A New Case for the Rightfulness of the Claim to Leadership of the Twelve Shī‘a Imams

The Shī‘a Imams in the Words of Preeminent Sunni Scholarship

Masoud Emami

Translated and Annotated by Blake Archer Williams

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The Shī‘a Imams
in the words of Preeminent Sunni Scholarship presents a new case for the rightfulness of the claim to leadership of the Twelve Shī‘a Imams.

Shia Imams in sunni scholarship- Front Cover

About the Book

Masoud Emami’s The Shī‘a Imams in the Words of Preeminent Sunni Scholarship is a meticulously researched thesis that collects testimonials from such sources as the sahihayn of Bokhārī and Moslem, and the tafsīrs and histories of such Sunnī luminaries as Tabarī and Eben Sa‘d and other Sunni scholars (including Ibn Taymīya!), all of whom attest to the lofty character and spiritual station of the twelve Shi‘a Imams.
Emami’s thesis begins by laying the theoretical foundations of the use of such evidence in deriving his proof of the rightfulness of the Imams’ claims to the imamate of the community. Emami has painstakingly combed through and scrupulously examined a vast corpus of Sunni sources, and has provided numerous testimonials from modern as well as ancient Sunni scholars for each of the Imams in turn, including acclaim from the Associates (sahabah) and Followers (tabe’en).

The incredibly high praise lavished by preeminent Sunni scholarship on the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt unearthed by Emami proves that love of and respect for the Imams is indeed the common ground that binds the Sunni and Shi‘a branches of Islam. The prospective Sunni or Shi‘a reader will be left with a more exalted view of the Imams after reading this fascinating collection of authentic and authoritative historical reports.

Masoud Emami

Masoud Emami

Masoud Emāmī attained his education at the Seminary at Qom under a list of ayatollahs that include such luminaries as Hossein Vahīd Khorāsānī, Javād Tabrīzī, Seyyed Mūsā Shabīrī Zanjānī, and Abdollāh Javādī Amolī. After spending over fifteen years as a prominent professor at the Seminary at Qom and at Tehran University, Masoud Emāmī currently spends most of his time doing research and writing for various institutions.

These include the Centre for Research of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (the Majles) of the Islamic Republic of Iran, where he is the Director and Scholar in Residence of the Jurisprudential Committee (and where he also heads the Majles’ project for the compilation of regulations for the implementation of the law); the Centre for Research of the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran; and the Encyclopaedia of Islamic Jurisprudence, where he has been a senior editor and contributor for over twenty years. In addition to his research, writing, and teaching activities, Masoud Emāmī has authored several books and numerous scholarly articles. These include, The Rational and Scriptural Validity of Majority Opinion; The World and the Hereafter; How to Fall in Love with God; Reflection on the Finality of Prophethood; Sacred Jurisprudence in the Absence of the Imam; The Rights of Women in Islam: A Rational Defence; and Works of Shī‘a Jurisprudence in the Era of the Presence of the Imams.

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4. Imam Ali b. Hosayn Zeyn ol-Ābedīn ‌

Imam Ali b. al-Hosayn A is known as Zeynol-Abedīn (the Adornment of the Bondsmen or Devotees [of God]) in Sunnite sources, and mention of him under this title can be found in abundance. Sunni scholars and some non-Muslim scholars have written several books about him.

The following is a selection of some of what the Associates of the Prophet a, the generation of the Followers, and Sunni scholarship has said about Imam Zeynol-Ābedīn A‌S.

