In this text, Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Khamene'i analyzes the concept of war and combat in the lifes of the Infallible Imams and focuses on the precept and political stragedy of these honorable figures.
We should learn the history of the lives of the infallible Imams, not only as "glorious and invaluable memories", but also as "paragons and lessons". It is not possible to do so without paying due attention to the precept and political strategy of these honorable figures.
I have personally developed an interest in this aspect of the infallible Imams' lives and it is pertinent here to submit that for the first time this idea occurred to me during a crucible and an ordeal test.
Although I had already been acquainted with the infallible Imams as figures who struggled in the way of the sublimation of the word of "Tawhid" (monotheism) and those who devoted for the establishment of a divine government, what became clear to me at that stage was that the lives of these honorable figures - despite their superficial and sometimes contradictory differences - were all and all a continuous, prolonged movement which began in 11 hijra, continued until 250 and ended in 260 hijra which is the commencement of the Minor Occultation [of Imam Mahdi (May Allah Hasten His Reappearance)].
Without any doubt these honorable figures performed their duties like a single personality, following a single goal towards a single direction. Hence, instead of studying the lives of Imam Hassan Mujtaba (as), Imam Hussein (as), and Imam Sajjad (as) individually, we should perceive them as an individual who lived for 250 years, launching his movement in 11 hijra and continuing it until 260. This approach will prevent wrong inferences drawn from the superficial differences in the precepts of the Imams that sometimes even look contradictory. All the stances and movements of this great infallible Imam are comprehendible on the basis of this approach.
Any wise, sagacious human being, even if not infallible, would have his "situational" tactics and stances in a long-term movement. He may move fast on some occasions, while in other occasions he may move slowly; he may even tactically withdraw, while those who are aware of his knowledge, sagacity and goal-oriented movement, consider his tactical withdrawal as a step forward. According to this approach, the life of Imam Ali (as) is part of a continuous movement, which was followed by Imam Hassan Mujtaba (as), Imam Hussein (as) and other eight Imams until 260 hijra.
I realized this point that year and tried to study the lives of these honorable figures on the basis of this approach. The more I delved into the issue, the more this point was acknowledged.
Of course it is not possible to study this issue in a single session. However, given the fact that the lives of the infallible Imams and the Ahl-ul-Bait (the Progeny of the Holy Prophet (S)) had always been politically oriented, I would shed some light on this aspect of their lives today. I would like to discuss this aspect in details.
The first question that is to be addressed in this regard is: What is the political struggle or fierce political struggle in the lives of the infallible Imams (as)? It means that the struggles which were launched by the infallible Imams (as) were not merely scientific, intellectual, or theological. Their struggles were not similar to the theological struggles we observe in the history of Islam during this period.
Contrary to the sects of "Mu'tazilites" and "Asharites", the objective of the Imams in holding the educative sessions, debates, classes, as well as the narration of traditions, and teaching of Islamic doctrines and decrees was not to confirm the stance of their own theological school of thought. Their struggle was not an armed movement either. It was neither similar to that of Zaid and his survivors, nor like that of Bani al-Hassan, nor the struggles of some members of Aal-e-Ja'far and others in the history of the infallible Imams.
They did not launch this kind of struggle either. It is pertinent here to state that the Imams did not denunciate the struggle of these figures. Although they denunciate some of them, their denunciation was not due to the nature of armed struggle. They also acknowledged some of them and even supported and contributed to some of these struggles.
The following tradition, attributed to Imam Sadiq (as), is an example which supports this idea: "I would like the insurgents of the Progeny of Muhammad (S) to rise; in this case I would provide them with the required finance to run their houses (financial assistance, protecting their prestige, accommodating them, providing them with a hide-out, and so on).1 But the Imams themselves did not launch nor did they join the armed struggle.
Political struggle is neither a theological debate nor is it an armed struggle, rather it is a struggle with a political objective. What is the political objective of this struggle? The political objective of this struggle is the establishment of an Islamic or an ALAWI government (a righteously government similar to that of Imam ALI's).
From the departure of the Prophet of Islam until 260 hijra the Imams tried to establish a divine government in the Islamic society. This was their main contention. However, it does not mean that every Imam tried to establish an Islamic government in his own time. They had an eye on the long-term, amid-term and short-term opportunities to accomplish this goal. For instance, Imam Mujtaba (as) tried to establish an Islamic government in a short-term span.
The answer of Imam Mujtaba to the questions of people like Musayib and Ibn Najbah who used to ask the reason for his silence, indicated that he had planned for the establishment of an Islamic government in the future. He used to tell them: "We do not know; it might be a test for you and a promise for the future." While in my opinion, Imam Sajjad's (as) struggles were planned in a manner to achieve their goal within the framework of an amid-term plan.
There are certain clues and evidences that underline this issue. Most probably Imam Baqir's struggles were designed in a way to attain their objectives in the short run. After the martyrdom of the Eighth Imam, the struggles of the Imams aimed to accomplish their objectives in the long run. In sum, although the question of setting up an Islamic government varied from time to time, this issue had always been present in the struggles of the Imams.
Except the spiritual activities of the Imams which are related to man's self-perfection and his proximity to God, their other activities, including their teaching, traditions, theology, debates with the scientific contenders, support and acknowledgment of certain groups, or rejection of a group, etc. were all directed towards this goal, that is, the establishment of an Islamic government. This was the bone of contention.
Of course, this issue has been, and will remain, controversial and I do not insist that my understanding of this issue must be accepted by others. But, I insist that this clue should be carefully followed and the issue should be studied from this perspective while reviewing the history of the Imams' lives. We have tried over the past few years to prepare a reasonable, rational history of the lives of the Imams - both, their lives as a continuous stream and the life of every individual Imam.
Of course some of the proofs are general ones. For instance, we know well that Imamate (Islamic leadership) is the continuation of Nubuwat (Prophethood), and that the Prophet is an Imam as well. Imam Sadiq (as) has been quoted as saying: "Verily, the holy prophet of Islam was an Imam..." The Messenger of God rose in order to set up a system based on the divine teachings and justice through his continuous struggles. He safeguarded the system as long as he was alive. Hence, the Imam, whose leadership is the continuation of the Prophet's leadership, does not neglect the system, which had been established by the Prophet (S).
This is a general argument, which can be followed through lengthy discussions and careful attention to its various aspects. Some other arguments are inferred from the statements of the infallible Imams, or are based on their precept and lifestyles. In fact, a thorough study of the prevailing conditions of the Imams' time would decisively help the understanding of their eras.
When imprisoned in the dark cell of a jail, one can easily understand the following statement, which is said about Imam Musa Al-Kadhim (the 7th Imam of Shiites): "One who was tortured in the depth of cells and darkness of dungeons and his legs carried the wounds of shackles."1 However, this is the direction and the line I would like to discuss and offer my own understanding in this honorable meeting.
The nature of the Imams' struggles differed from that of the theological debates and armed struggles. Those who are acquainted with the history of the second century hijra, and those who have studied the activities of the Abbasside Dynasty (Bani Abbas) before the first century hijra until 132 hijra when they came to power, may well appreciate that the fierce political struggle of the Imams can be compared to those of the Abbasside during this period.
Of course, this comparison will not be clear and impressive for those who have not studied the Abbasside struggles and the methods of their call. Similar features are found in the struggle of our Imams, but with essential differences in their goals, objectives, methods and personalities. Nevertheless, the plans and form of their activities are almost similar. Hence, we observe that sometime these two currents are intermingled, that is, due to the similarity of their methods, propagation and call, the Abbasside in the far away places like Hijaz and Iraq pretended to be the followers of the path of the Family of Imam Ali (as).
Following the style of "Musawwadah", who used to wear "black" shirt in the beginning of the call of the Abbasside in Khurassan and Rai’, the Abbasside used to wear black shirts. But they used to tell the people: our black shirt marks our mourning for the martyrs of Karbala, Zaid, and Yahya.1 Some of their leaders even imagined that they are working for the Family of Imam Ali (as).
