Abu al-Khattab, part 7: The Accursed Babs
As we open the hadith corpus of Twelver Shi’ism, we set upon us a maze or puzzle to crack in order to discern the holy Imams’ true teachings:
This is because - to nearly every hadith, is a contradictory hadith.
And what excerbates the issue further is that the Imams deliberately issued contradictory ahadith to different companions.
(‘Ilal al-Shara’ie by Shaykh al-Saduq, vol 2, page 395)
“Muhammad ibn Bashir narrated:
I said to Imam al-Sadiq: There is nothing more difficult for me than the differences of our companions.
He (the Imam said): I ordered that difference.
Allama Majlisi clarification on meaning of hadith:
What I informed them (the companions) out of taqiyya, and ordered them to do for the greater good”
علل الشرائع: أبي، عن سعد، عن محمد بن الوليد والسندي، عن أبان بن عثمان، عن محمد بن بشير وحريز، عن أبي عبد الله عليه السلامقال: قلت له: إنه ليس شئ أشد علي من اختلاف أصحابنا، قال: ذلك من قبلي.
بيان: أي بما أخبرتهم به من جهة التقية وأمرتهم به للمصلحة.
While the classical scholars attempted to minimize this problem by, for example - selectively including reports per their points of view, the issue still highlights prominently in our corpus.
Luckily, however, our texts are replete traditions of esoteric knowledge narrated by the Imams’ companions which give us a glimpse into the true objective truth defining our Imams and their teachings.
These teachings reached the peak of their prominence in our Imams’ times during the lifetime of a mystical figure known as Abu al-Khattab.
An able jurist in his own right, Abu al-Khattab was designated by Imam al-Sadiq as his Bab (gate) - i.e, the casket of the Imam’s knowledge, representing him in word and action.
Hence, the Imam’s true teachings are not reached in an environment abound with taqiyya or beset by the absence of the Imam, except through the Imam’s gate - whose narrations the Shi’a are not permitted to doubt.
As Imam al-Mahdi says:
(Wasa’il al-Shi’a, vol 27, page 105)
“There is no excuse for our followers to doubt what our thiqat (i.e, Babs) narrate.
They have known that we share our secrets with them and carry it over to them.”
In that case, we are led to the conclusion that by virtue of Abu al-Khattab being entrusted with the Imam’s secrets, we mustn’t doubt his narrations even if they seemingly contradict the Imam’s later rulings.
Why? Because the Bab has the Imam’s true answers, he could never deviate or disobey the Imam. The path to seeking the Imam’s unfiltered truth is attained only through following the Imam’s gate.
Shockingly, however, at one point - Imam al-Sadiq cursed and disassociated from Abu al-Khattab.
This led to great confusion among the Shi’a, because how could Imam al-Sadiq have ordered the Shi’a to have tawalla (follow the teachings & recognize the spiritual leadership) and then disassociate from him?
(Al-Kafi, vol 2, page 418)
“I was sitting, and Abu al-Hasan - Musa [al-Kadhim - passed by and with him a sheep.
So I told him: O boy, what exactly is your father [Imam al-Sadiq] doing?
He orders of something and then prohibits us from it.
He ordered us to have tawalla for Abu al-Khattab, then he ordered us to curse and disassociate from him?”
كنت قاعدا فمر أبو الحسن موسى (عليه السلام) ومعه بهمة قال: قلت: يا غلام ما ترى ما يصنع أبوك، يأمرنا بالشيء ثم ينهانا عنه، أمرناأننتولى أبا الخطاب ثم أمرنا أن نلعنه ونتبرء منه؟
Logically, if the Bab represents the Imam in word and action - then if the Bab errs, the Imam errs. Is it possible our Imam made a fallible mistake?
Thus, in this article - I shall seek to shed more light and perspective to the cursing of Abu al-Khattab by:
(1) Presenting the case studies of two established Babs whom the Imams cursed and or disassociated from.
(2) Presenting ahadith clarifying the exact pretense from which the Imam curses & disassociates from his Babs - to his Shi’a.
With that said
Let us begin!
1 ) The Accursed Babs
A) Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Bilal (al-Bilali)
The first example we shall study is Abi Tahir Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Bilal, a companion of Imam al-Askari.
We learn from Shaykh al-Tusi that Abi Tahir was a man who claimed to be Imam al-Mahdi’s deputy, in order to take control of money belonging to the Imam.
