New Analysis of Wahhabi Doctrines

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SHAFAQNA- A text that examines fundamental Wahhabi beliefs in comparison to those of the Ahlus Sunnah and the Shi`ah. Topics discussed within include a summarized account of the life of Shaykh Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, one of the prominent figures of this movement, and some of the major ideological issues in which Wahhabis deviate from mainstream Muslims (like Tawassul, Ziyarah, Ta’wil of the Qur’an, etc.).

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Published by: ABWA Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly Publishing and Printing Center; First Printing: 2007; Printed by: Layla Press; Copies: 3,000; ISBN: 964-529-137-2; www.ahl-ul-bayt.org; info@ahl-ul-bayt.org; All Rights Reserved

Preface

In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-Merciful

The precious legacy left behind by the Holy Prophet’s Household {ahl al-bayt} (May peace be upon them all) and their followers’ preservation of this legacy from the menace of extinction is a perfect example of the all-encompassing school {maktab} that embraces all the different branches of Islamic knowledge. This school has been able to train many talented personalities by quenching them with this gushing fountain.

This school has presented scholars to the Muslim ummah who, by following the Holy Prophet’s Household (‘a), have occupied the station of clarifying doubts and skepticism put forth by various creeds and intellectual currents both inside and outside Muslim society. Throughout the past centuries, they have presented the firmest answers and solutions to these doubts.

Anchored in the responsibilities it is shouldering, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly has embarked upon defending the sanctity of risalah {message} and its authentic beliefs—truths which have always been opposed by the chiefs and leaders of anti-Islamic sects, religions and trends. In this sacred path, the Assembly regards itself as a follower of the upright pupils of the school of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a)—those who have always been ready to refute those accusations and calumnies and have tried to be always in the front line of this struggle on the basis of the expediencies of time and space.

The experiences in this field, which contained the books of scholars belonging to the school of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), are unique in their own right. It is because these experiences have been based upon knowledge {‘ilm} and the preeminence of the intellect and reasoning, and at the same time, they are completely devoid of blind prejudice, whim and caprice. These experiences address experts, scholars and thinkers in a manner that appeals to healthy minds and the pure human natural disposition {fitrah}.

In a bid to assist those who are in quest of truth, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly has endeavored to enter a new phase of these worthy experiences within the framework of research and translating the works of contemporary Shi’ah writers or those who, through divine guidance, have embraced this noble school.

The Assembly is also engaged in the study and publication of the valuable works of pious predecessors and outstanding Shi`ah personalities so that those who search for the truth may quench their thirst from this refreshing fountain by listening and embracing this truth, which the the Holy Prophet’s Household (‘a) has offered as a gift to the entire world.

It is hoped that our dear readers would not deprive the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly of their valuable opinions, suggestions and constructive criticisms in this arena.

We also invite scholars, translators and other institutions to assist us in propagating the pure Muhammadan (s) Islam.

We ask God, the Exalted, to accept this humble effort and enhance it further under the auspices of His vicegerent on earth, give us success to al-Mahdi (may Allah, the Exalted, expedite his glorious advent).

It is appropriate here to express our utmost gratitude to Hujjat al-Islam wa’l-Muslimin Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Ibrahimi for writing the book, and to Mr. Mansoor Limba for translating it, as well as all our honorable colleagues in accomplishing this task especially our close associates in the Translation Office for undertaking this responsibility.

Cultural Affairs Department

The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly

Introduction

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Twelve years ago, the book, Tahlili Nu bar ‘Aqa’id Wahhabiyyan {A New Analysis of Wahhabi Doctrines}, was written and it has been so far printed three times by the Publication Center of the Islamic Propagation Office of the Islamic Seminary in Qum.

With the help of God, a review of its content was undertaken for its fourth printing and new chapters and issues were added.

The distinctive features of this book

This book examines Wahhabi beliefs in the light of the beliefs of the Ahl as-Sunnah and the Shi`ah.1 It endeavors to discuss their main ideological issues. The quotations in this book are cited from books published in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina such as the following:

1. Fath al-Majid written by Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, one of the prominent figures of this movement, with a commentary by Shaykh ‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn al-Hasan al ash-Shaykh and footnotes by ‘Abd Allah ibn Baz.

2. Al-As’ilah wal-Ajwibah al-Usuliyyah written by ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Muhammad Sultan.

3. At-Tawhid bi’l-Lughah al-Farisiyyah (No. 27) published by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Endowments in 1374 AHS (circa 1995) and distributed freely to Iranian pilgrims.

In addition to these references, other sources written by Sunni and Shi`ah Imami ‘ulama‘ in general, and Wahhabis in particular, are cited in the footnotes.

This book contains an examination of the views and outlook of the Wahhabis regarding the Shi`ah and the infallible Imams (‘a).2 Be that as it may, it does not mean that intellectually, ideologically, and even politically and socially, the Wahhabis have no clash with the Ahl as-Sunnah. In this book, we will also deal with this point.

Is Wahhabism a movement?

Many socio-religious reforms and movements have already emerged among Muslims. Some of them are purely political such as those involved in changing the types of governments regardless of whether or not a preference for a particular type of government exists. Some others are purely religious and their concern is only reform in religious and ideological content. Yet, others have been religious and socio-political such as the Islamic Revolution in Iran. These types of movements cannot be regarded as mere reformist movements as they have affected all aspects of life—religious, personal, social, etc. Indeed, the very word “revolution” is the best label for these kinds of movements.

In reply to the question being posed, it must be said that the truth of the matter is that Wahhabism is merely a political movement that emerged within a religious-ideological framework, and it has brought about a particular social outcome. Of course, the final view must be expressed by social and political scientists.

Explanation of some points

Wahhabism has been labeled with many various names among which is the appellation, ”Salafiyyah”. This name is used because they believe that for the reformation of their religion and beliefs, the present Muslims must go back to the early period of Islam (”salaf” means the past or preceding one). Ibn Taymiyyah has introduced the issue of ”salaf” and his statements are a source of Wahhabi doctrines.

By “Wahhabism” it means that Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab must be followed in socio-political and religious issues because he has taught his followers the way to reform religion and society. The members of these two sects, Wahhabism and Salafism, are followers of the madhhab {school of thought} of Ahmad ibn Hanbal. This group can also be called the ”Zahiriyyah” because in interpreting the passages of the Qur’an and traditions, they content themselves with the outward {zahir} content of the texts. For example, when the Qur’an says:

﴿وَجَاءَ رَبُّك وَالْمَلَك صفًّا صفًّا﴾

And Your Lord and the angels arrive in ranks,3

They interpret it as saying that God will also arrive on the Day of Resurrection in such a way that the people can see Him!

This writing contains subjects that explain the above headings and expresses the Shi`ah Imami beliefs regarding those subjects. At any rate, I will try to make it simple, easy-to-read and devoid of complex reasoning. It is hoped that this work will be acceptable to God, the Exalted, and approved by Hadrat Sahib al-Amr {His Holiness Master of the Affair} (Imam al-Mahdi) (‘a).

Muhammad Husayn Ibrahimi

Islamic Seminary of Qum

1379 AHS (Circa 2000)

  • 1.
    In this volume, I have used the word “Shi‘ah” to refer to both the group (single collective unit) and the individuals constituting the group (plural). [Trans.]
  • 2.
    The abbreviation, “‘a” stands for the Arabic invocative phrase, ‘alayhis-salam, ‘alayhimus-salam, or ‘alayhas-salam [may peace be upon him/them/her], which is used after the names of the prophets, angels, Imams from the Prophet’s progeny, and saints (‘a). [Trans.]
  • 3.
    Surat al-Fajr 89:22. In this volume, the translation of Qur’anic passages is adapted from Sayyid ‘Ali Quli Qara’i, The Qur’an with a Phrase-by-Phrase English Translation (London: Islamic College for Advanced Studies Press, 2004). [Trans.]

Islam as the School of Unity

The Holy Qur’an invites all human beings to unity—Muslims, Christians, Jews, etc.—and this invitation is not exclusive for the time of the Prophet (s) or a certain group of the People of the Book {ahl al-kitab}:1

﴿قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ تَعَالَوْا إِلَى كَلِمَةٍ سَوَاءٍ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمْ أَلاَّ نَعْبُدَ إِلاَّ اللَّهَ وَلاَ نُشْرِكَ بِهِ شَيْئًا وَلاَ يَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُنَا بَعْضًا أَرْبَابًا مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ.﴾

Say, ‘O People of the Book! Come to a word common between us and you: that we will worship no one but Allah, and that we will not ascribe any partner to Him, and that we will not take each other as lords besides Allah’.2

The Glorious Qur’an speaks about the synagogue, temple, church and mosque in the same line because the Name of God is mentioned in all of them. As such, they must be held in high esteem and respect.

Although the blessed verse quoted invites all to unity, the greater emphasis is on the solidarity of Muslims. This is because, in addition to their unity and commonality in tawhid {unity of God}, prophethood {nubuwwah} qiblah {the direction where one faces for prayer and other acts of worship}, etc., Muslims also have a commonality with some branches of religion. Thus, among the followers of the various religions, Muslims are more deserving of having unity, and thus the possibility of scientific, cultural, political and other interactions among them is stronger. {the direction where one faces for prayer and other acts of worship}, etc., Muslims also have a commonality with some branches of religion. Thus, among the followers of the various religions, Muslims are more deserving of having unity, and thus the possibility of scientific, cultural, political and other interactions among them is stronger. {the direction where one faces for prayer and other acts of worship}, etc., Muslims also have a commonality with some branches of religion. Thus, among the followers of the various religions, Muslims are more deserving of having unity, and thus the possibility of scientific, cultural, political and other interactions among them is stronger.

Keeping aloof from spitefulness

The life conduct {sirah} of the Holy Prophet (s)3 serves as a proof, guideline and model for all of us. Through compassion, magnanimity and endeavor, he (s) was able to unify the people of Hijaz,4 most of whom had been idol-worshipers, under the banner of Islam.

After their acceptance of Islam, some of them, known as the munafiqun {hypocrites}, engaged in open confrontation with the Prophet (s) who had to deal with them. They were those who ostensibly embraced Islam but in intention and practice they were not assisting him (s). In spite of this, the Prophet (s) peacefully associated with them and his objectives were the accomplishment of the mission as well as imparting the understanding and implementation of the Holy Qur’an. The very same conduct was adopted by the infallible Imams (‘a) and they never kindled the flame of discord among Muslims.

We can see that although ‘Ali (‘a) had reproached the earlier caliphs as recorded in Nahj al-Balaghah,5 in other instances he would laud them. All this was primarily to foster the freedom of thought and the spread of Islamic beliefs. The conclusion is that in the present age, indulging in magnifying Sunni-Shi`ah differences, apart from not being useful, will result in an irreparable loss.

Proximity between Sunnis and Shi`ah advances the interests of both. The Shi`ah in particular have not confined their thought, culture, jurisprudence {fiqh}, exegesis of the Qur’an {tafsir}, and beliefs to themselves and their seminaries. A survey of Muslim-populated countries substantiates this statement as the books of great Shi`ah figures such as Shaykh al-Mufid, Shaykh at-Tusi, ‘Allamah Hilli, ‘Allamah Tabataba’i, and Professor Mutahhari can be easily found in these countries.

The proximity of Sunnis and Shi`ah opens the ways for the spread of Shi`ah thought and culture in the Muslim world, and as a result, makes the further proximity of these two sects even more possible.

More than anyone else, the Wahhabis are apprehensive and endangered by this proximity. It is for this reason that during the Hajj season, they prohibit the entry into the country all religious books including the Qur’an (in Persian translation), tafsir, history and hadith books, and even Iranian magazines and newspapers. This is because they are afraid that these printed materials would present facts against their particular policy and doctrines. This is in spite of the fact that those matters are never repugnant to the truth of Islam.

In terms of outlook, they oppose not only the Shi`ah but also the four Sunni schools of thought. They write books against the proximity of Sunnis and Shi`ah, campaigning against it, regarding it as an impossible venture, and claiming thus: “We shall never have an understanding with those who are engaged in speculative interpretation of the verses of the Qur’an and who disrespect the two sheikhs {shaykhayn}.”

Why Wahhabism should be identified

The anti-unity campaign of Wahhabis reaches its peak during the Unity Week.6 One of the best means of replying to such a plot is that the ‘ulama‘ of the Hajj caravans and pilgrims should be the promoters of unity more than anyone else. They should be familiar with the methods of dealing with them and understand their views and opinions so that during confrontations and argumentation’s, they could reply to them consciously and intellectually.

It is necessary for some Muslims who are following the Sunni school to be properly informed about the opinions of the Sunni imams so as to realize that the Wahhabis also have views difference to them and even regard many of the beliefs of the Ahl as-Sunnah as polytheistic and, worse still, prone to infidelity {kufr}. In reality, Wahhabism is a political movement under the religious cover of identifying with the Sunnis and it wants to prevent the unity of the Islamic schools of thought {madhahib}. It is trying to kindle the flame of discord among Muslims especially between the two main sects—Sunni and Shi`ah—so as to make the imperialist hegemony permanent over the Muslim nation.

Unfortunately, with the acquisition of the oil-rich land of Arabia and reliance on the enormous God-given wealth, Wahhabism has succeeded in becoming a potent force and has established innumerable offices and organizations throughout the world for the propagation of its dogma. In the Sunni-populated regions of Iran and Pakistan where most of the people are suffering from poverty and deprivation, the Wahhabis are making huge investments, constructing religious schools {madaris}, spending large amounts of money upon their students and others, and attracting people to Wahhabi doctrines. Since most of our Sunni brothers are living on the border regions of Iran, they are more subjected to the influence of the propaganda of the imperialist Wahhabis.

As the ‘Alawi Shi`ah and Muhammadi Sunnis have risen up now hand in hand against their enemies and can clearly see the hand of imperialism behind the curtain of Wahhabism, it is necessary for Sunni and Shi`ah ‘ulama‘ to conduct research about Wahhabism and identify it well so as to make it clear that this group has differences of opinion not only with the Shi`ah but also with the Ahl as-Sunnah. Although the Wahhabis are always playing the Sunni card and try to portray themselves as the well-wishers and sympathizers of the Sunnis, Sunnis in turn have to know that the issues regarded by Wahhabis as their points of departure with the Shi`ah are the same issues that are common between the Sunnis and the Shi`ah. They also have to know that the Shi`ah school is closer to the Ahl as-Sunnah than Wahhabism is.

Leaders and Unity

During the past decades, there were figures who regarded the unity of Muslims as their ideal and aspiration, but they did not realize this precious aspiration, or if they ever took steps for its realization, they were very insignificant and rudimentary. In the recent period, the late Ayatullah Burujerdi (r)7 gave an affirmative reply to this aspiration by approving the Jami’ah at-Taqrib bayn al-Madhahib al-Islamiyyah {University or Forum for the proximity of the Islamic schools of thought}.

There have been other ‘ulama’ and fuqaha who upheld the approach of the late Burujerdi. In this context, the viewpoint and outlook of the late Hadrat8 Imam Khomeini (r) and his efforts are well known to all. At the present time also, in a bid to extend the scope of this unity further, Ayatullah Khamene’i (may his sublime presence endure) has issued a decree for reviving the foundation of unity and the forum for proximity, which is itself worthy of gratitude and a source of hope.

It is appropriate for us to note at this juncture that the Shi`ah ‘ulama‘ and fuqaha of the past, such as Shaykh al-Mufid (d. 413 AH), Sayyid Murtadha ‘Alam al-Huda (d. 436 AH), and Shaykh at-Tusi (d. 460 AH), among others, have also emphasized unity between Sunnis and Shi`ah, and have written valuable books on this subject such as al-Khilaf which enumerates the common points of belief between the two groups. ‘Allamah Hilli has also written a book on the basis of the jurisprudence {fiqh} of the Shi`ah and the four Sunni schools.

All these are proofs for the proximity of jurisprudential views of the two schools and of the interest of leading figures in jurisprudence in establishing mutual understanding. Of course, at the present time there are treatises on jurisprudence written by Sunnis in which the views of the Sunnis and the Shi`ah on the branches of religion and jurisprudence have been compared. For example, the books Mawsu’ah Jamal ‘Abd al-Nasir and Al-Fiqh ‘ala’l-Madhahib al-Khamsah can be cited.

  • 1.
    People of the Book [ahl al-Kitab]: the respectful title given to the Jews and Christians in the Qur’an. [Trans.]
  • 2.
    Surat Al ‘Imran 3:64.
  • 3.
    The abbreviation, “s”, stands for the Arabic invocative phrase, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa alihi wa sallam [may God’s salutation and peace be upon him and his progeny], which is used after the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s). [Trans.]
  • 4.
    Hijaz: the region in Western Arabia bordering the Red Sea that includes Ta’if, Mecca and Medina. Here, it alludes to the entire Arabian Peninsula. [Trans.]
  • 5.
    Nahj al-Balaghah (The Peak of Eloquence) is a collection of speeches, sayings and letters of the Commander of the Faithful, Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (‘a) compiled by Sharif ar-Radi Muhammad ibn al-Husayn (d. 406 AH/1016). The contents of the book concern the three essential topics of God, man and the universe, and include comments on scientific, literary, social, ethical, and political issues. With the exception of the words of the Glorious Qur’an and of the Holy Prophet (s), no words of man can equate it in eloquence. So far, more than 101 exegeses have been written on Nahj al-Balaghah, indicating the importance of this treatise to scholars and learned men of research and investigation. For more information, visit: http://www.al-islam.org/nahjul [12]. [Trans.]
  • 6.
    12-17 Rabi‘ al-Awwal. [Trans.]
  • 7.
    The abbreviation, “r” stands for the Arabic invocative phrase, rahmatullah ‘alayhi, rahmatullah ‘alayha, or rahmatullah ‘alayhim [may peace be upon him/her/them], which is used after the names of pious people. [Trans.]
  • 8.
    Hadrat: The Arabic word Hadrat is used as a respectful form of address. [Trans.]

The Life Account of Shaykh Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Ibn Sa‘ud

A cursory glance at the life account of Shaykh Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab

In this section, we deemed it fitting to take a survey of the life of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, known as the Shaykh, and Muhammad Sa’ud.

The sons and grandsons of the Shaykh are still living in the Arabia, some of whom are known by the family name, “Al ash-Shaykh”. The children of Muhammad Al as-Sa’ud some of whom are holding the reins of government in Arabia are known as “al Sa’ud”. The country had been known before as “Hijaz”, but it was changed into the “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” {al-Mamlakah al-‘Arabiyyah Sa’udiyyah} during the reign of King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz.

Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab came from the region of Najd who was born in 1114 AH in one of the cities of Najd named as ”’Ayniyyah”. His father, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Wahhab, was a scholar {‘alim} and the judge {qadi} of that region. As such, the creed of Shaykh Muhammad had been ascribed to his father. After learning the basics of religion from his father, Shaykh Muhammad went to Medina and learned from the ‘ulama‘ of that region.

Due to his personal interpretations of some issues regarding belief and his opposition to the ‘ulama‘ of Medina, he was expelled from the city. He then went to Iraq where he stayed in Basrah. In that city he got acquainted with a person named Shaykh Muhammad Majmu’i and adopted his ideas. Finally, the two believed in a certain creed.

The other ‘ulama‘ of Basrah and the believers of the region that were mainly of Iranian origin, had opposed him and ousted him from Basrah.

When Shaykh Muhammad was driven out of Basrah, he proceeded to Damascus, which had a pleasant climate, but because of his unusual belief and difficulties in life he was unable to remain there. Since he could not return to Medina or Mecca, he went back to the Najd of his father, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Wahhab, who was then still the ‘alim of the region.

The Shaykh had a brother named Shaykh Sulayman ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab who was at loggerheads with him in terms of belief. His brother was the first person to write a book refuting his doctrines. His father also opposed him and sided with Shaykh Sulayman. In addition to the opposition of his father and brother, he also faced the opposition of ‘ulama‘, and this dispute continued until the death of his father.

Shaykh Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab after the death of his father

After the death of his father, Shaykh Muhammad enjoyed great freedom in propagating his doctrines and views. As such, he went to other places and become acquainted with ‘Uthman ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad, who was then the emir of ‘Ayniyyah, and married his daughter Jawharah. Although it is said that the people there accepted some of his beliefs, because he went to extremes in opposing their customs, they expelled him from the region. For instance, he had ordered the destruction of a dome belonging to Zayd ibn al-Khattab, brother of ‘Umar. He had also issued a decree for an old tree, which was venerated by the people of the region, to be uprooted.

In sum, on account of his peculiar doctrines, among which was his disregard for the leaders of the Ahl as-Sunnah, the Shaykh lost his esteem in the people’s sight and earned their wrath. From there he went to the region of Dar’iyyah.

Nowadays, pilgrims—Iranian and non-Iranian—can still see the relics related to the rule of ‘Uthman in Arabia such as the holy shrine of the Holy Prophet (s) and the graves surrounding it, the lanterns of Masjid an-Nabi, and the inscriptions on that sacred mosque.

The children and students of Shaykh Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab

Shaykh Muhammad had a number of sons and daughters and married one of his daughters to Muhammad ibn Sa’ud, the tribal chief. His sons, Husayn, ‘Abd Allah and Ibrahim, became judges after their father. Even now, his sons, one after another, hold religious positions in Saudi Arabia.

During his lifetime, apart from training students, the Shaykh wrote some books which nowadays have caught the attention of ‘ulama‘ and students of the region. These books are as follows:

1. Kitab at-Tawhid; a collection of his doctrines;

2. Kitab Kashf ash-Shubahat, which is written in defense of his doctrines vis-à-vis Sunni ‘ulama‘;

3. The merits and issues of some stories in the Qur’an;

4. Kitab al-Kaba’ir, which has been written about the major sins;

5. Masa’il al-Jahiliyyah, in which he compares the pre-Islamic period of ignorance of Arabia with his own time;

6. Fawa’id as-Sirah an-Nabawiyyah, which is well-known as Sirat ar-Rasul. This book examines the entire course of the lives of some Companions of the Prophet (s), his battles and the prevalent beliefs during that time;

7. Ikhtisar ash-Sharh al-Kabir; and

8. Adab al-Mashyi ila’s-Salah (These two books have been written about issues related to jurisprudence and the branches of religion).

These books are still available at the present.

The Death of Shaykh Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab

After engaging in religious and political debates, successive travels to a number of cities in the Muslim world, and enduring the wrath and anger of the ‘ulama‘, Shaykh Muhammad was able to find his own supporters and votaries, who are nowadays known as the Wahhabis.

According to historical sources which have been written in his praise and appreciation and negating the deviant nature of his doctrines, the Shaykh passed away in 1206 AH at the age of 92 in Dar’iyyah after traveling to Basrah, Najaf, Karbala’, and probably, Isfahan and Shiraz.

In short, after the death of the Shaykh, his beliefs and views were promoted and propagated with the support and blessing of external and domestic political brokers in such a manner that at the present, most of the current rulers of Arabia and a number of religious scholars and judges there follow him and other Muslim countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and boarder communities in Iran have come under the influence of these doctrines. The Wahhabis are spreading this creed in the various countries in Europe, America and Asia by building mosques and libraries, printing copies of the Holy Qur’an, dispatching religious missionaries, and the like.

This creed is called Wahhabism derived from the name of the Shaykh’s father. Although the Shaykh seemed to be a follower of the Hanbali school of thought, the truth of the matter is that he was not so, and he was distinctively different from the other ‘ulama’. In fact, he regarded himself as free to think, choose and formulate his own beliefs pertaining to religion. Since he considered himself an initiator of a new set of beliefs, he expressed his beliefs in the following points:

1. He treated all Muslims as infidels or polytheists while thinking of himself as the true Muslim;

2. He declared visiting the graves and constructing domes and courtyards around the cemetery of the Companions of the Prophet (s) and his descendants as unlawful {haram};

3. He regarded making vows, requests and offering sacrificial animals beside the shrine of saints {awliya‘} as unlawful;

4. He used to reckon as haram entreating {istighathah} and resorting to the inter mediation {tawassul} of the saints of God;

5. He considered it obligatory to wage jihad against those who opposed his creed, saying: “Wage war against the infidels and polytheists until there is no more sedition {fitnah} and the religion is solely for God:

﴿وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّى لا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ.﴾

Fight them until faithlessness is no more.1

What is meant by the Shaykh in this verse is jihad against Muslims and for him the pure religion is referred to his creed.

This is the summary of the life account and beliefs of Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab as taken from Kitab At-Tawhid bi’l-Lughati al-Farisiyyah.2 Of course, other points shall also be mentioned in other discussions.

To whom was Shaykh Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab indebted

During the period of his stay in Mecca and Medina, Shaykh Muhammad came across books that had a role in the formation of his thought. Among them are the books of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, his Musnad in particular; the books of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah; and the writings of Ibn Taymiyyah. Contrary to other ‘ulama’ of the Ahl as-Sunnah, they expressed new beliefs and opinions which can be extracted from their books on jurisprudence and history. Of course, the Shaykh was largely influenced by the views of Ibn Taymiyyah.