  1. Saī’d b. Mosayyab (d. 94 AH) who is one of the tābe’īn (Followers) and one of the great scholars of the Quranic sciences of Medina has said, “I have not seen anyone who has [attained to] the heights of [the spiritual station of] God-fearing piety (taqwā) as has Ali b. al-Hosayn Zeynol-Ābedīn (as).”[i]
  2. A report is related about Omar b. Abdol-Azīz (d. 101 AH), the caliph of the Banī-Omayya (the Omayyads) who is highly respected by the Sunni, that one day, he was in a gathering wherein Ali b. al-Hosayn Zeyn ol-Ābedīn (as) was seated and had just gotten up to leave. Addressing those present, Omar b. Abdol-Azīz asked, “Who is the most noble of people?” He was told, “You (the Banī-Omayya) are the most noble of people; because during the Days of Ignorance (jāhelīat – the days before the advent of the Prophet’s mission), you were of the nobility, and in the era of Islam too, the caliphate is yours.” Omar b. Abdol-Azīz said, “Never! The most noble of men is this man who has just risen from our midst; because the most noble of men is he whom everyone desires to be like, and who does not desire to be like anyone else, and Ali b. al-Hosayn A is that person.”[ii]
  3. Muhammad b. Muslim az-Zahrī (d. 124 AH) who was an Associate of the Prophet a and a student of Imam Zeyn ol-Ābedīn’s‌ (as), is one of the great magisters (foqahā; religio-legal scholars) within the Sunnite tradition, and was the first person among them to systematically compile hadīth [iii] Many reports have reached us from him which are in praise of the Imam ‌, including:
    • “I have not seen anyone as preeminent as Ali b. al-Hosayn (as) among the Banī-Hāshem (the clan of the Prophet a).”[iv]
    • “I have not seen anyone as preeminent as Ali b. al-Hosayn (as) ‌among the Qūraysh (the greater tribe of the Prophet a).”[v]
    • “I have not seen anyone as learned in the religious sciences as Ali b. al-Hosayn‌ (as).”[vi]
    • “Ali b. al-Hosayn‌ (as) was the most preeminent man of his House and the one who was the most obedient to God T [will].”[vii]
    • “I am more beholden to Ali b. al-Hosayn (as) than to anyone else.”[viii]
  4. Zeyd b. Muslim (d. 136 AH), an early magister and Quranic exegete from Medina says, “I have not kept the company of anyone from among the People of the Qibla (i.e. among Muslims) [as exceptional] as Ali b. al-Hosayn (as).”[ix]
  5. Abū-Hāzem b. Salmat Diyār (d. 140 AH), the great religious scholar and judge of Medina says, “I have not seen anyone as learned in the religious sciences as Ali b. al-Hosayn (as).”[x]
  6. Yahyāb. Sa’īd (d. 143 AH), another great religious scholar and judge of Medina says, “I have heard hadīth reports from Ali b. al-Hosayn (as) and he is the most preeminent among the Banī-Hāshem. He used to establish a thousand cycles (rak’at) of the ritual devotions in [a single] day and night [cycle].”[xi]
  7. Mālek b. Anas (d. 179 AH), the eponymous founder of the Mālekī religio-legal rite (madhhab), states, “Ali b. al-Hosayn A set out for pilgrimage in a state of ritual consecration (ehrām), and when he was in the stage of pronouncing the labbayk (“I am at thy command, [my Lord].”), he passed out, such that he fell off his camel and was injured. I am told that he used to establish a thousand cycles (rak’at) of the ritual devotions in [a single] day and night [cycle] until the day he died.[xii] He was given the title “Zeyn ol-Abedī” (the Adornment of the Bondsmen [of God T]) because of the intensity of his devotions.”[xiii] Mālek b. Anas also states, “There was no one as preeminent as Ali b. al-Hosayn (as) among the House (ahl al-bayt (as)) of the Prophet a).”[xiv]
  8. Imam Muhammad b. Edrīs ash-Shāfe’ī (d. 204 AH), the eponymous founder of the Shāfe’ī religio-legal rite (madhhab), states, “Ali b. al-Hosayn (as) who was the most learned person in the religious sciences in the city of Medina used to rely on akhbār ol-āhād (i.e. hadīth reports with only a single chain of narrators in its provenance title or sanad).”[xv]
  9. Muhammad b. Omar al-Wāqedī (d. 207 AH), one of the earliest historians and biographers, says, “Ali b. al-Hosayn ‌(as) was one of the most devout and pious and God-fearing of people.”[xvi]
  10. Eben Sa’d (d. 230 AH) and Eben Asāker (d. 571 AH), two great Sunnite historians, say the same thing about the Imam: “Ali b. al-Hosayn (as) was [a] reliable [transmitter of hadīth], trustworthy, kathīr ol-hadīth (i.e. transmitted many hadīth reports), was preeminent, and pious.”[xvii]

