A recent public exchange with Shaykh Arif on the topic of Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’ left me thinking about the importance of familiarity with the religious intellectual tradition before advocating for reform, particularly for those who have positioned themselves or naturally assumed the spot of being on the forefront of a growing reform movement. In this post, I will be summarizing the exchange we had and offering observations on the points that were made. I have nothing personal against him and what ultimately matters is the argument itself, and that is what I wish to focus on here. I also apologize to non-seminary students as they may not be familiar with some terms and concepts, but there is only so much that I can simplify this post.
First let us look at the original status he uploaded. It is something the Shaykh has repeated numerous times in other gatherings and seminars too.
Initial Claim by Interlocutor:
There are three claims the scholar was making here: 1) Ignoring the chain of narration, the last part of Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’ is not agreed upon by Shi’i scholars; 2) Even those who agree with the existence of the second part, are in disagreement over who is being cursed; and 3) The Imams (a) would not have taught such a phrase which established a tradition of cursing certain individuals regardless, because they promoted unity and stood against discord.
My response to these three claims were made over a series of comments, but I will summarize them here in one section. I objected to all three claims, but I will explain my objections to the last two claims first and the response to the first objection will be shared near the end of this post:
1) Objection to claim #2: There is no disagreement amongst Shi’i scholars on who is being cursed. The claim that scholars have given different answers are all rooted in certain stories – which themselves are not authentically proven – where a certain Shi’i scholar is taken in the presence of a non-Shi’i authority, being interrogated about those being cursed. In response to that interrogation, the Shi’i scholar provides these alternative names. This does not mean there is a genuine difference of opinion, rather even the story itself shows the scholar(s) who gave these alternative names were merely doing dissimulation. I would even question the very occurence of these stories to begin with. Hence in my response, I say, “I’m not sure on what basis you are even presenting this as a difference of opinion amongst Shia scholars?” Till the end of the exchange, which is over 40 comments, the Shaykh was unable to back his claim up and says he is simply addressing preachers who say this. I don’t know which preachers say this, and if they do, whether they mean it genuinely or not. Regardless, if preachers are saying this, it does not say anything about a disagreement amongst Shi’i scholarship on it.
2) Objection to claim #3: This is one of the main underlying assumption the Shaykh is making, although not giving it enough or any nuance. Either he is totally unfamiliar with the hadith corpus and the jurisprudence that was derived from it, or is simply confusing the audience by mixing and matching cliches, name dropping terms and scholars. There is no doubt for anyone who extensively studies the hadith corpus or the traditional Shi’i jurisprudence, that the Imams (a) were distinguishing themselves from the rest of the community (who came to be referred to as the ‘āmmah), and that there was a clear exclusivist worldview the Shi’as held. This is affirmed by the Shi’a themselves, by non-Shi’a scholars and even Western scholarship – to even question this is pointless and simply highlights one’s lack of familiarity with the corpus and history of Tashayyu’. Without citing all the specific traditions, which are in the hundreds, and not ‘multiple reports going back to a single source’ (as the interlocutor will claim in one of his comments), I highlighted a number of set of narrations to show how the hadith corpus and the jurisprudence is defintely not without emphasizing a distinction between the true sect and the rest of the sects. I asked him to consider just some of the following set of narrations (this is definitely not an exhaustive list):
a) The whole set of narrations in Bāb al-Tīn that contain dozens of reports depicting the Shi’a as special.
b) The whole set of narrations that say deeds are not accepted without Wilāyah.
c) The set of narrations that describe those who do not pay khums to the Imam (i.e. the non-Shi’a).
d) The set of narrations that grant all of the anfaal in the occultation to the Shi’a.
e) The set of narrations that consider the Nawasib some of the worst creatures in existence.
f) The set of narrations indicating the non-obligation of washing and burying the non-Shi’a.1
g) The set of narrations indicating you cannot give zakāt to non-Shi’a.
i) The set of narrations indicating you can only pray behind them out of fear and dissimulation, as otherwise the prayers behind a non-Imami is not valid.2
j) The vast number of narrations in which the Imams do taqiyya and conceal the truth of the law and beliefs from the non-Shi’a; and in fact, in some narrations the Imams explicitly tell their followers to not educate the non-Shi’a men or women on certain rules as they are not deserving of it.
