Confronting Imam Ali’s Personality



By: Dr. Muhammad Masjid-Jame‘i
The first step was encouraging cursing Imam ‘Ali (‘a). After a while, he realized that this alone was not sufficient and effective. He, therefore, decided to order his rulers to forge stories similar to stories of the virtues of ‘Ali, as approved by the Prophet (S), but this time about other people. This is the starting point of the developments and the time when he and his men are taken as sacred. At this time, sayings were forged in appreciation of the Companions, the time of the Companions, the Three Caliphs, the Senior Caliphs, the Promised Ten [‘ashrah Mubashshirah], the Prophet’s wives and important influential people in the early periods of Islam. These sayings settled in the minds of the people and even the scholars and narrators of sayings, and never left their minds or were doubted because there was no ground for this to happen while they were reinforced in the later periods for reasons that we will say later.
Ibn Abi’l-Hadid has a chapter in Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah under the title ‘Expressing Part of the Pains and Tortures inflicted upon the Ahl al-Bayt’, in which he quotes a full saying from Imam Baqir (‘a) in which the latter provides an account of what the Shi‘ites’ Imams and their followers went through, “… We were constantly subject to battery and cursing, chasing and disadvantages. We and our followers could not live safely. Then liars who fought the truth stepped in who reached positions with amirs, judges and governors because of the lies they told. They forged quotations and propagated them. What we had not said or done, they narrated about us so as to disgrace us with the people and to make them hostile to us. This situation was worsened after Imam Hasan died in the time of Mu‘awiyah…”76 After this quotation, he quotes another story from the reliable book Al-Ihdath by Mada’ini, a major part of which we mention here because it serves many useful purposes, “After ‘Ali (‘a) was martyred, when Mu‘awiyah settled in power, he thus wrote to his governors, ‘I shall not have any obligation to him who talks about the virtues of ‘Ali or his family.’
Subsequently, orators began to curse at ‘Ali (‘a) at any rostrum they stood on to give speeches. They expressed their renouncement and used bad language about him and his family. Kufah was troubled more than other places because there were more Shi‘ites there. Mu‘awiyah appointed Ziyad ibn Sumayyah as the governor and added Basrah to that. He hunted for Shi‘ites and, as he was a Shi‘ite during ‘Ali’s time, he knew them very well. He would find and kill them anywhere they were. Terror reigned wherever. He would cut off limbs, make them blind and would hang them from palm trees. He chased them out of Iraq. As a result, no well-known person remained there.”
On another occasion, Mu‘awiyah wrote to his agents, “Do not accept the testimony of the Shi‘ites of ‘Ali or any of their dependents. Focus your attention on Shi‘ites and the friends of ‘Uthman. Bring close to yourselves and respect those who talk about his virtues. Send me their story, their name and the names of their father and their clan.”
His agents did so until there were many virtues of ‘Uthman talked about and distributed around. This was due to the various awards that Mu‘awiyah gave to Arabs and liberated slaves, be it a cloak or a piece of land, etc. They competed for material success. Any hobo that went to an agent of Mu‘awiyah and recounted a story on the virtues of ‘Uthman would be enrolled to be appreciated and given a special reward. Some time passed by with such events. As these events unfolded, time passed by.
After a while, he wrote to his governors, “There are many sayings about ‘Uthman anywhere. When you get my letter, encourage the people to talk about the virtues of the Companions and the First Caliphs. Any virtue that has been talked about ‘Ali, forge the same about the Companions and send it to me, because I like this better and it would make me happier while they neutralize the arguments of ‘Ali and his Shi‘ites and it will cost them dearer than mentioning the virtues of ‘Uthman.”
His letters were read out to the people. Following this, many stories about the virtues of the Companions were told, all of which were lies and forged. The people went on this path until the stories were read out on rostrums and were induced to school masters. They taught the same to children and the sayings became so common and so significant that they were learned like the Qur’an and were taught to girls, women, male and female slaves.