This caused a conflict between Abi Tahir and the 2nd canonical safeer of Imam al-Mahdi – Muhammad ibn Uthman al-Amri.
What resulted from this was the Shi’a cursing & disassociating from Abi Tahir - only to be followed by a letter from Imam al-Mahdi confirming that disassociation.
(Al-Tusi’s al-Ghayba, vol 1, page 421)
“Among them (condemned deputies):
Abu Taher Muhammad ibn Ali bin Bilal, and his story is well-known in what happened between him and Abu Jaafar Muhammad ibn Uthman al-Amri.
And his (Abu Tahir’s) holding on to the money which rightfully belonged to the Imam, and his refusal to hand it over.
And his claim that he is the deputy of the Imam, which led the Shi’a to disassociate from him and curse him.
And then the order came from Sahib al-Zaman (Imam al-Mahdi) came [i.e, cursing and disassociating from him].”
ومنهم: أبو طاهر محمد بن علي بن بلال، وقصته معروفة (1) فيما جرى بينه وبين أبي جعفر محمد بن عثمان العمري نضر الله وجهه،وتمسكه بالأموال التي كانت عنده للامام، وامتناعه من تسليمها، وادعائه أنه الوكيل حتى تبرأت الجماعة منه ولعنوه، وخرج فيه من صاحبالزمان عليه السلام ما هو معروف (2).
But who exactly was this man claiming deputyship and cursed by Imam al-Mahdi?
The following hadith in Rijal al-Kashi sheds light on that issue.
The is graded mu’tabar (authentic) by Shaykh Asif Mohseni, in (Mu’jam al-Ahadith al-Mu’tbara vol 1 p 179):
“1. [1/-] Rijal al-Kashshi: One of the Thiqat in Naysabur relayed to us that: There came out a signed rescript [Tawqi] from Abi Muhammad عليه السلام to Ishaq b. Ismail saying: O Ishaq b. Ismail … and O Ishaq – read this letter of ours to al-Bilali – may Allah be well pleased with him – for he is al-Thiqa al-Ma’mun, the one who recognizes what is incumbent on him …”
وقال الكشي: حكى بعض الثقات بنيسابور وذكر توقيعا طويلا من جملته: يا إسحاق اقرأ كتابنا علي البلالي، رضي الله عنه، فإنه الثقةالمأمون العارف بما يجب عليه”
In the report, we understand that Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Bilal was described as “al-Thiqa al-Ma’mun” by Imam al-Askari (our trustee, entrusted with leading the Shi’a).
In addition to being al-Askari’s “Thiqa Ma’mun”, Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Bilal was reported by Shaykh al-Saduq to be one of the deputies who saw Imam al-Mahdi and witnessed his miracles.
(Sayyid Khoei’s Mu’jam Rijal al-Hadith, vol 17, p 333)
“What is apparent is that whom is meant by al-Bilali is Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Bilal.
And it seems he (Muhammad) is one meant by the al-Bilali in what Al-Saduq narrated from the deputies who saw Imam al-Mahdi, and witnessed his miracles.”
والظاهر أن المراد بالبلالي فيه، هو محمد بن علي بن بلال، كما أن الظاهر أنه المراد بالبلالي المعدود فيما رواه الصدوق - قدس سره - منالوكلاء الذين رأوا الحجة سلام الله عليه، ووقفوا على معجزاته
Now what do our Imams mean by “al-Thiqa al-Ma’mun”?
It is the title by which Imam al-Askari described Uthman ibn Sa’id al-Amri and Muhammad ibn Uthman al-Amri.
With this title, the Imam indicated that the words of Uthman & his son equaled the Imam’s words. Their actions equaled the Imam’s actions.
Al-Thiqa al-Ma’mun thus is a title awarded only to the sufara’ (Babs, i.e, gates) of the Imam - whom Uthman al-Amri and Muhammad ibn Uthman (one who conflicted with Abi Tahir) are accepted today by the Shi’a to have been.
(Al-Kafi, vol 1, page 330)
“I asked him (Imam al-Hadi):
‘Whom do I emulate or from whom do I take? and whose words do I accept? ‘
So (Imam) he said:
Al-Amri is my Thiqa (trustee).
So what he gives you on my behalf then his giving is truly on my behalf, and what he says to you on my behalf then his saying is truly on my behalf.
