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Investigating the Revolts of the Descendants of Imam Ali, and the Importance of Referring to the Leader about the Revolts

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Investigating the Revolts of the Descendants of Imam Ali, and the Importance of Referring to the Leader about the Revolts:

Some narrations invite the notion of referring to the leader. In a considerable narration of Aban, he said, “Al-Ahwal told me that Zaid Ibn Ali sent to him while in hiding. He said, “I went to him. He told me, “Aba Jaafar, what would you say if one of us called you for revolt? Would you come out with him?” I told him, “If it were your father or brother, I would have revolted with them.” He responded, “I want to revolt against those people, join us.” I said, “No, I would not, although I would sacrifice myself for you.” He said, “You would not help me?” I said, “It is only one soul, if Allah had an authority [Imam] on Earth, then whoever does not join you survives, and whoever joins you is doomed. If there were no Imam on Earth, then whether someone joins you or not, it would be the same.” He said, “Aba Jaafar, “I would sit with my father to the same meal. He would feed me generously, and would cool the hot food for me pitying that I would burn my tongue. Do you think he did not fear for me from Hell? Why wouldhe tell you about religion and not me? I said to him, “I sacrifice myself for you, he did not tell you because he feared for you from Hell. He was afraid that you would not accept him and end up in Hell. This is why he told me. If I accepted what he said, I would be saved, but if I did not he would not care if I entered Hell. I am your sacrifice, are you better than prophets?”Zaid said, “No, prophets are better.” I said, “Jacob tells Joseph, {He said, "O my son, do not relate your vision to your brothers or they will contrive against you a plan}. Why did not he tell them? It was in order not to plot schemes against their brother, right? You see, he did not tell them. Similarly, your father did not tell you because he was afraid for you.” Zaid said, “By Allah, I say to youthat your companionin Madina told me that I would be killed and crucified in Kinasah, and that he has a paper that says I would be killed and crucified."

When I went to Hajj, I told Aba Abdullah (P) with what Zaidhad said to me, and what I answered. He said, “You took him from within his hands, from his back, from his right, from his left, from above his head, and from below his feet, and you left him nowhere to go.”([1])

Zurarah was cited saying, “Zaid Ibn Ali said to me when I was at Abi Abdullah, “Boy, what do you say about a man from the Household of the Prophet (P) asking for your support? I said, “If I had to obey him I would have done so; however, if I had no obligation to obey him, then, I have the choice to either support him or not. When he came out, Abu Abdullah (P) said, “You took him by Allah from within his hands, from his back and you left him nowhere to go.”([2])

The writer of Al-Bihar citeda letter from Imam Sadek (P) by Sayyed Ibn Tawoos saying in Iqbal al-A’mal with a citation of Ishac Ibn Ammar. The letter was to the descendants of Imam Hasan in their prison. There are also narrations that were evidenced to be true proving that they had adequate belief in the Imams, and that they acknowledged the noble position ofImams. One narration is of Ibrahim Ibn Abdullah Ibn al-Hasan. He was asked about his brother Mohamad whether he was Al-Mahdi who is mentioned in [scriptures and traditions]. He said, “Al-Mahdi is a promise from Allah to his prophet (P). He promised the prophet to give his household al-Mahdi (The Enlightened), but he was not named and his time was not revealed. My brother performed a duty of establishing the right and eradicating the wrong. If Allah wanted to make him Al-Mahdi who is mentioned, then it is a grace of Allah given to whom Allah wants to bless of among his servants. Otherwise, my brother did not leave a duty of Allah upon him awaiting a certain promised time that he was not ordered to wait.”([3])

Imam (P) might state in public defending the heads of those rebellions. However, that might be within very limited scopes. It might also be when the revolts ended, when their surrounding environments died out, and their consequences stopped. This might be for the same caveat mentioned above. One example is what Zaid, the Martyr, got. In the true narration of Al-Ais Ibn al-Qassem citing Abi Abdullah (P), he said, “By Allah, if one of you had two souls, he would fight with one to try with it, and he would have the other one left to do what his soul had discovered. However, a man has one soul. If he loses it, then, his remorse is gone. You are more worthy of choosing what will happen to you. If anyone of us comes out [in revolt], look for what reason you revolt. Never say Zaid revolted. Zaid were a scholar, and he was truthful. He did not call you to support him; instead, he called you to gain the satisfaction of the Prophet’s household. If he had triumphed, he would have fulfilled his promise. He only revolted against a ruler of a society to eradicate [injustice].”([4]) So on and so forth until the end of the tradition.

