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Are Abbas Bin Abdul Muttalib and his children unbelievers from the Shia perspective?

Are Abbas Bin Abdul Muttalib and his children unbelievers from the Shia perspective?

The Shia have openly called some of the prominent members of the family of the Prophet (s) as unbelievers. For example Abbas who was the Uncle of the Prophet (s) was said to have had this following verse in the Holy Quran revealed about him:"وَ مَنْ کانَ فی هذِهِ أَعْمى فَهُوَ فِی الْآخِرَةِ أَعْمى وَ أَضَلُّ سَبیلاً" . This verse means: "And whoever is blind in this [world], he shall also be blind in the hereafter; and farther astray from the path. (Isra:72) The Shia have also called Abbas's son, who was named Abdullah Ibn Abbas as an unbeliever even though he was a scholar and commentator of the Holy Quran. In the book of Al Kafi there is a line which points to the disbelief of Ibn Abbas and says that he was "an ignorant person and without sound intellect"! Also in Rijal Al Kashi it has been narrated that: "اللهم العن ابنی فلان و أعم أبصارهما، کما عمیت قلوبهما" which means that: "Oh Lord, remove your mercy from the children of so and so and make their eyes blind just as you have made their hearts blind..." The leader and great scholar of the Shias, Hassan Al Mustafawiyy, in his Tawdheeh has said: "This is referring to Abdullah ibn Abbas and Ubaidullah Ibn Abbas.
Concise answer

Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib was the respected uncle of the Holy Prophet (s). While he is not considered as part of the ‘Ahlul Bait' he is one of those who are given special respect by the Shias. For example alongside with the ‘Ziarat' that the Shias do for their Imams (a) at the graveyard of Baqi they also do a special ‘Ziarat' full of respect for Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib as well. Even if there is some criticism in regards to Abbas and his son Ubaidullah or for Aqeel Ibn Abi Talib, this is for the simple reason that not all of the Prophets' (s) close relations and relatives were of the same rank and status. Abdullah bin Abbas was an individual who was trustworthy from the viewpoint of the Shias. He was someone whom Imam Ali (a) set up as his representative in the case of the mediation (Hakamiyyah). Also there are hundreds of traditions narrated by him in the books of the Shias. Is it possible that the Shias consider such a person as an unbeliever?

The tradition that you have related is not authentic. In between Ayyashi and the person who Ayyashi narrated from there surely must have been other narrators in the chain who haven't been mentioned, rendering this hadith unreliable. Even if we were to assume that this tradition was authentic the only real possibility of why it was said by the imams would have been to keep the individual safe and sound from the oppression and tyranny of the Banu Ummayah government. The Imams, in order to keep certain prominent individuals, such as Zurarah and Ibn Abbas safe in order for them to spread the word of the imams, were forced to pretend that they were far from and had nothing to do with them. The reason for this claim being that in other hadiths, the imams have praised them.

If the Shia criticized some of the actions of Abbas Bin Abdul Muttalib and his children, this is because these were human beings and not immune from making mistakes or committing sins. Criticism is not the same as calling someone a disbeliever and the Shia had the utmost respect for Abbas Bin Abdul Muttalib and Abdullah bin Abbas.
Detailed Answer

In order to answer this question, we must first delve into several points:

1- Did the Shia really consider Abbas and his children as disbelievers?

2- Are there any traditions reproaching Abbas and his children in the books of the Shia? If so what is the opinion of the Shias as to the Sanad (chain of narrators) of such traditions? If these traditions do exist and they are authentic then what is the explanation behind them?

3- Did the relatives and family members of the Holy Prophet (s) have any weak points or were they infallible in their actions?

We will go ahead and answer these questions in the order they were mentioned: As to the first issue it must be said that there is no contradiction in liking a group of people as a whole but at certain times having clashes with certain individuals from that group because of their actions not corresponding with our goals and ideals. If we pay attention to a verse from the Holy Quran we see that it asks: "Are they so envious of others for what God has given them of His bounty? So We had given the Book and the Law to Abraham's family, and given them great dominion."[1] The Holy Quran clearly says that the family of Prophet Abraham (a) was under the special favor of God. The question that remains is whether this command has any contradiction with the actions that we saw from the brothers of Prophet Yusuf (a) who were the grandchildren of Prophet Abraham (a). It is interesting to note that based on the science of genealogy, almost all of the people who were involved in fighting against the Holy Prophet (s) and many of those who were killed in the wars that ensued were from the far relations of Prophet Abraham (a). Could it be that all of these people were under the mercy and blessings that God promised to the family of Prophet Abraham (a) in the Holy Quran?

If the Holy Quran openly and clearly desires the cutting off of the hands of Abu Lahab[2], who was the uncle of the Holy Prophet (s), can we reach the conclusion that the Quran is the enemy of the ‘Ahlul Bait' as mentioned above?