[i]  Eben Asāker, at-Tārīkh al-Madīnat ad-Dameshq ابن عساکر، تاریخ مدینة دمشق، ج41، ص376؛ al-Mezzi, Tahdhīb al-Kamāl fī Asmā’ ar-Rejālالمزی، تهذیب الکمال، ج20، ص389؛ Dhahabī, Tārīkh al-Hoffāz  الذهبی، تذکرة الحفاظ، ج1، ص75؛ Dhahabī, Seyr E’lām ol-Anbīyā الذهبی، سیر اعلام النبلاء، ج4، ص391؛ Eben Kathīr, al-Badāya wa’l-Nahāya ابن کثیر، البدایة و النهایة، ج9، ص115؛ ابن العماد، شذرات الذهب، ج1، ص375.

[ii]. Mar’ashī an-Najafī, Sharh Ahqāq ol-Haqq المرعشی، شرح احقاق الحق، ج12، ص136 به نقل از «محاضرات الأدباء»، (طبع مكتبة الحياة، بيروت)، نوشته راغب اصفهانی، ج 1، ص 344 ؛ ج 4 ص 479.

[iii] . Zereklī, al- E’lām الزرکلی، الأعلام، ج7، ص97.

[iv]  Eben Sabbāq al-Mālekī, al-Fosūl al-Mohemma ابن الصباغ، الفصول المهمة، ص203؛ al-Mezzi, Tahdhīb al-Kamāl fī Asmā’ ar-Rejāl المزی، تهذیب الکمال، ج20، ص386؛ الباجی، التعدیل و التجریح، ج3، ص1078.

[v]  Eben Asāker, at-Tārīkh al-Madīnat ad-Dameshq ابن عساکر، تاریخ مدینة دمشق، ج41، ص366؛ al-Mezzi, Tahdhīb al-Kamāl fī Asmā’ ar-Rejālالمزی، تهذیب الکمال، ج20، ص384؛ المناوی، فیض القدیر، ج1، ص246؛ المبارکفوری، تحفة الأحوذی، ج6، ص501؛ Dhahabī, Seyr E’lām ol-Anbīyā الذهبی، سیر اعلام النبلاء، ج4، ص388:

[vi]  . Eben Asāker, at-Tārīkh al-Madīnat ad-Dameshq ابن عساکر، تاریخ مدینة دمشق، ج41، ص371؛ al-Mezzi, Tahdhīb al-Kamāl fī Asmā’ ar-Rejālالمزی، تهذیب الکمال، ج20، ص386؛ Dhahabī, Tārīkh al-Hoffāz  الذهبی، تذکرة الحفاظ، ج1، ص75. Dhahabī, Seyr E’lām ol-Anbīyā الذهبی، سیر اعلام النبلاء، ج4، ص389؛ Eben Kathīr, al-Badāya wa’l-Nahāya ابن کثیر، البدایة و النهایة، ج9، ص104؛ ابن العماد، شذرات الذهب، ج1، ص375؛ الباجی، التعدیل و التجریح، ج3، ص1078.

[vii]  . Eben-Sa’d, at-Tabaqāt al-Kobrā ابن سعد، الطبقات الکبری، ج5، ص215؛ Eben Asāker, at-Tārīkh al-Madīnat ad-Dameshq ابن عساکر، تاریخ مدینة دمشق، ج41، ص371؛ al-Mezzi, Tahdhīb al-Kamāl fī Asmā’ ar-Rejāl المزی، تهذیب الکمال، ج20، ص386؛ Dhahabī, Tārīkh al-Hoffāz  الذهبی، تذکرة الحفاظ، ج1، ص75؛ Eben Kathīr, al-Badāya wa’l-Nahāya ابن کثیر، البدایة و النهایة، ج9، ص104.

