Literary CornerThe nine Imams of jurisprudence [Archives:2005/836/Culture]

April 25 2005

By: Abu Alkalmah Al-Tayyibah
Last week, we discussed the significance that the scholars of Islamic jurisprudence had on the history of Islam and the shaping of different sects of Islam, although that was not their intention or their design. Over the next couple of weeks, we will look briefly at these 9 Islamic personalities as they appeared chronologically and see what it was in them that let their influence transcend the ages. The description by Abdurrahman Shirqawi will help us see that the factional affection for these men was born out of their piety and defiance of some of the corruptions that have entered Islamic jurisprudence. As always, these great men were speaking for and on behalf of the discontent in their times.

Subject: The Nine Imams of Jurisprudence (1/3)

Author: Abdurrahman Al-Shirqawi

Language: Arabic

Publisher: Dar Iqra, Beirut Lebanon

Year Published: (1st) 1981 No. of Pages: 393

Zeid bin Ali Zein Al-Abidein:

After the death of the fourth of the Orthodox Caliphs, Ali bin Abu Talib, the Umayyads turned the Islamic state into a dynastic regime that deviated far away from the simplicity and down to earth appeal to the grass roots that the State enjoyed under the Prophet Mohammed and his early successors as temporal rulers.

Zeid, was a grandson of Hussein bin Ali Bin Abu Talib. The latter had fought an indecisive war with the Umayyads led by Ma'awuiyah bin Abu Sufyan. Hussein himself was killed in Karbala, Iraq after coming to Iraq on the prodding of the Iraqis to free from the oppressive yoke of the Umayyads.

Although thousands have pledged to rally around Hussein, when he arrived to Iraq, no one showed up except a large Umayyad force that massacred the entire lot of Hussein's entourage (mostly relatives and supporters who had come from Medina). They did not exceed three hundred fighters, whereas the Umayyads had over five thousand well armed and disciplined troops.

Zeid was also known for his high scholastic attainments and piety and the people of Iraq again prodded him to come to lead them in rebellion against the Umayyads. He suffered the same fate as his grandfather and no Iraqis showed up to fulfill their pledge of allegiance (there were forty thousand who pledged allegiance to him).

Dogmatically, Zeid dealt with many of the issues confronting scholars at the time: The role of fate and the deeds of the believer; rulings on matters outside of the Quran and the hadith (traditions and actions) of the Prophet Mohammed; reason in jurisprudence; political repression and the rights of the believers in a Moslem state.

More important, Zeid sought to free Islamic jurisprudence from the misguided rulings and opinions issued by those “scholars”, who provided opinions that justified the wrongdoings of oppressive rulers and who insisted on absolute obedience to the ruler as part of faith.

He insisted that the Moslems should stand up against any oppressive ruler by all means. He also insisted that Moslems should go back to the simple basics of Islamic worship and beliefs and that faith should not be governed by fate, as man has given men freedom of choice and they are able to discern what is right or wrong, thus making them responsible for their actions notwithstanding that God has fated the course of the universe, otherwise there would not be a need for reward or punishment for the behavior of men.

Unlike many of those who were sympathizers of Ali and his descendents and their right to the Caliphate after the death of the Prophet Mohammed (PAUH), he said that those who ruled after the Prophet may have taken a right of Ali's, but nevertheless, because they were just and strict adherers to Islamic principles of governance, they deserve the respect of all Moslems, since his grandfather Ali respected them and did not dissent or break away his loyalty to the state. His religious and social principles are outlined in the “Al-Azhar”, which is the text book of the Zeidi sect.

Ja'afar al-Sadiq:

Also a descendant of Ali, Ja'afar lived from 80 AH to 146 AH in Medina, where he developed his scholastic attainments . Unlike Zeid, and many of the descendants of Ali, although he renounced oppression and tyranny, he did not believe it wise to rise up in revolt against oppression. He felt one would be more effective in enlightening people to the right path until there is enough of a strong following that can counter tyranny and oppression.

He did not believe that revenge was the right path for the persecution faced by the House of Ali from successive Umayyad rulers and that dialogue was the best means of convincing people of right and wrong. He was a great giver of charity and often without revealing the source of his giving to the beneficiary.

A revolt overthrew the Umayyads (after 90 years) in Ja'afar's time and he was asked to take the Caliphate. He refused, saying “Whosoever sought leadership will be destroyed!” With the takeover of the Caliphate by the Abbasids (cousins of the Hashemites) on the pretext of avenging the death of so many of Ali's descendants, they also were repressive and relied on the advice of opportunists who twisted the facts and exalted rulers to think of themselves as ruling by “divine decree”, and that any opposition to them stems from jealousy or ambition! Ja'afar also noticed that the ruling regime sought to convince people that asceticism was good for the believers and that poverty should be construed as akin to religious faith.

This would not then cause people to suggest that corruption and oppression are breeders of poverty. He insisted that people should pursue all that is sanctified by religious dogma and not exaggerate the virtues of asceticism by depriving themselves of sanctified pleasures in life. He died leaving a wealth of works on religious jurisprudence.

Abu Hanifah Al-Nu'uman:

He was born on 80 AH. Like his predecessors, he was a staunch believer in freedom and a supporter of the claims of the Shi'a to the caliphate, although he was not from the House of Ali. He was a Persian.

He defended them strongly and supported the revolt of Zeid. He was also initially a supporter of the Abbasids, but when he saw them follow the path of the Umayyads he renounced them openly.

He was a staunch advocate of freedom and the rights of citizens and believed that any restrictions on freedom is irreligious; he suggested that the misuse of freedom is less of a sin than the absence of freedom altogether.

He insisted that freedom and respect for human rights was a fundamental principle of Islam and people should struggle for them. When the Abbasid Caliph was finding some of his commanders falling for the teachings of Abu Hanifah, he would persecute them. The Caliph tried to lure him with presents and money, as well as a senior position. He refused them all. Then the Caliph arrested him and persecuted him until he died a martyr for freedom and an advocate for the discontent.

He wrote in his will that he should be buried in land that was not stolen by any of the political peons of Caliphate and should be free from any rightful claims by anyone.