The Shias, according to the instructions that God has given through Surah Shura[3] and the emphasis of the Holy Prophet (s), are to have love and affection towards his ‘Ahlul Bait'. With this in mind this does not mean that we should overlook all of the weak points of individuals just because they are related to the Holy Prophet (s). If this was the case then Abu Lahab, who was the prophets uncle, would not have been mentioned as being cursed.

According to our ideology the ‘Ahlul Bait' which the Holy Prophet (s) made their affection and love obligatory were five individuals and the Infallible Imams (a) who were the children of Fatemah (a). These were the Prophet (s) himself, Amirul Mumineen (a), Fatemah (a), Hasan (a) and Hussein (a). Then the last Imam will be Imam Mahdi (af) who the Prophet (s) gave the glad tidings of his coming.[4]

The strength and firmness of the faith of Abbas was not the same as the faith of the people from the ‘Ahlul Bait', such as Imam Ali (a) and Hamza who was called Seyed al Shuhadaa, because of the fact that at the battle of Badr he was fighting in the army of the polytheists and was taken prisoner and some Muslims decided to kill him while others disagreed with this suggestion. At the end he was only freed by paying of a fidyah (a sort of ransom that was a custom at that time).[5] He then became a Muslim after this and this was his history at the Battle of Badr. Later on at the Battle of Hunayn though (which occurred after the conquest of Makkah), Abbas played an active role and encouraged the Muslims towards resistance and perseverance in the battle.[6]

Based on this, it's not improbable that an individual who came up short many times while he was with the Holy Prophet (s), would later come up short in his efforts towards following and obeying the Prophet's (s) successor (Amirul Mumineen Ali (a)) and it is on this basis that the Shia criticize some of his actions. In fact, according to the fifth Imam, after the passing of the Holy Prophet (s), Amirul Mumineen (a) was deprived of the help of members of the ‘Ahlul Bait' such as Hamza and Jafar (due to their martyrdom before) who were people who persevered in their defense of Islam. The only people who were left amongst the ‘Ahlul Bait' were Abbas and Aqeel and there was not much hope placed on their help.[7]

With this said there are traditions that say that Abbas gave Imam Ali (a) some suggestions so that he would pay allegiance to him as a Khalifah. The reason behind this was that if the Uncle of the Prophet (s) would pay allegiance to the son of the Uncle of the Prophet (s) then there would not be much room left for protesting; this suggestion was not accepted by Imam Ali (a).[8] With all this in consideration it's a great lie to say that the Shia consider Abbas and his children as being disbelievers. No one who has all the facts would accept such a thing as the truth. This is because based on a tradition narrated from Imam Sadiq (a), in the ‘Ziarat' of the Holy Prophet (s) greetings are sent on the Uncle of the Prophet (s) Abbas as well.[9] How is it possible that someone can be considered a disbeliever and then right afterwards they are sent greetings of peace and mercy?

Now about the verse: ""من کان فی هذه اعمی . it has to be said that in the majority of the books of the Shia's, for example the Book of Kafi, it is narrated that this verse has been revealed about individuals who delay the obligatory duties in religion such as the Hajj pilgrimage.[10] The tradition that you narrated (in particular where it mentions the specific Quranic ayah it is about) has no authenticity. Between Ayyashi and the person who narrated from Ayyashi there must have been other narrators who have not been mentioned in the chain of narrators rendering it totally unreliable. In regards to the tradition from the Book of Rijale Kashi, you must surely know that in the books of Rijal (the science of the biographies and the trustworthy nature of the narrators of traditions), all of the opinions that various people have held about the narrators of traditions are recorded and studied. After all the various opinions are studied a final decision is made about a particular narrator of traditions by the author, or is the conclusion is left to the reader to make. Hence a tradition or quotation by someone narrated in a book of ‘Rijal' is not in reality a stamp of approval on that specific tradition's authenticity or veracity; nowhere is it said that the tradition is accepted and verified simply because it was recorded in a book of ‘Rijal'.

In relation to Abdullah Bin Abbas, if you look through the collection of Shia books of traditions you will find him to be the narrator of hundreds of various traditions. A great portion of important Shia hadiths have been narrated through him and are currently being practiced and actively applied in the day to day Shia life. With this said is it possible that the Shia accept an individual's word while narrating traditions, apply them to their daily lives, and then come and call that individual a disbeliever?

Likewise it's clear that Amirul Mumineen (a) named Ibn Abbas as his representative in the event of the ‘Hakamiyyah' (mediation) and said that it was only him who would be able to show publicly the deceit and trickery of Amr Bin Aas.[11] Can the Shias believe that their first Imam (a) named a disbeliever as his representative? In the books of the Shias there are sufficient proofs for these matters. If someone wishes to get to the truth these will be more than enough for them.

