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The Beginning of the ‘Abbāsid Campaign and Its Effect upon the Spread of Shī‘ism

Ghulam-Husayn Muharrami

The campaign of the ‘Abbāsids started in 111 AH. On the one hand, it contributed to the spread of Shī‘ism in the various territories of the Muslim world, and on the other, the acts of strangulation of the Umayyads were lessened. As a result, the Shī‘ah were able to have a relative breathing space. During this period, the infallible Imāms (‘a) laid down the Shī‘ah juristic and scholastic foundations and Shī‘ism entered a new stage.
In general, during the Umayyad period there was no split between the descendants of ‘Alī (‘a) and the descendants of ‘Abbās ibn ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib and there was no quarrel between them. In this regard Sayyid Muḥsin Amīn says: “The descendants of ‘Alī (‘a) and the descendants of ‘Abbās during the Umayyad rule were treading the same path. The people who assisted them believing them to be more qualified to the caliphate than the Umayyads were known as the Shī‘ah of Muhammad’s

#7779;) progeny. During this period, there was no difference in religious opinion between the descendants of ‘Alī (‘a) and that of ‘Abbās. But when the ‘Abbāsids came to power, Satan hatched the seed of discord between them and the descendants of ‘Alī (‘a), and they perpetrated numerous acts of oppression against the descendants of ‘Alī (‘a). For this reason, the ‘Abbāsid campaigners were calling the people to please the progeny of Muhammad

#7779;) while recounting the states of oppression the Prophet’s

#7779;) progeny were enduring. Abū’l-Faraj al-Isfahānī says: After the killing of Walīd ibn Yazīd and the emergence of differences among the Marwānīs (descendants of Marwān ibn al-Ḥakam), Banū Hāshim’s campaigners and propagandists went to various places, and the first thing they were expressing was the merits of ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib and his descendants. The said to the people: “How could the Umayyads afford to kill and displace the descendants of ‘Alī?”
As a result, during this period Shī‘ism remarkably spread. Even the hadiths related to Hadrat al-Mahdī (‘a) spread rapidly among the people of various regions. Khurāsān was the main sphere of activity of the ‘Abbāsid campaigners. For this reason, the Shī‘ah numbers there increased rapidly to such an extent that, as narrated by Ya‘qūbī, After the martyrdom of Zayd (ibn ‘Alī ibn al-Husayn) in 121 AH, the Shī‘ah in Khurāsān were agitated and stirred up. The Shī‘ah publicized their belief. Many of the ‘Abbāsid campaigners used to approach them and recount the crimes committed by the Umayyads against the progeny of the Prophet

#7779;). This subject and news was imparted to people in every city in Khurāsān by ‘Abbāsid campaigners who went there and dreams and aspirations in this regard were seen and books were taught.
Mas‘ūdī also narrates a subject which expresses the spread and prevalence of Shī‘ism in Khurāsān. He thus writes: “In 125 AH when Yaḥyā ibn Zayd was killed in Jūzjān, the people named all the male infants born in that year were named Yaḥyā.”
The influence of the ‘Abbāsids in Khurāsān was greater as Abū’l-Faraj thus says while stating the profile of ‘Abd Allāh ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib: The Khurāsānī Shī‘ah thought that ‘Abd Allāh was his father Muhammad al-Ḥanafiyyah’s heir and that he was the Imām, and appointed Muhammad ibn ‘Alī ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn al-‘Abbās as his successor, and that the successor of Muhammad, Ibrāhīm, was the Imām from whom the Imamate extents to the ‘Abbāsids through inheritance.
As such, the bulk of the ‘Abbāsid army was constituted by the Khurāsānīs. In this regard, Muqaddasī says: As God saw the oppression and injustice of the Umayyads against the family of the Prophet

#7779;), He gathered an army from the different parts of that Khurāsān and sent it to them at the darkness of the night. During the advent of the Mahdī there is more expectation from the people of Khurāsān.
Given this, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) of the Holy Prophet (S)had occupied a distinct position among the people such that after the victory of the ‘Abbāsids, a person named Sharīk ibn Shaykh al-Mahdī in Bukhārā staged an uprising because of the ‘Abbāsids’ acts of injustice against the progeny of the Prophet

#7779;), saying: “We did not pay allegiance to them for us to commit oppression, shed the blood of people unjustly and commit acts against the truth.” He was repressed and killed by Abū Muslim.