The Imams launched such a movement, but with marked differences in three areas: their objectives, methods, and personalities. This is the nature and meaning of the political struggle in the lives of the infallible Imams.
The Broad Outlines of the Struggles of the Infallible Imams
I deem it pertinent here to draw a broad outline of the struggles of the infallible Imams and then discuss some features of their struggles during their lifetime.
At this stage, I am not touching the outlines of the struggle during the time of the first three Imams, that is, the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (as), Imam Mujtaba (as), and the Master of the Martyrs Imam Husayn (as). There are ample materials on their struggles and no one doubts that their movement had a political orientation.
I begin this issue with alluding to the era of Imam Sajjad (as). In my opinion, the entire struggles, from the era of Imam Sajjad (as), that is, the year 61, until 260 hijra, can be divided into three stages.
The First Stage, 61-135 hijra (H.) -- The struggle in this stage gradually intensifies, deepens, expands and reaches its peak until 135 H. when Saffah passes away and is succeeded by Mansur Abbasi. When Mansur comes to power, some difficulties are created and as a result the progress of the struggle is to a great extent retarded. Such developments are natural in a political struggle. We have observed similar developments in our own struggle.
The Second Stage, 135-202 (or 203) hijra -- This year marks the martyrdom of Imam Ridha (as). During this stage the intensity of the struggles is higher than that in 61 H.; they are more widespread and deeper, but at the same time they face new difficulties. They gradually spread and step by step get closer to the victory until the year of the martyrdom of the Eighth Imam (as). At this stage the struggles are once again stopped.
After Mamun had gone to Baghdad and began his rule in 204 H., one of the most difficult phases on the life of the infallible Imams began. The new phase is the era of the difficulties for the infallible Imams. Although Shiism spread more than ever during this period, in my opinion the difficulties the Imams faced were also more than ever during those days.
During this period the Imams launched their struggle to achieve their goal in the long run, that is, the Imams did not struggle to achieve their goals before the Minor Occultation of Imam Mahdi (May Allah Hasten His Reappearance), rather they prepared the ground for the ensuing period. This period, which began in 204, continued until 260 H. when Imam Askari (as) was martyred and the Minor Occultation of Imam Mahdi (as) began. Each of these three periods has certain characteristics, which I am going to touch briefly.
The struggles during the first stage begin with great difficulties. This stage covers the eras of Imam Sajjad (as), Imam Baqir (as) and some part of the era of Imam Sadiq (as). The event of Karbala not only had greatly shaken the pillars of Shiism, but also the foundations of the world of Islam in general.
Although assassination, persecution, torture and oppression were not unprecedented, the assassination of the sons of the Prophet, taking the members of the Progeny of the Messenger of God as captives, taking them from one city to another, and raising the head of the dear son of Zahra (sa) on a sword - at a time when there were still many people who remembered the Prophet kissing his lips - in effect, astonished the world of Islam.
No one could imagine that the unfolding of events would go that far. A couplet attributed to Hazrat Zaynab (SA) in fact underlines this public astonishment "O my dearest, I could never imagine that such a destiny would await you."1
All of a sudden a sea change was felt in the political landscape. The restrictions went beyond the imagination. Unconceivable events unfolded and as a result, horror engulfed the entire world of Islam, except Kufa, thanks to the presence of the Tawwabun (repentant people) and Mukhtar's upheaval. Despite the fact that Abdullah ibn Zubair led an insurgency in Mecca sometime after the episode of Karbala, the horror engulfing Medina and other places due to the event of Karbala was unprecedented in the world of Islam.
Although the movement of Tawwabun and the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (as) and his companions -- apparently in 64-65 H. -- injected a fresh blood into the muffled atmosphere of struggle in Kufa and Iraq, the martyrdom of all the members of this movement once again caused the intensification of the atmosphere of suppression and horror.
Thereafter, the enemies of the Umayyad System, that is, "Mukhtar" and "Musab ibn Zubair" waged wars against each other, while Abdullah ibn Zubair from Mecca could not even tolerate Mukhtar who was a supporter of the Progeny of the Prophet of Islam in Kufa and finally Mukhtar was killed by Musab. Consequently, the atmosphere of fear intensified and disappointment spread in every nook and cranny. Shortly after Abdul Malik had come to power, the entire world of Islam came under the control of the Umayyad. Abdul Malik ruled powerfully for 21 years.
It is pertinent here to allude to the episode of Harrah. Muslim ibn Aqaba attacked Medina in 64 H., creating more horror and terror and causing total isolation of the Progeny of Prophet Muhammad (S). The Harrah incident occurred when Yazid in 62 H. appointed an inexperienced young general of Damascus (erstwhile Shaam) as the ruler of Medina.
The new ruler decided to reconcile the citizens of the city with Yazid. Hence, he invited a group of them to go to Yazid in Damascus. They went to Damascus and met Yazid who paid a large amount of money (50,000 to 10,000 drachmas) to them. Being the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad(S) or their descendents, they were outraged after witnessing Yazid's system.
Upon their return to Medina, Abdullah - the son of "Hanzalah Ghasil-ul-Malaa'ikah" whose body was washed by the angels after his martyrdom - rose against the central government and announced autonomy for Medina. Yazid sent Muslim ibn Aqaba to Medina who created one of the saddest tragedies recorded in the history books. The event added to the horror and fear of the people.
These issues reflect the condition of those days; in addition to "intellectual" and "moral" decadence, "political" corruption was another characteristic of this period. Most of the luminaries were deeply involved in fulfilling their own material desires, which was possible through establishing links with the government officials. A great personality like Muhammad ibn Shahab Zuhri who was earlier a disciple of Imam Sajjad (as), had so deteriorated that Imam Sajjad (as) writes a letter to him, reminding him of his attachment to undesirable things.
There were a number of people like him. The late Allameh Majlesi quotes Jabir as saying: Imam Sajjad (as) said: "WE do not know how to behave these people: when we narrate what we have heard from the Prophet (S) for the people, they laugh; if we decide to keep silent, we cannot." Then quoting Ibn Abi al-Hadid, the late Majlesi says that one day Imam Sajjad narrated a tradition for a group of people. One of them ridiculed and did not accept it.
He then explains the accounts of Sa’id ibn Musayib and Zuhri, calling them among the depraved figures -- of course, I do not agree that Sa’id ibn Musayib was depraved; there are certain reasons indicating that he was among the disciples of the Imam. However, his idea about Zuhri and many others is correct.
Then he says: Ibn Abi al-Hadid has named a number of the luminaries and officials of the time who had turned their back to the Ahl-ul-Bayt (the Progeny of the Prophet Muhammad (S)). He also quotes a tradition attributed to Imam Sajjad (as), saying: "There are not even twenty people in Mecca and Medina who are our cordial friends."
This was the situation when Imam Sajjad decided to undertake his great task. Describing this period later, Imam Sadiq (as) said: After the episode of Karbala only three persons remained [faithful]; Abu Khalid al-Kabuli, Yahya ibn Umm al-Tawil, Jubair ibn Mut’am.
However, Allama Shushtari believes that the third one was not Jubair ibn Mut’am, rather he was Hakim ibn Jubair ibn Mut’am. Some historians have mentioned Muhammad ibn Jubair Ibn Mut’am as the third person. However, there are some traditions in Bihar-ul-Anwar mentioning names of four to five persons. Imam Sajjad (as) started his task in such a bare desert.
Given the circumstances, what were the responsibilities of Imam Sajjad? If he decided to follow that goal, he would feel three burdens on his shoulder:
Firstly, he should impart the teachings of his religion to the people of his time. It is not possible to establish an Islamic government without acquainting the people with the religious teachings. Hence, the first task was to acquaint the people with the Islamic teachings.
Secondly, the issue of Imamate, which had been isolated and secluded, should be reinterpreted and explained for the people once again. What is the meaning of Imamate? Who was an Imam in the people's viewpoint? Who was the leader of the society?
I will explain the concept of Imamate as understood during the early years of the development of Islam.