Then he wrote another letter asking his agents to put under pressure and persecute anyone who loved ‘Ali and to destroy his house. “…thus many sayings were forged and propagated. The jurisprudents, judges and amirs followed on the same path. In the meanwhile, the narrators who lied and pretended to be pious and sacred were far ahead of the others and much more involved in reaching wealth and a position by doing so and by getting close to governors, until the forged sayings reached pious and truthful people, people who neither told lies nor could, by nature, believe that the others could tell lies as narrators. Therefore, they accepted them all as truth. If they had known the sayings were lies, they would have neither accepted them nor narrated them…”77
Ibn Abi’l-Hadid then quotes ibn Naftawiyyah, who is a great scholar of the sayings, “Most of the forged sayings that were made about the Companions during the Umayyad reign were made because the latter intended to bring themselves closer to the Companions, thus destroying the Bani Hashim.”78
The fact is that Mu‘awiyah and, his successors, the Umayyad did so for a variety of reasons. To stabilize and legalize their position and to defeat their great rival, Bani Hashim and on about that the Imams, they had to depict themselves as the religious and legal inheritors of ‘Uthman and show that ‘Ali was involved in his murder. If they could do so, they would achieve their goals. It is exactly because of this that their poets and eulogists talked about the virtues of ‘Uthman, his innocence while being murdered and that the Umayyad were the true inheritors of his blood and his inheritors in the caliphate.79
In this regard, Goldziher says, “It is historically quite evident that the Umayyads introduced themselves as the religious and legal successors of ‘Uthman and, seeking to avenge ‘Uthman’s death, were hostile to ‘Ali and the Shi‘ites. ‘Uthman was the symbol and slogan of the Umayyads against ‘Ali and the ‘Alavites. Thus, the title ‘Uthmani (ottoman) was one used for the ardent supporters of the Umayyad.”80
All this depended on giving ‘Uthman as high a position as possible. Such a position would immunize him against any criticism that might be said against him. This would entail several results. Firstly, nobody would consider why and by whom and on what charges was he killed. The virtues that were recounted about him surrounded his true personality and behavior with a thick curtain and would make him disappear in a halo of light. Secondly, it would prove that an individual like this was on the right path to the last moment of his life, he was killed innocently like a martyr and his murderers were misled about religion and were on the wrong path. They could indeed use propaganda to make the people believe that ‘Ali was involved in the event, and effectively so. Thirdly, the innocent blood had to be avenged and nobody deserved to do this more than Mu‘awiyah and the Umayyad and it is he who deserves to succeed ‘Uthman.
Thus, Mu‘awiyah’s succession and caliphate would be justified and his opposition and fight against ‘Ali as well. This was an argument that would be accepted by the Muslims of that time, who were still under the influence of the pre-Islamic heritage and rules, which the Umayyads sought to revive as much as possible because, according to the “Thar” law in the pre-Islamic customs, the inheritors of the murdered person should avenge his blood. The only principle was attaining revenge.81
The best proof for what was said is the story of the conclusion of the agreement during the arbitration for the Siffin war by ‘Amru ibn al-‘As and Abu Musa Ash‘ari, a model which later both Mu‘awiyah and the other Umayyad caliphs followed. After the many arguments between the two, ‘Amru ibn al-‘As asked his counterpart to have what they agreed on written by the scribe, who was ‘Amru’s son. After they both testified to the unity of God and the prophethood of the Prophet and truth of the first two caliphs, ‘Amru addressed his son, asking him to write, “‘Uthman became caliph after ‘Umar and with the consensus of the Muslims and consulting with the Companions and he was a pious person.” Abu Musa objected, saying, “We are not here to discuss this issue.”
‘Amru said, “I swear by God he was either a pious person or an infidel.” Abu Musa said, “He was a pious person.” Amru said, “Was he an oppressor or was he made subject to oppression?” “He was subject to oppression.” Abu Musa said. “Has God not given the choice to the guardian of the oppressed to avenge their blood?” “Yes, he has.” Abu Musa said. ‘Amru said, “Do you know a worthier person than Mu‘awiyah to be ‘Uthman’s guardian?” “No.” Abu Musa said. “Is Mu‘awiyah not right in searching out ‘Uthman’s murderer wherever he is in order to kill him or not be faught in attempting to do so?” “Yes.” said Abu Musa. “We think that ‘Ali has killed ‘Uthman.”82
All of these were written as part of the agreement.

Increasing Importance of the Companions’ Position and Stature
This was a brief account of the conditions in which sayings were forged in favor of ‘Uthman and his previous caliphs and the Prophet’s Companions. In order to achieve his goals, Mu‘awiyah had to put ‘Uthman in a high position. Therefore, as Mada’ini says, Mu‘awiyah issued orders for forging sayings immediately after he became the caliph. However, the problem was that this could not be limited to ‘Uthman. To the people of that time, some of whom had seen ‘Uthman and the previous caliphs, it was not acceptable that he had had such a position while the previous caliphs and the other well-known Companions had not. It would be questionable and dubious and would raise doubts about ‘Uthman’s virtues. They were thus forced to raise the positions of others along with ‘Uthman, and they did so.
Other than this obligation, there were other consequences to this action, the most important being that, by illuminating the face of each of the Companions, they would help reduce the importance of the most illuminating one.83 When Mu‘awiyah said, “Do not ignore any virtue that has been quoted by any Muslim about ‘Ali, unless you mention for me a counterpart for it among the Companions.”, he actually meant to reduce the importance of ‘Ali. Therefore, he explicitly said, “I would like it better. It would make me happy and would neutralize the arguments of ‘Ali and his Shi‘ites.” Indeed he succeeded in this for reasons that we will mention later.
Nevertheless, the result was that he raised the level of the others so much that sometimes they would be close to that of the Prophet (S)84 and the early history of Islam was given a special importance and became sacred and was as valuable and important as Islam itself. It was so important that Islam would be unimportant without considering it.