So listen to him and obey him, for he is al-Thiqa al-Mamun (the trustee, entrusted with leading the Shi’a).
And Abu Ali also informed me that he had asked Aba Muhammad (al-Askari) عليه السلام about the same matter, so he said to him: al-Amri and his son are both Thiqa (trustees), so what they give to you on my behalf then their giving is truly on my behalf, and what they say to you on my behalf then their saying is truly on my behalf, so listen to them and obey them, for they are both Thiqatan Ma’munan (Two entrusted thiqas).”
العمري ثقتي فما أدى إليك عني فعني يؤدي وما قال لك عني فعني يقول، فاسمع له وأطع، فإنه الثقة المأمون
Now, if only the sufara’ can be termed “Thiqa Ma’mun”.
And Imam al-Askari made both Uthman ibn Sa’id and his son Muhammad as his thiqatan ma’munan (his sufara’ / Babs).
Then logically, Abi Tahir Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Bilal must also be a safeer / bab, as he is a thiqa ma’mun. Yes?
Exactly. Hence, Sayyid Ibn Tawus described him as one of the Babs of Imam al-Askari and one of the sufara’ present in al-Ghayba al-Sughra.
(Mu’jam Rijal al-Hadith by Sayyid Khoei, vol 17, page 332)
“Ibn Tawus said in Rabi’ al-Shi’a: Among the sufara’ present in the minor occultation (al-Ghayba al-Sughra),
And the well-known Babs (gates of the Imams) whom the Imamiyyah who believe in the Imamate of Al-Hasan bin Ali are:
Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Bilal”
قال ابن طاووس في ربيع الشيعة: من السفراء
الموجودين في الغيبة الصغرى، والأبواب المعروفين الذي لا يختلف الامامية
القائلون بإمامة الحسن بن علي فيهم: محمد بن علي بن بلال
Additionally, the idea of Abi Tahir’s Babhood (i.e, him being a safeer) - is backed by the fact that the 3rd canonical safeer (Al-Husayn ibn Ruh) deferred to him regarding theological topics.
The great 3rd safeer would never seek knowledge from someone of lowly or average status, but only someone of topmost and great position.
Abi Tahir delayed Ibn Ruh’s answers for a few days, which suggests he communicated to the Imam for an answer before giving it to Ibn Ruh.
For this reason (seeking the Imam’s objective answer through his Bab), would al-Husayn ibn Ruh have sought to defer the Shi’a’s dispute to Abi Tahir.
“Shaykh Abu Al-Qasim Al-Husayn ibn Ruh, may God be pleased with him, told me that he said: Our companions differed in terms of Tafwid and other things - so I went to Abi Tahir ibn Bilal during his upright days, and informed him of our divide (regarding such topics).
Al-Husayn ibn Ruh said: He (Abi Tahir) was late to provide an answer, so I went away for a few days and came back to him.
Then he brought me a hadith from Abi Abdullah (al-Sadiq)..”
قال: حدثني الشيخ أبو القاسم الحسين بن روح رضي الله عنه قال: اختلف أصحابنا في التفويض وغيره، فمضيت إلى أبي طاهر بن بلال(3) في أيام استقامته فعرفته الخلاف، فقال: أخرني فأخرته أياما فعدت إليه فأخرج إلي حديثا باسناده إلى (4) أبي عبد الله عليه السلامقال:
With his Babhood established - it would not be possible for the Bab of the Imam to ever deviate, nor disobey the Imam, and and represented him faithfully until his death.
Al-Husayn ibn Ruh narrates the ziyara of Babs which corroborates this:
(Tusi’s Tahdheeb al-Ahkam, vol 6, p 116)
“Peace be upon you, O Fulan son of Fulan.
I bear witness you are Bab al-Mawla (Bab of the Master). You represented him and acted for him.
Never did you disobey him. You rose dedicated only to him, and were ahead (of others) in your loyalty.
I come to you, aware of the truth of which you are upon - and that you did not betray (the Imam) in representing him and being his safeer.
Peace be upon you from a wide door (bab). How trustworthy you are of a safeer.
How able you are of a thiqa.
I bear witness that Allah chose you with his Light, until you viewed the person (Imam) - and represented him, and acted for him.”
Therefore, even though Abu Tahir’s memory today in Shi’ism is that of a liar and false deputy - he was not always seen that way. In fact, he was officially designated to Babhood and seen as such by the Shi’a.
