A Brief Overview of Faqir Dehlavi’s Treatise “Rajm al-Shayatin”

There has unfortunately been a dearth of literature regarding the intellectual contributions of Shī’ah scholars of the Indian subcontinent. Although still extant, many of these works still exist in manuscript form in the libraries of India and Pakistan and are unknown to the public. It is particularly interesting to observe that the work of subcontinent Shī’ah scholars during the Mughal period often expresses a very strong polemical and sectarian slant.[1] In the early Mughal period, it appears religious polemics had flourished under the auspices of Akbar’s ‘ibādatkhānas and his tolerant domestic policy.[2]  However, beginning at the time of Aurangzeb Ālamgīr (d. 1707), persecution against the Shī’ah minority became widespread, and many adherents often mixed their beliefs within the garb of the Ṣūfī tradition. Furthermore, due to the difficulties in the laity having access to seminarian erudition during this time, many of the Shī’ah elite were highly influenced by Akhbārism. Such was the pervading Akhbārism that even when the semi-autonomous Shī’ah government of the Nawabs of Awadh (1722-1858) was established, there was an initial massive resistance to the establishment of Friday congregational prayers.[3] It was only during the 1800s that Twelver Uṣūlī Shī’ism became a formidable force on the subcontinent, prompting prominent Sunnī scholars to pen polemical treatises against the sect, which often in turn evoked comprehensive rebuttals from Shī’ī scholars.[4]

In this context, we survey here a polemical work known as Rajm al-Shayāṭīn written by the Shī’ah literarian Mīr Shams al-Dīn Dehlavī (d. 1769).[5] This treatise was written in response to the Sunnī scholar ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Akbarābādī’s[6] (d. 1677) Kashf al-Ghiṭā’, which presented myriad accusations against the Shī’ah and their beliefs regarding Imām ‘Alī’s (as) successorship. This book was meticulously typographed and published in 2016 from three Persian manuscripts by my dear friend Sayyid Mohsin Hosaini Kashmiri.[7] We have endeavored below to summarize some excerpts from the book.

As Dehlavī writes in his introduction to his work, he penned this treatise simply to help quell the doubts of some of his compatriots (zu’afā-ye-talabeh), who apparently found the contentions raised by Akbarābādī troubling. It is not quite clear while he entitled his treatise Rajm al-Shayāṭīn (The Stoning of the Devils), as he does not clarify this in his introduction. The Persian is written very ornately with a great deal of rhymed prose (saja’) and Arabic-laced rejoinders, obviously difficult to render into translation. We nonetheless believe translating some of these points is useful to see what types of discussions were going on at the time, and how much the polemics of today and on the subcontinent continue to revolve around the same topics. The style of the text is written in a quotation-rebuttal format (i.e., “he says…I say”), however we have elided it in only translating Dehlavi’s responses for the sake of brevity.

The Naṣṣ of the Holy Prophet for Imam ‘Alī’s Imamate

The Holy Prophet’s (saw) explicit designation of Imam ‘Ali’s Imamate is famous to the level that Ahl al-Sunnah cannot hide it, no matter how hard they might endeavor. For how many a ḥadīth can be found in their six reliable collections (ṣiḥāḥ-e-sittah), as narrated by reliable transmitters, that constitute explicit nuṣūṣ for the Imamate of ‘Alī! We will suffice with one of these, the ḥadīth of Ghadīr, which is narrated as follows:[8]

“On the authority of al-Barrā’ ibn ‘Āzib and Zayd ibn Arqam that when the Holy Prophet peace and blessings be upon him alighted at Ghadīr Khumm, he took the hand of ‘Ali may God be pleased with him and said, “Do you not know that I have more pre-eminence (awlā) over the believers than they have over their own selves?” They retorted, “Yes.” He then said, “Do you not know that I have more pre-eminence over every believer than he has over his own self?” They answered, “Yes.” Then he said, “By God, to whomsoever I am his preeminent (mawlā), than ‘Ali is his preeminent. Oh God, befriend he who befriends him and oppose he who opposes him.” Then ‘Umar came forth and said: Congratulations O son of Abū Ṭālib, you enter both day and night as the preeminent of every believing man and woman!”[9]

