SHI ITE ISLAM. Allamah Sayyed Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai. Translated and Edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr

SHI ITE ISLAM Allamah Sayyed Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai Translated and Edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr State University of New York Press, 1975 ISBN-10: Contents Preface The Study of Shi
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SHI ITE ISLAM Allamah Sayyed Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai Translated and Edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr State University of New York Press, 1975 ISBN-10: Contents Preface The Study of Shi ism Fundamental Elements of Shi ism Present State of Shi ite Studies The Present Book The Author Notes INTRODUCTION The Meaning of Religion (din) 2 Islam, and Shi ism Notes I THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF SHI ISM 33 2 THE ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF SHI ISM The Cause of the Separation of the Shi ite Minority from the Sunni Majority The Two Problems of Succession and Authority in Religious Sciences The Political Method of the Selection of the Caliph by Vote and Its Disagreement with the Shi ite View The Termination of the Caliphate of Ali Amir al-mu minin 41 and His Method of Rule The Benefit which the Shi ah Derived from the Caliphate of Ali The Transfer of the Caliphate to Mu awiyah and Its Transformation into a Hereditary Monarchy The Bleakest Days of Shi ism CONTENTS The Establishment of Umayyad Rule Shi ism During the 2nd/8th Century Shi ism in the 3rd/9th Century Shi ism in the 4th/10th Century Shi ism from the 5th/11th to the 9th/15th Centuries Shi ism in the 10th/16th and 11th/17th Centuries Shi ism from the 12th/18th to the 14th/20th Centuries Notes DIVISIONS WITHIN SHI ISM Zaydism and Its Branches Isma ilism and Its Branches The Batinis The Nizaris, Musta lis, Druzes and Muqanna ah Differences Between Twelve-Imam Shi ism and Isma ilism and Zaydism Summary of the History of Twelve-Imam Shi ism Notes II SHI ITE RELIGIOUS THOUGHT 78 4 THREE METHODS OF RELIGIOUS THOUGHT 79 FIRST METHOD: THE FORMAL ASPECT OF RELIGION The Different Facets of the Formal Aspect of Religion Traditions of the Companions The Book and Tradition The Outward and Inward Aspects of the Quran The Principles of Interpretation of the Quran Hadith The Method of Shi ism in Authenticating the Hadith The Method of Shi ism in Following the Hadith Learning and Teaching in Islam Shi ism and the Transmitted Sciences SECOND METHOD: THE WAY OF INTELLECTION AND IN- TELLECTUAL REASONING Philosophical and Theological Thought in Shi ism Shi ite Initiative in Islamic Philosophy and Kalam CONTENTS Shi ite Contributions to Philosophy and the Intellectual Sciences Outstanding Intellectual Figures of Shi ism THIRD METHOD: INTELLECTUAL INTUITION OR MYSTI- CAL UNVEILING Man and Gnostic Comprehension Appearance of Gnosis (Sufism) in Islam Guidance Provided by the Quran and Sunnah for Gnostic Knowledge Notes III ISLAMIC BELIEFS FROM THE SHI ITE POINT OF VIEW ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD The World Seen from the Point of View of Being and Reality ; The Necessity of God Another Point of View Concerning the Relation Between Man and the Universe The Divine Essence and Qualities The Meaning of the Divine Qualities Further Explanation Concerning Qualities Qualities of Action Destiny and Providence Man and Free Will Notes ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE PROPHET Toward the Goal : General Guidance Special Guidance Reason and Law That Mysterious Wisdom and Consciousness Called Revelation The Prophets - Inerrancy of Prophecy The Prophets and Revealed Religion The Prophets and Proof of Revelation and Prophecy The Number of the Prophets of God The Prophets Who are Bringers of Divine Law The Prophecy of Muhammad CONTENTS The Prophet and the Quran Notes ESCHATOLOGY Man is Composed of Spirit and Body A Discussion of Spirit from Another Perspective Death from the Islamic Point of View Purgatory The Day of Judgment - Resurrection Another Explanation The Continuity and Succession of Creation Notes ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE IMAM (part-1) The Meaning of Imam The Imamate and Succession Affirmation of the Previous Section The Imamate and Its Role in the Exposition of the Divine Sciences The Difference Between Prophet and Imam The Imamate and Its Role in the Esoteric Dimension of Religion The Imams and Leaders of Islam Notes ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE IMAM (part-2) 169 A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LIVES OF THE TWELVE IMAMS The First Imam Amir al-mu minin Ali The Second Imam Hasan Mujtaba The Third Imam Husayn (Sayyid al-shuhada) The Fourth Imam Sajjad (Ali ibn Husayn entitled Zayn al- abidin and Sajjad) The Fifth Imam Muhammad ibn Ali Baqir The Sixth Imam Ja far ibn Muhammad The Seventh Imam Musa ibn Ja far Kazim The Eighth Imam Rida (Ali ibn Musa) The Ninth Imam Muhammad (ibn Ali) Taqi The Tenth Imam Ali ibn Muhammad Naqi The Eleventh Imam Hasan ibn Ali Askari The Twelfth Imam Mahdi CONTENTS 5 Notes ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE IMAM (part-3) On the Appearance of the Mahdi The Spiritual Message of Shi ism Notes Appendix I: Taqiyah Or Dissimulation 198 Appendix II: Mut Ah Or Temporary Marriage 200 Appendix III: Practices In Ritual Shiism 203 Appendix IV: A Note On The Jinn 206 Bibliography 209 The Writings of Allamah Tabataba i General Bibliography Preface by Seyyed Hossein Nasr In The Name of Allah Most Merciful and Compassionate 0.1 The Study of Shi ism Despite the vast amount of information and the number of factual details assembled during the past century by Western scholarship in the fields of orientalism and comparative religion, many gaps still exist in the knowledge of the various religions of the world, even on the level of historical facts. Moreover, until recently most of the studies carried out within these fields have suffered from a lack of metaphysical penetration and sympathetic insight. One of the most notable omissions in Western studies of the religions of the East, and of Islam in particular, has occurred in the case of Shi ism. Until now Shi ism has received little attention; and when it has been discussed, it has usually been relegated to the secondary and peripheral status of a religio-political sect, a heterodoxy or even a heresy. Hence its importance in both the past and the present has been belittled far more than a fair and objective study of the matter would justify. The present work hopes to redress partially the lack of accessible and reliable English-language material pertaining to Shi ism. It is the first of a series of books designed to bring to the English-speaking world accurate information about Shi ism through the translation of writings by authentic Shi ite representatives and of some of the traditional sources which, along with the Quran, form the foundation of Shi ite Islam. The purpose of this series is to present Shi ism as a living reality as it has been and as it is, in both its doctrinal and historical aspects. Thereby we can reveal yet another dimension of the Islamic tradition 6 PREFACE 7 and make better known the richness of the Islamic revelation in its historical unfolding, which could have been willed only by Providence. This task, however, is made particularly difficult in a European language and for a predominantly non-muslim audience by the fact that to explain Shi ism and the causes for its coming into being is to fall immediately into polemics with Sunni Islam. The issues which thus arise, in turn, if presented without the proper safeguards and without taking into account the audience involved could only be detrimental to the sympathetic understanding of Islam itself. In the traditional Islamic atmosphere where faith in the revelation is naturally very strong, the Sunni-Shi ite polemics which have gone on for over thirteen centuries, and which have become especially accentuated since the Ottoman-Safavid rivalries dating from the tenth/sixteenth century, have never resulted in the rejection of Islam by anyone from either camp. In the same way the bitter medieval theological feuds among different Christian churches and schools never caused anyone to abandon Christianity itself, for the age was one characterized by faith. But were Christianity to be presented to Muslims beginning with a full description of all the points that separated, let us say, the Catholic and Orthodox churches in the Middle Ages, or even the branches of the early church, and all that the theologians of one group wrote against the other, the effect upon the Muslims understanding of the Christian religion itself could only be negative. In fact a Muslim might begin to wonder how anyone could have remained Christian or how the Church could have survived despite all these divisions and controversies. Although the divisions within Islam are far fewer than those in Christianity, one would expect the same type of effect upon the Western reader faced with the Shi ite-sunni polemics. These controversies would naturally be viewed by such a reader from the outside and without the faith in Islam itself which has encompassed this whole debate since its inception and has provided its traditional context as well as the protection and support for the followers of both sides. Despite this difficulty, however, Shi ism must of necessity be studied and presented from its own point of view as well as from within the general matrix of Islam. This task is made necessary first of all because Shi ism exists as an important historical reality within Islam and hence it must be studied as an objective religious fact. Secondly, the very attacks made against Islam and its unity by certain Western authors (who point to the Sunni-Shi ite division and often fail to remember the similar divisions within every other world religion) necessitate a detailed and at the same time authentic study of Shi ism within the total context of Islam. Had not such a demand existed it would not even have 7 PREFACE 8 been necessary to present to the world outside Islam all the polemical arguments that have separated Sunnism and Shi ism. This is especially true at a time when many among the Sunni and Shi ite ulama are seeking