Ibn Taymiyyah lived during the 8th century AH. In terms of belief, he was follower of Ahmad ibn Hanbal who lived in the 3rd century AH. Ibn Taymiyyah believed in a sort of anthropomorphism concerning God maintaining that God has a hand, foot, eye, tongue and mouth, and occupies a space! In order to prove his case, he resorted to the literal text of Qur’anic verses, maintaining that God is sitting on a throne in heaven.

Ibn Taymiyyah is the epithet and title of Abu’l-‘Abbas Taqi ad-Din Ahmad ibn ‘Abd al-Halim. He was born in the territory of Harran in present-day Turkey. He then migrated with his father to Damascus, Syria, and there he acquired learning in religion and jurisprudence. In many ideological and intellectual issues, he held extreme and radical views.

In addition to his anthropomorphic beliefs concerning God, he prohibited visitation of the graves and seeking the intermediation {tawassul} of the Prophet (s) while deeming it permissible to abuse Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (‘a). On issues in jurisprudence, he opposed the predecessors of the four Sunni schools. From the above points, it can be understood that the Shaykh was not the first person to have expressed such beliefs, for individuals such as Ibn Taymiyyah had advanced similar ideas prior to him.

Like Shaykh Muhammad, Ibn Taymiyyah earned the wrath and stern criticism of the ‘ulama’ of his time and for a time he was exiled to Egypt. But through the help of the government of the time, he returned to Damascus. During the last period of his life, he was imprisoned for his opposition to the ‘ulama‘ of Damascus and finally expired in the castle of Damascus and was buried there.3

Ibn Sa‘ud

In the territory of Dar’iyyah in the region of Hijaz, which is a mountainous territory with a pleasant climate, a person named Muhammad ibn Sa’ud assumed the chieftainship of his tribe. The Shaykh became acquainted with Ibn Sa’ud and relayed to him his new doctrines, and Ibn Sa’ud in turn accepted them. They agreed together to set up a government encompassing the entire region where religious and judicial affairs, issues concerning propagation, and the leadership of the Friday prayers would be assumed by the Shaykh while the political, social, military, and security affairs would be under Ibn Sa’ud.

The government in Hijaz at that time was tribal and ethnic, and like many Muslim countries, was under Ottoman rule whose capital was present-day Turkey. With Al Sa’ud’s ascension to power, Hijaz seceded from Ottoman rule and in the course of time, it fell under the control of Britain. On course, the British role in this change of the government should not be overlooked.

  • 1.
    Surat al-Baqarah 2:193.
  • 2.
    Kitab at-Tawhid bi’l-Lughah al-Farisiyyah, no. 27, pp. 16-34.
  • 3.
    ‘Ali Dawani, Firqeh-ye Wahhabi, chap. 1.

Tawhid from the Shi`ah and Wahhabi Points of View

The negation of reasoning {ta‘aqqul} in the Wahhabi school and its consequence

A kind of intellectual negation can be observed in the school of Wahhabism. Although Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab regarded himself an enlightened person, criticizing the four Suuni schools of thought, some Shi`ah beliefs, and reproaching them for speculatively interpreting the verses of the Qur’an, he used to resort to secondary issues concerning the teachings about God, the Exalted. He believed in a sort of anthropomorphism for God and in this regard he used to content himself with the outward purport of the verses.

His supporters also reject reflection and reasoning about the verses of the Qur’an and the Prophetic traditions, negating the rational sciences, philosophy and mysticism {‘irfan}. They are afflicted with a close-mindedness and intellectual frigidity to the extent that they are incapable of applying the precepts of the school {madrasah}, the Qur’anic verses and the traditions to the demands of time. It was for this reason that they initially declared the telephone, mass communication devices and others as religiously unlawful, and strongly resisted them, but later they finally relented.

Since they are incapable of applying the concepts such as intercession {shafa‘ah}, tawassul and infallibility {‘ismah} of the Prophet (s) in the light of contemporary thinking their viewpoint concerning the prophets, the Holy Prophet (s) in particular, and the saints is narrow. They treat the spiritual station of the prophets and the saints as identical with the rest of people, thinking them as being annihilated and nonexistent after death, while the Shi`ah and other Islamic schools of thought consider them to be present and watching over us. In a result, the Wahhabis consider tawassul to the prophets and awliya‘, entreating them and asking for their shafa’ah an innovation in religion {bid’ah} and polytheism.

A few words from Martyr Professor Murtadha Mutahhari

Martyr Professor Murtadha Mutahhari says:

The Wahhabis believe that God has two realms. One is related to His Essence and no one has the right to enter into this realm. Worship {‘ibadah} and tawassul pertain to God and are exclusive to this axis. The other realm is related to the natural affairs of the world in which the will and discretion of man have a role and it has nothing to do with God.1

He also says:

According to us, however, conceiving of two realms for the creation; thinking of God as belonging to one realm and the creatures, man in particular, to be in the other realm; and considering these two as distinctly separated is unacceptable and itself as a kind of polytheism. We should not separate God from His acts and His creatures; for, we believe that:

﴿أَنَّ الْقُوَّةَ لِلَّهِ جَمِيعًا.﴾

That power, altogether, belongs to Allah,2

And:

لاَ حَوْلَ وَلاَ قُوَّةَ إلاَّ بِاللهِ العَلِيِّ العَظِيمِ.

“There is no might and power except from Allah, the Exalted and Great.”3

Then, he says:

Contrary to common notions, Wahhabism is not only an anti-Imamate theory but rather, before being anti-Imamate, it is anti-tawhid and anti-human. It is anti-tawhid because it advocates the division of work between the Creator {khaliq} and the creature {makhluq}. In addition, it upholds a sort of hidden polytheism in Essence {shirk-e dhati}. It is anti-human because it fails to comprehend the talent of man that makes him superior to the angels, and according to the text of the Qur’an, elevates him to the status of vicegerency of Allah {khilafat Allah} who ordered the angels to prostrate before him. It reduces him into a mere natural animal.”418

Tawhid according to the Shi`ah philosophers and scholastic theologians {mutakallimun}

In the light of the blessed Surah at-Tawhid (or al-Ikhlas), the following headings about the cognition of the Essence and Attributes of God can be deduced:), the following headings about the cognition of the Essence and Attributes of God can be deduced:), the following headings about the cognition of the Essence and Attributes of God can be deduced:

Tawhid of Essence {Tawhid-e dhati}

God has a Perfect Essence and the Attributes of Perfection and Beauty. Thus, this Essence must be regarded as One and Unique. That is, whatever we say concerning His Oneness and Unity, we have to believe also with respect to His Essence. Those who acknowledge such Essence also believe in the Tawhid of Essence.

Shirk {polytheism} in Essence

This means that we believe in two or more essences for God, the Exalted. This type of polytheism is called “polytheism in Essence”. God is One in Essence and has no partner. So, those who maintain that God has a son or equal, or that He has been begotten profess polytheism in Essence. The Holy Qur’an strongly condemns this type of belief.

Tawhid in Attributes

The Essence of God has Attributes which we can understand through Their effects, such as the Knowledgeable {al-‘Alim}, the Living {al-Hayy}, the Wise {al-Hakim}, and the Ever-Living {al-Qayyum}. We relate these Attributes to the Essence, saying that God, the Blessed and Exalted, is One in Essence and Attributes. Since all these Attributes relate back to the Essence, there is no multiplicity in the Attributes and all Attributes are one. Every Attribute is identical with the other Attribute. For example, His Knowledge {‘Ilm} is His Power {Qudrah}. Therefore, the plurality of Attributes according to our understanding is related to the effects of the Single Essence. As such, His Attributes and Essence are One and not that He has One Essence and many Attributes.}. Therefore, the plurality of Attributes according to our understanding is related to the effects of the Single Essence. As such, His Attributes and Essence are One and not that He has One Essence and many Attributes.}. Therefore, the plurality of Attributes according to our understanding is related to the effects of the Single Essence. As such, His Attributes and Essence are One and not that He has One Essence and many Attributes.

Tawhid in Actions

Tawhid in Actions is also like Tawhid in Essence in the sense that the origin of every action in the world of being is the Divine Sacred Essence, and will finally relate to Him. We should know that every Action that we ascribe to Him will be the same as His other Action, and there is no difference and distinction among the Actions of God, and the apparent duplicity in the Actions of God is caused by our perception:

﴿وَلاَ تَقُولَنَّ لِشَيْءٍ إِنِّي فَاعِلٌ ذَلِكَ غَدًا إِلاَّ أَنْ يَشَاءَ اللَّهُ وَاذْكُرْ رَبَّكَ إِذَا نَسِيتَ.﴾

Do not say about anything, ‘I will indeed do it tomorrow,’ without {adding}, ‘if Allah wishes.’ And when you forget, remember your Lord.5

So, all our wishes are within the domain of His will and all the actions of God are one:

لاَ حَوْلَ وَلاَ قُوَّةَ إلاَّ بِاللهِ العَلِيِّ العَظِيمِ.

“There is no might and power except from Allah, the Exalted and Great.”

Those who have such belief, attributing all actions to God have the belief in Tawhid in Action.

Polytheism in Action {shirk-e af‘ali}

Polytheism in Action {shirk-e af’ali} means to believe that a creature has a divine will independent of the will of God in the sense that whatever the said creature does is outside the domain of God’s will. This is contrary to what God has attributed to Himself as stated in the Holy Qur’an, thus:

﴿وَمَا رَمَيْتَ إِذْ رَمَيْتَ وَلَكِنَّ اللَّهَ رَمَى.﴾

And you did not throw when you threw, rather it was Allah who threw.6

While we all know that the Prophet (s) threw earth and stones toward the enemy during the Battle of Badr.

Tawhid in worship

Having attributed the Tawhid of Essence, Attributes and actions to God, Tawhid in worship is confirmed for Him in the sense that only His Essence is worthy of worship, and if we consider anyone as His partner in worship, as the idol-worshipers and others do, it means that we are afflicted with polytheism in worship. The following verses of the Qur’an express this Tawhid in worship:

﴿إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ.﴾

You {alone} do we worship, and to You {alone} do we turn for help.7

And along this line, another verse states:

﴿قُلْ إِنَّ صَلاَتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَاي وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ.﴾

Say, ‘Indeed my prayer and my worship, my life and my death are all for the sake of Allah, the Lord of all the worlds’.8

Tawhid in worship is understood from the phrase, “indeed my prayer and my worship” while Tawhid in Lordship {rububiyyahi} is discerned from the phrase, “my life and my death”.

The foundations of Tawhid according to the Wahhabis

The Wahhabis regard Tawhid as having three parts: (1) Tawhid in Lordship {rububi}, (2) Tawhid in Divinity {uluhi}, and (3) Tawhid in the Names and Attributes {asma’ wa sifat}.

Tawhid in Lordship {rububi}

It means that only the Essence of God has all the absolute and perfect Attributes. In other words, Tawhid in Lordship is the Tawhid in recognizing and proving God whose proofs are the verses of Surah al-Kafirun,9 the verse,

﴿قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ تَعَالَوْا إِلَى كَلِمَةٍ…﴾

Say, ‘O People of the Book! Come to a word common10

and other verses.

Tawhid in Divinity {uluhi or uluhiyyah}

It is the belief in the fact that only God is worthy of worship and praise, and there is not other that god worshipped being beside Him.It is the belief in the fact that only God is worthy of worship and praise, and there is not other that god worshipped being beside Him.It is the belief in the fact that only God is worthy of worship and praise, and there is not other that god worshipped being beside Him.

Tawhid in the Names and Attributes

The Attributes and Names of God are pre-eternal {qadim}.11 The Wahhabis consider this aspect of Tawhid in the place of the Tawhid in Attributes, worship and actions. This belief is traceable from the belief of the Ash’arites {asha’irah}, a group of scholastic theologians {mutakallimun} during the 2nd century AH. The Ash’arites also believed in the “pre-eternality” {qidmah} of the Divine Names and Attributes. Anchored on this belief, the Wahhabis reckon the Qur’an as pre-eternal and the attribute of an act of God. They also consider the dotted Arabic letters {huruf al-mu’jam} as pre-eternal.

They regard as Attributes of the Essence those attributes such the Eye {‘ayn}; Soul {nafs}; Knowledge {‘ilm}; Life {hayah}; Hearer {sami‘}; Seer {basir}; Face {wajh}; Speech or Word {kalam}; Pre-existence {qidam}; Hand {yad}; Foot {rijl} (The Wahhabis believe that God—God forbid—has hands and feet!), Dominion {mulk}; Grandeur {‘azamah}; Greatness {kibriya’}; Eminence {‘uluww}; Richness {ghina}; Mercy {rahmah}; Power {qudrah}; Wisdom {hikmah}; etc.

They consider as Attributes of Act the attributes such as surprise {ta’ajjub}; laughing {dahik}; satisfaction {rida}; anger {ghadab}; aversion {karahah}; equality {istiwa’}; coming {maji’} (the alleged appearance of God on the Day of Resurrection); coming down {nuzul} (it refers to the belief of the Wahhabis that God is sitting on the Throne and He descends from heaven at the dawn!); disagreement; and gladness.12

After stating the parts and examples of Tawhid from the point of view of Wahhabism, it is now proper to examine polytheism {shirk} according to this sect. Thereafter, we shall compare it with Shi`ah monotheistic thought.} according to this sect. Thereafter, we shall compare it with Shi`ah monotheistic thought.} according to this sect. Thereafter, we shall compare it with Shi`ah monotheistic thought.

Shirk {polytheism} and its limits according to the Wahhabis

Shirk {polytheism} from the viewpoint of Wahhabism means associating partner with God and considering other beings as independent from Him. Wahhabism also regards turning for help to the prophets and seeking the intermediation {tawassul} of the saints as acts of polytheism.

According to this viewpoint, kissing and visiting the graves of the infallible Imams (‘a) and the Prophet (s) are all acts of polytheism, unlawful and religious innovation {bid’ah}. According to the Wahhabis, the Shi`ah are polytheists or at least their beliefs have elements of polytheism.

The socio-political consequences of Tawhid and shirk {polytheism} according to the Wahhabis

The late Muhammad Jawad Mughniyyah thus writes:

Based on the Wahhabi creed, mere utterance of ”La ilaha illallah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan rasul Allah” {There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah} is not enough for the acceptance of Islam. After uttering it, one should rather not seek the inter mediation of other than God; not have the intention of paying homage to the Prophet (s); not touch and kiss his grave; not swear by the Prophet (s); and not call on him and addressing him, thus: “O the Messenger of Allah!” and “O my master!”

During his control of Mecca, Muhammad ibn Sa’ud (one of the rulers of Saudi Arabia) had said in his speech that with the exception of the Wahhabis, all Muslims are polytheists and must be reformed at the point of the sword so as to embrace Wahhabism. Contrary to his statement, however, King Faisal, the king of the Wahhabis, in his message issued in 1342 AH, says while addressing the Wahhabis: “And all Muslims, from Egypt, India, etc. are your brothers.”

This means that, “You should not be pessimistic with respect to the Muslims and you are not supposed to act according to this creed of Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab.”

Maintaining this belief by the Wahhabis would have such socio-political consequences as considering all Muslims as polytheists and spreading sedition {fitnah} and chaos, for such a belief is an imperialist and anti-Islamic one.

The Wahhabi-Shi`ah difference of perspective on Tawhid

As stated earlier, there are qualitative and quantitative differences between the Wahhabis and the Shi`ah about Tawhid.

We shall find out later on that this classification from the perspective of Wahhabism has significant political implications.

It can probably be argued that there is no problem with the classification of the Wahhabis. In addition, this issue is only an intellectual limitation, and difference of opinion between Muslim philosophers and mystics {‘urafa’} concerning this issue can also be observed. But that which cannot be ignored is the difference in understanding.

Shi`ah ‘ulama‘ have divided Tawhid into (Tawhid in) Essence, Attributes, acts and worship while the Wahhabi ‘ulama‘ have divided it into (Tawhid in) Lordship, Divinity and the Names and Attributes.13 If we compare them, and pair Tawhid in Essence with that of Lordship and Tawhid in Divinity with that of Tawhid in acts and worship, nothing remains to compare with Tawhid in the Names and Attributes. Meanwhile, to believe in the pre-eternity {qidmah} of the Names and Attributes demands the acceptance of “the multiplicity of pre-eternals”, and this is an Ash’arite belief which is false.

Shi`ah ‘ulama‘ believe that the Names of God can be divided into two: particular and general. The particular aspect pertains specifically to the Essence of God, the Exalted, such as “Allah”. The general aspect relates to the Attributes of God which can also be applied to His servants such as rahman {All-beneficent}, rahim {All-merciful} and karim {All-kind}. The intellect of man has separated this aspect of Attributes and ascribed it to God.

If this difference merely had an ideological dimension, it would not then be so acute and sensitive, but since they are utilizing it for a political end, it ought to be analyzed.

The Wahhabis have taken this way of dividing the levels of Tawhid from Ibn Taymiyyah who, in turn, had adopted it from Ahmad ibn Hanbal.

Similarly, by dividing the Attributes into Acts and Essence, the Wahhabis have ended up believing that God has an actual hand and foot and that He can physically come and have an appearance. They have contented with the literal meaning of the verses in this regard while rejecting rational understanding and analysis. They reject as ”mu’awwilun” {allegorical interpreters} those who oppose this creed, particularly the Shi`ah who, by taking inspiration from the lofty teachings of the Prophet (s) and the infallible Imams (‘a), interpret the verses related to God’s seeing, hearing, His having a hand, foot and His coming on the Day of Resurrection as allegorical. For instance, the Shi`ah regard the verse,

﴿الرَّحْمَانُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوَى.﴾

The All-beneficent settled on the Throne,1428

to mean the sovereignty and authority of God on the Throne and not in the sense of God’s actual sitting on the Throne.

  • 1.
    Murtadha Mutahhari, Jahan Bini-ye Tawhidi [Monotheistic Worldview], vol. 2, p. 116.
  • 2.
    Surat al-Baqarah 2:165.
  • 3.
    Jahan Bini-ye Tawhidi, ibid.
  • 4.
    Ibid.
  • 5.
    Surat al-Kahf 18:23-24.
  • 6.
    Surat al-Anfal 8:17.
  • 7.
    Surat al-Fatihah 1:5.
  • 8.
    Surat al-An‘am 6:162.
  • 9.
    Surat al-Kafirun 109:1-6: “O faithless ones! I do not worship what you worship, not do you worship what I worship; nor will I worship what you have worshipped nor will you worship what I worship. To you your religion, and to me my religion.”
  • 10.
    Surat Al ‘Imran 3:64: “Say, ‘O People of the Book! Come to a word common between us and you: that we will worship no one but Allah, and that we will not ascribe any partner to Him, and that we will not take each other as lords besides Allah’.”
  • 11.
    Here, the word “pre-eternal” [qadim] is not in contrast to the notion of “new” [jadid]. It is rather the opposite of “created” [hadith]; that is, to have existed from the very beginning and not to have come into being sometime in the past.
  • 12.
    Fath al-Majid, pp. 33, 41, 57.
  • 13.
    Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, At-Tawhid wa’l-Qawl as-Sadid fi Maqasid at-Tawhid, p. 13.
  • 14.
    Surat Ta Ha 20:5.

Tawassul {Resorting To Inter mediation}, Death and Shafa‘Ah {Intercession} According to the Shi`ah and the Wahhabis

Tawassul according to the Wahhabis

In this chapter, tawassul {resorting to intermediation} according to Wahhabism shall be examined. The ‘ulama‘ of this sect believe that Tawassul to other than God, paying homage {ziyarah} to a grave and praying in a place where there is a grave in front of the person praying are not consistent with Tawhid in Lordship. According to them, the requisite of Tawhid is that one should not resort to the intermediation of other than God even if he is the Prophet of Islam (s), because tawassul, shafa’ah {intercession} and the like are outside the Sunnah of the Prophet and the pious predecessors {as-Salaf as-salih}, and the Qur’an also regards this belief as polytheism.1

It is thus stated in the book, al-Tawhid bi’l-Lughati al-Farisiyyah:

Seeking the help of other than God is polytheism and seeking refuge in other than God is also within the sphere of polytheism… The Words {kalimat} of God are identical with the uncreated {qadim} Essence of God. So, for this reason, one may entreat {istighathah} these Words otherwise, such act of entreating will be regarded as polytheism.2

In refuting this proposition, it must be stated first of all that the pertinent verse had been revealed with respect to the jinn. Concerning the circumstances surrounding the revelation of this verse, it must be said that the Arabs used to believe that the jinn live in the desert, and during the pre-Islamic period of ignorance {al-Jahiliyyah}, they used to turn to the “chief of the jinn” at the time of going out of the city for help, addressing him thus: “O chief of the jinn! Save us from the evil of the jinn and preserve us from their annoyance.”

Of course, resorting to the jinn is absolutely unlawful because God has explicitly prohibited this practice. In addition to this, seeking help from anyone who denies God is obviously more so. Secondly, there are a lot of differences between the prophets {anbiya’} and messengers {rusul} who have direct connection with God, and the receivers of the divine revelation, on one hand, and the jinn who do not recognize God on the other. Therefore, the Islamic belief demands that we have to beseech and entreat God, the Exalted, and seek the intercession of those who are closer to Him.

We have mentioned earlier the viewpoint of the Wahhabi ‘ulama‘ regarding the status of tawassul to other than God. Now, we shall examine their reasons:

First reason: By citing as proof the noble verses,

﴿قُلْ ادْعُوا الَّذِينَ زَعَمْتُمْ مِنْ دُونِهِ فَلاَ يَمْلِكُونَ كَشْفَ الضُّرِّ عَنكُمْ وَلاَ تَحْوِيلاً. أُوْلَئِكَ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ يَبْتَغُونَ إِلَى رَبِّهِمْ الْوَسِيلَةَ أَيُّهُمْ أَقْرَبُ وَيَرْجُونَ رَحْمَتَهُ وَيَخَافُونَ عَذَابَهُ.﴾

Say, ‘Invoke those whom you claim {to be gods} besides Him. They have no power to remove your distress nor to bring about any change {in your state}. They {themselves} are the ones who supplicate, seeking recourse to their Lord, whoever is nearer {to Him}, expecting His mercy and fearing His punishment.’ Indeed your Lord’s punishment is a thing to beware of,3

they have concluded that one should never seek help and resort to anyone other than God.

Analysis of the above verses

If one contends oneself with the literal meaning and not take into consideration other Qur’anic verses, these two verses will conform to the statements of the Wahhabi ‘ulama’ because based on these words of God, when man abandons the “nearer means” (that is, God Himself) in order to get closer to God and resorts to a “remote means” (that is, “other than God” {min duni allahi}) and one who has no power to remove distress and the like, it will fall within the spheres of polytheism in Lordship {shirk-e rububi}.

It must be noted, however, that there are other verses indicating that with God’s permission, one may also resort to other than God, in which case, the issue of polytheism would be irrelevant, and one could turn for help from the individuals approved by God. If these ‘ulama‘ had only paid attention to these other verses, they would have never committed such a glaring mistake.

Turning for help {istimdad} of the weak to the strong

In principle, tawassul is one of the laws of creation and it means resorting to a superior means in order to attain an objective. One manifestation of tawassul is a child’s tawassul to his mother when something happens to him. This meaning is true in all spheres of human life—social, political, ideological, material, and spiritual. Tawassul to God is the same tawassul to that which is perfect in power and force. Tawassul to the prophets and the saints of God is a case of the tawassul of the weak to the strong, because the prophets are stronger than other human beings. One may resort to the prophets and saints for help and take their practical conduct, which we called sunnah, as models for ourselves.

Tawassul in the Qur’an

Many verses of the Qur’an and Prophetic traditions speak about the subject of tawassul to the awliya’. As an example, one may refer to the verses related to the sons of Ya’qub (Jacob) (‘a):

﴿قَالُوا يَا أَبَانَا اسْتَغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا خَاطِئِينَ. قَالَ سَوْفَ أَسْتَغْفِرُ لَكُمْ رَبِّي إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ.﴾

They said, ‘Father! Plead {with Allah} for forgiveness of our sins! We have indeed been erring’. He said, ‘I shall plead with my Lord to forgive you; indeed He is the All-forgiving, the All-merciful’.4

In these verses, the sons of Ya’qub (‘a) resorted to the inter mediation of their father. They had committed mistakes so many times; they had annoyed and disturbed two prophets of God (Ya’qub and Yusuf (Joseph) (‘a)), and transgressed the command of God by annoying their parents and telling lies. Since those mistakes required the sons to seek forgiveness, they took their father as their intercessor; so this action has not been denied or rejected in the Qur’an.

Since God does not reproach the sons of Ya’qub for resorting to two persons of those who are near to Him {muqarrabun}, it can be concluded that there is nothing wrong in entreating the Prophet (s) especially since the eminence of his rank and the loftiness of his station are not hidden to anyone.

The other verse which may be cited is the following:

﴿وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذْ ظَلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ جَاءُوكَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا اللَّهَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسُولُ لَوَجَدُوا اللَّهَ تَوَّابًا رَحِيمًا.﴾

Had they, when they wronged themselves, come to you and pleaded Allah for forgiveness, and the Apostle had pleaded for forgiveness for them, they would have surely found Allah All-clement, All-merciful.533

It can be deduced from this verse that the inter mediation of the Holy Prophet (s) can also be resorted to in asking God for forgiveness of sins.

