The Shī‘ah during the Period of the First Four Caliphs
The Shī‘ah during the reigns of the first three caliphs, viz. Abūbakr, Umar and ‘Uthmān, has distinctive features which can be expressed in the following manner:
1. During the reigns of these three caliphs, the Shī‘ah were subjected to many pressures with the exception of the initial days after the event of Saqīfah. It can even be said that many of the Shī‘ah were deprived of key positions on account of their being Shī‘ah.
2. After the event of Saqīfah which brought about dichotomy on the issue of leadership over the Muslims and led to the division of Muslims into two main groups, the Ahl as-Sunnah were referring to the caliphs of the time on the scientific, jurisprudential, ideological, and other problems, whereas the Shī‘ah were referring to ‘Alī (‘a).
The Shī‘ah’s practice of referring to ‘Alī (‘a) regarding scientific issues, jurisprudence and other Islamic sciences in general, continued with the pure Imāms (‘a) after the martyrdom of ‘Alī (‘a). The reason behind the Sunnī-Shī‘ah difference in jurisprudence [fiqh], hadith, tafsīr [exegesis of the Qur’an], kalām [scholastic theology], among others is this very fact that the reference authorities of these two groups were different and distinct from each other.
3. Just as ‘Alī (‘a) had unofficial political and military cooperation from afar with the caliphs of the time as far as protection of the lofty interests of Islam was concerned, a number of distinguished Shī‘ah among the Companions also assumed military and political positions with the consent of Imām ‘Alī (‘a). For example, Faḍl ibn al-‘Abbās—‘Alī’s (‘a) cousin and defender during the event in Saqīfah—held a military position in the army of Shām and passed away in 18 AH in Palestine.
Ḥudhayfah and Salmān became the governors of Madā’in one after the other. ‘Ammār ibn Yāsir was appointed by the second caliph as the governor of Kūfah after the tenure of Sa‘d ibn Abī Waqqāṣ. Hāshim Mirqāl, who was one of the sincere Shī‘ah of the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) and was martyred in the Battle of Ṣiffīn on the side of the Imām (‘a), was one of the outstanding commanders during the periods of the three caliphs and conquered Azerbaijan in 22 AH. ‘Uthmān ibn Ḥunayf and Ḥudhayfah ibn Yamān were commissioned by ‘Umar to measure the lands of Iraq.
‘Abd Allāh ibn Badīl ibn Waraqā’ al-Khazā‘ī, one of the Commander of the Faithful’s (‘a) Shī‘ah whose son was one of the first martyrs in the Battle of Jamal (Camel), was one of the military commanders and conquered Isfahān and Hamedān.
Similarly, individuals such as Jarīr ibn ‘Abd Allāh Bajallī and Qurẓah ibn Ka‘b al-Anṣārī who were among the Commander of the Faithful’s (‘a) distinguished men during his caliphate, held administrative and military positions during the periods of the three caliphs. Jarīr conquered the territory of Kūfah and became the governor of Hamedān during ‘Uthmān’s reign. Qurẓah ibn Ka‘b al-Anṣārī also conquered Shahr-e Rey during the period of ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb.
Manifestation of Shī‘ism during the Caliphate of ‘Alī (‘a)
Although the root of Shī‘ism can be traced back to the time of the Prophet
#7779;), its manifestation came after ‘Uthmān’s assassination and ‘Alī’s (‘a) caliphate. During this period the demarcating line became clear as ‘Alī’s (‘a) supporters and followers openly declared and expressed their Shī‘ism. Shaykh al-Mufīd narrates, thus:
A group of people came to ‘Alī (‘a) and said
: “O Commander of the Faithful! We are among your Shī‘ah.” The Imām (‘a) looked carefully at their faces and said: “But why can’t I see the countenances of the Shī‘ah in you?” They asked: “O Commander of the Faithful! How should countenances of the Shī‘ah be?” He (‘a) said: “Their faces are pale from excessive acts of worship at night; their eyes are weak from weeping profusely; their backs have curvature for standing for long time in prayer; their stomachs can reach their backs for fasting a lot; and the dust of humility and lowliness has settled in them.”
Also, poems were recited during the caliphate of Imām ‘Alī (‘a) in which ‘Alī (‘a) has been described as the rightful Imām and successor, and the leader after the Prophet
#7779;). As Qays ibn Sa‘d was saying,
æ Úáíø ÅãÇãäÇ æ ÅãÇã áÓæÇäÇ ÃÊì Èå ÇáÊäÜÒíá
‘Alī is our Imām and that of others. The Qur’an has been revealed for this purpose.