The only explanation to the Imam’s curse would be taqiyya, and the only explanation to the lasting bad collective memory of Abi Tahir is the fallible reasoning of Shi’i scholars.
But I digress.
B) Yunus ibn Abd al-Rahman
The second example we will discuss is that of Yunus ibn Abd al-Rahman.
A companion of Imam al-Ridha, the Imam goes on to describes Yunus in the following way:
“Yunus ibn Abd al-Rahman in his time, is like Salman al-Farsi in his time.”
67 - عنه قال: حدثني علي بن محمد القتيبي قال: حدثني الفضل بن شاذان قال: سمعت الثقة يقول: سمعت الرضا عليه السلام يقول: يونسبن عبد الرحمن في زمانه كسلمان الفارسي في زمانه قال الفضل: ولقد حج يونس إحدى وخمسين حجة آخرها عن الرضا عليه السلام
Such a fascinating description, indeed. Salman was from the inner circle of Imam Ali - and the repository of the Imam’s secrets; he was the Imam’s Bab.
As Yunus filled the status of Salman in the time of Imam al-Ridha - he was also Imam al-Ridha’s Bab.
For this reason, in this sahih hadith (as graded by Shaykh Asif Mohseni), our Imams tell their Shi’a to take the teachings of their religion from Yunus ibn Abdulrahman.
“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.”
محمد بن مسعود، قال: حدثني محمد بن نصير، قال: حدثنا محمد ابن عيسى، قال: حدثني عبد العزيز بن المهتدي القمي، قال محمد بننصير: قال محمد بن عيسى، وحدث الحسن بن علي بن يقطين، بذلك أيضا، قال، قلت لأبي الحسن الرضا عليه السلام: جعلت فداك اني لاأكاد أصل إليك أسألك عن كل ما أحتاج إليه من معالم ديني، أفيونس بن عبد الرحمن ثقة آخذ عنه ما احتاج إليه من معالم ديني؟ فقال: نعم.
To add onto that - Yunus’ righteousness and the bindingness of the above hadith is not disputed by the ijma’ (consensus) of the Shi’a. In fact, the Usuliyya commonly (but mistakenly) attempt to cite it as evidence to support the idea of marji’ya.
Yet, however, in the below hadith - also graded sahih by Shaykh Asif Mohseni.
Imam al-Jawad writes to his high ranking companion Ali ibn Mahziyar, disassociating from the teachings of Yunus ibn Abdulrahman.
Not only this, but the Imam orders Ali ibn Mahziyar to not pray behind those who follow Yunus’ teachings, nor give them zakat - and to disassociate from them, saying that Allah disassociated from them.
“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.”
حدثنا محمد بن الحسن بن أحمد بن الوليد (رضي الله عنه)، قال: حدثنا محمد بن الحسن الصفار، عن العباس بن معروف، عن علي بنمهزيار، قال: كتبت إلى أبي جعفر محمد بن علي بن موسى الرضا (عليهم السلام): جعلت فداك أصلي خلف من يقول بالجس، ومن يقولبقول يونس بن عبد الرحمن؟ فكتب (عليه السلام): لا تصلوا خلفهم، ولا تعطوهم من الزكاة، وابرءوا منهم، برئ الله منهم
How could the Imams - in these sahih ahadith - order the Shi’a to take upon the thiqa (trustworthy) Bab Yunus’ teachings then disassociate from those who take upon them?
How exactly could Abi Tahir & Yunus be condemned in such a way, despite their Babhood and the resulting implications of their superior status?
Let us find out why.
2 ) An Embarassment to the Imam
(Al-Mufid’s Amali, page 214)
“Narrated Jabir ibn Yazid al-Ju’fri, from Abu Ja’far al-Baqir, peace be upon him, who said:
I heard Jabir ibn Abdillah ibn Haraam al-Ansari say:
‘If Salman and Abu Dharr, may Allah bless them with mercy, were to divulge (the true knowledge of Ahlul Bayt) to these people who claim to be the partisans of Ahlul Bayt, they would say: "These two are liars." And if these were to see them, they would say: "These are insane."
سمعت جابر بن عبد الله بن حرام الأنصاري يقول: لو نشر سلمان وأبو ذر رحمهما الله لهؤلاء الذين ينتحلون مودتكم أهل البيت لقالوا: هؤلاءالكذابون
Upon hearing the secrets of the Babs – whether Salman, Yunus, Abi Tahir, or Abu al-Khattab – the Shi’a of low ma’rifa would call these Babs liars.