Development in the Understanding of the Religion
Thus, a political rivalry entailed a great development in the understanding of the religion, which meant understanding the religion in the light of the early periods, i.e. those of the Senior Caliphs, the Companions, the Followers and especially the Senior Caliphs and the Companions. Although there were numerous factors involved, the most important and effective were indeed the same as those of Mu‘awiyah for destroying the personality of ‘Ali. His forgeries for disgracing ‘Ali, however, did not and could not survive although they were not ineffective either, especially in the first centuries; however, his forgeries for putting others at the same level as that of ‘Ali remained and were universally believed.
As we have mentioned before, one of the basic differences between the Shi‘ites and the Sunnis was and is their different perceptions of Islam. The Sunnis, contrarily to the Shi‘ites, accepted Mu‘awiyah’s actions consciously or subconsciously and finally accepted him. Therefore, they looked at Islam through its early history while the Shi‘ites looked at the early history of Islam according to the principles and criteria of Islam.85
Although later with the development of analysis and historical critique, mainly thanks to the Mu‘tazilites, the undisputable religious splendor of the early period was somehow broken, it was a transient flow and could not be continued due to numerous reasons, the most important of which was that the Mu‘tazilites came into being when the religious thought of the mass of the people had been formed. They wanted to reform beliefs that had been intermingled with the heart and soul of the people and based on which, their personalities had been formed. They naturally failed in doing so. Most probably, if they had come into being at an earlier time, they would have had more success.86
As we said, the core of Sunni religious belief in those and the later days is the same sacred attitude towards early Islamic history.87 If this collapsed, the basis of their beliefs would collapse. Therefore, neither the Mu‘tazilites nor any other group could confront it. The question was not which opinion was right and which wrong. The mentality of the masses of the people and a major part of the jurisprudents and scholars of the sayings had been formed in a way that required such an outlook.
Otherwise, both their faith and their personalities would collapse from within and this meant that no belief would exist to substitute the previous attitude. Accepting the Mu‘tazilite beliefs would mean the collapse of the entire structure of their beliefs. Neither were the Mu‘tazilites so reliable nor what they said was explicit and comprehensible to be blindly accepted by them, especially since the Mu‘tazilites did not have a stable and well-developed school and every one of them expressed a view different from those of the others.88
Finally, another important point to be added to this is that every faithful person, be he a Muslim or non-Muslim, has a conservative belief system. This is a requisite for religious faith and its outcome. He has accepted the religion and borne its limitations to reach otherworldly salvation. Because of this, he will choose faith if given two choices of faith or reason. The problem again is not that these two are opposite to each other or vice versa. The problem is discovering the characteristics of the mind and the thought of a faithful person or his attitude. When facing two beliefs one of which he deems to be according to the rules of the religion and the other one of which he deems to be according to reason, he will finally chose the former. In such cases, the religious precaution will never be overcome by rational precision.89
The Mu‘tazilites faced such a problem. This is a problem that many reformists today are facing as well and is the most important factor of why progressive reformist movements tend to be conservative although their views are rationally and logically superior to those of their rivals and are seemingly according to the religious rules as well. However, being suspicious about them, which was caused by the irresponsibility of some, and their disagreement with the heritage of those whom the people considered as righteous people, finally drove them out and made their rivals successful. It would be appropriate here to quote Ibn Abi’l-Hadid about some of their views about the Companions: “The Mu‘tazilites looked at the Companions and the Followers as they looked at the other people, i.e. individuals who sometimes made mistakes and sometimes were on the right path, who did things some of which are to be praised and some to be criticized. They did not fear adopting such a position while the others were not so because they had put the Companions and the great ones of the Followers in a position that could not be criticized.”
“The Mu‘tazilites said, ‘We see that some Companions criticize the others and some even cursed at the others. If the Companions were in such a position that was not to be criticized or cursed at, this would have to be inferred from their behavior towards each other because they knew each other better than the people of our time do while we see that Talhah, Zubayr, ‘A’ishah and their supporters refused to support ‘Ali and even opposed him. Mu‘awiyah and ‘Amru ibn al-‘As also fought against ‘Ali. ‘Umaru made a sarcastic remark to Abu Hurayrah because of the latter’s quoting a story and upbraided Khalid ibn Walid as a corrupt person while condemning ‘Amru ibn al-‘As and Mu‘awiyah of betrayal and theft from the public treasury. Basically, few people can be found among the Companions who were not subject to his action or remarks while many such examples can be found.
