Peshawar Nights - The First Session

Three issues are discussed by Shirazi in this session. After making reference to the fact that he is a descendant of Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, he has the Hafiz inquire about his line of descent. Then, after having the Hafiz object to his genealogy, he launches into a three page justification of his descent.

Thereafter, he introduces a break for the ‘Isha prayer. He uses this juncture to introduce discussion of a phenomenon which is to the lay person one of the most conspicuous points of divergence between the Ahl as-Sunnah and the Shi‘ah. This is the issue of combining prayers. The Shi‘ah are known to combine the Zuhr and ‘Asr, as well as Maghrib and ‘Isha prayers; Sunnis perform each prayer in its appointed time. The questioner in this case is the Nawab, being the lay participant in the discussion. By citing a hadith from Sunni books, he attempts to prove the validity of joining prayers, and at the same time makes use of the opportunity to indulge in another favoured strategy of the Shi‘i proselytizer: casting aspersions against Imam al-Bukhari and his book, al-Jami‘ as-Sahih.

Shirazi then introduces the matter of how the grave of Sayyiduna ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiyallahu ‘anhu was discovered at Najaf. He gives an apocryphal story of exactly how the grave was discovered, and makes reference to Umayyad atrocities in history.

Shirazi’s genealogy

Before the actual discussion ensues, the Hafiz is made to stipulate it as condition that “reference be made to ahadith and events that are based on indisputable evidence.” He asks that they should “refrain from referring to doubtful sources.” To this Shirazi readily and confidently agrees, but his lamentable failure to abide by this condition has already been noted in the introduction.

In trying to assure his audience of his integrity in this regard, he makes reference to the fact that he is a descendant of Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam. He presents his personal pride is this descent as guarantee that he would abide by this condition. The fact that he fails to abide by it demonstrates one of three things: (1) He does not possess the knowledge and skills required to distinguish between authentic and unauthentic sources; or (2) he does not care enough for his genealogy to fulfil the condition for which he has made it a guarantee; or (3) the genealogy itself is doubtful. This third deduction may appear petty and vindictive at first glance, but closer inspection of Shirazi’s genealogy as stated in the book gives us very solid grounds for having reservations about it.

The historian Ibn Khaldun, through an inductive study of genealogies, formulated a method of testing the authenticity of any genealogy. This method is based upon the natural law of averages. It involves the median age to which people of this Ummah live, the age at which they have children, and the fact that at any given time there are three generations in co-existence. Essentially it comes down to assigning 3 persons for every 100 years spanned by the genealogy.

The line of descent given by Shirazi contains 27 persons. The name of Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq is missing between Imam Musa al-Kazim and Imam Muhammad al-Baqir, which I assume to be the error of the typesetter or the translators. We may therefore consider this genealogy to contain 28 persons. Considering that the person at the one end—Sayyiduna ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiyallahu ‘anhu—was born 23 years before the Hijrah, and that Shirazi himself at the other end of the genealogy died 1390 years after the Hijrah, we have a timespan of 1413 years. If we were to assign 3 persons for every hundred years, we would be looking for a genealogy consisting of at least 42 persons. Shirazi’s genealogy falls short of this figure by at least 14 persons. A difference of 3 or 4 would have been acceptable, but it requires an extremely credulous mind to accept a genealogy that suffers from 14 missing links as authentic.

Next we turn to the issue of the descendants of Sayyidah Fatimah radiyallahu ‘anha. Shirazi makes the Hafiz object to him tracing his descent from the Nabi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam through Sayyidah Fatimah radiyallahu ‘anha, since he is of the opinion that “descent is recognized from the male side only.” Shirazi responds firstly by quoting an alleged dialogue between Imam Musa al-Kazim (erroneously described in the text of Peshawar Nights as Imam Musa Ja‘far) and the Khalifah Harun ar-Rashid. This is the first place in the book where he fails to comply with his undertaking to use only authentic quotations, and it is significant to note that he is quoting from Shi‘i sources. He fails to inform his opponents that the quotation is documented in the books ‘Uyun Akhbar ar-Rida and al-Ihtijaj on the authority of a defective chain of narrators.