Of course, the Ahl al-Sunnah do not go into the details of the event of Ghadīr Khumm, as it would not constitute their best interests. However, as the dictum goes the “truth prevails all and is not prevailed over” (al-ḥaqq ya’lū wa lā yu’lā ‘alayhi), and we therefore find that al-Tha’labī, who is one of the most authoritative mufassirs of Ahl al-Sunnah, narrates the following in his tafsīr—that when the Holy Prophet was returning from the Farewell Pilgrimage, he reached Ghadīr Khumm. Thereupon the verse descended upon him, “Oh Messenger! Proclaim that which was revealed to you from Your Lord and if you don’t do so, you have not delivered His Message. And God will protect you from the people.” (5:67) Then the Holy Prophet seized the hand of ‘Ali and ascended a pulpit made of camel saddles and said the statement “To whomsoever I am preeminent…” After that, the verse “This day I have perfected your religion…” (5:3) was revealed.[10]

Any rational and impartial person will realize that there could be no other possible more explicit designation than this. However, for the blind one there is no recourse (ammā kūrī-ye-dil rā chāre nīst).

In the narrations of the Ahl al-Bayt (as) it is further stated that when this verse was revealed the Holy Prophet (saw) said to the companions, “Have I not proclaimed it?” and all responded, “Yes, O Messenger of God!” Then the Prophet turned towards the sky and said, “O God, bear witness!” It is narrated that he did this three times consecutively.

As for the fact that Ahl al-Sunnah interpret the meaning of pre-eminent (mawlā) here to mean other than what was intended: this stems from nothing but their stubbornness and fanaticism. This is because the contextual indicator of the Prophet’s question “am I not more pre-eminent over every believer than he is over himself,” makes it absolutely crystal-clear that the meaning of mawlā here is that of “ruler” or “more worthy of dispensation” (awlā bi al-taṣarruf).

Notwithstanding this, the circumstance of revelation for these two verses as mentioned in the tafsīr of al-Tha’labī substantiates this meaning of the word mawlā. This is because a matter like this, upon which the entire Divine Message is contingent, cannot be anything but the declaration of the Caliphate and Imamate of Amīr al-Mu’minīn. There is no better proof than this: that the Holy Prophet, by the simple fact of the revelation of 5:67, stopped in the middle of the road in the hot sun to deliver simply this statement regarding ‘Alī on a pulpit of camel saddles![11]

دیدهها کور وجهان پرآفتاب

“The eyes are blind while the world is full of sunlight!”[12]

The Belief of the Shī’ah Regarding the Companions

Far be it from the Shī’ah to believe that all the companions apostatized and conspired to hide the naṣṣ of Ghadīr! Rather love for the elite Companions is among the cornerstones of the Shī’ah creed. It is as al-Shaykh al-Ṣadūq has stated in his ‘Uyūn Akhbār al-Riḍā, quoted from a long ḥadīth from Imām Riḍā (as) that he said:

“And the core of Islam is the bearing testament that there is no God other than God…and love of Amīr al-Mu’minīn and those who passed away on the original path of their Prophet, not changing or routing course; individuals like Salmān al-Fārisī, Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī, al-Miqdād ibn al-Aswad, ‘Ammār ibn Yāsir, Ḥudhayfah al-Yamānī, Abū Haytham ibn al-Tayhān, Sahl ibn Ḥunayf, ‘Ubādah ibn al-Ṣāmit, Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī, Khuzaymah ibn al-Thābit, Abū Sā’īd al-Khudrī and the likes of them, may God be pleased with them.”[13]

Let it not be hidden that the fact the ḥadīth says “and the likes of them” implies that a great number of Companions stayed true to the Prophetic course, but since mentioning all of them would be cumbersome, Imam al-Riḍā (as) sufficed with this list of names.

Furthermore, the nature of how the allegiance and caliphate of Abū Bakr was conceived is recorded in a way that we will summarize below, because it reveals that this accusation that we believe in the apostacy of all the Companions is an absolute calumny against the creed of the Shī’ah.

Firstly, a few individuals from among the Muhājirūn such as Abū Bakr, ‘Umar, Abū ‘Ubaydah Jarrāḥ, Khālid ibn Walīd, Sa’d ibn Abī Waqqāṣ, and others abandoned the purified body of the Holy Prophet (saw)—as admitted by Sunnis themselves—and went to the Saqīfa of Banī Sa’idah. After a great deal of gnashing of teeth, they decided upon Abū Bakr’s appointment, and they were so involved in these proceedings that they even completely neglected the shrouding and burial of the Holy Prophet (saw). Afterwards, they utilized violence against those who were weak, material enticement against those who were powerful, and aggressive campaigning all round to crystallize this allegiance. Some of them welcomed it due to their rancor for ‘Alī while yet others accepted it due to their lenience about its significance. Anyone who reviews Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr’s book Al-Istī’āb will quickly appreciate the degree of contention and conflict that took place between the Companions in the wake of Saqīfah. In short, the ordeal continued until the point no one remained, excepting most of the Banū Hāshim, a group of the Anṣār, and a handful of the Muhājirūn. Then, eventually this group also relented and submitted their pact of allegiance, however only out of dissimulation to save themselves from the very real possibility of bodily harm and loss of life.

