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The Shi‘ism of the people of Kufah

With recourse to history, especially after the death of Imam ‘Ali (as) and during the time of Imam al-Husayn (as), and with careful examination of the beliefs of the people of Kufah, we come to the conclusion that the predominant type of Shi‘ism which existed in Kufah at that time was Political Shi‘ism. The Shi‘ism of Kufah was not founded on religious conviction.

The people of Kufah only believed in the superiority of ‘Ali (as) over ‘Uthman and the other companions. They did not believe in the Divine Guardianship [wilayat wa imamat] of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) or the other Infallibles by way of divine appointment as has been explicitly stated in holy texts (the Holy Qu’ran and hadiths). Furthermore, we cannot consider political Shi‘ahs in the same light as the pious Shi‘ahs who believed in the Divine Guardianship of the Ahl al-Bayt (as).

In order to prove this, we will cite an example:

In his book called “Mukhtasar Tarikh Damishq” (The Short History of Damascus), Ibn ‘Asakir Damishqi Shafi’i narrates on an authentic chain of transmission that Harith ibn Abi Matar said, “I heard Salmah ibn Kuhayl saying, ‘Musayyib ibn Najbah Fazari and I were once seated in the Mosque of Kufah.

There were many Shi‘ahs in the Mosque. I did not hear any of them speak about anyone of the companions of the Prophet (S) save ‘Ali (as), and they spoke about him with lots of praise and laudation. All their talk was about ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) and ‘Uthman’.”6

The Sunnis praise all the Prophet’s companions without exception. They believe that all of the Prophet’s companions were just and equitable people. The people they consider to be political Shi‘ahs are those who later believed in the superiority of Imam ‘Ali (as) over ‘Uthman. There were people in Kufah who held this belief. There were, though, others who did not believe in Imam ‘Ali (as) to this extent, as we have shown from the hadith (tradition) recounted by Ibn ‘Asakir.

Notes:

6. Tarikh Madinat al-Damishq, vol. 57, p. 198.

Adapted from: "The Uprising of Ashura and Responses to Doubts" by: "‘Ali Asghar Ridwani"