In Defense of al-Mufaddal, part 1: Legalists vs Esotericists

Brother “Ammar Muslim”, author of Shiiticstudies created an article ostensibly in response to my series of my posts on Ismail ibn Ja’far and al-Mufaddal ibn Umar - the son of Imam al-Sadiq and the son’s teacher respectively.

In the post, he attempts to present the accusations against al-Mufaddal ibn Umar in the light of a struggle between Imamite Shi’a of an antinomian / ghali strain against Imamites of a distinctly legalist way of thinking.

In doing so, he commits numerous fallacies and audacious claims - some categorically false, some grossly misinterpreted against the character and nature of al-Mufaddal.

We will discuss each and every claim he presented in this article, and analyze the veracity of them.




The common theme which Ammar Muslim bases his post on is the idea that there were distinctly batini (esoteric) Shi’a and distinctly legalist (fiqh-oriented) Shi’a.

His idea of batinism is that it is belief in which mere ma’rifa (knowledge & belief of the true status) of the Imam abrogates Shari’a - relieving the Shi’a from fasting, praying, and so on. 

Suffice to say, this is a very wrong misconception which is based on the view of Mukhalif heresiographers distant from Tashayyu’ - and also adopted by the opponents of al-Mufaddal for more nefarious reasons, as will be clarified in these series of posts. 

Let us get an introductory picture of what is batinism in the following sections. 


For it is the Ghulāt who believed that the gnosis of the Imam frees one from the shackles of the Law[26].

It is the Ghulāt who used not to pray and to drink wine freely” - Ammar Muslim

Ammar Muslim places al-Mufaddal as one of the disciples of Abu al-Khattab and claims that Abu al-Khattab’s movement were ghulat (heterodox) and did not pray nor believe in Shari’a.

This claim is categorically false.

4. [4/233] Rijal al-Kashshi: Muhammad b. Masud from Ali b. al-Hasan from Muammar b. Khallad who said: Abu al-Hasan عليه السلام said: Verily Aba al-Khattab corrupted the people of Kufa so they used not to pray the Maghrib until the redness of the sky disappears, but that is not appropriate except for the traveller or someone who has a problem.”

As we can see, Abu al-Khattab’s companions did in fact pray, but however, delayed their Maghrib prayer until the redness of the sky disappears?

Is this corruption of the religion? 

Not at all, after all - Imam al-Sadiq would order his companions to pray at different times to avoid being singled out at one group and risking persecution.

  • This evident in the following authentic hadith graded mu’tabar by Shaykh Asif Mohseni

(Tahdheeb al-Ahkam, vol 2, page 252) 

Muhammad b. Yahya from Muhammad b. al-Husayn from Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Hashim al-Bajali from Salim Abi Khadija from Abi Abdillah عليه السلام, he (Salim) said: a man asked [him] while I was present: I happen to enter the Masjid and one of our companions is praying the Asr prayer while another is praying Dhuhr [why this divergence]? He said: I ordered them to do that, if they were all to pray at one time they would be known and it would be off with their necks.

عن سالم أبي خديجة، عن أبي عبد الله عليه السلام قالسأل إنسان وأنا حاضر فقالربما دخلت المسجد وبعض أصحابنا يصلي العصر،وبعضهم يصلي الظهر، فقالأنا أمرتهم بهذا لو صلوا على وقت واحد لعرفوا فاخذ برقابهم.

  • Abu al-Khattab’s companions did in fact fast

Shaykh al-Tusi says in Tahdheeb al-Ahkam (vol 4, page 309)

Abu al-Khattab’s companion did in fact believe in fasting of Ramadan, and additionally believed that the obligation (farida) of fasting in Sha’ban has the same obligation as Ramadan. 

Such that, if one breaks his fast in Sha’ban - he has to pay the same kafara he would pay in Ramadan.

What is meant by it is that none of the imams, peace be upon them, fasted Sh’ban on the grounds that the fast is equal to the fast of Ramadan in obligation (farida), because some people said that his fast is an obligation.

Abu al-Khattab, may God curse him and his companions, believed in this and say that whoever breaks his fast on a day of it must pay the kafara that is required of the day he broke his fast in the month of Ramadan

المراد بها انه لم يصمه أحد من الأئمة عليهم السلام على أن صومه يجري مجرى شهر رمضان في الفرض والوجوب لان قوما قالوا إن صومهفريضة، وكان أبو الخطاب لعنه الله وأصحابه يذهبون إليه ويقولون ان من أفطر يوما منه لزمه من الكفارة ما يلزم من أفطر يوما من شهررمضان،

So brother Ammar Muslim’s attempt to placing al-Mufaddal in the same category as the Ghulat on account that he belonged to a group which did not fast or pray, fails. 