Therefore, in these circumstances, claiming that the Shī’ah believe all the Companions sought to hide the naṣṣ of Ghadīr and became apostates is a sheer and open lie!

Imamate is Necessitated Based on God’s Benevolence (Lutf-e-Ilāhī)

As for the appointment of an Imam, this is obligatory on the Creator by virtue of His Benevolence (luṭf), as substantiated by both rational and traditionist sources. In the Qurān, we find that God says that He, “gave everything its creation and then guided it aright” (20:50). Therefore, He created that capacity to accept guidance and righteousness within His servants; then He chose and sent the Prophets and their righteous heirs to guide them in order to complete His Argument on all His subjects. If God had not done so, then all of creation would have remained lost in the desert of misguidance, and they would have in turn had an argument against God.

Therefore, His Benevolence is necessary, otherwise the creation is free of culpability (barī al-dhimmah) in their disbelief and aberration. It is based on this very principle that we find God states in His book, “He has ordained Mercy upon Himself.” (6:12)

Now most certainly, this obligation upon God is not of the type the philosophers surmise, that should strip God of His volition. Far transcendent be God over that! Rather this obligation is instead the result of the perfection of God’s mercy and His Providence. It is of the type that “the comportment of God is not such that He should neglect to afford this benevolence.”

As for those endowed with insight, it is well-established that if the Holy Prophet and God failed to appoint an Imam despite the pressing need of creation for it, relegating it instead to election, this would completely dismantle the very foundations of Divine guidance.  This is because members of humankind are not aware of one another’s intentions and inner psyches; therefore, the one whom they assume as the worthiest to lead them may indeed be the most wicked. Due to his bankrupt leadership, a great deal of harm may transpire in the ummah, as it indeed did with the caliphate of ‘Uthmān, the uprising of Ṭalḥah and Zubayr, the ascension of Mu’āwiyah and Yazīd, and the assassination of a great number of Companions.

All the aforementioned calamities were the products of the Saqīfah of Banū Sā’idah; and if we were to propose that the Prophet and God did not appoint a leader, then all these negative repercussions must be traced back to God and His Messenger; but how immaculate is God from what they claim! 

Imām ‘Alī is Unparalleled in His Merits

Let it not remain concealed that in every aspect, the ascendancy of ‘Alī (as) over all the Companions is clearly established for those who are fair-minded. Of course, ‘Alī was the foremost in serving and protecting this religion since its inception, as evidenced by his bravery during each Islamic battle and his sleeping in the Holy Prophet’s bed during his migration to Madīnah.

As for his being foremost in knowledge, then this is clearly established by the ḥadīth, “I am the city of knowledge and ‘Alī is its gate.”[14] It is also further evidenced by ‘Umar’s statements that “If it were not for ‘Alī, then ‘Umar would have perished,”[15] and “May God not leave me alive for a dilemma over which Abū al-Ḥasan does not preside.”[16]

As for his being most foremost in the nobility of his lineage, this is no doubt more obvious than the Sun itself.

The same applies by way of bravery and manliness, liberality and magnanimity, destitution and contentment, pleasure and submission to God, and all other noble moral traits; and atop all of these, what could possibly be more indicative of his pre-eminence than the fact that God has referred to him as the very soul of the Messenger (nafs-e-rasūl) in the verse of Mubāhalah (3:61)? What could possibly be more indicative of this than the fact that obedience to him has been coupled with obedience to God and His Prophet in the verse of Wilāyah (5:55)? When the Holy Prophet commanded the Companions to embrace one another in pairs in a pact of brotherhood, he chose ‘Alī as his own brother amidst all the Companions. This has even been narrated in al-Tirmidhī by ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Umar. Furthermore, the Holy Prophet added him under his cloak with Fāṭimah, Ḥasan, and Ḥusayn and said, “Oh God, these are my household (ahl baytī)” following which the verse of Tatḥīr (33:33) was revealed, as the most obvious proof of their infallibility as mentioned by al-Tha’labī and others.[17]

Therefore, positioning others, from whom the scent of hypocrisy (bū-ye-nifāq) can be detected, over the rank of ‘Alī despite all these proofs can be the consequence of nothing but pure hatred and stubbornness. Rather, it should be submitted that from the point of view of scholarly investigation, positing that ‘Alī is better than all other Companions is not even in the least disrespectful.


