There are many reasons the security system of the virtuous community was paid special importance by the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) in their program of building a virtuous community. Some of these reasons are examined in the following discussion:
The first reason was related to the political and social conditions faced by the individuals of the virtuous community. To explain, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and their followers had to encounter harsh political and social conditions under which they were exposed to death penalties, banishment, pursuit, persecution, interrogation about their doctrines to ascertain their political tendencies, and false accusations of atheism, apostasy, skepticism, heresy, and fragmentation of Islamic unity.
The reasons for such harsh conditions can be summarized in the following points:
A. Most political regimes in the Muslim world have practiced political terrorism and persecution to defend their authority because of discrepancy in doctrines, political views and sectarian rituals. In most cases, the political states that have ruled Muslims have not allowed doctrinal, intellectual, sectarian or political pluralism except during the periods of the Holy Prophet and Imam ‘Ali—peace be upon them.1
B. The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and their followers faced difficult and painful political situations due to the fact that they, i.e. the virtuous community, took upon themselves the general responsibility of defending Islam and its true doctrine and resisting any attempt at misrepresentation and consequent deviation of the Muslim nation. In addition, they exclusively undertook the responsibility of resisting the injustice, persecution and tyranny of the ruling authorities towards Muslim communities as well as external dangers that threatened the nation.
This political stand of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and their followers was doubtless the main reason for their persecution. However, the matter did not stop at this, and persecution extended to include even opposition to specific doctrines and rituals. The conflict therefore took a religious and sectarian form because the rulers saw these doctrines and rituals as positive evidence that verified political identity and affiliation to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a).
Therefore, the actual stimulus of the persecution was political identity and loyalty to the religious personality representing the original truth. Sectarian discrepancies would naturally point to political identity; therefore, this identity became the impetus of accusations, persecution and pursuit because the political loyalty of the public was intermixed with their daily religious affairs. Moreover, religious issues and trends were actually political issues because society, in its entire detail, was based on religion and loyalty to one sect or another.
Consequently, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and their followers suffered harsh ordeals regarding the practice of their rituals and acts of worship and their ways of expressing their beliefs, not because they disagreed with the ruling authorities and other Muslims in their beliefs, but because these rituals indicated their political identity—an identity that was rejected by the rulers who wanted to justify their actions before the public. Of course, the rulers knew that their justifications would not be acceptable to the public unless they were concealed under the garb of religion and sacredness.
Nevertheless, in most cases opposition to the ruling authorities, rejection of injustice and oppression and love and loyally towards the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) were not acceptable justifications, because such matters were familiar and generally accepted by Muslims. A problem that existed though was that most Muslims did not have sufficient courage and ethical commitment to oppose and reject the practices of the ruling authorities and declare loyalty to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a).
In any case, an important point is that the justifications upon which the ruling authorities depended were false accusations against the true religious creed of Islam.2
C. All through the history of Islam, Muslim society witnessed political and religious uprisings and anarchy, with side effects injuring the virtuous community and followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). Although they were not associated with these opposing groups, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and their followers, who rejected anarchy in the community, tasted the blazing fire and suffered the consequences and negative effects of these uprisings because of malicious information, devious personal goals, or confusion in analysis due to the fact that most of these revolutions and uprisings raised mottos similar to those of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and their followers, attracted large numbers of followers and moved in the milieus of those who were politically classified as acting loyally towards or belonging to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a).
These harsh conditions forced the Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) to follow a policy and plan a system that would assure the security of the virtuous community and to opt for the most appropriate, yet perhaps undesireable3, measures to protect the community from persecution, exile and even annihilation.
The second reason special importance was paid to the security system of the virtuous community was related to the inevitable outcome of conformity to true religious laws by the virtuous community which necessitated existence as a financially independent entity in order to achieve its perfection through familiarity with the accurate religious laws and in order that authorities could perform their duties, including arbitration between disputing parties of the community and execution of authority of administration over private or communal properties that did not have a particular custodian. This developed from the doctrinal, political, and practical multidimensional acquaintance of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) with the deviation and tyranny of the ruling authorities of the Islamic state, their inescapability from fulfilling their undertakings and their pledge to defend the general political entity of Islam and maintain the unity of the Muslim nation.
Naturally, such a political and social situation necessitated exactitude to contend with its intricacy and a special security system that would lead to perfection of the virtuous community, assist its activities and grant it flexibility in motion and adaptation with the surrounding circumstances.
The third reason special importance was paid to the security system of the virtuous community was to protect the virtuous community from individuals surreptitiously entering the community to damage, defame, or achieve futile personal benefits at the expense of common interests of the community, such as by use of siege and house arrest—under which the Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) lived in the later ages—virtually imprisoning leaders and religious scholars of the virtuous community in their homes during various periods of tyrannical rule.
If we take a look at the goals of the security system of the virtuous community carefully, we discover that this system is not restricted to protecting the community against external persecution or achieving flexibility in activities; rather, it includes opposing the movements of the ghulat (extremists) and the opportunists who falsely claimed Shi’ism in order to attain personal interests. In the coming chapter, we will discuss these facts in more detail.
- 1. - I have discussed this topic in my book entitled ‘al-wihdah al-islamiyyah min manzur al-thaqalayn (Islamic Unity from the Perspective of the Two Weighty Things—i.e. the Holy Qur'an and the Ahl al-Bayt)’, pp. 162-186 and in an independent lecture, to which I have referred in Book III, Chapter: Political Trends.
- 2. - An analytical view of this socio-political phenomenon clearly demonstrates the difference between the cruelty that the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) suffered because of some beliefs that were in disagreement with other sects and the harm suffered by the followers of some sects at the hands of other sects—despite the fact that the disagreements of the these sects with one another were not fewer, and were perhaps more, than the doctrinal or jurisprudential disagreements between these sects and the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) school and its followers.
Nevertheless, harsh persecution between the other sects and the ruling authorities did not exist in the same way nor continue for such a long period; however, persecution against the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and their followers never stopped at all.
Undoubtedly, the actual reason for such persecution was the political identity of the Ahl al-Bayt’s followers and their protest against injustice and tyranny. Such being the case, doctrinal practices identified the individuals who supported this political protest. As a result, doctrinal commitments and denominational practice of rituals received the same harsh treatment even among other Muslim sects when they signified affiliation to a political trend opposing the ruling authorities, such as the conflict that took place between the Mu’tazilah and the Ash’ariyyah, or the conflicts between certain Muslim (Sunni) sects in some ages, or the present-day opposition to the Islamic veil (hijab) and other Islamic commitments that indicate the political identity of those loyal to them.
The sectarian political condition could be deeply implanted and firmly established in the milieus of the Muslim nation and enjoy a firm social albeit non-political identity in spite of being the target of the ruling authorities’ persecution. This is accelerated because of malice, unfounded fanaticism as well as intellectual and social retardation of the nation, as seen between other Muslim sects in some periods of the history of Islam, however, among the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and their followers this was seen throughout history because they (i.e. the Ahl al-Bayt and their followers) were distinctively characterized by a firmly-rooted identity, faith and steadfastness in political situations.
- 3. - Such as the measures adopted by Imam Hasan (‘a) when he concluded a truce with Mu’awiyah in order to maintain the existence and survival of the virtuous community.