k) Also consider the tremendous amount of non-Shi’a literature (tarājim, rijāl, refutation/polemical works etc.) that exists and is continuously being discovered which shows how non-Shi’a Muslims viewed the Shi’a during the lifetime of the Imams. There is a very clear perception that the Shi’a held a very sectarian and exclusivist view, and their opinions on the first three caliphs are reiterated by most of these non-Shi’a scholars.3
I said: Surely you must be familiar with the Shi’a hadith corpus and the exclusivist worldview that permeates throughout it? How can you ignore the hundreds of narrations and paint such an inaccurate picture of what is contained in the sources? As I said, if you wish to question all of these reports, then you must also acknowledge that the entire corpus as a whole is problematic – even those reports that match the Quran or are not textually problematic for you, because the issue is not about whether the content matches the Quran or not, rather there is then a bigger question mark on whether anything can even accurately be attributed to the Imams. If even narrations with authentic chains cannot be attributed to the Imams, then you are essentially jeopardizing the entire corpus. Once again, you may opt for that position, but then you should definitely clarify that for your audience and not present your arguments through sentimental propositions that have no value in academic discourse (i.e. “would the Imams really do such and such!?”)”
The response to some of my initial objections was as follows:
In his response, the Shaykh defends his third claim (the the Imams could not have taught this) by citing a few Quranic verses that speak of maintaining unity and that teaching companions to curse would go against the Quran. Then he goes off on a tangent and makes a few more claims:
1) The hadith are solitary and cannot be ascertained with certidude (I responded to this claim in the aforementioned response by mentioning the different set of narrations).
2) Ākhund Khurāsānī states we only have a handful of authentic reports by the strictest consideration.
3) Ayatullah Makārim Shīrāzī discounts 90% of Biḥar al-Anwār.
4) Over 60% of al-Kāfī is discounted by certain scholars.
I first respond to the Quranic verses he cited and say: You would know there is hardly a verse that contains an “explicit” meaning. The vast majority of the Quranic verses are all apparent meanings and there are extensive and detailed linguist theories and principles to prefer the best possible apparent reading. Hence, those verses you have quoted are absolutely not in contradiction nor in conflict with the Imams cursing anyone or promoting an exclusivist worldview. You cannot cite concepts like solitary reports and the issues Usulis may have with them, and then ignore the very fundamental discussions on ‘ām and khāṣṣ, muṭlaq and muqayyad, or other ways by which two prima-facie meanings can be reconciled. Further, to mention a few quick observations regarding the verses you cited – it is best to not cite verses as cliches:
a) (6:159) Muhammad you are not a part of those who divided their religion: Interestingly speaking, in this verse Allah is asking the Prophet (p) to do a form of tabarrī (disassociation) from other sects. This verse indicates the weakness and mistakes of those who separated themselves away from the Prophet and made groups; the Prophet is being asked to not become affiliated with such parties, as he is the criterion. Allah expects others to align themselves with him (p). If, then, the Imams are the rightful criterion and proof on earth, others are expected to align themselves with the Imams and not separate from them (a), and the Imams are expected to disassociate themselves from them and not be a part of them.
b) (3:103) Hold on to the rope of Allah and do not separate: The bare minimum this verse implies is to not leave the religion and separate away from it. It does not say anything about the prohibition on forming sects within the religion.
c) (6:108) Sabb is other than la’n, so this verse is irrelevant, and I do not believe the Imams taught us to swear or use foul language (sabb). My contention with the status is about the supposed image of the Imams (a) that they could not have cursed or that they did not promote an exclusivist worldview or an identity. Please see this time-stamp from the AMI Online Panel where the panelist Seyed Fatemi mentions this exact point.
In response to his second claim regarding Ākhund Khurāsānī, I asked for a reference where Ākhund says we only have a handful of authentic reports, but was not yet provided one. I countered this claim by citing Ākhund’s commentary on Shaykh Anṣārī’s al-Farā’id where he says the following:
لأنّا نقول: وجه الاستدلال انّما هو تواترها على نحو الإجمال، بمعنى انّ كثرتها يوجب القطع بصدور واحدٍ منها، و هو كاف حجّية على حجّيّة الخبر الواحد في الجملة في قبال نفى حجّيّته مطلقاً، و قضيّة الاقتصار على اعتبار خصوص ما دلّ على اعتباره من أنحاء خبر الواحد مثل خبر العدل أو مطلق الثّقة، أخصّ الطّائفة الّتي علم بصدور واحد بينها  مضموناً.
نعم يمكن التّعدي عنه إلى غيره لو وجد مثل هذا الخبر ناهضاً على حجّيّة غير هذا النّحو؛ و الإنصاف حصول القطع بصدور واحد ممّا دلّ منها على حجّيّة خبر الثّقة. و لا يخفى ظهور هذه الطّائفة في انّ اعتبار هذا الوصف في المخبر، انّما هو لأجل حصول الوثوق بالصّدور، ففي الحقيقة يكون العبرة به، لا بها، فلو حصل من غيرها يكون مثله في الاعتبار.