The Followers treated each other in a similar fashion to that of the Companions and made similar remarks about their offenders. However, the public put them in a high place in later times. The Companions are like the other people. We criticize their wrongdoers and praise their righteous ones. Their superiority to others is only because of experiencing the presence of the Prophet (S). Perhaps their sins are greater than those of the others because they closely witnessed the miracles and the signs of the truth of the religion and, therefore, our sins are lighter than theirs because we can be excused [on such grounds].”90
After quoting the above, Ahmad Amin says that the Mu‘tazilites freely criticized the deeds and words of the Companions and the Followers and revealed their contradictions. They even went so far as to criticize the Two Shaykhs. Then he mentions examples of their criticisms of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.91
Adopting such a position towards the Companions and the Followers were mainly or even entirely due to their rationalist tendencies. They did not want to accept anything that was said without reason or give any principle a priority higher than that given to reason. It was exactly because of this that the people said this about them and their opponents, “Backgammon is Ash‘arite and chess is the Mu‘tazilite.”, because the backgammon player relies on chance and destiny while a chess player relies on wits and struggle.”92

The Other Critics
Other than the Mu‘tazilites, there were also others who inclined towards intellectual liberalism and critically analyzed the early history of Islam and the time of the Companions and of the Followers. From among them, we can mention Ibn Khaldun. While talking about Islamic jurisprudence, he says, “… Apart from this, all the Companions were not experts on giving opinions or issuing fatwas and it was not possible to ask all of them regarding religious duties. This was limited to those who knew the Qur’an by heart and to those who were familiar with the nullifying [nasikh] and nullified [mansukh], similar [mutishabih] and explicit [muhkam] contents and the other guidelines of the Qur’an, because they had either learned these directly from the Prophet (S) or from their superiors.
Therefore, they were known as the Reciters [qurra’], i.e. one who recited the Qur’an because the Arabs were an illiterate nation, those who could read the Qur’an became known as the Readers, which seemed to be a strange thing to them at that time. In the early periods of Islam, this was the situation. After a while, Islamic cities developed and progressed and reached a splendid point and illiteracy was eliminated among the Arabs by insisting on the Book—the Qur’an—and inferences were made and the jurisprudence was completed and included among the techniques and the sciences. Then, the word to refer to someone who knew the Qur’an by heart changed and was replaced by ‘jurisprudent’ or scholar…”93
Ibn Hazm is among these individuals. Indeed he reaches a viewpoint similar to that of the Mu‘tazilites and Ibn Khaldun from a different stance. He is a scholar and jurisprudent of the Zahiri school, who limited the religious documents to the divine decrees and the consensus and rejected deduction. He reached such a point of view by rejecting the theory of ‘the right words’ and the ‘right deeds’, which were unanimously agreed on by Sunnis. In this regard, Muhammad Abu Zuhrah says, “Ibn Hazm believed that it was not permissible to imitate any person, be he one of the companions or otherwise, alive, or dead. He believed that deeming as true sayings which are attributed to the Companions, but are not approved by the Prophet’s tradition is an imitation that is not allowed in God’s religion because no saying shall be deemed as true, unless it is approved by the Book and the Tradition or a consensus of these two or a proof that is derived from the collection of these three.
Then, the Companions’ sayings cannot be considered as evidence because they were ordinary people. The like of this theory has been quoted from Shafi‘i. In this respect, he said, “How can I adopt the saying of him whom I would argue with if I had been living during his time.” However, it would be close to reality to say that Shafi‘i would accept the Companions sayings if all the Companions had a consensus on them while he would adopt one of their sayings, if they have varying opinions. No, that a saying is that of a Companion does not constitute sufficient ground for following it because no one’s saying is as valuable as that of God’s Prophet. As Malik ibn Anas said, “Everyone has said things some of which are rejected except by he who has made this speech.”94

The Intellectual and Ideological Consequences
Nevertheless, the problem is not just that Islam has to be looked at and studied out of the early Islamic history. More important than this was that this period was contradictory in itself in many ways. This is a period full of rivalry, conflicts and disputes, so far so that the great people of the time stood up against each other and had each other’s blood on their hands. If it was the best and the most sacred period and nothing but the realization of true Islam and its Muslims were the best and the noblest Muslims, why did they stand up and draw their swords against each other? How could two truths fight each other? Such considerations in practice influenced the formation of the jurisprudential and theological structure and the religious psychology of Sunnism more than, for example, accepting the principle that Islam has to be understood and interpreted according to the early Islamic history.95
To solve this problem, they had to resort to certain solutions. They were forced to say both were right and, despite their disputes and fights, both acted according to their duties and will, therefore, attain reward and enter into the Paradise. It is possible to justify one, two or several cases based on such a hypothesis and to say that there were mistakes in the actual manifestations. Yet, the problem is that the early Islamic history is full of such events and clashes and is nothing but the story of such rivalries and confrontations, especially among those about whom one cannot mention such doubts. This is a problem that not only strongly influenced the Sunni image of history as relating to those days, but also affected everything that somehow related to Islam.96