It is possible to criticize the deduction based on the first verse with the answer that the tawassul of the sons of Ya’qub (‘a) to their father had been confined to their own time; that is, one may seek the help of the living and not the dead. We shall talk about this point later on in the section concerning tabarruk.

What can be inferred from the second verse is that tawassul to the Prophet (s) is in a general sense. That is, it includes both the time when the Prophet (s) was alive and the time afterward. And there is no reason to distinguish between tawassul during and after his lifetime.

Since the following verse reproaches tawassul to idols and regards it as a form of polytheism, some individuals might cite it as proof that tawassul to other than God leads to misguidance:

﴿وَقَالُوا لاَ تَذَرُنَّ آلِهَتَكُمْ وَلاَ تَذَرُنَّ وَدًّا وَلاَ سُوَاعًا وَلاَ يَغُوثَ وَيَعُوقَ وَنَسْرًا. وَقَدْ أَضَلُّوا كَثِيرًا وَلاَ تَزِدْ الظَّالِمِينَ إِلاَّ ضَلاَلاً.﴾

They say, ‘Do not abandon your gods. Do not abandon Wadd, nor Suwa’, nor Yaghuth, Ya’uq and Nasr,’ and they have certainly led many astray. Do not increase the wrongdoers in anything but error’.6

In reply, it must be said that if what is meant by “other than God” are idols, then one cannot find fault with this statement, but if “other than God” includes the prophets and awliya’, then it would be contrary to the truth because these beloved ones are approved by God and are vicegerents of Allah {khulafa’ Allah}. Idols are in contrast and contradiction with God while the prophets (‘a) and saints are concordant with Him and are means of His grace. In the same manner, idols are a source of deviation from God while the prophets (‘a) are means of guidance and righteousness. In sum, the comparison between tawassul to the prophets (‘a) and tawassul to the idols is an asymmetrical and false analogy.

The other point is that an idol is basically an object of worship and not a means of nearness to God {taqarrub}. There are two types of means of nearness to God: One is legitimate, referring to the prophets (‘a) and the saints, and the other is illegitimate such as idols and the like which religion has made forbidden to man.

Death according to the Wahhabis

There are different viewpoints concerning death, and we shall deal with the viewpoint of the Wahhabis on the subject. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah is reported to have said:

Tawassul to the dead, even if he be the Prophet of Islam (s), is an act of polytheism because based on the statement of the Qur’an, he is dead and extinct:

﴿إِنَّكَ مَيِّتٌ وَإِنَّهُمْ مَيِّتُونَ.﴾

You will indeed die and they {too} will die indeed.735

He then continues:

Entreating the dead and uttering words such as: “O my master, O the Messenger of Allah! Help me,” “O my master ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib! Assist me,” and the like are acts of polytheism.836

It is indeed amazing that Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah and the Wahhabis could have no belief in the purgatorial life {hayat al-barzakh}, thinking that the dead cannot establish spiritual relations with others, while the Qur’an affirms that those who are in the barzakh are alive.9 How could the Wahhabis regard the martyrs {shuhada‘} as dead while the Qur’an says,

﴿وَلاَ تَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أَمْوَاتًا بَلْ أَحْيَاءٌ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ يُرْزَقُونَ.﴾

Do not suppose those who are slain in the way of Allah to be dead; rather they are living and provided for near their Lord.10

Accordingly, how could Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab also say that “Anyone who dies would be annihilated,”20 while the Holy Qur’an says,

﴿فَكَشَفْنَا عَنْكَ غِطَاءَكَ فَبَصَرُكَ الْيَوْمَ حَدِيدٌ.﴾

We have removed your veil from you, and so your sight is acute today.11

In another place, it states thus,

﴿وَلَهُمْ رِزْقُهُمْ فِيهَا بُكْرَةً وَعَشِيًّا.﴾

And therein they will have their provision morning and evening.12

Since there is morning and evening in the world of barzakh according to the verse quoted, and that the dead have provisions, those who are in the world of sojourn (barzakh) cannot be regarded as nonexistent {ma’dum}. Of course, morning and evening are special characteristics of barzakh because there is no sun on the Day of Resurrection which could portray this case. So, death is not equivalent to nonexistence, and the theory of the Wahhabis is consequentially rendered false.

The permission to resort to the sacred personages

In the following verse, the Holy Qur’an regards it permissible and acceptable to resort to and seek the intermediation of the chosen ones of God in seeking nearness to Him {taqarrub}:

﴿يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَابْتَغُوا إِلَيْهِ الْوَسِيلَةَ وَجَاهِدُوا فِي سَبِيلِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ.﴾

O you who have faith! Be wary of Allah, and seek the means of recourse to Him, and wage jihad in His way, so that you may be felicitous.13

Although in this verse seeking the means of recourse is discussed in a general sense, based on the other proofs and pieces of evidence mentioned in the Holy Qur’an and the traditions, one of its vivid manifestations is the prophets and saints. Therefore, the purport of this verse may be expressed in the following words:

Though approaching God is the outcome of grace, you have to observe God-wariness {taqwa} perfectly and since it is possible that the persons resorted to have no independence of their own and have obtained such station through sincerity {ikhlas} and God-wariness {taqwa}, you also have to maintain God-wariness in resorting to them.

Istimdad and tawassul to the living ones

Seeking help and assistance from the living is permissible and it cannot be treated as a form of polytheism. This is a point which has been endorsed and affirmed by stories in the Qur’an. For example, when Hadrat Yusuf (Joseph) (‘a) was in prison he requested his cellmate, that if the latter was released, he should mention his case to the king:

﴿اذْكُرْنِي عِنْدَ رَبِّكَ.﴾

Mention me to your master.14

Or, when Hadrat Musa and Khidr (‘a) arrived at a certain village, they made a request to the inhabitants of the village, hence:

﴿فَانطَلَقَا حَتَّى إِذَا أَتَيَا أَهْلَ قَرْيَةٍ اسْتَطْعَمَا أَهْلَهَا.﴾

So they went on. When they came to the people of a town, they asked its people for food.15

It can be said that the acts of these three great personalities, apart from not being acts of polytheism, they are rational and customary behaviors, having no inconsistency with their infallibility {ismah}. Also, in confirming this statement, the following verse, which is addressed to the Prophet (s), can be cited as proof:

﴿وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذْ ظَلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ جَاءُوكَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا اللَّهَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسُولُ لَوَجَدُوا اللَّهَ تَوَّابًا رَحِيمًا.﴾

Had they, when they wronged themselves, come to you and pleaded Allah for forgiveness, and the Apostle had pleaded for forgiveness for them, they would have surely found Allah all-clement, all-merciful.16

Based on this verse, the Prophet (s) has been granted the permission to be the intercessor of sinners. According to the Shi`ah, this intercession is still valid and is not confined to the lifetime of the Prophet (s).

The preeminence of tawassul to the Divine Essence

Before ending the discussion, it is necessary to pose this question: Which is superior, tawassul to God, or tawassul to the saints of God? It can be concluded from the verse,

﴿أَيُّهُمْ أَقْرَبُ.﴾

“whoever is nearer {to Him}17

that tawassul to God is superior. That is, as much as possible, one must seek help from God and this is a principle to which Muslim mystics are steadfast. But just as he makes use of his intellect, natural instinct and other means in managing his life, man also seeks the assistance of intermediaries in the domain of spirituality and seeking nearness to Allah.

Tawassul as identical with servitude {‘ubudiyyah}

Since tawassul to the prophets and the awliya’ of God is like the angels’ act of prostration (to Adam) with the permission and command of God, resorting to these beloved ones is identical with servitude {‘ubudiyyah} and worship {‘ibadah}. Among the Muslim sects, only the Wahhabis do not believe in tawassul and its devotional dimension. It must be noted that this sect is trying to make its incorrect and false ideas dominant.

Of course, if we ever regard the Wahhabis’ opposition to tawassul as incorrect, it is because there are authoritative traditions and hadiths that prove the incorrectness of this sect’s belief. For example, after the demise of the Prophet (s) a certain Arab came to the grave of the Prophet (s) and threw himself on the holy shrine. While pouring the soil of the grave over his head, he said: “O Messenger of Allah! I heard from you the verse, “Had they, when they wronged themselves, come to you…” And now I have wronged myself and I have come here to ask you to plead for forgiveness for me.” At the end of the hadith, it is thus stated regarding this episode: “Then a voice from the grave was heard: ‘You are forgiven!’”18

In another tradition, it has been narrated that there was once a famine in Medina. Bilal ibn Harith, one of the Companions, went to the grave of the Prophet (s) and said: “O Messenger of Allah! There has been no rain for quite sometime. Pray to God to shower the rain of His mercy upon us. During the night, Bilal saw the Prophet (s) in a dream, saying: “You shall soon benefit from the rain of the Lord.”

It is not useless to note the fact that Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi’i, one of the leading figures of the Ahl as-Sunnah, regards tawassul to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) as permissible, thus saying:

آلُ النَّبِيِّ ذَرِيعَتِي وَهُمُ إلَيْهِ وَسِيلَتِي

The family of the Prophet is my shelter

and they are means of my nearness to Him (God).

Regarding Hadrat Fatimah az-Zahra (‘a), the following tradition has been narrated:

“أنَّ فَاطِمَةَ جَاءَتْ فَوَقَفَتْ عَلَى قَبْرِ رَسُولِ اللهِ فَأخَذَتْ قَبْضَةً مِنْ تُرَابِ القَبْرِ فَوَضَعَتْهَا عَلَى عَيْنَيْهَا فَبَكَتْ.”

“Fatimah (‘a) went to the grave of the Messenger of Allah (s); picked up some soil from the grave, put it on her eyes and cried.”

It can be inferred from the above hadith that to seek the help of the Prophet, the infallible Imams and the pioneers of religion is not against the religion because a personage such as Fatimah az-Zahra (‘a) used to go to the grave of her great father and seek this beloved’s assistance. There is another hadith which is as follows:

Because of the effect of famine and the lack of rain, a number of people went to the house of ‘a’ishah (wife of the Prophet (s)), asking for her guidance. She said to them: “Make holes on the holy shrines of the Prophet (s) in such a way that the sky would become the watcher of the holy grave of the Prophet (s) so that it would shower rain in respect for the Prophet (s). When the people followed ‘A’ishah’s instruction, the rain came.

Many traditions have been recorded in the book, At-Tabarruk,19 all of which show the tawassul of the Companions to the soil of grave of the Messenger of Allah (s) for cure and blessings {tabarruk}.

Shafa‘ah according to Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Ibn Taymiyyah

Based on some verses of the Qur’an, Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, Ibn Taymiyyah and the contemporary Wahhabis regard seeking help from other than God or asking for their intercession {shafa’ah} as an act of polytheism. Their main proof is the phrase, “other than God” in verse 18 of Surah Yunus.20 The Wahhabis regard the prophets, saints, idols, the jinn, and the dead as the most vivid manifestations of this verse.

In reality, they have not made any distinction between the idols during the pre-Islamic period of ignorance {jahiliyyah}, which were taken by the people as their intercessors and were held in high esteem by their forefathers, and the person of the Prophet (s) because they believe that the Prophet (s) has passed away, and as such, he could not do anything and nothing could not be expected from him anymore. Therefore, they imagine the intercession of God on the Day of Resurrection as positive, and that of the Prophet (s) or other awliya‘ as negative.

It can perhaps be inferred from the apparent purport of their contention that this sect rejects intercession in general. They have divided intercession into positive and negative in the following manner:

1. Positive intercession is that which comes from God. There are many verses that substantiate it, and there is no debate and dispute concerning this type of intercession.

2. Negative intercession is that which comes from other than God such as the Prophet (s), other prophets (‘a) and the awliya‘—of course, when they are not alive.

The most fundamental basis for this belief of the Wahhabis is the following blessed verse:

﴿وَيَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لاَ يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلاَ يَنْفَعُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ هَؤُلاَءِ شُفَعَاؤُنَا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ.﴾

They worship besides Allah that which neither causes them any harm, nor brings them any benefit, and they say, ‘These are our intercessors with Allah’.2149

An analysis of the quoted noble verse:

What the apparent purport and text of the verse substantiates is that God rejects the intercession of idols, not the intercession of human beings. In other words, “besides Allah” refers to idols and it is these idols whose intercession is not acceptable to God. The following verse also confirms this contention:

﴿وَلاَ يُقْبَلُ مِنْهَا شَفَاعَةٌ وَلاَ يُؤْخَذُ مِنْهَا عَدْلٌ وَلاَ هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ.﴾

Neither intercession shall be accepted from it, nor any ransom shall be received from it, nor will they be helped.22

The absolute negation of intercession of other than God can be deduced from the phrase, “besides Allah” which is mentioned many times in the Holy Qur’an. The absoluteness and generality of “besides Allah”, however, is mitigated by other verses, and the intercession by individuals who possess the conditions for intercession is permissible and acceptable. Some of the verses that can substantiate this claim are the following:

﴿وَلاَ تَنفَعُ الشَّفَاعَةُ عِنْدَهُ إِلاَّ لِمَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ.﴾

Intercession is of no avail with Him except for those whom He permits.23

﴿مَنْ ذَا الَّذِي يَشْفَعُ عِنْدَهُ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِهِ.﴾

Who is it that may intercede with Him except with His permission?24

﴿يَوْمَئِذٍ لاَ تَنفَعُ الشَّفَاعَةُ إِلاَّ مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ الرَّحْمَانُ وَرَضِيَ لَهُ قَوْلاً.﴾

Intercession will not avail that day except from him whom the All-beneficent allows and approves of his word.25

﴿وَلاَ يَشْفَعُونَ إِلاَّ لِمَنْ ارْتَضَى.﴾

And they do not intercede except for someone He approves of.26

Based on these verses, the intercession of those who have the permission of Allah is acceptable. Now, a question that lingers in the mind is this: Have not those who negate the intercession of the prophets and saints come across these verses, or do they have other reasons?

In reply, it must be said that the intensity of their enmity to the Shi`ah have prompted the Wahhabis to focus on the verses that negate, and not affirm, intercession. Through this method and policy, they are determined to accuse the Shi`ah of disbelief {kufr} so as to incite the entire Muslim world against the Shi`ah as much as possible. At this juncture, the hidden hand of imperialism can be witnessed in some of the religious beliefs of Wahhabism.

In opposing and besmirching Shi`ah beliefs, the Wahhabis oppose the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (s) upon which this belief is based. The Qur’an and Sunnah acknowledge the intercession of the prophets and the saints on the Day of Resurrection. They respect the soil of their graves, encouraging the Muslims to honor and respect them, especially the Holy Prophet (s); and are the foundations of many material and non-material activities and achievements. The Wahhabis not only regard tawassul and visitation to the graves {ziyarah} as unlawful and acts of kufr and shirk, but also deny the principle and basis of intercession.27 The consequence of this practice will be drifting away from the Prophet (s) and the infallible Imams (‘a), which is itself a kind of secret attack against Islam.

The precedence of the negation of tawassul and shafa‘ah

Ibn Taymiyyah, one of the Sunni ‘ulama‘ of the Hanbali madhhab during the 8th century AH, says regarding tawassul and shafa’ah:

Seeking help from the dead without paying attention to God, even if that person is a prophet, or requesting the dead to pray to God to grant our request, or for us to implore God, “O God! By the station and position of so-and-so, grant our request”, etc. are forbidden and impermissible, which will finally lead to polytheism in worship.2856

As we can observe, the intellectual cornerstone of Wahhabism is traceable to Ibn Taymiyyah, however, Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab discusses these doctrines with more fanaticism and extremisms, especially the negation of tawassul and shafa’ah. As it is always looking for every opportunity to catch fish in troubled waters imperialism has been trying to take advantage of the record and opposition of the Wahhabi thought to the other schools {madhahib}.

They have been attempting to do this when the precedence of the Wahhhabi creed is not a proof for the madhhabi nature of the Wahhabi movement. It cannot be considered one of the Islamic schools of thought because from the very beginning, the Muslim nation, the Ahl as-Sunnah in particular, has declared the ideas of Ibn Taymiyyah and his followers as an innovation in religion {bid’ah} and to be against the religion.

The ideas of Ibn Taymiyyah and the reaction of Ahl as-Sunnah

Taqi ad-Din Abu’l-‘Abbas Ahmad Ibn Taymiyyah was born in 661 AH in a Kurdish-populated village called Urfah in Turkey. When the Tatars invaded the Muslim lands, he along with his family went to Damascus (Syria) and studied in the religious school {madrasah} of the Hanbalis where he engaged in the memorization of the Qur’an. He read Musnad Ibn Hanbal and the book, Mu’jam at-Tabari, and engaged in learning other sciences. It has been said that he had good memory and talent.29

Profound talent and enthusiasm prompted Ibn Taymiyyah to encounter many intellectual problems and issues during the different stages of his studies. Since he would not be convinced of the views and opinions of the professors, he gradually reached a point in his beliefs that he elicited the reaction of the ‘ulama‘ and fuqaha {jurists} at the time which led to his imprisonment and banishment.

Before Ibn Taymiyyah had the opportunity to repent, Sultan Nasir, the ruler of the time, allowed him to return to Damascus in 709 AH and Ibn Taymiyyah also made peace with the ‘ulama’ and fuqaha.30 In 720 AH, he was again put behind bars for having a clash with the fuqaha on the issue of divorce but in 721 AH, he was released from prison through the letter of the Sultan.

After his release, he once again languished in the prison cell of Damascus on the order of the government for the contradictions his religious edicts had with that of the Sunni and Shi`ah fuqaha in his region.

This time, the government prohibited him from issuing religious edicts, and as per judicial decree of a Shafi’i judge, all his students including Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah were imprisoned. Meanwhile, the people had been so angry with him that they decided to kill him.

The ‘ulama’’s opposition to Ibn Taymiyyah

Ibn Taymiyyah used to regard traveling to visit the graves of the prophets (‘a) and the pious as impermissible, deeming it as a sinful travel, and would rule for the completion (instead of shortening) of prayer during this travel, which led the Shafi’is to rise up in opposition to him.

In a bid to portray a veneer of moderation to his creed, Ibn Taymiyyah used to say that since the Prophet (s) and the Companions had neither visited their graves nor sought their intermediation, and that the Followers {tabi’un}31 have also not done so, none of the Muslims should deem it recommended {mustahabb}. Anyone who observed this practice had gone against the consensus of Muslims. After issuing this religious edict, Ibn Taymiyyah considered the following hadiths from the Prophet (s) as fabricated {maj’ul}:

مَنْ حَجَّ وَلَمْ يَزُرْنِي فَقَدْ جَفَانِي.

He who performs the Hajj (pilgrimage) without paying a visit {ziyarah} to me has indeed deserted.

لاَ تُشَدُّ الرِّحَالُ إلاَّ إلَى ثَلاَثَةِ مَسَاجِدَ: الْمَسْجِدُ الْحَرَامُ، وَمَسْجِدِي هَذَا، وَالْمَسْجِدُ الأقْصَى.

You are not supposed to travel except for the visitation {ziyarah} of three mosques: al-Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca), this mosque of mine (Masjid an-Nabi in Medina), and al-Masjid al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem).

These kinds of views incited the opposition of the Sunni ‘ulama‘. So, it becomes clear that there had been no difference of opinion regarding it until that time and the first person to initiate this difference was Ibn Taymiyyah who, while in prison, wrote books in support of his creed.

After more than two years of imprisonment in the prison cell of Damascus, Ibn Taymiyyah passed away in 728 AH and was buried in Bab as-Saghir beside his brother. In the book, Al-Kunya wal-Alqab, Shaykh ‘Abbas al-Qummi opines that he was buried in Jordan. Ibn Taymiyyah was later known as Taqi ad-Din Ahmad ibn ‘Abd al-Halim al-Harrani ad-Damishqi.

Nowadays, there is no trace of his grave and the books attributed to him, as per reported in the book, Ibn Taymiyyah batal al-Islah ad-Dini, are estimated to be as many as seventeen books.

What we quoted regarding the issue of shafa’ah was from the book entitled, Ibn Taymiyyah batal al-Islah ad-Dini. Similar subjects are also recorded in the book, Fath al-Majid, which is a commentary on the book, At-Tawhid, by Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab. In a recently written book entitled, At-Tawhid bi’l-Lughati al-Farisiyyah, there has been some modification of issues about which the Shi`ah have opposing views.

This book in which some of those issues were presented was distributed freely among the Iranian pilgrims at the Jeddah Airport in 1374 AH (1995 CE). Concerning shafa’ah, it states that shafa’ah is exclusive for God. The inclusion of the divine grace and compassion has conferred this merit upon some of the servants of God. This book narrated a certain subject from Ibn Taymiyyah, at the end of which it says:

لاَ تَكُونُ إلاَّ لأهْلِ التَّوْحِيدِ وَالإخْلاَصِ.

Intercession includes individuals who are monotheists and sincere, and by the decree of God, intercession extends to these individuals.

In this book, the author writes that according to the Shi`ah, those individuals who best embody these qualities of Tawhid and ikhlas {sincerity} are the prophets, awliya’ and infallible Imams (‘a) who, according to the above quotation, are supposed to possess the privilege to intercede on the Day of Resurrection.32

  • 1.
    Fath al-Majid, p. 98.
  • 2.
    Al-Tawhid bi’l-Lughati al-Farisiyyah, p. 140.
  • 3.
    Surat al-Isra’ 17:56-57.
  • 4.
    Surat Yusuf 12:97-98.
  • 5.
    Surat an-Nisa’ 4:64.
  • 6.
    Surat Nuh 71:23-24.
  • 7.
    Surat az-Zumar 39:30.
  • 8.
    Fath al-Majid, p. 198.
  • 9.
    Surat Ghafir (or al-Mu’min) 40:46: “The Fire, to which they are exposed morning and evening.”
  • 10.
    Surat Al ‘Imran 3:169.
  • 11.
    Surat Qaf 50:22.
  • 12.
    Surat Maryam 19:62.
  • 13.
    Surat al-Ma’idah 5:35.
  • 14.
    Surat Yusuf 12:42.
  • 15.
    Surat al-Kahf 18:77.
  • 16.
    Surat an-Nisa’, 4: 64.
  • 17.
    See Surat al-Isra’ 17:56-57.
  • 18.
    “.غفر لك قَد القبر مِن فَنودي”
  • 19.
    Ayatullah ‘Ali Ahmadi Mayanji, At-Tabarruk (Beirut), pp. 147-151.
  • 20.
    Surat Yunus 10:18: “They worship besides Allah that which neither causes them any harm, not brings them any benefit, and they say, ‘These are our intercessors with Allah.’ Say, ‘Will you inform Allah about something He does not know in the heavens and on the earth? Immaculate is He and exalted above [having] any partners that they ascribe [to Him].”
  • 21.
    Surat Yunus 10:18.
  • 22.
    Surat al-Baqarah 2:48.
  • 23.
    Surat as-Saba’ 34:23.
  • 24.
    Surat al-Baqarah 2:255.
  • 25.
    Surat Ta Ha 20:109.
  • 26.
    Surat al-Anbiya’ 21:28.
  • 27.
    For more information, see Sayyid Ibrahim ‘Alawi, Tarikhcheh-ye Naqd wa Barrasi-ye Wahhabiyyah, pp. 257-353 and other books included in the bibliography of this book.
  • 28.
    Mahmud Mahdi al-Istambuli, Ibn Taymiyyah batal al-Islah ad-Dini (Beirut: Nashr Maktaba’l-Islami, n.d.), pp. 136, 139.
  • 29.
    Mahmud Mahdi al-Istambuli, Ibn Taymiyyah batal al-Islah ad-Dini (Beirut: Nashr Maktaba’l-Islami, n.d.), pp. 136, 139.
  • 30.
    Mahmud Mahdi al-Istambuli, Ibn Taymiyyah batal al-Islah ad-Dini (Beirut: Nashr Maktaba’l-Islami, n.d.), pp. 30.
  • 31.
    Tabi‘un [‘Followers’ or ‘Successors’] refers to the second generation of Muslims who came after the Companions, who did not know the Prophet (s) but who knew his Companions. [Trans.]
  • 32.
    At-Tawhid bi’l-Lughah al-Farisiyyah, no. 27, p. 123.

Ziyarah {Visitation} and the Laws Pertaining to the Graves and Mosques According to the Shi`ah and Wahhabis

Ziyarah according to Sunnis and Shi`ah

As stated earlier, Wahhabis think that ziyarah, like shafa’ah, is a polytheistic act of seeking intermediation, and renders a person outside the pale of religion. This is while ziyarah, according to the Ahl as-Sunnah, has been considered permissible. In this context, as in many other beliefs as well, Wahhabism is at odds with the Ahl as-Sunnah.

By resorting to uncommon and strange statements, against which the Ahl as-Sunnah have also complained, the Wahhabis have endeavored to portray Wahhabism as a school of thought {madhhab}. But Muslims, the Ahl as-Sunnah in particular, cannot permit the inclusion of this group in the list of Muslim schools of thought {madhahib}.