و من المعلوم عدم انحصار أسباب الوثوق بالصّدور بوثاقة الراوي، بل هي يكون في الاخبار المدوّنة في الكتب المعتبرة، سيّما الكتب الأربعة الّتي عليها المدار في الأعصار و الأمصار، و ما يحذو حذوها في الاعتبار كثيرة جدّاً:
منها: وجود الخبر في غير واحد من الأصول المعتبرة المتداولة في الأعصار السّابقة.
و منها: تكرّره و لو في أصل واحد بطرق مختلفة و أسانيد عديدة معتبرة.
و منها: وجوده في أصل معروف الانتساب إلى من أجمع على تصديقه، كزرارة و نظرائه و على تصحيح ما يصحّ عنه، كسنوان بن يحيى و أمثاله.
و منها: كونه مأخوذاً من الكتب الّتي شاع بين السّلف، الوثوق بها و الاعتماد عليها، و لو لم يكن مؤلّفوها من الإماميّة.
إلى غير ذلك ممّا لا يخلو عن أكثرها الكتب الّتي ألّفت ليكون مرجعاً للأنام في الأحكام. و يشهد على ذلك أي كون العبرة على الوثوق بالصّدور مطلقا، انّه كان المتعارف بين القدماء على ما صرّح به الشيخ بهاء الدّين في مشرق الشّمسين، إطلاق الصّحيح على ما اعتضد بما يقتضى الاعتماد عليه، أو اقترن بما يوجب الوثوق به و الرّكون إليه، و لم يكن تقسيم الحديث إلى الأقسام الأربعة المشهورة، معروفاً بينهم، و انّه كان من زمان العلاّمة- قدّه-.
I will paraphrase and summarize the above discussion:
In the discussion on the probativity of a solitary report, Ākhund Khurāsānī comments on Shaykh Anṣārī’s claim that there are many narrations which prove the probativity of a solitary report, by saying perhaps Anṣārī meant there is tawātur ijmālī between these reports. Then he says, there is no doubt that the quality of “thiqa” in these set of narrations is because it results in wuthūq (trust and confidence) in the ṣudūr (utterance of the report) and it is this wuthūq which ultimately matters, not that the narrator is thiqa. So if one attains wuthūq from a report by a non-thiqa, then it is just as reliable. He then goes on to say, it is well known there are many different ways one can attain wuthūq in ṣudūr and that this matter is not limited to just a narrator being thiqa. He mentions a few ways one can attain wuthūq (please pay attention to this, because some of these can and are used by scholars to gain confidence in Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’ and I will reference these points again as the interlocutor will show he has not understood some very basic concepts in this discussion):
a) The existence of the reports in reliable books, especially the four books upon which Shi’i scholarship has always heavily relied.
b) The existence of the same report in multiple different reliable primary sources that were well-known and accessible.
c) The reoccurence of a report – albeit in the same work – with multiple chains of transmission.
d) Its existence in an Asl whose attribution is well-established, to someone upon whom there is consensus of their truthfulness such as Zurārah or Safwān b. Yaḥya.
e) The report is taken from a work that was popular and trusted by the predecessors and they relied upon it, even if its transmitter or author is not an Imami Shi’a.
f) and many other indicators which most of the books that have been written and have become a source of reference for the scholars do contain.
Another evidence which proves that the criterion is wuthūq in ṣudūr – from all perspectives, i.e. regardless of whether the reporter is thiqa or not – is that amongst the classical scholars, as per the explicit claim of Shaykh Bahā’ al-Dīn in his Mashriq al-Shamsayn, the term ṣaḥīḥ was used for any narration that they relied upon or a report that was accompanied with indicators that would lead to wuthūq. The division of hadith into the four famous categories was not well-known amongst them, as it became popularized after ‘Allāmah Ḥillī.4
So not only did the interlocutor make an invalid claim about Ākhund Khurāsānī (and I stand to be corrected), but Ākhund says the complete opposite with a lot of passion, especially since he believes the criterion for authenticity is not a khabar al-thiqa, rather al-khabar al-mawthūq. Until here, in this exchance, I was still unaware that the Shaykh is going to be misusing the word ṣaḥīḥ, or rather using them in two different meanings and committing a fallacy of equivocation.
