Some Examples of the Struggles of the Infallible Holy Imams (A.S.)

Claiming the Imamate and inviting the people to accept the Imamate is observed in every aspect of the Imams’ lives, which is a sign of their struggle. There are numerous traditions in this regard. For instance, the traditions titled: “Al A’imma Nurullah” (“The Imams are the Divine Light”) in the book Usul Kafi,(Usul Kafi, Vol. 1, P. 193) and traditions of the Eighth Imam (as) on Imamate, and several traditions on the life of Imam Sadiq (as) as well as the debates of his companions with various contenders, and the traditions on the life of Imam Husayn (as) at the time of inviting the people of Iraq, and some other traditions are a few examples in this relation.

Another issue is the perception and understanding of the Caliphs of the claims and activities of the infallible Imams. From the caliph Abdul-Malik up to Motavakkil, there was always one approach to the activities, plans and objectives of the infallible Imams; therefore, they naturally used to make similar decisions about them.
This is a crucial issue and should not be simply overlooked. Why did they have such an approach to the Imam’s lives? For instance: “There are two caliphs on earth; Musa ibn Ja’far is in Medina and taxes are collected for him.”( Bihar-ul-Anwar, Vol. 48, P. 239, Tradition 48). Such statements about Ali ibn Musa Ridha (as) or similar statements about other infallible Imams underline the kind of objectives the caliphs and their friends thought the Imams were following. This is an important, noteworthy issue.
Another issue is the attribution of Imamate. The Caliphs insisted to attribute the Imamate to themselves, while the Shiites were sensitive to this phenomenon. For instance, a renowned poet of the early Umayyad era, Kathir was a Shiite and a sympathizer of Imam Baqir (as). He was of the rank of famous poets of that time such as Farazdaq, Jarir, Akhtal, Jamil, Nasib and others. Once he went to Imam Baqir (as).
Protesting him, the Imam said, “I have heard that you had eulogized Abdul Malik.” Becoming upset, Kathir said, “I did not term him as Imam-ul-Huda’ (the Guiding Imam). I only described him as a lion, sun, sea, mountain and dragon. All these items are worthless objects.” Thus, he justified his measure. The Imam smiled. Then Kumayt Assadi read out his famous ode.(See Bihar-ul-Anwar Vol.46, P. 338, Tradition 27)
This and other examples show that the Imams were sensitive to any admiration of Abdul Malik and other oppressive caliphs. But some friends like Kathir were particularly sensitive to using such concepts as the Imam-ul-Huda (Guiding Imam) for the Caliphs. This is why he insists that he did not use the term “Guiding Imam” for Abdul Malik, which demonstrates the extreme interest of the Caliph in being called the Guiding Imam.
The insistence on and interest of the caliphs in being called the Guiding Imam was more than ever observed during the Abbasside era. Marwan ibn Abi Hafaseh Omavi’ was an eulogizer and a mercenary poet of the Umayyad and Abbasside courts. Surprisingly, he was a court poet during the Umayyad and became a court poet when the Abbasside came to power! Since he was a renowned and well-versed poet, the rulers used to buy him by offering good money to him. Whenever he eulogized the Abbasside, he did not confine himself to the expression of their courage, generosity, and other characteristics, rather he used to attribute their lineage to the holy Prophet (S) to acknowledge their desired positions and statuses!
The following is one of his poems: “How is it possible that the ones who are maternal descendents of someone, inherit His uncles’ inheritance?” It means that: “the uncle of the holy Prophet (S), Abbas, has a definite inheritance. Why do the descendents of the holy prophet (the infallible Imams), who are the sons of His daughter Hazrat Fatima (sa)’, want to inherit that inheritance of Abbas (i.e. Abbaside caliphate)?”
Just see, the bone of contention is the Caliphate; it is a real cultural and political war. In response, the renowned Shiite poet, Ja’far ibn Affan Tai, says: “A daughter inherits half of the father’s wealth in Islam, but an uncle does not inherit anything from the wealth of one who has a daughter; hence you do not have any inheritance to claim!”
These were only few examples about the sensitivity of the infallible Imams to any claim on the Imamate.