The views of Ibn al-Qudamah

Ibn al-Qudamah, a leading figure and faqih of the Ahl as-Sunnah, while regarding ziyarah, like mourning, as consistent with the laws of Islam, elaborates that ziyarah is permissible for men while undesiderable {makruh} for women. In confirming this view, he has cited the following tradition:

لَعَنَ اللهُ زُوّارَاتِ القُبُورِ، الْمُتَّخِذَاتِ عَلَيْهِنَّ الْمَسَاجِدَ وَالسُّرَجَ.

Allah curses the visitors of the graves, especially women who light candles on the graves and take them as their place of prostration or mosque.

And he adds,

In this tradition, the phrase, “Allah curses…” implies aversion, and this aversion is more intense for women according to their welfare; for, it is possible that by going outside the house and to be present in the public, the rights of the husband might be violated. The reason behind the curse on female visitors {za’irin} is because of the fact that the people during the pre-Islamic period of ignorance {jahiliyyah} used to visit the graves. After sometime, they would construct statues and images on the grave. Then, these would be treated as idols and they would pay reverence in front of these. So, they were cursed and the visitation of the women was prohibited.161

In continuation, he writes:

Visiting graves is mustahabb for men. Regarding its being makruh or impermissible for women, there are two pertinent traditions. According to a tradition, it is mustahabb provided that, like men, they read beside the grave surahs of at-Tawhid (al-Ikhlas) and Ya Sin, and ayat al-Kursi, but according to another tradition, it is not permissible. In case of its permissibility, man and woman should recite this salutation:

السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ أهْلَ الدِّيَارِ مِنَ الْمُؤمِنِينَ وَالْمُسْلِمِينَ، إنَّا إنْ شَاءَ اللهُ بِكُمْ لاَحِقُونَ، نَسْألُ اللهَ لَنَا وَلَكُمُ العَافِيَةَ.

“Peace be upon you, O believers and Muslims who inhabit these graves. We will join you, God willing. We pray Allah for wellbeing for you and us.”2

Ibn al-Qudamah does not regard the ziyarah as permissible for women, saying:

وَتُكْرَهُ لِلنِّسَاءِ، لأنَّ النَّبِيَّ  قَالَ: لَعَنَ اللهُ زُوَّارَاتِ القُبُورِ…

Ziyarah for women is makruh (dis commended) because the Prophet said, ‘Allah curses the women who visit the graves’.

He believed that the Prophet (s) initially prohibited ziyarah for women and the phrase, “Allah curses…” bespeaks of this fact. But afterward, he considered the ziyarah for women as permissible, saying:

كُنْتُ نَهَيْتُكُمْ عَنْ زِيَارَةِ القُبُورِ، فَزُورُوهَا.

I was prohibiting you from visiting to grave in the past, but now you may do so.

Ibn al-Qudamah also says:

وَرَوَى التِّرْمِذِيُّ أنَّ عَائِشَةَ زَارَتْ قَبْرَ أخِيهَا.

Tirmidhi narrated that ‘a’ishah visited the grave of her brother (‘Abd ar-Rahman).

In the end, Ibn al-Qutadah concludes from the set of the decrees on the permissibility and honor (of ziyarah) in the quoted hadiths that it is loathsome for the women to perform ziyarah.3

The view of ‘Allamah Majlisi

In this regard, ‘Allamah Majlisi expresses thus:

Ziyarah is good and recommended for men… But concerning the ziyarah for women, there are two pertinent opinions. One opinion is that ziyarah for women is loathsome… and the other opinion is that it is permissible provided that they cover themselves from the sight of strangers {ghayr mahram}.4

According to the belief of the Shi`ah, visiting the grave of the faithful is part of the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (s) and all Muslims have consensus of opinion that at the time of death of a believer, he would go to his grave and express condolences to the bereaved ones. It is also stated in the Holy Qur’an, thus:

﴿وَلاَ تُصَلِّ عَلَى أَحَدٍ مِنْهُمْ مَاتَ أَبَدًا وَلاَ تَقُمْ عَلَى قَبْرِهِ إِنَّهُمْ كَفَرُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَمَاتُوا وَهُمْ فَاسِقُونَ.﴾

And never pray over any of them when he dies, nor stand on his graveside. They indeed defied Allah and His Apostle and died as transgressors.5

This verse is about the hypocrites {munafiqun} and expresses this point: O Prophet! Do not go to the graveside of the hypocrites as you are doing with respect to the graves of the faithful, and do not pray for their souls nor pray over their graves because they defied Allah and His Apostle and they are transgressors. That ziyarah is an indisputable principle and the presence of believers at the graveside of one another is unquestionable although there may possibly be differences of opinion among some Muslim schools of thought concerning the secondary features of ziyarah.

Visiting the grave as an excellent sunnah

It is thus recorded in history books attributed to the Ahl as-Sunnah: Every year the Prophet (s) would visit the graves of the martyrs {shuhada‘} of the Battle of Uhud and recite this prayer {ziyarah}:

السَلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ بِمَا صَبَرْتُمْ فَنِعْمَ عُقْبَى الدَّارِ.

Peace be on you because you were constant, how excellent, is then, the issue of the abode.

It is also recorded that Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman, like the Prophet (s), also used to perform ziyarah. The daughter of the Prophet of Islam (s), Hadrat Fatimah az-Zahra (‘a) would also visit the martyrs of Uhud two days a week. During his visit to the martyrs, especially in the ziyarah to Hamzah and Mus’ab ibn ‘Umayr, the Holy Prophet (s) would recite this verse,

رِجَالٌ صَدَقُوا مَا عَاهَدُوا اللَّهَ عَلَيْهِ.

Men who fulfill what they have pledged to Allah.6

In addition to this, it is thus recorded in the book, As-Sahih that Abu Sa’id al-Khudri would extend salutations to the grave of Hamzah… Umm Salamah, one of the honorable wives of the Prophet (s), and individuals such as Abu Hurayrah, Fatimah Khuza’iyyah, and ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar al-Khattab also used to perform ziyarah to this group of martyrs.7

It is thus recorded in the valuable book, al-Ghadir under the section, “Virtues and Merits of Abu Hanifah” {Bab Fada’il wa Manaqib Abu Hanifah}:

Whenever he would go to Baghdad, Imam ash-Shafi’i would pay a visit to the grave of Abu Hanifah. He would stand beside his grave, offer salutation to him and seek his intermediation for the fulfillment of his needs. Ahmad ibn Hanbal did the same practice with respect to his master (Imam ash-Shafi’i) to such an extent that his son would get astonished. Ahmad ibn Hanbal explained to his son that there is nothing wrong in seeking the intermediation of Imam ash-Shafi’i for the removal of difficulties because he, like the sun, was beneficial to the people.8

Were the Prophet (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) not like ash-Shafi’i for the people? This is while ash-Shafi’i and Abu Hanifah held the Imams (‘a) in high esteem, and Imam ash-Shafi’i acknowledges the sublime station of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (‘a).

Is the practice of these Imams of the Ahl as-Sunnah not a proof for their followers? Do the Wahhabis who regard ziyarah as an act of polytheism also consider the Imams of the Ahl as-Sunnah as polytheists?

Notwithstanding the Sunni and Shi`ah traditions regarding the mustahabb status of ziyarah, there is also another tradition narrated from the Prophet of Islam (s) that if anyone who goes to the cemetery and read Surat Ya Sin, the agony of the dead ones shall be mitigated. The Wahhabis, however, inscribed on a tabloid the hadith, “Allah curses those who visit the graves” and placed it at the Baqi’ cemetery and on the grave of Abu Talib.

Critique: Although the imams of the Ahl as-Sunnah have approved of the practice of visiting the graves and reckoned it as mustahabb, is not the opposition of the Wahhabis nothing but advancing the imperialist objectives and disrupting the unity of Muslims? Does it indicate the fact that they are determined to interpret and explain the religion in the way they like even if it is contrary to the opinions and views of the other Muslim schools of thought? If they really regard it permissible for men to perform ziyarah, why cannot male pilgrims visit the Baqi’ cemetery at all times, but they are only allowed to do so at a specific time?

Why are Wahhabis determined to destroy all the holy shrines? For example, why in 1216 AH Sa’ud ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, on the order of his father, assaulted Karbala’ and after killing and plunder, destroyed the holy shrine there? Or, why in 1217 and 1218 AH did they attack the holy city of Mecca and engage in demolishing the religious relics there? Or, why in 1220 AH under the slogan of “Kill the polytheists” did they invade an-Najaf al-Ashraf? Or, why in later years did they assault the holy city of Medina and raze the holy shrines to the ground in that blessed place—the shrines of great personages such as the father of the Prophet (s), the Imams (‘a) buried in Baqi’, and the descendants and wives of the Prophet (s)?9

Must not the answer to these questions be sought in Wahhabis’ enmity to the oppressed Imams of Baqi’ and to the truth of Islam, or are we not compelled to say that they also do not regard as permissible the ziyarah for men which is proved by what they are doing in practice? for men which is proved by what they are doing in practice? for men which is proved by what they are doing in practice?

The laws pertaining to the graves and mosques

The Wahhabis are not much inclined to beautify and visit shrines. Based on some traditions some of which we shall quote later, they uphold the unlawfulness of visiting graves, considering their demolition as permissible. The basis of this mindset is traceable to Ibn Taymiyyah and Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab.

The Wahhabis claim that in practicing the religion and in explaining and interpreting its laws, one must take inspiration from the conduct and practice of the caliphs, the Companions {sahabah} and Followers {tabi’un} because they are closer to the time of revelation and the Prophet (s). We know that this is nothing but an empty claim and their beliefs regarding ziyarah is contrary to the sayings and practice of the Companions because the latter did not only visit Uhud and the martyrs of Baqi’ but if they ever happened to conquer a territory they would also pay respect to the graves there. For instance, when Syria was conquered during the reign of the second caliph, the Muslims preserved the graves of Hadrat Zakariyya (Zechariah) and Yahya (John the Baptist) (‘a), considering them as holy. Or, when Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) was annexed to the Islamic territories, they preserved the graves beside Masjid al-Aqsa and no one demolished them.

The Wahhabis’ opposition to the burial of the dead in a private house or mosque, or near it is another proof of the fact that contrary to their claim, they have adopted a different way which is discordant with the way of the Companions because these very Companions, ‘Ali (‘a) in particular, buried the Prophet (s) in his own house, or according to a certain narration, Fatimah az-Zahra (‘a), who was regarded by the Wahhabis as one of the great Companions, was buried in her own house. The incorrectness of this belief of the Wahhabis will be made clearer to us when we find out that based on historical evidence, many of the prophets (‘a) were buried in Hijr Ismail and Bayt al-Maqdis without considering the fact that at the time of their burial, the nature of these sacred sites as places of worship were known.

Why did the Wahhabis not destroy the graves of the Prophet (s) and the Two Sheikhs {shaykhayn} (Abu Bakr and ‘Umar)?

The Wahhabis who play the companion card have never found an opportunity to demolish the graves of the Prophet (s) and the Two Sheikhs {shaykhayn} (Abu Bakr and ‘Umar) because such practice is against the conduct of the Companions of the Prophet (s), not to mention the fact that the Muslim world will be united in opposing them.

But on account its distance from Masjid an-Nabi, opposition to the Shi`ah and the gathering of the pilgrims, they destroyed the Baqi’ cemetery. In 1344 AH corresponding to 1912-1913 CE, the Wahhabis razed to the ground all the domes around Medina such as the domes of the four Imams (‘a) (buried in Medina such as al-Hasan, as-Sajjad, al-Baqir, and as-Sadiq (‘a)); ‘Abbas the uncle of the Prophet (s); the wives of the Prophet (s); ‘Abd Allah the father of the Prophet (s); ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan; Isma’il ibn Ja’far as-Sadiq; and Malik.10

Therefore, since the Wahhabis do not believe in the visitation {ziyarah} to the graves of the prophets and the saints, considering it as a manifestation of polytheism and man’s drifting away from God, they are of the opinion that people must be kept away from this practice and shrines and mausoleums must be destroyed.

Honoring the mosques and praying beside graves

The Wahhabis regard standing in prayer beside graves as an act of polytheism because it will be deemed worshipping those who are buried. Similarly, by citing the tradition below on the authority of Abu Hurayrah, they think that constructing a mosque beside graves is improper and against the religion.

The Prophet (s) said:

لاَ تَجْعَلُوا بُيُوتَكُمْ قُبُوراً، وَلاَ تَجْعَلُوا قَبْرِي عِيداً، وَصَلُّوا عَلَيَّ؛ فَإنَّ صَلاتَكُمْ تَبْلُغُنِي حَيْثُ كُنْتُمْ.

Do not convert your houses into a graveyard and do not make my grave as a site for festivity {‘id}. Send salutations to me as your salutations, wherever you are, reach me.

This hadith, on account of its narrator whose practice of fabricating habits is known to all and sundry, is not very reliable, and it cannot be accepted except through explanation and analysis. In explaining this tradition it must be said that perhaps the phrase, “Do not convert your houses into graveyards,” is indicative of the fact that if the remembrance of God is forgotten in a house and spirituality in it dies out, it actually turns into a graveyard, from which no voice comes out.

In the same manner, the phrase, “Do not make my grave a site for festivity {id},” maybe a reminder of the reality that since the people usually engage in merrymaking and rejoicing on the eve of feasts and this merrymaking may possibly go against the religion or might result in neglecting God for some moments, festivity and celebration must not be held near the shrine of the Chief of the Prophets (s) because among the requisites of visiting that holy shrine is presence of heart and remembrance of God.

In the same vein, perhaps what is meant by the phrase, “Send salutations upon me,” is when the Holy Prophet (s) wants his followers to send salutations upon him which is perhaps a sort of need, his Companions and followers are more in need of this spiritual gift. Meanwhile, the phrase, “Do not convert your houses into graveyards,” has a health dimension and that is, if a dead body is not buried, after sometime it will emit an offensive odor and cause ailments and harm. And if it were also buried near the site of a residence, by emitting a nauseating smell, it would make life difficult for the residents, or bring about disease and unpleasantness. Of course, this expression does not include the Prophet (s) and the infallible Imams (‘a) because their bodies and souls, based on this Verse of Purification {ayat at-tathir},

﴿إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنْكُمْ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا.﴾

Indeed Allah desires to repel all impurity from you, O People of the Household, and purify you with a thorough purification,1171

are pure and will not cause sickness and plague. Now, if by citing this tradition, there is someone who would protest against the burial of the Prophet (s) and Fatimah az-Zahra (‘a) in the house, this criticism can be traced back to Abu Bakr and ‘Umar who were not members of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), and based on the Verse of Purification, they were not purified. In conclusion, if the Wahhabis find fault with the burial of the dead and regard standing in prayer beside the grave as an act of polytheism, they would have to consider the Companions as polytheists though they were not so.1272

Argument based on verse 21 of Surah al-Kahf

According to verse 21 of Surat al-Kahf, when the Companions of the Cave went to sleep again, the people differed with one another on how to mark the place where they had gone to sleep, and they finally agreed to build a place of worship so that visitors, apart from visiting, could also engage in worshipping God. With the aim of making their belief in the religious impermissibility of constructing mosque over the graves acceptable, the Wahhabis utilized the verse below although no part of it can actually be taken to substantiate their belief. The verse in question thus states:

﴿وَكَذَلِكَ أَعْثَرْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ لِيَعْلَمُوا أَنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ وَأَنَّ السَّاعَةَ لاَ رَيْبَ فِيهَا إِذْ يَتَنَازَعُونَ بَيْنَهُمْ أَمْرَهُمْ فَقَالُوا ابْنُوا عَلَيْهِمْ بُنْيَانًا رَبُّهُمْ أَعْلَمُ بِهِمْ قَالَ الَّذِينَ غَلَبُوا عَلَى أَمْرِهِمْ لَنَتَّخِذَنَّ عَلَيْهِمْ مَسْجِدًا.﴾

So it was that We let them come upon them, that they might know that Allah’s promise is true, and that there is no doubt in the Hour. As they were disputing among themselves about their matter, they said, ‘Build a building over them. Their Lord knows best.’ Those who had the say in their matter said, ‘We will set up a place of worship over them’.13

Another argument

At the outset, it must be noted that the Wahhabis oppose building mosques over the graves, regarding it as unlawful and religiously illegitimate. And in order to prove their belief, they resort to any tradition, no matter how weak {da’if} it is. For example, they have resorted to the following tradition, whose authenticity has no basis, for whatever purpose it may serve them:

لَعَنَ اللهُ اليَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَى؛ إتَّخَذُوا قُبُورَ أنْبِيَائِهِمْ وَصَالِحِيهِمْ مَسَاجِدَ.

Allah curses the Jews and the Christians for making the graves of their prophets and righteous ones as places of worship.14

Although both in terms of thought and practice, the Jews and the Christians have committed many errors, they have never worshipped graves. Secondly, this hadith—assuming that it is authentic {sahih}—does not include Muslims because contrary to the Jews and the Christians, they have never built a mosque over a grave, and if they are ever standing in prayer near a grave, their aim is the pleasure of God and to offer as gift its reward as a gift to the buried person, and if the latter is among the awliya‘, they are praying to God to let them attain his station and rank.

It seems that through this sort of opposition, Ibn Taymiyyah and Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, in particular, wanted to show their open-mindedness and enlightenment, when they could have shown the greatness of their minds by learning the truth of Islam, Islamic management, means of social welfare and doing things like promoting the setting up learning and research centers and struggling against imperialism.

At the present time also, in order to display their knowledge and intelligence, some neophytes and novices have made holy shrines, mausoleums and supplications as the targets of their speeches. Consciously or unconsciously, they are using their pens for the advancement of imperialist objectives, and thus, pouring oil onto the fires of the enemy.

They have to know, however, that enlightenment does not mean regarding the prayers for ziyarah as superstitious and making a mockery of supplications. It rather means to remind the Muslims of their past glory and grandeur; to show to them way of deliverance from the yoke of despotism and to present to them the truth of religion. This method was made manifest when Imam Khomeini (r), throughout the course of the Islamic Revolution, exerted his utmost efforts and dedication along these lines.

Construction of mosques near the graves

With the conditions that we shall mention, Shi`ah ‘ulama’ have consensus of opinion regarding the permissibility of mosques near graves and shrines of the prophets (‘a) and righteous people. Some scholars of the Ahl as-Sunnah also believe in its permissibility and others are of the opinion that it is loathsome. The Wahhabis, however, in following Ibn Taymiyyah and Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, acknowledge its unlawfulness, and in order to prove their belief, they have resorted to any hadith, no matter how weak {da’if} it is. For example, they have cited as proof verse 21 of Surah al-Kahf and as we have stated earlier, from this verse the correctness of the Wahhabi belief cannot be deduced whatsoever.

It is said that some distinguished Shi`ah ‘ulama‘ such as ‘Allamah Majlisi, ‘Allamah Hilli and Shaykh at-Tusi have decreed that it is loathsome to build a mosque beside a grave if the mosque is built on the grave and the prayer is performed in such a manner that one has to face the grave, otherwise according to them, there is nothing wrong as it is permissible to build a mosque such as these in the vicinity of the holy shrines of Imam ar-Rida (‘a) and Hadrat Fatimah al-Ma’sumah.15 Some leading Shi`ah figures even opine that it is mustahabb to construct a mosque near shrines.

While expressing his opinion on the permissibility of building mosques near shrines under the conditions we have mentioned, ‘Allamah Majlisi points to some traditions that confirm the permissibility of praying near the shrines of the Imams (‘a). For instance, he narrates that the Prophet (s) said:

“…وَاللهِ لَتُقْتَلُنَّ بِأرْضِ العِرَاقِ وَتُدْفَنُ بِهَا.” قُلْتُ: “يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ! مَا لِمَنْ زَارَ قُبُورَنَا وَعَمَّرَهَا وَتَعَاهَدَهَا؟” فَقَالَ لِي: “يَا أبَا الْحَسَنِ! إنَّ اللهَ تَعَالَى جَعَلَ قَبْرَكَ وَقَبْرَ وُلْدِكَ بِقَاعاً مِنْ بِقَاعِ الْجَنَّةِ وَعَرَصَةً مِنْ عَرَصَاتِهَا.”

{The Prophet (s) said:} “You shall be killed in Iraq and you shall also be buried there!” I (Imam ‘Ali (‘a)) said: O Messenger of Allah! What shall be the reward of the one will visit our graves, beautify them and maintain them?” He (s) said to me: “Your grave and that of your sons are among the edifices of paradise and among its fields.”16

It can be deduced from this noble hadith that renovating the graves of the Imams (‘a) is mustahabb. Visiting them shall have otherworldly rewards, and there is nothing wrong to pray in those sacred places.

Elevation of the graves

The Wahhabis, basing their opinions on a tradition, believe that graves must not be elevated beyond the ground level, or that a mausoleum should not be constructed upon graves. Abu’l-Hayyaj narrates that ‘Ali (‘a) said:

ألاَ أبْعَثُكَ عَلَى مَا بَعَثَنِي عَلَيْهِ رَسُولُ اللهِ ؟ أنْ لاَ تَدَعَ قَبْراً مُشْرِفاً إلاَّ سَوَّيْتَهُ، وَلاَ تِمْثالاً إلاَّ طَمَسْتَهُ.

{O Abu’l-Hayyaj!} Be aware that I shall send you for a mission for which I was dispatched by the Messenger of Allah (s). Your mission is to level to the ground the elevated and ornamented graves and to demolish statues.17

Thereafter, the author of Fath al-Majid infers from this hadith that construction of monuments-like domes and statutes, and elevation of outstanding and looming graves are not permissible and they must be destroyed.

In reply, it must be said that first of all, as indicated by the book, Tahdhib at-Tahdhib, the hadith is not substantiated. Secondly, this tradition has ruled on the demolition of statues and razing graves to the ground, and this rule cannot be applied to edifices and domes.

Therefore, the Sunnis and the Shi`ah have consensus of opinion that graves must not be stupendous, but it is permissible to build mausoleums over the graves of the righteous and the ‘ulama‘. It is recorded in the book, Al-Ghadir, that “Malik ibn Anas passed away in 179 AH and his grave is in Medina, in the Baqi’ cemetery in particular, and has a small dome and a small building:18

عَلَيْهِ قُبَّةٌ صَغِيرَةٌ مُخْتَصَرُ البِنَاءِ.

Therefore, it is permissible to construct domes and shrine according to the Maliki ‘ulama‘. In the book, Al-Fiqh ‘ala al-Madhahib al-Arba’ah, it is thus stated about the manner of making grave:

وَيُنْدَبُ ارْتِفَاعُ التُّرَابِ فَوْقَ الْقَبْرِ بِقَدَرِ شِبْرٍ.

It is mustahabb for the grave to be an inch above the ground.19

The Wahhabi viewpoint concerning the ornamentation of mosques and holy shrines

This is the underpinning of the Wahhabi creed—if they do not find a supporting document and tradition about a certain case, they will prohibit it. It is for this reason that they do not consider the ornamentation of mosques, such as the Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca) and Masjid an-Nabi (in Medina), with lanterns, chandeliers, etc. as permissible, because they have not found a pertinent hadith. In reply, it must be said that if the Wahhabis really give importance to this criterion, then they are not supposed to make use of any manifestation of the modernity because there has not been any traditions about the permissibility of using vehicles, telephones, etc.

Secondly, the fact that we have no hadith about the unlawfulness of this kind of issues is perhaps proof that it is permissible and acceptable to use them. In conclusion, it may be said that if ornamentation of mosques does not distract the attention of people but rather encourages them to be present in it, it is therefore permissible and there is nothing wrong with it.

Traveling to for visit mosques

By relying on a certain tradition, the followers of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab believe that traveling with the intention of surveying mosques is unlawful. Their main basis is a tradition on the authority of Abu Sa’id who narrated that the Messenger of Allah (s) said:

لاَ تُشَدُّ الرِّحَالُ إلاَّ إلَى ثَلاَثَةِ مَسَاجِدَ: الْمَسْجِدُ الْحَرَامُ، وَمَسْجِدِي هَذَا، وَالْمَسْجِدُ الأقْصَى.

You are not supposed to travel except for the visitation {ziyarah} of three mosques: Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca), this mosque of mine (Masjid an-Nabi in Medina), and Masjid al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem).

The Wahhabis have concluded from this hadith that travel to see other mosques are not lawful. Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab also says:

مَنْ سَافَرَ لِمُجَرَّدِ زِيَارَةِ قُبُورِ الأنْبِيَاءِ وَالصَّالِحِينَ فَهُوَ مُشْرِكٌ.

He who travels only to visit the graves of the prophets and the pious is a polytheist.20

Of course, this hadith expresses the importance of these three mosques and one cannot infer from it the unlawfulness of visiting other mosques. Visiting mosques located in Muslim lands is not only not blameworthy but it also acquaints us with the past glory and grandeur of Muslims and thus encourages us to strive hard to regain that honor and dignity.