During those days, both the supporters and opponents used the concept of Imamate in the same sense that we use today in the Islamic Republic of Iran: the Imam of the Ummah, the leader of the nation; the religious guide and the political ruler. Our understanding of the Imam during the recent two, three centuries was different: we thought that there is a ruler in the society who levies taxes, leads the wars, makes peace, runs the affairs, and establishes the government and its offices.
On the other hand, there is a spiritual guide who takes care of the religious aspects, teaches prayers and other similar issues to the people; he is a cleric or a spiritual guide. The Imam during his time was like the cleric in later centuries. The Caliph used to rule, and the Imam took care of the religious or ethical aspects.
This had been our understanding of the role of Imam over the past few centuries, while in the early years of the development of Islam, the general understanding of the Imam's role was different from this approach. Imam means the leader of the society, the leader of the religious and worldly affairs. The Umayyad and Abbasside claimed this kind of leadership.
The very drunk people who were deeply involved in the worldly revelry too claimed this kind of leadership and considered themselves as Imams - I will discuss this issue later. Hence, the society had an Imam and its Imam was Abdul Malik.
Under the circumstances, Imam Sajjad (as) had to explain the meaning of Imamate, its direction, and the indispensable qualifications of an Imam for the people.
Finally, the third task of the Imam was to announce that he was the true Imam, that is, the right person for that position. These were the three tasks Imam Sajjad (as) had to undertake. Imam devoted most of his efforts to the first task, for the situation did not allow him to pay attention to the other two tasks. The ground was not prepared for him to announce himself the Imam of the society. In the first place, he had to correct the people's religion and ethics.
The people must have been rescued from the whirlpool of corruption and licentiousness. The Imam had to revive the spiritual aspects of the society, which was the core and true spirit of the religion. Hence, Imam Sajjad's life and statements were entirely devoted to asceticism. Even when he decided to deliver a speech on political issues, he began with admonishment about asceticism: "Verily, the signs of those who are ascetic in their worldly affairs and are interested in the hereafter are as follows..."1
In one of his short speeches, the Imam describes the world, its attractions and enchantment as follows: "First of all, is there any person who is ready to leave the leftovers for those who like it? Bear in mind that there is nothing less than paradise awaiting you, therefore, do not transact it with anything less than that."2
The statements of Imam Sajjad (as) are mainly devoted to asceticism and religious teachings. He even explains the religious teachings in the form of invocations and supplications. Indeed, due to the repression and oppression prevailing during the Imam's era, he could not talk to the people in an explicit manner. Not only the system did not allow him, the people too were not interested in such issues.
The society was basically a depraved, corrupt, and decadent one. It should have been reconstructed. Between 61 and 95 hijra, about three decades of the Imam's life were devoted to the revival of spiritualism in the society.
However, by the passage of time, the situation improved to some extent. This is why in the tradition I already mentioned about the situation after the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, Imam Sadiq adds: "later the people joined and their numbers increased."3 The situation really improved and as a result of the 35-year hard work of Imam Sajjad (as), we observe a better situation during the time of Imam Baqir (as).
We come across some references to the recruitment and training of the cadres in the words of Imam Sajjad (as). There are a number of lengthy speeches of Imam Sajjad in the Tuhaf ul-Uqul. Unfortunately, I did not have time to search for his lengthy speeches in other books. I guess that there is not any lengthy speech, similar to those two, three lengthy traditions mentioned in Tuhaf ul-Uqul, in other books, though there are a number of his short speeches. The nature and theme of these traditions underline the nature of the task Imam Sajjad (as) was trying to accomplish.
One of the said three traditions had been addressed to the public, for it begins with "O people". In this speech, the Imam advises the people to heed Islamic teachings. He says: "When man is laid to rest in the grave, he is asked about his Creator, his Prophet, his religion and his Imam." This was a soft tone, suitable for the masses who were living within the realm of the Imam's propagation.
There is another tradition of the Imam, which begins with another theme. Its content shows that it had been addressed to a particular group. The tradition begins as follows: "God may protect us against the plots of the oppressors, inequity of the envious, and pressure of the tyrants. Beware, the satanic powers may not deceive you."1 This speech had not been delivered for the public; it was meant for a particular group.
The third tradition was meant for a limited number of the elite. Probably, the addressees of this tradition were a group of the companions who knew the secrets of the Imamate, were aware of Imam's goal-oriented attempts, and were among the confidantes of the Imam. The tradition addressing to the companions, begins as such: "The characteristics of those who are pious in their worldly affairs and are interested in the hereafter are: they give up the friendship and companion of those who do not pursue what we follow."2
We can infer from these traditions that the Imam during the said period or during various periods had two, three kinds of teachings and statements while addressing different groups of the people. In some of them, he alludes to the ruling system and the illegal rulers, while in others he only enumerates the general principles and Islamic issues.
This is a brief account of Imam Sajjad's life. During this 35-year period, he rescues the ignorant people from the clutches of their carnal desires on the one hand, and from the domination of the oppressive systems as well as the trap of pretentious clerics of the Caliphate system, on the other. He trains a group of faithful, pious people who constitute a base for the future tasks. Of course, the details of the life of his holiness require several hours of discussion.
During the life of Imam Baqir (as), the same line continued. The situation improved to some extent during this era. During this period too the emphasis was mainly laid on the Islamic, religious teachings. First of all, the previous heedlessness and disrespect of the people to the Progeny of the holy Prophet was not observed. When Imam Baqir (as) enters the mosque, groups of the people always encircle him to listen to his teachings.
A narrator says: "I saw Imam Baqir (as) surrounded by the people from Khurasan and other places in the Medina Mosque." This shows that the people across the world of Islam became interested in the Progeny of the Prophet (S) in this period. There is another tradition saying: "He [Imam Baqir] was surrounded by a group of people from Khurasan. The Imam was discussing the lawful and unlawful issues with them."
The great scholars of the time used to study in his classes. When a renowned personality like Ikramah, the student of Ibn Abbas, decides to come to Imam Baqir (as) to listen to his traditions, he is trembling. Ikramah, addressing the Imam says, I have attended the classes of great people like Ibn Abbas and listened to their tradition, but I never trembled as it happens to me when I come to you. In reply, the Imam very clearly says: Woe unto you, the little bondman of the Damascenes. You are in front of a member of a House where Allah has permitted the remembrance of His name in it' (using part of a verse in the holy Quran)."1
Also a great jurisprudent (faqih) and scholar of the time, Abu Hanifah, too comes to Imam Baqir (as) to learn Islamic, religious teachings. Many other renowned religious scholars are the students of the Imam as well. Imam Baqir's scientific will and testament becomes famous in every nook and cranny, introducing him as Baqir al-Ulum (the Expounder of Sciences).
Therefore, the social conditions and people's attitude towards the infallible Imams changed considerably during the time of Imam Baqir (as). As a result, Imam Baqir's political movement gained more momentum. For instance, Imam Sajjad (as) did not take any harsh stance against Abdul Malik in order not to provide them with any excuse to oppose him. Of course, whenever Abdul Malik wrote a letter to Imam Sajjad, he answered it firmly, logically and convincingly.
However, there are no direct, hostile remarks in his letters, whereas the situation is different with regard to Imam Baqir (as). In fact, the movement of Imam Baqir (as) is so strong that Hisham ibn Abdul Malik is frightened and tries to control the Imam by taking him to Damascus (erstwhile Shaam). Of course, Imam Sajjad (as) too was taken to Damascus in shackles and handcuffs after his Imamate began in the aftermath of the Karbala episode, but the situation was different and Imam Sajjad (as) always reacted carefully. In comparison, Imam Baqir's (as) reactions were harsher.
In a number of traditions, which have been quoted in the discussions of Imam Baqir (as) with his Companions, he has called on them to set up the government, Caliphate, and Imamate and even heralded the future victory. One of the traditions have been quoted in the Bihar-ul-Anwar:
"A great number of people had assembled in the residence of His Holiness Abi Ja'far (Imam Baqir (as)). An old man leaning on a stick, saluted, and expressed his affectionate feelings to the Imam and sat on his side, saying: "Swear by God, I cordially love have affectionate towards you and also love the people who love you. But this love does not stem from any greed for material gains. I am also hostile to your enemies and hate them.