Infallible Imams’ Acknowledgment on the Uprisings

Another issue is the confirmation of the armed struggles. The confirmation of the infallible Imams on some of the bloody uprisings is among the exciting chapters in their lives. This acknowledgement itself underlines the direction of the Imams’ struggles. Such confirmations are seen in Imam Sadiq’s remarks about Mu’alla bin Khunais when he was killed by Dawud ibn Ali, his remarks about Zaid, about Husayn ibn Ali (as), about the martyrs of Fakh’ event and so on.
I have come across an astonishing tradition in Nur-ul-Thaqalayn’ narrated by Ali ibn Aqaba: “I, along with Mu’alla, went to Imam Sadiq (as). He said: I give you the glad tidings that one of the two best deeds (victory or martyrdom) awaits you; God may cure your heart (soul), may purify your heart (soul) from outrage, and may dominate you over your enemies; and this is the very divine promise that He said: And We cured the hearts of the believers.’ If you pass away before attaining this victory, you will pass away as believers in the religion of God: the religion that Allah has approved for His holy Prophet (S) and Imam Ali (as).”
This tradition is important because it speaks of struggle, victory, killing and being killed, particularly given that it is addressed to Mu’alla bin Khunais whose fate is known to us. Imam begins his comment without any introduction and speaks about an event or incident, but that incident is not definite. In this tradition, the Imam – alluding to the treatment of hearts (souls) by God either is praying for them, or maybe is pointing out to an event.
We do not know if these two persons had come to the Imam after performing a task, or having been engaged in a clash of which the Imam had been fully aware; or perhaps the Imam Himself might have sent them to accomplish a mission.
However, in either case, the tone of Imam’s remark underlines the fact that he supported aggressive, radical movements, which are frequent in the life of Mu’alla bin Khunais. Interestingly, Mu’alla was termed as “bab” (gate) of Imam Sadiq (as). The concept of “bab” (gate) is noteworthy and should be studied.
There are some people who have been introduced in the traditions as the “gate” of the infallible Imams. Who are these people? Most of them were either killed or threatened to be killed. They include Yahya ibn Um Tawil, Mu’alla bin Khunais, Jabir ibn Yazid Jufi, etc.
Another issue in the lives of the Imams is their imprisonment, exile and persecution. In my opinion this issue must be studied thoroughly.
Yet another issue is the straightforward and firm language as well as confrontation of the infallible Imams with the caliphs. A noteworthy point in this regard is that, if these honorable figures were conservative or compromising, they should have adopted a soft language, free from any confrontation as other clerics and ascetics of the time did. As you know there were a number of clerics and ascetics who were respected and welcomed by Harun. He used to tell them: “All of you are very cautious; all of you look for a prey, except Amr ibn Ubayd.”
They used to advise the caliphs, and even sometimes these clerics used to make the caliphs cry; however, they were careful not to address the caliphs using concepts such as oppressor, outlaw, usurper, diabolic or similar concepts. But the infallible Imams were not influenced by the splendor and might of the caliphs; they did not keep silent.
Yet another issue is the violent measures employed by the caliphs against the Imams, which include those taken by Mansur against Imam Sadiq (as) and the ones taken by Harun against Imam Kadhim (as). I have already alluded to some of them.