In response to his third claim that Ayatullah Makārim Shīrāzī discounts 90% of Biḥār al-Anwār, I first corrected him and said perhaps he meant Shaykh Āsif Muḥsinī who employed the methodology of khabar al-thiqa on Biḥār to reduce it down to three volumes. However, Ayatullah Makārim did no such thing, and instead, he oversaw a work called Muntakhab al-Athār min Biḥār al-Anwār compiled in a number of volumes. The interlocutor responded with some screenshots of Ayatullah Makārim’s preface and says he reduced it down to 10%. Yes, Biḥār may have been reduced to 10-20% of the original, but in both Ayatullah Makārim’s preface and the introduction written by the researchers, there is absolutely nothing that says they eliminated narrations which they personally believed were not reliable. The whole purpose of the work was to reduce the size of Biḥār by eliminating repetations and excluding narrations which they believed were not very relevant for today’s day and age. This in no way means says anything about Ayatullah Makārim’s opinion about the authenticity of the reports in Biḥār al-Anwār, even the ones that were eliminated and excluded! How is the interlocutor making these grand assumptions, and jumping from one premise to another, and arriving at completely irrelevant conclusion?
On top of this, I honestly do not even know the relevance of just name dropping the weakness of Biḥār al-Anwār in this entire exchange. Even if all of Biḥār al-Anwār was weak and unusable, what does that have to do with the discusion on Ziyarat ‘Ashura? Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’ does not depend on Biḥār al-Anwār!
Coming back to the discussion at hand, which was Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’, the interlocutor mentions a couple of new points.
In this response, the interlocutor says Kāmil al-Ziyārāt is a book that is not considered at the level of al-Kāfī, and if al-Kāfī itself is not accepted as ṣaḥīḥ, then by priority Kāmil al-Ziyārāt will also not be accepted as an authority. For those unfamiliar, the reason why Kāmil al-Ziyārāt is being mentioned in this discussion is because Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’ is found in two early sources: 1) Kāmil al-Ziyārāt of Ibn Qūlūwayh (d. 367/967), and 2) al-Miṣbāḥ al-Mutahajjid of Shaykh Ṭūsī (d. 460/1067). Note how Kāmil al-Ziyārāt is a work compiled just around a century before al-Miṣbāḥ, however in the extant text we have today, the second part which contains the curses is written slightly differently. This will also be a point the interlocutor will bring up later, which I did not address in the comments, but I will mention something about that near the end of thist post.
It is at this point that I began to notice the Shaykh’s fallacy of equivocation. I responded:
The interlocutor responded with another series of questions:
To the first question I responded: “A few researchers have cast doubt on it yes. After my own exhaustive reading of the various research that exists out there, I have opted for tawaqquf and I believe there is no way to conclude whether this part was added later on or was removed later on due to dissimulation.” This I believe is the most honest position I could ascribe to.
To the second question I responded: “No I don’t agree. There is no such scholarly disagreement on this. Just some fables and stories – which cannot really be proven – that exist in which a certain scholar is shown doing dissimulation in front of a non-Shi’a authority.”
To the third question I responded: “Do you notice that your aforementioned argument is one due to expediency, not due to you believing the Imams could not have taught this? This is a very different rationale for not reciting that part or omitting it. I personally know very reputable traditional scholars who due to expediency reasons avoid reading that part in public gatherings.
This is a very different line of reasoning than the argument: “Imams could not have taught us to curse certain individuals.” You must separate your arguments and not conflate different points together, so your scholarly audience can understand exactly what your arguments and positions are.”
To his comment: “4 “Then you gave your observations and pointed out that we have great abundance of reports on cursing etc?”
I responded: No I never said we have a great abundance of reports on cursing, let alone authentic ones. I was objecting to your point about unity by which you were arguing the Imams could not have taught this. I was saying there are a great abundance of reports that promote an exclusivist worldview and a negative lowly view of the non-Shi’a, and hence it is not far-fetched at all that the Imams could have taught some of their followers that it is permissible to curse certain revered figures who are considered sources of misguidance.”
For the rest of the comment, I reitirated my point regarding Ākhund Khurāsānī believing most of the narrations are actually reliable as per the criterion of wuthūq – which he believes is the correct criteria, as opposed to khabar al-thiqa. The Shaykh once again makes an error that Aytaullah Makārim was somehow reducing Biḥār al-Anwār by eliminating weak narrations, when no where in the preface does he say such a thing. Any student familiar with the discourse and strong opposition that transpired in the Qom seminary against the work of Shaykh Āsif Muḥsinī would know Aytaullah Makārim would not have agreed to a similar project if that was the purpose behind it.
He then says, “7. “The discussion is that there is no unanimity of opinion on ziyarat Ashura that you claimed”
I responded: Questioning a certain portion of the ziyārat due to manuscript discrepancies does not mean there is no unanimity on the general attribution of the ziyārat of ‘Āshūrā’ to Imam Baqir (a). Even academics like Dr. Hassan Ansari – employing textual analysis – date it back to the Imam’s time.
