Beginning of Twelve –Imam Shi’ite theological and philosophical thought

فارسی English 1900 Views |

The Term Shi’ah in the Qur’an and Sunnah
The term Shi’ah is not an invented or a new one. It has been mentioned in the Qur’’an in four places. Two of them (28: 15,37:83) are: so he found therein two men fighting, one being of his party [shi’ah ] and the other of his foes, and he who was of his party cried out to him for help against him who was of his enemies. of his persuasion verily was Abraham.

According to the dictionary, the world shi’ah in its plural from means: followers, partisans, a group of people showing unanimity over an issue or a faith which they support and denfend. Soon, however, the term became synonymous with the followers of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib. “This word has taken the connotation of the partisan of the Commander of the Faithful (Ali) by way of following and belief in his Imamate after the Messenger without separation, and non-recognition of his predecessors who assumed the office of caliphate(vice-gerency and successors hip)” (Shaykh al- Mufid, 1993a). In his Muqaddimah.

Shi’ah according to early scholars
Ibn Khaldun gives this definition: According to jurists and speculative theologians, both contemporary and past, shi’ah is a term that describes the followers of Ali, his sons (May Allah be pleased with them) and their school of thought [madhhab]. They [followers of Imamate is not a public office which can be life to the discretion of the ummah [Muslim community], i.e. it is not a matter for them to choose who will become Imam. It is the pillar of religion and the foundation of Islam. It is not within the prerogative of an Apostle to neglect it or delegate [the responsibility] of choosing the Imam to the ummah. It is must that he [the Prophet] appoint the Imam, who should be infallible and morally perfect. (1958:196)

Quoting from al- Zinah a work Abu Hatim Sahl ibn Muhammad al- Sijistan (d. 206/820), Hajji Khalifah, in his book Kashf al-zunun, has written the following:

During the lifetime of the Messenger of God, the term “shi’ah” was the title of four of the Companions: Salman al-Farsi, Abu Dharr al- Ghifari, al Miadad ibn Amr ,and Ammar ibn Yair. After the Prophet Muhammad’s death, a number of distinguished with him. [ Also,] a group of muhajrun (Meccans) and ansar (Madanites) from among the Companions did not come forward to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr. They sided with Ali ibn Abi Talib. Among them were: al- Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, al- Fadl ibn al- Abbas, al-Zubayr ibn al Awwam, Khalid ibn Sa’id al- Miqdad ibn Amr, Salman al- Farsi, Abu Dhar al-Ghifari. (al-Ya’qubi, Ta’rikh, 2:124)

Those Companions and others followers in their footsteps believed that the Imamate was an extension of prophet hood, and that Ali was the most knowledge authority, among the Companions, concerning the Qur’an and the ways of righteousness. Thus, they resorted to Ali for guidance in matters of religion which needed a ruling or interpretation. They heard the Prophet say in favour of Ali: “I am the city of knowledge, and Ali is its gate. And I am the house of wisdom and Ali is its door (on the authority of al- Hakim in al Mustadrak, l-Tabarani in al-Kabir, and Abu Nu’aym in al- Hilyah).

Intellectual seeds of the Qur’an and Sunnah, as the factor of Islamic philosophical movements
It was expected that Muslims would take to philosophical and intellectual reasoning during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (s. a. w. a. s.),(An acronym of “Sallallahu alayi alihi wa sallam,” meaning “May Allah’s blessings be upon him and his Household,”) For the seed of philosophical reasoning in the universal sense of the term was sown in the Noble Qur’an and nurtured by the Blessed Prophet through his saying and general guidance. In the Qur’an there is a plethora of verses dealing with urging human beings to ponder the creation of humanity, the universe, the heavens and the earth, and view the phenomena of existence with a critical mind and understanding in order to reach satisfaction as to the wisdom of the Almighty. (See for example verses 16: 164, 3 190, and 4: 53.) Also, in other verse command in not to follow doubt in matters of faith urging people to pursue knowledge and that which will make them firm in belief (17:36)On the authority of exegetes, it has bees related that when the last ten verses of chapter 3, al- lmran, were revealed, the Prophet recited them and said, “Lo! to him who read them and did not ponder them.”

The pursuit of knowledge and intellection sprang up sects and schools
As a consequence of the encouragement of intellection and reasoning, and the pursuit of knowledge in matters relating to faith and the universe, there sprung up many denominations, sects and schools of thought in Islam. This is not only in matters of fait but also in religious rituals and norms of worship. However, there have not great differences in rulings on prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and other ritual practices of the fait. This is clearly manifested in the way Muslims, irrespective of their persuasions, and despite the lapse of fourteen centuries since the advent of Islam, go about all these acts of worship and devotion in almost the same way.