The Imamate Strategy

Another interesting and noteworthy point is the claims made by the infallible Imams which underline their Imamate strategy. In some cases, we come across certain claims and remarks in the statements of the infallible Imams which are unusual. Such remarks underline a specific goal and strategy, which is in fact the Imamate strategy. The debate of Imam Kadhim (as) and Harun about Fadak is among such issues:
Once Harun told Imam Kadhim (as): “Please mark the area of the “Fadak” (the land property of Hazrat-e Fatima (SA) which was unjustly usurped) so that we return it to you.”
Harun was thinking that by returning the Fadak to the Imam, he would be able to disarm him of the slogan of Fadak, which was a proof of the injustice done to the Progeny of the holy Prophet (SA). He was also thinking that through this measure, he would be able to draw a comparison between the Abbasside and the Umayyad who had once taken away the Fadak from them.
The Imam first refrained from marking the limits of the Fadak, but when Harun insisted, he said: “If you are to return the Fadak, you must accept its true borders.” Harun accepted the offer. Then the Imam started explaining the borders of the Fadak, saying: “Its first border is Aden.”
This debate was going on between the Imam and Harun in Medina or Baghdad. The Imam continued: “Its other side is the Arabian Peninsula.” Harun’s face turned pale, and said, “oh!” The Imam said: “Its other border is Samarkant,” that is, the eastern extremity of Harun’s realm. Harun’s face turned red. “And its third border is Africa,” the Imam said. The third border, Africa (Tunisia), was the western extremity of Harun’s realm. Harun’s face turned black and exclaimed, “Strange!?” Finally, his holiness said, “Its fourth border is a coastline, behind the islands and Armenia,” that is, the northern extremity of Harun’s realm.
Infuriated Harun said satirically: “In this case nothing will remain for me, come and take my seat.” Imam Musa al-Kadhim (as) said: “I told you that if I mention the limits of the Fadak, you would not return it to me!” The tradition adds at the end: “it was here that Harun decided to assassinate the Imam.”( Bihar-ul-Anwar, Vol. 48, P. 144, Tradition 20).
The most outstanding issue in this debate is the contention of Musa ibn Ja’far, which Harun realized well and decided to assassinate the Imam. Such remarks reveal the contentions of the Imams, which are clearly seen in the lives of Imam Baqir (as), Imam Sadiq (as) and Imam Ridha (as). An overall analysis of such claims delineates the Imamate strategy.
The Strategy of the Imams (A.S.)
Another noteworthy issue in the lives of the infallible Imams is the analysis of their companions and disciples of their objectives, strategies and contentions. Obviously, the companions of the infallible Imams were closer than us to them and were better aware of their objectives and contentions. What was their understanding of this issue? Don’t these traditions indicate that they were waiting for the uprising and resurrection of the infallible Imams?
We all know the story of a man who came from Khurasan to Imam Sadiq (as) telling him that hundreds of armed men were waiting for his order to rise. The Imam expressed his surprise about the figure and doubted its authenticity. The messenger frequently reduced the figure. Finally, enumerating the required characteristics of ideal forces, the Imam mentioned a figure (12, 15, or so), saying: “if I had 12 or 15 companions and disciples, I would have led an uprising.”
Several numbers of such people used to ask the Imam to rise. Of course in some cases they were the spies of the Abbasside. We can ascertain from the answers of the Imam that they were Abbasside spies.
Why did such people contact the Imam? Because in the Shiite culture of those days, uprising and rising for the establishment of a justly government was a definite objective of the Imams. The understanding and conclusion of the Shiites and companions was that the infallible Imams were waiting for an appropriate opportunity to rise.
I have come across an interesting tradition in this regard, which can help us understand the analysis of the top disciples — like Zararah ibn A’yan — of the Imams objectives. According to this tradition: “Once Zararah goes to Imam Sadiq (as) and says: One of our friends has fled because of indebtedness. If the issue [uprising or your rule] is close, he should wait and rise with the insurgent; if it is to be postponed, he should compromise with them.” The Imam says: “It will happen.” Zararah asks: “will it happen within a year?” The Imam says: “God Willing, it will happen.” He again asks: “will it happen within two years?” The Imam says: “God Willing, it will happen.” Zararah is convinced that the Alawi’ government will come to power within two years.
In another tradition, Hisham ibn Salem narrates: “One day Zararah told me: ‘You will not see anybody else than Ja’far ibn Muhammad (Imam Sadiq AS) on the Caliphate throne.’ Hisham says: When Imam Sadiq passed away, I told Zararah: do you remember your remark?’ I was afraid that he would deny it. Zararah said: Swear by God, I had told you my own opinion.’ In fact, Zararah wanted to make sure that his statement had not been considered as a quotation on behalf of the Imam.
