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A Research on the Hadiths of Warning against
Not Knowing the Ahl al- Bayt(A.S.)

Ayatullah Muhammadi Rayshahri

The hadiths that consider dying without having an Imam as dying in Jahiliyyah are agreed upon by all Muslims. Nobody can ever question the issuance of this remark by the Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.).
Although there is difference of opinion in what is meant by it, the popularity and the authenticity of these hadiths is to the extent that the despotic leaders have failed to deny them, therefore they have misused it with distortions.
Allamah Amini having quoted these hadiths from authentic traditions and documents of the Sunnis:
It is an eternal fact that the Sunnis authentic traditions and documents have proved and there is no choice but to surrender to it, and the Islam of any man will not be settled unless through accepting its concept and content. No one came to disagree concerning this, and not even a single person has been doubtful about it. This concept indicates the dire end of those who die having no Imam and that such person is far from salvation and deliverance. Death in the age of ignorance is the most horrible death, a death with atheism and disbelief.
To interpret the noble hadith, the meaning of the Jahiliyyah or the age of ignorance must be clarified.
From the viewpoint of the Holy Qur'an and the Islamic hadith the age of the Holy Prophet's (S.A.W) prophethood is the age of knowledge and before his mission is the age of ignorance (Jahiliyyah), that is, before the HolyProphet's (S.A.W) mission people know no way to recognize the realities of existence due to the aberrations made in the revealed religions and what prevailed over various human societies in the name of religion was nothing than superstitions and illusions. In fact, the perverted religions and illusory beliefs had turned into tools for the domination of wealth and power over people, a reality confirmed by the pre-Islamic history.
The holy mission of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) was the beginning of the age of knowledge. His most fundamental duty was to combat superstitions and distortions and to clarify the truth to the people.
He regarded himself to be as a father to the people whom he would train and educate. He used to say: I am truly as a father to you, who teaches you.
His Holiness introduced his prophethood as a phenomenon in line with rational and scholarly criteria, which if sought to be studied by scientists his honesty in claiming to have relations with the origin of being could have been appreciated: "And those to whom knowledge has come see that the (Revelation) sent down to thee from thy Lord-that is the truth (34:6)
He would also discourage people from following what knowledge (ilm) dose not confirm and read them the ayah: And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge (17:36)
Considering the above lines, it becomes obvious that what is intended in the hadith of the necessity of knowing the Imam of any era is beyond an individual issue and is not just that if a Muslim does not know his Imam and leader he is not viewed as a true Muslim and thus his Islam equals disbelief. However the more important issue that this hadith warns about is that: The age of knowledge-started at the time of the Holy Prophet's (S.A.W.) mission-can continue only if the Muslims of any age be familiar with their Imam of that age and follow him. Briefly put: Imamate is the supporter and guarantee for the continuation of the age of knowledge or the age of true Islam, without which the Islamic community will regress to the age of pre-Islamic ignorance.
This hadith is inspired by the futurity outlook of the noble ayah:
Muhammad (S.A.W.) is no more than a Messenger: Many were the Messengers who passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will you then turn back on your heels (3:144).
The Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.) said in a hadith confirming the necessity of knowing the Imam: How is it possible for the Muslim community to regress to the Jahiliyyah of the pre-Islam? This indicates the fact that eliminating the issue of Imamate and Leadership, the above hazardous phenomenon would be imminent.

Knowing Which Imam?
A slight deliberation on the content of this hadith particularly with consideration of what was said above - will leave us no doubt to search for the answer to his question: Which Imam's Imamate will guarantee the continuation of the true Islam, and elimination of which Imamate from the Islam, and the elimination of which Imamate from the Islamic community is a regression to Jahiliyyah?
Can it be supposed that the Holy Prophet (S.A.W) meant that obeying anyone who has the authority to run the society is necessary and incumbent on all Muslims, and not knowing such leader will lead to dying as in the age of Jahiliyyah, regardless of the fact that such leader may be despotic or as the Holy Qur'an puts it, he may be among the "imams inviting to the Fire"?!
It is evident for all the corrupt rulers of the history of Islam to appeal to this firm hadith to prove the necessity of people's obedience to them and to solidify the foundations of their rule. Thus, it is seen that Mu awiyyah, the son of Abu Sufyan, considers himself as among the narrators of this hadith! It is also natural that the court mullas and the preachers in kings palaces interpret the words of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W) and apply them to the Imamate of the despotic leaders, but it is obvious that this is mere wordplay rather than misunderstanding the concept of the hadith.
It can never be believed, as mentioned in the interpretation of Nahj al-Balagha by Ibn Abi al-Hadid, that Abd Allah ibn Umar refused to pedge allegiance to Imam Ali (A.S.) due to misunderstanding and lack of insight, but clinging to the hadith "Whoever dies without an Imam..."
which is narrated by himself, he went to meet Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf overnight to pledge allegiance to Abdul Malik Marwan, the then caliph!, for he did not want to spend a night without having an Imam! Ibn Abi al-Hadid writess:
Abd Allah ibn Umar refused to pledge allegiance to Ali(A.S.)
[During Imam Ali's caliphate] and nightly went to Hajjaj's house to pledge allegiance with Abd al-Mailk to avoid spending a night without an Imam.
He presumed that he had to do this for this it had been narrated by himself from the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) that: Whoever dies and does not have an Imam he dies the death of Jahiliyyah. Hajjaj reproached and humiliated him to the extent that he stretched his foot out of his bed and said to Umar: pledge allegiance to my foot!
Anyhow, every one who does not admit to Amir al-Muminin Ali(A.S.) as Imam and does not pledge allegiance to him should inevitably view Abd al-Malik Marwan as an Imam, breaking whose allegiance would be tantamount to paganism and regression to Jahiliyyah, and should abjectly pledge allegiance during night to his brutal agent's (Hajjaj ibn Yusuf) foot! Abd Allah Umar went to the point that he declared Yazid the son of
Mu awiyyah with all his crimes and adversities against Islam and the household of the Holy Prophet as an Imam and a proof of the hadith "Whoever dies without an Imam..." and regarded opposition against him as disbelief and apostasy.
It is reported that following the tragedy of Ashura, the people of Madinah revolted in 63 A.H., which led to the Harrah incidence. Abd Allah ibn Umar went to Abd Allah ibn Muti who commanded this uprising. The latter ordered cushions to be brought for Abd Allah and beckoned him to be seated. Ibn Umar said: I did not come here to sit, but I came to relate to you the hadith I heard from the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) say: The one who fails to obey an Imam, he will face Allah in a state having no hujjah and proof, and anyone who dies and has not pledged allegiance to an Imam, he has died the death of Jahiiyyah.
Look how skillfully they have applied the words of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.).contrary to what he had intended by them! It is the same dangerous phenomenon which the Holy Prophet(S.A.W.) has warned in this and dozens of other hadiths to be prevented and has called people to obeying the rightful Imams. The Messenger of Allah's (S.A.W.) warning is perverted by pseudo-Muslim politicians and their proxies; thus hadith is used against hadith and Islam against Islam.
And finally, negligence of Imam's status in the Islamic community and oblivion of the Holy Prophets(S.A.W.) instructions bring about the end of the age of knowledge and Islam in the Islamic community, and thus the return to paganism and Jahiliyyah ensues.
Therefore, what is meant by dying without having an Imam is like dying the death in Jahiliyah, is undoubtedly admonishing against failing recourse to love of Ahl al-Bayt whose significance is related to people in such hadiths as Thaqalayn, Ghadir, etc.

Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) in the Holy Qur'an and Hadith
By Ayatullah Muhammadi Rayshahri

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