Monday, October 20, 2008

Veracity of Tabari's Islamic History - 38

syed-mohsin naquvi wrote:

Dear Aamir Mughal,

Salam and prayers for your sanity,

The reason that the story of IBNE SABA has been consistently rejected by learned scholars is that the whole story is based on a SINGLE REPORT. This report is by one called SAYF. Tabari has just copied that report without any analysis.

Thank you.


Syed-Mohsin Naquvi

Dear Naquvi Sahab,

What about the Shia Sources I quoted, let me quote 3 more:


The fact is that the existence of Ibn Saba is attested to in almost every Shi‘i biographical work. Dr. Sa‘di al-Hashimi in his book Ibn Saba:

Haqiqah La Khayal (pp. 25-28, Maktabat ad-Dar, Madina 1406) has listed over 20 Shi‘i sources that testify to the existence of Ibn Saba.

The book is Ikhtiyar Ma‘rifat ar-Rijal, which is Abu Ja‘far at-Tusi’s recension of Abu ‘Amr al-Kashshi’s 4th century biographical dictionary of Shi‘i hadith narrators. In this book the entry for Ibn Saba spans a full two pages (323-324), and consists of five separate reports, their numbers running from 170 to 174. Below are given a list of the Imams with whom these five reports originate:

170: Imam Muhammad al-Baqir

171: Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq

172: Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq

173: Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin

174: Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq

(See Ikhtiyar Ma‘rifat ar-Rijal, pp. 323-324, ed. as-Sayyid Mahdi ar-Rijali, published by Mu’assasat Al al-Bayt, Qum, 1404)

The reporters of these narrations are all of the Shi‘ah.

It would be absurd to say “that the story of ‘Abdullah Bin Saba’ has been started by Saif and cited primarily from Tabari”.

Only one Shi‘i writer—al-‘Askari—who completely denies the historicity of Ibn Saba.

Contemporary Shi‘i writer who categorically affirms the existence of Ibn Saba. Shaykh Muhammad Husayn az-Zayn al-‘Amili writes in his book ash-Shi‘ah fit-Tarikh:

However it may be, Ibn Saba definitely existed and manifested ghuluww (extremism), even though some people doubt his existence and made him out to be an imaginary character created by personal interests. As for us, on grounds of the latest research we have no doubt concerning his existence and his extremism... Yes, Ibn Saba exhibited extremism in his religion. This innovation of his seeped into the thinking of a group that was by no means small, and that group was named after him. (Muhammad Husayn az-Zayn, ash-Shi‘ah fit-Tarikh, p. 213, Dar al-Athar, Beirut, 1979)

Ibn Saba is held responsible for the introduction of many phenomena which later developed into hallmark aspects of Shi'aism. The Shi‘ah (or at least those of them who accept his existence, like Shaykh Muhammad Husayn az-Zayn al-‘Amili) admit that he exhibited extremist tendencies. In the Tarikh of Ibn ‘Asakir he is on record as having

vilified Abu Bakr and ‘Umar (Ibn ‘Asakir vol. 29 pp. 8,9)

believed the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa-alihi wasallam) to have imparted

to ‘Ali special knowledge which was not known to anyone but him.
(Ibn ‘Asakir vol. 29 p. 9)

believed ‘Ali to have been the Dabbat al-Ard, the creator and the giver of sustenance (Ibn ‘Asakir vol. 29 p. 9)

The first two of these beliefs are common features of Ithna ‘Ashari Shi'aism, while the third one with its extremist overtones is more reminiscent of the Ghulat. That particular aspect of Ibn Saba’s role finds further corroboration in the Shi'ite biographical literature.

Al-Kashshi, for example, reports the following

Hisham ibn Salim reports that Abu ‘Abdillah (Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq) told his companions the story of Ibn Saba, and his claims of divinity for Amir al-Mu’minin. He said: When he made those claims Amir al-Muminin asked him to repent. He refused to repent, so Amir al-Mu’minin burnt him fire. (Ikhtiyar Ma‘`rifat ar-Rijal, vol. 1 p. 323)

Extremist tendencies like these were originally introduced by Ibn Saba. Before him no one, not even the little group of Sahabah like Abu Dharr and Salman al-Farisi, whom the Shi‘ah look upon as the early Shi‘ah, ever made such claims, neither did any one of them ever speak ill of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. This too, was invented by Ibn Saba.

