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The Origins of the Shi'ahs - Part 1

Shi'ism is not a new religion. It begins with the beginning of Islam. The embodiment of the code of religion, that is, the seal of the Prophets (s.a.w.) planted the tree of Shi'ism together with Islam; with his own hands, he watered it and looked after it. The plant grew up to be a green tree which began blooming in the life-time of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.). But it had not yet born fruit, when the light of prophethood was put out.

We are not alone in advancing this claim. Even the eminent scholars from among Sunnis agree with us. For instance, 'Allamah Siyuti in his famous commentary "ad-Durru 'l-Manthur" says in connection with God's words "Hum khayru 'l-bariyah" (they are the best of created beings) (Surah: The Clear Proof: Ayat 7):

"Ibn 'Asakir quotes Jabir ibn Abdillah as saying: "We were present in the company of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) when 'Ali (a.s.) came towards us. Seeing 'Ali (a.s.) the Prophet (s.a.w.) said: "I swear by God the Almighty, who is the Master of my life, that he ('Ali (a.s.)) and his Shi'ahs shall be successful on the day of judgement."

Ibn 'Adi reports from ibn 'Abbas that when the verse "Inna 'l-ladhina amanu wa 'amilu 's-salihat" (Verily these are those who believed and did good deeds) was revealed, the Holy Prophet (s.a.) said to 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s.): "It refers to you and your Shi'as; God will be pleased with them and they with Him on the Day of Judgement."

Ibn Mardwa'ih quotes Hadhrat 'Ali (a.s.) himself as saying: "The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) siad to me: "Oh 'Ali. Did you not hear what God said: 'Inna 'l-ladhina amanu wa 'amilu 's-salihat ula'ika hum khayru 'l-bariyah.' Verily it means you and your Shi'as. The promise between your people and me shall be fulfilled at the fountain of Kawthar; there, when all the nations shall be present to account for their actions, your people will be called forward, your faces, hands and feet shining with light'." These three hadith are to be found in as-Suyuti's "ad-Durr al-manthur".

Ibn Hajar has also reported some of these traditions in his as-Sawa'iq) from Darqutni. He quotes Umm Salamah as saying: "Oh 'Ali. You and your shi'as shall attain Paradise." Ibn Athir writes in connection with the word "qumh" that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) said to Hadhrat 'Ali (a.s.): "When people come into the presence of God, your Shi'as will be there content with God and He with them, and your enemies shall be subjected to God's wrath and their hands shall be tied to their necks." The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) demonstrated this by putting his hands behind his neck, and said: "See, they shall be tied up in this way."

Probably this tradition has been reported by Ibn Hajar also in his as-Sawa'iq" and other 'ulema' have also reported it in different ways, showing that it is among the well-known hadith.

In az-Zamakhshari's "Rabi' al-Abrar" the following statement of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) has been recorded: "Oh 'Ali. On the Day of Judgement the skirt of God's mercy will be in my hand and my skirt will be in your hand and your skirt will be held by your descendants and the Shi'as of your descendants will be hanging on to their skirt. Then you will see where we will be taken (i.e. Paradise)."

For further satisfaction, it will be useful to study Ahmad ibn Hanbal's "al-Musnad" and an-Nasa'is "Khasai's" etc., which contain a number of such traditions.

These traditions show that the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.) spoke a number of times about the Shi'as of 'Ali (a.s.) and ponited out that on the Day of Judgement they, in particular, shall be safe and successful, God being pleased with them and they with Him.

Everyone who believes that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) was the embodiment of truthfulness and that the verse which begins "ma yantiqu 'an il-hawa ..." (He does not speak of himself unless 'wahy' is revealed to him) refers to the Prophet himself, realise that these hadith must be true. Those people however who understand the above hadith as referring to all the companions of the prophet, have failed to recognise their real inner meaning.

We find that during the days of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) a group of outstanding companions was attached to Hadhrat 'Ali (a.s.). Not only did every man in this group acknowledge the Holy Imam (a.s.) to be his spirtitual leader, the real transmitter of the Holy Prophet's teachings, but they also acknowledged him as the true interpreter and commentator of the orders and secrets of the Prophet (s.a.w.). It is this group which is popularly known as the Shi'a. Even the lexicographers support this truth. If you refer to the famous dictionaries "an-Nihayah" and "Lisan ul-'Arab", you will find the meaning of "shi'a" as "one who loves and follows 'Ali (a.s.) and his descendants."