in every way possible to avoid confrontation with each other in order to safeguard the unity of Islam in a secularized world which threatens Islam from both the outside and the inside. The attitude of this group of ulama is of course in a sense reminiscent of the ecumenism among religions, and also within a given religion, that is so often discussed today in the West. Most often, however, people search in these ecumenical movements for a common denominator which, in certain instances, sacrifices divinely ordained qualitative differences for the sake of a purely human and often quantitative egalitarianism. In such cases the so-called ecumenical forces in question are no more than a concealed form of the secularism and humanism which gripped the West at the time of the Renaissance and which in their own turn caused religious divisions within Christianity. This type of ecumenism, whose hidden motive is much more worldly than religious, goes hand in hand with the kind of charity that is willing to forego the love of God for the love of the neighbor and in fact insists upon the love of the neighbor in spite of a total lack of the love for God and the Transcendent. The mentality which advocates this kind of charity affords one more example of the loss of the transcendent dimension and the reduction of all things to the purely worldly. It is yet another manifestation of the secular character of modernism which in this case has penetrated into the supreme Christian virtue of charity and, to the extent that it has been successful, has deprived this virtue of any spiritual significance. From the point of view of this type of ecumenical mentality, to speak approvingly of the differences between religions, or of the different orthodox schools within a single religion, is tantamount to betraying man and his hope for salvation and peace. A secular and humanistic ecumenism of this kind fails to see that real peace or salvation lies in Unity through this divinely ordained diversity and not in its rejection, and that the diversity of religions and also of the orthodox schools within each religion are signs of the Divine compassion, which seeks to convey the message of heaven to men possessing different spiritual and psychological qualities. True ecumenism would be a search in depth after Unity, essential and Transcendent Unity, and not the quest after a uniformity which would destroy all qualitative distinctions. It would accept and honor not only the sublime doctrines but even the minute details of every tradition, and yet see the Unity which shines through these very outward differences. And within each religion true ecumenism would respect the other orthodox schools and yet remain faithful to every facet of the traditional background of the school in ques- 8 PREFACE 9 tion. It would be less harmful to oppose other religions, as has been done by so many religious authorities throughout history, than to be willing to destroy essential aspects of one s own religion in order to reach a common denominator with another group of men who are asked to undergo the same losses. To say the least, a league of religions could not guarantee religious peace, any more than the League of Nations guaranteed political peace. Different religions have been necessary in the long history of mankind because there have been different humanities or human collectivities on earth. There having been different recipients of the Divine message, there has been more than one echo of the Divine Word. God has said I to each of these humanities or communities; hence the plurality of religions. 1 Within each religion as well, especially within those that have been destined for many ethnic groups, different orthodox interpretations of the tradition, of the one heavenly message, have been necessary in order to guarantee the integration of the different psychological and ethnic groupings into a single spiritual perspective. It is difficult to imagine how the Far Eastern peoples could have become Buddhist without the Mahayana school, or some of the Eastern peoples Muslim without Shi ism. The presence of such divisions within the religious tradition in question does not contradict its inner unity and transcendence. Rather it has been the way of ensuring spiritual unity in a world of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Of course, since the exoteric religious perspective relies on outward forms, it always tends in every religion to make its own interpretation the only interpretation. That is why a particular school in any religion chooses a single aspect of the religion and attaches itself so intensely to that one aspect that it forgets and even negates all other aspects. Only on the esoteric level of religious experience can there be understanding of the inherent limitation of being bound to only one aspect of the total Truth; only on the esoteric level can each religious assertion be properly placed so as not to destroy the Transcendent Unity which is beyond and yet dwells within the outward forms and determinations of a particular religion or religious school. Shi ism in Islam should be studied in this light: as an affirmation of a particular dimension of Islam which is made central and in fact taken by Shi ites to be Islam as such. It was not a movement that in any way destroyed the Unity of Islam, but one that added to the richness of the historical deployment and spread of the Quranic message. And despite its exclusiveness, it contains within its forms the Unity which binds all aspects of Islam together. Like Sunnism, Sufism and everything else that is genuinely Islamic, Shi ism was already contained as a seed in the Holy Quran and in the earliest manifestations of the revelation, 9 PREFACE 10 and belongs to the totality of Islamic orthodoxy. 