Likewise, my deliverance from your enemies is not based on my personal grudge against them. Swear by God, I consider lawful what you have announced lawful, and deem unlawful what you have ordained unlawful. I am waiting for your rule. Are you optimistic that I will see the days of your victory? I am waiting for your "Amr" (government); that is, I am waiting for the arrival of your rule."2
The words "Amr" and "Amrokum" in the literature of this period - whether those attributed to the infallible Imams or those to their opponents - refer to the "Government". For instance, Harun in a letter to his son Mamun writes: "Swear by God if you challenge me over this Amr'....". In this statement, "Amr" refers to the "caliphate and Imamate". Hence, we are waiting for your "amr" means: "we are waiting for your caliphate." The question of that old man is: Are you optimistic that I will see the days when you are in power? In reply to this question, Abu Ja'far asked the old man to sit on his side and then said: "O, the old man, the same question was asked from Ali ibn al-Hussein (Imam Sajjad (as))."
However, we have not seen this question in the traditions attributed to Imam Sajjad (as). Therefore, if Imam Sajjad (as) had made this statement in a big gathering, it would have reached us and others as well. Most probably, what Imam Sajjad (as) had said in secret', Imam Baqir (as) said in the public'. The answer of Imam Baqir (as) to the question of the old man was: "Given your characteristics and morale, if you die, you will join the holy Prophet, Imam Ali, Imam Hassan, Imam Husayn, and Imam Sajjad (as); you will be relieved, your soul will attain salvation, your eyes will see the true light, and you will be relieved with felicitation and flowers of the angels of God. If you remain alive, you will witness a period which will bring comfort to you when you will be with us in the high positions."3
Such statements are found in the remarks of Imam Baqir (as), indicating his attempts to raise hope in the hearts of the Shiites:
"If you die, you will be with the holy Prophet and the friends of God, and if you remain alive, you will be with us."
In another tradition cited in the book "Kafi", the Imam determines a time for the uprising:
"The Almighty had ordained the year 70 hijra for the establishment of an Alawi government. The martyrdom of Imam Husayn (as) outraged the Almighty Who postponed it until 140 hijra. We informed you about this moratorium, you exposed it and therefore God has not told us any other specific time. When God decides, He generates or degenerates and the Written Book lies with Him."
The year 140 marks the final stages of Imam Sadiq's (as) life. Before I come across this tradition, through studying the trend of the lives of the infallible Imams, I had realized that the way Imam Sajjad (as) and Imam Baqir (as) had worked, the path had been paved for the establishment of a government during the time of Imam Sadiq (as). Imam Sadiq was martyred in 148 hijra; God's promise had indicated that the Alawi government would be established in 140.
Before 140, there was the crucial and effective incident of 135 hijra when Mansur came to power. If Mansur had not come to power or the issue of the Abbasside had not come to the fore, the Divine providence had ordained the establishment of the divine, Islamic government in 140. Whether the infallible Imams were aware of the Divine providence or they themselves too were hopeful of setting up the government, is another issue that requires a separate discussion.
Right now I am discussing the situation during the time of Imam Baqir (as). He stressed that the establishment of the divine government had been ordained for the year 140 hijra. He also said that after he had confided the date in his companions, they exposed it, and as a result the Almighty God postponed it. Raising such hopes in the people and making such promises happened during the time of Imam Baqir (as).
Of course, it requires hours to discuss the life of Imam Baqir (as) in order to give a clear picture of his life. I have already discussed this issue in details. Although not fierce armed struggle, overall, the issue of political struggle is more transparent in Imam Baqir's (as) life. Zaid ibn Ali, a brother of his holiness, consults him about launching an uprising.
He says: do not rise; Zaid obeys him. Those who argue that Zaid did not listen to his brother's advise, are wrong. Zaid consulted Imam Sadiq (as) about an uprising. The Imam not only did not stop him, on the contrary, encouraged him. After the martyrdom of Zaid, Imam Sadiq (as) said: "I wish I were among the companions of Zaid." Hence, Zaid must never be disrespected.
Imam Baqir (as) never approved an armed movement, but political struggle clearly existed in his career, while during the time of Imam Sajjad (as) there was no trace of an open struggle.
When Imam Baqir (as) approaches the end of his life, he continues his struggle with his recommendation for mourning ceremonies for his martyrdom in the holy land of "Mina" near Mecca. In his will and testament, he asked his followers to mourn his death in Mina for ten years. This was the continuation of the same struggle.
What was the aim of mourning Imam Baqir's death in Mina? In the life of the infallible Imams, it is only mourning the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (as), which has emphatically been recommended in many authentic traditions. In addition to the case of Imam Husayn (as), I only remember that Imam Ridha (as) convened his family members to mourn and cry for his departure from Medina to Khurasan (this action of Imam Ridha (as) occurred before his martyrdom, and actually was a political, meaningful, goal-oriented action).
Further to the mourning for Imam Husayn (as) and Imam Ridha (as), only in case of Imam Baqir (as) he recommends crying and mourning his martyrdom. He even earmarks 800 drachmas of his wealth for mourning his death in Mena. The land of Mena is different from other holy lands like Arafaat, Mash'ar and even Mecca.
In Mecca, people are dispersed and everybody is preoccupied with his own rituals. In Arafat, the rituals take only half a day to perform. When the pilgrims arrive in Arafat in the morning, they are tired, and in the afternoon they are in a hurry to leave the site towards Mash'ar. In Mash'ar, they stay only for few hours overnight; it is a passage towards Mena, while in Mena they stay for three consecutive days.
Very few people go to Mecca during the daytime and come back in the evening while staying in Mena for three days. In fact thousands of Moslems from all over the world are assembled in Mena for three days. Therefore, it is a suitable place for propagation. Any message that is to reach the world of Islam should be imparted there, particularly during those days when such mass media as radio, television, and newspaper did not exist. When a group mourn a grandson of the holy Prophet (S), people become curious to know the reason.
Normally, people do not mourn every dead for several years. But when the people mourn over the death of someone for several consecutive years, a number of questions come to the fore: Had he been oppressed? Had he been killed? Who had oppressed him? Why had he been oppressed? Several similar questions come to the fore. This is the very political struggle, which is a calculated, precise move.
An interesting point in Imam Baqir's life attracted my attention, that is, he uses the same arguments the Progeny of the Prophet used during the first half of the first century hijra about the Caliphate.
The summary of this argument is: "The Arabs boast to non-Arabs about the Prophet, the Quraish boast to non-Quraish about the Prophet (as the holy Prophet (S) belongs to Quraish tribe). If this boasting is right, we are the closest people to the Prophet, we are superior to others, but we were isolated and others consider themselves the heir to the throne. If the Prophet is a source for the Quraish to boast to others, if he is a source for the Arabs to boast to non-Arabs, therefore, it is a source for our superiority to others."
This argument had been again and again forwarded by the Ahl-ul-Bayt (the Progeny of the holy Prophet) in the first century. Imam Baqir (as) too in 95 and 114 hijra, which is the era of his Imamate, pronounces these words. It is a debate aimed at the Caliphate, which is a meaningful move.
The era of Imam Baqir (as) came to an end and the Imamate of Imam Sadiq (as) began in 114 hijra, continuing until 148. Imam Sadiq's (as) era may be divided into two stages: the first stage, 114 to 132 or 135 hijra, is an era of relief and opening up of the political atmosphere. It continues until the rise of the Abbasside or the Caliphate of Mansur.
During this first period, due to the feud of the Umayyad between themselves, the infallible Imams found an opportunity to impart the teachings of the Shiites. This characteristic is peculiar to this period. It did not exist during Imam Baqir's (as) era, rather it was the hey-day of the Umayyad, and Hisham ibn (son of) Abdul Malik, who was the greatest Umayyad personality after Abdul Malik, was in power.
Therefore there were no quarrels in the ruling party so that Imam Baqir (as) could take the opportunity to get favorable results. The civil wars and political clashes belong to the early years of Imam Sadiq's era when the Abbasside's call gradually began to spread. At the same time it was the peak of the call of Alawi Shiism throughout the world.