1. Shī‘ism during the Period of Imām al-Bāqir and Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a)
The second period of the Imamate of Imām Muhammad al-Bāqir (‘a) and the initial period of Imām Ja‘far aṣ-Ṣādiq’s (‘a) Imamate coincide with the ‘Abbāsid campaigns and ‘Alawī uprisings such as that of Zayd ibn ‘Alī, Yaḥyā ibn Zayd, and ‘Abd Allāh ibn Mu‘āwiyah—one of the grandchildren of Ja‘far ibn Abī Ṭālib aṭ-Ṭayyār —and the emergence of Abū Muslim al-Khurāsānī as the deputy of the ‘Abbāsid campaigners in Khurāsān in inciting the people against the Umayyads. Meanwhile, the Umayyads had internal factional disputes and problems among their supporters because there was a serious clash between the Muḍirīs and Yamanīs among the Umayyad supporters in their respective spheres of influence. These revolts and entanglements made the Umayyads negligent of the Shī‘ah. As such, the Shī‘ah were able to enjoy a relative breathing space; relaxation from the state of intense dissimulation [taqiyyah]; reorganize themselves; and reestablish contacts with their leaders. It was at this period when the people turned toward Imām al-Bāqir (‘a) to benefit from the blessings of which they had been deprived for many years. The Imām (‘a) rose up in order to keep alive the school [maktab] of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). He (‘a) engaged in guiding and enlightening people conducting teaching sessions in Medina and Masjid an-Nabī in particular. He served as the reference authority for people, solving their scientific and juristic problems, as such his view served as proof for them. Qays ibn Rabī‘ narrates that he asked Abū Isḥāq about wiping [masa’] of slippers (during the performance of ablution [wuḍū‘]) and Abū Isḥāq said:
Like other people, I used to wipe my slippers (in ablution) until such time that I met a man from the Banū Hāshim whose equal I have never met before. I asked him about the case of wiping the slippers (in ablution). He prohibited me from doing it, saying: “The Commander of the Faithful did not do it.” From then on, I stopped doing it.
Qays ibn Rabī‘ also says: “After hearing this statement, I also stopped wiping my slippers (in ablution).”
A certain man from among the Khawārij (Kharijites) came to Imām al-Bāqir (‘a). While addressing the Imām (‘a), he said: “O Abū Ja‘far! What do you worship?” The Imām (‘a) said: “God.” The man asked: “Can you see Him?” The Imām (‘a) replied: “Yes, but the vision cannot witness Him while hearts with the truth of faith can see Him. He cannot be discerned through analogy [qiyās]. He cannot be perceived through the senses. He is not like human beings…” The Kharijite man left the Imām (‘a) while saying: “God knows well to whom He shall entrust His message [risālah].”
The scholars such as ‘Amrū ibn ‘Ubayd, Ṭāwūs al-Yamānī, Hasan al-Baṣrī, and Nāfi‘ Mawlā ibn ‘Umar used to refer to the Imām (‘a) for solving scientific and juristic problems and issues.