Extremism did not die with the death of Ibn Saba. It persisted, and the centre of its activities, as Jafri tells us in The Origins and Early Development of Shi‘ah Islam (p. 300), was the city of Kufa. Here we stand before an interesting observation that was brought to light by Jafri. He writes:

There is another important point that must be discussed here briefly. A considerable number of traditions are to be found, especially in the earliest Shi'ite collection of hadith, Al-KAAFI, which describe the Imams as supernatural human beings. What was the origin of these traditions, and to what extent are the Imams themselves responsible for them? These traditions are reported, as indeed are all Shi‘i traditions, on the authority of one of the Imams, in this case from Al-Baqir and Ja‘far. But were these Imams really the authors of such traditions, which describe their supernatural character? The first thing which must be noted in this connection is that while Al-Baqir and Ja‘far themselves lived in Medina, most of their followers lived in Kufa. This fact brings us to a crucial problem. Kufa had long been a centre of ghulat speculations and activities. Whether ‘Abd Allah bin Saba, to whom the history of the ghulat is traced, was a real personality or not, the name as-Saba’iyya is often used to describe the ghulat in Kufa who believed in the supernatural character of ‘Ali. According to the heresiographers, Ibn Saba was the first to preach the doctrine of waqf (refusal to recognise the death of ‘Ali) and the first to condemn the first two caliphs in addition to ‘Uthman. (Jafri, The Origins and Early Development of Shi‘a Islam, p. 300, Ansariyan Publications, Qum)

This same Kufa, which was the hotbed of Shi'ite activities and ghulat tendencies, was also the home of the most prolific narrators of the hadith which the Shi‘ah ascribe to the Imams, and which are documented in their hadith compendiums such as al-KAAFI, Man La Yahduruhu al-Faqih, Tahdhib al-Ahkam and al-Istibsar. Since it is upon this corpus of narrated material that the entire edifice of Shi‘ism rests, it would be of interest to see what kind of people were these men on whose authority it is narrated from the Imams.

Some of the most prolific narrators of the Shi‘ah are

Zurarah ibn A`yan

Muhammad ibn Muslim at-Ta’ifi

Abu Basir Layth ibn al-Bakhtari al-Muradi

al-Mufaddal ibn ‘Umar al-Ju‘fi

All four of these men were from Kufah. Let us take a closer look at these men:

Zurarah ibn A‘yan

Sayyid Bahr al-‘Ulum states that the family of A‘yan, of which Zurarah was a scion, was the largest Shi‘i family of Kufa. (Rijal as-Sayyid Bahr al-‘Ulum, a.k.a al-Fawa’id ar-Rijaliyyah, vol. 1 p. 222)

Zurarah has always posed a problem in Shi‘ism, because while is on the one hand regarded as the most prolific narrator from the Imams al-Baqir and as-Sadiq, the Imams are also recorded as having cursed and excommunicated him. The Shi‘ah attempt to reconcile these two contradictory attitudes through the dubious and completely unconvincing explanation of taqiyyah by the Imams.

Regarding the wealth of narrations which Zurarah reports, we are informed by al-Kashshi that had it not been for Zurarah, the ahadith of al-Baqir would have been lost. (Ikhtiyar Ma‘rifat ar-Rijal vol. 1 p. 345) Sayyid Abul Qasim al-Khu’i has counted 2094 of his narrations in the four books, all of them from the Imams al-Baqir and as-Sadiq, (al-Khu’i, Mu‘jam Rijal al-Hadith vol. 7 p. 249)

On the other hand, al-Kashshi records that Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq cursed Zurarah. The following quotation is but one of several places where his cursing of Zurarah is on record:

By Allah, he has ascribed lies to me! By Allah, he has ascribed lies to me! By Allah, he has ascribed lies to me! May Allah curse Zurarah! May Allah curse Zurarah! May Allah curse Zurarah! (Ikhtiyar Ma‘`rifat ar-Rijal, vol. 1 p. 361)

Despite Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq’s cursing of Zurarah, he is still accepted by the Shi‘ah as the most prolific and reliable authority for the ahadith of the Imams. He hails from Kufa, the centre of the successors of Ibn Saba; he is cursed by the Imam as Ibn Saba was cursed by Sayyiduna ‘Ali; and yet he is respected as a trustworthy and reliable narrator of the ahadith which form the basis of Shi‘ism!

Muhammad ibn Muslim

Muhammad ibn Muslim is another Kufan narrator whose credentials as a narrator are extremely suspect, but who is accepted by the Shi‘ah as a reliable narrator all the same. This Muhammad ibn Mus, who claims to have heard 30 000 ahadith from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir, and a further 16 000 from his son Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq (See Ikhtiyar Ma‘rifat ar-Rijal vol. 1 p. 391) is also recorded by al-Kashshi to have been cursed by Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq (vol. 1 p. 394) just as Ibn Saba was cursed by his great-grandfather!