After this, these lower ma’rifa Shi’a would go on to complain to the Imam about them.
This greatly embarrassed the Imam, because:
(1) Likely there are Mukhalifeen in the Imam’s audience. Thus, the Imams would need to disassociate from views deemed “ghuluw”.
(2) Some Shi’a directly reported the Imam’s activities to the Abbasid caliph, so the Imam must remain cautious.
An example is Zurara (ra), as shown in this mu’tabar hadith:
16. [16/171] Rijal al-Kashshi: Hamduwayh b. Nusayr from Muhammad b. Isa from al-Washsha from Hisham b. Salim from Zurara who said:
“I asked Aba Ja`far عليه السلام about [accepting] the stipends given to officials [working in the bureaucracy of the Caliphate]?
He said: there is no harm in [taking] it, then he said: Zurara wanted that it reach Hisham [the Caliph] that I prohibit working for the Sultan.”
Hence, the Imam wrote a lengthy dictatum consisting of teaching material his Shi’a, instructing them on how their behavior must be, what they should treat the Imam, etc.
They key take from it is that the Shi’a should never complain to the Imam, against the righteous followers of the Imam!
If that is done - Imam will curse his righteous follower, out of taqiyya.
If the Imam does that, the curse will turn into a mercy of Allah - while the Imam’s true curse will be upon those who complained.
(Al-Kafi, vol 8, page 8)
“He (Imam al-Sadiq):
Fear God, O Shi’a.
Strive not to embarrass the Imam, for the one who embarasses us is he who compains to the Imam against the righteous people from among the followers of the Imam.
Even though they (ones complained against) are submitters to the Imam’s grace, patient in fulfilling his right, and recognizing of his sanctity.
Know that whoever does such a thing (complaining against Imam’s righteous follower) is embarrassing the Imam.
If he (complainer) does that, the Imam will curse the righteous people of his followers, the submitters to his grace, who are patient in fulfilling his right and who know his inviolability.
If he (the Imam) curses them [righteous followers], due to the embarassment of Allah’s enemies. Then, the curse of the Imam will turn into mercy of Allah. Meanwhile, the curse of Allah and his angels and messengers will be against those who complained.”
وقال: اتقوا الله أيتها العصابة وإن استطعتم أن لا يكون منكم محرج الامام فإن محرج الامام هو الذي يسعى بأهل الصلاح من أتباعالامام، المسلمين لفضله، الصابرين على أداء حقه، العارفين لحرمته، واعلموا أنه من نزل بذلك المنزل عند الامام فهو محرج الامام، فإذا فعلذلك عند الامام أحرج الامام إلى أن يلعن أهل الصلاح من أتباعه، المسلمين لفضله، الصابرين على أداء حقه العارفين بحرمته، فإذا لعنهملاحراج أعداء الله الامام صارت لعنته رحمة من الله عليهم وصارت اللعنة من الله ومن الملائكة ورسله على أولئك
The muhaqiq of the hadith clarifies:
“What is apparent is that the meaning of the hadith is that you should not embarrass the Imam by making him compelled to do something that he is not satisfied with.
Then he (peace be upon him) explained that the one who embarasses the Imam is the one who slanders the people of righteousness before the Imam and testifies to them of corruption while he is a liar.”
أقول: الظاهر أن المراد لا تكونوا محرج الامام اي بان تجعلوه مضطرا إلى شئ لا يرضى به، ثم بين (عليه السلام) بان المحرج هو الذي يذمأهل الصلاح عند الامام ويشهد عليهم بفساد وهو كاذب
Therefore, adominshment by the Imam - in the form of either cursing or disassociation must not be see as the Imam truly distancing from the Babs.
He only curses them as mercy to them, to protect them and himself.
The only reconciliation to the ahadith would be to assume this was case of Abu al-Khattab, Abi Tahir, and Yunus ibn Abd al-Rahman.
It is evident is that the traditional assumption of the Babs in mainstream Shi’ism has mistakes and flaws in how it approaches this topic, so we must take the initiative of review our viewpoints regarding this issue of the Babs.
May Allah bless and guide you all in the journey to understand the holy Imams
Wa Allahu A’lam