As-Saduq Ibn Babawayh, author of ‘Uyun Akhbar ar-Rida narrates it on the authority of Abu Ahmad Hani ibn Muhammad al-‘Abdi, and he on the authority of a person named simply as Abu Muhammad. Abu Mansur at-Tabarsi has in al-Ihtijaj merely reproduced this narration from ‘Uyun Akhbar ar-Rida. (See al-Ihtijaj vol. 2 p. 389) Abu Ahmad Hani ibn Muhammad al-‘Abdi and his source of information, Abu Muhammad, are completely unknown figures. The only thing known about the former is that Ibn Babawayh narrates from him, and that after mentioning his name, he writes “radiyallahu ‘anhu”. Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Mamaqani, the Shi‘i expert on narrator biography, found himself at a total loss for evidence of this person’s integrity, and could only rely upon Ibn Babawayh’s invocation in his attempt to prove his integrity as a narrator. (See Tanqih al-Maqal vol. 3 p. 290) However, even the acceptance of Hani ibn Muhammad al-‘Abdi as a reliable narrator fails to solve the problem, since we face an insurmountable problem in the person of the second narrator, named as Abu Muhammad. Nothing at all is known about this person. He is not mentioned by name; only by his ambiguous kunyah, Abu Muhammad.

The dialogue between Imam Musa al-Kazim and Harun ar-Rashid is lengthy one. It covers four A4 pages in relatively fine print. It covers a variety of issues and is not restricted to the deduction from the Qur‘an that the progeny of Fatimah are descendants of the Nabi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam. The brilliance of that deduction is marred by a hadith which the Imam supposedly quotes to the Khalifah in the opening paragraph of the dialogue. This hadith, which Imam Musa reportedly narrates on the authority of his forefathers, the preceding Imams, from Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, says that when blood relations meet one another, the blood in their veins moves and becomes agitated. The Khalifah is reported to hug the Imam in order to test the veracity of this hadith, and—predictably enough—experiences an abnormal activity of the blood in his veins. Any person who wants to ascertain the authenticity of this narration merely has to hug a blood relative. He will soon come to know that this entire narration—the deduction from the Qur’an included—was invented, either by Abu Ahmad Hani ibn Muhammad, or by his source of information, the ambiguous Abu Muhammad.

The fact that Sayyiduna Hasan and Sayyiduna Husayn radiyallahu ‘anhuma are the sons of Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam has never been an area of contention to the Ahl as-Sunnah. For the Hafiz to contest this fact shows either his own ignorance—in which case he is effectively disqualified as a spokesperson for the Ahl as-Sunnah—or reveals the manipulative hand of Shirazi himself behind the characters in his drama. Had he been courageous enough to engage recognized scholars like ‘Allamah ‘Abd ash-Shakur of Lucknow in debate, he would not have had the puppeteer’s freedom to make his marionette say whatever he wishes him to say. What he needed was an “opponent” with enough flexibility that he can be made to appear helpless in the face of Shirazi’s own “erudition”, and thereby effect a victory for Shi‘ism over Sunnism.

Since the point is really undisputed, there seems to be no sense in prolonging discussion about it. However, since Shirazi is bent upon ridiculing the knowledge of his self-copponent, he devotes another page to citations from a variety of “Sunni” books. The first source he quotes is Ibn Abil Hadid, the commentator of Nahj al-Balaghah, whom he describes as “one of your own great scholars”. ‘Abd al-Hamid ibn Hibatillah al-Mada’ini, better known as Ibn Abil Hadid (died 655 AH) is not of the Ahl as-Sunnah, and never even claimed to be. He was a self-professed Mu‘tazili and a Shi‘i. Shirazi himself calls him “Ibn Abil Hadid Mu‘tazali”. The Mu‘tazilah never claimed to be of the Ahl as-Sunnah. If anything, they regarded themselves as the opponents of the Ahl as-Sunnah. Is Shirazi so blinded by his proselytizing zeal that he no longer sees his won glaring contradictions? Or is he simply lacking in knowledge?

As for Ibn Abil Hadid being a Shi‘i, that is borne out by his own poetry. Some of his most explicit declarations in this regard may be seen in Abul Fadl Ibrahim’s introduction to his Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah. Ibn Kathir describes him as follows in al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah (year 655, vol. 9 p. 82):

Ibn Abil Hadid al-‘Iraqi: the poet ‘Abd al-Hamid ibn Hibatillah ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Husayn, Abu Hamid, Ibn Abil Hadid, ‘Izz ad-Din al-Mada’ini; the man of letters, the eloquent poet, the extremist Shi‘i. He is the author of a commentary on Nahj al-Balaghah in 20 volumes. He was born at Mada’in in the year 586. Then he went to Baghdad and became one of the poets in the court of the Khalifah. He enjoyed the favour of the wazir Ibn al-‘Alqami, on account of the two of them having literature and Shi‘ism in common.

