Syed Abd al-Azim al-Hasani’s Position near the Imams of the Ahlul Bayt (A.S.)
His station near the Imams of the Ahlul Bayt (‘a) comes to light in the course of their statements in his favor. Thus he was a brilliant traditionist, a source of reference in matters of the faith, trustworthy in matters of religion and here we mention some of their statements.
Shaykh al-Saduq (d 381 AH/991 AD) reports from Sayyid ‘Abd al-’Azim that he has said: ‘I visited my master ‘Ali23 bin Muhammad bin ‘Ali bin Musa bin Ja’far bin Muhammad bin ‘Ali bin Husayn bin ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (‘a). When he caught sight of me, he exclaimed: “Welcome O Abu al-Qasim, you are indeed our true friend!”
So I said: “O son of the Messenger (s), I wish to present to you my beliefs. If they are correct then I will affirm and adhere to them till I meet Allah, Great and Exalted”. So the Imam said: “Then present them O Abu al-Qasim”.
So I said: “I maintain that Allah, Blessed and Exalted is one. There is nothing like Him. He is beyond the two limits, the limit of negation and annulment (of attributes) and the limit of anthropomorphism. And that He has neither a body nor a form, nor dimension nor a material core. Rather He is the One who creates bodies and gives forms, the Creator of dimensions and matter. Lord of everything and its Possessor, Creator and Originator.
And (I maintain) that Muhammad was His servant, His Messenger and the Seal of the Prophets. There is no prophet after him till the Day of Judgement.
And (I maintain) that the Imam, the Caliph and the Guardian of the affair (of guidance) after him was Amir al-Mu ‘minin ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, and then al-Hasan, then al-Husayn, then ‘Ali bin al-Husayn, then Muhammad bin ‘Ali, then Ja’far bin Muhammad, then Musa bin Ja’far, then ‘Ali bin Musa, then Muhammad bin ‘Ali and thereafter, you my master”.
So the Imam said: “And after me will be my son al-Hasan. However, I wonder how the people will react with regards to his successor” I asked: “Why do you say that, O master?” He replied, “Because none will see his person, nor will it be permissible to mention his name till he appears, when he will fill the earth with justice and equity as it was previously filled with oppression and tyranny.”
So I responded: “I accept (what you have informed me) and I maintain that their friend is the friend of Allah, their enemy is the enemy of Allah. Obedience to them is obedience to Allah; disobedience to them is disobedience to Allah. I maintain that the (Prophet’s) night journey did occur, that questioning in the grave will happen, that heaven and hell exist, that accounting of deeds will occur and that the Hour will undoubtedly arrive when Allah will resurrect those in the graves.
I further maintain that the (religious) obligations after al-Wilaya (i.e. love and adherence to the Ahlul Bayt) are: Prayers, the zakat levy, fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca, striving (in the path of Allah), commanding good and discouraging evil.”
On hearing this, ‘Ali bin Muhammad (‘a) said: “O Abu al-Qasim, what you have mentioned is, by Allah, the religion which Allah has chosen for His servants and one with which he is satisfied. So adhere to it, may Allah cause you to stay steadfast on the established faith, in this world and in the hereafter.”24
Ibn Qawlawayhi narrates from ‘Ali bin al-Husayn bin Musa bin Babwayhi, who narrates from Muhammad bin Yahya al-Attar, who narrates from some of the natives of Ray, (one of whom said): ‘I visited Abu al-Hasan al-’Askari25 (‘a). He asked me: “Where were you?” I replied: “I was visiting the grave of al-Husayn bin ‘Ali (‘a).” He said: “However, if you had visited the grave of ‘Abd al-’Azim which is situated near you, then your status would have been similar to the one who visited al-Husayn (‘a).”26
Perhaps (the authenticity of) this tradition may be disputed because of the unknown identity of the narrator transmitting the report from the Imam. But a response in its defence may be made by maintaining that Muhammad bin Yahya al-Attar who was the authority of Shaykh al-Kulayni (d 329 AH/940 AD) would not rely in such an important matter on the statement of a person whom he did not know or had any confidence in. Moreover, being a native of Qum himself, he would know the Shi’ites of Ray.