The Ghulāt are tested in the times of prayer (to see whether they pray or not)” al-Ayyashi

But one may wonder - is Abu al-Khattab’s movement seeing Sha’ban fasting as a farida similar to Ramadan a form of ghuluw or abrogating Sharia? 

Not at all. We will explore this in section B to get a preliminary picture of batinism, before determining its precise definition in the next post. 



BA) Hukm Al Dawud

The Imam is delegated power and privilege to issue contradictory rulings to the samw question without providing evidence. 

This is known as “Hukm Al Dawud” (The ruling of Dawud’s family). 

(Al-Kafi, vol 1, page 398)

Abi Abdillah said:

Dunya does not undergo demise until a man from my lineage rules by Hukm Al Dawud, and is not asked for proof (for his rulings) - he gives each soul its right”

أبا عبد الله عليه السلام يقوللا تذهب الدنيا حتى يخرج رجل مني يحكم بحكومة آل داود ولا يسأل بينة، يعطي كل نفس حقها.

As a practical implementation of Hukm Al Dawud, let us look at the following hadith:

(Basa’ir al-Darajat, page 404)

On the authority of Musa ibn Ashyam, he said: 

I entered upon Abi Abdullah and asked him about a matter, and he answered me.

While I was sitting, a man came to him, asked him about it in the same way, and he (the Imam) gave him a different answer from what he gave me.

The another man came and asked him the same question, and he (the Imam) answered him in the opposite of what he answered my companion and me. 

I was frightingly alarmed from that.

So the Imam said: “O Ibn Ashyam, I see were frightened’

I said “May God make me your ransom, but I was frightened by three different answers to one issue.”

The Imam said, “O Ibn Ashyam, God has delegated to Dawud, peace be upon him, the order of his kingdom.” 

For Allah said to Dawud “This (delegation to issue rulings without proof) is Our gift, so give or withhold ˹as you wish˺, never to be called to account.” 

حدثنا أحمد بن محمد عن أبيه عن عبد الله بن المغيرة عن عبد الله بن سنان عن موسى بن اشيم قال دخلت على أبى عبد الله فسألته عنمسألة فأجابني فبينا انا جالس إذ جائه رجل فسأله عنها بعينها فاجابه بخلاف ما أجابني ثم جاء اخر فسأله عنها بعينها فاجابه بخلاف ماأجابني وأجاب صاحبي ففزعت من ذلك وعظم على فلما خرج القوم نظر إلى فقال يا بن اشيم كأنك جزعت قلت جعلني الله فداك إنما جزعتمن ثلث أقاويل في مسألة واحدة فقال يا بن اشيم ان الله فوض إلى داود عليه السلام امر ملكه فقال هذا عطاؤنا فامنن أو أمسك بغير حساب

BB) True answers?

Imam al-Sadiq gave his companions, as we can see above, different answers to the same question.

He is not obligated to provide proof for his statements. 

In a variation of the above hadith found in al-Kafi, before receiving Imam al-Sadiq’s answer - Musa ibn Ashyam realizes that the Imam answered the three companions in the same question differently out of taqiyya.

(Al-Kafi, vol 1, page 265)

I asked him about that same verse, and he asked him the opposite of what he told my companion and me.

So I calmed myself (out of being alarmed) and I knew that he did so out of taqiyya

فسأله عن تلك الآية فأخبره بخلاف ما أخبرني وأخبر صاحبي، فسكنت نفسي، فعلمت ان ذلك منه تقية

There are many questions related to halal and haram, the answer to them - hence the Imam does not give the bulk of his companions a true answer, except to his most trustworthy, unquestioning, and closest ones. 

And he does not need to prove his statements.

Mazarim narrated from Abi Abdilah (al-Sadiq):

We are Ahlulbayt whom God continues to send from us who he who knows His Book from its beginning to its end.

And we have much knowledge of matters related to halal and haram to which we conceal as we cannot tell anyone about it.”

إنا أهل بيت لم يزل الله يبعث منا من يعلم كتابه من أوله إلى آخره، وإن عندنا من حلال الله وحرامه ما يسعنا كتمانه ما نستطيع أن نحدث بهأحدا

What is meant by true answers?

For example, as recounted by Shaykh al-Saduq.

Imam al-Sadiq wore a black jubbah and told his closest compnions it is the dress of hellfire because he trusted them.

However, when commoner Shi’a came to the Imam - he gave them an untrue answer (that is is preferable to wear it), out of taqiyya, because he did not trust them.

(‘Ilal al-Shara’ie, vol 2, page 347)

“He (the Imam) wore it out of taqiyya. Indeed, he informed Hudhayfa ibn Mansur that it is the clothing of people of hellfire - because he trusted him.