از جهان چون رسول کرد سفر When the Prophet departed from this world
فتنه زد دهر را به یکدیگر That mischief on waves of time unfurled
حق و باطل به هم دگر آمیخت Truth and falsehood did fuse, conjoining
شام تاریک با سحر آمیخت As though a dark night betwixt the morning
آفتاب از میان چو جست کنار The blazing sun was consigned away
روز اهل زمانه شد شب تار And darkest night fell upon the day
اهل باطل شدند امیر هوا The corrupt, commanders by whim, had arisen
اهل حق جملگی اسیر بلا And the righteous were thrown into hardship’s dark prison
شد شقی بر سعید حاکم و میر The wretch on the blest rose master and heir
جای روباه شد کمین گه شیر Like a mere fox snatching a lion’s lair
سنگ و گوهر به یک بها گردید Diamond and rock were struck to one price
بوم همپایه هما گردید On surface ground, the twain interspliced
از برای صلاح ملت و دین For the sake of preserving religion and creed
آل خاتم شدند خانه نشین The House of the Seal their rights did concede
رتبه ای را که ایزد دادار That status which God Almighty bestowed
از پی اهل بیت داده قرار A status the Ahl al-Bayt were endowed
از نظرهای خلق گشت نهان From the people’s sight was hidden, whole
ماند از دین همین تن بی جان And religion was left but corpse with no soul
رفت از یاد آن گروه فضول Yes a meddling group disavowed remembrance
شرف و قدر اهل بیت رسول Of this Holy House’s honored magnificence
پس حسین علی به امر خدا Thus rose Ḥusayn-e-‘Ali by God
حق و باطل ز هم نمود جدا To cleft in two the ḥaqq from the fraud
ترک بیعت نمود چون به یزید He paid to tyrant Yazīd no allegiance
شرف خود به خلق ساخت پدید His honor exalted, without need for credence
دعوی حق او و عترت او By truth and his ‘itrat was his affirmation
یافت اثبات به از هزار گوا Surpassing a thousand men’s attestation
شد ز قتلش جفای اهل نفاق For in his death, nifāq’s wrongdoing
نزد مردم عیان علی الاطلاق Was left with no chance for misconstruing
ظلم و عدوان اهل بغی و ضلال The oppression and hate of a rebel folk
شد عیان چون در آئینه تمثال Showed clear in the mirror—the people awoke[18]



[1] Although officially Sunnī, the Mughal Empire had diplomatic relations with the Safavid Empire even early in its inception, and this allowed for a great influx of Persian Shī’ah scholars and scientists under Mughal patronage.

[2] Some of the early Shī’ah polemical literature in this regard include the works of Qāḍī Nūrullāh Shushtarī (d. 1610), such as Maṣā’ib al-Nawāṣib (written as a refutation of Mirzā Makhdūm Sharīfī’s al-Nawāqiḍ fī al-Radd ‘alā al-Rawāfiḍ), al-Ṣawārim al-Muhriqah (written as a refutation of Ibn Ḥajar al-Haythamī’s al-Ṣawā’iq al-Muḥriqah), and Iḥqāq al-Ḥaqq (written as a refutation of Faḍlullāḥ ibn Rūzbihān’s Ibṭāl Nahj al-Bāṭil)

[3] This is of course because Akhbārists believed that only the Twelfth Imām is qualified to conduct congregational prayers. Nonetheless, thanks to the strong leadership of Shī’ah Uṣūlī jurists such as Sayyid Dildār ‘Alī Nāṣirābādī (also known as Ghufrān Ma’āb) and Mullā Muḥammad ‘Alī Pādshāh Kashmīrī, Shī’ah congregational prayers and imāmbārās in North India were finally established wherein ‘aqīdah and basic fiqh was taught. For more details, I would highly recommend reading the book, “Roots of North Indian Shī’ism in Iran and Iraq” by JRI Cole, University of California Press 1988.

[4] Among the most celebrated works in this regard is the Persian magnum opus of Sayyid Ḥāmid al-Ḥusayn al-Mūsawī (d. 1888), entitled ‘Abaqāt al-Anwār fī imāmat al-a’immat al-aṭhār in approximately 20 volumes, written as a comprehensive response to the seventh volume of the Sunnī scholar Shāh ‘Abdul ‘Azīz al-Dehlawī’s (d. 1823) Tuhfeh-ye-Ithnā-‘Ashariyyah. In this book, al-Mūsawī substantiates the doctrine of imāmah comprehensively with reference to the Qurān and ḥadīth. It has widely been appraised as the most elaborate exposition of imāmah in history by the likes of Aghā Bozorg Ṭehrānī, al-Sayyid Muḥsin al-Amīn, ‘Allāmah Amīnī, and Imām Khomeini, but regrettably many volumes remain in manuscript form.

