Shalmaghani: A Wayward Deputy?

Appointment of al-Shalmaghani

(Al-Ghayba of al-Tusi, vol 1, page 424)

The great Umm Kulthum, daughter of Abi Jaafar Al-Omari (daughter of the 2nd safeer - Muhammad ibn Uthman al-Amri) said: 

Abu Jaafar ibn Abi al-Azzaqer (al-Shalmaghani) was a person of high status with Bani Bustam.

And that is because Sheikh Abu al-Qasim [i.e, al-Husayn ibn Ruh al-Nawbakhti - the 3rd safeer], may God be pleased with him, had given him this standing and prestige among the people (of Bani Bustam).

When he apostatized, he would tell every lie and blasphemy to Bani Bustam, and he attributed this to the Sheikh Abu al-Qasim, so they accepted it from him and took it from him.

When this was revealed to Abu al-Qasim, may God be pleased with him - he denied it and saw what was said as a great sin, and forbade Banu Bastam from his words and ordered them to curse him and disassociate from him, but they did not stop and insisted on continuing to follow him.

And that is because he used to say to them: I disclosed the secret whereas he (Abu al-Qassim) took an oath of secrecy upon me, so I was punished (publicly) when I revealed it with distancing after being put to high status, because the matter is great, and only a close angel, a sent prophet, or a tested believer can bear it (1).

This was reported to Abu al-Qasim, may God be pleased with him, so he wrote to Banu Bastam cursing him and disavowing him and those who followed him for his saying, and recognized his leadership. 

So he (Shalmaghani) wept a great deal, then said: 

This saying has a batin (esoteric, hidden meaning), which is that the curse is far away from me. Thus the meaning of his (Nawbakhti’s) words: ‘May God curse him’, that is - ‘May God keep him [Shalmaghani] away from torment and fire’.

Now you know my status and rubbed his cheeks on the dirt and he said: 

You have to keep this matter secret.”

حدثتني الكبيرة أم كلثوم بنت أبي جعفر العمري رضي الله عنه قالتكان أبو جعفر بن أبي العزاقر وجيها عند بني بسطام.

وذاك أن الشيخ أبا القاسم رضي الله تعالى عنه وأرضاه كان قد جعل له عند الناس منزلة وجاها، فكان عند ارتداده يحكي كل كذب وبلاءوكفر لبني بسطام، ويسنده عن الشيخ أبي القاسم، فيقبلونه منه ويأخذونه عنه، حتى انكشف ذلك لأبي القاسم رضي الله عنه، فأنكره وأعظمهونهى بني بسطام عن كلامه وأمرهم بلعنه والبراءة منه فلم ينتهوا وأقاموا على توليه.

وذاك أنه كان يقول لهمإنني أذعت السر وقد أخذ علي الكتمان، فعوقبت

بالابعاد بعد الاختصاص، لان الامر عظيم لا يحتمله (1) إلا ملك مقرب أو نبي مرسل أو مؤمن ممتحن، فيؤكد في نفوسهم عظم الامر وجلالته.

فبلغ ذلك أبا القاسم رضي الله عنه فكتب إلى بني بسطام بلعنه والبراءة منه وممن تابعه على قوله، وأقام على توليه، فلما وصل إليهم أظهروهعليه فبكى بكاء عظيما، ثم قالإن لهذا القول باطنا عظيما وهو أن اللعنة الابعاد، فمعنى قولهلعنه الله أي باعده الله عن العذاب والنار، والآنقد عرفت منزلتي ومرغ خديه على التراب وقالعليكم بالكتمان لهذا الامر.

  • Evaluation:

When al-Husayn ibn Ruh (the 3rd safeer) appointed al-Shalmaghani - the foremost faqih - as a spiritual leader to the politically prominent Bani Bustam clan.

This has an important connotation, as it suggests al-Shalmaghani was one of the thiqat (trusted ones) by Imam al-Mahdi whom he appoints to lead the Shi’a and exchange letters between them and the Imam.

What does Imam al-Mahdi say about the narrations of his thiqat?

(Wasa’il al-Shi’a, vol 2, page 579)

There is no excuse for our followers to doubt what our thiqat narrate. 

They have known that we share our secrets with them and carry it over to them.”

فإنه لا عذر لأحد من موالينا في التشكيك فيما يرويه (1) عنا ثقاتنا، قد عرفوا بأنا نفاوضهم سرنا، ونحملهم (2) إياه إليهم.

The thiqat’s words can never be doubted - even if they seem contradictory to common knowledge. This is because the thiqat were entrusted with secret knowledge by the Imam, which the laymen do not possess.

Thus, their words must be acknowledged and recognized by the Shi’a.

This goes in hand with the general principle that one must not doubt what is attributed to Al Muhammad by their Shi’a and disregard it as false, even if he knows from them the opposite.