Perhaps another question may be posed here, which is: How can a pilgrimage to the grave of Sayyid ‘Abd al-’Azim be of equal stature to the pilgrimage to al-Husayn bin ‘Ali (‘a)? A possible response to this may be that the Imam uttered this statement in harsh circumstances and intended to bring to light the nature of the reign of Mutawakkil and his cohorts who used to tyrannise and murder the Shi’ites on the basis of any pretext.
Mutawakkil reigned from 234 AH/848 AD till the year 247 AH/861 AD when he was murdered by his son. The reign of his son did not last long either as the Caliphate was taken over by one claimant after another such as al-Musta’in (r. 248 AH/862 AD – 252 AH/866 AD) then al-Mu ‘tazz Billah famously known for his enmity to the Ahlul Bayt (deposed in 255 AH/869 AD), then al-Muhtadi (r. 255 AH/869 AD – 256 AH /870 AD) and then al-Mu’tamad (r. 256 AH/870 AD – 279 AH/892 AD).
The prevailing policy in the ruling court was that of deception, enmity and oppression against the ‘Alids and the Shi’ites. Thus in such circumstances, the Imam may have advised the Shi’ites to content themselves by visiting the grave of Sayyid ‘Abd al-’Azim in order to protect their lives and belongings from destruction and loss. Nevertheless, this does not mean that there is a reduction in the status of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) or an exaggeration in the status of Sayyid ‘Abd al- ‘Azim.
Further, it is clear from what Sahib bin ‘Abbad narrates, that Sayyid ‘Abd al-’Azim was a ‘source of reference’ in matters of the faith and an interpreter of Islamic law for the Shi’ites in regard to issues which seemed ambiguous and unclear to them. Thus Abu Turab al-Ruyani says: ‘I visited ‘Ali bin Muhammad (‘a) in Samarra ‘ and I asked him some questions relating to the permissible and impermissible. He answered all of them. When I was bidding him farewell, he said: “O Hammad, if something regarding religion confuses or confounds you then refer it to ‘Abd al-’Azim, and convey to him my regards.”27
This report expresses his position as a person who possessed the capability of ijtihad similar to Zurara bin A’yan28, Muhammad bin Muslim29, Yunus bin ‘Abd al-Rahman30 and Zakariyya bin Adam31 whom Imam al-Ridha’ (‘a) praised in response to one who asked him (something) by saying: ‘Refer to Zakariyya bin Adam, (who is) trustworthy in worldly and religious affairs.’32
24. Kitab al-Tawhid, the chapter on unity and anthropomorphism pg 81, hadith number 37.
25. Translator’s note: This is the tenth Shi’ite Imam Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali bin Muhammad, whom popular Shi’ism refers to with the honorific title al-Naqi rather than the title al-’Askari by which he has been described in this tradition. Popular Shi’ism knows his son and the eleventh Shi’ite Imam with this title. The title al-’Askari here serves the purpose of an associative adjective. An associative adjective (or a nisba adjective) is a noun that is appended to a person’s name to indicate that person’s significant relationship or link with a particular place, family, thing, etc. Thus the eleventh Imam is popularly known as al-’Askari because he lived, died and was buried in the city of al-’Askar.
Yet the narrator has not erred in referring to the tenth Imam as al-’Askari. This is because the tenth Imam also lived, died and is buried in this same city. This city is better known by the name of Samarra ‘. Samarra ‘ was a city that served as the capital of the Abbasid caliphs from 221 AH/836 AD till 279 AH/892 AD, when Baghdad once again became the capital of this dynasty. It lies at present, some 125 km north of Baghdad. During its heyday it was one of the largest cities of ancient times.
In about 220 AH /834-5 AD the caliph al-Mu’tasim left Baghdad and chose the site of the city of Samarra ‘ as his new capital. The reason for his departure from Baghdad is said to have been due to the conflict between the residents of Baghdad and his army and thus he wanted to establish a base for his army outside Baghdad. As a result, he chose the site where the city of Samarra ‘ stands today and therefore Samarra ‘ was also known at that time by the name of ‘Askar Mu’tasim, meaning ‘the army campsite of Mu’tasim’. This name later became shortened to Al-’Askar.
It is said that the original name of Samarra ‘ was ‘Surra man Ra ‘a ‘’ meaning ‘he who sees it is delighted’, which was later shortened to Samarra ‘.