  • 1.
    Ibn al-Qudamah, Al-Mughni, vol. 2, p. 430.
  • 2.
    Ibid.
  • 3.
    Ibn al-Qudamah, Al-Mughni, vol. 4, pp. 426, 431.
  • 4.
    ‘Allamah Majlisi, Mir’at al-‘Uqul, vol. 14, p. 191.
  • 5.
    Surat at-Tawbah (or, Bara‘ah) 9:84.
  • 6.
    Surat al-Ahzab 33:23. Waqidi, Al-Maghazi, vol. 1, p. 312.
  • 7.
    Sayyid Ja‘far Murtadha, As-Sahih fi Sirat an-Nabi, vol. 4, p. 318.
  • 8.
    ‘Allamah Amini, Al-Ghadir, vol. 5, p. 194.
  • 9.
    ‘Ali Dawani, Firqeh-ye Wahhabi, pp. 32-40.
  • 10.
    ‘Ali Asghar Faqihi, Wahhabiyyan, p. 407.
  • 11.
    Surat al-Ahzab 33:33.
  • 12.
    Fath al-Majid, p. 261.
  • 13.
    Surat al-Kahf 18:21.
  • 14.
    Fath al-Majid, p. 267.
  • 15.
    Fatimah al-Ma‘sumah: the sister of Imam ar-Rida (‘a) who was buried in Qum. [Trans.]
  • 16.
    Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 100, p. 120.
  • 17.
    Fath al-Majid, p. 493.
  • 18.
    Al-Ghadir, vol. 5, p. 195.
  • 19.
    Al-Fiqh ‘ala al-Madhahib al-Arba‘ah, vol. 1, p. 420.
  • 20.
    Fath al-Majid, p. 261.

The Miracles {Karamah} of the Saints of God {Awliya’ Allah}

Another point upon which the Wahhabis differ with the Sunnis and the Shi`ah is the issue of miracles {karamat}. All Muslim sects regard the prophets (‘a) as people who performed miracles {karamat} and wondrous feats {mu’jizah} because the Qur’an bears witness to the authenticity of this point. Concerning the infallible Imams (‘a), however, the only group that does not recognize them to have performed miracles and treat them as equal to others in the possession or otherwise of this merit is the Wahhabis. The Shi`ah characterize the infallible Imams (‘a) with having miraculous and marvelous powers, substantiating this fact with religious traditions and historical accounts.

Now, if anyone believes that there is a difference between a mu’jizah and a karamah, emphasizing that mu’jizah refers to that which is performed by the prophets as narrated in the Qur’an while karamah refers to that which is performed by the infallible Imams (‘a) as narrated in the traditions, it must be said that in any case, the pure Imams (‘a) possess powers and forces which the common people undoubtedly do not possess, and it makes no difference whether you call it as mu’jizah or karamah. It is said that some of the real Gnostics and mystics {‘urafa‘} possess this power and to a lower degree. It is thus stated in the book, Fath al-Majid:

The miracles {karamah} of the saints of God {awliya’ Allah} are the products of divine attraction and grace, and this affair does not depend upon the person or his knowledge and intention—like the karamah of ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) on numerous occasions and the karamah of ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) when he came to Iran and talked to Prophet Daniel in the town of Shush. Similarly, at the time when Medina was afflicted with famine, ‘Umar participated in the prayer for rain and it came.

It must not remain unstated that we do not have reliable historical evidence concerning ‘Umar’s coming to Iran and the town of Shush in particular. It was rather ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (‘a) who had come to Shush and talked with Prophet Daniel (‘a).

With regard to the famine, it must also be said that what has been recorded in reliable sources is that at the request of ‘Umar, ‘Abbas the uncle of the Prophet (s) performed this prayer.

Then, the said author adds that these miracles have no benefit and if there were any benefit, it only pertains to that time. In short, after the death of those possessing karamah, those miracles have no value and one should not expect them.1

Therefore, the Wahhabis believe in a sort of karamah for the Imams (‘a), the Companions and leading figures of the religion, but they consider these miracles valuable only at the time when those possessing them are alive because once a person departs from this world, the mark of his existence, like that of other living creatures and even the non-living ones, ceases to exist. They substantiate this statement of theirs with the verse,

﴿إِنَّكَ مَيِّتٌ وَإِنَّهُمْ مَيِّتُونَ.﴾

You will indeed die, and they {too} will die indeed,2

in which the death of the Prophet (s) has been treated equal with that of the awliya’. They have also inferred from this verse that seeking help from the souls of the prophets (‘a) and the awliya’ is a futile and vain practice, and that ziyarat al-qubur {prayer recited on visiting a grave} must be shunned. Of course, the prohibition of ziyarah for women is even more emphasized and the philosophy behind it is clear.

The miracles of the saints of God as the effect of satisfaction of the soul and God-wariness {taqwa}

According to the verses,

﴿وَمَنْ يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ مَخْرَجًا.﴾

And whoever is wary of Allah, He shall make a way out for him,3

And

﴿إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ.﴾

Indeed Allah does not waste the reward of the virtuous,4

anyone who is wary of God, does righteous deeds and strives to offer sacrifices and charities for the pleasure of Allah, God will show him the way of deliverance from worldly and otherworldly adversities and give him rewards in both worlds. And whenever the people of the world benefit from his good deeds, meritorious rewards shall be granted to him. So, anyone who is of the opinion that the ornament of karamah befits a particular number of people and that these miracles are valuable and effective as long as their possessors are alive, is thinking and believing incorrectly because the quoted verses do not point to a particular person or group.

Meanwhile, the ruling on the truly faithful persons is like the ruling on water. When they are alive, everybody can benefit from their presence and when they die and are buried, people can establish spiritual communion with them, turning to them for help and seeking their intermediation. In the same manner, underground water can be obtained by the spade, wheelbarrow and bucket.

In spite of this, the Wahhabis believe that anyone who departs from this world, even if he is the Prophet (s), his existence has no more effect and anyone whose existence has no effect is not worthy of tawassul and ziyarah to him would be of no avail, thus to seek someone who has no benefit and gain for one is a futile and vain action.

Charities {khayrat}, alms {sadaqat} and vows {nudhurat}

The other case which the Wahhabis regard as sources of polytheism are charities {khayrat}, alms {sadaqat} and vows {nudhurat} given on behalf of the dead. Thus, it is stated in the book, Fath al-Majid:

The holy shrines, sacred places and graves of the awliya’ which have become sites of ziyarah, charities, vows, etc. are places of Satan and it is unlawful to sojourn in these places such as the Zaynabiyyah, the Ra’s al-Husayn in Syria, and Karbala’ and Najaf in Iraq.

The commentator of this book thus writes:

There were such places in the Hijaz before, but thanks to God, they were demolished through the able hand of King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al Sa’ud, and it is hoped that God would destroy the rest.5

It must be said that if the Shi`ah fulfill their vows and give alms in sacred places, it is for the pleasure of God and such acts are not tainted with any sort of polytheism. The issue that comes to mind is this: Why do the Wahhabis overlook the corruptions and perversions that plague the youth; the wealth that is plundered from Muslim countries; and the culture and civilization that are being destroyed in Muslim lands? Yet, they persistently find fault with charities, alms and ziyarah to the graves of leading figures of the religion, and consider that all the problems of Muslims emanate from these issues. At the time when Europeans are mummifying their great ones and preserving the putrefied bones of inventors in affection for their scientists, why are the Wahhabis trying to destroy the relics and shrines of religious personalities especially the pure Imams (‘a) and consider ziyarah to these great personalities as hindrance to development, where in fact these personalities are the fountainheads of guidance {hidayah} and enlightenment {irshad}?

Seeking blessings {tabarruk} from the sacred stones

Another case highlighted by the Wahhabis and with which they have found fault is the consideration of some stones as sacred and making tawassul to them because they equate this recourse with a sort of idol-worship. As such, they believe that anyone, who takes recourse to these stones, makes a vow upon them, and takes them as intercessors, is a polytheist {mushrik}:

﴿وَيَقُولُونَ هَؤُلاَءِ شُفَعَاؤُنَا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ.﴾

And they say, ‘These are our intercessors with Allah’.6

And with this belief, they have thus written:

It is not permissible for the stones from which people seek tabarruk and make vows upon to remain on the surface of the earth. And it is incumbent upon Muslims to obliterate them whenever they have the opportunity to do so.7

The fact must be acknowledged that there is no Muslim country in which Muslims express reverence to a stone, regarding it as an intercessor, and if out of ignorance and heedlessness, some Muslims revere an old stone or tree, asking it for mercy, this practice must not be ascribed to Muslims in general.

Of course, there are two stones and two hills whose Qur’anic sanctity made Muslims honor them. They are the following:

1. The Black Stone {al-hajar al-aswad}: This stone is situated in a corner of the Ka’bah, and the beginning and end of every tawaf {circumambulation of the Ka’bah} is determined by it.

2. The Station of Abraham {maqam ibrahim}: The Qur’an enjoins the Muslims to perform prayer at this site:

﴿وَاتَّخِذُوا مِنْ مَقَامِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ مُصَلًّى.﴾

Take the venue of prayer from Abraham’s Station.8

3. The hills of Safa and Marwah: Regarding these two hills, the Qur’an says:

﴿إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالْمَرْوَةَ مِنْ شَعَائِرِ اللَّهِ.﴾

Indeed Safa and Marwah are among Allah’s sacraments.9

Of course, it must be noted that if people honor them, and hold in high esteem the Prophet of Islam (s), the pure Imams (‘a), the Qur’an, and the religious personalities, it is because they are among the sacraments of Allah and honoring them indicates the purity of hearts:

﴿وَمَنْ يُعَظِّمْ شَعَائِرَ اللَّهِ فَإِنَّهَا مِنْ تَقْوَى الْقُلُوبِ.﴾

And whoever venerates the sacraments of Allah—indeed that arises from God-wariness of hearts.10

Seeking Tabarruk from the Prophet (s) and his relics

The Muslims—Sunnis and Shi`ah—have consensus of opinion on this issue; that the Prophet (s) and his relics must be honored and revered. In confirming this subject one may refer to many historical accounts and the sayings of leading Sunni personalities. For example, Hadrat Zahra (‘a) and other Companions used to invoke blessings from the soil of the grave of the Holy Prophet (s); ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar who strove to preserve the relics of the Holy Prophet (s) even tried to preserve a tree under which the Prophet (s) once rested; Ahmad ibn Hanbal deems it permissible to invoke blessings from the relics of the Messenger of Allah (s); and Sunni fuqaha believe that:

زِيَارَةُ القُبُورِ أفْضَلُ الْمَنْدُوبَاتِ.

Visitation of graves is the best of all recommended (mustahabb) acts.

It is important to note that for this reason, the Prophet (s) and his successors (‘a) and their relics as well as other religious objects must be honored as they are the manifestations of the religion and truthfulness of revelation.11

  • 1.
    Fath al-Majid, pp. 93, 137, 169.
  • 2.
    Surat az-Zumar, 39:30.
  • 3.
    Surat at-Talaq 65:2.
  • 4.
    Surat at-Tawbah (or, al-Bara‘ah) 9:120.
  • 5.
    Fath al-Majid, p. 137.
  • 6.
    Surat Yunus, 10:18.
  • 7.
    Fath al-Majid, p. 274.
  • 8.
    Surat al-Baqarah 2:125.
  • 9.
    Surat al-Baqarah 2:158.
  • 10.
    Surat al-Hajj 22:32.
  • 11.
    See Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 1, pp. 59, 105; vol. 7, p. 199; Fath al-Bari, vol. 1, pp. 256, 408; ‘Allamah Amini, Al-Ghadir, vol. 3, p. 170 as cited in Ahmad Ahmadi Miyanji, At-Tabarruk bi Athar ar-Rasul, p. 66.

Allegorical Interpretation {Ta’wil} in the Qur’an

Based on the classification of the verses of the Qur’an into the definitive {muhkam} and the metaphorical {mutashabih},1 and into the abrogating {nasikh} and the abrogated {mansukh}, in explaining some verses, one should not content himself with only their external purport because their external purport could be doubtful and misleading. Meanwhile, according to the traditions, the Qur’an has many cores and layers, the understanding which is not possible for everyone. As such, in understanding some verses, it is necessary to take other verses into account. For example, in interpreting verses such as:

﴿الرَّحْمَانُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوَى.﴾

The All-beneficent settled on the Throne,2

﴿وَجَاءَ رَبُّكَ وَالْمَلَكُ صَفًّا صَفًّا.﴾

And Your Lord and the angels arrive in ranks,3

one must seek the assistance of other verses for clarity and correct interpretation such as:

﴿لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ.﴾

Nothing is like Him,4

﴿وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ.﴾

Nor has He any equal,5

﴿وَكَانَ اللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمًا.﴾

And Allah has knowledge of all things.6

There are two approaches in dealing with these kinds of verses. One group is the literalists who content themselves with the literal meaning of the verses. The other group is the allegorists who take into account other verses in explaining and analyzing these kinds of verses, and they believe in allegorical interpretation {Ta’wil}. For instance, in interpreting the verse, (عَلى الْعَرْشِ استَوَى) settled on the Throne,”7 they have said that ”‘arsh” is the Throne exclusive for God where He is settled, but the allegorists have given two probabilities for this verse:

(1) ‘arsh is a thing having the three dimensions of width, height and depth; and

(2) ‘arsh alludes to a fact and concept having no material characteristics.

It is worthy to note that ‘Allamah Tabataba’i (r) accepts the first probability while the late Sha’rani (r) advocates the second probability. It must be emphasized that in interpreting these kinds of verses, those who content themselves with their literal meanings are committing an indescribable mistake and blunder. It is because if one believes in the literal interpretation of settled on the Throne,” he must then assume God to have a physical body, while God is not a body.

Ta’wil according to the Wahhabis

‘Abd al-‘Aziz Muhammad Sultan, a Wahhabi writer, regards Ta’wil as having three meanings:

1. Ta’wil means translating a word from the preferable probability {ihtimal rajih} to the preferred probability {ihtimal marjuh}.

2. Ta’wil means interpretation of the word whether it is consistent or inconsistent with its literal sense.

3. Ta’wil means the unknown truth and quality which are known only to God.

Then, he writes that Ta’wil in any case is forbidden, and the exoteric meaning must not be turned into the esoteric one. The esoteric meaning must be maintained even if it is inconsistent with actuality and reason.8

The Shi`ah, however, are of the opinion that with acceptable evidence a word can be separated from its literal meaning and be reunited with its esoteric and actual meaning. In this respect, proofs, pieces of evidence and verses of the Qur’an can be cited, but dealing lengthily with this subject is beyond the scope of this book.

The fact must be pointed out, nevertheless, that the Wahhabi practice of restricting their focus on the literal and exoteric meaning of the verses is extremely dangerous, and it will encounter problems on mystical and rational issues.

The Juhaymi nature of the Shi`ah

The Wahhabis identify the Shi`ah who make Ta’wil and tafsir of the verses of the Qur’an as ”Juhaymis”. This is because Juhaym ibn Safwan, who lived in the 2nd century AH, used to engage in Ta’wil and he believed in it. Of course, contrary to the notion of the Wahhabis, the Shi`ah do not follow that person on the subject of Ta’wil. They rather follow the pure Imams (‘a) who have allegorically interpreted innumerable verses. The Qur’an itself talks about Ta’wil, using the word itself through the tongue of Hadrat Yusuf (Joseph) (‘a) when he says:

﴿إِذْ قَالَ يُوسُفُ لأَبِيهِ: يَا أَبَتِ إِنِّي رَأَيْتُ أَحَدَ عَشَرَ كَوْكَباً وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ رَأَيْتُهُمْ لِي سَاجِدِينَ.﴾

When Joseph said to his father, ‘Father! I saw eleven planets, and the sun and the moon: I saw them prostrating themselves before me’.9

After Yusuf (‘a) was released from prison and became a chief {‘aziz} in Egypt, and a famine engulfed Palestine and Egypt, the sons of Ya’qub (Jacob) (‘a) came to Yusuf (‘a) to get their ration of grains. After recognizing one another, Yusuf (‘a) requested them to return to Egypt along with their father. When Ya’qub (‘a) and his wife and sons saw Yusuf (‘a) with such glory and grandeur, they prostrated before him. Then, Yusuf (‘a) recounted his childhood dream, saying:

﴿يَا أَبَتِ هَذَا تَأْوِيلُ رُؤْيَاي مِنْ قَبْلُ.﴾

‘Father! This is the fulfillment {Ta’wil} of my dream of long ago.10

The moon, the sun and eleven stars that prostrated before Yusuf (‘a) were interpreted as referring to Ya’qub (‘a), and his wife and 11 sons.

Of course, the interpretation of this dream was not clear in the beginning for Yusuf (‘a). After many years, however, the fulfillment of this dream was made manifest to them.

Therefore, Ta’wil means that when the meaning of a verse is not clear, by employing the assistance of other verses and reliable traditions, the meaning that is closer to the reality is obtained.

The Wahhabis have not trodden the path of enlightenment

Nowadays, the Wahhabis and some Shi`ah are traversing a path, which shows their close-mindedness, and will entail dangerous consequences prompting them to totally seclude themselves from society and render them incapable of responding to rational and religious issues. This path is one where they are content only with the literal meanings of Qur’anic verses and Prophetic traditions; the path of non-recognition of philosophy, mysticism {‘irfan} and philosophical-scholastic {kalami} proofs; and heedlessness to the new sciences.

The truth must be accepted, however, that in every epoch, the Qur’an is loftier than human though.

Therefore, one should not be content with its literal meaning and interpret its probabilities because human mind and thought advance every day and discover new realities. As this Wahhabi idea can become a pretext for neglecting the Qur’an since they consider the human mind as incapable of understanding it and therefore, this book of revelation would end up only being kissed and set aside. One must rather strive as much as possible to understand it properly.

Celebration and Mourning according to the Shi`ah and the WahhabiCelebration and Mourning according to the Shi`ah and the Wahhabi

Celebrations and festivals

The Wahhabis regard any kind of gathering for the passing away or birth of the awliya’ as a sort of worship of the saints of God, equating it to the worship of idols:

هِيَ نَوْعٌ مِنَ العِبَادَةِ لَهُمْ وَتَعْظِيمِهِمْ.

It is a kind of worship and reverence to them.11102

In confirming their contention, they have pointed to the practice of the Arabs of the pre-Islamic period of ignorance {ayyam al-jahiliyyah} who, on any occasion—related to birth or death, good or bad anniversary—would gather in idol-temples and celebrate, or mourn accordingly. Although they believed in One God, they also thought that these products of their own hands (i.e. the idols) had supreme authority on earth, and as such, they would plead for their intercession:

﴿وَيَقُولُونَ هَؤُلاَءِ شُفَعَاؤُنَا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ.﴾

And they say, ‘These are our intercessors with Allah’.12

It must be stated that not only the Wahhabis but all Muslims oppose the holding of polytheistic assemblies. But the question is this: Why do the Wahhabis oppose any gathering, even if it is not polytheistic. Is it not because they want to suppress the beliefs of a number of Muslims by portraying their ideas and mindsets as against the religion??

The two festivals {‘idayn} acceptable to the Wahhabis

According to the author of Fath al-Majid, the Wahhabis acknowledge two festivals: ‘id al-Fitr13 and the feast of the day of Friday, and in this connection, they have cited this hadith of the Prophet (s):

إنَّ هَذَا يَوْمٌ قَدْ جَعَلَهُ اللهُ لِلْمُسْلِمِينَ عِيداً.

Indeed, Allah has made this day (Friday) as a day of festivity for the Muslims.

In their perspective, merriment and singing are permissible and allowed on these two days as the Prophet (s) has singled out these two feasts and enjoined them. Other feasts, however, must not be held because no pertinent hadith and tradition have been transmitted to us concerning this,14 and in a bid to prove their claim, they have cited the following tradition on the authority of Thabit ibn ®ahhak: He says that one day he asked the Prophet (s) about the slaughtering of camels in fulfillment of a vow in Bawanah. The Prophet (s) said that if there were no idols there; if the practice was not to commit a sin against Allah; and if none of the customs of the jahiliyyah was observed, then there would be no wrong in fulfilling such a vow:

…قَالَ: نَذَرَ رَجُلٌ أنْ يَنْحَرَ إبِلاً بِبَوَانَةَ. فَسَألَ النَّبِيَّ فَقَالَ: “هَلْ كَانَ فِيهَا وَثَنٌ مِنْ أوْثَانِ الجَاهِلِيَّةِ يُعْبَدُ؟” قَالَ: “لاَ”. قَالَ: “فَهَلْ كَانَ عِيداً مِنْ أعْيَادِهِمْ؟” قَالَ: “لا”. فَقَالَ : “فَإنَّهُ لاَ وَفَاءَ لِنَذْرٍ فِي مَعْصِيَةِ اللهِ.”

He said: ”{O Messenger of Allah (s)!} Somebody has made a vow to offer a sacrificial animal in Bawanah.” The Prophet (s) asked: “Is there any idol from among the idols of jahiliyyah which is being worshipped there?” He said: “No.” The Prophet (s) again asked: “Is there any feast from among the feasts of jahiliyyah being held there?” He said: “No.” The Prophet (s) then said: “Fulfill the vow then, as it is correct because one should not fulfill a vow which results in the commission of sins against Allah.”15

Yes, in any place where there is an idol, or a custom of jahiliyyah is practiced, festivity should not be held or an animal slaughtered as the fulfillment of a vow. But the question that comes to the mind is this: How come the Wahhabis take this as the basis for prohibiting other festivities?

Respectable places and dates

A duty which has been made incumbent by the Qur’an upon its followers is to reminisce and commemorate the Days of Allah {ayyam Allah}—the days whose association could play a constructive role in the destiny and guidance of human beings; days when truth and justice have been established and religious innovation {bid’ah} has perished. For this reason, Muslims not only honor the Days of Allah but also hold in high esteem places which, in one way or another, demonstrate the illumination of truth and justice and the extinguishment of falsehood and injustice—days such as Friday, ‘id al-Fitr and ‘id al-Qurban {al-adha},16 or the places like Rawdat an-Nabi,17 ‘Arafah,18 Mina,19 Mash’ar al-Haram,20 Maqam Ibrahim {Station of Abraham},21 Safa,22 and Marwah.23

Of course, in addition to these, the Shi`ah honor other holy sites and shrines such as the mausoleums of Imam ‘Ali and Imam al-Husayn (‘a), and days such as Tasu’a’ and ‘ashura’ {the ninth and tenth days of Muharram}. It is because each of these sacred places and days shows the endeavor and struggle of men who offered their lives in the path of exalting Islam.

Therefore, the Wahhabis would have the right to protest against visitations to these blessed places and the commemoration of the Days of Allah only if these activities did not have all those spiritual and religious effects, and they would be correct to find fault with holding celebrations and ceremonies only if doing so entailed committing sins against God.

Of course, their reason behind finding fault with these kinds of festivities, as we have stated before, is the hadith,

وَلاَ تَجْعَلُوا قَبْرِي عِيداً.

Do not make my grave a site for festivity {‘id}.

In explaining this expression, we said that the Prophet (s) had prohibited his followers to hold celebrations beside his sacred tomb in case at that beloved place Muslims would end up committing acts which would be far from earning the pleasure of Allah and by which the dignity and station of the person buried there would not be properly observed.

Distinguished Shi`ah ‘ulama‘ such as Sayyid Muhsin Amin in Kashf al-Irtiyab and Sayyid ‘Abd Allah Shubbar in Masabih al-Anwar, apart from affirming the above point, do not regard this hadith as the proof for prohibiting these kinds of ceremonies.

Festivity {‘id} in the Qur’an

A scrutiny of and reflection on the Qur’an indicate to us the point that it has divided days into two categories:

1. Blessed and festive days: These are days which encompass the material and spiritual blessings of people, which make it fitting for them to rejoice in recognition of these blessings and to express gratitude to God. One such day is when at the request of Hadrat ‘«sa (Jesus) (‘a) a table spread full of food and drink was sent down, as the Qur’an states:

﴿قَالَ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ اللَّهُمَّ رَبَّنَا أَنزِلْ عَلَيْنَا مَائِدَةً مِنْ السَّمَاءِ تَكُونُ لَنَا عِيدًا لأَوَّلِنَا وَآخِرِنَا وَآيَةً مِنْكَ وَارْزُقْنَا وَأَنْتَ خَيرُ الرَّازِقِينَ.﴾

Said Jesus son of Mary, ‘O Allah! Our Lord! Send down to us a table from the sky, to be a festival for us, for the first ones and the last ones among us and as a sign for You, and provide for us; for You are the best of providers’.24

Similarly, one may point to the day when the people {qawm} of Musa (Moses) (‘a) were endowed with the mercy and guidance of God, the Exalted, and saved from misguidance, and Hadrat Musa (‘a) was enjoined to keep alive the memory and to commemorate these days:

﴿وَذَكِّرْهُمْ بِأَيَّامِ اللَّهِ إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لآيَاتٍ لِكُلِّ صَبَّارٍ شَكُورٍ.﴾

And remind them of Allah’s {holy} days. There are indeed signs in that for every patient and grateful {servant}.25

2. Ominous and unblessed days: The days when God has withheld His mercy and grace from His servants and afflicted them with wrath and calamity, such as the days when the fierce eight-day wind struck the people of ‘ad and sent this community to perdition:

﴿فَأَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ رِيحًا صَرْصَرًا فِي أَيَّامٍ نَحِسَاتٍ.﴾

So We unleashed upon them an icy gale during ill-fated days.26

Therefore, there is nothing wrong if, in following the Qur’an, we regard the day of the beginning of the Holy Prophet’s (s) mission as a blessed day and the day of his passing away as an ill-fated day.