It is worth noting that, during his lifetime, Muhammad (s. a .w. a. s) told his Companions on more than one occasion that difference among his followers were inevitable. His famous reference to the Muslims dividing into more than seventy groups will suffice in this respect. He said, “My ummah [Muslims community] will divide into seventy –three denominations.”

attaining firm belief, as a consequence of following the households (of the prophet)
Right from the outset of intellectual and juridical dispute, the Shi’ah sided with Ali and after him with his sons. In their opinion, the evidence for favouring Ali is overwhelming, not least because of the numerous prophetic traditions urging the following of Ali. Of the many haith, the following one is unequivocal: “The parallel of my house hold is that of the Ark of Noah. He who got on board was delivered and he who lagged behind was drowned.” Many of the leaders and those who dabble in religion have done so without knowledge, but rather through speculation and doubt. In order to attain firm belief and conclusive conviction, therefore, it is imperative to resort to those who have acquired knowledge in religion and the ways of spiritual prosperity. Once when Imam Muhammad al-Baqir was asked about the meaning of the verse, “The let man look to his food”( 80:24), he said, “It is his knowledge and where acquired it from” (al- Kulyani (n. d.), 1:5).

Role of Imam Ali in Shi’ite philosophical thought
The intellectual and gnostic aspects of the personality of Imam Ali had a great impact on the formation of Shi’ite intellectual discourse. As evidence of this unique quality of the Imam, one needs not go further than the collections of his sermons, letters and saying which were compiled by al- Sharif al- Radi (d. 406/1015) entitled Nahj al-balaghah (“Path of Eloquence”) The book has been commented on and annotated by many writers and ulama both of bygone generations and contemporary once. Shaykh Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905), the former Rector of al- Azhar and a towering figure of reform and modernity in Islam, was one of those textual editors and critics who wrote a commentary on it. Describing his state of mind when he was reading it, he wrote in his introduction (Nahj al-balaghah: 4), Sometimes I used to see that a luminous intellect, unlike human bodily creation, was detached from the Divine….and supplanted in the human spirit. Thus, the darkness of nature was plucked off and it was raised to the realm of the aura of the Most Brilliant Light.

R. Heirs of Imam Ali philosophical thought
The influence of Ali and his philosophical heritage was vouchsafed only to be manifested in the Imam of his descent, especially at the hand s of three of them, namely: Imam Muhammad al- Baqir (d.115/732), Imam Ja’far al- Sadiq (d.148/ 765) and Imam Ali al Rida (d. 203/818), who taught their disciples free philosophical debate, polemics, wisdom and goodly exhortation. However, the ruling establishments, which were anti shi’ah in the main, did their best to conceal Shi’ite philosophical and scientific achievements for centuries.

The basis of religions is that part of belief which deals with the doctrinal aspects of the tenets of Islam. Discernment and proof are central parts of reaching a firm belief, and it is not acceptable to emulate others, without a proof, in it is not acceptable to emulate others, without a proof, in this matter. It is incumbent on every Muslim to seek knowledge leading to firm convocation, albeit through a simple proof.

Al- Shahrastani(1975, 1:51) has said: Religion is divided into two categories: knowledge and obedience. Knowledge is the origin and obedience is the branch. Origins or fundamentals are the subject of kalam science (speculative theology). The branches are the domain of jurisprudence. Some scholars have said: Everything that is logical (or rational) and can be proven to be so through pondering and deduction is of the fundamentals. And everything that is opined through analogy and theological legal judgement is of the branches.

According to Imamite Shi’ite Muslims, the fundamentals of religion are five: Oneness of Go, Justice, Prophet hood, Imamate and Day of Judgment. These five fundamentals are of philosophical and speculative or theological nature.

As for the theologians, the As’arites do not consider Justice and Imamate as part of the fundamentals of religion. The Mu’tazlities do not recognize the Imamate as one the fundamentals. It is in fact grossly inaccurate to equate the Imami Shi’ah and the Mu’tazlities as one denomination. More than one the ulama has discussed the differences between the two, among them being Shaykh al- Mufid (d.1022/1614) in his book Awai’l al- maqal. According to the Mu’tazlities, the fundamentals of religion are Oneness of Go, Justice, Reward and Punishment, the station between the two station and enjoining good and forbidding evil.


History of Islamic philosophy – seyyed Hossein Nasr- pages:119to122


0 Comments Send Print Ask about this article Add to favorites