In my opinion, Zaid revolted against an oppressing authority that gathered on injustice. He wanted to deliver right to the rightful rulers. Al-Majlesi said in Mir’at al-Uqul quoting the Imam, “…against a ruler of a society to eradicate it’ is the cause Zaid did not triumph. He said, “Therefore, he did not triumph”.([5])

Perhaps, a further analysis would lead to the difference between the narrations commending Zaid, the Martyr, praising him, and assuring his honesty, faithfulness and loyalty to the Prophet’s Household. The narrations also endorsed his revolution. There is no simultaneity between the two perspectives. A tradition says, “Allah loves the creature, yet hates his deed.”([6])Perhaps, the disliked deed of Zaid was creating a rationale for a sect following him saying what he said to Imam Baqer (P). There is a long narration mentioned by Kuleini in Kafi. He says in wrath, (Our Imam does not sit at home with his curtains dropped. He does not put people down against Jihad. Our Imam is the one protecting his side and struggling for the path of Allah as Jihad should be. He must protect his followers and preserve his women”([7])Some people exploited this approach to start a new antagonist doctrine to the doctrine of the Prophet’s Household. There was a state of dissent, loathing, and an exchange of accusations. Imam Sadek (P) wanted someone other than Zaid, in view of his status and proximity of the pure Imams, to conduct the revolt. Therefore, Imam commended the person as he merits praise. However, he did not praise the action in order not to create a criterion to know the righteous Imam from the corrupt one through armed revolt. Indeed, the Infallible Imams (P) had established the qualities of the truthful Imam.

This disengagement can be endorsed by the narration citing Imam Sadek (P) on the prominence of al-Sahla Mosque in the outskirts of Kufa. He had asked people from the city about his uncle Zaid. He (P) said, “If my uncle Zaid came to it when he revolted and prayed asking Allah to shield him, he would have protected him for twenty years.”([8]) Imam did not say, “Allah would have supported him in war.” He seemed to be reluctant about the gains that Zaid’s movement had achieved. He was rather more interested about his personal safety. However, this perceived notion is more a reflection of the blessings of the Mosque as it was the place where Prophet Abraham (P) started his strife against the giants, according to the narrations.

Whatever the case might be, I wanted through the criticism of such suggestions to emphasize the need to refer to the leader for assignments from him, as he knows the intricacies of issues and provisions. May Allah help us all.

In the book “Uyun Akhbar al-Rida”, “when Zaid Ibn Musa Ibn Jaafar was taken to Ma’moun having revolted in Basra and burned the homes of the Abbasids, Ma’moun held his brother Imam Ali Ibn Musa al-Rida (P) accountable for the deed. He told him, “Aba al-Hasan, your brother has revolted and has done what he committed. Before him, Zaid Ibn Ali revolted and was killed. If it were not for your status in my eyes, I would have killed him. He committed a grave deed. Imam Rida (P) said, “Commander of the Faithful, do not compare my brother Zaid to Zaid Ibn Ali who was a scholar of the Prophet’s Household. He acted in wrath in the path of Allah. He fought his enemies until he was killed in the path of Allah. My father Musa Ibn Jaafar told me he heard his father Jaafar Ibn Mohammad Ibn Ali (P) saying, “May Allah cast his mercy upon my uncle Zaid. He called for the satisfaction of the Prophet’s Household. If he had triumphed, he would have fulfilled his promise. He consulted me in his revolt. I told him, “Uncle, if you accept to be the one killed and crucified in Kinasah, it is up to you. When he passed away, Jaafar Ibn Mohammad (P) said, “He shall be doomed whoever heard his call and did not answer.”” Ma’moun said, “Aba al-Hasan, what about the one who claims the Imamate but is not entitled to it? Imam Rida (P) said, “Zaid Ibn Ali did not acclaim what was not his right. He was more pious towards Allah to do that. He said, “I call you to the Satisfaction of the Prophet’s household.” The warnings against the unjust Imams is stipulated for whomever acclaims that Allah stipulated him, then he calls to other than the religion of Allah, and perverts from the path of Allah without knowledge. By Allah, Zaid was among those addressed in this verse, “{And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you}.”([9])