When Imam Sadiq (as) began his Imamate, there were a number of internal feuds and civil wars in the world of Islam in Africa, Khurasan, Fars, Mesopotamia, and other places and the Umayyad faced great problems. The three tasks Imam Sajjad (as) had undertaken (mentioned before), that is, imparting the Islamic teachings, the issue of Imamate and stressing the Imamate of the Progeny of the Holy Prophet (Ahl-ul-Bayt (as)) became very transparent during the life of Imam Sadiq (as).
For instance, Amr ibn abi al-Meqdam narrates: "I saw Imam Sadiq (as) standing among the people in Arafat on the day of Arafa in Hajj ceremony. Addressing the people on his front, then on his right side, then on his left, and his back, he was repeating the following sentence on each side for three times: Verily, the Messenger of God was in fact the Imam; after him it was Ali ibn Abi Talib; after him Hassan, after him Husayn, after him Ali Ibn al-Hussein (Sajjad), after him Muhammad Ibn Ali, and after him I am the Imam.' The Imam repeated this sentence twelve times."
Bear in mind that using the world "Imam" was very sensitive, for it put to question the legitimacy of those caliphs who were in power.
Another tradition states: "A person coming from Kufa to Khurasan was inviting the people to accept the rule (Wilayah) of Ja'far ibn Muhammad (Imam Sadiq as)."
Just see, in Iran, when could we announce that we were establishing an Islamic Republic in our struggles? Throughout the years of combat, maximum that we could announce was to explain the Islamic viewpoints about the government, that is, the criteria and conditions set by Islam for the government and rulers. This was what we could say in this regard.
The ground was not at all prepared for claiming the establishment of an Islamic government or naming a particular person as the ruler. It was in 1978 or 1979 that we could discuss the issue of Islamic government as a particular claim in our private parleys, but we could not name the ruler.
However, Imam Sadiq's (as) friends go to various parts of the Islamic country and invite the people to accept his rule. What does it mean? Does not it mean that the promised time has come? This is the very year 140 Hijra, which was mentioned before. This situation was created as a natural consequence of the movement of the infallible Imams, heralding the establishment of an Islamic government.
Today, we comprehend the concept of "Wilayah" very well. Earlier, Wilayah was interpreted as sympathy and love. People were invited to accept the Wilayah of Ja'far ibn Muhammad (as). If Wilayah is interpreted as love, it is not necessary to invite the people to accept the love of Ja'far ibn Muhammad.
Moreover, if we interpret Wilayah as love, the second part of the above-mentioned tradition does not make sense. Just pay attention to the second part of the tradition: " one group accepted and obeyed the Wilayah of Imam Sadiq (Ja'far ibn Muhammad AS); and another group rejected it."
Who could reject love for the Progeny of Prophet of Islam in the world of Islam? In the continuation of the tradition, we read, " Yet, another group expressed reservation, and showed restraint to this Wilayah." Reservation and restraint are not compatible with love. This indicates that Wilayah means something else; it means government and rule. And then some of them came to the Imam and discussed the issue. Addressing one of those who had expressed reservation, the Imam said, "Coming to the matter of Wilayah you pretend to be conservative and express reservation, however, if you are such conservative why did you commit such and such sin (raping) on the side of such and such river on such and such day?" This clearly indicates that the Imam acknowledged the person who was inviting the people in Khurasan, or probably he had been a messenger of Imam.
What was discussed above is related to the first stage of Imam Sadiq's (as) life. There are a number of clues that indicate those developments belonged to this period. The second stage begins when Mansur comes to power. After Mansur assumes power, the restrictions and repression are once again imposed and the conditions similar to those of Imam Baqir's (as) era prevail. Various pressures are exerted on his holiness and the Imam is frequently exiled to Hireh, Vaset, Romailah, and other places. He is also summoned several times. The Caliph takes outrageous measures against him and addresses him angrily. Once the Caliph says: "God May kill me if I do not kill you."1
Once the Caliph asked the ruler of Medina: "set the house of Ja'far ibn Muhammad on fire." But the Imam passed through the flames safely and through his pounding remarks demonstrated a strange scene: "I am the son of a mighty Imam; I am the son of Abraham, the Friend of God (who also passed through the flames safely)."2
The Imam's remarks frustrated most of the opponents. The confrontations between Imam Sadiq (as) and Mansur were often harsh. Mansur frequently threatened the Imam. Of course there are a number of traditions implying that his holiness had expressed his humbleness and meekness to Mansur! Without any doubt none of these traditions are correct. I have conducted research on these traditions and come to the conclusion that none of them are authentic.
These traditions are often traced back to Rabi' Hajeb who is definitely a corrupt figure and a close ally of Mansur. Ironically, some people have said that Rabi' was a Shiite and a lover of the Ahl-ul-Bayt (the Progeny of the Holy Prophet)!
How can Rabi' be a Shiite? Rabi' was a servant, subservient, and a bondman of Mansur. He is one who had entered the Abbasside system in his childhood, served them and had become the confidante of Mansur. He had served them a lot and attained the rank of minister in the Abbasside system.
Had not it been for Rabi's efforts, the Caliphate would not have remained in Mansur's family after his death and most probably his uncles would have inherited it. Rabi', who was the only person on Mansur's bedside at the time of his death, counterfeited a will and testament for him in which Mansur's son Mahdi was named as his successor. Fazl ibn Rabi', who became a minister in the administrations of Harun and Amin, was son of this man (Rabi’). Of course there are a number of traditions implying that his holiness had expressed his humbleness and meekness to Mansur!
Without any doubt none of these traditions are correct. I have conducted research on these traditions and come to the conclusion that none of them are authentic. These traditions are often traced back to Rabi' Hajeb who is definitely a corrupt figure and a close ally of Mansur. Ironically, some people have said that Rabi' was a Shiite and a lover of the Ahl-ul-Bayt (the Progeny of the Holy Prophet)!
How can Rabi' be a Shiite? Rabi' was a servant, subservient, and a bondman of Mansur. He is one who had entered the Abbasside system in his childhood, served them and had become the confidante of Mansur. He had served them a lot and attained the rank of minister in the Abbasside system.
Had not it been for Rabi's efforts, the Caliphate would not have remained in Mansur's family after his death and most probably his uncles would have inherited it. Rabi', who was the only person on Mansur's bedside at the time of his death, counterfeited a will and testament for him in which Mansur's son Mahdi was named as his successor. Fazl ibn Rabi', who became a minister in the administrations of Harun and Amin, was son of this man (Rabi').
The members of this family are well known for their loyalty to the Abbasside. They were not loyal to the Progeny of holy Prophet (S) at all, and what Rabi' has said about the Imam are all lies and fabricated. The objective of these fabrications was to project the Imam as a person who expressed his humbleness to the Caliph so that other people also be frightened and obey the tyrant caliph Mansur. However, the Imam's confrontations with Mansur were very harsh until they led to the Imam's martyrdom in 148 hijra.
The continuation of the general movement of the Imams during the time of Imam Kadhim (Musa ibn Ja'far AS) is very venturesome and exiting. In my opinion, this era marks the apogee of the struggles of the infallible Imams. Unfortunately we do not have a proper, illuminating report on the life of Imam Kadhim (as).
There are certain events in his life that astonishes human beings. For instance, some traditions indicate that for sometimes the Imam went underground and conducted a clandestine life to rescue his life from the agents of the ruling system. Although Harun's government tried to find him, it could not discover his hideout. The Caliph even tortured a number of people to disclose the hideout of the Imam. This is unprecedented in the lives of the infallible Imams.
There is another tradition about Imam Kadhim (as), similar to which we have not seen about other Imams: Ibn Shahr Ashub narrates a tradition in "Manaqib": "Musa ibn Ja'far arrived in a village of Damascus in disguise while running away." These facts are some sparks in Imam Musa's life, which can explain the reasons for his frequent imprisonment and torture by the ruling system. At the beginning of Harun's caliphate the conditions was not so harsh.
