- 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.Epitomes of Life
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.
Fierce Political Struggles
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.
Bihar-ul-Anwar, Vol. 46, P. 172, Tradition No. 2
The Objective of the Imams’ Struggles
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.
Bihar-ul-Anwar, Vol. 102, P. 17
The Nature of the Imams’ Struggles
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.
Bihar-ul-Anwar, Vol. 42, P. 61
Various Stages of the Struggle
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 First Stage
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.
Bihar-ul-Anwar, Vol. 45, P. 115
The Episode of Harrah
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.
Imam Sajjad’s (as) Responsibilities
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).
Bihar-ul-Anwar, Vol. 78, P. 128, Tradition 1
Bihar-ul-Anwar, Vol. 1, P. 144
Bihar-ul-Anwar, Vol. 46, P. 144, Tradition 29
Recruiting and Training the Cadres
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.
Bihar-ul-Anwar, Vol. 78, P. 148, Tradition 11
Tuhaf ul-Uqul, P. 169
Imam Baqirs’ (as) Era
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.
Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol. 46, P.257, Tradition 59
Bihar-ul-Anwar, Vol. 46, P.362, Tradition 3
Imam Sadiqs (as) Era
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.