It can be clearly inferred from several traditions in the field of expectation for uprising or request of the disciples of the infallible Imams in this regard that the objective of the infallible Imams had been the establishment of an Alawi government. This was a definite goal and strategy of the infallible Imams.
We should also study the reason behind the animosity and grudge of the Caliphs against the infallible Imams. Was the main reason for their animosity the spiritual status of the Imams and the people’s fidelity to them? Was there any other reason behind this animosity? Without any doubt the caliphs and others envied the Imams. There are a number of traditions on the interpretation of the following Qur’anic verse:
“Or do they envy people because of what God has given them out of His bounty? [4: 54]
In one of such traditions, the infallible Imam says: “We are those people whom have been envied.”( Bihar-ul-Anwar, Vol. 23, P. 194, Tradition 20). That is, the Quranic verse refers to us as those who are envied. What particular characteristic of the infallible Imams the caliphs envied at? Did they envy their knowledge and piety? We know that there were a number of clerics and ascetics who were known for their knowledge and piety during those days; they had also a large number of friends and companions.
Such famous figures as Abu Hanifah, Abu Yusuif, Hassan Basri, Sufyan Thawri, Muhammad ibn Shahab and tens of similar figures had large numbers of followers and sympathizers and were very popular and famous. But at the same time not only the caliphs did not envy them, but also they respected and cherished these figures.
In our opinion, the reason for the animosity of the Caliphs against the infallible Imams which normally led to their martyrdom after lengthy imprisonment, tortures, captivity and exiles, lies somewhere else, that is, their contention for caliphate and Imamate. The infallible Imams insisted on this contention, while others did not. This issue requires further research and study.
Yet another issue, which requires research and study is the radical moves and confrontation of the infallible Imams with the Caliphate system. There are ample examples of such movements throughout the Imamate era. During the era of Imam Sajjad (as), that is, the apogee of repression, Yahya ibn Tawil, a disciple of his holiness, goes to the Medina Mosque, where addressing the people who had surrendered to the Caliphate system, or the officials of the Caliphate system, he recites a verse of the holy Qur’an.
The verse contains a statement, which Prophet Abraham (as) had addressed to the infidels:
“… We disown you, and hostility and hatred have been set in between us for ever…” [60: 4]Also in Kufa, addressing the public and a group of the Shiites, he loudly makes some remarks, which contain protest against the ruling system.
Mu’alla ibn Khunais used to participate in religious feasts while wearing untidy, wrinkled clothes, having untrimmed beards and hair, and showing a sad face. When the lecturer started his sermon at the ceremony, he would rise his hands, saying: O, God, this is the pulpit and position which belongs to your vicegerents (the infallible Imams) and selected ones, but have been usurped and grabbed by others.”
Unfortunately, this sublime disciple (Mu’alla) who was praised by Imam Sadiq (as) and whose murderer was cursed by the Imam, has not received due attention by some people who doubt his piety. Probably, the dirty hands of the Abbasside have played a role in tarnishing his image.
Another issue, which requires extensive, profound discussion, is the issue of “Taqiyyah” or “precautionary dissimulation”. To understand this issue, it is necessary to analyze all the traditions on camouflage, preservation, and clandestine activities in order to understand the true meaning of Taqiyyah or precautionary dissimulation.
Taking into consideration the contention of Imamate by the infallible Imams that was discussed above, as well as the severity of the caliphs’ reactions towards the contentions and activities of the infallible Imams and their disciples, reveals the deep concept of Taqiyyah’.
What is certain, is that the precautionary dissimulation does not mean giving up endeavors and activities, rather it means concealing the activities. This issue is quite discernible through the available traditions.
The said issues are some of the important aspects of the lives of the infallible Imams. Of course, there are several other aspects of the political lives of these honorable figures, which require another time.
I have studied a lot in this regard, but unfortunately I do not have time to analyze and compile them. I wish others would continue this task and analyze the political lives of the infallible Imams to provide the people with the necessary information so that we could learn lessons from the lives of the infallible Imams not only as eternal memories, but as true examples and epitomes.