When the Imām (‘a) would arrive in Mecca, people would rush to ask him questions on matters pertaining to the lawful [ḥalāl] and the prohibited [ḥarām], considering the chance of asking the Imām (‘a) a boon and a means of acquiring more knowledge. Imām al-Bāqir’s (‘a) teaching sessions were attended not only by students but also the scholars of the time. When Hishām ibn ‘Abd al-Malik arrived in Mecca for Ḥajj, he witnessed these teaching sessions that were an opportunity for him. He sent someone to ask the Imām (‘a) on his behalf as to what the people will be eating on the Day of Judgment [maḥshar]. In reply the Imām (‘a) said: “On the Day of Judgment there are trees whose fruits shall be eaten by the people and rivers whose water the people shall drink so as to feel easiness for the Reckoning.” Hishām again sent that person to ask the Imām (‘a), hence: “Shall the people have time to eat and drink?” The Imām (‘a) said: “Even in hell there shall be opportunity to eat and drink, and the dwellers of hell shall also ask for water and other graces of God.”
Zurārah (ibn A‘yan) says:
I, along with Imām al-Bāqir (‘a), was sitting beside the Ka‘bah, while the Imām (‘a) was facing the Ka‘bah. The Imām (‘a) said: “Looking at the Ka‘bah is indeed an act of worship.” Then a certain man (from Bajīlah) came and said: “Ka‘b al-Aḥbār used to say: ‘The Ka‘bah prostrates to the Temple of Jerusalem everyday’.” The Imām (‘a) said to the man: “What do you think about what Ka‘b was saying?” The man answered: “Ka‘b was telling the truth.” The Imām (‘a) was annoyed and retorted, saying: “No, you have lied and Ka‘b has lied.”
Great ‘ulamā’, jurists [fuqahā] and hadith scholars [muḥaddithūn] were trained under the blessed feet of the Imām (‘a), such as Zurārah ibn A‘yan about whom Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) said: “If it were not for Zurārah, there was a probability for the hadiths of my father to be lost forever.”
Muhammad ibn Muslim heard thirty thousand hadiths from Imām al-Bāqir (‘a). Another scholar who learned from the Imām (‘a) was Abū Baṣīr about whom Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) said: “Had it not been for them, the works of prophethood [nubuwwah] will be terminated and be antiquated.”
Other prominent figures such as Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiyah al-‘Ajalī, Jābir ibn Yazīd, Ḥamrān ibn A‘yan, and Hishām ibn Sālim were among those who were trained in the school [maktab] of the Imām (‘a).
In addition to the Shī‘ah scholars, many of the Sunnī ‘ulamā’ have also studied under the Imām (‘a) and narrated hadiths on the authority of the Imām (‘a). As Sabṭ ibn al-Jawzī says, “(Imām) Ja‘far used to narrate hadiths of the Holy Prophet (S)from his father.” As such, a number of the Followers [tābi‘ūn] such as ‘Aṭā’ ibn Abī Rubāḥ, Sufyān ath-Thawrī, Mālik ibn Anas (founder of the Malikī school of thought [madhhab]), Shu‘bah, and Abū Ayyūb Sijistānī have narrated hadiths from the Imām (‘a).
Furthermore, thousands of learned men in jurisprudence and hadith attained progress in the Imām’s (‘a) school and his hadiths were spread far and wide so much so that Jābir al-Ju‘fī, who was a great muḥaddith, has narrated seventy thousand hadiths on the authority of the Imām (‘a). This state of affairs continued until Imām al-Bāqir (‘a) attained martyrdom on Dhū’l-Ḥijjah 7, 114 AH.

