction with them in the past, not to whatever action each one of them might perform in the future.
1 See Qur'an, 1X, 100.
Adapted from: "Shi'ah" by: "Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i"
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