Intellectual Decadence

Besides this atmosphere of horror, another feature of this era was intellectual decadence of the people throughout the Islamic world. This intellectual depravity stemmed from the neglect of the religious teachings during the preceding two decades.
Since the religious teachings, exegesis of the holy Quran, and traditions of the Prophet (S) had been strictly forbidden between 40 and 60 H., the pillars of the people’s faith had been weakened seriously. When we study the conditions of those days among the lines of the books and traditions, this issue becomes quite transparent.
Of course, the clerics, religious scholars, exegetes, transmitters of tradition, and pious people were there, but the public was inflicted with faithlessness, indolence and weakness. The situation had so aggravated that even some staff of the Caliphate system dared to question the issue of Prophethood!
A mean, dirty stooge of the Umayyad, Khalid ibn Abdullah Qasri has been quoted as saying: “Caliphate is superior to the Prophethood.” In order to support his argument, he gave the following reason: “When you appoint someone as your representative in your family, is he closer to you, or someone whom you send as a messenger to take a message for you?”
“Apparently,” he argued, “the one whom you appoint as your representative in your home.” “Hence,” he would conclude, “the Caliph of God [he would not say the Caliph of the Prophet] is superior to the messenger of God”!
This statement was made by Khalid ibn Qasri; probably others subscribed to his viewpoint. I have noticed that in the poems composed during the Umayyad and Abbasside eras, from Abdul Malik onward, the concept of Khalifatullah (the caliph or representative of God) has been so frequently repeated that one forgets that the Caliph was the Caliph of the Prophet as well.
This trend continued until the Abbasside era. This concept was used in a poem of Bashar ibn Bard who satirized Yaqub ibn Davoud and Mansur: “O people, your caliphate has been destroyed; try to find the Caliph of God between wood and skin.”( Al-Aghani, Vol. 3, P. 243).
Even when he wanted to satirize the Caliph, he would say the Caliph of God! The renowned poets of this period, like Jarir, Farazdaq, Nasib and others, used to call the ruler, “the Caliph of God” in the eulogies they composed in the praise of the caliph! This example demonstrates the feebleness of people’s faith in the foundations of religion.
The people’s morality was not in a good shape either. When I was studying a book of Aghani Abu-l-Faraj, I came across a fact, that is, from 80s H. until five or six decades later, the greatest singers, musicians, and revelers came from Medina or Mecca. Whenever the Caliph in Damascus felt like organizing a party, renowned signers and entertainers would be sent to him from Medina. Moreover, the worst satirists and vulgar poets were raised in Mecca and Medina.
The site of the Divine Revelation and the birthplace of Islam had been turned into a center of licentiousness and corruption. It is necessary to have knowledge of these facts about Mecca and Medina. Unfortunately, there is no information about these issues in the lives of caliphs in the existing history books.
There was a poet in Mecca, Umar ibn Abi Rabi’a, who, despite having attained the apogee of poetic mastery, was extremely frank and unabashed in his poems. His account and that of some other poets constitute a shameful chapter in the tragic history of this period. Even Tawaaf (circumambulation around holy Ka’bah), pelting stones at the Satanic Pillars (Ramy al-Jamarat) and other holy sites were subject to their corruption and licentiousness. One of his couplets in the book “Mughni” is as follows:
“When I was pelting stones at Satan in Rami al-Jamarat Site, suddenly I saw her neck, chest and her hands on which she had applied henna. I was so attracted to her that I do not know whether I pelted seven stones or eight.”
This couplet explains the prevailing conditions of the era. An eyewitness narrates his observations in Medina after the death of Umar Ibn Abi Rabi’a: when Umar Ibn Abi Rabi’a passed away, a public mourning was announced on his death and the people were weeping in the streets of Medina(!) In every corner, the youth would express sorrow on his death. I saw a sweeper who was weeping while proceeding her way until she reached a group of the youth. They asked her: why are you crying? She said, because of the loss of this man(!)
One of them said: Do not worry, there is another poet in Mecca, namely, Harith Ibn Khalid Makhzumi, who composes similar poems to those of Umar Ibn Abi Rabi’a. He recited one of his poems. Upon hearing his poem, the sweeper wiped out her tears, saying: thanks be to Allah Who has not left His sanctuary vacant!
This reflects the ethical condition of the people in Medina. There are several accounts of the parties held not only by the high and low classes, but also by the masses in Medina. People like Ash’ab, a greedy, miserable, beggar, who is at the same time a poet and a clown, the ordinary people, sons of luminaries of Quraish, and even the descendents of the Bani Hashem – I would not mention their names – including men and women were among these very people who were deeply involved in licentiousness.
Harith ibn Khalid, the Emir of Mecca, had a soft corner for Ayisha b. Talha. One day Ayesha was performing circumambulation around the House of God. It was the time of “Azan” or “Call to Prayers”. She passed a message to the emir, requesting the postponement of the Call to Prayers in order to complete her circumambulation. Harith complied with her request, but she was criticized by the people who castigated him for postponing the Call to Prayers to appease a women. He replied: Swear by God, even if her circumambulation had prolonged until the morning prayers, I would have stopped the Call to Prayers (!)

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