You need to actually quote some proper scholars who say Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’ is not from Imam Baqir (a) and that it is a later fabrication by someone or that we have no trust in it. Only then can you say there is no unanimity on it.
He then makes another strange statement, questioning the authorship of Kāmil al-Ziyārāt: “8. As for kafi and kamil ziyarat – our scholars are in agreement that kafi is as it was when written by kulayni as opposed kamil which may not be as compiled by the original compiler”
I responded: I have honestly never read or heard of any scholar or researcher questioning the actual authorship of Kamil al-Ziyarat to Ibn Quluwayh. This is new for me, so I would be happy to read any research on this and always be willing to revise my views on the subject as I always try to do.
I still am unaware what exactly the interlocutor is referring to, because where is no question of authorship in Kāmil al-Ziyārāt and just because a book like al-Kāfī is a far more important book due to its comprehensiveness does not make Kāmil al-Ziyārāt any less important. These are two books of two different genres, written for two entirely different reasons and it makes no sense to even compare the two works together. Perhaps the Shaykh has confused the book with Tafsīr al-Qumī whose authorship is most definitely questioned, and both Kāmil al-Ziyārāt and Tafsīr al-Qumī are often discussed together in the discussion of al-tawthīq al-‘āmm (mass authentication) of transmitters.
The interlocutor then cites screenshots from a very famous research work written by Shaykh Raḍī called Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’ fī al-Mīzān, a work I read back in 2013-2014. In it, the author argues that the second part of the ziyārat cannot be established to have been an original part of the ziyārat and that it was a later addition. Now what is amazing is that in the very same book, the author also spends 10-15 pages distinguishing between the two approaches of khabar al-thiqa and al-khabar al-mawthūq. He says as per the strict methodology of khabar al-thiqa, Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’ is not probative in matters of creed and jurisprudence. Shaykh Raḍī makes no comment on the authenticity of the ziyārat as per the methodology of al-khabar al-mawthūq from what I recall reading. It is very much possible and common for a narration to be weak as per standards of rijāl only, but scholars are still confident in its attribution to the Imam (a) because they have wuthūq in it (even if it is just a general – ijmālī – attribution). A good example of this is ‘Allāmah Majlisī’s Mirāt al-‘Uqūl (which the interlocutor also cites to show how weak al-Kāfī is), where Majlisī grades a lot of narrations as unauthentic (based on the four-category definition popularized during ‘Allāmah Ḥillī’s time), yet still believes in the attribution of a vast majority – if not all – of the narrations in al-Kāfī to the infallibles.
One of the characteristics of the methodology of wuthūq is that is a very personal and subjective conviction. Some scholars may consider certain preference indicators (murajjiḥāt) strong enough to gain conviction, while for others this may not be the case. How the interlocutor concluded Sayyid Sistani would also not have wuthūq in the second part of Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’ is beyond me. The interlocutor who has created his own Quranic principle that somehow dictates the Imams could not have cursed, superimposes this principle onto Sayyid Sistani and says he must also not be convinced in the second part of the ziyārat because Sayyid Sistani also rejects narrations that go against the spirit of the Quran. This is very comedic given Sayyid Sistani over many of his discussions cites narrations that contain different types of la‘n by the Imams directed towards different indivudals, and uses these reports to derive conclusions which show he does not believe usage of curses by the Imams (a) is against the spirit of the Quran.5 I highly doubt Sayyid Sistani is unaware of the numerous verses of the Quran that condemn, belittle, and humiliate disbelievers, hypocrites, and what the Quran has to say about those who break off from the congregation by disobeying the Prophet (p), such that he would consider the existence of la‘n in the hadith corpus to be contradictory to the ethos of the Quran. La‘n is a term that was widespread amongst the Arabs and the Quran itself employs it in over 20 verses.
The interlocutor also confesses he was not aware this approach was called the methodology of wuthūq. Once again, this is shocking as this is a very integral discussion in the topic of solitary reports. Below is a picture I took from my own copy of al-Ḥalaqa al-Thānīya, a work on legal theory we learn in our introductory years where this discussion is initially alluded to by Shahīd Ṣadr.
The pencil marks are my own from 2016, and as the readers can see, I have written (1) and (2) under literally the sentence where we are first exposed to this distinction between khabar al-thiqa and khabar al-mawthūq. For an expert in the field to not be aware of a very basic jargon is unbefitting.