In the following paragraph Shirazi cites a hadith from Jabir ibn Abdillah: “Allah created the progeny of every Prophet from his own generation, but my progeny was created from the generation of ‘Ali.” He ascribes this narration to Kifayat at-Talib of Muhammad ibn Yusuf Ganji, and as-Sawa‘iq al-Muhriqah of Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, both of whom cite it from at-Tabarani. The books as-Sawa‘iq al-Muhriqah and Kifata at-Talib are both secondary sources; they derive their material from primary sources. In this case the primary source is al-Mu‘jam al-Kabir of at-Tabarani, which was unavailable in print at the time when Shirazi was writing his book. Today this book is in print, and thus reference to the original source is possible. In al-Mu‘jam al-Kabir (vol. 3 p. 45, hadith no. 2630) this hadith is found to be narrated with an extremely defective chain of narrators. One narrator, namely Yahya ibn al-‘Ala ar-Razi, is a notorious forger known for narrating falsified ahadith. (See Tahdhib al-Kamal vol. 31 pp. 484-488) Once again Shirazi fails to fulfil his promise of making reference to authentic ahadith exclusively. The only excuse that can possibly be made for him is ignorance.

A similar narration from Ibn ‘Abbas is quoted from the Manaqib of Khatib Khwarizmi. This author, Abul Mu’ayyad Muhammad ibn Mahmud al-Khwarizmi lived during the seventh century, and died in 655AH. (Mu‘jam al-Mu’allifin vol. 12 p. 3; al-A‘lam vol. 7 p. 87) This source therefore falls squarely within the bracket of late “obscure” sources referred to in the introduction. The fact that al-Khwarizmi can come more than two centuries after the era of documentation, and produce a hadith from Ibn ‘Abbas that no one else before him knew of, is sufficient proof to reject it. Until and unless anyone can produce an isnad for it, and prove the authenticity of that isnad, it will remain an unauthentic quotation. Shirazi, having promised upon the sanctity of his descent to quote exclusively from reliable sources, should have known better than to produce evidence from a source of such obscurity.

Next he cites a hadith from the above mentioned al-Khwarizmi in al-Manaqib, Sayyid ‘Ali al-Hamadhani in Mawaddat al-Qurba, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his Musnad, and Sulayman al-Balkhi (al-Qanduzi) in his book Yanabi‘ al-Mawaddah. He does not produce page and volume numbers for any of these sources. The text of the hadith is as follows: “These my two sons are flowers of this world, and both of them are Imams, whether they are Imams openly or silently sitting at home.”

Out of the four sources cited, only one is worthy of mention, which is the Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. The other sources are all secondary sources by latter day authors who do not document their material with chains of narration. Al-Khawrizmi, as we have seen, died in 655AH; Sayyid ‘Ali al-Hamadhani died in 786AH (more will be said about his book Mawaddat al-Qurba later); and al-Qanduzi died as late as 1294AH/1877. It is therefore most unscholarly for Shirazi to cite all three of these sources together with the Musnad of Imam Ahmad, who died in 241AH. Out of the four cited sources, it is only the Musnad that can give us an idea of the authenticity of the hadith.

When we turn to the Musnad to look for the hadith, we encounter a most unpleasant surprise. This hadith, so confidently quoted by Shirazi, is nowhere to be found in the Musnad. The concordance al-Mu‘jam al-Mufahras li-Alfaz al-Hadith an-Nabawi, the 11 volume Mawsu‘at Atraf al-Hadith an-Nabawi, as well as modern day computer software have given no trace of any hadith of this kind in the Musnad. It seems therefore that Shirazi, beyond breaking his pledge of citing only reliable ahadith, has even resorted to blatant dishonesty. This would explain why has omitted to supply volume and page numbers for this particular hadith.

In what remains of this passage he once again makes reference to al-Qanduzi’s Yanabi‘ al-Mawaddah, but this time he makes it clear that the author of this book uses material from other sources. However, in one of the names he mentions in this regard, Hafiz ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Abi Shaybah, he once again reveals his ignorance of history and hadith literature. There never was a person by this name. The Ibn Abi Shaybah family of Kufah had three scions who made a name for themselves as muhaddithin. One was Abu Bakr, the other ‘Uthman, and the last one Muhammad. Allah alone knows where Shirazi unearthed the name ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Abi Shaybah. His blunt insistence upon producing a authoritative sounding list of references has produced many a ludicrous situation like this.

In the next passage he quotes out of the blue from the writings of a person whom he names as Abu Salih. This incoherent citation contains a hadith from Sayyiduna ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab radiyallahu ‘anhu, which he ascribes to Hafiz ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn al-Ahkdar, Abu Nu‘aym, at-Tabari, Ibn Hajar al-Makki and the suppositious Muhammad ibn Yusuf Ganji. However, he consistently fails to provide authentication for the ahadith which he adduces as proof. The same is true for the rest of the references which he provides in the passage. What Shirazi sadly fails to comprehend is that a hadith is not proven authentic by the amount of books which contain it, but rather by the hadith itself conforming to the criteria of authenticity.