From this point of view, the history of those days and, consequently, that of the entire history of Islam is neither absolutely black nor absolutely white. Rather, it is gray. It is as if there was no certain criterion to judge the true or the false. Everybody is either absolutely right or somehow floating in a sort of truth without anyone being preferred to the others. More important than this is that judging their actions and behavior and criticizing the events were banned. The principle was that all were good and the difference in their behaviors was because of their differing knowledge rather than their faith or the other characteristics originating from their faith and, because of this, we are not allowed to question what they did and consider their actions for judging their truth. Thus, the mental, intellectual and psychological backgrounds to judge them according to the contradictions and to evaluate the issues based on their truth or falsehood were eliminated. This strongly influenced the jurisprudential and theological fundamentals of political discussions whether about imamate or caliphate or political and religious issues.97
The Sunni jurisprudential and theological structures and, consequently, the Sunni psycho-religious structure rely on the thought that, in competition between two Muslims, it is not possible for one to be absolutely right and the other to be absolutely wrong. This is in the first place due to their sacred view of the early history [of Islam] and its figures. This thought and this psychological structure has made problems within Sunnism in the present time. One can say that it is a new unprecedented problem because the Sunnis in the past never faced such a problem or at least it was not as severe as it is now. It is the modern life, society and history that have brought about such a problem with such severity.98
In the past, the need and urgency to respond to the revolutionary needs of the young generation were not so strong or serious or there was not such a problem at all or, if there was, it was not as extensive and forceful as it is now. Today, such a problem exists throughout the Third World and the Muslim countries and Islam cannot be indifferent to it, especially because the young Muslims in general, at least in the past two decades, have demanded Islam to respond. They require Islamic responses to their new needs because, in the first place, they deem such responses to be more appropriate for and more in harmony with their needs. In the second place, the religious obligation stops them from doing anything that is non-Islamic.99
It is precisely because of this that many revolutionary Sunni Islamic thinkers have been reviewing their historical thought in an attempt to find responses to their serious and urgent needs. This was intended to find a more explicit, decisive and helpful criterion for analyzing and evaluating themselves, so as to see the truth as the truth even if it has been distorted by others, and to stand up against falsehood and help the truth. Accepting the principle that the mask of Islam impedes straightforward judgment and decision-making is equal to accepting the illegality of any action against a ruling system that commits any crime or treason by resorting to Muslim appearances. So far as this principle, which is the result of recognizing the early Islamic history and protecting it against any criticism, has not collapsed, the problem will still be in place. It is because of this that Sunni jurisprudential and theological books have defined differently such subjects as allegiance [biy‘ah], consensus [ijma‘],religious authority [ijtihad], rejection [takhta’ah], acceptance [taswib], consensus of the People of Loosing and Binding [ahl-e hall wa ‘aqd], caliphate and the caliphs’ positions, guardianship [wilayat-e amr] and the need to obey the leader, and other subjects.100
Revolutionaries and thinkers who have attempted to develop their ideology by maintaining this principle have actually failed. They wanted to make up for their ideological weakness by relying on individual faith, perseverance and devotion. This is impossible, at least in our time. If the necessary condition for achieving sociopolitical goals is the perseverance and resistance of the revolutionaries, the sufficient condition is undoubtedly the ideology and strategy in harmony with the nature of its goals and the zeitgeist and which at the same time have the power to go on, resist and respond.101
The problem indeed does not have to be limited to what was said above. Recognizing early Islam events and protecting them from criticism prevents the necessary proper religious intellectual and scientific development that the Muslims need at this time. Only part of this problem is revolutionary and challenging while, even to respond to this need and to lead it to the right path, a development has to occur in the set of beliefs. More important is that, in order to study the different subjects critically, including the religion and the history of religion, which are among the most important needs of the modern era, a solution has to be considered. It is not possible to defend the faith of individuals against the critiques of the modern era only because of the insistence of the former on dogmas that originated from the consensus of the Muslims in a certain part of the history rather than the religion itself.
Every religion has a set of absolute non-criticizable values and dogmas. This is because of the nature of the religion and is not affected by the developments through time. However, this is not true about part of the beliefs that are rooted in the consensus among the believers rather than the religion itself and it cannot be defended forever against the scientific and historical criticisms. Resisting this critical current will entail escaping from religion or rebelling against its protectors and causing an ideological disorder.102
Apart from this, it was a principle that everything that happened in that period was nothing but the realization of true Islam, and, in order to find out about the applications and views of Islam in any respect which has an example in this era, one has to refer to that period. However, the important thing is that, in this time, there are sometimes various answers to a certain problem without any change in the conditions. Now, which answer has to be taken as true?
For example, as to the selection of the caliph, there were various examples. Abu Bakr recommended ‘Umar in his will while ‘Umar recommended six people in his will and determined how the caliph had to be selected from among them. Also, Abu Bakr’s caliphate in the beginning received the allegiance of a few people. This and many other examples, especially in jurisprudential and theological problems, which resulted in various answers to be given to a certain problem, which were occasionally contradictory, later created many problems for Sunni theologians and jurisprudents in terms of determining the justified criterion. All of this was because of recognizing the early Islamic history in its entirety.103
76. To understand the numerous points mentioned in the tradition, which shows the conditions of Shi‘ites in a period of one century, see Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah, vol. 11, p. 43.