Now, if the Wahhabis oppose this understanding, these questions should be posed to them: When the Qur’an regards the day of guidance and enlightenment of the people of Musa (‘a) as one of the Days of Allah, treating it as incumbent to commemorate such a day, is the day of the appointment of the Holy Prophet (s) for the guidance of the entire humanity not blessed and auspicious? Are we not supposed to honor the memory and commemorate that day and to rejoice on it?

Festivity in Islamic Narrations

After elucidating the viewpoint of the Qur’an about ‘id, there is no need to pursue this discussion by referring to traditions and history because it will require more time, which is beyond the scope of this book. In order to clarify the view of the Imams (‘a), however, we shall suffice to mention a hadith from Hadrat ‘Ali (‘a):

إنَّمَا هُوَ عِيدٌ لِمَنْ قَبِلَ اللهُ صِيَامَهُ وَشَكَرَ قِيَامَهُ؛ وَكُلُّ يَوْمٍ لاَ يُعْصَى اللهُ فِيهِ فَهُوَ عِيدٌ.

Verily, it is a festivity for the one whose fast is accepted by God and whose prayer is taken as a gratitude, and any day in which none of the commandments of God is violated is a day of festivity.27

In a nutshell, the traditions which have been narrated from the infallible Imams (‘a) and whose authenticity has been confirmed by the scholars of hadith {muhaddithun} place particular emphasis on four festivities: ‘id al-Adha, ‘id al-Fitr, Friday, and ‘id al-Ghadir.28

It must be noted that the Sunnis and the Shi`ah differ only on the last festivity, and it is the Shi`ah who regard that day as a day of honor and dignity. Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) considers that day to be more sublime and greater than all the feasts, urging his followers to engage in these four acts on that day: remembrance of God, fasting, acts of worship, and sending benedictions upon Muhammad and his progeny {al} (‘a). Then, the Imam (‘a) adds:

It is the day when not only the Prophet (s) enjoined ‘Ali (‘a) to reckon it as a day of festivity, but the other prophets (‘a) have also called on their respective successors {awsiya’} to celebrate that day.29

Therefore, gatherings for celebration and merriment which are accompanied by the remembrance and recollection of God, the Prophet (s) and leaders of religion (‘a) cannot be regarded as irreligious, and no decree should be issued concerning their religious illegitimacy.

On one of the days when ‘id Ghadir Khumm fell on a Friday, Imam ‘Ali (‘a) said:

Two great feasts have fallen on this day.30

The statements of al-Mawardi

Abu ‘Ali al-Mawardi is one of the ‘ulama’ and writers in the 6th century AH who also held position and rank in the ‘Abbasid Caliphate. While pointing to the method of administering a country and the government’s duty over the people, he thus writes about days of festivity:

One of the responsibilities of the government is to promote the conduct of devotional acts on Fridays and of feast days {a’yad} as well as issues related to jihad, and to try and prevent any disruption to the conditions for its performance because these are divine rights must be kept.31

This statement indirectly implies that during the days of the caliphs festivities were held, otherwise it would have been absurd to talk about the feasts and the conditions for holding them.32

The reason behind the Wahhabis’ sensitivity to festivity and lamentation {‘aza}

The question that springs to the mind concerning the subjects discussed earlier is this: Why are the Wahhabis sensitive to the holding of gatherings for festivity and lamentation? What is wrong if Muslims are glad and joyful on the birthday or commencement of the Prophetic mission of their Prophet (s), and mourn on the day of his passing away?

If they raise the absence of pertinent hadith as their pretext, it must be noted in the first place that these affairs are not explicit acts of worship that require the decree and order of the Prophet (s). Secondly, the Companions of the Prophet (s) and their Followers {tabi’un} have not regarded these kinds of assemblies as unlawful {haram}, and Shi`ah sources have also issued decrees on the permissibility of holding them provided that sins are not committed therein.

Some authors opine that the reason behind the Wahhabis’ opposition is that they are afraid lest the gatherings for celebrating the event of Ghadir Khumm become widespread and the mourning ceremony for the tragedy in Karbala’ become popular.

Mourning according to Islam and Wahhabism

Mourning and lamentation are not new phenomena in Islam. From the beginning, Muslims have been weeping for the death or martyrdom of their beloved ones. For example, one may refer to the martyrdom of Hamzah the Doyen of the Martyrs {sayyid ash-shuhada’} and the demise of Hadrat Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with them). One may equally refer to gatherings for passion plays and bereavement that were held afterward in mourning for Imam Husayn (‘a).

In spite of the absence of prohibitions for holding mourning and bereavement ceremonies, the Wahhabis regard weeping and expressions of grief as unlawful {haram} and among the practices of jahiliyyah; of course, they have excluded lamentations during the early period of Islam from this ruling. In a bid to depict this belief as well-substantiated, they resort to traditions narrated from the Prophet (s), among which is the following:

إنَّ رَسُولَ اللهِ قَالَ: أرْبَعٌ فِي أُمَّتِي مِنْ أمْرِ الجَاهِلِيَّةِ لاَ يَتْرُكُونَهُنَّ: الفَخْرُ بِالإحْتِسَابِ، وَالطَّعْنُ فِي الأنْسَابِ، وَالاسْتِسْقَاءُ بِالنُّجُومِ، وَالنِّيَاحَةُ.

Verily, the Messenger of Allah (s) said: Four (things from among the practices of jahiliyyah) in my ummah are not abandoned: taking pride in ancestors, finding fault with fathers and forefathers, seeking for rain based on astrology, and mourning for the dead {an-niyahah}.33

Then, in interpreting the word, ”an-niyahah,” they have said:

النَّياحَةُ، أيْ رَفْعَ الصَّوتِ بِالنَّدبِ عَلى المَيِّتِ. وَذلِك يُنافي الصَّبْر الوَاجِبَ وهُو مِن الكَبائِر لِشدَّةِ الوَعيدِ والعُقوبةِ عَليها.

Niyahah means raising the voice over the dead in lamentation and weeping… This sort of mourning is inconsistent with obligatory patience. And it is among the major sins which entails severe chastisement and tribulation.

A critique of the quoted tradition

Without considering the authenticity or otherwise of the quoted tradition, it can be said that this tradition refers to the lamentation of some women during the pre-Islamic period of ignorance {ayyam al-jahiliyyah}. Their occupation was to gather in the houses of the bereaved and to mourn in a particular way. The inappropriate behavior and conduct of these women prompted the Prophet (s) to forbid us from wailing like them; otherwise, there is nothing wrong with mourning per se from the viewpoint of Islam.34

It must be stated that although patience is laudable and among the attributes of the faithful, there are no grounds for its being obligatory. That is, if a person fails to endure a tragedy, it does not amount to committing a major sin.

The other argument of the Wahhabis

Another tradition that the Wahhabis narrate from the Messenger of Allah (s) to which they have resorted is this:

إنَّ الْمَيِّتَ لَيُعَذَّبُ بِبُكَاءِ الْحَيِّ عَلَيْهِ… وَمِثْلُ أنَّ الْمَيِّتَ يُعَذَّبُ فِي قَبْرِهِ بِالنِّيَاحَةِ عَلَيْهِ.

Indeed the dead experience agony due to the weeping of the living for them… Similarly, the dead is chastised in their graves due to mourning for them.

In criticizing this alleged hadith, two points must be highlighted:

(1) the narrator of this hadith, Al-Mughirah ibn Shu’bah is a person whose sayings are not very reliable in the opinion of scholars of hadith, and

(2) as stated by Sayyid Murtadha, even granting that the act of the mourners is against religion and entails tribulation for the dead, this is not only against reason but also contrary to the text of the Qur’an:35

﴿وَلاَ تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى.﴾

Nor doth any laden bear another’s load.36

Therefore, the belief of the Wahhabis concerning weeping, mourning and expressing grief over the dead is not only against reason {‘aql} and religious sources {naql} but also repugnant to the policy of Islam which is to keep filthy habits and reproachable manners away from Islamic society.

Islam accepts mourning per se, but it opposes any obnoxious custom and manner in mourning assemblies, whether before or after the advent of Islam.

The precedence of mourning

Earlier, we talked briefly about the precedence of mourning in Islam and stated that the Prophet (s) urged the women among the Companions to mourn for Hamzah the Doyen of the Martyrs {sayyid ash-shuhada’} or Khadijah al-Kubra may Allah be pleased with them). Now, with the aim of further informing the readers, we shall mention some other instances:

1. The Holy Prophet (s) exhorted the Companions to weep for the martyrdom of Ja’far ibn Abi Talib at-Tayyar and the like of him:

وَعَلَى مِثْلِ جَعْفَرٍ فَلْتَبْكِ البَوَاكِي.

For the like of Ja’far, let weepers weep.37

2. Based on the traditions, the Prophet (s) allowed Umm Salamah to participate in the mourning ceremony.

3. According to Anas ibn Malik, when the Prophet (s) was faced with the protests of some Companions against weeping over the death of his son Ibrahim, he (s) said:

يَا بْنَ عَوْفٍ! إنَّهَا رَحْمَةٌ؛ العَيْنُ تَدْمَعُ، وَالقَلْبُ يَحْزَنُ، وَلاَ نَقُولُ إلاَّ مَا يُرْضِي رَبَّنَا.

O Ibn ‘Awf (epithet of Malik ibn Anas)! Crying is a mercy. The eyes cry and the heart gets sad, and certainly we do not say anything which will displease our Lord.

4. When the Prophet (s) arrived in Medina, he paid a visit to the grave of his mother and wept for the memory of her great soul such that those who were present also shed tears:38

إنَّ النَّبِيَّ زَارَ قَبْرَ أُمِّهِ فَبَكَى، وَأبْكَى مَنْ حَوْلَهُ.

5. When ‘Uthman ibn Maz’un passed away, the Prophet (s) removed the shroud adjacent to his face, kissed the portion between his eyes, and wept a lot. When the coffin was raised, the Prophet (s) said: “O ‘Uthman, blessed are you! The world did not fascinate you and you also did become attached to it:

إنَّ النَّبِيَّ لَمَّا مَاتَ عُثْمَانُ بْنُ مَظْعُونٍ كَشَفَ الثَّوْبَ عَنْ وَجْهِهِ ثُمَّ قَبَّلَ مَا بَيْنَ عَيْنَيْهِ، ثُمَّ بَكَى طَوِيلاً. فَلَمَّا رُفِعَ السَّرِيرُ قَالَ: طُوبَى لَكَ يَا عُثْمَانُ؛ لَمْ تَلْبَسْكَ الدُّنْيَا وَلَمْ تَلْبَسْهَا.

6. When the Prophet (s) passed away, Hadrat Fatimah az-Zahra (‘a) wept profusely; also, Imam Zayn al-‘abidin (‘a) used to weep for the martyrs of Karbala’ for forty years after the event of ‘Ashura’.

Given all the pieces of evidence presented whose authenticity is attested by historical accounts, it seems that the saying of Ja’far Murtadha, a contemporary researcher, is correct. He believes that “Probably, the reason behind the Wahhabis’ prohibition of mourning is to prevent the practice of weeping for Fatimah az-Zahra (‘a).”39

Types of elegy writing

1. Laudable and permissible {mubah}

:Pleasant expressions of melancholic tones and words. For example, during the heavenly ascension of her esteemed father, Hadrat az-Zahra (‘a) thus said:

يَا أبَتَاهُ! مَنْ رَبُّهُ نَادَاهُ! يَا أبَتَاهُ! مَنْ جِبْرَئِيلُ نَعَاهُ! يَا أبَتَاهُ! أجَابَ رَبّاً دَعَاهُ.

O my dear father! Blessed are you for being in the proximity of God, taking your abode beside Jibra’il, responding to the call of the Lord!40

2. Blameworthy and unlawful {haram}

Clapping the hands; shouting and uttering offensive words; tearing off the shirt; harming the face; and making lamentation as one’s occupation. The Prophet (s) thus says about those women who took lamentation as their occupation: “If they would not repent, they will be thrown into hellfire wearing special garments for hell-dwellers.”

Note: The Wahhabis have overlooked all the hadith and historical proofs confirming the principle of mourning in Islam but instead resorted to a hadith about the crying of a group of people over a Jewish woman:

The Messenger of Allah (s) one day passed by a locality and saw a Jewish family crying over a dead woman. He (s) said:

They are shedding tears for the dead while the person in the grave is tormented.41

Although this tradition is about a Jewish woman and does not relate to the Muslims, it must be said that if the said woman was being chastised, it was because her thoughts and works were not good and not due to the weeping of her family over her grave. So, the purport of the Prophet’s (s) statement is something different from the idea of the Wahhabis.

The other pretext of the Wahhabis is this tradition: When ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab was fatally wounded, his slave was groaning—”Oh, Brother! Oh, Friend!” The caliph of the time prohibited him from doing so, saying: “Did you not hear that the Prophet (s) has forbidden groaning and weeping {nudbah}?”

This point has some problems such as the following:

1. In general, the origin of the tradition is doubtful and ‘Abd Allah ibn al-‘Abbas has denied it.

2. The purport of the hadith is ambiguous and its instruction is not clear.

3. It is not clear which weeping in which manner and for whom the Prophet (s) regarded as impermissible.

Mourning in the Shi`ah and Sunni schools {madhahib}

In the books of jurisprudence under the section of commercial issues {matajir}, by citing hadiths from Usul al-Kafi and Man La Yahduruh al-Faqih, which have been narrated in condemnation of lamentation {niyahah}, Shi`ah jurists {fuqaha} have issued a religious edict {fatwa} on the unlawfulness of the women’s engagement in lamentation as an occupation. The opinion of the ‘Allamah in the book, Qawaid, and the author of the book, Mafatih al-Karamah, like many other Shi`ah fuqaha, is as follows:

وَيَحْرُمُ أجْرُ النَّائِحَةِ بِالبَاطِلِ، وَيَجُوزُ بِالْحَقِّ.

The occupation of those who are engaged in false {batil} elegizing is haram while the occupation of those who are engaged in true {bi’l-haqq} elegizing is halal.

In defining “false elegizing”, the fuqaha have said that it means lying or committing sins while performing an elegy. According to the fuqaha, an elegy is haram if it has false motive or manner; otherwise, we have many traditions indicating that great personalities in the world have wept over the death of their beloved ones. For example,

Ibn al-Qudamah narrates that Hadrat Fatimah az-Zahra (‘a) and Abu Bakr kissed the tomb or the corpse of the Prophet (s) and wept over his grave.

Anas thus says: “When I saw the daughter of the Messenger of Allah (s) on the tomb of her father, the tears in her eyes were profuse.”

‘A’ishah said: “Abu Bakr approached the remains of the Messenger of Allah, removed the shroud, kissed the face of the Prophet (s) and wept.”

It has been narrated from ‘Ali (‘a) that Hadrat Fatimah (‘a) took a handful of soil from the grave of the Prophet (s) and rubbed it over her eyes.

Of course, there are also hadiths about unlawful mourning which have been transmitted to us. As a specimen, we shall quote some cases:

قَالَتْ أُمُّ عَطِيَّةَ: أخَذَ عَلَيْنَا رَسُولُ اللهِ عِنْدَ البَيْعَةِ أنْ لاَ نَنُوحَ.

Umm ‘Atiyyah said: “During the pledge of allegiance to the Messenger of Allah (s), he asked us not to perform lamentation.”

It is said that this hadith indicates that the Muslims have to avoid lamentation according to the practice of the pre-Islamic period of ignorance {ayyam al-jahiliyyah}.

عَنْ أبِي مُوسَى أنَّ النَّبِيَّ قَالَ: لَيْسَ مِنَّا مَنْ ضَرَبَ الخُدُودَ وَشَقَّ الجُيُوبَ وَدَعَا بِدَعْوَى الجَاهِلِيَّةِ.

Abu Musa (al-Ash’ari) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (s) says: “He who at the time of tragedy harms his face, tears off his shirt, and wails like that of the jahiliyah does not belong to us.”

Ibn al-Qudamah thus adds:

From this hadith a subject which we had stated earlier can be deduced and it becomes clear which form of mourning is haram, and if mourning is consonant with the natural disposition and human affection and is not beyond the ambit of reason {‘aql} and religion (or law) {sharh}, there is nothing wrong with it.42

Then, Ibn al-Qudamah elaborates, saying:

Mourning is permissible for men while undesiderable (but not unlawful) {makruh} for women.

  • 1.
    Surat al ‘Imran 3:7: “It is He who has sent down to you the Book. Parts of it are definitive verses, which are the mother of the Book, while others are metaphorical.”
  • 2.
    Surat Ta Ha, 20:5.
  • 3.
    Surat al-Fajr 89:22.
  • 4.
    Surat ash-Shura 42:11.
  • 5.
    Surat al-Ikhlas 112:4.
  • 6.
    Surat al-Ahzab 33:40.
  • 7.
    Surat ash-Shura 42:11.
  • 8.
    Al-As’ilah wa’l-Ajwibah al-Usuliyyah, p. 46.
  • 9.
    Surat Yusuf 12:4.
  • 10.
    Surat Yusuf 12:100.
  • 11.
    Fath al-Majid, p. 154.
  • 12.
    Surat Yunus, 10:18.
  • 13.
    ‘«d al-Fitr: the Islamic feast marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. [Trans.]
  • 14.
    Fath al-Majid, p. 153.
  • 15.
    Fath al-Majid, p. 153.
  • 16.
    ‘Id al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice): The Islamic feast marking the end of the Hajj rituals in the month of Dhu’l-Hijjah, which is associated with the offering of animals for sacrifice. [Trans.]
  • 17.
    Rawdat an-Nabi [Garden of the Prophet (s)]: The site in Medina between the Prophet’s (s) house and pulpit [minbar]. [Trans.]
  • 18.
    ‘Arafah: A plain about 21 kilometers north of Mecca at which the pilgrims’ stay from noon to sunset on the 9th day of Dhu’l-Hijjah (Day of ‘Arafat) as one of the Hajj rites. [Trans.]
  • 19.
    Mina: A place in Mecca where the pilgrims slaughter their sacrificial animals. [Trans.]
  • 20.
    Al-Mash‘ar al-Haram: The place where the Hajj pilgrims spend the night on their return from ‘Arafah and offer their maghrib [dusk], isha’ [night] and subh [dawn] prayers. [Trans.]
  • 21.
    Maqam Ibrahim [Station of Abraham]: The place where Abraham (‘a) stood while renovating the House of God [Ka‘bah]. [Trans.]
  • 22.
    Safa: A hill in Mecca which is an extension of Abu Qubays Mountain to the east of the Masjid al-Haram. Traversing the distance between this place and Marwah (another place in Mecca) is another devotional hajj rite and is termed say [literally: effort, trial, attempt].
  • 23.
    Marwah: A mount located at a point between the east and the southeast of Mecca, north of Safa. [Trans.]
  • 24.
    Surat al-Ma’idah 5:114.
  • 25.
    Surat Ibrahim 14:5.
  • 26.
    Surat al-Fussilat 41:16.
  • 27.
    Nahj al-Balaghah, Maxim No. 428.
  • 28.
    ‘Id Ghadir Khumm: The Islamic feast marking the events of the Prophet’s (s) appointment—as per divine instruction—of Imam ‘Ali (‘a) as his successor at a gathering near the pool [ghadir] of Khumm on his way back to Medina from Mecca, after having performed the last pilgrimage of his life. For detailed information on the sources and narrators, as well as maps of Ghadir Khumm, visit: “Ghadir Khumm in the Qur’an, Hadith and History,” http://www.al-islam.org/ghadir [13]. [Trans.]
  • 29.
    Al-Ghadir, vol. 1, p. 286.
  • 30.
    Ibid., p. 284.
  • 31.
    Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah, “Bab Wilayat al-Mazalim,” p. 83.
  • 32.
    For more information about the feasts [a‘yad], see Nuwayri, Funun al-Adab, vol. 1, p. 177; Maqrizi, Khutat, vol. 2, p. 222, as quoted in ‘Allamah Majlisi, Al-Ghadir, vol. 1, p. 288.
  • 33.
    Fath al-Majid, p. 154.
  • 34.
    Fath al-Majid, p. 154.
  • 35.
    Sayyid Murtadha ‘Alam al-Huda, al-Amali, vol. 2, p. 17.
  • 36.
    Surat al-An‘am 6:164; Surat al-Isra’ (or Bani Isra’il) 17:15; Surat Fatir (or al-Mala’ikah) 35:18; Surat az-Zumar 39:7.
  • 37.
    As-Sahih fi Sirat an-Nabi, vol. 4, p. 307.
  • 38.
    Sahih Muslim, vol. 2, p. 271, as quoted in al-Shahid ath-Thani, Musakkin al-Fu’ad, pp. 93-95.
  • 39.
    As-Sahih fi Sirah an-Nabi, vol. 4, p. 307.
  • 40.
    Sunan Ibn Majah, Sunan an-Nasa’i and Sahih al-Bukhari, as quoted in Musakkin al-Fu’ad, p. 103.
  • 41.
    ‘Ali Asghar Faqihi, Wahhabiyan, p. 108.
  • 42.
    Ibn al-Qudamah, Al-Mughni, vol. 2, p. 383, 411.

Distortion {Tahrif} in the Qur’an, Traditions and History

For many years, the Wahhabis have been trying to assume the leadership of Muslim society. From the day when imperialism created this movement, they have been dreaming for the realization of that cherished day, and along this line, they have been utilizing every possible means. They are converting the abundant God-given wealth of oil into dollars and through which they are attracting many Muslims toward themselves.

They are equally making use of the historical merits and virtues of the land of Hijaz to acquire authority; for example, the Prophet of Islam (s) had been appointed for the Prophetic mission in that land and Islam began there as well. Since the spread of Islam from Mecca and Medina, and Medina even after the Prophet (s) had been the capital of Islam and the center of decision-making, from where caliphs were appointed and dismissed, today Mecca and Medina must accordingly also be the center of Islam.

In the same vein, the Qur’an was revealed in the land of Hijaz, and the language of the people of that region has been the made of its expression (i.e. Arabic) the qiblah of the Muslims is, the holy city of Mecca and holy sites, and sacred stations are located there. The present king of this country is called the “Servant of the Two Holy Places” {khadim al-haramayn} and his regime has enormous propaganda apparatuses at its disposal.

In conclusion, they believe that the Saudi king deserves to be the ruler and leader of the Muslims; that their Islam is the authentic Islam, that the Wahhabi creed is consistent with the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (s); that it is the sect of salvation, the reference and source of understanding Islam as well as the propagator and disseminator of religion; and that the other sects should also refer to this sect to understand the religion.

Since the philosophy behind the emergence of the nascent Wahhabi sect is the effacement of the Shi`ah and the creation of discord and dissension among Muslims, the Wahhabis are looking for weak points in Shi`ism so as to besmirch their prolific thought, which can guide both Arabs and non-Arabs, and thus weaken their most serious rival.

One example which they consider as weakness in Shi`ism is their belief in the principle of taqiyyah {dissimulation}, which the Wahhabis consider as a form of nifaq {hypocrisy}. Similarly, they regard the Shi`ah’s refusal to believe in the rightfulness of the first three caliphs as well as in the excellence of the Mother of the Faithful {umm al-muminin} ‘A’ishah as defect and shortcoming, and their alleged belief in the distortion {tahrif} of the Qur’an, etc.

Stating the futility of the accusations and points of weakness attributed to the Shi`ah itself requires a bulky treatise. As an example, we shall discuss here the accusation on the Shi`ah’s alleged belief in the tahrif of the Qur’an.

Belief in tahrif (alteration of the Qur’an) according to Sunni and Shi`ah ‘ulama’

Just as the Shi`ah are not the only ones who discuss the subject of tahrif of the Qur’an, the Wahhabis are not the only ones to discuss the preservation of the Qur’an. Among Shi`ah ‘ulama‘, a number of muhaddithun have believed in the tahrif of the Qur’an; of course, they mean tahrif in a particular sense and not in the sense the Wahhabis think.

A number of Sunni ‘ulama‘ also believe in tahrif. For more information, one may refer to books written on this subject.1

Just as it is not correct to accuse Sunnis of tahrif of the Qur’an on account of the beliefs of a number of their past muhaddithun and ‘ulama‘, applying this belief which is held by some Shi`ah muhaddithun to all their ‘ulama‘, fuqaha and muhaddithun is no less incorrect.

A number of authoritative books of the Ahl as-Sunnah (for example, Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 4, p. 11; vol. 8, p. 209; Sahih Muslim, vol. 5, p. 116; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, vol. 1, p. 47; Muntakhab Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 3, p. 43), record traditions about tahrif of the Qur’an. Just as it is irrational to reject all these books, rejection the sayings and works of a number of those Shi`ah personalities who have believed in tahrif is also incorrect. For example, the book, Mustadrak, of Muhaddith Nuri is not supposed to be overlooked just because his book, Fasl al-Khitab attempts to prove the alleged tahrif of the Qur’an. It must be noted that the meaning of tahrif of the Qur’an according to Muhaddith Nuri is different from what the Wahhabis mean.

Therefore, a number of the Sunni and Shi`ah figures believe in the tahrif of the Qur’an, and the most important step in this context is the separation of the Wahhabi imperialist sect and their creation of the seed of discord between Sunni and Shi`ah Muslims.