It is worthy of note here that in this same passage Shirazi makes reference to the marriage of Umm Kulthum, the daughter of Sayyiduna ‘Ali and Sayyidah Fatimah radiyallahu ‘anhum without denying its historical occurrence, as many Shi‘i scholars are known to do. He does this in the course of quoting a hadith which he presents as factual evidence. Does this mean that Shirazi accepts the historicity of this marriage?

In any event, here we have had our first sampling of Shirazi’s source methodology. In an issue upon which there really exists no need for protracted debate he felt compelled to brandish as many references as he could lay hands upon. In the process he unwittingly revealed his unfamiliarity with his supposed sources. He also gave ample evidence of a stark lack of expertise in the field of hadith. More importantly, he proved his readiness to resolve to deception for the sake of impressing his reader with references.

Combining prayers

After having the Nawab ask him the reason for the Shi‘ah combining prayers, Shirazi introduces this phenomenon into the discussion. The Hafiz is made to offer the explanation that the Nabi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam combined prayers only in extraordinary situations, like when he was on a journey, or due to rain, and that he always offered his prayers separately when he was at home.

In refutation of this explanation, Shirazi cites a hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas radiyallahu ‘anhuma in which it is reported that Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam combined the Zuhr and ‘Asr, and Maghrib and ‘Isha prayers while in residence. Here Shirazi has used a creative method of citation. The hadith he cites is in reality one single hadith. However, he boldly states that “many ahadith confirm this fact”. Then, in order to show just how many ahadith confirm this fact, he quotes the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas several times from a number of different sources. By mentioning the various chains of narration up to Ibn ‘Abbas radiyallahu ‘anhuma, even going to the extent that “Imam Muslim quotes a number of ahadith on the issue”, Shirazi deceitfully tries to create the impression that there exists a multitude of ahadith that prove the combining of prayers in residence. The fact of the matter is that there is only one hadith,which is that of Ibn ‘Abbas radiyallahu ‘anhuma, which happens to be narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas by a number of his students. The careful reader will not fail to notice that each “separate” hadith cited by Shirazi ends with Ibn ‘Abbas radiyallahu ‘anhuma, and even the corroboration by Abu Hurayrah radiyallahu ‘anhu is part of Ibn ‘Abbas’ hadith, and not technically an independent hadith.

Be that as it may, the fact that there is only one hadith on this issue is inconsequential as far as its authenticity is concerned. Since it conforms to the criteria of authenticity, it has been accepted as authentic. What now remains to be done is to see how this hadith fits in with the rest of the ahadith on the times of salah. Shirazi has the Nawab express amazement at how this hadith (which is slyly referred to as “these ahadith”) was ignored by the Ahl as-Sunnah, and how “learned men have adopted a different path”. He brushes off the “explanations” of the Sunni scholars as unintelligible, but turns a conspicuous blind eye to (or is perhaps ignorant of) the proper treatment of this hadith by the ‘ulama of the Ahl as-Sunnah.

The hadith literature of both the Ahl as-Sunnah and the Shi‘ah concur upon the fact that that the times of salah were given to Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam by Jibril during the Meccan period. They agree that the time for Zuhr and Maghrib were given as separate and distinct from that of ‘Asr and ‘Isha. This is further corroborated by the model example of the Nabi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam. The Shi‘i scholar Ayatullah Musa al-Musawi confirms this where he writes that “the habit of Rasulullah by which Muslims should abide, was to perform every prayer within its time. Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam used to lead the Muslims in prayer five times every day.” (al-Muta’amirun ‘ala al-Muslimin ash-Shi‘ah p. 173)

The only case which represents an ostensible departure from this norm is this hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas radiyallahu ‘anhuma. Shirazi would be well aware of the fact that in the entire hadith literature there is only this one solitary hadith which apparently departs from the established norm. He knows fully well that his argument in favour of combining prayers would be crippled by mention of the fact that such combination is supported by a single isolated hadith. He therefore attempts to make it appear as “several ahadith”.

In any event, the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas radiyallahu ‘anhuma appears to be out of harmony with the Prophetic norm of performing every prayer within its specified time. This norm is established on the basis of a substantially large number of ahadith, even in the Shi‘i hadith literature, and also the continuous practice of the Ummah. The ‘ulama of the Ahl as-Sunnah were thus faced with two possible approaches: either to harmonise this one irregular hadith with the rest by giving it a suitable explanation; or to regard it as a normative hadith in its own right, which sets an independent precedent. The majority of them opted for the former approach.