[5] Mīr Shams al-Dīn Faqīr Dehlavi (also known by the pen-name Faqīr) was a literarian and scholar who descended from the lineage of ‘Abbās ibn ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib. He was raised as a Ḥanafī, a relative of the very famous Sunnī scholar and polemicist Shāh Walī Allāh Dehlavī (d. 1762), however this did not stop him from converting to Shī’ism at the age of 25 during a trip to the Deccan. A capable literarian and scholar in Arabic, Urdu, and Persian, he has penned several masnavīs and polemical treatises (one of his masnavīs known as Dorr-e-maknūn is a Persian love saga envisioned between Imam al-‘Askarī  (as) and Sayyidah Narjis (as). Dehlavi passed away at the age of 66 when his boat drowned during a return from a ziyārat trip in Iraq.

[6] ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Akbarābādī (also known by the pen-name Izzat) was a Sunnī scholar, literarian, and jurist, recognized as one of the teachers of Aurangzeb-e-Ālamgīr. He was well-known for his bigotry against the Shī’ah, to the extent that he refused to accept any medical treatment from Shī’ah physicians.

[7] I am indebted to the dear Sayyid for generously providing me a gift of his work, published by Markaz-e-Iḥyā-e-Āthār-e-Barr-e-Ṣaghīr in 2017. The details of the publication can be found here: https://mtif.ir/book/72536/%D8%B1%D8%AC%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%B7%DB%8C%D9%86

[8] In the treatise, Dehlavi also goes on to quote four other narrations with further discussions regarding each: the Ḥadīth of the Twelve Caliphs, Ḥadīth al-Thaqalayn, Ḥadīth al-Manzilah, and Ḥadīth al-Tablīgh.

[9] Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ volume 3 page 1723 ḥadīth 6103

[10] This can be found in Tha’labi’s tafsir al-Kashf wa al-Bayān volume 4 page 92 under the verse 5:67

[11]  For a more exhaustive discussion regarding the Verse of Tablīgh (5:67), please see here: https://iqraonline.net/a-detailed-analysis-of-ayah-al-tabligh/

[12] This is an intertextual reference to a couplet from Farīd al-Dīn al-‘Aṭṭār:
ای دریغا هیچ کس را نیست تاب            دیدهها کور و جهان پرآفتاب

[13] ‘Uyūn Akhbār al-Riḍā volume 2 page 134

[14] Al-Mustadrak ‘alā al-Ṣaḥīḥayn volume 3 page 126-127; Majma’ al-Zawā’id volume 9 page 114; al-Mu’jam al-Kabir li al-Ṭabarānī volume 11 page 55; al-Jāmi’ al-Ṣaghīr li al-Suyūṭī volume 1 page 415; Kanz al-‘Ummāl volume 13 page 148 ḥadīth 36463

[15] Ta’wīl Mukhtalif al-Ḥadīth page 152; al-Istī’āb volume 3 page 1103; al-Mawāqif volume 3 page 627; Tafsīr al-Sam’ānī volume 5 page 154; al-Tafsīr al-Kabīr volume 21 page 22; Sharḥ Nahj al-Balāghah volume 1 page 18 and 141; Musnad Zayd ibn ‘Alī page 335; al-Riyāḍ al-Naḍirah volume 3 page 161; Naẓm Durar al-Samaṭayn page 130; al-Manāqib li al-Khwārizmī page 81; Maṭālib al-Su’ūl page 77

[16] Ta’wīl Mukhtalif al-Ḥadīth page 152; al-Fā’iq fī Gharīb al-Ḥadīth volume 2 page 375; Kashf al-Mushkil min Ḥadīth al-Ṣaḥīḥayn volume 1 page 176; Gharīb al-Ḥadīth of ibn Qutaybah volume 2 page 293; al-Nihāyah fī Gharīb al-Ḥadīth wa al-Athar volume 3 page 254; Tārikh Madīnah al-Dimishq volume 42 page 406; Tārīkh al-Islām of al-Dhahabī volume 3 page 638

[17] We have penned an extensive analysis of this verse that can be accessed here: https://iqraonline.net/an-in-depth-analysis-of-the-verse-of-tathir-who-are-the-ahl-al-bayt-part-1/

[18] The poem we have translated here was composed by Faqīr Dehlavi himself on the standard rhyme and meter of a Persian masnavī.