The Shi`ah vehemently deny tahrif of the Qur’an, believing that the Qur’an is the book on the basis of which all our beliefs and traditions (in order to know their authenticity or otherwise) must be presented, and the standard of the Islamic system. Keeping this importance of the Qur’an, if tahrif had really occurred in it, the infallible Imams (‘a), who are the true guardians and protectors of the religion after the Prophet (s), would definitely have pointed it out. In view of the proofs of the Shi`ah indicating the absence of tahrif, that group of the Sunni ‘ulama‘ which believes in tahrif of the Qur’an would have to attribute the occurrence of tahrif to the first three caliphs because the Qur’an was compiled during their reigns, and ‘Ali (‘a) abided by the Qur’an they had compiled.

One of the proofs of the Shi`ah on the absence of tahrif of the Qur’an is the statement of Imam ‘Ali (‘a) who says:

وَاعْلَمُوا إنَّ هَذَا القُرْآنَ هُوَ النَّاصِحُ الَّذِي لاَ يَغُشُّ، وَالهَادِي الَّذِي لاَ يُضِلُّ، وَالْمُحَدِّثُ الَّذِي لاَ يَكْذِبُ.

And know that this Qur’an is indeed an adviser who does not deceive, a leader who does not mislead, and a narrator who does not lie.2

This hadith shows the completeness of the Qur’an because the Qur’an could be a good guide, truthful adviser and similar descriptions only if it had not experienced any form of distortion.

The viewpoint of a number of jurists {fuqaha}

The Shi`ah ‘ulama’ and maraji’ al-taqlid generally reject the belief in tahrif. The works that have been written on this subject are so many that mentioning them is not an easy task and would need a separate section. Now, for the sake of information, it will suffice to mention some of them below:

1. Ayatullah Riya’ ad-Din Araki, Al-Usul, vol. 3, p. 93;

2. Ayatullah Musawi Bujnurdi, Muntahi’l-Usul, vol. 2, p. 81;

3. Firuzabadi, ‘Inayah al-Usul, vol. 3, p. 120; and

4. Akhund Khurasani, Kifayah al-Usul, vol. 2, p. 63.

Ayatullah al-‘Uzma Sayyid Abu’l-Qasim al-Khu’i says in this regard:

Tahrif of the Qur’an in the sense of the deletion of some of its verses or words is a fictitious affair as there is no truth in it.3

The outstanding Shi`ah ‘alim, Imam Khomeini (r) thus said in one of his class sessions many years ago:

What the Akhbaris4 say that there has been tahrif in the Qur’an is not true because their proof is a few traditions some of which are fabricated {maj’ul}, while others are ‘weak’ {da’if},5 and yet some others are subject to interpretation.6

Similarly, in his message addressed to the pilgrims during the 1365 AHS (1986) Hajj season, Imam Khomeini had urged and encouraged the people to reflect and ponder over the Qur’an. In one part of the message, he has explicitly stated that no sort tahrif has ever been present in the Qur’an and it is reliable and trustworthy for all Muslims:

God forbid that this divine-heavenly book—which is the apparent and written form of the aggregate of names, attributes, signs, and expressions, and whose …written form has been handed to us without any defect and omission or commission in the tongue of revelation after descending from various stages and phases—be forgotten.7

The Shi`ah belief in this regard is so clear that it no longer needs scholastic {kalami} interpretation, and for more information the reader may refer to books written on this subject.8

The excuses and distortions of Wahhabism

There is a hadith recorded in Usul al-Kafi stating the fact that Hadrat Fatimah (‘a) and Imam ‘Ali (‘a) each had a manuscript of the Qur’an from the time of the Prophet (‘a) in which they also used to record the daily events. And since Usul al-Kafi is one of the oldest and most authentic Shi`ah texts, the Wahhabis have taken advantage of the existence of these traditions in Usul al-Kafi, saying: “Based on traditions recorded in authentic Shi`ah books, the Shi`ah regard the Qur’an of Fatimah and ‘Ali as their main Qur’an and they regard the existing Qur’an as defective.” They raise this issue so that the Shi`ah would renounce their belief and say, “Hadrat Fatimah and ‘Ali (‘a) had no book at all.”

With the aim of discrediting the Shi`ah and creating the seed of Suuni-Shi`ah discord, the Wahhabis magnify this issue so much that it would seem that authoritative sources and their ‘ulama‘ do not hold such belief. Earlier pages, in this book, pointed out the references of these traditions in authoritative Sunni texts.

The ‘authoritativeness’ {i’tibariyyah} of Sunni and Shi`ah sources does not mean that everything recorded therein is absolutely authentic and acceptable, and does not require criticism, study, interpretation, or refutation. Of course, it is true that there are traditions about the Qur’anic manuscripts of Hadrat Fatimah (‘a) and Imam ‘Ali (‘a), and according to the belief of the Shi`ah these copies are in the possession of the Imam of the Age (al-Mahdi) (‘a).

These two manuscripts of the Qur’an are not inconsistent with the present Qur’an because this Qur’an is also complete. In the manuscripts of these two pure personages, the daily events as well as the commentary of the verses and circumstances surrounding their revelation are recorded, which can help us a lot in understanding the Qur’an.9

Tahrif in the statements and works of the Prophet

Since the two schools, including the Wahhabis, reject tahrif of the Qur’an, it is appropriate to ask: Is not tahrif with respect to hadiths of the Prophet (s) blameworthy as well? If there is any tahrif in the statement of the Prophet (s), what guarantee and proof are left for us concerning the immunity of his sayings?

In the books and writings of the Wahhabis, there are many instances where the Prophetic traditions are mutilated and subjected to tahrif, they are incompletely quoted and their primary sources are not usually presented. Most cases of distortion {tahrif}, alteration {tabdil}, and deletion {isqat} in hadiths pertain to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), descriptions of Imam ‘Ali (‘a) and conformity of some verses of the Qur’an with the Imam (‘a), or affirmation of the Shi`ah creed. We shall cite some of these instances below:

First instance

One of the hadiths being manipulated by this group is the hadith known as thaqalayn {two precious things} when the Prophet (s) said:

إنِّي تَارِكٌ فِيكُمُ الثَّقَلَيْنِ: كِتَابَ اللهِ وَعِتْرَتِي، أهْلَ بَيْتِي.

Verily, I am leaving among you two precious things: the Book of Allah and my progeny, the members of my Household.

Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Baz,10 the head of the Islamic Call, Guidance and Ifta’ of Saudi Arabia, in one of his booklets published in 1364 AH, regards intellectual demonstration as a religious innovation {bid’ah} and national praise such as that of Palestine and Lebanon and the vilification of others such America, the Soviet Union and Israel as a sin. Then, in page 8 of his booklet, he narrates the said hadith:

إنَّهُ خَطَبَ النَّاسَ يَوْمَ عَرَفَةَ، فَقَالَ: إنِّي تَارِكٌ فِيكُمْ مَا لَنْ تَضِلُّوا إنِ إعْتَصَمْتُمْ بِهِ: كِتَابَ اللهِ وَسُنَّتِي.

Verily, he (s) addressed the people on the Day of ‘Arafah, saying: “I am leaving among you things which if firmly hold, you shall never go astray: the Book of Allah and my tradition {sunnati}.”

In the book, Fath al-Majid, a tradition with a similar intention has been narrated, thus:

قَالَ : إنِّي تَارِكٌ فِيكُمْ مَا إنْ تَمَسَّكْتُمْ بِهِ لَنْ تَضِلُّوا: كِتَابَ اللهِ.

He (s) said: ‘Verily, I am leaving something among you which if you take firm hold, you shall never go astray: the Book of Allah’.11

The case of distortion {tahrif} is so vivid that there is a difference between the narration of the author of Fath al-Majid and that of ‘Abd Allah ibn Baz, who are both of the same creed. In the first instance, “the Book of Allah and my tradition” {kitab Allah wa sunnati} is recorded while only “the Book of Allah” {kitab Allah} is mentioned in the second instance. In spite of this, the Sunni references and sources, both traditions, notwithstanding their differences, have been distorted because all authoritative Sunni references mention “the Book of Allah and the members of my Household” {kitab Allah wa ahla bayti}. Since this indisputable tradition is in favor of the family of the Prophet (s) and corroborated by the Shi`ah, however, the Wahhabis have manipulated it. The tradition has been narrated in the Sahih Muslim, thus:

إنَّهُ قَالَ: “ألاَ أيُّهَا النَّاسُ! يُوشَكُ أنْ يَأتِيَ رَسُولُ رَبِّي فَأُجِيبُ؛ وَأنَا تَارِكٌ فِيكُمُ الثَّقَلَيْنِ: أوَّلُهُمَا كِتَابُ اللهِ، فِيهِ الْهُدَى وَالنُّورُ، فَخُذُوا بِكِتَابِ اللهِ وَاسْتَمْسِكُوا بِهِ.” فَحَثَّ عَلَى كِتَابِ اللهِ وَرَغَّبَ فِيهِ. ثُمَّ قَالَ: “وَأهْلُ بَيْتِي؛ أُذَكِّرُكُمُ اللهَ فِي أهْلِ بَيْتِي.”

He verily said: “Now to our purpose: O people, I am only a human being. I am about to receive a messenger (the angel of death) from my Lord and I, in response to Allah’s call, (would bid goodbye to you), but I am leaving among you two weighty things: the one being the Book of Allah in which there is right guidance and light, so hold fast to the Book of Allah and adhere to it.” He exhorted (us) (to hold fast) to the Book of Allah and then said: “The second are the members of my Household; I remind you (of your duties) to the members of my family.”12

In the Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal (pages 17 and 59), Sahih at-Tirmidhi (volume 3, page 14), al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah of Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (page 136), and other references of the Sunnis, a similar tradition with the term “the members of my Household” {ahla bayti} have been recorded. In the new books, however, such as Fath al-Majid, the booklet of ‘Abd Allah ibn Baz, and other booklets published by the Library of Masjid an-Nabi as well as in Mecca, one can find alterations, deletions and distortions. This is just one example of famous {mashhur}13 and uninterrupted {mutawatir}14 hadiths in which tahrif has been done. Is this practice not a distortion, deviation and treachery to Islam and the history of Muslims?

Second instance (the identity of the saved sect)

In the book, al-As’ilah wal-Ajwibah, there has been recorded a tradition allegedly from the Prophet (s):

إنَّهُ قَالَ: سَتَفْتَرِقُ هَذِهِ الأُمَّةُ عَلَى ثَلاَثٍ وَسَبْعِينَ فِرْقَةً؛ كُلُّهَا فِي النَّارِ إلاَّ وَاحِدَةً، وَهُمْ أهْلُ السُّنَّةِ وَالْجَمَاعَةِ.

Verily, he (s) said: “This ummah will be divided into seventy-three sects and all of which shall be in the hellfire except one, and that is the Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jama’ah.”15

In this hadith, the expression, ”Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jama’ah” has been inserted in order for them to claim that the Holy Prophet (s) has approved of the Ahl as-Sunnah from the very beginning.

It must be said that the phrase, ”Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jama’ah,” is not extant in any of the primary and authoritative references of the Ahl as-Sunnah. Since the Wahhabis could not add the name of their sect in the hadith as Wahhabism is a nascent group, and on the other hand, since they associated themselves with the Ahl as-Sunnah and their mission is to magnify the Sunni-Shi`ah dichotomy, they have inserted the phrase, ”Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jama’ah” in the hadith so as to fortify the notion that the Prophet (s) had approved of the Ahl as-Sunnah from the very beginning, and none other than them have been formally recognized.

Therefore, once the expression, ”Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jama’ah,” is added, this question springs to the mind:

Which group refers to the saved sect? Undoubtedly, the group, which is closer to the Book of Allah, the Sunnah of the Prophet (s), and the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and takes more recourse to them, is the saved group. It is because in the traditions narrated in the Sunni references it is emphasized that only the group which holds fast to the Book of Allah and the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) will not go astray.

Third instance (tahrif of the phrase, “mut’ah an-nisa’”)

In Sahih al-Tirmidhi, another authoritative Sunni source, this tradition has been recorded:

سُئِلَ ابْنُ عُمَرَ عَنْ متْعَةِ النِّسَاءِ، فَقَالَ: “هِيَ حَلاَلٌ.” وَكَانَ السَّائِلُ مِنْ أهْلِ الشَّامِ، فَقَالَ لَهُ: “إنَّ أبَاكَ قَدْ نَهَى عَنْهَا.” فَقَالَ ابْنُ عُمَرَ: “أرَأيْتَ إنْ كَانَ أبِي نَهَى عَنْهَا، وَصَنَعَهَا رَسُولُ اللهِ. أتَتْرُكُ السُّنَّةَ وَتَتْبَعُ قَوْلَ أبِي؟”

A certain man from Sham16 asked {‘Abd Allah} ibn ‘Umar about mut’ah {fixed-time marriage}. He said: “It is halal {lawful}.” The man from Sham said: “Your father has prohibited it.” Ibn ‘Umar said: “If ever my father has prohibited it, and the Messenger of Allah has regarded it as lawful. Shall you abandon the Sunnah (of the Prophet) and follow my father’s opinion?”

In the new edition of Sahih al-Tirmidhi, however, this hadith is totally expunged.17 Of course, it must be said that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab prohibited not only the mut’ah for women but also the mut’ah for Hajj {hajj at-tamattu’}.18 The latter means that whenever the person in the state of ihram19 {muhrim} finishes his rituals of ‘umrat at-tamattu’20—as per instruction of the Prophet (s)—provided that he has not yet donned the ihram for the hajj, he may enjoy performing lawful sexual acts.

Ibn Kathir has narrated a hadith similar to the one quoted above concerning the prohibition of mut’ah:

…كَانَ ابْنُهُ عَبْدُ اللهِ يُخَالِفُهُ. فَقَالَ: “إنَّ أبَاكَ يَنْهَى عَنْهَا.” فَيَقُولُ: “خَشِيتُ أنْ تَقَعَ عَلَيْكُمْ حِجَارَةٌ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ! قَدْ فَعَلَهَا رَسُولُ اللهِ. أَفَسُنَّةَ رَسُولِ اللهِ نَتْبَعُ أمْ سُنَّةَ عُمْرَ بْنِ الخَطَّابِ؟”

‘Abd Allah was against the saying of his father. When it was said to him that his father had indeed prohibited the people from practicing mut’ah, he said: “I am afraid lest stones from heaven fall on your heads (for saying so). The Messenger of Allah deemed it lawful. Shall I follow the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah or the sunnah of (my father) ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab?”21

It was said that mut’ah for Hajj is a debatable subject and the Companions of the Prophet (s) had no unanimity of view about it. The Zahiriyyah22 believe that the practice of the Companions is the proof, but in view of the diverse opinions of the Companions in this regard, the saying of ‘Umar must be accepted:

متْعَتَانِ كَانَتَا عَلَى عَهْدِ رَسُولِ اللهِ وَأنَا أنْهَى عَنْهُمَا وَأُعَاقبُ عَلَيْهِمَا: متْعَةُ الْحَجِّ وَمتْعَةُ النِّسَاءِ.

{‘Umar said:} There were two types of mut’ah during the time of the Messenger of Allah which I prohibited and I shall punish whoever shall perform them: the mut’ah for Hajj and the mut’ah for women.23

Now, this question is hereby posed: If the difference of opinion among Companions was the reason behind their acceptance of the saying of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, why did they not prefer the saying of ‘Abd Allah ibn al-‘Abbas—a learned man, muhaddith and well-informed of the sayings of the Prophet (s)—who was of the opinion that the mut’ah for Hajj had not been abrogated {mansukh}.

It can be deduced from the opposition of ‘Abd Allah ibn al-‘Abbas and ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar that ‘Umar used his independent reasoning and prohibited the people—who had consensus of opinion that these were practiced during the time of the Prophet (s)—from doing so. Does this view and opinion not go against the text {nass} (of the Qur’an and hadith)?

‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar, ‘Abd Allah ibn al-‘Abbas, and a number of the Companions were the first persons who differed with the opinion of the Caliph.

In view of the fact that the Wahhabis have regarded the Companions as worthy to be emulated, if certain people (such as the Shi`ah) while relying on indisputable proof would not accept the opinion and view of ‘Umar but instead accept the view of ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar, ‘Abd Allah ibn al-‘Abbas, and other Companions, have they traversed the path of misguidance and disbelief {kufr}? If it is so, were Ibn ‘Umar, Ibn al-‘Abbas and other Companions also misguided and infidels?

Fourth instance

In Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal we can come across eight traditions all of which indicate the brotherhood and fraternity between the Prophet (s) and ‘Ali (‘a). In all of these traditions, the Prophet (s) pointed at Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (‘a) and said:

هٰذَا أخِي.

This (‘Ali) is my brother.

In the new editions of this book, however, all these traditions are expunged and no trace of them is left.

Fifth instance

In Tarikh Ya’qubi until the 1358 AH edition, it is stated that this noble verse was revealed on the day of Ghadir Khumm:

﴿الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمْ الإِسْلاَمَ دِينًا.﴾

Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam as your religion.24

From its 1379 AH edition onward, however, that sentence which had been recorded for many centuries in that history book has been distorted and twisted as it is now claimed that the same verse was revealed on the Day of ‘Arafah. On account of the politics of tahrif, many graves, mosques and relics of the past have either been effaced or their names have been changed.

The birth site of the Prophet (s) {mawlid an-nabi}; the birth site of ‘Ali (‘a) {mawlid ‘ali}; the tombs of Prophet Isma’il (Ishmael) (‘a) and his mother Hajar on the two sides of Hijr Isma’il (which until recently had been identified through a specific stone-mark); the location of Ghadir Khumm; the tomb and other relics of Hadrat Khadijah al-Kubra; the Shi’b Abu Talib; the tomb of Abu Talib; and many other relics have been destroyed by the Wahhabis, because each of them bespeaks of the historical events and happenings most of which, to some extent or other are to the detriment of the inverted school of Wahhabism.

The site of the mubahalah {imprecation}25 has been changed into Masjid al-Ijabah by them. Today, if the residents of the city of Medina are asked about the location of the grave of Fatimah (‘a), they do not know, and if those people who know the location of the mubahalah would travel to that area, they would not be able to locate it easily.

Therefore, the Shi`ah do not believe whatsoever in tahrif, and only a limited number Sunni and Shi`ah ‘ulama‘ of the past held this belief. Tahrif in whatever form is rejected, whether it is tahrif of the Qur’an or tahrif of the hadiths, history and historical places.

It is appropriate for the Muslim world to form a committee with the task of preserving the sayings of the Prophet (s) as well as the ancient authoritative religious references and texts, and to make efforts in protecting the foundations of Islam. Perhaps, the secret behind the hadith,

مَنْ حَفِظَ مِنْ أُمَّتِي أرْبَعِينَ حَدِيثاً…

“Whoever in my ummah preserves or memorizes four hadiths…”

is a campaign against these distortions.

  • 1.
    See, for example, Sayyid Mahdi Ruhani, Buhuth ma‘a Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Salafiyyah, pp. 63-74, 206-324.
  • 2.
    Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon 176.
  • 3.
    Sayyid Abu’l-Qasim al-Khu’i, Misbah al-Usul, vol. 1, p. 124.
  • 4.
    Akhbari: follower of Akhbarism [akhbariyyah], a movement, which started within the Shi‘ah world about four hundred years ago. Its originator was Mulla Muhammad Amin ibn Muhammad Sharif al-Astarabadi (d. 1033 AH/1623-24). He openly attacked the Shi‘ah mujtahids in his work al-Fawa‘id al-Madaniyyah, vehemently contesting the Usulis’ claim that reason is one of the sources of fiqh. The Usulis’ hold the Qur’an, the Sunnah, reason, and ijma‘ [consensus] as valid sources for deduction of the rules of the shari‘ah. The Akhbaris accepted the validity only of the Sunnah and rejected the rest. Understanding the Qur’an, they claimed, is beyond the capacity of a commoner, being restricted exclusively to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). [Trans.]
  • 5.
    Weak [da‘if]: in the parlance of the science of hadith [‘ilm al-hadith], it refers to a tradition that does not fit into the categories of authentic [sahih], good [hasan] or dependable [muwaththaq]. [Trans.]
  • 6.
    Imam Khomeini, Tahdhib al-Usul, vol. 2, p. 156.
  • 7.
    “Message on Dhu’l-Hijjah 1, 1406 AH (August 7, 1986), Sahifeh-ye Imam, vol. 20, p. 92. [Trans.]
  • 8.
    See Rasul Ja‘fariyan, Ukdhubat Tahrif al-Qur’an.
  • 9.
    See Ma‘alim al-Madrasatayn, vol. 3, p. 306.
  • 10.
    The said sheikh passed away in the summer of 1420 AH just before the trip of Hujjat al-Islam wa’l-Muslimin Sayyid Muhammad Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to Saudi Arabia.
  • 11.
    Fath al-Majid, p. 35.
  • 12.
    Muslim, Sahih, vol. 4, p. 1803, hadith no. 2408 (‘Abd al-Baqi Edition). Abdul-Hamid Siddiqui (trans.), Sahih Muslim (English Translation), vol. 4, hadith no. 5920. [Trans.]
  • 13.
    Famous [mashhur]: a hadith with general fame and prevalence, though not necessarily attained on all the levels. [Trans.]
  • 14.
    A mutawatir hadith is one which has been reported by so many different chains of transmission and such a number of narrators in every generation as normally could not agree to fabricate a tradition without the fact of its fabrication becoming known. [Trans.]
  • 15.
    Al-As’ilah wa’l-Ajwibah, p. 23.
  • 16.
    Sham or Shamat: Up until five centuries ago, included Syria of today, Lebanon and parts of Jordan and Palestine. [Trans.]
  • 17.
    See Sayyid Ja‘far Murtadha, Dirasat wa Buhuth fi’t-Tarikh, p. 14.
  • 18.
    Hajj at-tamattu‘: A type of pilgrimage which is applicable to those living outside Mecca, i.e. out of limits of the haram (the precinct of the Grand Mosque, Ka‘bah and/or the surrounding holy places in Mecca). [Trans.]
  • 19.
    Ihram: The special two-piece seamless attire worn by pilgrims. Also, the state of ritual consecration during which the pilgrim should abstain from certain acts, such as not combing, not shaving, and observing sexual continence. [Trans.]
  • 20.
    ‘Umrat at-tamattu‘: A visitation ritual that is obligatory before performing Hajj. [Trans.]
  • 21.
    Tarikh Ibn Kathir, vol. 5, p. 141.
  • 22.
    Zahiriyyah: A sect within the Ahl as-Sunnah that contents itself with the apparent [zahir] meaning of the hadiths.
  • 23.
    Bidayah al-Mujtahid wa Nihayah al-Muqtasid, vol. 1, p. 346; Ibn Qudamah, Al-Mughni, vol. 7, p. 527; Ibn Qayyim, Zad al-Ma‘ad, vol. 2, p. 205.
  • 24.
    Surat al-Ma’idah 5:3.
  • 25.
    See the exegesis of Surat Al ‘Imran 3:61: “Should anyone argue with you concerning him, after the knowledge that has come to you, say, ‘Come! Let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, our souls and your souls, then let us pray earnestly and call down Allah’s curse upon the liars’.” [Trans.]

Absolute Obedience to the Ruler

The Wahhabis who regard themselves as followers of Ahmad ibn Hanbal consider it obligatory {wajib} to obey one vested with authority {wali al-amr} for three reasons. They believe that the two ‘id prayers, Friday and other congregational prayers and leading the Hajj and jihad are at the discretion of the leader and ruler, whether he is just, or a debauchee and oppressor, and that this theory is corroborated by the Qur’an and the Sunnah as well as the practice of the Companions.

Their first basis is the verse,

﴿يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُوْلِي الأَمْرِ مِنْكُمْ.﴾

O you who have faith! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those vested with authority among you.1159

They say that this can be deduced from the universality and general applicability of “those vested with authority” {ulu’l-amr} that any ruler, whether he is good or bad, must be obeyed, and obeying those vested with authority does not specify whether the ruler is just or debauchee. They believe that this statement does not distinguish between the two, and it cannot be said that it means the just ruler.2

The other basis the Wahhabis cite is a tradition allegedly from the Prophet (s). The book, Al-As’ilah wa’l-Ajwibah, has assumed its alleged authenticity. The tradition thus states:

إنَّ اللهَ يُؤَيِّدُ هَذَا الدِّينَ بِالرَّجُلِ الفَاجِرِ.

Verily, Allah affirms this religion through the debauchee (who shall rule).

It can be inferred from this tradition that any ruler who affirms the religion ought to be obeyed, but the Wahhabis have made use of it in a different way.

In another narration on the authority of Abu Hurayrah, it is thus stated:

الجِهَادُ وَاجِبٌ عَلَيْكُمْ مَعَ كُلِّ أمِيرٍ؛ بَرّاً كَانَ أوْ فَاجِراً.

Jihad is incumbent upon you along with the one who rules over you, whether he is good or a debauchee.

