Co-existence with the Authority

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Legitimacy of Revolting against the authority



Here, there is a number of issues to be taken into consideration:


Co-existence with the Authority:

(The Second), Despite this continuous and tough opposition towards the unjust authorities with their various forms, the Imams (P) performed some sort or case of co-existence with the unjust authorities as they are an imposed de facto status quo. Dealing with them was needed to preserve the group of the believers, to strengthen the religion, and to persevere to raising the word of Allah high.

The forms of co-existence include:

1-  Implementing the rule of fearing and convincing the authority that they in person are not going to revolt against the rule, without abandoning the culture of revolution and the demand of change that they spread among the nation. There are many famous narrations, and I will suffice to one of them. It is a letter written as an answer from Imam Musa Ibn Jaafar (P) to Yahya Ibn Abdullah Ibn al-Hasan. The letter includes the following, “I am writing to you to warn you against disobedience of the Caliph. I encourage you to be good to him and to submitto him. I call you to request to yourself safety before the claws catch you and you get obstructed from every place. Maybe then Allah would bless you with his graciousness, and affability, and the tenderness of the Caliph, may Allah preserve. Then, he would secure you, be merciful to you, and preserve your kinship to the Prophet (P) when dealing with you.” The narrator said that he was told the letter of Musa Ibn Jaafar fell in the hands of Haroun. When he read it, he said, “People provoke me against Musa Ibn Jaafar, and he is innocent of the accusations against him.”([1])

2-  Contribution to the establishment of the state adequately and the straightening of the authority’s work in addition to repelling risks. The state was the government of Islam. The true leaders of the nation have held it, even if they were ousted by the nonbelievers and the tyrants. For example, Imam Ali (P) saved the First and the Second Caliphs from the embarrassments caused by Jews when they threw questions and suspicions against them. Some [Muslims] doubted the truth of their creed. Imam would interfere and answer. He advised the Second not to participate in battling when he himself wanted to meet the Persians in combat. Imam Ali (P) set the Hegira Calendar starting from the migration of the Prophet (P) when they disagreed about dating the event.

Another example of these stances is the interference of Imam Sajjad (P) and offering the project of striking coins for the Islamic State after the Byzantines threatened to write blasphemous words against the Prophet (P) on the currency that was used then, at the time of the Umayyad Caliph Abdel-Malek Ibn Marwan. There are some numerous stances that were mentioned in the book of (The Role of Imams in Islamic Life, Page: 32, 273).

Imams have preceded all politicians in distinguishing between the authority and the state. They considered that if the authority were unjust and unfair, this does not mean that the state would be sabotaged in order to take revenge from it. A state, with all its institutions and agencies, is meant to serve the people. They last as long as people last. As for governments, these change and disappear. Therefore, you find for Imam Sajjad (P) a lengthy prayer to the fighters at the frontiers, i.e. the troops staying at the state border and boundaries and the points of enemy penetration in his book of prayers “Sahifa Sajjadiya”. His prayer comes regardless of the illegitimacy of the government in power. I wonder where politicians of today stand from this when they burn everything under their opponents to overthrow them.

3-  Permission for some of their companions to hold some advanced government positions to preserve the interests of the believers and to defend them as well as do them good. They decreased public grievances as much as they could have done as in the true narration of Ali Ibn Yaqteen. He said, “Abu al-Hasan Musa Ibn Jaafar said to me, “Allah has pious people with him near the ruler by whom He defends other pious people.”

Nagashi narrated in the biographies of men he mentioned in his work in the biography of Mohamed Ibn Ismael Ibn Buzey’ saying, “Abu al-Hasan al-Rida (P) said, “Allah has people whose hearts He has enlightened among the oppressors [rulers]. He empowered them in the state to defend his pious people through them and to preserve the matters of Muslims. Believers resort to them from harm. The needy among our Shia goes to them. Through them, Allah secures the believers when they are at the oppressor’s side. Those are the true believers. Those are the custodians of Allah in his land.” So on and so forth until he said, “Blessed they are. If any of you wants it, he would have gotten it all.” He said, “I said, “With what, may I be a sacrifice for you?” He said, “He would be with them, and he makes us content by satisfying the believers among our followers. Be one of them, Mohamed.”

Also, Sheikh Mufid narrated citing Mohamed Ibn Issa Ibn Obeid Ibn Yaqteen. He said, “Abu al-Hassan Musa said, “Allah made people of his pious people with helpers of the oppressors and unjust leaders. He defends with them the weak people and stops bloodshed.”([2])

Establishing for the Controls of Working with the Ruler:

When some try to leave the leadership of the oppressor in view of the oppression and injustice he sees, Imam does not allow him that. In the narration of Ali Ibn Yaqteen, (He wrote to Abi al-Hasan Musa, “My heart breaks from my help to the ruler, and he was a minister of Haroun, if you give me permission, may Allah allow me to be your sacrifice, I would run away from him.” The answer was, “I do not give you permission to leave their work, and be god-fearing, or as he says.”)

In the narration of Mohamed Ibn Issa Ibn Yaqteen, the answer of the Imam (P) was, “I do not advise you to leave working with the ruler; Allah has at the doors of the unjust, people whom he defends his pious people with. These are the people whom he saves from Hell. Be god-fearing when it comes to your brethren.”