Thus this city had two names; Samarra ‘, short for Surra man Ra ‘a ‘ and Al-’Askar, short for ‘Askar Mu’tasim.
The tenth Imam was summoned there from Medina during the reign of al-Mutawakkil. Thus it would be historically valid to call both these two Imams as ‘al-’Askari’ and indeed, they are both referred to in Shi’a literature at times as al-’Askariyyayn; meaning the two ‘Askaris. However popular Shi’ism refers to the tenth Imam with the title al-Naqi and the eleventh Imam as al-’Askari. For more details refer to the article by A. Northedge on the city of Samarra ‘ in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition, volume 8, pg 1039.
26. Kamil al-Ziyarat, pg 537, chapter 107, hadith number 1.
27. Mustadrak al-Wasa ‘il volume 3, pg 614.
28. Translator’s note: The Imami biographer al-Najashi writes that Zurara bin A’yan bin Sansan was a leading personality of the Shi’ite of his times and of the past. He was a known reciter of the Qur’an, a jurist, a theologian, a poet and a litterateur. He was truthful in what he transmitted and was known to have had a book on the subject of human capacity and predestination. He died in 150 AH/767 AD.
Shaykh al-Tusi writes that Zurara’s name was ‘Abd Rabbih while his epithet was Abu al-Hasan and Zurara was his title. His father A’yan bin Sansan was a Roman slave and belonged to a man from the tribe of Banu Shayban, who taught him the Qur’an and then freed him. H e was a monk, hailing from Byzantium.
Shaykh al-Tusi believed Zurara to be from the companions of the Imams al-Baqir, al-Sadiq and al-Kadhim (‘a) and wrote that he had many compositions to his credit. Al-Barqi also counted him among the companions of these three Imams.
Kashi writes the following in the context of mentioning the names of the jurists from the companions of the fifth and sixth Imams that: ‘the Shi’ite scholars were unanimous regarding the veracity of these foremost, from the companions of Abu Ja’far and Abu ‘Abdillah (‘a). They submitted to them in matters of the law and held the following six to be the most knowledgeable from these foremost ones, and they were; Zurara, Ma’ruf bin Kharrabudh, Burayd, Abu Basir al-Asadi, Fudhayl bin Yasar and Muhammad bin Muslim al-Ta ‘ifi, while they held Zurara to be the most knowledgeable and erudite of these six.
Several reports of praise and commendation by the Imams have been transmitted in favour of Zurara, some of which shall be reproduced below.
The sixth Imam said ‘Indeed the companions of my father were a source of pride and an embellishment whether alive or dead; and by these companions, I mean Zurara, Muhammad bin Muslim, Layth al-Muradi and Burayd al-’Ijli. These were the custodians and executors of justice; those who spoke the truth excessively; these are the foremost and those brought close’.
Zurara narrates from the sixth Imam that he told him, ‘O Zurara, your name is registered among the people of heaven...’
Abu Basir narrates that he said to Imam Sadiq (‘a) as follows: ‘Indeed your father mentioned to me that “Abu Dharr, Miqdad and Salman the Persian shaved their heads in their readiness to fight Abu Bakr!” So he said “Had it not been for Zurara, I would have thought my father’s teachings to have been lost!”
Ibn Abi ‘Umayr reports that he asked Jamil bin Darraj ‘what was your best and most delightful meeting and gathering?’ He replied; ‘yes indeed, we used to be in the presence of Zurara bin A’yan as youths studying books around a teacher!’
Mufaddhal bin ‘Umar reports ‘One day Faydh bin al-Mukhtar was visiting Imam Sadiq (‘a) and mentioned a verse from the Qur ‘an which the Imam interpreted. Then Faydh asked the Imam “what are these differences that I see among your adherents?” The Imam asked in surprise “and what are these differences?” He said “I was once seated among your adherents, in their circle in Kufa ‘ and was on the verge of doubting them due to the differences in their speech, but then I resorted to Mufaddhal bin ‘Umar who assisted and guided me in that regards such that I felt comfortable and my heart felt at ease".