When Harun came to power, he went to Medina and as you have heard he cherished and respected the Imam. Mamun narrated: "Imam Kadhim (as) was coming on a horseback when he arrived the area Harun was sitting. Imam decided to get down, but Harun pledged that the Imam should go to his site mounted on the horse. He respected the Imam and exchanged views with him. When the Imam decided to leave, Harun asked me [Mamun] and Amin to help the Imam mount his horse."
Interestingly, according to this tradition, Mamun says: "my father presented 5,000 or 10,000 dinars or drachmas to everybody, but 200 drachmas to Musa bin Ja'far." This is while he had asked about Imam's condition, and the Imam complained' about his difficulties, harsh condition of life and great number of children.
Such statements and remarks of Imam Kadhim (as) in front of Harun are very interesting and understandable, particularly for those who have experienced precautionary dissimulation during the struggles at our time. Imam tells a person like Harun that his condition is not good and adds that he cannot make both ends meet.
There is no humbleness or loss of face in such statements of the Imam, because you as the combatants at the period of Shah of Iran - have made such remarks during the repression and oppression of the tyranny of Shah. It is but natural for activists to deceit the enemy about their activities, conditions and works.
Given these remarks, Harun should have given the Imam some 50,000 drachmas to overcome his economic difficulties, but he gives the Imam only 200 drachmas. Mamun says: "when I asked the reason from my father, he said, if I had paid him the large amount, possibly he would recruit hundred thousand swordmen of his Shiites and friends to fight against me."
Harun's conclusion was right. I think he had understood the Imam correctly.
Some thinkers argue that Harun's conclusion was based on aspersion against the Imam, but the fact is that he had realized the intention and contention of the Imam. When Imam Musa was fighting against Harun, there were a number of people who were ready to stand on his side, but the Imam could not finance his struggle.
We have observed such armed struggles in the case of the sons and grandsons of the infallible Imams. Definitely, the Imams could mobilize the people better than their sons. Hence, the era of Musa ibn Ja'far (as) is the peak of struggle, which finally leads to his imprisonment.
The era of the Eighth Imam is once again a period of the prevalence of a congenial condition for the spread of Shiism. The Imam enjoys ample facilities and this era leads to the appointment of the Imam as the vicegerent, or in other words, as the heir apparent to the Caliph.
However, the Imam observed precautionary dissimulation during the time of Harun, that is, he conducted his efforts and made his endeavors, but camouflaged them. For instance, De'bel Khazai the famous Shiite poet - who supports the Imam during his vicegerency, was not trained overnight.
The upbringing of such people as De'bel Khazai, Ibrahim ibn Abbas who is among the eulogizers of Ali ibn Musa Ridha (as), and others, was possible only in a society where the love for the Progeny of Prophet had a precedent. The appointment of Ali ibn Musa Ridha (as) was not celebrated in Medina, Khurasan, Rey and other regions all of a sudden and without any background.
The appointment of Ali ibn Musa Ridha (as) as heir apparent (Wali-e-Ahd), which is a great event, shows that the people's interest and love for the Progeny of the Prophet (S) during the era of Imam Ridha (as) had considerably developed. However, the clashes between Amin and Mamun which led to a five-year Baghdad-Khurasan war, prepared the grounds for Ali ibn Musa Ridha (as) to launch his extensive activities which finally led to his appointment as the heir apparent.
Unfortunately, this trend was severed with the martyrdom of Imam Ridha (as) and a new era began which is a period of misery, hardship and agony for the Progeny of the holy Prophet (as).
In my opinion, the post-Imam Jawad (as) era is the most difficult and worst time for the infallible Imams. This was a political sketch of the lives of the infallible Imams.
As mentioned above, I divided my discussion into two parts: the first part was allotted to the general features, which is concluded here. The second part refers to some examples of the struggles of the infallible Imams. The issues, which are worthy of discussion, are not limited to what I have said. However, I will mention some of the topics so that the interested scholars work on them. Some of these topics are given below.
Claiming the Imamate and inviting the people to accept the Imamate is observed in every aspect of the Imams' lives, which is a sign of their struggle. There are numerous traditions in this regard. For instance, the traditions titled: "Al A'imma Nurullah" ("The Imams are the Divine Light") in the book Usul Kafi,1 and traditions of the Eighth Imam (as) on Imamate, and several traditions on the life of Imam Sadiq (as) as well as the debates of his companions with various contenders, and the traditions on the life of Imam Husayn (as) at the time of inviting the people of Iraq, and some other traditions are a few examples in this relation.
Another issue is the perception and understanding of the Caliphs of the claims and activities of the infallible Imams. From the caliph Abdul-Malik up to Motavakkil, there was always one approach to the activities, plans and objectives of the infallible Imams; therefore, they naturally used to make similar decisions about them.
This is a crucial issue and should not be simply overlooked. Why did they have such an approach to the Imam's lives? For instance: "There are two caliphs on earth; Musa ibn Ja'far is in Medina and taxes are collected for him."2 Such statements about Ali ibn Musa Ridha (as) or similar statements about other infallible Imams underline the kind of objectives the caliphs and their friends thought the Imams were following. This is an important, noteworthy issue.
Another issue is the attribution of Imamate. The Caliphs insisted to attribute the Imamate to themselves, while the Shiites were sensitive to this phenomenon. For instance, a renowned poet of the early Umayyad era, Kathir was a Shiite and a sympathizer of Imam Baqir (as). He was of the rank of famous poets of that time such as Farazdaq, Jarir, Akhtal, Jamil, Nasib and others. Once he went to Imam Baqir (as).
Protesting him, the Imam said, "I have heard that you had eulogized Abdul Malik." Becoming upset, Kathir said, "I did not term him as Imam-ul-Huda' (the Guiding Imam). I only described him as a lion, sun, sea, mountain and dragon. All these items are worthless objects." Thus, he justified his measure. The Imam smiled. Then Kumayt Assadi read out his famous ode.3
This and other examples show that the Imams were sensitive to any admiration of Abdul Malik and other oppressive caliphs. But some friends like Kathir were particularly sensitive to using such concepts as the Imam-ul-Huda (Guiding Imam) for the Caliphs. This is why he insists that he did not use the term "Guiding Imam" for Abdul Malik, which demonstrates the extreme interest of the Caliph in being called the Guiding Imam.
The insistence on and interest of the caliphs in being called the Guiding Imam was more than ever observed during the Abbasside era. Marwan ibn Abi Hafaseh Omavi' was an eulogizer and a mercenary poet of the Umayyad and Abbasside courts. Surprisingly, he was a court poet during the Umayyad and became a court poet when the Abbasside came to power! Since he was a renowned and well-versed poet, the rulers used to buy him by offering good money to him. Whenever he eulogized the Abbasside, he did not confine himself to the expression of their courage, generosity, and other characteristics, rather he used to attribute their lineage to the holy Prophet (S) to acknowledge their desired positions and statuses!
The following is one of his poems: "How is it possible that the ones who are maternal descendents of someone, inherit His uncles' inheritance?" It means that: "the uncle of the holy Prophet (S), Abbas, has a definite inheritance. Why do the descendents of the holy prophet (the infallible Imams), who are the sons of His daughter Hazrat Fatima (sa)', want to inherit that inheritance of Abbas (i.e. Abbaside caliphate)?"
Just see, the bone of contention is the Caliphate; it is a real cultural and political war. In response, the renowned Shiite poet, Ja'far ibn Affan Tai, says: "A daughter inherits half of the father's wealth in Islam, but an uncle does not inherit anything from the wealth of one who has a daughter; hence you do not have any inheritance to claim!"
These were only few examples about the sensitivity of the infallible Imams to any claim on the Imamate.
Another issue is the confirmation of the armed struggles. The confirmation of the infallible Imams on some of the bloody uprisings is among the exciting chapters in their lives. This acknowledgement itself underlines the direction of the Imams' struggles. Such confirmations are seen in Imam Sadiq's remarks about Mu’alla bin Khunais when he was killed by Dawud ibn Ali, his remarks about Zaid, about Husayn ibn Ali (as), about the martyrs of Fakh' event and so on.
