Shalmaghani, part 2: Truly a Safeer?

 Bab of the Imam

Al-Husayn ibn Ruh al-Nawbakhti had appointed Muhammad ibn Ali al-Shalmaghani as his safeer (spiritual guide for the Shi’a and emissary on his behalf).

By being the safeer of al-Husayn ibn Ruh, one becomes the functional safeer of Imam al-Mahdi and one of the Imam’s thiqat (ones directly entrusted with the Imam’s secrets and propagating his message).

As shown in part 1 of this series, it is not permissible to doubt the narrations of the Imam’s thiqat - because he may be entrusted with secrets which our minds cannot comprehend.

Thus, our understanding of his ahadith would always be subpar and subordinate to the thiqa’s teachings.

Accordingly, this article will highlight the exact role of Shalmaghani as the Imam’s thiqa and what the occupation entailed in consequences.

1 ) Appointment

A) Safeer of the third safeer, one whose guidance in religion is sought

(Al-Ghayba of al-Tusi, vol 1, p 326)

When al-Husayn ibn Ruh hid himself from the people, he appointed Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Ali al-Shalmaghani.

At that time, he was on a straight path - and kufr and heresy did not arise from him.

The people would go to him and meet him as he was the companion  al-Husayn ibn Ruh had appointed as his safeer (ambassador) between them and him in their needs and missions”.

وذلك (2) في أيام الشيخ أبي القاسم الحسين بن روح رحمه الله واستتاره ونصبه أبا جعفر محمد بن علي المعروف بالشلمغاني، وكانمستقيما لم يظهر منه ما ظهر (منه) (3) من الكفر والالحاد، وكان الناس يقصدونه ويلقونه لأنه كان صاحب الشيخ أبي القاسم الحسين بنروح سفيرا بينهم وبينه في حوائجهم ومهماتهم.

B) Deputy of Kufa and the intermediary between the third safeer and the Shi’a

(Al-Ghayba, vol 1, page 328)

I wrote a letter in which I mentioned my situation and what I am in from the people’s animosity towards me and their refusal to carry the woman to my house.

So I and Abu Jaafar (al-Zajwazji), may God have mercy on him, went with it to Muhammad ibn Ali (Shalmaghani) and in that was the intermediary between us and Al-Hussein bin Rouh, may God be pleased with him, and he was also the deputy (of Kufa).

So we gave him the letter and asked him to send it to (the hidden 3rd safeer), so he took it from me and the answer was delayed for me for days, so I met him and said to him:

‘I am saddened that the answer came late’.

He (Shalmaghani said): ‘Let is not upset you, as that (lateness in answer) is better for you and me.

If the answer comes soon, it is from al-Husayn ibn Ruh. If it comes late, the answer is directly from Imam al-Mahdi’.

Then I left.”

فكتبت رقعة (و) (5) ذكرت فيها حالي وما أنا فيه من خصومة القوم لي وامتناعهم من حمل المرأة إلى منزلي، ومضيت بها أنا وأبو جعفررحمه الله إلى محمد بن علي، وكان في ذلك الواسطة بيننا وبين الحسين بن روح رضي الله عنه وهو إذ ذاك الوكيل، فدفعناها إليه وسألناهإنفاذها، فأخذها مني وتأخر الجواب عني أياما، فلقيته فقلت لهقد ساءني (6) تأخر الجواب عني، فقال (لي) (7) لا يسؤوك (هذا) (1) فإنهأحب (لي ولك، وأومأ) (2) إلي أن الجواب إن قرب كان من جهة الحسين بن روح رضي الله عنه، وإن تأخر كان من جهة الصاحب عليهالسلام، فانصرفت.

  • Evaluation:

It becomes evident that even the Imam’s lower deputies such as Abu Ja’far al-Zajwazji were subordinate to Shalmaghani.

Shalmaghani was entrusted with the secret hiding place of al-Husayn ibn Ruh in times of taqiyya, and would send letters of the Shi’a directly to him.

The rest of the Shi’a were not.

So trusted was Shalmaghani to the safeer that his books dominated every single Shi’i household - as evidence by the Shi’a asking al-Husayn ibn Ruh after Shalmaghani’s purported deviation - ‘What do we do with his books while they fill our households’? فكيف نعمل بكتبه وبيوتنا منها ملآء

Is it a surprise now that the Shi’a would insist on following Shalmaghani, despite the Imam and al-Husayn ibn Ruh’s cursing and disassociation?

If the Imam made Shalmaghani one of his thiqat to whom his secrets were and entrusted and forbid doubting his narrations by the virtue of his thiqa-hood.

If the safeer entrusted Shalmaghani with his secret hiding place, and allowed him to take messages from the Shi’a and bring back al-Husayn ibn Ruh’s messages to the Shi’a.

Then is it a surprise that when Shalmaghani said the al-Husayn ibn Ruh’s cursing was out of taqiyya, that the people accepted this from Shalmaghani?

Not at all. 

However, why exactly was Shalmaghani condemned?

2 ) Jealousy Ensues Over the Deputyship

There seems to be a curious pattern in which the Imam condemns his Bab (gate, safeer) - cursing and disassociating from him, despite proclaiming this Bab as a spiritual guide to the Shi’a.

The Bab also tends to be the Imam’s deputy to a certain region, particularly Kufa:

Let us look at two ahadith graded authentic (mu’tabar) by Shaykh Asif Mohseni in his book Mu’jam al-Ahadith al-Mu’tabara that clarify this.

Yunus ibn Abd al-Rahman was the safeer of Imam al-Ridha.

Imam al-Ridha regrded him as a thiqa and permitted taking religion from him. The Shi’a today do not dispute Yunus’ high righteousness as a result.