The third basis the Wahhabis cite is the practice of the Companions which is treated as a proof {hujjah}, such as ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud’s standing in prayer behind Walid ibn ‘Uqbah ibn Abi Mu’it notwithstanding the fact that Walid was a drunkard and a wicked person.3

Another example is the practice of a famous Companion, ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar who stood in prayer behind Hajjaj ibn Yusuf in spite of the fact that Hajjaj was a tyrant and bloodthirsty man. Similarly, some other Companions prayed behind Ibn Abi ‘Ubaydah despite their awareness of his deviation in belief by explicitly calling on the people to misguidance.

All of these constitute the arguments of the Wahhabis in favor of the incumbency of obeying the ruler irrespective of the ruler being just or unjust.4 This mindset actually paved the way for the rule of the debauchees, tyrants and drunkards and hinders the advancement of the righteous.

In the same token, this frame of mind is against the Qur’an, and as will be made clear later, allocation in the verses cited as evidence by the Wahhabis is stronger than lack of allocation because in understanding a verse it is necessary to take into account the entire Qur’an and other verses as well. There are numerous verses in the Qur’an which proscribe obedience to squanderers, mischief-mongers and oppressors, and these verses are explicitly connected to the verse on “those vested with authority”. If we follow the mischief-mongers and oppressors, it means that we obey the sinful—an act which is repugnant to the Qur’an:

﴿وَلاَ تَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى الإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ.﴾

But do not cooperate in sin and aggression.5163

Higher than this is the obedience to parents which is sanctioned by the Qur’an on the condition that they take a walk on the path of truth. This is while obedience to the ruler is not superior to obedience to the parents:

﴿وَوَصَّيْنَا الإِنْسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حُسْنًا وَإِنْ جَاهَدَاكَ لِتُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلاَ تُطِعْهُمَا.﴾

We have enjoined man to be good to his parents. But if they urge you to ascribe to Me as partner that of which you have no knowledge,) then do not obey them.6

The Sunnah and hadiths of the Prophet (s), also proscribe obedience to sinful people:

لاَ طَاعَةَ لِمَخْلُوقٍ فِي مَعْصِيَةِ الْخَالِقِ.

There is no obedience to the creature {makhluq} in disobedience to the Creator {khaliq}.7

Basically, the essence of Islam is the movement of the society on the basis of God-wariness {taqwa}:

﴿وَتَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى الْبِرِّ وَالتَّقْوَى.﴾

Cooperate in piety and God-wariness.8

The Qur’an also regards the establishment of justice as the raison d’être of the prophets’ mission:

﴿لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ.﴾

…So that mankind may maintain justice.9

Given all of this, how could Islam possibly approve an unjust Imam, draw the society toward corruption and injustice, and take as the criterion the practice of some of the Companions?

The practice of the Companions {sahabah}

If it can be concluded from the practice of some Companions in following the illegitimate ruler of their time that any ruler, whether just or unjust, must be obeyed, this question is to be asked: Why did ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar accept the caliphate of ‘Uthman but deny the caliphates of Imam ‘Ali and Imam al-Hasan (‘a); not assist Imam al-Husayn (‘a) but swear allegiance to Yazid, ‘Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad and Hajjaj ibn Yusuf? Why did some Companions not swear allegiance to Imam ‘Ali (‘a)?

Therefore, the practice per se of the Companions does not serve as proof {hujjah} and their being hujjah has some requisites and conditions. Merely being a Companion {sahabi} is not enough. Both the group of hypocrites {munafiqun} and those who later became apostates {murtaddin} were included in the rubric of “Companions”, and the hadiths narrated by them are also unacceptable.

Unfortunately, since this mindset has taken root in the school of thought of some Sunnis, it had been subject to abuse. Ahmad ibn Hanbal says:

There are two ways in determining the caliph. One way is that he shall be appointed by the preceding caliph just as the Prophet appointed Abu Bakr while Abu Bakr did the same to ‘Umar, and ‘Umar in turn appointed the six-man council. The second way is that the person himself would resort to the show of force even if it be through violence and the sword, as what ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib did. Following these two (means) is necessary and opposing them is unlawful {haram}. It is not necessary for the ruler to be an Arab, Qurayshi, or has some deviant behavior. Only the fuqaha {jurists} should admonish them.10

Was Ahmad ibn Hanbal so uninformed of the early history of Islam that he did not know that ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib acquired the position of caliphate through the people’s allegiance and not at the point of sword? Meanwhile, the function of the fuqaha is described as merely admonishing the caliphs while a corrupt power cannot be guided to the right path merely through admonition. In addition, most of Sunni fuqaha have been among the proponents and guardians of the corrupt ruling power.

The Wahhabi ‘ulama‘ who claim to be followers of Ahmad ibn Hanbal and the Ahl as-Sunnah have so far neither admonished nor confronted the ruling establishment in Hijaz, but have been the well-wishers of the ruling apparatus and justifiers of its crimes.

The Wahhabis themselves have unconsciously quoted some traditions in their books which challenge the belief on following a just or debauchee ruler:

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ: إنَّمَا أخَافُ عَلَى أُمَّتِي الأئِمَّةَ الْمُضِلِّينَ؛ إي الأُمَرَاءَ وَالعُلَمَاءَ وَالعُبَّادَ.

The Messenger of Allah (s) said: “I am afraid of deviant leaders for my ummah; they are deviant rulers {umara’}, scholars {‘ulama’} and worshippers {‘ubbad}.”11

In this hadith, the Holy Prophet (s) has expressed dissatisfaction and concern over deviant rulers, and in fact, prohibited obedience to a deviant ruler.

Following the above hadith, it has been narrated from ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab that he said to the narrator:

… هَلْ تَعْرِفُ مَا يَهْدِمُ الإسْلاَمَ؟” قُلْتُ: “لاَ.” قَالَ: “يَهْدِمُهُ زَلَّةُ الْعَالِمِ، وَجِدَالُ الْمُنَافِقِ بِالْكِتَابِ، وَحُكْمُ الأئِمَّةِ الْمُضِلِّينَ.”

“Do you know what shall obliterate Islam?” I said: “No.” He said: “What shall obliterate Islam is the deviation of the scholar {‘alim}, the debate of the hypocrite by resorting to the Book (Qur’an), and the rule of misguided rulers.”12

This hadith also negates obedience to the misguided ruler, regarding it as unlawful. It must be stated that the issue of obedience to the ruler, be he just or unjust, is different from a comparable issue discussed in the Shi`ah school {madrasah}—that society is in need of a ruler though this ruler is corrupt because there will be chaos in the absence of a ruler, and order is better than disorder. This ruling in the Shi`ah is meant to prove the exigency of government in the society and not to explain the requisites and duties of the government.

Obedience to the ruler and one vested with authority {wali al-amr} among the Shi`ah

According to the Shi`ah, the following two verses have a spiritual connection with each other, and the latter verse explains the former:

﴿يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُوْلِي الأَمْرِ مِنْكُمْ.﴾

O you who have faith! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those vested with authority among you.13

﴿إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمْ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاَةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ.﴾

Your guardian is only Allah, His Apostle, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give the zakat while bowing down.14

The first verse states that you have to follow God and His Messenger (s) and in the absence of the Messenger (s), you have to follow those who are vested with authority among you, but it does not say “just ruler” as it is a verse with general application and includes both the just and unjust rulers. The second verse states that your guardian and leader is first of all, God and His Messenger (s), and in the absence of the Messenger of Allah (s), those who perform their prayers and give the zakat, etc.

In Usul al-Kafi, Husayn ibn Abu’l-A’la thus narrates:

قُلْتُ لأبِي عَبْدِ اللهِ: “الأحْيَاءُ طَاعَتُهُمْ مَفْرُوضَةٌ؟” قَالَ: “نَعَمْ. هُمُ الَّذِينَ قَالَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: ﴿أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُوْلِي الأَمْرِ مِنْكُمْ.﴾ وَهُمُ الَّذِينَ قَالَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: ﴿إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمْ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاَةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ.﴾”

asked Abu ‘Abd Allah (Imam as-Sadiq (‘a)): “Is it obligatory to obey the living rulers?” He (‘a) said: “Yes, and they are those about whom Allah, the Honorable and Glorious, said: “Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those vested with authority among you” and about whom Allah, the Honorable and Glorious, also said: “Your guardian is only Allah, His Apostle, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give the zakat while bowing down.”15

The above tradition establishes the connection between the two verses. The second verse was revealed about ‘Ali (‘a), and if we would like to elaborate, it will include the other Imams from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), and after the Imams (i.e. during the major occultation of the 12th Imam (‘a)), if we would like to take into account its closer referents, they must be the rulers and guardians who posses Islamic qualities to be the deputies of the Imams (‘a), such as the Jurist-Guardian {wali al-faqih} who serves as the wali al-amr. If the Wahhabis deny the revelation of the said verse (as referring to ‘Ali (‘a)), at least the verse in question has set some qualifications for the ruler such as faith, performance of prayer and giving of zakat. If the ruler would know each of these in its true sense and practice it, that ruler can never be deviant and a debauchee.

The first wali al-amr after the Prophet and the criterion of preeminence of the Companions

One of the oldest discussions between the Sunni and Shi`ah is the identity of the first wali al-amr after the Messenger of Allah (s), therefore it is very natural for the Wahhabi sect to participate in the discussion and take a stance. We always believe that this discussion should be done as a religious one only between the Sunnis and the Shi`ah, and no other party, internal or external, should get involved in the discussion, and Muslims should not allow the involvement of foreign-made sects. This discussion should be done in the atmosphere of friendship and complete Islamic brotherhood so that outsiders could not capitalize on it.

The Shi`ah regard ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (‘a) as the first wali al-amr after the Prophet (s), but without taking into account the appointment of ‘Ali (‘a) in Ghadir Khumm and the will of the Prophet that “Of whomsoever I am master {mawla} ‘Ali is also his master,” and the numerous other proofs in the Qur’an, hadiths and history, the Sunnis defended the merit and qualification of the Companions to rule after the Prophet (s). Then, they engaged in the discussion as to who was superior to the other. In this regard, Ahmad ibn Hanbal says:

Sahabi {companion} is one who saw the Prophet (s) for one year, a month, or a moment, but there are differences among the Companions in terms of degree and superiority in virtue. Those of the first group are Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman in this order. Those of the second group are the Companions constituting the 6-man council such as ‘Ali, Zubayr, Talhah, ‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn ‘Awf, and Sa’d ibn Waqqas, in this order of superiority. Each of these individuals is qualified to be the caliph and Imam according the order mentioned afore. The third order are those who participated in the Battle of Badr, who according to the order of superiority, are the Muhajirun {emigrants}16 and then the Ansar {helpers}.17 But the individuals such as Mu’awiyah, ‘Amru ibn al-‘as and Abu Musa al-‘Ash’ari who have not been mentioned in the three groups are those who have been generally described and praised in the Qur’an because as the effect of prostration, left a mark upon their forehead, about which the Qur’an says:

﴿سِيمَاهُمْ فِي وُجُوهِهِمْ مِنْ أَثَرِ السُّجُودِ.﴾

Their mark is {visible} on their faces, from the effect of prostration.18

In the last phrase stated by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, ‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn Muljim (the murderer of ‘Ali (‘a)) must also be included because he had also mark of prostration on his forehead!

The Wahhabis, who have involved themselves in the discussion on the difference between the Sunnis and the Shi`ah, have presented criteria for the hierarchy of the Companions in terms of superiority:

Abu Bakr is superior to all for four reasons: his virtue; his precedence in faith; the Prophet (s) preferred him over others; and the Companions unanimously elected him. Meanwhile, ‘Umar is superior to the rest for two reasons: his virtue and his being appointed by Abu Bakr. In the case of ‘Uthman, he has superior to others after ‘Umar for two reasons: his virtue and the council preferred him over others. After ‘Uthman, ‘Ali is superior to the rest for two reasons: his virtue and his being elected unanimously by the people.19

Yet, if we would take a survey of the event in Ghadir Khumm, the will of the Prophet (s), the revelation of verses about ‘Ali (‘a), and all the pieces of evidence that highlight the rightfulness of ‘Ali (‘a) in the Qur’an, hadiths and history, this question may be posed: What is indeed the true Qur’anic and Islamic criteria for the superiority of individuals over each other? What can be deduced from the Qur’an are the following:

First, precedence in faith

﴿وَالسَّابِقُونَ السَّابِقُونَ: أُوْلَئِكَ الْمُقَرَّبُونَ.﴾

And the Foremost Ones are the foremost ones: they are the ones brought near {to Allah}.20

Second, struggle

﴿وَفَضَّلَ اللَّهُ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ عَلَى الْقَاعِدِينَ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا.﴾

And Allah has graced those who wage jihad over those who sit back with a great reward.21

Third, knowledge and learning

﴿هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَالَّذِينَ لا يَعْلَمُونَ.﴾

Are those who know equal to those who do not know?22

Fourth, God-wariness {taqwa}

﴿إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ.﴾

Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-wary among you.23

There are also other criteria some of which are derived from the abovementioned ones. What can serve as the criteria for assessment are these and not those things that happened in the early period of Islam, thus we have to acknowledge what happened and explain the past as it was.

It is obvious that the Companions of the Prophet (s) especially those who participated in the Battle of Badr and the Pledge of Ridwan {bay’ah ar-ridwan} or Pledge under the Tree {bay’ah ash-shajarah},24 the Battle of Uhud, and the like are all respectable because they were those who helped the Prophet (s), but this should not keep the truth covered. Imam as-Sajjad (‘a) used to send salutations upon all the Companions, extolling them thus:

اَللَّهُمَّ وَأوْصِلْ إِلَى التّابِعِينَ لهُمْ بِإِحْسَانٍ الَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ: ﴿رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لَنَا وَلإِخْوَانِنَا الَّذِينَ سَبَقُونَا بِالإِيمانِ﴾.

O God, and give to those who have done well in following the Companions, who say, “Our Lord, forgive us and our brethren who were our forerunners in the faith,”25 Thy best reward.26

Yes, Imam as-Sajjad (‘a) says: “O God! Give Your best reward to those who follow the Companions, and in another part of his supplication, he (‘a) prays for the Companions, Followers {tabi’un} of the Companions, and the sons and wives of the Companions:

اَللَّهُمَّ وَصَلِّ عَلَى التَّابِعِينَ مِنْ يَوْمِنَا هَذَا إلَى يَوْمِ الدِّينِ وَعَلَى أزْوَاجِهِمْ وَعَلَى ذُرِّيَّاتِهِمْ وَعَلَى مَنْ أطَاعَكَ مِنْهُمْ.

O God, and bless the Followers, from this day of ours to the Day of Doom, their wives, their offspring, and those among them who obey Thee.27

The Holy Qur’an has praised the first Emigrants {muhajirun} and Helpers {ansar}, saying:

﴿وَالسَّابِقُونَ الأَوَّلُونَ مِنْ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالأَنصَارِ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُمْ بِإِحْسَانٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ.﴾

The early vanguard of the Emigrants and the Helpers and those who followed them in virtue—Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him.28

This noble verse contains two vital points. The phrase, “those who follow them in virtue” indicates the fact that the pleasure of God belongs to the Companions who were good followers of the Prophet (s) and after the demise of the Prophet (s) they had remained his good followers by being steadfast to his will, such as Salman al-Farisi, Abu Dharr, and others, and in practice, they had traversed the path of the Prophet (s). Therefore, how could they earn the pleasure of God after they had followed the Prophet (s) during his lifetime but left the pale of his religion after his death and, by not adhering to his will {wasiyyah}, sever their followship with him?

The second point is that from the apparent meaning of the verse, it can be deduced that the fellowship of the Ansar and Muhajirun is supposed to the ensured until the end of their lives, but in reality not all the Companions have been so, and neither does the verse give such a guarantee because man is an ever changing creature and not fixed. The supplication of Imam as-Sajjad (‘a) is therefore in description of the Companions who have the qualities of fellowship. This point will become clearer when we become aware that some hypocrites {munafiqun} were among the Companions, or that some Companions became apostates {murtaddun} afterward.29

The opposition and resistance of Umm al-Mu’minin ‘A’ishah against the caliph of the time whose caliphate was legal and legitimate and whose opposition violated the admonition in this verse of the Qur’an to the wives of the Prophet:

﴿وَقَرْنَ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ.﴾

Stay in your houses.30

is a vivid example of the deviation of a famous Companion and hadith narrator.

So, if verses of the Qur’an describe the Companions such as the verse mentioned earlier, such verses are conditional. For example, it is thus narrated in a tradition allegedly from the Prophet (s):

“لاَ يَدْخُلُ النَّارَ أحَدٌ بَايَعَ تَحْتَ الشَّجَرَةِ.” وَكَانُوا أكْثَرَ مِنْ ألْفٍ وَأرْبَعْمِائَةٍ.

“None of those who pledged allegiance under the tree shall enter hellfire.” They were more than one thousand four hundred.31

In describing these very Companions, the Qur’an says:

﴿لَقَدْ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِذْ يُبَايِعُونَكَ تَحْتَ الشَّجَرَةِ.﴾

Allah was certainly pleased with the faithful when they swore allegiance to you under the tree.32

In this verse, the use of the description “faithful” for those who pledged allegiance under the tree indicates that God’s pleasure with them or their non-admission into hellfire includes those who were faithful on the day of the pledge, and does not include the hypocrites and the faithless among them. In the same manner, those who turned back from their faith after the pledge cannot be included.

Based on what has been said so far, generalizing all the Companions as truthful and taking their practice as a proof and an ideal pattern of behavior in rejecting the rightfulness of ‘Ali (‘a) on the issue of caliphate in the face of the evidence to the contrary in the Qur’an, hadiths and history does not hold water. Thus, sayings such as that of Ahmad ibn Hanbal that all the Companions are worthy of praise and eulogy without exception and that anyone who reproached the Companions would be rafidi {one who abandons the religion}33 has no credibility.

The Wahhabis say that the Companions of the Prophet (s) should not be cursed and that since the Prophet (s) said that the best of people are the Companions, anyone who curses Mu’awiyah, ‘Amru ibn al-‘as, Abu Musa al-‘Ash’ari, Abu Hurayrah, Talhah, Zubayr, ‘Uthman, ‘Ali, Abu Bakr, or ‘A’ishah shall be killed or something less severe than murder.34

The essence of the saying of the Prophet (s) is correct, but in practical terms, any debauchee and oppressor cannot be regarded and respected as a Companion just because he was once with the Prophet (s) or had seen him a few moments.

Of course, Islamic morality and the observance of courtesy demand that a faithful person, Shi`ah or non-Shi`ah, should avoid foul language or the use of obscene and abusive words upon anyone, especially the Companions of the Prophet (s) and among them, the wives of the Prophet (s) in particular who have been addressed in the Qur’an as:

﴿وَأَزْوَاجُهُ أُمَّهَاتُهُمْ.﴾

… and his wives are as their mothers.35

The ministry of Imam ‘Ali (‘a)

The Wahhabis have taken the participation of Imam ‘Ali (‘a) in the congregational prayers under the leadership {imamah} of Abu Bakr and his acceptance of the ministry of ‘Umar as proof that ‘Ali (‘a) has also recognized the caliphate of the first three caliphs. They say that ‘Umar was the vizier of Abu Bakr and ‘Ali was the vizier of ‘Umar, and finally, ‘Umar also became son-in-law of ‘Ali and Fatimah and Umm Kulthum, the daughter of ‘Ali was married to ‘Umar.

Authoritative Shi`ah sources do not mention ‘Umar’s alleged marriage to the daughter of ‘Ali and Fatimah (‘a) because Umm al-Kulthum was born in 6 AH and passed away in 61 AH. They also do not mention her spouse and children. Her grave is in Bab as-Saghir of Sham. There is however something mentioned about the child of her sister Zaynab. Zaynab and Umm Kulthum are one year apart in age, and, of course some writers have claimed that Umm Kulthum and Zaynab are the same person.

Concerning the ministry of ‘Ali (‘a), however, there are indications in Islamic references that ‘Ali (‘a) cooperated with the second caliph only to the extent of giving counsel and guidance, which led ‘Umar to say on over more than seventy occasions:

لَوْلاَ عَلِيٌّ لَهَلَكَ عُمَرُ.

“Had it not been for ‘Ali, ‘Umar would have been destroyed,”

and this statement has been mentioned many times in both the Sunni and Shi`ah sources.

In spite of the fact that ‘Ali (‘a) was a known warrior and always in the forefront in the battles during the time of the Prophet (‘a), he did not participate in ‘Umar’s military campaigns against Persia, Byzantine, Bayt al-Maqdis, etc. Also, during the reigns of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman when the Muslim territory was in need of governors, deputies and commanders, ‘Ali (‘a) had never been appointed to one of them because they themselves knew that that station and qualifications of ‘Ali (‘a) were beyond these positions, and that they were more in need of his guidance in administering the state.

Besides, since Imam ‘Ali (‘a) did not recognize them as the de jure caliphs, he could not also assume official functions under their rule. However, because of the interests of Islamic society and in order to prevent unjust and inappropriate decisions and judgments which would be to the detriment of the people, Imam ‘Ali (‘a) gave them counsel and guided them in their tasks.

Imam ‘Ali’s (‘a) participation in the congregational prayers under the leadership of Abu Bakr or ‘Umar did not mean that he recognized their rightfulness. It was rather for the sake of keeping the Muslim unity and keeping the society away from dissension and discord. Of course, from the perspective of jurisprudence, there are reasons for the permissibility of following them in prayer, but it does not provide a reason for their rightfulness to the caliphate because Imam ‘Ali (‘a) had always explicitly regarded himself as the rightful caliph.

If ever ‘Umar attained the right of seniority and precedence on account of his ministry during the time of Abu Bakr, the seniority and precedence of ‘Ali (‘a) over the rest is natural because he was the minister of the Messenger of Allah (s) during his lifetime.

In Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, an authoritative Sunni source, it is narrated that the Messenger of Allah (s) said:

اَللَّهُمَّ إنِّي أقُولُ كَمَا قَالَ أخِي مُوسَى: إجْعَلْ لِي وَزِيراً مِنْ أهْلِي؛ عَلِيّاً.

O God! I would say something which my brother Musa (Moses) said: Give me a minister from my family and that is ‘Ali.

﴿الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ.﴾

All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.36

  • 1.
    Surat an-Nisa’ 4:59.
  • 2.
    Al-As’ilah wa’l-Ajwibah, p. 321.
  • 3.
    See ‘Ali al-Qari al-Harawi al-Hanafi, Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, under the chapter “it is permissible to pray behind a good person or a wicked person,” p. 90; Ibn Taymiyah, Majmu‘ al-Fatawa (Riyadh, 1381 AH), vol. 3, p. 281. [Trans.]
  • 4.
    See Al-As’ilah wa’l-Ajwibah, p. 322.
  • 5.
    Surat al-Ma’idah 5:2.
  • 6.
    Surat al-‘Ankabut 29:8.
  • 7.
    Nahj al-Balaghah, Saying 156.
  • 8.
    Surat al-Ma’idah 5:2.
  • 9.
    Surat al-Hadid 57:25.
  • 10.
    Abu Zahrah Misri, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, p. 148.
  • 11.
    Fath al-Majid.
  • 12.
    Ibid.
  • 13.
    Surat an-Nisa, 4:59.
  • 14.
    Surat al-Ma’idah 5:55.
  • 15.
    Usul al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 264, hadith 6; p. 269, hadith 16.
  • 16.
    Muhajrun (lit. “Emigrants”): The Meccan Muslims who accompanied the Prophet (s) in his hijrah [emigration] to Medina. [Trans.]
  • 17.
    Ansar (lit. “Helpers”): The Muslims of Medina who invited the Prophet (s) and Muslims of Mecca to migrate (hijrah) to Medina. [Trans.]
  • 18.
    Surat al-Fath 48:29. See Ahmad ibn Hanbal, p. 148.
  • 19.
    See Al-As’ilah wa’l-Ajwibah, p. 301.
  • 20.
    Surat al-Waqi‘ah 56:10-11.
  • 21.
    Surat an-Nisa’ 4:95.
  • 22.
    Surat az-Zumar 39:9.
  • 23.
    Surah al-Hujurat 49:13.
  • 24.
    See the exegesis of Surah al-Fath 48:18: ““Allah was certainly pleased with the faithful when they swore allegiance to you under the tree. He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down composure on them, and requited them with a victory near at hand.” [Trans.]
  • 25.
    Surat al-Hashr 59:10.
  • 26.
    As-Sahifah al-Kamilah as-Sajjadiyyah, Supplication 4.
  • 27.
    As-Sahifah al-Kamilah as-Sajjadiyyah.
  • 28.
    Surat at-Tawbah (or, Bara‘ah) 9:100.
  • 29.
    See Mu‘alim al-Madrasatayn, vol. 1, p. 98.
  • 30.
    Surat al-Ahzab, 33:33.
  • 31.
    See Mu‘alim al-Madrasatayn, vol. 1, p. 98.
  • 32.
    Surat al-Fath 48:18.
  • 33.
    Ahmad ibn Hanbal, p. 147.
  • 34.
    Al-As’ilah wa’l-Ajwibah, p. 305.
  • 35.
    Surat al-Ahzab 33:6: “The Prophet is closer to the faithful than their own souls, and his wives are their mothers.”
  • 36.
    Surat al-Fatihah, 1:2.

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