The University of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a)
In view of the then prevailing conducive political atmosphere, Imām Ja‘far aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) pursued his father’s scientific movement and established a large university and center of learning whose horizon reached far and wide. Shaykh al-Mufīd says: The knowledge of the Imām (‘a) has been so widely narrated that it became proverbial to various many and its fame spread to every nook and corner. None of the progeny of the Holy Prophet (S)match him (in this regard) whose knowledge and learning have been so widely transmitted.
Amīr ‘Alī thus writes about the Imām (‘a): Those philosophical discussions and debates in all the Islamic centers became widespread and the guidance and instructions given in this regard were made possible only by the university that has been established in Medina under the supervision of Hadrat Ṣādiq, a great grandchild of Hadrat ‘Alī. He has been one of the great ‘ulamā’ with precise views, a deep understanding, and well-versed in all the branches of knowledge of the time. In reality, it is he who is the founder of the rational academy in Islam.
As such, those who were lovers of knowledge [‘ilm] and thirsty for the Muhammadan

#7779;) gnosis [ma‘rifah] rushed from different parts of the then Muslim world to that heroic Imām (‘a) in multitude, and benefited from his abundant spring of knowledge and wisdom. Sayyid Ilāhil says: “In Kūfah, Baṣrah, Wāsiṭ, and Ḥijāz, people of every tribe sent their children to Ja‘far ibn Muhammad. Many of the Arabs and Persians, the people of Qum in particular, came to him.”
In his Al-Mu‘tabar, the late Muḥaqqiq (al-Ḥillī) thus writes: During the period of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) various branches of knowledge that were transmitted from him astonished the great thinkers. A group of about four thousand rijālī scholars have narrated hadiths from him, and by his teachings a great number of people in the various sciences attained mastery to such an extent that his answers to their questions were compiled in four hundred books [muṣannafāt], which were called “Uṣūl”.
In his book, Dhikrā, Shahīd al-Awwal also says: “Four thousand people from Iraq, Ḥijāz, Khurāsān, and Shām put into writing the answers of Abū ‘Abd Allāh Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) to the questions.”
In this manner, the seekers and lovers of knowledge and learning used to benefit from the Imām (‘a). Outstanding scholars in various branches of the revealed [naqlī] and rational [‘aqlī] sciences of the day such as Hishām ibn Ḥakam, Muhammad ibn Muslim, Ābān ibn Taghlib, Hishām ibn Sālim, Mu’min Ṭāq, Mufaḍḍal ibn ‘Umar, Jābir ibn Ḥayyān, etc. were trained under the blessing of his presence.
Their compilations which are known as the Uṣūl Arba‘ami’ah, are the basis of the four Shī‘ah books on hadith, viz. Al-Kāfī, Man Lā Yaḥḍarah al-Faqīh, At-Tahdhīb, and Al-Istibṣār.
The disciples of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) were not all Shī‘ah as most of the Sunnī scholars of the day have also studied under his guidance. Ibn Ḥajar al-Haythamī, a Sunnī author, thus writes in this regard: “The leading figures (in jurisprudence and hadith) such as Yaḥyā ibn Sa‘d, Ibn Jarīḥ, Mālik, Sufyān ath-Thawrī, Sufyān ibn ‘Uyaynah, Abū Ḥanīfah, Sha‘bī, and Ayyūb Sijistānī have narrated hadiths on his authority.”
Abū Ḥanīfah, the founder of the Ḥanafī school of thought, has said:
I used to go to Ja‘far ibn Muhammad for sometime. I used to see him in one of the three conditions: either he was praying, in the state of fasting, or reading the Qur’an. I never saw him narrating the hadith without performing ablution. The one superior to Ja‘far ibn Muhammad in knowledge, devotion and piety has not been seen by any eye, heard by any ear, or perceived by any heart.
The Imām’s (‘a) teaching sessions were attended by those who later founded schools of jurisprudence attending as philosophers, as well as students of philosophy from far and wide. After learning the sciences from their Imām (‘a), they would return to their homelands and conduct teaching sessions of their own. The Muslims used to gather around them and they in turn impart the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) propagating Shī‘ism. When Ābān ibn Taghlib would come to Masjid an-Nabī, the people would reserve for him the pillar against which the Holy Prophet (S)used to lean, and he would narrate hadiths to them. Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) used to say to him: “Sit in the mosque of Medina and issue religious edicts to the people as I like persons like you to be seen among my Shī‘ah.”
Ābān was the first person to have written something on the sciences of the Qur’an [‘ulūm al-Qur’ān] and he was also so well-versed in hadith that he used to sit in Masjid an-Nabī and the people would come and ask him. Through his various styles of speaking, he would answer them and impart the hadiths of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) to them. In Mīzān al-I‘tidāl, adh-Dhahabī thus says regarding him: “If the hadith of individuals such as Ābān who are accused of being Shī‘ah is rejected, a great part of the Prophetic works would have perished.”
Abū Khālid al-Kābulī says: “I saw Abū Ja‘far Mu’min Ṭāq sitting in Masjid an-Nabī while the people of Medina gathered around him and posed their questions on jurisprudence [masā’il] to him and he would answer them.”
Shī‘ism during that period was so spread that some people, in a bid to acquire social standing among the people, resorted to fabricating hadiths from the Imāms (‘a) to draw people’s attention by interpreting the traditions in their own favor. For example, Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a)—in reply to one of his companions named Fayḍ ibn Mukhtār who asked about the reason behind the contradiction in hadiths—thus says: “These people are not seeking the pleasure of Allah in narrating the hadiths and expressing our views. They are rather seeking the world and each of them is aspiring to be leader.”

The ‘Abbāsid campaign started in 111 AH. During that time, there was no division between the descendants of ‘Alī [‘Alawī] and the descendants of ‘Abbās ibn ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib [‘Abbāsī]. The Umayyads were busy repressing the ‘Abbāsid uprisings as a result of which Shī‘ism spread remarkably. Imām al-Bāqir and Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) in this opportune time trained their disciples establishing the Jafarī University, and many jurists [fuqahā] and scholastic theologians [mutakallimūn] benefited from these two personages. Shaykh al-Mufīd regards the number of the disciples of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq to be four thousand.

1. What was the impact of the ‘Abbāsid campaign upon the spread of Shī‘ism?
2. What was the trend of Shī‘ism during the period of Imām al-Bāqir and Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a)?
3. How did Imām aṣ-Ṣadiq (‘a) take advantage of the then existing opportune time?

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