The reader might at this point get the impression that their opting for this position was based on some sort of subjective bias. But this impression will soon disappear when he learns that what lead them to this option was two aspects of the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas radiyallahu ‘anhuma which Shirazi, for obvious reasons, preferred to keep unknown to his readers. The first of the two aspects is the fact that not in a single version of the hadith is it stated that either of the two combined prayers was perfomed out of its prescribed time. Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, whose encyclopaedic knowledge of hadith is a matter of consensus, states in Fath al-Bari that “in all of the versions of this hadith there is nothing which indicates the exact time when the combining occurred.” (Fath al-Bari vol. 2 p. 30)

The second aspect to consider here is the fact that one of the students of Ibn ‘Abbas radiyallahu ‘anhuma who narrates this hadith from him, explained the hadith in such a way that it is left fully in accordance with the established norm. This student, Abu ash-Sha‘tha Jabir ibn Zayd, whose version of the hadith is documented by both al-Bukhari and Muslim, and several of the other well-known books of hadith, states that what this “combination” of prayers entailed was for Zuhr to be performed during the last minutes of its prescribed time, with ‘Asr then being performed immediately upon commencement of its time. In this way the two prayers are combined without the established norm being violated. This explanation for the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas radiyallahu ‘anhuma was given by Ibn ‘Abbas’ own student, and was accepted by a large majority of scholars, including the Hanafi jurist Abu Ja‘far at-Tahawi, the Malikis Ibn al-Majishun and Abul ‘Abbas al-Qurtubi, and the Shafi‘is Imam al-Haramayn, Ibn Sayyid an-Nas al-Ya‘muri and Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, amongst others.

The other approach—of regarding this hadith to be normative in its own right—was adopted by a minority of scholars of the Ahl as-Sunnah, including Imam Malik’s teacher Rabi‘ah ibn Abi ‘Abd ar-Rahman, the tabi‘i Muhammad ibn Sirin, the Maliki jurist Ashhab ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and the Shafi‘i jurists Ibn al-Mundhir and al-Qaffal ash-Shashi. These scholars allow the combining of prayers, but with the proviso that it be for a need, and more importantly, that it does not become a habit.

It is this second point that is the point of divergence between them and the Shi‘ah. The Shi‘ah have permitted the combination of prayers even without a need. This has given rise to a situation where they habitually perform Zuhr and ‘Asr together, and Maghrib and ‘Isha together. Although they theoretically assert the superiority of performing each prayer within its prescribed time according to the Prophetic norm, in practice they are very rarely seen to uphold this norm. As such the combination of prayers has become the hallmark of the Shi‘ah.

Shirazi has ventured to pour scorn on some of the explanations given by Sunni commentators in explaining the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas radiyallahu ‘anhuma. If only he had consulted his own hadith sources before doing so he would have been spared the embarrassment of revealing his ignorance of the hadith of the Shi‘ah. One of the explanations given by the Ahl as-Sunnah for the combining of prayers in the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas is that it was done due to rain. Shaykh Abu Ja‘far at-Tusi in his book al-Istibsar, which is one of the four major books of hadith for the Shi‘ah, records from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir that on rainy nights the Nabi sallallahi ‘alayhi wasallam used to delay Maghrib and hasten ‘Isha (exactly as explained by Jabir ibn Zayd) and perform the two prayers jointly; and he used to say: “Whoever does not show mercy will not be shown mercy.” (al-Istibsar vol. 1 p. 267, no. 966)

This Shi‘i hadith alone should have been reason enough for Shirazi, and indeed the Shi‘ah in general, to reconsider their habitual joining of prayers for no reason at all. It is therefore very strange to see Shirazi reverently stating that “the Shia ulema, in obedience to the Holy Imam and the progeny of the Holy Prophet, have unconditionally pethe offering of prayers together.” What sort of obedience is this which ignores the words of the Imam when it goes against their own desires? What sort of obedience is this which abandons the established Prophetic habit of performing every prayer within its prescribed time for an isolated incident which is subject to interpretation?

Shirazi makes use of the opportunity to strike a blow at the integrity of Imam al-Bukhari. He has the Hafiz meekly object that the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas radiyallahu ‘anhuma is not in Sahih al-Bukhari. He has no reason for introducing al-Bukhari into the issue, since it is already accepted that hadith is recorded by Muslim, and its authenticity has thus been established. Even if al-Bukhari did not document it, its authenticity will not be affected. Therefore, this objection from the Hafiz must be read to serve another purpose. That purpose is to malign the character of al-Bukhari. This Shirazi does by asserting that al-Bukhari did in fact document the hadith, but not under the expected chapter heading. He has “deceitfully put them away from their proper place.” Did it ever occur to Shirazi or his reader that al-Bukhari was under no compulsion to include the hadith into his book, and that had he wanted to be deceitful, he would have omitted this hadith from his collection altogether? Did it even occur to them that mentioning the hadith under the heading “Bab Ta’khir az-Zuhr lil-‘Asr” (meaning “Chapter on the delaying of Zuhr till ‘Asr”) is in fact its proper place?