77. Ibid., pp. 44-6.
78. Ibid., p. 46.
79. For example, see the poems of Umayyad poets in Al-Umawiyyun wa’l-Khilafah, pp. 15-21, and compare the same with the rejections of the ‘Abbasid poets in Murawwij adh-Dhahab, vol. 3, p. 43.
80. Goldziher, Muslim Studies, vol. 2, p. 115.
81. The Umayyad said the caliphate was a right belonging to them, which they inherited from ‘Uthman. ‘Uthman got it from the Council but he was killed unjustly and his right was ignored. The caliphate left his dynasty and was transferred to the others. It is their duty to go to war in order to return it. The poets supporting the Umayyad said this repeatedly on different occasions (Al-Umawiyyun wa’l-Khilafah, p. 13) and even spread the propaganda that the Umayyad inherited the caliphate from the Prophet (S). Ibid., p. 17.
This propaganda was so effective that it was widely believed in at least their main territory, i.e. Syria, until the fall of the Umayyad dynasty. Mas‘udi says in this regard, “After Marwan, the last of the Umayyad caliphs, was killed, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Ali came to Syria, where he selected a number of the senior and rich people to send to Saffah. They swore before Saffah that they did not know any family of the Prophet to be his inheritors other than the Umayyad. In this meeting, Ibrahim ibn Muhajir recited a poem that was later followed by the supporters of the ‘Abbasid, in which he sarcastically mentioned the ‘Abbasid rather than the Umayyad as the inheritors of the Prophet. Murawwij adh-Dhahab, vol. 3, p. 43.
82. Read the elaborate account of the story in Murawwij adh-Dhahab, vol. 2, pp. 406-9.
Interestingly, Professor Subhani considers this story as the source of the belief in the truth of the caliphs. “No trace of this belief can be found at the time of the Three Caliphs. None of the Immigrants or the Helpers would ever think that belief in anyone’s caliphate would be an obligation and that anyone not believing in their caliphate would not be a true believer and be a heretic.
This principle was created by such politics in order to harm ‘Ali and to legalize Mu‘awiyah’s rebellion in order to avenge ‘Uthman’s blood. Perhaps ‘Amru ibn al-‘As was the first person to cultivate such thought.” Then, he gives a full account of the story and concludes that, “This story and its likes indicate that belief in the caliphs’ right to caliphate was born in an atmosphere of hostility and rivalry so that a clever and deceitful person could use the belief in the right of the Two Shaykhs to caliphate as a ground for acknowledging (‘Uthman’s) right…” Al-Milal wa’n-Nihal, vol. 1, pp. 265-6.
83. An example of such a current can be found in Rijal hawl ar-Rasul. This current has affected even a liberated and modernist person such as Khalid Muhammad Khalid, the author of the book.
84. In his Sharh as-Sunnah, Barbahari says, “You shall believe that Abu Bakr and ‘Umar were buried in ‘A’ishah’s pavilion. When you come to the Prophet’s grave, then it is necessary to express greetings to those two after the Prophet.” Tabaqat al-Hanabilah, vol. 2, p. 35. Cf. the article on the Companions in Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam, p. 488, and also Al-‘Awasim min al-Qawasim, vol. 3, pp. 23-230.
85. This is one of the sensitive, fine and critical points rarely noticed by Shi‘ites and Sunnis. They talk to each other based on their principles and beliefs. One of the best examples is Dala’il as-Sidq by the late Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Muzaffar, which is a rejection on Ibtal al-Batil by Fadl ibn Ruzbihan, the latter also being a rejection of Nahj al-Haqq by ‘Allamah Hilli. By reflecting on the text and the rejection of ibn Ruzbihan and then the critique of the late Muzaffar on him, one finds out that some of the discussions are based on two absolutely different foundations, while each of them has looked at the issue through their own beliefs and has criticized the other party on the same basis.
86. For example, see the elaborate introduction of Abu Ridah on Rasa’il al-Kindi.
87. ‘Abd al-Hadi Ha’iri thus quotes Watt, the well-known British orientalist, on why Sadr the First was sanctified, “It was in the late decades of the 9/3 century that the Muslims clearly found out that the only way to protect their Islamic identity was for them to depend on the past history of Islam or, at least, that of the first periods.
In the late years of the same century, most of those who were involved in various religious movements accepted Sunnism with all its differences. This meant that all the companions of the Prophet of Islam, including ‘Uthman, whose qualification for caliphate was strongly doubted by groups of the earlier Muslims, had to be respected…” Majalleh-ye Daneshkadeh-ye Adabiyyat wa ‘Ulum-e Insani (Journal of Faculty of Literature and Humanities), Mashhad, serial no. 56, p. 733.
88. One of the big problems of the Mu‘tazilites was that they developed the final form of their beliefs exactly at a time when they were on decline due to various political, social, intellectual and religious reasons. The peak of this matury can be found in the books of Qadi ‘Abd al-Jabbar, except for Al-Mughanni, which was ignored by Sunni scholars despite its significance, and it was only in the 50’s of the present century that it was discovered in Yemen, the center for Mu‘tazilite Zaydis. See Al-Usul al-Khamsah, which is among the best books on Mu‘tazilite thought and is more than any of its preceding books based on religious and Qur’anic foundations.