Khuzaymah ibn Thābit Dhū’sh-Shahadatayn used to say:
ÝÏíÊ ÚáíøÇð ÅãÇã ÇáæÑì ÓÑÇÌ ÇáÈÑíøÉ ãÃæì ÇáÊøÞì
æÕíø ÇáÑøÓæá æ ÒæÌ ÇáÈÊæá ÅãÇã ÇáÈÑíøÉ ÔãÓ ÇáÖøÍì
ÊÕÏÞ ÎÇÊãå ÑÇßÚÇð ÝÇÍÓä ÈÝÚá ÅãÇã ÇáæÑì
ÝÝÖøáå Çááå ÑÈø ÇáÚÈÇÏ æ ÃäÒá Ýí ÔÃäå åá ÃÊì
May I be the ransom of ‘Alī! He is the Imām of the people, the light of creation and the asylum of the God-conscious ones.
He is the successor [waṣī] of the Prophet, the husband of Baṭūl (Fātimah), the Imām of creation, and radiant sun.
He is the Imām of creation and gave in alms [ṣadaqah] his ring while he was in the state of bowing [rukū‘], and what a good deed he performed!
God, the Exalted, made him superior to others and revealed the Sūrah “Hal atā” about him.
In some poems, the Imām’s (‘a) Shī‘ah also introduced themselves to the religion of ‘Alī (‘a). For example, while engaged in a fight against a person named ‘Amrū ibn Yathribī from among the army of Jamal [camel] during the Battle of Jamal, ‘Ammār ibn Yāsir recited thus:
áÇ ÊÈÑÍ ÇáÚÑÕÉ íÇ ÇÈä íËÑÈí ÍÊì ÇÞÇÊáß Úáìٰ Ïíä Úáí äÍä æ ÈíÊ Çááå Çæáì ÈÇáäøÈí
O Ibn Yathribī! Leave not the battlefront so that we could fight against you over the religion of ‘Alī. I swear to the House of God that we are the foremost ones to the Prophet.
Even the enemies and adversaries were using the same descriptions for the Shī‘ah. For example, in a poem, proud of killing the supporters of ‘Alī (‘a), ‘Amrū ibn Yathribī says:
Çä ÊäßÑæäí ÝÇäÇ ÇÈä íËÑÈí ÞÇÊá ÚöáÈÇÁ æ åöäÏ ÇáÌãáì Ëãø ÇÈä ÕæÍÇä Úáìٰ Ïíä Úáíø
If you do not know me, I am Ibn Yathribī, the killer of ‘Ilbā’ and Hind al-Jamalī. I am also the killer of Ibn Ṣawḥān for the crime of following the religion of ‘Alī.
2. The Shī‘ah during the Period of the Umayyad Caliphate
The period of the Umayyad caliphate was the most difficult time for the Shī‘ah, starting from 40 AH up to 132 AH. All the Umayyad caliphs with the exception of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz were sworn enemies of the Shī‘ah. Of course, after caliph Hishām the Umayyads were preoccupied with the campaign against internal revolts and the ‘Abbāsid movement and the past harsh treatments of Shī‘ah were lessened. The Umayyad caliphs were living in Shām, the capital of the Umayyad rule, and in most cases, the rulers adopted the policy of bloodshed with respect to the Shī‘ah-populated territories, exerted pressure on the Shī‘ah. Among all the enemies, it was the Umayyad rulers who focused most on the Shī‘ah relentlessly annoying and disturbing them, with ‘Ubayd Allāh ibn Ziyād and Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf being most notorious among them.
Ibn Abī’l-Ḥadīd, the well-known scholar in the Sunnī world, thus writes
: The Shī‘ah were being killed wherever they were. The Umayyads used to mutilate the hands and feet of individuals for being suspected as Shī‘ah. Anyone who was noted for his love and attachment to the family of the Prophet would either be imprisoned, his possessions be plundered, or his house be demolished. The pressure and restrictions imposed upon the Shī‘ah reached a point where the charge of friendship with ‘Alī (‘a) was considered as worse than the accusation of disbelief [kufr] and infidelity, entailing severer punishments.
In adopting this violent policy, living conditions for the people of Kūfah was the worst because Kūfah was the Shī‘ah capital of the time.
Mu‘āwiyah designated Ziyād ibn Sumayyah as the ruler of Kūfah and later on assigned the governorship of Baṣrah to him. Ziyād was once in the rank of the supporters of ‘Alī and he knew them all very well. He pursued the Shī‘ah and found them in whatever nook and corner they would hide. He killed them; threatened them; mutilated their hands and feet; blinded them; hung them on palm trees; and expelled them from Iraq so much so that not a single well-known Shī‘ah remained in Iraq.