Indeed, there are quite a large number of examples in this regard.([3])

Imams did not give an absolute permission to participate in the government’s work without controls and rationales in order for some not to be deceived and not to follow their lusts. They might plunge into the oppression of the unjust rulers. In the third topic discussed in the original work, these rationales were mentioned. In the letter of Imam Sadek (P) to Nagashi when he became a ruler of Ahwaz, he says, “Your messenger came to me with your letter, and I have read it. I understood all you have mentioned and asked about. You claimed you were burdened with the rule of Ahwaz. I was happy with that, and I was sad at the same time. I will tell you what I was sad for, and what I was happy for, if Allah may. As for my content, I said that maybe Allah would help a scared needy of the Household of the Prophet (P) with you and make their humiliated proud. He would help you dress a man who needs clothes. He would strengthen with you their weak, and vanish with you the power of those who go against them. However, I am also sad for another reason. The least I am afraid ofis that you would find one of our followers and not feel the sacredness [and help him]. I will summarize for you all what you asked for, if you did it and did not overpass it. I hope that you will be safe.” In the narration of Sadouk citing Imam Sadek with interrupted narrations, he said, “One substitutes for [the sin of] working for the ruler by meeting the needs of his brethren.”

As such, the trustworthy and famous companions of Imams (P) held important posts in the state. Ali Ibn Yaqteen was a minister of Haroun the Abbasid. A minister’s position is similar to the prime minister in our time. Mohamed Ibn Ismail Ibn Buzey’, who was a companion of Imam Kadhem (P), was a minister at the time of Imam Jawad (P), too. Abdullah Ibn Sinan, a companion of Imam Sadek was a treasurer, similar to the minister of finance in our days, for Mansour, Mahdi, Hadi and Rashid, who were Abbasid Caliphs, and their names mean victorious, enlightened, enlightening and wise. However, just to make sure to mention it, they did not have the qualities that their names would imply. Abdullah Nagashi was a ruler assigned by Mansour on Ahwaz, and he was also the writer of the letter mentioned above.

Mohamed Ibn Ali Ibn Issa, a companion of Imam Hadi was a famous figure of Qumm and a ruler on it after he was appointed by the Caliph, and so was his father.([4])

Haroun indentured his son Mohamed Ibn Zubeida with Jaafar Ibn Mohamed Ibn al-Ash’ath, who was of the Shia faith, to educate him and teach him ethics. Yahya Barmaki was raged with that and feared that he and his descendants would lose control over the state to Jaafar and his descendants when Mohamed al-Amin would become a Caliph. So he plotted against him in front of Haroun, but Allah failed him in all the repetitive times he sought to scheme against the man.([5])

It is worth mentioning that a number of the other companions [of Imams] were known to be Shia. A narration in Kafi with a citation of Ali Ibn Yaqteen says that al-Mahdi [the Abbasid] had a dialogue with Imam Musa Ibn Jaafar on the evidence that drinking liquor is forbidden until Imam defeated him. Mahdi said, “Ali Ibn Yaqteen, this is, by Allah, a Hashemite fatwa.” Ali said, “You are true, O commander of the faithful. I am grateful to Allah that he kept knowledge with you, the Household of the Prophet.” He said, “By Allah, Mahdi did not wait and said to me, “You are true, “Rafidhi” (Arabic for the one who rejects, and it is a pejorative of Shia followers).””([6])

The strict stance in rejection of the leadership of the unjust does not forbid sending to them people to occupy state positions who would be loyal and competent, who would protect the right and defend it and be benevolent to the deprived and disempowered.

This caveat establishes for the jurisprudence of co-existence with the illegitimate authorities where the patterns of dealing with them might be different based on the difference of their ruling political systems. The scholar might consider affiliating his followers in a political entity and the like if political life allowed such. He might get them to enter political work without gathering them in a single entity, so on and so forth according to what he sees beneficial upon the enlightenment of the divine path. This state of mind has been overlooked or neglected by jurisprudents over history. This is with the exception of a limited number of brilliant scholars like Allama Holli, Mohaqeq Karaki, Sheikh Baha’i and Sheikh Kashef al-Ghata.


([1]) Kafi: 1/366 Chapter of What Distinguished the Right and the Wrong about the Imamate: Section 19.

([2]) These narrations were mentioned in page 73 and following pages of the original work).

([3]) One example is the one mentioned by Sayyed Shahid Sadr Thani in his book “History of the Smaller Absence”. There is a valuable research on the relation of Imams Hadi and Askari (P) with the Caliphs of their time. Imam Askari warned Mu’taz against participating in war for fear of assassination. Also, Imam had a stance from the ministers of his time. Imam Askari visited Minister Obeidullah Ibn Khaqan when he held his post. Shahid Sadr analyzed several conclusions on the purposes of this visit. He wanted to ensure kindness from the Minister towards the Imam’s companions. The also might have wanted the Minister to tend towards believing in his leadership or to tend for the interests of his Shia. 

([4]) Refer to their biographies in “Rijal Nagashi” and “Tanqeeh al-Maqal”.

([5]) The narration is detailed in the book”Uyun Akhbar al-rRida”: 56; Chapter 7, on the incidents of Musa Ibn Jaafar with Haroun, section 1.

([6]) Kafi: 6/406; Chapter of forbidding Liquor in Quran, Section 1.