If these and similar books had stepped on the scene earlier or at least simultaneously with the books of Abu’l-Hasan Ash‘ari, the Ash‘arites would not have had such absolute hegemony. Regarding how the Ash‘arites entered on the scene and why they succeeded, see his interview with the senior man of the Hanbalites of Baghdad, Barbahari in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah, vol. 2, pp. 18-9.
89. See the dialog between Ibn Hanbal and Mu‘tasim in Rijal al-Fikr wa’d-Da‘wah fi’l-Islam by Abu’l-Hasan Nadwi, pp. 118-20, and especially Manaqib al-Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal by al-Jawzi, pp. 397-437, the story of whose discussions with Mu‘tasim and Wathiq are elaborately provided.
90. Duha al-Islam, vol. 3, pp. 75-6, quoted from Sharh Ibn Abi’l-Hadid, vol. 4, p. 454.
91. Duha al-Islam, vol. 3, pp. 86-8.
92. Ibid., p. 89.
93. Ibn Khaldun’s Introduction, vol. 2, pp. 907-8.
94. Ibn Hazm, Hayatuhu wa ‘Asruhu, ’Ara’uhu wa Fiqhuhu, pp. 483-5, and also Goldziher, The Zahiris, Their Doctrine and their History, pp. 190-207.
95. As we have already said, apart from Shi‘ites, it was the Mu‘tazilites who had a critical attitude towards the early history. Fajr al-Islam, pp. 266-78. There were the Traditionists and the Hanbalites, who thought about nothing but sanctifying that period of history and its statesmen. “As the history of the Umayyad was written during the ‘Abbasid era, who were their enemies, their virtues were not mentioned. However, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal mentioned some virtues of the Umayyad, which has made the orientalists praise his leadership and bravery.” Duha al-Islam, vol. 2, p. 122.
This method of Ibn Hanbal, which was contrary to that of his time, originated merely in his dogmatic belief in the truth of that period of history and its statesmen. In this respect, see Al-A’immah al-Arba‘ah, vol. 4, p. 117. Other than this group, Sunni scholars in general had an intermediate stance. Al-Iqtisad fi’l-I‘tiqad, pp. 203-5.
Cf. Gibb’s views.
96. In regards to how Ijtihad and exegesis [ta’awwul] were used as means to acquit those who had done something wrong, see the introduction by Sayyid Muhammad Taqi Hakim on An-Nass wa’l-Ijtihad and the book itself and on what ijtihad means and where it can be applied, see Al-Ghadir, vol. 9, pp. 341-9.
It would be appropriate here to mention an example. When Khalid Ibn Walid killed Malik Ibn Nuwayrah in order to seize his wife and then returned to Medina, ‘Umar asked Abu Bakr to avenge him, Abu Bakr said, “I will not kill him because he made ijtihad and made an error.” Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm, p. 179. This concept was later used widely both to acquit criminals and to acquit their historical heritage and to organize the historical, jurisprudential and theological perceptions of the Sunnis. For example, see the chapter on the virtues of Khalid Ibn Walid in Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 13, pp. 366-80.
Doubtless, one of the necessary things for such organizing is to extend the scope of ijtihad in the first place and, in the second place, to interpret and justify the disputes that had arisen between two trustworthy persons. For example, on the causes of the dispute between ‘Umar and Khalid Ibn Walid, Sha‘bi, who is one of the great jurisprudents of the late first century and has an effective role in the organizing of Sunni jurisprudential and theological thought, says, “Khalid was ‘Umar’s cousin. The two had quarreled with each other in childhood. Khalid broke ‘Umar’s calf, which was healed sometime later. This was a reason for hostility between the two.” Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 13, p. 369. Also see ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab by ‘Abdu’l-Karim al-Khatib, pp. 424-40.
On the interpretation and justification of Jamal and Siffin wars during which the most prominent of the people went to war with each other, without offending or questioning any of the figures, see Manaqib al-Khulafa al-Arba‘ah fi Mu’allifat ash-Shi‘ah by ‘Abdu’s-Sattar at-Tunisi, pp. 64-70, and also Al-Bid‘ah: Tahdiduha wa Mawqif al-Islam minha, pp. 25-61 by ‘Izzat ‘Ali ‘Atiyyah, especially Al-‘Awasim min al-Qawasim and especially in this respect see the footnotes of Muhibb ad-Din Khatib, a book which is a masterpiece in religious and historical justification and interprets and justifies even the most apparent historical and religious facts in a way different from their reality. For example, see the justification on Mu‘awiyah’s command to kill Hajr ibn ‘Uday, pp. 211-3 and the footnote of Khatib on page 212; and also see Khatib’s defending Yazid, p. 214; also see pp. 244-51, on which Ibn ‘Arabi condemns all historians except Tabari and for example why stories of corruptions of the caliphs have been told; also see I. Goldziher, The Zahiris, pp. 3-13; and the views of Ibn Hazm on sententia, deduction and causal determination.