The Underlying Assumption of the Interlocutor
I will wrap up this lenghty post by addressing two issues; first is that the real reason the Shaykh has an issue with Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’ is due to an assumption he has about what the Imams could or could not have said, and the second is whether Shi’a scholars all accept Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’ to be from the Imam (a) or not. He needs to clearly separate these two discussions, because the first point totally concerns him and no Shi’i scholar throughout the course of time has ever held such an assumption nor does anyone hold such an opinion today. This is totally his own personal opinion and he is using this as an assumption while approaching the texts. As for the second point, that is a completely separate discussion and he needs to see whether scholars are being inconsistent with their acceptance of the ziyārat text given their approaches to verifying reports (while also keeping into consideration the difference between approach and the purpose behind them).
Regarding the first point, it is an assumption the interlocutor has in which he states: “The Imams as per their role can never ordain ritual ceremonies of cursing.”
Do All Shi’a Scholars Accept Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’?
The interlocutor says the Shi’a are very sensitive about attributing something to the Imams without certitude, but completely misses the point that when we are speaking of wuthūq in the ṣudūr of a narration, it literally means you are sure and confident the report is from the Imam (a) – albeit to varying degrees with respects to the entirety of a text. Hence the onus is on him to show even one Shi’i scholar who says they do not have wuthūq in the ṣudūr of this ziyārat and I’m not sure whether such a ziyārat was ever taught by Imam Bāqir (a) to anyone. This is very difficult to do because as I mentioned earlier, establishing wuthūq is a very personal matter, yet we know generally speaking there has not been any observable critcism against it until the past few decades (that too, based on the approach of khabar al-thiqa which only established the lack of probativity as evidence in law and creedal matters). Citing Sayyid Khū’ī or other scholars who are analyzing the report based on a very strict methodology and are precautious in attributing particular words to the Imam (a) based on that approach specifically, does not necessarily say anything about their stance on the ziyārat from the perspective of wuthūq. This is why I cited a quote from Imam Khumaynī in which he says even works like al-Ṣaḥifa al-Sajjādīyyah or Nahj al-Balāgha can be considered weak from the perspective of the chain and hence cannot be probative in matters of jurisprudence, yet in general – ijmālan as opposed to tafṣīlan – we can still attribute the supplications and sermons to the Imams (a) as we have a degree of confidence in them having been issued by them (a),8. In this discussion, the Shaykh says: “What difference do ijmaal and tafsil make to the central point that there is legitimate disagreement about the second part and hence it cannot be attributed with confidence to the Imam?”
Firstly, let us look at the different contextual and preference indicators that can increase or decrease our confidence in the general attribution (ijmālan) of Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā to Imam Baqir (a) or indicators that can shift our confidence to a more specific (tafṣīlī) attribution of most of its text. I am not claiming this is an exhausitve list, but it should give readers an idea of the different variables on both sides:
Weakness of Muḥammad b. Mūsa al-Ḥamdānī in the report of Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā attributed to Imam Baqir (a).
The reference to Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā in two different eras, once during Imam Baqir’s (a) and once during Imam Sadiq’s (a).
No explicit Tawthiq of Muaḥammad b. Khālid al-Ṭayālisī.
The trust of Shi’i companions, transmitters and scholars on the books transmitted by and through Muaḥammad b. Khālid al-Ṭayālisī.
More likely the Imams (a) couldn’t have prescribed ritual cursing (interlocutor’s assumption which he grants a lot of probablistic weight to).
Presence in two independent primary sources 100 years apart (Kāmil al-Ziyārāt and al-Misbāḥ al-Mutahajjid).
The promotion of unity in the Quran which is in apparent conflict with cursing respected figures of a certain Muslim sect (interlocutor’s assumption and he sees it as an irreconcilable contradiction with the reports).
A different chain of transmitters referencing Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā taught by Imam Baqir (a) to his companion, during the time of Imam Sadiq (a).
The possibility of a Kufan Shi’i narrator expressing his own personal grief and then misattributing it to the Imam (a), or an extremist Shi’i exaggerator fabricating the entire ziyārat.
References to names and groups that were alive during the time of Imam Baqir (a), or reference to the celebration of Bani Umayyah during ‘Āshūrā, indicating the text is from late 1st century hijri or early 2nd century hijri.
More likely that the Imams could have cursed different individuals, based on the existence of hundreds of reports that use similar phrases and terms, or promote an exclusivist worldview.
The lack of conflict with the Quran, given the Quran uses la‘n in over 20 verses and does not see the use of such a word nor its prescription for the believers to recite in their Salat as detested.
The promotion of true unity (not expediency based unity, tolerance, coexistence and diplomacy which are all based on secondary reasons) in the Quran is tied to the Truth and an infallible guide, while abandoning these guides is tantamount to creating disunity.