[viii]  . Eben-Sa’d, at-Tabaqāt al-Kobrā ابن سعد، الطبقات الکبری، ج5، ص214؛ Eben Kathīr, al-Badāya wa’l-Nahāya ابن کثیر، البدایة و النهایة، ج9، ص108.

[ix]  Eben Asāker, at-Tārīkh al-Madīnat ad-Dameshq ابن عساکر، تاریخ مدینة دمشق، ج41، ص373.

[x]  Eben Asāker, at-Tārīkh al-Madīnat ad-Dameshq ابن عساکر، تاریخ مدینة دمشق، ج41، ص373؛ al-Mezzi, Tahdhīb al-Kamāl fī Asmā’ ar-Rejāl المزی، تهذیب الکمال، ج20، ص387؛ Dhahabī, Tārīkh al-Hoffāz  الذهبی، تذکرة الحفاظ، ج1، ص75. Dhahabī, Seyr E’lām ol-Anbīyā الذهبی، سیر اعلام النبلاء، ج4، ص394؛ Eben Kathīr, al-Badāya wa’l-Nahāya ابن کثیر، البدایة و النهایة، ج9، ص104؛ ابن العماد، شذرات الذهب، ج1، ص375.

[xi] Eben-Sa’d, at-Tabaqāt al-Kobrā ابن سعد، الطبقات الکبری، ج5، ص214؛ Eben Asāker, at-Tārīkh al-Madīnat ad-Dameshq ابن عساکر، تاریخ مدینة دمشق، ج41، ص374؛ al-Mezzi, Tahdhīb al-Kamāl fī Asmā’ ar-Rejālالمزی، تهذیب الکمال، ج20، ص387. Eben Kathīr, al-Badāya wa’l-Nahāya ابن کثیر، البدایة و النهایة، ج9، ص104.

[xii] Āyatollāh Mar‘ashī relates from twenty different Sunni sources that Imam Zeynol-Ābedīn’s‌ A use to make one thousand cycles of the ritual devotions a day. See المرعشی، شرح احقاق الحق، ج12، ص18 ـ 23. Mar’ashī an-Najafī, Sharh Ahqāq ol-Haqq

[xiii]  Eben Asāker, at-Tārīkh al-Madīnat ad-Dameshq ابن عساکر، تاریخ مدینة دمشق، ج41، ص378؛ al-Mezzi, Tahdhīb al-Kamāl fī Asmā’ ar-Rejālالمزی، تهذیب الکمال، ج20، ص390؛ Dhahabī, Tārīkh al-Hoffāz  الذهبی، تذکرة الحفاظ، ج1، ص75. Dhahabī, Seyr E’lām ol-Anbīyā الذهبی، سیر اعلام النبلاء، ج4، ص392؛ ابن العماد، شذرات الذهب، ج1، ص376.

[xiv]  al-Mezzi, Tahdhīb al-Kamāl fī Asmā’ ar-Rejāl المزی، تهذیب الکمال، ج20، ص387؛ Dhahabī, Seyr E’lām ol-Anbīyā الذهبی، سیر اعلام النبلاء، ج4، ص389؛ Eben Kathīr, al-Badāya wa’l-Nahāya ابن کثیر، البدایة و النهایة، ج9، ص104.

[xv]  Eben Abī’l-Hadīd, Abdol-Hamīd, Sharh-e Nahj ol-Balāgha ابن ابی الحدید، شرح نهج البلاغة، ج15، ص274.

[xvi]  Eben Kathīr, al-Badāya wa’l-Nahāya ابن کثیر، البدایة و النهایة، ج9، ص122.

[xvii]  Eben-Sa’d, at-Tabaqāt al-Kobrā ابن سعد، الطبقات الکبری، ج5، ص222؛ Eben Asāker, at-Tārīkh al-Madīnat ad-Dameshq ابن عساکر، تاریخ مدینة دمشق، ج41، ص362.

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