(Al-Kafi, vol 8, p 125)

And follow the family of Muhammad, and do not say what has reached you about us and attributed to us: ‘this is false’ - even if you know from us the opposite, as you do not why we said it and upon what perspective we described it.””

ل آل محمد ولا تقل لما بلغك عنا ونسب إلينا هذا باطل وإن كنت تعرف منا خلافه

فإنك لا تدري لما قلناه وعلى أي وجه وصفناه 

(Note: the hadith refers to Shi’a as it describes how one would treat their Shi’i brothers and not hiding knowledge from them right after).

Thus, this explains Bani Bustam’s acceptance of al-Shalmaghani’s words regardless if it contradicts sharia and common knowledge on an apparent (dhahir) sense, as his words - as one of the Imam’s thiqat - would have secret (batin) knowledge entrusted to him by the Imam.

 “When he apostatized, he would tell every lie and blasphemy to Bani Bastam, and he attributed this to the Sheikh Abu al-Qasim, so they accepted it from him and took it from him.”.

Thus, when al-Husayn ibn Ruh - in his position as safeer - ordered the Bani Bustam to curse Shalmaghani and disassociate from him, but they did not stop and insisted on continuing to follow him.

Why would they have continued to follow Shalmaghani, after al-Husayn ibn Ruh cursed and disassociated from him?

Because cursing and disassociation by the Imam of someone does not necessarily mean that this person has been sharing fabricated ahadith.

The Imam could have simply cursed and disassociated from this person to protect him because he began disseminating the Imam’s secret ahadith.

(Al-Ghayba of al-Nu’mani, vol 1, p 41)

“Abu Abdillah [al-Sadiq] said:

I share a hadith to a man, and he goes on to share the hadith with another man the way he heard it from me.

This leads me to permit cursing him and disassociating from him

7 - وبهذا الإسناد، عن الحسن بن علي بن أبي حمزة، عن الحسن بن السري، قال:

قال أبو عبد الله (عليه السلام): إني لأحدث الرجل الحديث فينطلق فيحدث به عني كما سمعه فاستحل به لعنه والبراءة منه 

Shalmaghani knew this very well, hence he said:

I disclosed the secret whereas he (Abu al-Qassim) took an oath of secrecy upon me, so I was punished (publicly) when I revealed it with distancing after being put to high status, because the matter is great, and only a close angel, a messenger prophet, or a tested believer can bear it

Considering Shalmaghani was one of the Imam’s thiqat and entrusted by him with secrets, it would be expected for the Imam to curse and disassociate from him for sharing these secrets. 

And the Shi’a knew well that there are ahadith which are of such problematic content to common minds - that only a close angel, a messenger prophet, or tested believer can bear them.

And that denying such ahadith is kufr.

The Messenger of God, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him and his family, said:

The hadith of Al Muhammad is difficult. Only an angel of high degree of closeness (to God), a messenger prophet, or a slave (of God), whom God has tested his heart for faith.

So whatever what is narrated to you from the hadith of Al Muhammad, which your hearts accepted and you recognized him, then accept it.

And whatever your hearts are disgusted by and you reject, refer it to God and to the Messenger and to the scholar from the family of Muhammad (i.e, the Imam).

And indeed, the destroyed one is one who says: 

By God, this hadith cannot be true. By God, this hadith cannot be true.

Indeed, denial (of a hadith of Al Muhammad) is kufr.”

محمد بن يحيى، عن محمد بن الحسين، عن محمد بن سنان، عن عمار بن مروان عن جابر قال قال أبو جعفر عليه السلامقال رسول اللهصلى الله عليه وآله إن

حديث آل محمد صعب مستصعب لا يؤمن به إلا ملك مقرب أو نبي مرسل أو عبد

امتحن الله قلبه للايمان، فما ورد عليكم من حديث آل محمد صلى الله عليه وآله

فلانت له قلوبكم وعرفتموه فاقبلوه، وما اشمأزت منه قلوبكم وأنكرتموه فردوه إلى الله وإلى الرسول وإلى العالم من آل محمد وإنما الهالك أنيحدث أحدكم بشئ منه لا يحتمله، فيقولوالله ما كان هذا والله ما كان هذا، والانكار هو الكفر..

But doesn’t Shalmaghani’s dissemination of the Imam’s secrets mean he is necsssarily a wicked figure?

No, as evident by the deputy of Imam al-Sadiq who disseminated the Imams’ secrets and the Imam sent his mercy upon him. 

However, death at the hands of oppressors is the only outcome of a safeer (Imam’s representative in word and action, and teacher of the Shi’a on his behalf) disseminating the Imam’s secrets.