Shirazi once again sacrifices his honesty upon the altar of expediency when he asserts that people like an-Nawawi (misspelt as Nuri), Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, al-Qastalani and az-Zurqani (misspelt as Zarqani) have “admitted that these ahadith are proofs of the acceptability of combining two prayers.” Yes, they have done so, and so have numerous commentators and jurists before them. But they have never allowed the unconditional combining of prayers like the Shi‘ah do. Without exception, they have made the permissibility of combining prayers subject to certain conditions. However, Shirazi could not find within himself the honesty to reflect the conditions stipulated by the men whose names he mentioned.

Lastly, Shirazi has added the name “Zakariyya-e-Razi” to the above list of well known hadith commentators. There has never been a commentator of Sahih al-Bukhari by the name of “Zakariyya-e-Razi”. The only Razi whose name comes close to this is the famous philosopher and physician Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyya ar-Razi. The last thing a philosopher would contemplate doing is write a commentary on hadith. Mention of his name in this regard must therefore be seen as evidence of Shirazi’s penchant for inflating his list of “authorities” so as to impress his gullible reader. This tendency occurs throughout the book ad nauseam.

How Shirazi’s ancestors migrated from Hijaz to Iran

A story is briefly related here of how Shirazi’s “ancestor” Muhammad al-‘Abid was murdered in Shiraz on the orders of the “Abbasid King”. The details of the story have been left out by Shirazi, but we will nevertheless take a closer look at the historicity of this alleged event.

Muhammad al-‘Abid was the son of Musa al-Kazim. Mentioned of him has been made by Shaykh al-Mufid in his book Kitab al-Irshad (p. 459). However, al-Mufid mentions nothing at all about his supposed murder in Shiraz. Even Majlisi in Bihar al-Anwar mentions nothing about this event. If any author had to mention an event of this nature, that author would have been Abul Faraj al-Isfahani, who devoted an entire book, entitled Maqatil at-Talibiyyin, to documenting the killing of the descendants of Sayyiduna ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiyallahu ‘anhu and his brothers, by the Umayyads and the Abbasids. However, Maqatil at-Talibiyyin is conspicuously silent on the murder of Muhammad, Ahmad and Husayn, the sons of Musa al-Kazim, in Shiraz by the order of the “Abbasid King”. We are justified therefore to question the historicity of the event.

The story surrounding how Muhammad al-‘Abid came to be buried in Shiraz, as related by Sayyid Ja‘far Al Bahr al-‘Ulum in his book Tuhfat al-‘Alim, is that he entered Shiraz in Abbasid times and lived there till he died. He is reported to have made a living by copying the Qur’an, and is said to have manumitted 1000 slaves. His grave was “discovered” 6 centuries later during the time of the Zangid dynasty in a garden belonging to a person named as Qutlugh. (Tuhfat al-‘Alim, published as appendix to Bihar al-Anwar vol. 48 p. 191) This story is supported by Muhammad Madhi al-Kharsan in his footnotes to Bihar al-Anwar (vol. 48 p. 174) He informs us that a large number of those who trace their descent from Musa al-Kazim, including himself, claim descent through this Muhammad al-‘Abid. Neither of these two sources mention anything about Muhammad al-‘Abid being killed. More importantly, none of them venture any information about the state of the alleged grave for the 6 centuries before its “discovery”.

His brother Ahmad, commonly known in Shiraz as “Shah Chiragh” is reported by Sayyid Ja‘far Bahr al-‘Ulum to have come to Shiraz during the time of the Abbasid Khalifah al-Ma’mun. The Abbasid governor of Shiraz, conspicuously named here as Qutlugh Khan, stopped him on his way. A fight ensued and Ahmad’s followers deserted him. He is reported variously to have been killed in that skirmish, or to have escaped into the city to where he was followed and killed, and thirdly to have managed to elude his enemies in Shiraz where he lived an anonymous life until he died a natural death. His grave too, was discovered during Zangid times, when for the first time a structure was built over it.

As for the third brother, Husayn, known as ‘Ala ad-Din, his story brings a weird twist to the conspicuous Qutlugh. Sayyid Ja‘far Bahr al-‘Ulum tells us that during Zangid times, several centuries after Abbasid rule, the governor of Shiraz was a person called Qutlugh Khan. This governor had a garden, and the gardener noticed a wonderful light emanating from the garden at night. Upon investigation they discovered a grave, and through some means or the other they discovered that the person buried in the grave is Husayn ibn Musa al-Kazim. Qutlugh Khan thereupon ordered a building to be constructed over the grave.