I have come across an astonishing tradition in Nur-ul-Thaqalayn' narrated by Ali ibn Aqaba: "I, along with Mu’alla, went to Imam Sadiq (as). He said: I give you the glad tidings that one of the two best deeds (victory or martyrdom) awaits you; God may cure your heart (soul), may purify your heart (soul) from outrage, and may dominate you over your enemies; and this is the very divine promise that He said: And We cured the hearts of the believers.' If you pass away before attaining this victory, you will pass away as believers in the religion of God: the religion that Allah has approved for His holy Prophet (S) and Imam Ali (as)."
This tradition is important because it speaks of struggle, victory, killing and being killed, particularly given that it is addressed to Mu'alla bin Khunais whose fate is known to us. Imam begins his comment without any introduction and speaks about an event or incident, but that incident is not definite. In this tradition, the Imam - alluding to the treatment of hearts (souls) by God either is praying for them, or maybe is pointing out to an event.
We do not know if these two persons had come to the Imam after performing a task, or having been engaged in a clash of which the Imam had been fully aware; or perhaps the Imam Himself might have sent them to accomplish a mission.
However, in either case, the tone of Imam's remark underlines the fact that he supported aggressive, radical movements, which are frequent in the life of Mu’alla bin Khunais. Interestingly, Mu’alla was termed as "bab" (gate) of Imam Sadiq (as). The concept of "bab" (gate) is noteworthy and should be studied.
There are some people who have been introduced in the traditions as the "gate" of the infallible Imams. Who are these people? Most of them were either killed or threatened to be killed. They include Yahya ibn Um Tawil, Mu’alla bin Khunais, Jabir ibn Yazid Jufi, etc.
Another issue in the lives of the Imams is their imprisonment, exile and persecution. In my opinion this issue must be studied thoroughly.
Yet another issue is the straightforward and firm language as well as confrontation of the infallible Imams with the caliphs. A noteworthy point in this regard is that, if these honorable figures were conservative or compromising, they should have adopted a soft language, free from any confrontation as other clerics and ascetics of the time did. As you know there were a number of clerics and ascetics who were respected and welcomed by Harun. He used to tell them: "All of you are very cautious; all of you look for a prey, except Amr ibn Ubayd."
They used to advise the caliphs, and even sometimes these clerics used to make the caliphs cry; however, they were careful not to address the caliphs using concepts such as oppressor, outlaw, usurper, diabolic or similar concepts. But the infallible Imams were not influenced by the splendor and might of the caliphs; they did not keep silent.
Yet another issue is the violent measures employed by the caliphs against the Imams, which include those taken by Mansur against Imam Sadiq (as) and the ones taken by Harun against Imam Kadhim (as). I have already alluded to some of them.
Another interesting and noteworthy point is the claims made by the infallible Imams which underline their Imamate strategy. In some cases, we come across certain claims and remarks in the statements of the infallible Imams which are unusual. Such remarks underline a specific goal and strategy, which is in fact the Imamate strategy. The debate of Imam Kadhim (as) and Harun about Fadak is among such issues:
Once Harun told Imam Kadhim (as): "Please mark the area of the "Fadak" (the land property of Hazrat-e Fatima (SA) which was unjustly usurped) so that we return it to you."
Harun was thinking that by returning the Fadak to the Imam, he would be able to disarm him of the slogan of Fadak, which was a proof of the injustice done to the Progeny of the holy Prophet (SA). He was also thinking that through this measure, he would be able to draw a comparison between the Abbasside and the Umayyad who had once taken away the Fadak from them.
The Imam first refrained from marking the limits of the Fadak, but when Harun insisted, he said: "If you are to return the Fadak, you must accept its true borders." Harun accepted the offer. Then the Imam started explaining the borders of the Fadak, saying: "Its first border is Aden."
This debate was going on between the Imam and Harun in Medina or Baghdad. The Imam continued: "Its other side is the Arabian Peninsula." Harun's face turned pale, and said, "oh!" The Imam said: "Its other border is Samarkant," that is, the eastern extremity of Harun's realm. Harun's face turned red. "And its third border is Africa," the Imam said. The third border, Africa (Tunisia), was the western extremity of Harun's realm. Harun's face turned black and exclaimed, "Strange!?" Finally, his holiness said, "Its fourth border is a coastline, behind the islands and Armenia," that is, the northern extremity of Harun's realm.
Infuriated Harun said satirically: "In this case nothing will remain for me, come and take my seat." Imam Musa al-Kadhim (as) said: "I told you that if I mention the limits of the Fadak, you would not return it to me!" The tradition adds at the end: "it was here that Harun decided to assassinate the Imam."1
The most outstanding issue in this debate is the contention of Musa ibn Ja'far, which Harun realized well and decided to assassinate the Imam. Such remarks reveal the contentions of the Imams, which are clearly seen in the lives of Imam Baqir (as), Imam Sadiq (as) and Imam Ridha (as). An overall analysis of such claims delineates the Imamate strategy.
Another noteworthy issue in the lives of the infallible Imams is the analysis of their companions and disciples of their objectives, strategies and contentions. Obviously, the companions of the infallible Imams were closer than us to them and were better aware of their objectives and contentions. What was their understanding of this issue? Don't these traditions indicate that they were waiting for the uprising and resurrection of the infallible Imams?
We all know the story of a man who came from Khurasan to Imam Sadiq (as) telling him that hundreds of armed men were waiting for his order to rise. The Imam expressed his surprise about the figure and doubted its authenticity. The messenger frequently reduced the figure. Finally, enumerating the required characteristics of ideal forces, the Imam mentioned a figure (12, 15, or so), saying: "if I had 12 or 15 companions and disciples, I would have led an uprising."
Several numbers of such people used to ask the Imam to rise. Of course in some cases they were the spies of the Abbasside. We can ascertain from the answers of the Imam that they were Abbasside spies.
Why did such people contact the Imam? Because in the Shiite culture of those days, uprising and rising for the establishment of a justly government was a definite objective of the Imams. The understanding and conclusion of the Shiites and companions was that the infallible Imams were waiting for an appropriate opportunity to rise.
I have come across an interesting tradition in this regard, which can help us understand the analysis of the top disciples -- like Zararah ibn A'yan -- of the Imams objectives. According to this tradition: "Once Zararah goes to Imam Sadiq (as) and says: One of our friends has fled because of indebtedness. If the issue [uprising or your rule] is close, he should wait and rise with the insurgent; if it is to be postponed, he should compromise with them." The Imam says: "It will happen." Zararah asks: "will it happen within a year?" The Imam says: "God Willing, it will happen." He again asks: "will it happen within two years?" The Imam says: "God Willing, it will happen." Zararah is convinced that the Alawi' government will come to power within two years.
In another tradition, Hisham ibn Salem narrates: "One day Zararah told me: 'You will not see anybody else than Ja'far ibn Muhammad (Imam Sadiq AS) on the Caliphate throne.' Hisham says: When Imam Sadiq passed away, I told Zararah: do you remember your remark?' I was afraid that he would deny it. Zararah said: Swear by God, I had told you my own opinion.' In fact, Zararah wanted to make sure that his statement had not been considered as a quotation on behalf of the Imam.
It can be clearly inferred from several traditions in the field of expectation for uprising or request of the disciples of the infallible Imams in this regard that the objective of the infallible Imams had been the establishment of an Alawi government. This was a definite goal and strategy of the infallible Imams.
We should also study the reason behind the animosity and grudge of the Caliphs against the infallible Imams. Was the main reason for their animosity the spiritual status of the Imams and the people's fidelity to them? Was there any other reason behind this animosity? Without any doubt the caliphs and others envied the Imams. There are a number of traditions on the interpretation of the following Qur’anic verse:
"Or do they envy people because of what God has given them out of His bounty? [4: 54]
In one of such traditions, the infallible Imam says: "We are those people whom have been envied."1 That is, the Quranic verse refers to us as those who are envied. What particular characteristic of the infallible Imams the caliphs envied at? Did they envy their knowledge and piety? We know that there were a number of clerics and ascetics who were known for their knowledge and piety during those days; they had also a large number of friends and companions.