So the Imam said: "Indeed, the situation is as you have said, O Faydh. The people are very fond of attributing lies and falsehoods to us as if that was the only thing that God had enjoined on them. I narrate a teaching to one of them, but he hardly leaves my presence before misinterpreting it, and that is because they do not desire our teachings or our love near God, rather they desire to gain the comforts of this world by it. And all of them desire to be known as leaders.
Certainly, no servant (of Allah) extols his self save that God humbles and degrades him and there is no servant who humbles himself except that God raises his status and dignity. Hence, if you wish to acquire (our) teachings then you need to resort to this man seated here" and he pointed to a man from his companions. Later I asked our colleagues about his identity and they identified him as Zurara bin A’yan. For further details and biographical consideration, please refer to Mu ‘jam Rijal al-Hadith, volume 8, pg 225-268 of Sayyid al-Khu ‘i.
29. Translator’s note: The Imami biographer al-Najashi writes that Muhammad bin Muslim bin Riyah had the epithet of Abu Ja’far and was the client of the tribe of Thaqif al-A’war; thus he is variously known as al-Thaqafi and also as al-Ta‘ifi. He was a prominent member of the Shi’ite in Kufa ‘, and a pious jurist. He had the opportunity to associate and keep company with the Imams al-Baqir and al-Sadiq (‘a), from whom he narrated much. He had a book titled ‘Four Hundred Problems regarding the Permissible and the Impermissible’. He died in 150 AH/767 AD.
Shaykh al-Tusi writes that he was approximately 70 years old when he died and that he was one eyed and a miller by profession. The Imami biographer Kashi writes that Muhammad bin Muslim was considered from among those companions of the Shi’ite Imams whose quality of reliability and trustworthiness enjoyed universal unanimity among the Shi’ite scholars, and that the Shi’ite scholars yielded to him in matters of the law.
Kashi also reports from ‘Abdullah bin Abi Ya’fur that when he complained to the 6th Imam of not having regular opportunities to visit him and acquire solutions from him for his problems, the Imam replied ‘then what stops you from referring to Muhammad bin Muslim al-Thaqafi, for he has heard many traditions from my father who considered him eminent and reliable’. Kashi even reports this statement of Muhammad bin Muslim himself as having said ‘no problem vexed me save that I asked about it to Imam al-Baqir (‘a) till I had asked him the answers to 30,000 problems. I also asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) the answers to 16000 problems’.
The 6th Imam is also reported to have praised Muhammad bin Muslim and some others as follows: ‘I have not come across any who enlivens our memory and the teachings of my father save Zurara, Abu Basir Layth bin al-Muradi, Muhammad bin Muslim and Burayd bin Mu’awiya al-£jli... These are the protectors of the faith, the reliable and trustworthy companions of my father regarding his teachings on the permissible and impermissible.
They are close to us in this world and in the hereafter’. The sixth Imam is also reported to have said: ‘Announce the good news of heaven to the humble ones; Burayd bin Mu’awiya al-jli, Abu Basir Layth al-Bakhtari al-Muradi, Muhammad bin Muslim and Zurara; four illustrious and excellent ones, faithful and reliable custodians of the teachings of God regarding the permissible and impermissible. Had it not been for these, then the vestiges of Prophethood would have been severed and been obliterated’. For further details and biographical considerations, please refer to Mu ‘jam Rijal al-Hadith of Sayyid al-Khu‘i, volume 18, pg 246-259.
30. Translator’s note: The Imami biographer al-Najashi writes that Yunus bin ‘Abd al-Rahman had the epithet Abu Ahmad and was the client of ‘Ali bin Yaqtin who was himself the client of the clan of Banu Asad. He was an important Shi’ite personality, possessing integrity and a great status. He was born during the reign of the Umayyad ruler Hisham bin ‘Abd al-Malik (r 724 AD - 743 AD) and though he got the opportunity to see Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) between the hillocks of Safa and Marwa (in Mecca, probably during the pilgrimage season) however, he is not known to have transmitted traditions from him.
On the other hand, he did transmit traditions from Imam al-KaÛim and Imam Ridha’ (‘a) and Imam Ridha’ (‘a) used to direct the lay Shi’ite to him in matters relating to religious knowledge and juridical verdicts. He was also one of those who were greatly coveted by the Waqifa, a splinter group which seceded from the Shi’ite fold after the murder of Imam al-KaÛim (‘a) in Harun al-Rashid’s prison.