Of course it's possible that in some cases authentic traditions are narrated while speaking ill of or criticizing very worthy and great individuals. The reason for the existence of such traditions was the difficult and dangerous situation that many Shias of that time lived in due to the government of Banu Ummayah. This government had governors such as Hajjaj, who had made the shedding of the blood of the Shias considered as one of the most pious and excellent of actions. Some of the Imams (a), in order to protect the lives of their Shias, made some statements that helped their followers. For example the sixth Imam (a) said to the son of Zurarah: "Give my greetings to your father and tell him that it is only for your defense and protection that I sometimes find fault in you! You surely know that our enemies are after the harassment of individuals whom we like and praise. People censure them due to their closeness and love of us and they think that killing and tormenting our friends is considered a praiseworthy action. On the other hand, whoever we censure and reproach becomes the object of their honor and respect. (Tell your father) that we speak ill of you because you are an individual who is famous for his friendship and acquaintance with us. For this same reason you did not have a suitable position with the people and they don't have a good opinion towards you. I seek this distance between us so that perhaps, through these means, the opinion of ignorant people will change towards you and you will be saved from reproach and torment."[12]

Keeping in mind this reminder, this is a valuable point that: "As both Shias and Sunnis totally agree, just because a tradition is mentioned in one of their books and even if it is authentic and has a verified chain of narrators it does not necessarily mean that the specific sect follows that tradition. In some situations the reason behind certain traditions varies, thus not allowing it to be followed, despite its apparent ‘authenticity'.[13]

If the traditions speaking ill of Ibn Abbas, who was a close student of Amirul Mumineen (a), are true then how does this correspond with this hadith from Imam Sadiq (a) who spoke about Ibn Abbas as such: "When Ibn Abbas passed away and we were taking him for burial in the graveyard, a white bird took flight from his kafan (shroud) and flew higher and higher towards the sky until the eye could no longer see it. My father (Imam Baqir (a)) loved him very much..."[14]

In a society where the cursing of Ali (a) was obligatory (Wajib) and his children where under the severe propaganda attacks of the oppressive rulers, the only way to disseminate his knowledge through his student Ibn Abbas was to make him seem as an individual not associated closely with his personage. Perhaps, through these means, he would be saved from danger and be able to disseminate at least a small amount of the knowledge of his teacher to his society. This would also prevent the complete suffocation of this knowledge. In this same way, during later generations, this mission would be handed down to such individuals as Zurarah and the likes of him.

From another perspective, even though Abdullah and Ubaidullah (the children of Abbas) did work with the khalifahs who were in power before Imam Ali (a), when Imam (a) became the ruler they were with him and took charge of many important responsibilities on his behalf. According to traditions, during the time of the Caliphate of Imam Hasan (a), Ubaidullah did not have a proper reaction and was responsible to some degree for his defeat against Muawiya.[15] On the other hand Abdullah Bin Abbas, till the very end of his life, continued propagating the virtues and speeches of Amirul Mumineen (a). He would openly proclaim that all of his knowledge was from Imam Ali (a) and his knowledge and the knowledge of all the ‘Sahabah' (companions) against the knowledge of Imam Ali (a) was like a drop amongst the seven seas. His eyes also became blind due to his crying in the wake of the absence of Imam Ali (a) (after his passing).[16]

Hence Shias, while they may have certain disagreements with the actions of Abbas Bin Abdul Muttalib and his children, they have not known him as a disbeliever and they have a special level of respect for Abbas and Abdullah bin Abbas.

[1] Nisa:54 "ام یحسدون الناس علی ما آتاهم الله من فضله...".

[2] Masad:1.

[3] Shura:23 "...قل لا أسئلکم علیه أجراً الا المودة فی القربی...".

[4] Suyuti, Jalaluddin, Al-Durrul-Manthur, vol. 6, pg. 58.

[5] Ibn Athir Dameshqi, Tafsirul-Quranil-Adhim, vol. 4, pp. 79-80.

[6] Zamakhshari, Mahmoud, Al-Kashaf, vol. 2, pg. 259.

[7] Muhammad ibn Yaqub Kuleini, Kafi, vol. 8, pg. 189.

[8] Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir, Biharul-Anwar, vol. 28, pg. 329.

[9] Seyyid ibn Tawus, Iqbalul-A'mal, vol. 1, pg. 604.

[10] Muhammad ibn Yaqub Kuleini, Kafi, vol. 4, pp. 268-269.

[11] Nasr bin Muzahim Manqari (?), Waq'ah Siffin, pg. 500.

[12] Ibid, pg. 138.

[13] For instance, there are chances this hadith was said out of taqiyyah (dissimulation).

[14] Ibid, pg. 57.

[15] Biharul-Anwar, vol. 44, pg. 48.

[16] Biharul-Anwar, vol. 89, pg. 105.


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