Such famous figures as Abu Hanifah, Abu Yusuif, Hassan Basri, Sufyan Thawri, Muhammad ibn Shahab and tens of similar figures had large numbers of followers and sympathizers and were very popular and famous. But at the same time not only the caliphs did not envy them, but also they respected and cherished these figures.
In our opinion, the reason for the animosity of the Caliphs against the infallible Imams which normally led to their martyrdom after lengthy imprisonment, tortures, captivity and exiles, lies somewhere else, that is, their contention for caliphate and Imamate. The infallible Imams insisted on this contention, while others did not. This issue requires further research and study.
Yet another issue, which requires research and study is the radical moves and confrontation of the infallible Imams with the Caliphate system. There are ample examples of such movements throughout the Imamate era. During the era of Imam Sajjad (as), that is, the apogee of repression, Yahya ibn Tawil, a disciple of his holiness, goes to the Medina Mosque, where addressing the people who had surrendered to the Caliphate system, or the officials of the Caliphate system, he recites a verse of the holy Qur’an.
The verse contains a statement, which Prophet Abraham (as) had addressed to the infidels:
"... We disown you, and hostility and hatred have been set in between us for ever..." [60: 4]
Also in Kufa, addressing the public and a group of the Shiites, he loudly makes some remarks, which contain protest against the ruling system.
Mu’alla ibn Khunais used to participate in religious feasts while wearing untidy, wrinkled clothes, having untrimmed beards and hair, and showing a sad face. When the lecturer started his sermon at the ceremony, he would rise his hands, saying: O, God, this is the pulpit and position which belongs to your vicegerents (the infallible Imams) and selected ones, but have been usurped and grabbed by others."
Unfortunately, this sublime disciple (Mu’alla) who was praised by Imam Sadiq (as) and whose murderer was cursed by the Imam, has not received due attention by some people who doubt his piety. Probably, the dirty hands of the Abbasside have played a role in tarnishing his image.
Another issue, which requires extensive, profound discussion, is the issue of "Taqiyyah" or "precautionary dissimulation". To understand this issue, it is necessary to analyze all the traditions on camouflage, preservation, and clandestine activities in order to understand the true meaning of Taqiyyah or precautionary dissimulation.
Taking into consideration the contention of Imamate by the infallible Imams that was discussed above, as well as the severity of the caliphs' reactions towards the contentions and activities of the infallible Imams and their disciples, reveals the deep concept of Taqiyyah'.
What is certain, is that the precautionary dissimulation does not mean giving up endeavors and activities, rather it means concealing the activities. This issue is quite discernible through the available traditions.
The said issues are some of the important aspects of the lives of the infallible Imams. Of course, there are several other aspects of the political lives of these honorable figures, which require another time.
I have studied a lot in this regard, but unfortunately I do not have time to analyze and compile them. I wish others would continue this task and analyze the political lives of the infallible Imams to provide the people with the necessary information so that we could learn lessons from the lives of the infallible Imams not only as eternal memories, but as true examples and epitomes.
Besides this atmosphere of horror, another feature of this era was intellectual decadence of the people throughout the Islamic world. This intellectual depravity stemmed from the neglect of the religious teachings during the preceding two decades.
Since the religious teachings, exegesis of the holy Quran, and traditions of the Prophet (S) had been strictly forbidden between 40 and 60 H., the pillars of the people's faith had been weakened seriously. When we study the conditions of those days among the lines of the books and traditions, this issue becomes quite transparent.
Of course, the clerics, religious scholars, exegetes, transmitters of tradition, and pious people were there, but the public was inflicted with faithlessness, indolence and weakness. The situation had so aggravated that even some staff of the Caliphate system dared to question the issue of Prophethood!
A mean, dirty stooge of the Umayyad, Khalid ibn Abdullah Qasri has been quoted as saying: "Caliphate is superior to the Prophethood." In order to support his argument, he gave the following reason: "When you appoint someone as your representative in your family, is he closer to you, or someone whom you send as a messenger to take a message for you?"
"Apparently," he argued, "the one whom you appoint as your representative in your home." "Hence," he would conclude, "the Caliph of God [he would not say the Caliph of the Prophet] is superior to the messenger of God"!
This statement was made by Khalid ibn Qasri; probably others subscribed to his viewpoint. I have noticed that in the poems composed during the Umayyad and Abbasside eras, from Abdul Malik onward, the concept of Khalifatullah (the caliph or representative of God) has been so frequently repeated that one forgets that the Caliph was the Caliph of the Prophet as well.
This trend continued until the Abbasside era. This concept was used in a poem of Bashar ibn Bard who satirized Yaqub ibn Davoud and Mansur: "O people, your caliphate has been destroyed; try to find the Caliph of God between wood and skin."1
Even when he wanted to satirize the Caliph, he would say the Caliph of God! The renowned poets of this period, like Jarir, Farazdaq, Nasib and others, used to call the ruler, "the Caliph of God" in the eulogies they composed in the praise of the caliph! This example demonstrates the feebleness of people's faith in the foundations of religion.
The people's morality was not in a good shape either. When I was studying a book of Aghani Abu-l-Faraj, I came across a fact, that is, from 80s H. until five or six decades later, the greatest singers, musicians, and revelers came from Medina or Mecca. Whenever the Caliph in Damascus felt like organizing a party, renowned signers and entertainers would be sent to him from Medina. Moreover, the worst satirists and vulgar poets were raised in Mecca and Medina.
The site of the Divine Revelation and the birthplace of Islam had been turned into a center of licentiousness and corruption. It is necessary to have knowledge of these facts about Mecca and Medina. Unfortunately, there is no information about these issues in the lives of caliphs in the existing history books.
There was a poet in Mecca, Umar ibn Abi Rabi'a, who, despite having attained the apogee of poetic mastery, was extremely frank and unabashed in his poems. His account and that of some other poets constitute a shameful chapter in the tragic history of this period. Even Tawaaf (circumambulation around holy Ka'bah), pelting stones at the Satanic Pillars (Ramy al-Jamarat) and other holy sites were subject to their corruption and licentiousness. One of his couplets in the book "Mughni" is as follows:
"When I was pelting stones at Satan in Rami al-Jamarat Site, suddenly I saw her neck, chest and her hands on which she had applied henna. I was so attracted to her that I do not know whether I pelted seven stones or eight."
This couplet explains the prevailing conditions of the era. An eyewitness narrates his observations in Medina after the death of Umar Ibn Abi Rabi'a: when Umar Ibn Abi Rabi'a passed away, a public mourning was announced on his death and the people were weeping in the streets of Medina(!) In every corner, the youth would express sorrow on his death. I saw a sweeper who was weeping while proceeding her way until she reached a group of the youth. They asked her: why are you crying? She said, because of the loss of this man(!)
One of them said: Do not worry, there is another poet in Mecca, namely, Harith Ibn Khalid Makhzumi, who composes similar poems to those of Umar Ibn Abi Rabi'a. He recited one of his poems. Upon hearing his poem, the sweeper wiped out her tears, saying: thanks be to Allah Who has not left His sanctuary vacant!
This reflects the ethical condition of the people in Medina. There are several accounts of the parties held not only by the high and low classes, but also by the masses in Medina. People like Ash'ab, a greedy, miserable, beggar, who is at the same time a poet and a clown, the ordinary people, sons of luminaries of Quraish, and even the descendents of the Bani Hashem - I would not mention their names - including men and women were among these very people who were deeply involved in licentiousness.
Harith ibn Khalid, the Emir of Mecca, had a soft corner for Ayisha b. Talha. One day Ayesha was performing circumambulation around the House of God. It was the time of "Azan" or "Call to Prayers". She passed a message to the emir, requesting the postponement of the Call to Prayers in order to complete her circumambulation. Harith complied with her request, but she was criticized by the people who castigated him for postponing the Call to Prayers to appease a women. He replied: Swear by God, even if her circumambulation had prolonged until the morning prayers, I would have stopped the Call to Prayers (!)