They held various ideas regarding the seventh Imam, the core ones being that he was the promised Mahdi and that he was in occultation, that he would reappear sometime in the future and that he had not designated any one as his heir; the line of Imamate having had terminated at him. The principle leaders of this group, some of whom were the seventh Imam’s agents in some of the provinces and had at their disposal a significant amount of the wealth of khums, refused to acknowledge the imamate of Imam al-Ridha’ (‘a) so that they would not have to hand over this significant wealth to him.
They were met with resistance from some of the eighth Imam’s disciples, Yunus being one of them, whom they tempted with a considerable amount of wealth in order to win him over, but to no avail as Yunus remained steadfast in his allegiance to Imam al-Ridha’ (‘a). The Imami biographer Kashi reports from ‘Abd al-Aziz bin Muhtadi, one of the most virtuous people of Qum and an agent of Imam Ridha’ (‘a) as well as one of his close associates, who said: ‘I said to the Imam “I am unable to visit you all the time, hence from whom shall I seek the teachings of my faith?” He replied “seek them from Yunus bin ‘Abd al-Rahman”.
Shaykh al-Mufid reports the following in his book Masabih al-Nur, from Abu Hashim Dawud bin al-Qasim al-Ja’fari, who said that: ‘I presented the book “Al-Yawm wa al-Layla” of Yunus to the eleventh Imam (‘a). He asked me of the identity of the author of the book and I replied that it was the composition of Yunus, the client of the clan of Yaqtin.
He said ‘May Allah grant him, for every letter, a light on the Day of Judgment’. He had many books to his credit, the bulk of which were on jurisprudential topics though there were a couple on theological issues too, while Shaykh al-Tusi writes that he had over thirty books to his credit. He considered him to be from the companions of Imam al-KaÛim (‘a) and Imam al-Ridha’ (‘a) and also considered him reliable, even though he reports that the traditionists of Qum had impugned his integrity. Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Barqi also considered him to be from the companions of the Imams al-Kadhim and al-Ridha’ (‘a).
It is also reported that Imam Ridha’ (‘a) guaranteed the attainment of heaven for him three times. Fadhl bin Shadhan is reported to have said: ‘ There has not arisen any person in Islam who was more erudite than Salman and neither has there arisen any person after him as erudite as Yunus bin ‘Abd al-Rahman’. He also said that Yunus had performed the major pilgrimage 45 / 51 times while he had performed the lesser pilgrimage 45 times and that he had composed a thousand books in rebutting the opponents.
He also reported by means of a reliable intermediary from Imam al-Ridha’ (‘a) who said that: ‘Yunus bin ‘Abd al-Rahman is similar to Salman in his time’. And when the ninth Imam Muhammad bin ‘Ali (‘a) was asked about him, said: ‘May God bless him, he was a virtuous servant (of God)’. For further biographical details and considerations, please refer to Mu ‘jam Rijal al-Hadith of Sayyid al-Khu ‘i, volume 21, pg 209-234.
31. Translator’s note: The Imami biographer al-Najashi writes that his full name was Zakariyya bin Adam, ‘Abdullah bin Sa’d al-Ash’ari al-Qummi. He was veracious and an august personality. He had a special status near Imam al-Ridha’ (‘a). He was also the author of a book which contained the answers to questions he had asked Imam al-Ridha’ (‘a). Shaykh al-Tusi considered him to be from the companions of the Imams al-Ridha’ and al-Jawad (as well as from those of Imam al-Sadiq (‘a)) Kashi reports from ‘Ali bin Musayyib who reported that he said to Imam al-Ridha’ (‘a) ‘my house is far and I am unable to come to you all the time, thus from whom shall I seek the answers to my religious questions?’ The Imam replied ‘seek them from Zakariyya bin Adam, trustworthy in matters of the world and the faith’. ‘Ali bin Musayyib says that thereafter he approached Zakariyya bin Adam for his needs’. For further biographical details and considerations, please refer to Mu ‘jam Rijal al-Hadith of Sayyid al-Khu ‘i, volume 8, pg 281-285.
32. Rijal al-Kashi, pg 496, biographical entry number 478.