A scholar will consider these variables and weigh them out based on their own grasp of the subject. Some variables may have a lot of probablistic value, while some may not even have any value – for example the fourth weakning indicator will have zero value for traditional Shi’i scholars, while for Shaykh Arif this is essentially one of the most valuable indicator. Based on these variables that Shi’i scholars consider on both sides, the interlocutor has to show some traditional Shi’i scholars who lack confidence in attributing Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā, i.e. lack wuthūq in its ṣudūr, to Imam Baqir (a) even in a general (ijmālī) way. Quoting scholars who question its authenticity based on khabar al-thiqa only proves they cannot use the text of the ziyārat as evidence in matter of jurisprudence or creed, not that they may not be personally convinced of its general veracity and that the Imam (a) did teach such a ziyārat.
What About the Second Part of the Ziyārat?
The ziyārah of ‘Āshūrā’ consists of various instances where enemies of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) are being cursed. One of the most significant of these curses appears near the end of the ziyārah as follows in the Kāmil al-Ziyārāt version:
اللَّهُمَّ خُصَّ أَنْتَ أَوَّلَ ظَالِمٍ ظَلَمَ آلَ نَبِيِّكَ بِاللَّعْنِ ثُمَّ الْعَنْ أَعْدَاءَ آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ مِنَ الْأَوَّلِينَ وَ الْآخِرِينَ اللَّهُمَّ الْعَنْ يَزِيدَ وَ أَبَاهُ وَ الْعَنْ عُبَيْدَ اللَّهِ بْنَ زِيَادٍ وَ آلَ مَرْوَانَ وَ بَنِي أُمَيَّةَ قَاطِبَةً إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَة
O Allah, pour special curses on the foremost oppressor who oppressed the progeny of your Prophet. Then curse the enemies of the progeny of Muḥammad, from the first an the last. O Allah, curse Yazīd and his father, and curse ‘Ubaydullah b. Ziyād and the family of Marwān and Banī Umayyah altogether, up to the Day of Resurrection.
This is contrary to how it appears in the version recorded in Miṣbāḥ al-Mutahajjid of Shaykh Ṭūsī which is what is more popularly recited:
اللَّهُمَّ خُصَّ أَنْتَ أَوَّلَ ظَالِمٍ بِاللَّعْنِ مِنِّي وَ ابْدَأْ بِهِ أَوَّلًا ثُمَّ الثَّانِيَ ثُمَّ الثَّالِثَ وَ الرَّابِعَ اللَّهُمَّ الْعَنْ يَزِيدَ خَامِساً وَ الْعَنْ عُبَيْدَ اللَّهِ بْنَ زِيَادٍ وَ ابْنَ مَرْجَانَةَ وَ عُمَرَ بْنَ سَعْدٍ وَ شِمْراً وَ آلَ أَبِي سُفْيَانَ وَ آلَ زِيَادٍ وَ آلَ مَرْوَانَ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَة
O Allah, pour special curses on the foremost oppressor and begin with him first, and then pour curses on the second, the third, and the fourth. O Allah, curse Yazīd fifthly, and curse ‘Ubaydullah b. Ziyād, the son of Marjānah, ‘Umar b. S‘ad, Shimr, the family of Abū Sufyān, the family of Ziyād, and the family of Marwān, up to the Day of Resurrection.
Firstly, as the reader can see, there is not that much of a grand difference in what appears in Kāmil al-Ziyārāt and al-Miṣbāh for the interlocutor to be making this difference seem like it is hard evidence that the version of al-Miṣbāh was a later addition and fabrication. In fact, both texts are almost the same, and if anything they both further reinforce the presence of a cursing at the end of the text. Even if we go with the Kāmil al-Ziyārāt version, who does the interlocutor think the Shi’a are referring to when they say: “pour special curses on the foremost oppressor who oppressed the progeny of your Prophet. Then curse the enemies of the progeny of Muḥammad, from the first an the last.” When it comes to these manuscript discrepencies, the exact same process as the previous section is carried out by scholars and researchers who wish to determine whether a certain word, sentence, paragraph or section can be attributed to the infallible or not. This is absolutely not unique to Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’! See this time-stamp in the panel discussion where a panelist says the same thing. Anyone who has been exposed to rigorous discussions in the seminary will know this is absolutely normal.
In this case, we have manuscript discrepencies and there are extensive works written on just this paragraph, and Shaykh Raḍī’s work cited by the interlocutor is just one work, in which he is essentially undermining the confidence one should have in this paragraph. The interlocutor is not addressing other works such as the work al-Mudākhilāt al-Kāmilah fi Radd Mudā‘ī al-Tazwīr ‘ala Ziyārah ‘Āshūrā’ al-Mutadāwala which question the academic integrity and methodological soundness of the research conducted by Shaykh Raḍī in investigating and categorizing the manuscripts which contain Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’. The author engages with the categorization of manuscripts dealt with by Raḍī and concludes he is unfortunately guilty of skewing with the evidence.