97. For example, see the views of Ibn Hanbal on early Muslims. Al-A’immah al-Arba‘ah, vol. 4, p. 117, and compare them with his political thoughts and beliefs. Ibid., pp. 119-20, and especially see Sharh as-Sunnah by Barbahari, the great Hanbalite scholar of the 4th century in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah, pp. 18-45. Also see Al-Ibanah ‘an Usul ad-Diyanah by Abu’l-Hasan Ash‘ari, pp. 45-141.
98. The principle is not about judging the people of the past, their behavior and the argument, opinion or stance of each. The problem is that the honesty and truth of the parties is evident and, therefore, one has to justify the actions taken. For example, see the Persian translation of Ayyuha’l-Walad by Ghazali, pp. 30-1.
99. The tendency towards revolution and armed movements among the contemporary Muslim youth can be studied in Al-Faridah al-Gha’ibah by ‘Abdu’s-Salam Faraj, an Islamic Jihad theoretician who was executed in recent years. In a part of his book, after rejecting all the recommended and experimented solutions for Islamicizing the society, including establishing Islamic political parties, bringing up a generation of Muslim educated people to take care of the affairs, guiding the people and publicizing the religion, immigrating to another place to provide the ground for returning conqueringly and the like, he says, “In Islamic countries, the enemy is from within. In fact, it is he who has the command and is represented by governments that have taken the power away from the Muslims.
This is why everybody must enter into the jihad.” After providing some explanations, he adds, “In order to implement God’s commands, one has to create an Islamic government. We do not insist on this or that result. The collapse of the infidel regime will provide everything to the Muslims.’ The Prophet and the Pharaoh, pp. 242-7.
100. Sa‘d ad-Din Ibrahim thus describes the most important characteristic of Muslim fighters in Egypt in the 1970’s and 1980’s, “The practical violence of a group that has risen against the government and the others who act in the name of Islam.” Asaf Husayn, Islamic Movements, p. 29.
101. From among the Islamic intellectuals and writers, probably the first one who, in his words, tried to remove the mask of hypocrisy from the face of rulers pretending to be Islamic while in fact opposing it was Sayyid Qutb, especially in his last and most important book, Ma‘alim fi’t-Tariq, which was later subject to much criticism and was not entirely accepted other than by young people with revolutionary tendencies. Even Hasan al-Hadibi, the leader of Ikhwan al-Muslimin of Egpyt, explicitly criticized it in his Du‘at li-Iqdat, and Yusuf al-‘Azm, the best-known Ikhwanite scholar, criticized some of his thoughts in his Ra’id al-Fikr al-Islami al-Mu‘asir.
However, the conditions in the 1970’s and 1980’s provided an appropriate ground for expansion and influence of his thoughts. In practice, all contemporary Islamic movements that have taken place in the Sunni and especially the Arab World have been influenced by the thoughts of Sayyid Qutb, whether they were accepted in their totality or not. However, this does not mean that they could not achieve a challenging ideology that was at the same time Islamic. They started out from a dead end, therefore, could not and cannot get anywhere. They cannot and shall not ignore their ideological principles to establish their ideology on foundations other than that. They can provide a different interpretation of these principles but cannot put them aside. When they do so, they will be criticized and they will not have any satisfactory solution and their ideology will not have a chance to succeed or continue.
Their other mistake is that they tried to insist on the faith, persistence and devotion of the revolutionaries to guarantee achieving their goals. This is basically a wrong perception. They have deemed a part as the whole and tried to escape the dead end by emphasizing on it. It is strange that this mistake on their part is like that of the non-Islamic revolutionary groups. For example, the Fada’iyan-e Khalq (Devotees of the People) before the victory of the revolution in Iran had been deluded by a similar mistake. They criticized the Tudeh party members of Musaddiq’s time because of lack of persistence and thought that the only way to achieve victory was persistence and devotion. See the books written by Juz’i, Ahmadzadeh and Safa’i Farahani, especially the first one of the three. Also see Idi’ulozhi wa Inqilab (Ideology and the Revolution), pp. 212-20. On the importance of Ma‘alim fi’t-Tariq and the different views expressed about it, see Sayyid Qutb by ‘Abdullah ‘Awad, pp. 325-9.
102. On the attempts of the new generation to liberate from religious dogmatism, see As-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah bayn Ahl al-Fiqh wa Ahl al-Hadith, especially pp. 7-12, by Muhammad al-Ghazali, one of the best-known religious scholars of the present time. Also see Mufassal min al-‘Aqidah ila’th-Thawrah in five volumes, which is written by one of the best-informed contemporary intellectuals, Hasan Hanafi, especially vol. 1, pp. 7-47.
103. For example, see Al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah, pp. 5-21 and Al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah by Abu Ya‘la, pp. 19-28.


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