All three graves were discovered in Zangid times, 6 centuries after the death of persons supposedly buried in them. All three brother came to Shiraz at the same time, but none seem to have known of the other’s presence. All three became involved with a Qutlugh Khan, but each one in his own unique way. It wouldn’t take an expert historian to smell a rat here. A complete and rewarding study could be made of the proclivity of the Iranians, especially in later centuries, to find the graves of sons of the Imams in Iran. Sites called imamzadahs flourish in Iran. The Persian Da’irat al-Ma‘arif-e Tashayyu‘ (Encyclopaedia of Shi‘a) lists over 350 such sites in Iran. In several cases the same person is claimed to be buried at different locations. In the case of Ahmad ibn Musa al-Kazim, for example, there is a rival grave for him in Kashan. (Da’irat al-Ma‘arif-e Tashayyu‘ vol. 2 p. 433) Muhammad al-‘Abid too, has an alternate grave in Kakhak. (ibid. p. 432) The rival grave of Husayn ibn Musa al-Kazim is in Tabas. (ibid. p. 322)

This embarrassing confusion, and these obvious pointers to the fraud of the ones who invented the graves at Shiraz, help one to understand the reason why Shirazi refused to devote anything more than a 7 line paragraph to the story about how his ancestors originally came to Iran. The actual history of Shi‘ism in Iran will be dealt with later, under the second session, where Shirazi has spoken of Iran and Shi‘ism under the heading “Causes of Iranians’ receptivity to Shi‘ism”.

The grave of ‘Ali

Hereafter mention is made of the discovery of the grave of Sayyiduna ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiyallahu ‘anhu at Najaf 150 years after his death. Shirazi explains the initial secrecy surrounding the location of the graves in light of fear that the Umayyads would desecrate the grave. However, what he doesnot explain is why the location of the grave was revealed by Imam Musa al-Kazim to the Khalifah Harun ar-Rashid when the Abbasids, according to the Shi‘ah, were no less cruel to the ‘Alawis than were the Umayyads.

Hasan al-Amin writes in his Shorter Shi’ite Encyclopaedia: “Then came Abbasid rule. They were more severe upon the Alawides in their persecution and cruelty as well as upon the Shi’ites as compared to the Omayyides. Their rule was more troublesome and bitter for them, as a poet has said: ‘By God, the Omayyids did not do one-tenth in their case, as Banu Abbas did.’ Amir Abul Faras al-Hamadani says: ‘Banu Harab (Omayyids) did not succeed in these crimes even though though they intended to, as compared to your success.’ (p. 36)”

Harun ar-Rashid is the Khalifah to whom Imam Musa al-Kazim is reported to have revealed the location of the grave. This same Harun is described by Hasan al-Amin as having “made himself notorious for his cruelty to the Alawides and their friends and took to extremes in their persecution.” (p. 40) It is interesting that just a few lines earlier Shirazi was recalling how his “ancestors” were slaughtered by the Abbasids, and now he presents the Abbasids as benevolent enough for Imam Musa al-Kazim to reveal to them the location of his grandfather’s grave.

He cites the martyrdom of Zayd ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn, and that of his son Yahya ibn Zayd as examples of Umayyad cruelty. If the cruelty that was visited upon these two great personalities gives one reason to believe that the Umayyads were given to desecrate graves, why is it that the alleged slaughter of Shirazi’s ancestors and others gave no one reason to fear that the Abbasids would desecrate the grave of Sayyiduna Ali radiyallahu ‘anhu?

Shirazi appears ignorant of the fact that the exact manner and time of the “discovery” of the grave at Najaf is a matter of contention in the Shi‘i hadith literature. He cites the story of Harun ar-Rashid and Musa al-Kazim as the point at which the grave became known, but fails to take note that Mulla Baqir Majlisi has recorded in Bihar al-Anwar (vol. 97 p. 164) a report according to which the location of the grave was known to Abu Ja‘far al-Mansur, who was Harun ar-Rashid’s grandfather. Abu Ja‘far is reported to have actually excavated the site to see if it really contains a grave. He also mentions that Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq revealed its location in the time of the first Abbasid ruler Abul ‘Abbas as-Saffah, who died in 130 AH. Shirazi is therefore clearly mistaken to claim that “the grave remained virtually unknown until the days of Harun ar-Rashid.”

His claim that Harun built a structure over the location shown to him by Imam Musa al-Kazim clashes headlong with a report documented by Majlisi in Bihar al-Anwar (vol. 42 p. 185) in which a person by the name of Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Duhaym reports visiting the site secretly sometime after the year 260 AH, and found no building. All they found was a few black stones around the grave. Harun ar-Rashid died in the year 193 AH.