2 Moreover, in seeking to draw closer together in the spirit of a true ecumenism in the above sense, as is advocated today by both the Sunni and Shi ite religious authorities, Shi ism and Sunnism must not cease to be what they are and what they have always been. Shi ism, therefore, must be presented in all its fullness, even in those aspects which contradict Sunni interpretations of certain events in Islamic history, which in any case are open to various interpretations. Sunnism and Shi ism must first of all remain faithful to themselves and to their own traditional foundations before they can engage in a discourse for the sake of Islam or, more generally speaking, religious values as such. But if they are to sacrifice their integrity for a common denominator which would of necessity fall below the fullness of each, they will only have succeeded in destroying the traditional foundation which has preserved both schools and guaranteed their vitality over the centuries. Only Sufism or gnosis ( irfan) can reach that Unity which embraces these two facets of Islam and yet transcends their outward differences. Only Islamic esotericism can see the legitimacy and meaning of each and the real significance of the interpretation each has made of Islam and of Islamic history. Without, therefore, wanting to reduce Shi ism to a least common denominator with Sunnism or to be apologetic, this book presents Shi ism as a religious reality and an important aspect of the Islamic tradition. Such a presentation will make possible a more intimate knowledge of Islam in its multidimensional reality but at the same time it will pose certain difficulties of a polemical nature which can be resolved only on the level which transcends polemics altogether. As already mentioned, the presentation of Shi ism in its totality and therefore including its polemical aspects, while nothing new for the Sunni world, especially since the intensification of Sunni-Shi ite polemics during the Ottoman and Safavid periods, would certainly have an adverse effect upon the non-muslim reader if the principles mentioned above were to be forgotten. In order to understand Islam fully it must always be remembered that it, like other religions, contained in itself from the beginning the possibility of different types of interpretation: (1) that Shi ism and Sunnism, while opposed to each other on certain important aspects of sacred history, are united in the acceptance of the Quran as the Word of God and in the basic principles ofthe faith; (2) that Shi ism bases itself on a particular dimension of Islam and on an aspect of the nature of the Prophet as continued later in the line of the Imams and the Prophet s Household to the exclusion of, and finally in opposition to, another aspect which is contained in Sunnism; (3) and finally, that the Shi ite- 10 PREFACE 11 Sunni polemics can be put aside and the position of each of these schools explained only on the level of esotericism, which transcends their differences and yet unites them inwardly. 0.2 Fundamental Elements of Shi ism Although in Islam no political or social movement has ever been separated from religion, which from the point of view of Islam necessarily embraces all things, Shi ism was not brought into existence only by the question of the political succession to the Prophet of Islam-upon whom be blessings and peace-as so many Western works claim (although this question was of course of great importance). The problem of political succession may be said to be the element that crystallized the Shi ites into a distinct group, and political suppression in later periods, especially the martyrdom of Imam Husayn-upon whom be peace-only accen tuated this tendency ofthe Shi ites to see themselves as a separate community within the Islamic world. The principal cause of the coming into being of Shi ism, however, lies in the fact that this possibility existed within the Islamic revelation itself and so had to be realized. Inasmuch as there were exoteric and esoteric interpretations from the very beginning, from which developed the schools (madhhab) of the Shari ah and Sufism in the Sunni world, there also had to be an interpretation of Islam which would combine these elements in a single whole. This possibility was realized in Shi ism, for which the Imam is the person in whom these two aspects of traditional authority are united and in whom the religious life is marked by a sense of tragedy and martyrdom. There had to be the possibility, we might say, of a
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