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The Subjects of the Poems of the Shīah Poets

Ghulam-Husayn Muharrami

The Shīah poets have recited poetry in various arenas and diverse themes, which may be classified into the following:

1. Argumentation against the Usurpers of the Ahl al-Bayts (a) Rights
The Shīah poets and orators, believing in the guardianship [wilāyah] of Alī (a) and his progeny, spoke out immediately after the event of Saqīfah and the oppression against Alī (a), defending the right of the Imām and trying to describe the course the Holy Holy Prophet (S)specified with respect to the Imamate and guardianship through the language of poetry. In this regard, it was known that Kumayt al-Asadī was the first to open the gate of argumentation for the Shīah poets. Allāmah Amīnī attributes this fact to Jaḥīẓ and then continues thus: Long before the fetus of Kumayt was to be formed, a number of the great ṣaḥābah and tābiūn such as Khuzaymah ibn Thābit Dhūsh-Shahādatayn, Abd Allāh ibn al-Abbās, Faḍl ibn al-Abbās, Ammār ibn Yāsir, Abū Dharr al-Ghiffārī, Qays ibn Sad al-Anṣārī, Rabīah ibn Ḥārith ibn Abd al-Muṭṭalib, Abd Allāh ibn Abī Sufyān ibn Ḥārith ibn Abd al-Muṭṭalib, Zafar ibn Zayd ibn Ḥudhayfah, Najāshī ibn Ḥārith ibn Kab, Jarīr ibn Abd Allāh Bajlī, and Abd Allāh ibn Janbal had defended the right of the Commander of the Faithful (a) through their poems.
Among the first persons to have recited poetry in defence of Alī (a) was Abd Allāh ibn Abī Sufyān ibn Ḥārith ibn Abd al-Muṭṭalib. Shaykh al-Mufīd says, When the Holy Prophet (S)passed away, Abd Allāh ibn Abī Sufyān was not in Medina. When he arrived in Medina, I saw that the people had pledged allegiance to Abū Bakr. As such, he stood at the middle of the mosque and recited this poem:

I did not imagine that they would take away the matter of caliphate from the Banū Hāshim and among whom from Abūl-Ḥasan (Alī)!
Is he not the first person to pray toward your qiblah and the most learned of people about the Quran and the Sunnah?
Similarly, a number of other Hāshimite poets from among the ṣaḥābah and tābiūn had also recited poetry in defence of the right of Alī (a). For instance, while reciting poetry Faḍl ibn al-Abbās has thus said:


Be aware that the best of people after Muḥammad in the sight of God is the successor of Prophet al-Muṣṭafā

He is the first performer of prayer, the brother of the Prophet, and the first person to drive away the tyrants in (the Battle of) Badr.
Mughayrah ibn Nawfal ibn Ḥārith ibn Abd al-Muṭṭalib addressed the supporters of the Commander of the Faithful (a) during the Battle of Ṣiffīn and poetically said:

Among you is the successor of the Messenger of Allah

#7779;)your commanderand his son-in-law, and the Book of Allah is scattered.
Faḍl ibn al-Abbās ibn Utbah ibn Abī Lahab has been one of the famous poets at the end of the first century AH. Ibn Abd Rabbih has narrated: When Walīd ibn Abd al-Malik was circumambulating [ṭawāf] the Kabah, Faḍl ibn al-Abbās was reciting this poem while getting water from the well of Zamzam:

O he who is asking from Alī! You are asking from the moon of Banū Hāshim and the one present at the Battle of Badr.
Are you doubtful in praising the greatness of the abṭaḥī man, or asking about his precedence in Islam?
Among the first persons to have recited poetry in defending the right of the Commander of the Faithful Alī (a) was a woman named Umm Masṭaḥ ibn Athāthah. Historians have narrated, thus: After Abū Bakr and Umar treated Alī harshly to acquire his allegiance by force, Umm Masṭaḥ came to the mosque, stood in front of the grave of the Prophet and recited this poem:

After you, an event and differences have occurred that would never happen if you were present.
We lost you just as the soil would lose water. Your community is going astray. Be witness and neglect not.
Among the poets who used to engage in argumentation and defend the right of Alī (a) was the great Arab poet and man of letter, Abūl-Aswad Dawilī who lived in Baṣrah at the place of the tribe of Banū Qashīr that were sympathetic to Uthmān ibn Affān. None of them could surpass Abūl-Aswad in speech. So, they instead persecuted and harassed him, throwing stones at his house every night. He gave this reply to them:


The vile people such as Banū Qashīr say, With the passage of time, why have you not forgotten Alī?
I said to them, How could I abandon deeds that are incumbent upon me?
I love Muḥammad so much, and Abbās, Ḥamzah and the successor [waṣī] (i.e. Alī) as well.
The cousins and nearest of kin of the Prophet are the most beloved of people for me.
If love for them is guidance, I have attained it then, and if this love is useless, then I have lost nothing.
Undoubtedly, they are the people of admonition and my beloved ones so long as I live.
I regard God as the Creator of everything. He has guided them and appointed the Prophet from among them.
Except them, nobody is worthy of it. May this Gods choice of them be pleasant!
This continued until finally, at the end of the Umayyad rule, great and famous poets such as Kumayt al-Asadī, Kuthayyir Azzah and Sayyid Ḥumayrī who thawed themselves in the guardianship [wilāyah], have recited more poems in defense of Alīs (a) right.