Furthermore, the discovery of a tablet in Syriac that bore an inscription declaring this grave to have been prepared for ‘Ali radiyallahu ‘anhu by the Prophet Nuh ‘alayhis salam 700 years before the Deluge presents an anomaly in itself. Although Shirazi promised to use only authentic sources, he fails to provide a source for this fantastic story. There is also no trace of this aspect of the story in Bihar al-Anwar, a source which has given considerable attention to the issue of the location of the grave. What Majlisi does record is that the grave of Sayyiduna ‘Ali radiyallahu ‘anhu is in fact the grave of Sayyiduna Nuh ‘alayhis salam (vol. 97 p. 171) and not only that of Nuh, but also Adam, Hud and Salih ‘alayhimus salam. (vol. 97 p. 173)

But let us turn to another matter now. Shirazi has cited as examples of Umayyad atrocities the martyrdom of Zayd ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn and his son Yahya. However, there is an element in the tragedy of Zayd, and even in that of his grandfather Husayn radiyallahu ‘anhuma which the Shi‘ah always carefully avoid. That element is the role of the Shi‘ah themselves in those lamentable tragedies. The Umayyads were only half the problem. The other half was the Shi‘ah.

When Zayd ibn ‘Ali declared revolt against the Umayyads, 40 000 of the Shi‘ah pledged allegiance upon his hand, 15 000 of them from the city of Kufah alone. With a force this mighty, the Umayyad army would have been easily vanquished, and justice would have been established. What happened that at the hour of the battle Zayd was left with only 300 men? The story behind the disgraceful desertion of Zayd by the Shi‘ah is told by virtually every historian who has given a biography of Zayd or recorded the events of the year 122 AH.

Just before the battle could start they decided upon a whim to ask Zayd’s opinion about Abu Bakr and ‘Umar radiyallahu ‘anhuma. His reply was, “I have never heard any of my family dissociate himself from them, and I myself have nothing but good to say about them.” Upset with this reply, they deserted him en masse, and decided that he could not be the Imam, but that the true Imam was his nephew Ja‘far as-Sadiq. Out of the 40 000 who had pledged loyalty to him Zayd was left with only a few hundred. On the departure of the defectors Zayd remarked, “I am afraid they have done unto me what they had done unto Husayn.” It was here too that for the first time in history the Shi‘ah were given the name “Rafidah”, meaning “the rejectors”. This name was given to them by Zayd when they rejected him after his refusal to dissociate himself from Abu Bakr and ‘Umar radiyallahu ‘anhuma.

If the Umayyads were guilty on that day of shedding holy blood, then just as guilty as them were the thousands of Shi‘ah who would rather see a distinguished member of the Ahl al-Bayt and the son of their Imam perish at the merciless hands of the Umayyads than hear him speak favourably of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar radiyallahu ‘anhuma. It is perhaps for this reason that Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq is reported in the Shi‘i hadith literature to have said that “no one bears us greater hatred than those who claim to love us.” (Miqbas al-Hidayah vol. 2 p. 414)

However, Shi‘i rancour against Zayd did not stop at that cowardly act of desertion. To this very day their hadith literature is filled with sayings attributed to their Imams in which Zayd is denounced as misguided innovator, and even an unbeliever for falsely claiming to be an Imam. (Tanqih al-Maqal vol. 1 p. 467-471) The Umayyads killed Zayd once, and crucified his body once. The Shi‘ah, on the other hand, insult the memory of Zayd ibn ‘Ali every time that they assert, in terms of the hadith which they ascribe to their Imams, that “whoever raises the standard of revolt before the coming of the Mahdi is a taghut (tyrant)”; and “whoever unrightfully claims Imamah is a kafir” and “a mushrik”, “even if he be a descendant of ‘Ali and Fatimah” and “whoever revolts and calls people towards himself, while there is amongst them someone who is better than him, is a deviant innovator”. (Bihar al-Anwar vol. 25 pp. 325-328)

It was not only Zayd who was maligned by the Shi‘ah. Even his faithful followers, who courageously kept up the resistance against the Umayyads, were branded as “enemies of the Ahl al-Bayt” (Rijal al-Kashshi vol. 2 p. 494) despite the fact that they too, follow Imams from the Ahl al-Bayt. It is a strange philosophy which denounces those who refused to submit to injustice and humiliation as “enemies of the Ahl al-Bayt” while lauding those who deserted the Ahl al-Bayt at the hour of need, and whose opposition to perceived injustice was limited to the ritual cursing of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr and ‘Umar radiyallahu ‘anhuma in the safety of their private gatherings.

Therefore, if Zayd’s martyrdom was a tragic event, then so much more lamentable is the attitude of the Shi‘ah towards Zayd, both at the hour of his martyrdom and all the way down history up to the present day. Therefore, it is blatant opportunism for Shirazi to tell only half of the story, and to conveniently omit any sort of reference to the treachery of his ancestors, the Sh‘ah, and their disgraceful role in that tragic martyrdom.