Whereas a group of Shi’a came to him (the Imam) asking him about wearing black, and he did not trust them in keeping the secret so he excercised taqiyya on them.”

قال مؤلف هذا الكتابلبسه للتقية وإنما أخبر حذيفة بن منصور بأنه لباس أهل النار لأنه إئتمنه وقد دخل إليه قوم من الشيعة يسألونه عنالسواد ولم يثق إليهم في كتمان السر فاتقاهم فيه.

Thus, if an Imam gives different answers to the same question. It is within his delegated right to give untrue answers to the bulk of his companions out of taqiyya, while his most trusted companions receive the true answer.

BC) A Neat Fiqhi System?

BCA) Contradictions

When the Imam gives different answers to the same question, per Hukm Al Dawud, it is a demonstration of his absolute power. 

Nothing the Imam says can be questioned. It is not because every answer the Imam gives is true, it’s because following his authority leads us to salvation.

If the answer is untrue - it is still binding on the person the command was given to.


Abu Jaafar (al-Baqir) said to me: O Ziyad! What do you say if we give a fatwa based on taqiyya to a man who is one of our followers? 

I [Ziyad] said to him: You know best, may I be your ransom. 

He [the Imam] said: If he takes it, it is better for him and greater in reward.”

عن علي بن محمد ، عن سهل بن زياد ، عن ابن محبوب ، عن علي بن رئاب ، عن أبي عبيدة ، عن أبي جعفر ( عليه السلام ) ، قال : قال لي : يا زياد ! ما تقول لو أفتينا رجلا ممن يتولانا بشيء من التقية ؟ قال : قلت له : أنت أعلم ، جعلت فداك ، قال : إن أخذ به فهو خير له وأعظمأجرا 

It is clear that what is meant by “fatwa by taqiyya”, is that Imam al-Sadiq was giving judgement to companions he did not trust per the fatwa of the Mukhalifeen.

In fact when living under oppressive (Mukhalif) rulers, the Imam instructs his companions to completely adopt Mukhalif fiqh. 

(‘Ilal al-Shara’ie by Shaykh al-Saduq, vol 2, 237)

If you were living under oppressive rulers (i.e, Sunni rulers) - live by their ahkam and do not make yourselves known (as Shi’a) and risk death. 

If you deal by their ahkam (fiqhi commandments), it will be better for you

علل الشرائعأبي، عن سعد، عن عمرو بن أبي المقدام، عن علي بن الحسين، عن أبي عبد الله عليه السلام قالإذا كنتم في أئمة الجورفامضوا في أحكامهم ولا تشهروا أنفسكم فتقتلوا، وإن تعاملتم بأحكامهم كان خيرا لكم.

Not only this, but it is to the extent Imam literally tells us to check Sunni narrations seeking ahkam! If we do not find narrations from the Imams on the matter.

(Al-‘Iddah by Shaykh al-Tusi, vol 1, page 149)

If an incident has come down to you for which you do not find its ruling in what was narrated from us, so look at what they [Mukhalifeen] narrated on the authority of Ali, peace be upon him, and act upon it.

لما روى عن الصادق عليه السلام انه قال: (إذا أنزلت بكم حادثة لا تجدون حكمها فيما روى عنا فانظروا إلى ما رووه عن علي عليه السلامفاعملوا به

As one may have guessed, this will lead to a wild amount of contradiction of ahadith within Shi’i ahkam in pertinence to ahkam, knowledge, and so on - which has led individuals to leave Shi’ism.

Shaykh al-Tusi for one - remarks in the introduction of al-Istibsar that nearly every single hadith has a hadith contradicting it. And recalls that a person left Shi’ism for Zaydism due to this.

The difference, contrast, contradiction, and contradiction that occurred in it, to the extent that hardly any hadith is agreed upon except with there being something that contradicts it, and no hadith is accepted - except that there be a hadith that goes against it

Aba Abdilah [al-Mufid], may God support him, mentions that Abu al-Husayn al-Harouni Al-Alawi [Zaydi Imam] believed the truth and believed in (Twelve conception of) Imamate, bu he retracted from it when he becam confused due to difference in ahadith and left the doctrine

وما وقع فيها من الاختلاف والتباين والمنافاة والتضاد، حتى لا يكاد يتفق خبر إلا وبإزائه ما يضاده ولا يسلم حديث إلا وفي مقابلته ما ينافيه

أبا عبد الله أيده الله يذكر أن أبا الحسين الهاروني (3) العلوي كان يعتقد الحق ويدين بالإمامة فرجع عنها لما التبس عليه الامر في اختلفاالأحاديث وترك المذهب


  • With this level of contradiction and untrue answers, is it logical that the Imams intended to create a neat fiqhi system? 