2. The Shīah Poets Confrontation with the Umayyad and Abbāsid Poets
The second subject about which Shīah poets have recited poetry is the poems they have composed to counter the Umayyad and Abbāsid poets. After 35 AH when Uthmān ibn al-Affān was murdered, the Umayyads used to utilize the weapon of poetry to attain their wicked objectives and incite people against the Commander of the Faithful (a). Among those who had recited poetry against the Imām was Walīd ibn Uqbah, maternal brother of Uthmān, who has been described by the Quran as fāsiq [transgressor]. He had accused Banū Hāshim, the head of which was Alī (a), of killing Uthmān, saying:

O Banū Hāshim! Return the weapon of your maternal cousin and do not usurp his property as his property is not lawful for you.
O Banū Hāshim! How could harmony be established between you and us while the chain mail and camels of Uthmān are with Alī?
O Banū Hāshim! How could I accept your friendship while the spears of Ibn Arwā (Uthmān) are with you?
Then, Abd Allāh ibn Abī Sufyān ibn Ḥārith ibn Abd al-Muṭṭalib answered him, saying thus poetically:

You may not get your sword from us because when its owner was frightened, he threw it and it was lost.
You likened him to Khosroe, and in fact he was like him. And his horses and properties were like that of his (Khosroe).
Alī, the good, is from us; the victor of Khaybar and Badr when the hostile army came.
Alī is the one vested with authority after Muḥammad and the companion of the Prophet in all the wars.
He is the successor of Prophet al-Muṣṭafā and his cousin. He is the first person to perform prayer and the one who is so well-mannered.
Walīd ibn Uqbah composed his next poem against the Commander of the Faithful (a) when he wrote a letter to his brother, Umārah ibn Uqbah who was then living in Kūfah, inciting him to be inimical to the Imām, saying thus:

If my guess is ever correct about Umārah, he is sleeping and does not take revenge!
He is sleeping comfortably while the murderers of Uthmān are near him encamping between the Khawarnaq [magnificent building] and the Palace!
He is walking with a peace of mind and sound body, as if he has not heard of the killing of Abū Amrū (Uthmān).
Be aware that the best of people after the three persons is the one who has been killed by the tajībī who came from Egypt.
Then, Faḍl ibn al-Abbās ibn Abd al-Muṭṭalib replied to him reciting thus:

Are you taking revenge for a person who has no relationship with you? Ibn Dhakrān Ṣafūrī is one thing while taking revenge for Uthmān is another.
You can still remember that you were suffering from poverty, he forgot the father of his donkey while taking pride in the mother of his horse.
Be aware that the best of people after the Prophet in the sight of God is the successor of Prophet Muṣṭafā.
He is the first to have performed the prayer, the brother of the Prophet, and the first person to have driven away the oppressive contingent in (the Battle of) Badr.
Sometime during the Battle of Jamal when the supporters of the Umayyads and the so-called Uthmānīs were reciting rajaz-metered verses in affirming their movement and inciting their supporters, the companions of the Commander of the Faithful (a) were also answering them in return. Among these persons were Ammār ibn Yāsir and Mālik al-Ashtar. For example, some members of the tribe of Banū Ḍabbah who had surrounded the camel of Āishah would take the reins of camel and would be killed. The last person to have taken the bridle of camel said, thus:

We are the Banū Ḍabbah, supporters of (the Army of) Jamal, and are taking Uthmāns revenge with our spears.
Return to us our sheikh in safety.
Mālik al-Ashtar rushed to confront him and said, thus:

How could we return Nathal (Uthmān) while he is enshrouded, swords having penetrated his body, and is dead?!
Then, Mālik al-Ashtar gave a strike to him and killed him.
During the Battle of Ṣiffīn, due to the prolongation of the battle, in addition to military combat and confrontation, there was also confrontation in poetry in its broadest sense between the two belligerent armies. Naṣr ibn Muzāḥim has mentioned great poets such as Mālik al-Ashtar, Khuzaymah ibn Thābit, Faḍl ibn al-Abbās, Qays ibn Sad Udayy ibn Ḥātam, Amrū ibn Ḥamq al-Khazāī, Ḥujr ibn Udayy al-Kindī, Numān ibn Ajlān al-Anṣārī, Muḥammad ibn Abī Sabrah Qurayshī, Mughayrah ibn Ḥārith ibn Abd al-Muṭṭalib, Jundab ibn Zuhayr, Abū Zubayd aṭ-Ṭāī, Aḥmar (an Iraqi poet), Abū Ḥabbah ibn Ghuzayyah al-Anṣārī, and others who had recited poetry in countering the poets of the people of Shām. The Commander of the Faithful (a) himself had been giving replies to individuals such as Amr ibn al-Āṣ.
Ibn Abīl-Ḥadīd thus says: Najāshī was one of the Iraqi poets in (the Battle of) Ṣiffīn who had been ordered by Alī to confront the poets of the people of Shām such as Kab ibn Juayl and others.

The Shīah poets had recited poetry in various arenas:
1. Argumentation: After the event of Saqīfah, the truth-speaking Shīah poets spoke out in defense of the Commander of the Faithfuls (a) right, among whom were the leading orators of the Banū Hāshim such as Abd Allāh ibn Abī Sufyān ibn Ḥārith ibn Abd al-Muṭṭalib and Mughayrah ibn Ḥārith ibn Abd al-Muṭṭalib.
2. Confronting the Umayyad and Abbāsid poets: After Uthmāns murder in 35 AH, the Umayyads used to recite poetry against the Commander of the Faithful (a). From then on, the Shīah poets responded through poetry.
For example, during the Battle of Ṣiffīn there was also a battle of poetry between the two warring parties.

1. What does Allāmah Amīni say about the argumentation of the Shīah poets?
2. Since when did the Shīah poets confrontation with the poets affiliated to the enemies of the Shīah start?

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