(Rijal al-Kashi)

Narrated al-Mufaddal

I entered upon Abi Abdullah, peace be upon him, on the day on which Al-Mu’alla was crucified, and I said to him: 

O son of the Messenger of God, do you not see these glorious sermons that were revealed to the Shiites on this day? He said: What is it? He said: I said: 

Al-Muala ibn Khunays was killed. He said: May God have mercy on Al-Muala. 

I was expecting that because he disclosed our secret, and the one who waged war against us was not the greatest burden on us than the one who announced our secret. 

Whoever discloses our secret to someone other than his family will not leave this world until the weapon clutches him”

2 - رجال الكشيأحمد بن علي السكري، عن الحسين بن عبد الله، عن ابن أورمة (1) عن ابن يزيدعن ابن عميرة، عن المفضل، قالدخلتعلى أبي عبد الله عليه السلام يوم صلب فيه المعلى فقلت لهيا ابن رسول الله، ألا ترى هذا الخطب الجليل الذي نزل بالشيعة في هذا اليوم؟قالوما هو؟ قالقلتقتل المعلى بن خنيس قالرحم الله المعلى قد كنت أتوقع ذلك لأنه أذاع سرنا وليس الناصب لنا حربا بأعظم مؤونةعلينا من المذيع علينا سرنافمن أذاع سرنا إلى غير أهله لم يفارق الدنيا حتى يعضه السلاح

  • The solution?

We realize now that the Imams did not lay any groundwork to soundly discern if their deputy - appointed to teach the Shi’a and share the Imam’s teachings - had indeed deviated.

If they did deviate, there would be no way of ascertaining this.

The solution would be diminishing these deputies’ status with the Imam (i.e, false allegations) or trying to revise their history as deputies (i.e, making it as if they were not appointed to this position).

It would either be this and thus avoid the idea that an infallible Imam was wrong and misled the Shi’a, or the uncomfortable solution of accepting these deputies as righteous and acting under guidance of the Imam.

To demonstrate, the Imam’s letters were said to be entrusted to Abu Ja’far al-Shalmaghani to be written him to the Shi’a and was believed by them as such - until his ‘deviation’ when the Shi’a began attributing them to another Abu Ja’far.

(Al-Tusi’s Ghayba, vol 1, p 347)

Ibn Nuh said: 

I believed this (letter documenting Imam al-Mahdi’s answer) was written by Abu Jaafar ibn Abi Al-Azzaqer (al-Shalmaghani) - before he changed and was cursed according to what Ibn Ayyash narrated until some of those who (heard this with me) told me that it was about Abu Jaafar Al-Zajwazji

قال ابن نوحوكان عندي أنه كتب على يد أبي جعفر بن أبي العزاقر - قبل تغيره وخروج لعنه على ما حكاه ابن عياش إلى أن حدثني بعضمن (سمع ذلك معي) (2) أنه إنما عنى أبا جعفر الزجوزجي رضي الله عنه وأن الكتاب إنما كان من الكوفة، وذلك أن أبا غالب قال لناكنانلقي أبا القاسم الحسين بن روح رضي الله عنه قبل أن يقضي (3) الامر إليه صرنا نلقي أبا جعفر بن الشلمغاني ولا نلقاه.

And thus, the view regarding Shalmaghani was revised among some Shi’a.

Instead of the Bab of al-Husayn ibn Ruh to whom the secrets of the 3rd safeer were disposed to and taught the Shi’a on his behalf - al-Shalmaghani now became a mere jurist with status among the people who deviated.

Muhammad ibn Humam said:

Muhammad ibn Ali al-Shalmaghani was never a Bab (gate) to Abi al-Qassim [i.e, wasn’t his special deputy representing him in word and action], nor a path to him and was not appointed by Abi al-Qassim in any way nor for any reason. 

And whomever says he was is upon falsehood.

Rather, he (Shalmaghani) was merely a jurist from among our jurists who deviated.”

وأخبرنا جماعة، عن أبي محمد هارون بن موسى، عن أبي علي محمد بن همام أن محمد بن علي الشلمغاني لم يكن قط بابا إلى أبيالقاسم، ولا طريقا له ولا نصبه أبو القاسم بشئ من ذلك على وجه ولا سبب ومن قال بذلك فقد أبطل وإنما كان

Whose words shall we take upon regarding the position of Shalmaghani?

A jurist (Ibn Hummam) who is aware of the implications of the Imam appointing a deviant spiritual leader to the Shi’a


Um Kulthum - the daughter of the 2nd safeer who was close to al-Husayn ibn Ruh himself (as seen in the first hadith I’ve cited)?

The answer is quite clear.

Even if one chooses to take upon the words of Muhammad ibn Hummam, there were precedents to al-Shalmaghani. 

Individuals which sahih ahadith prove were appointed by the Imam to a spiritual role but later ‘deviated’ - thus, the problem remains.

Hope this post was of benefit

May the Ahlulbayt bless you all