“3. [3/-] Rijal al-Kashshi: Muhammad b. Mas’ud from Muhammad b. Nusayr from Muhammad b. Isa from Abd al-Aziz b. al-Muhtadi who said: I said to Abi al-Hasan al-Ridha عليه السلام: may I be made your ransom, I cannot always reach you to ask you all that which I need from the teachings of my religion, is Yunus b. Abd al-Rahman Thiqa (trustworthy) and can I take from him what I need from the teachings of my religion? he said: yes.

At the same time,  Imam al-Jawad disassociates from thise who follow Yunus’ doctrine! And disassociates from those who follow it, and forbids from paying Zakat to th

The same doctrine which his father al-Ridha permitted people to take upon, as he regarded Yunus as thiqa!

1. [1/329] Amali of al-Saduq: Ibn al-Walid from al-Saffar from Ibn Ma’ruf from Ali b. Mahziyar who said: I wrote to Abi Ja’far the Second عليه السلام: May I be made your ransom - should I pray behind the one who asserts (the doctrine of) ‘the body’ (God is corporeal) or the one who subscribes to the doctrine of Yunus - that is the son of Abd al-Rahman? He عليه السلام wrote: Do not pray behind them nor not give them anything of the Zakat. Disassociate from them. Allah has disassociated from them.”

Yunus was undoubtedly righteous and so was his doctrine - however, Imam al-Jawad was doing taqiyya from his companions including the righteous Ali ibn Mihziyar.

He is answering his companions per their level of comprehension (as there were groups of Shi’a whom looked down on Yunus and his ahadith).

(Rijal al-Kashi, vol 2, page 783)

“I wrote to Abu Ja’far (al-Jawad), peace be upon him, what do you say about Yunus ibn Abdul Rahman? 

So he wrote to me in his handwriting:

Love him and have mercy on him, even if the people of your country disagree with you

931 - حمدويه بن نصير، قالحدثني محمد بن إسماعيل الرازي، قال حدثني عبد العزيز بن المهتدي، قال، كتبت إلى أبي جعفر عليهالسلام ما تقول في يونس ابن عبد الرحمن؟ فكتب إلي بخطه أحبه وترحم عليه وإن كان يخالفك أهل بلدك

Yunus was accused of heresy due to the ahadith he brought forth and which were not understood by the people, and so was his predecessor (Bab and deputy of Imam al-Kadhim) - Hisham ibn al-Hakam, who was accused of anthropomorphism, or believing God is a body.

One of the scholars who accused them, Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Isa, repented from the lies and slander he cast against these two blessed Babs.

(Rijal al-Kashi, vol 2, page 787)

Ali ibn Muhammad Al-Qutaibi, he said: Al-Fadl ibn Shathan told us, he said: Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Isa repented and asked God’s forgiveness for his slander of Yunus due to a vision he saw, in which Ali ibn Hadid (deputy of Imam al-Ridha) was showing inward inclination towards Yunus and Hisham”

951 - علي بن محمد القتيبي، قالحدثنا الفضل بن شاذان قالكان أحمد ابن محمد بن عيسى تاب واستغفر الله من وقيعته في يونسلرؤيا رآها، وقد كان علي بن حديد يظهر في الباطن الميل إلى يونس وهشام

Why were Yunus and Hisham’s ahadith misrepresented?

Their special position as Bab and deputy posited jealous reactions from Shi’i scholars leading them to deliberately misconstrue the ahadith to their follower Shi’a - to depict Hisham and Yunus as deviants.

Imam al-Ridha says:

(Rijal al-Kashi, vol 2, page 547)

Hisham was an earnest slave (of Allah) however he was harmed by his companions out of envy from him

6 - حدثنا حمدويه وإبراهيم ابنا نصير، قالاحدثنا محمد بن عيسى، قالحدثني زحل عمر بن عبد العزيز بن أبي بشار، عن سليمان بنجعفر الجعفري، قالسألت أبا الحسن الرضا عليه السلام عن هشام بن الحكم؟ قال، فقال ليرحمه الله كان عبدا ناصحا أوذي من قبلأصحابه حسدا منهم له.

With all this said, are there scholars and researchers who made similar observations and conclusions about the Imam’s companions, such as Shalmaghani, difficult ahadith being misrepresented?

We will see in the next section.

C ) Orientalist scholars’ take

Mushegh Asatryaj comments in his work “The Meanings of Antinomianism in Early Islamic Iraq” saying:

It now becomes clear why so many accounts about the Ghulat spoke of their alleged sexual libertinism, and why al-Shalmaghani was accused of claiming that a superior in knowledge must penetrate the inferior in order to insert light into him. 

It seems that, having heard of the symbolic interpretation of intercourse, the authors writing about the Ghulat were

eager to take its literal meaning to smear (i.e, false allegations against them) them even further.”

I argue that these accusations (of Ghuluw) in particular were most likely hostile propaganda, this for the following reasons. Firstly, they are made in highly polemical contexts, where the Ghulat are blamed as damned heretics and perverts, and charges of sexual immorality in such accounts function as proof of their deviance. 

Secondly, the Ghulat were not the only targets of accusations of sexual deviance, as other medieval Muslim groups, including the Qarmatians, some trends among the Kharijites, and certain Sufis, were accused of all kinds of libertine behavior, including, among others, sexual licenses – I discuss these in the first part of the paper. 

This shows that sexual immorality was a common charge thrown against those whom one considered as religious


Further, sexual slander was a widely used means in interreligious polemics in Late Antiquity, involving pagans, Christians, Jews, Manicheans, and Gnostics, and Muslim authors very likely inherited the polemical vocabulary from their Late Antique predecessors”

Wa Allahu A’lam!

Await part 3 inshallah coming later today.