If however we are to understand that "shi'a" means any person who loves 'Ali (a.s.) or is not his enemy, then the use of this word would be inappropriate, because only loveing, or at least, not being an enemy of him, does not mean that a person is a Shi'a; if however, he has the characteristic of persistent following and obedience then the word Shi'a would apply; this is crystal clear to those who have an understanding of Arabic and a notion of the relationship between word, meaning and context.

In view of these realities, it is unlikely that any sensible man, after studying the appropriate traditions, could draw the conclusion that the word shi'a means the Muslims in general, but will understand that it refers to a particular class which has a special attachment to 'Ali (a.s.).
Hopefully, after this explanation, no fair-minded man will try to conclude that the above quoted traditions do not prove the existence of a group who, because of their special relation with the master of the pious, 'Ali (a.s.) were superior to all the Muslims of that time, and who all expressed their love for him.

Personally, I do not agree with the assumption that the Caliphs, who could not accept this fact, consciously violated the words of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.). It is possible many of them did not hear his edicts, or that those who heard them were unable to follow his directions.

Moreover, if the statements of the Prophet (s.a.w.) in which he announced the rank and high position of Amiru 'l-Mu'minin (a.s.) and the Ahlu 'l-bayt (a.s.) are studied with an open mind, it will be seen that these reports do not only show merits of a general nature, but also contain clear indications of how to recognise the status and capability of the Leader of Shi'ism, and of how to contribute to the establishment and justness of that school of thought. The following traditions may be cited as examples.

"Ali (a.s.) bears the same relationship to me as Harun (Aaron) had to Musa (Moses)".

"Oh 'Ali, only those with faith (iman) are your friends, and only the hypocrites (munafiqin) are your enemies."

"Oh people of my ummah. I leave behind two things worthy of great esteem -the Book of God and my progeny, my Ahlu 'l-bayt."

"Accordingly to the tradition of at-Tayr, the prophet made the following prayer: "Oh God. Send to me your most beloved slave", and immediately 'Ali entered his presence.

"Tomorrow I will give this standard to the man who loves God and His Prophet (s.a.w.) and who God and His Prophet (s.a.w.) also love."

"Ali is with the Truth and the Truth is with 'Ali."

These traditions are mostly taken from "Sahih al-Bukhari" and "Sahih al-Muslim", and there are thousands of such authentic reports. This small booklet cannot accommodate details of them. Those who are fond of research work can study the famous book "Abiqat al-Anwar" by 'Allama Sayyid Hamid Husayn, which is tne times as voluminous as "Sahih al-Bukhari" and is a master-piece of research in the field of hadiths.

When the light of prophethood was extinguished, a group of the "sahaba" started to act to prevent the Caliphate from passing to 'Ali.

The cause of this opposition might have been the young age of the holy Imam, or the feeling among the Quraysh that the prophethood and the imamate should not be combined in the house of Banu Hashim; there might have been other causes, we do not have the space to discuss them here.
Both the Sunni and the Shi'a sects agree however that, when allegiance was being taken from the Muslims, 'Ali (a.s.) did not accept the authority of Abu Bakr, and, according to the learned al-Bukhari ("Sahih", see the chapter on the victory at Khybar), he did not pay allegiance until six months had passed. Some of the eminent companions, like az-Zubayr, 'Ammar and Miqdad and others, also refused to pay homage to Abu Bakr.

The fact is that 'Ali (a.s.) had no craving for political power, nor desire to rule, other than in his capacity as Imam.

The talk that he had with ibn 'Abbas at Dhiqar clearly proves which way the son of Abu Talib (a.s.) was going. Amiru 'l-Mu'minin (a.s.) had only one purpose in view, and it was that "religion" might remain safe, "right" might prevail and "wrong" might be exterminated. Imbued with these high feelings, 'Ali (a.s.) resorted to protest only. He did not adopt any plans to overthrow the caliphs. Rather, in order to lead and guide the people to the right path he always cooperated with the government; his wise suggestions enabled Islam to flourish and meant that religious commands were made known to all. If 'Ali (a.s.) had not adopted this couse of action, not only would Islamic unity have been shattered, but the people also would have been lost in the labyrinth of ignorance.

Adopted from the book: "The Origin of the Shi'ite Islam and its Principles (Asl ash-Shi'ah wa Usuluh" by: "Allamah Kashiful Ghita"

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