Abu Basir al-Muradi

In Abu Basir we have another very prolific Kufan narrator whose character fails to convince anyone of his trustworthiness. He, together with Zurarah, is regarded of those who preserved the legacy of the Imams al-Baqir and as-Sadiq. He is one of a very select group of narrators about whom it is said that “there is consensus amongst the Shi‘ah to accept what is authentically narrated from them.” (See al-Mamaqani, Miqbas al-Hidayah vol. 2 p. 171)

However, Mir Damad in his annotations to Rijal al-Kashshi notes that the Shi‘i hadith critic Abul Husayn ibn al-Ghada’iri said of him:

Abu ‘Abdillah (Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq) used to get annoyed and upset with his presence, and his companions are in disagreement amongst themselves about him. I (Ibn al-Ghada’iri) believe that he was cursed on account of (matters pertaining to) his religion, not his narrations. To me he is a trustworthy narrator. (Ikhtiyar Ma‘`rifat ar-Rijal, vol. 1 p. 397. See also al-Ardabili, Jami‘ ar-Ruwat vol. 3 p. 43)

Again we have here a most prolific Kufan narrator who was cursed by Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq just like Ibn Saba was cursed by Sayyiduna ‘Ali!

Al-Mufaddal ibn ‘Umar

Here we have another Kufan narrator who is regarded by eminent Shi‘i hadith critics as a reliable transmitter of the Imams’ hadith. Al-Ardabili in Jami‘ ar-Ruwat (vol. 2 p. 258) records that Shaykh Mufid mentioned al-Mufaddal as belonging to the “inner circle, reliable and pious Fuqaha” of Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq’s followers. Abu Ja‘far at-Tusi too, is quoted as having mentioned al-Mufaddal amongst the mamduhin (praiseworthy).

But Imam Ja‘far is recorded by al-Kashshi to have addressed by calling him, “You Kafir! You Mushrik!” (See Ikhtiyar Ma‘rifat ar-Rijal vol. 2 p. 612) Another lengthier narration of al-Kashshi runs as follows:

‘Abdullah ibn Miskan says: Hujr ibn Za’idah and ‘Amir ibn Judha‘ah al-Azdi came to Abu ‘Abdillah [Imam Ja‘far] and told him: “May we be ransomed for you! Mufaddal says that you [the Imams] determine the sustenance of the people.” He [Imam Ja‘far said]: “By Allah, no one besides Allah determines our sustenance. One day I needed food for my family. I was under difficult circumstances and thought hard about it, until I managed to secure food for them. Only then did I feel content. May Allah curse him and disown him.” They asked: “Do you curse and disown him?” He replied: “Yes, so you too, curse him and disown him. May Allah and His messenger disown him.” (Ikhtiyar Ma‘rifat ar-Rijal vol. 2 p. 614)

The above narration clearly identifies al-Mufaddal with the heresy originally introduced by Ibn Saba. In the biography of Ibn Saba given in al-Kashshi’s Rijal, Imam al-Baqir is reported to have stated that Ibn Saba claimed himself to be a prophet, and ‘Ali to be Allah (See Ikhtiyar Ma‘rifat ar-Rijal vol. 1 p. 323). If we return to al-Mufaddal’s biography in the same book we find the following:

Al-Kashshi says: The extremist Tayyarah mention in some of their books on the authority of al-Mufaddal that he said: “Seventy prophets were killed with Abu Isma‘il, meaning Abul Khattab, each one of whom had seen and announced his prophethood.”

[They also say] that he said: Twelve of us were admitted to the presence of Abu ‘Abdillah [Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq]. Abu ‘Abdillah started greeting each one of us, calling each of us by the name of a prophet. To some he said, “Peace be upon you, O Nuh.” To some he said, “Peace be upon you, O Ibrahim,” To last one he greeted he said, “Peace be upon you, O Yunus.” Then he said, “Do not distinguish between the Prophets.” (Ikhtiyar Ma‘rifat ar-Rijal vol. 2 p. 614)

This Mufaddal, whom al-Kashshi says was of the extremist Khattabiyyah sect, the followers of Abul Khattab, whose beliefs derived directly from Ibn Saba himself—this Mufaddal is exonerated by contemporary Shi‘i scholars such as Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Mamaqani, and Sayyid Abul Qasim al-Khu’i as a most reliable and trustworthy transmitter of the knowledge of the Imams. Al-Mamaqani gives a lengthy explanation about what exactly constitutes ghuluww (See Tanqih al-Maqal vol. 3 p. 240 and Miqbas al-Hidayah vol. 2 p. 397) and concludes that the kind of things on account of which al-Mufaddal was labelled as a ghali has since become of the undeniable tenets (daririyyat) of Shi‘ism.


No comments: