Their Link with the Ancient Sects

BACK⇒ Return to Table of contents

 

Chapter 2

Their Link with the Ancient Sects

 

What is the link between these people and the old Shia sects that feature frequently in the books of heresiography?

What I have noticed is that when the contemporary Shia clergy talk of their sect, its scholars and its empires, they attribute all the Shia sects, dynasties and scholars to it even though they might be from the Ismailiyyah, the Batiniyyah (those who belief in the esoteric interpretation of the Shar’i texts), the atheistically inclined heretics or the extremist anthropomorphists.

So, for example, when they talk of the dynasties of the Shia, at the very top of the list they talk of the Fatimid dynasty despite it not subscribing to the Twelver dogma.[1]

Likewise, when making mention of their scholars you will find many of the spearheaders and subsequent eponyms of various deviant sects and heretical groups, which had no affiliation to the Twelver creed, mentioned among them.

Hence, by way of example, you will notice that the Shia scholar Muhsin al Amin makes the following approbatory remarks regarding the Hishamiyyah, the followers of Hisham ibn al Hakam, the Yunusiyyah, the followers of Yunus ibn ‘Abdul Rahman al Qummi, the Shaitaniyyah, the followers of Muhammad ibn al Nu’man (commonly known as Shaitan al Taq) and other groupings:

 

إنهم عند الشيعة الإمامية كلهم ثقات صحيحوا العقيدة فكلهم إمامية وإثنا عشرية

According to the Imamiyyah they are all reliable people and bearers of the correct dogma, hence they are all Imamiyyah and Twelvers.[2]

 

In fact what is even more grave is that the Twelvers endeavour to embrace every sect which somehow or the other was associated to Shi’ism, even though it might have been on clear disbelief as acknowledged in the classical books of the Shia themselves.

You will thus notice that they accord sanctity and holiness to the likes of the Nusayriyyah who are extremist in their disbelief according to the consensus of the Muslims. One of their contemporary scholars Hassan al Shirazi has written a booklet which goes by the title The ‘Alawis, The Partisans of the Ahlul Bayt (‘Alawi is one of the names of the Nusayriyyah). In this booklet he mentions that he met the Nusayris in Syria and Lebanon upon the order of their chief scholar Muhammad al Shirazi and his impressions were that he found them to be from the partisans of the Ahlul Bayt, characterised by purity of sincerity, and the feat of abiding by the truth. They are affiliated to ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu by way of believing in his successorship and some by way of that and by way of lineage…

He further states, “The terms ‘‘Alawiyyin’ and ‘Shia’ are synonymous just as the terms ‘Imamiyyah’ and ‘Jafariyyah’ are synonymous.[3]

Surprisingly, none of the scholars of the Twelvers have disavowed the sentiments of al Shirazi, despite the fact that the Nusayris are infamous for their disbelief and heresies,[4] and despite the fact that the ancient books of the Shia excommunicate them and consider them to be a sect out of the fold of Islam.[5] But the contemporaries treat them as part of the Jafariyyah even though they have identified themselves differently.

One of their senior clerics has actually gone to the extent of asserting that there no more exists extremist sects among the Shia today, the presence of the Nusayriyyah, the Duruz and the Aga Khaniyyah notwithstanding. It is as if he is classing them as non-extremist. Muhammad Hussain Al Kashif al Ghita’ says:

 

إن جميع الفرق الغالية قد بادت ولايوجد منها اليوم نافخ ضرمة

All the extremist sects have come to end. Not even a blower in the fire from among them is to be found today.[6]

 

Commenting upon this professor Sulaiman Dunya writes the following:

 

فما يكون الآغاخانية أليسوا قائلين بالحلول؟ أم ليسوا مع قولهم بالحلول ملاحدة؟ أم ليسوا منتسبين إلي الشيعة… ثم أليسوا علي رقعة الأرض اليوم

Then what is the status of the Aga Khaniyyah? Are they not proponents of incarnation? Or are they not heretics despite being proponents thereof? Or are they not affiliated to the Shia? Or do they not exist on the surface of the earth?[7]

 

It would be correct to thus say that the names of many Shia sects have disappeared into oblivion, but their beliefs have made their way into to the books of the Twelvers.

When the contemporaries assert their belief in the eight books and those that are equivalent to them in ranking, they implicitly accept all the doctrines and ideas of the various Shia sects throughout history. Simply because these eight books were the rivers into which all the other minor Shia streams and rivulets made their way. This is a reality for which there is abundant evidence, for you will notice that there is no belief which is upheld by any of those sects but that you will find some mention of it in the books of the Twelvers.

So, for example, the doctrine of Bada’ was considered by the heresiographers to be the doctrine upheld by the extremist sect[8] known as the Mukhtariyyah.[9] In spite of that there appears sixteen narrations regarding it in their most canonical work al Kafi. Likewise, in Bihar al Anwar there are more than seventy narrations regarding the doctrine of Bada’ and abrogation. And even though their scholars try to find a plausible explanation of Bada’ in order to escape being excommunicated by the Muslims, it stands as one of the confirmed beliefs of their dogma.

Another example is the doctrine of Raj’ah which was also considered from the beliefs of the extremist. For the books of the Ahlus Sunnah state and the books of the Twelvers concede that Raj’ah was one of the principle beliefs of Ibn Saba’, despite that it is a confirmed doctrine in the dogma of the Twelvers.[10]

Likewise, the doctrine of deifying the Imams was the doctrine of the extremist sects like the Saba’iyyah. But you will find narrations which deify the Imams in al Kafi, al Bihar, in their Quranic exegesis like that of Tafsir al Qummi and Tafsir al ‘Ayyashi, and in their transmitter dictionaries like that of Rijal al Kashshi, as has passed already.

Another issue is according preference to the Imams over the Ambiya’. This was also the stance of the extremist, as has been established by ‘Abdul Qahir al Baghdadi (d. 429 A.H), al Qadi ‘Ayad (d. 544 A.H), and Sheikh al Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 A.H). However, this doctrine was also inherited by the Twelvers.[11]

Discussing this topic in depth requires a dedicated research. For studying the views of the ancient Shia sects and juxtaposing them with what appears in the books of the Twelvers is a unique study which will reveal the extent to which this cult is linked with those ancient sects.

And the niche wherefrom these eerie beliefs found their way into Shi’ism was the scholars of the Shia themselves whose bigotry compelled them to accept the narrations of a Shia irrespective of his affiliations thereby rejecting the narrations of those whom they term ‘the commonality’, i.e. the Ahlus Sunnah. Hence their scholar al Tusi has conceded that most of their hadith transmitters belong to deviant schools but then still asserts that their books are reliable. This is abundantly clear to anyone who has any recourse to their books, for he will find some even affiliated to the Waqifiyyah, the Fathiyyah[12] and others.

Similarly, a contemporary Shia thinker has acknowledged that the Twelver thought has encapsulated the views and ideologies of all the ancient Shia sects. He says:

 

                ولكن يجب أن نشير قبل أن نضع القلم بأن ما مر بنا من أفكار الشيعة مما كان خاصا بفرقة بعينها لم يلبث أن دخل كله في التشيع الاثني عشري ودعم بالحجج العقلية وبالنصوص، والتشيع الحالي إنما هو زبدة الحركات الشيعية كلها من عمار إلي حجر بن عدي إلي المختاروكيسان إلي محمد بن الحنفية أبي هاشم إلي بيان بن سمعان، والغلاة الكوفيين إلي الغلاة من أنصار عبد الله بن الحارث إلي الزيديين والإسماعيليين، ثم الإمامية التي صارت اثنا عشرية وقام بعملية المزج متكلموا الشيعة ومصنفوها.

But before we put the pen down it is important to note that all the ideas of the Shia which we have discussed, each of which was an idea specific to a particular denomination, have all now been assimilated into the Twelver dogma and has been further substantiated and supported with evidence. Present day Shi’ism is thus an amalgam of all the previous Shia movements from ‘Ammar to Hujr ibn ‘Adi, from Kaysan to Muhammad ibn al Hanafiyyah, from Abu Hashim to Bayan ibn Sam’an, from the Kufi extremists to the extremist supporters of ‘Abdullah ibn al Harith, the Zaidis and the Ismailis. Furthermore, the Imamiyyah who later became the Twelvers and took up the task of assimilating everything are the theologians of the Shia and their leading scholars.[13]

 

Present day Shi’ism is thus the essence of all the various Shia ideologies with their extremism and radicalism. To the extent that even the extremist Saba’i tendency of deifying ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu stares at us from the narrations of the Twelvers. This will be clear to anyone who merely peruses through the topics of the chapters established in al Kafi and al Bihar.

Likewise the Batini (esoterical) tendency is also glaring in light of their interpretations of the Qur’an, the fundamentals of Islam and their views regarding dissimulation and the concealment of knowledge. Hence the Twelver dogma has become the final pool for the various Shia ideologies with their flaws and discrepancies. Every extremist will thus find therein his need and that which will support his school.

A very serious acknowledgment and controversial confession of one of their most senior contemporary scholars in the science of transmitter-impugning and approbation came to the fore. One of the aspects contained therein is the admission that the dogma is continuously changing and evolving, and that the beliefs that the Twelvers hold today were considered extreme by the ancient Shia, and that they, today, hold such beliefs which they consider essentially part of the dogma previously considered to be heretical. ‘Abdullah al Mamaqani says the following in defending the reputation of Mufaddal ibn ‘Umar al Ju’fi who was criticised by some of the ancient scholars:

 

إنا قد بينا غير مرة أن رمي القدماء الرجل بالغلو لا يعتمد عليه ولايركن إليه لوضوح كون القول بأدني مراتب فضائلهم (يعني الأئمة) غلوا عند القدماء، وكون ما نعده اليوم من ضروريات مذهب التشيع غلوا عند هؤلاء، وكفاك في ذلك عد الصدوق نفي السهو عنهم غلوا، مع أنه اليوم من ضروريات المذهب، وكذلك إثبات قدرتهم علي العلم بما يأتي ( أي علم الغيب) بتوسط جبرائيل والنبي غلوا عندهم ومن ضروريات المذهب اليوم

We have mentioned more than once previously that the criticisms of the ancients regarding someone being an extremist are not worth consideration. For it is clear that enumerating the least of their accolades, i.e. of the Imams, was considered exaggeration according to the early scholars. Likewise what we consider today to be essentially part of the Shia dogma was also considered extremism according to them. In illustration thereof, it suffices to say that al Saduq considered the negation of forgetfulness from the Imams to be an exaggeration, but today it is treated as one of the integral tenets of our dogma. Likewise the aspect of them having access to the knowledge of the unseen was considered an exaggeration whereas today it is one of the essentials elements of the dogma.[14]

 

It is abundantly clear from this text that the present day Shia did not just suffice in following the heritage they inherited from the predecessors, rather they superceded them in their extremism and radicalism. To the extent that al Saduq and other scholars of the fourth century considered the one who believes that the Imams do not forget or that the Imams have knowledge of events to happen or, as suggested by al Kulayni, they have knowledge of all that happened and all that is to happen and that nothing is hidden from them, to be heretical and extremist beliefs. However, the dogma has evolved and these beliefs have now been incorporated therein, as is acknowledged by al Mamaqani. This means that according to the ancient Shia the contemporaries ought to be treated as extremists whose statements are not worth accepting.

Take note that the holders of these beliefs were not deemed extremists by the scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah but by the scholars of the Shia themselves. Furthermore, this was their view in the fourth century when the dogma had already evolved and taken a specific form, then what do you suggest would be the view of the initial Shia regarding them whose only understanding of Shi’ism was giving preference to ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu over ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu.

It is probably these phenomena that lead Muhibb al Din al Khatib to conclude that the understanding of religion always shifts and changes according to the Shia. Alluding to this statement of al Mamaqani he states:

 

هذا تقرير علمي في أكبر وأحدث كتاب لهم في الجرح والتعديل يعترفون فيه بأن مذهبهم الآن غير مذهبهم قديما، فما كانوا يعدونه قديما من الغلو وينبذونه وينبذون أهله بسبب ذلك صار الآن –أي الغلو- من ضروريات المذهب، فمذهبهم اليوم غير مذهبهم قبل الصفويين، ومذهبهم قبل الصفويين غير مذهبهم قبل ابن مطهر. ومذهبهم قبل ابن مطهر غير مذهبهم قبل آل بابويه، ومذهبهم قبل آل بابويه غير مذهبهم قبل شيطان الطاق، ومذهبهم قبل شيطان الطاق غير مذهبهم في حياة الحسن والحسين وعلي بن الحسين

This is an affirmation which appears in one of their latest and most monumental works in the science of impugning and approbating transmitters wherein they concede that their dogma today is very different than what it was previously. Hence what they considered as extremist ideas and casted aside has now become part of the essentials of the dogma. Their dogma today is thus very different to what it was before the Safawids, and their dogma before the Safawids was very different to what it was before Ibn Mutahhar. Likewise their dogma before Ibn Mutahhar was different from what it was before the family of Babawayh, and what it was before the family of Babawayh was different from what it was before Shaitan al Taq, and lastly, their dogma before Shaitan al Taq was very different from what it was during the lifetime of Hassan, Hussain, and ‘Ali ibn al Hussain.[15]

 

NEXT⇒ Chapter 3: The Doctrinal Connection between the Early Scholars and the Contemporaries – Discussion 1 : The Belief of the Contemporaries Regarding the Book of Allah


[1] See: al Shia fi al Mizan: chapter regarding the Shia dynasties p. 127, onwards; A’yan al Shia 1/44; likewise see Duwal al Shia of Muhammad Jawwad Mughniyah.

[2] A’yan al Shia 1/21.

[3] Hassan al Shirazi: al ‘Alawiyyin Shia Ahlul Bayt p. 2-3.

[4] Majmu’ Fatawa Sheikh al Islam 35/145, onwards.

[5] Bihar al Anwar 25/285.

[6] Asl al Shia wa Usuluha p. 38; see also: Da’wah al Taqrib p. 75.

[7] Bayn al Sunnah wa al Shia p. 37.

[8] See: Al Shahrastani: al Milal wa al Nihal 1/173.

[9] They were the followers of Mukhtar ibn ‘Ubaid al Thaqafi. One of his beliefs was Badaʾ (al Milal wa al Nihal 1/147-148). See the definition of Kaysaniyyah that has passed.

[10] Refer back to the chapter regarding Raj’ah (Section 3: Chapter 5).

[11] See Section Two – Chapter 4 – Discussion 2: Their belief regarding the fundamentals of Iman Part 2 of this book

[12] See the chapter regarding Sunnah (Section 1: Chapter 2).

[13] Mustafa al Shaybi: al Silah Bayn al Tasawuf wa al Tashayyu’ p. 235.

[14] Tanqih al Maqal 3/240; see also: Section One – Chapter 2: The Narrators who Appear in their Isnad, of this book

[15] Hamish al Muntaqa p. 193.

Back to top