Abū’l-Faraj ‘Abd ar-Raḥmān ibn ‘Alī ibn al-Jawzī has said
: When a number of the Shī‘ah protested against Ziyād, who was then delivering sermons from the pulpit, he ordered the mutilation of the hands and feet of eighty persons. He used to gather the people in the mosque and ask them to curse ‘Alī and if anyone refused to do so, Ziyād would order that his house be demolished.
Ziyād, who ruled alternately for six months in Kūfah and the next six months in Baṣrah, appointed Samurah ibn Jundab as his deputy in Baṣrah so that he could administer the city during his absence. During that period Samurah killed 8,000 people. Ziyād once asked him
: “Are you not afraid that you might have killed one innocent person among them?” He replied: “Even if I have to kill two times that figure, I am not afraid of such a thing.”
Abū Suwār ‘Adwī says
: “One morning, Samurah [killed] 47 persons from among relatives, all of whom were memorizers of the Qur’an [ḥufaz].”
Mu‘āwiyah, in a directive to his officials and workers, wrote that they should not accept the testimony of even one of ‘Alī’s (‘a) Shī‘ah or family members. In another directive, he thus wrote
: If two individuals would give testimony that a certain person is among the friends of ‘Alī and his family, his name should be erased from the record of the public treasury [bayt al-māl] and his salary and stipend should be cut off.
After subjugating Mecca and Medina,Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf, the bloodthirsty and cruel Umayyad agent, was appointed as the governor of Iraq, the center of the Shī‘ah gathering, in 75 AH by the Umayyad caliph ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwān. Having covered his head and face, Ḥajjāj entered the mosque of Kūfah incognito. He passed by the line of people and mounted the pulpit. He remained silent for a long moment. Murmuring among the people started as to who he is. One person said, “He is the new ruler.” The other one said, “Let us pelt him with stone.” Many others said, “No, let us listen to what he will say.” When the crowd silenced, he uncovered his face and uttering a few sentences, he terrified the people so much so that the small stones in the hands of those who were ready to pelt him fell on the ground spontaneously. At the beginning of his speech, he thus said
: O people of Kūfah! It has been for many years that you have taken chaos, sedition [fitnah] and insubordination as your slogan. I can see heads similar to ripe fruits that must be separated from the body. I shall strike on your heads to such an extent that you would find the way to submission.
Ḥajjāj implemented a rule of terror throughout Iraq and the eastern districts and unjustly killed many prominent figures of Kūfah and pious people.
Mas‘ūdī thus writes about the crimes of Ḥajjāj
: Ḥajjāj ruled for twenty years and the number of those who were killed during this period by the swords of his headsmen or torturers exceeded 120,000 people. This figure does not include those who were killed by Ḥajjāj’s forces in the war against him.
At the time of Ḥajjāj’s death, 50,000 men and 30,000 women were languishing in his infamous prison. Among them 11,000 were naked. Ḥajjāj used to imprison men and women in one cell. His prison cells were roofless. As such, the prisoners were not secure from the summer heat or the winter rain and cold. The Shī‘ah were usually victims of Ḥajjāj’s prison, torture, persecution, and murder. The best evidence that reflects the miserable plight of the Shī‘ah during the Umayyad period and the intensity of the Umayyad policy of strangulation is the complaint of the Shī‘ah to Imām as-Sajjād (‘a) about the oppression and tyranny perpetrated against them. The late Majlisī has narrates
The Shī‘ah came to Imām Zayn al-‘Ābidīn (‘a) complaining about the pressure and strangulation, saying
: “O son of the Messenger of Allah! We were expelled from our cities and eliminated by atrocious killing. They cursed the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) in the cities as well as in the mosque of the Messenger of Allah
#7779;), on top of his pulpit. No one prevented it and if any of us would protest, they would say, “This is a turābī (i.e. Shī‘ah); they would report it to the ruler, writing to him that so-and-so has said something good about Abū Turāb (Imām ‘Alī (‘a)). The ruler would order them to beat that person, imprison him and finally kill him.”
After the event of Saqīfah, the Shī‘ah would refer to the pure Imāms (‘a) with respect to scientific, jurisprudential and ideological issues. Although they were cooperating with the caliphs of the time in line with the interests of Islam, most of them were deprived of administrative positions.
During the caliphate of the Commander of the Faithful (‘a), expression of Shī‘ism was one of the distinctive features of the Shī‘ah.
The period of the Umayyad rule was one of the most difficult times for the Shī‘ah. All the caliphs, with the exception of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz, were sworn enemies of the Shī‘ah, and the Shī‘ah-populated regions the bloodthirsty and cruel governors were ruling over.
1. What were the distinctive features of the Shī‘ah during the reign of the first three caliphs?
2. What was the salient feature of the Shī‘ah during the caliphate of ‘Alī (‘a)?
3. What was the condition of the Shī‘ah during the Umayyad rule?