Imam Sadek (P) said about Zaid, “My uncle was a man for our worldly existence and our afterlife. By Allah, he was a martyr like other martyrs who passed away with the Prophet (P), Ali, al-Hasan, and al-Husayn.” In another tradition citing al-Baqer (P) speaking the words of his forefathers, he said, “The Prophet (P) said to al-Husayn (P), “O Husayn, there comes out of your descendants a man called Zaid who comes with his companions on Judgment day and surpass people in pride and high status. They enter Heaven without judgment. In a tradition of al-Sadek (P) to Fodheil, “O Fodheil, you witnessed with my uncle the fight with the Levantines (Umayyad army)?” Fodheil said yes. Imam said, “How many have you killed?” Fodheil said he killed six. The Imam asked if he doubted whether he should have killed them or not. Fodheil said if he were in doubt, he would never have killed them. Fodheil said he heard Imam saying, “May Allah make me a participant in that bloodshed. By Allah, Zaid and his companions were martyrs just like Ali Ibn Abi Taleb and his companions.”([10])

Perhaps among those([11]) praised rebels is al-Hussein Ibn Ali of the Battle of Fakhkh. Abu al-Faraj, if what he said were true, said in Maqatel al-Talibiyyin and was cited in Bihar saying, “Imam Musa Ibn Jaafar said when he [al-Hussein of Fakhkh] was killed, “Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return. By Allah, he passed away as a virtuous Muslim, a man who fasts frequently, a man who establishes the right and eradicates the wrong.”([12])

Another narration says, “During the allegiance of al-Hussein Ibn Ali of the Battle of Fakhkh, he said, “I pledge to you with an oath to follow the book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet (P) and for the obedience of Allah and never to disobey Him. I call you to attain the Satisfaction of the Prophet’s Household. I pledge to implement the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet (P) and to rule justly and to divide equally.””([13])

Revolt of Imam Husayn (P):

The revolt reaches its highest pinnacle when the Infallible Imam conducts mutiny. One example is the revolution of Imam Husayn. (On Page365 of the original work), there is mention of some of his words when he elaborated the purpose of his revival. He intended to conduct reform, to establish the right and eradicate the wrong.



([1]) Kafi: Section 1; Book of Evidence (Hujjah); Chapter of the Need for Evidence; section 5.

([2]) Ihtijaj: 2/120.

([3]) Refer to Bihar al-anwar:47/299-304 citing Iqbal al-A’mal: 3/28.

([4]) Wasail Shia: The Book of Jihad; Chapters of Jihad against the Enemy. Chapter : 13; Section 12.

([5]) Mir’at al-Uqul: 4/365 of the old print version.

([6]) Refer to the analysis and aspects of this tradition in the book, the Rhetoric of the Era: 8/112.

([7]) Kafi: 1/356; the Book of Evidence; Chapter of What Separates the Claim of the Righteous and Corrupt, Section 16.

([8]) Bihar al-Anwar: 100/434 from the stories of the prophets: 79.

([9]) Uyun Akhbar al-Rida: 173, Chapter 25; What has Been Said about Zaid Ibn Ali; Section 1.

([10]) Bihar al-Anwar: 46/171 History of Ali Ibn al-Husayn. Chapter 11, Section 20. On the same issue, hadith 24. It was narrated that Zaid Ibn Ali Ibn al-Husayn said, “In every era, a man of us the household of the Prophet (P) is made an authority by Allah to his people. And the authority of our time is my nephew Jaafar Ibn Mohamad whom his followers shall never be lost and whomever disobeys him is never enlightened.” We do not need to discuss in length on the orientation of the narrations that appear to be vilifying Zaid (Refer to the Book: Studies on the Leadership of the Scholar for Sheikh Montazari: 1/213).

([11]) There is a more detailed deliberation on the topic in my book (The Role of Imams in Islamic Life), There is a commentary from our instructor Shahid Sadr Thani.

([12]) Bihar Anwar: 48/165.

([13]) Maqatel al-Talibiyyin: 299-302.