No - it isn’t. 

  • For example. Let’s talk Fiqh-wise regarding conformance to the Quran

There is no such thing as conformance to the Quran.

For one - each verse has a batin (esoteric) interpretation.

If we look at a hadith and try to compare it with the Quran, there is a batin interpretation we might not be aware or not given knowledge of. 

If a hadith to our fallible minds might not make sense from a dhahir (outward) perspective), it could make sense from a batin interpretation which we simply could not find in what survives of hadith books today.

Thus, rejecting a hadith based on ‘comparison’ to the Quran is impossible. 

(Wasa’il al-Shi’a, vol 27, page 192 - from al-Mahasin by al-Barqi)

On the authority of Jabir ibn Yazid, he said: 

I asked Abu Jaafar (peace be upon him) about a matter regarding interpretation of the Quran, and he answered me.

Then I asked him about it again, and he answered me with a different answer. 

So I told him: ‘You answer me with a different answer from the last time I asked you.’

He said: The Qur’an has a batn (esoteric aspect), and the batn itself has a batn.

It also has a dhahr (outwards part), and the dhahr has dhahr.

O Jabir! Nothing is further from the minds of men than the interpretation of the Qur’an.

(33572) 41 - وعن أبيه، عن علي بن الحكم، عن محمد بن الفضيل، عن بشر الوابشي (1)، عن جابر بن يزيد قالسألت أبا جعفر (عليهالسلامعن شئ من التفسير فأجابني ثم سألته عنه ثانية فأجابني بجواب آخر فقلتكنت أجبتني في هذه المسألة بجواب غير هذا، فقاليا جابرإن للقرآن بطنا [وللبطن بطنا] (2) وله ظهر، وللظهر ظهر، يا جابروليس شئ أبعد من عقول الرجال من تفسير القرآن، وإن الآيةيكون أولها في شئ وآخرها في شئ، وهو كلام متصل متصرف

Our Imams also prohibited us from Tafsir al-Ra’y, tafsir based on personal interpretation.  But we must perform tafsir only per the Imam’s words

So how can we possibly compare to the Quran, as instructed by our Imams? 

  • As clarified above - the Imams gave fatwas in taqiyya to companions he did not trust. 
  • Similarly, the companions sometimes delegated elite companions they trusted to give fatwas in taqiyya to commoner companions. (i.e, Yunus ibn Abdulrahman to Zaydi / Mu’tazili leaning companions, as will be clarified in the next post)

  • Comparing the ahadith to Quran and Sunnah can be found in Zaydi texts:

(Al-Irshad of Imam al-Mansur Billah, page 82)

Zayd ibn Ali said:

We are like the people.

From us is the wrongdoer, and from us is one on the correct path.

Do not accept from us except that which conforms to the Book of Allah and sunnah of his prophets

السلام - من سائر العترة، عند الاختلاف، فحكى الديلمي رحمه الله، عن زيد بن علي عليه السلام (2)، أنه قال: (إنما نحن مثل الناس، مناالمخطئ ومنا المصيب، فسائلونا ولا تقبلوا منا إلا ما وافق كتاب الله وسنة نبيه صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم

We can find that Imam al-Sadiq did taqiyya from Zaydis:

(Al-Kafi, vol 1, page 223) 

On the authority of Saeed Al-Samman who said: 

I was with Abi Abdillah, peace be upon him, when two men from the Zaydiyya entered him and said to him: 

Is there an imam among you whom it is obligatory to obey? He (Imam) said: No

They said to him:

We have been told by trustworthy people about you that you give fatwas, acknowledging and we name them for you, so-and-so, and they are pious and virtuous (5) and they are among those who do not lie (6) 

So Abu Abdullah, peace be upon him, got angry and said:

‘I did not order them to believe in this!’

When they (Zaydiya) saw his anger, they left.”

C) Conclusion

It becomes increasingly clear as one reads this post that a “legal” strain of Shi’a did not in fact exist. 

The extremely large number of contradictions in ahkam, which the the companions of our Imams (topmost to the lowmost) must have been noteworthy. 

There was no legal / fiqh system, because there was no fiqh anyway.

It was within his authority to issue commands to some companions while other companions received contradictory commands. Rather, they followed the Imam’s unconditional word regardless of what the command was and regardless of their individual reasoning. 

Understanding the Imam’s level authority in this post will aid in our understanding of batinism in the next post.

And realizing that an independent legal tradition did not exist will help us in realizing that the conflict of companions with al-Mufaddal occured due to more nefarious reasons which will be discussed in the next post inshallah.

Inshallah this post helped those seeking to learn