To give an entire summary of these books is really outside the scope of my response, but consider the following variables when preferring either of these versions (once again, this is by no means an exhaustive list):
Kāmil al-Ziyārāt Version
Book is at least a century older than al-Miṣbāh hence has priority.
The earliest manuscripts of al-Miṣbāḥ al-Ṣaghīr do contain the la’n, as opposed to al-Miṣbāḥ al-Kabīr that was available to Sayyid Ibn Ṭā’ūs (d. 664).
However, the current published Kāmil al-Ziyārāt relies on a much later manuscript.
The current published work of al-Miṣbāh relies on much earlier manuscripts, even earlier than the ones available for Kāmil al-Ziyārāt, and hence has priority over Kāmil al-Ziyārāt.
Since the manuscript used for publication is much later, the phenomenon of naql bil ma’na could have occurred in Kāmil al-Ziyārāt or a later scribe could have rephrased the text due to dissimulation.
The manuscript of al-Miṣbāḥ al-Kabīr that was available to Sayyid Ibn Ṭā’ūs and was missing the la’n could have also been an omission by a scribe.
Given al-Miṣbāh is lengthier, one could opt for the principle of ‘adam al-ziyādah and be convinced of Kāmil al-Ziyārāt’s version.
Some scholars accept the primacy of ‘adam al-naqīṣah over ‘adam al-ziyādah and hence could lean more towards al-Miṣbāh’s version.
As stated in the exchange with the interlocutor, after reading through the reserach works – at least up until 2018 – I opted for a position of tawaqquf (suspension). Generally speaking, Shi’i scholars will prefer the rendition from al-Miṣbāḥ al-Ṣaghīr as that is what became popularized eventually and was added to some of the manuscripts of al-Miṣbāḥ al-Kabīr which was missing it. The above differences in the two books do not entail that this part was an addition by a scribe or that the Imam (a) did not issue these curses, rather it further strengthens the existence of this paragraph in the original text with minor discrepencies. Perhaps research that has been done since then which I’m unaware of could swing my position to one of these sides, but regardless, I did leave the interlocutor with an alternative way to think about these matters rather than taking an approach which eventually leads to cutting off the entire head of the Shi’i tradition and corpus. My suggestion is that it is much more productive to address Ziyārat ‘Āshūrā’ from other perspectives:
I want to end this post with a quick translation I did of an entry by Dr. Hassan Ansari of Princeton University titled A Message to the Representatives of Contemporary Religious Enlightented Thinkers, in which he highlights a few problems concerning Iranian reformists. I may not necessarily agree with every point, but I agree with the general sentiments and find them to be true not just for Iranian reformists but as well as Western Shi’i scholars who lean towards reform:
Religious Enlightenment thought can be attributed to certain trends and specific individuals, who attempt to offer an interpretation of religion which reconciles with modernity and with needs of today’s day and age. In other words, they attempt to defend religion by showing it as a rational, or at the very least reasonable (‘uqalāyī) phenomenon in the modern world. This interpretation can be attributed to a number of individuals, from Egypt, Iran, Morroco and elsewhere, and can be traced back to figures like Rifa’a at-Tahtawi (d. 1873) and his students. In this vein, especially considering what transpired in Iran after the Islamic Revolution over the last three decades, there are two key issues that representatives of this approach suffer from:
1) Foremost, most of the representatives of this thought have no expertise, or at the very least, have no religious authority. In other words, most of the representatives of this approach in Iran are not specialists in two very important fields that pertain to religious interpretation: Theology and Jurisprudence (including Legal Theory), or at the very least are not recognized as experts in those fields, nor have any authority in them, nor do they have any worthwhile publications in the field. It is clear that any attempt to offer an interpretation of religion that is compatible with modernity requires more than just familiarity with the philosophies of modernity, and requires expertise in religous sciences, and in the case of a religion whose main focus is jurisprudence, the Shari’ah, and its theology is intertwined with jurisprudence and responsibilities, unfamiliarity or lack of expertise in these two fields is going to result in nothing but pounding water in a mortar. The believers also will naturally not take these individuals seriously, except on a few observations or ideas they may have. Any new religious idea in Islam requires ijtihād in Uṣūl and Furū‘, and with lack of expertise in these two fields, such a matter is not possible. Moreover, in jurisprudence and the Shari’ah, the issue of religious authority is very important. Reform and rethinking should be considered by authorities in jurisprudence, Sharia and theology, those who not only pay attention to consensus, but are also themselves included in this consensus. This is a matter which if proponents of new religious thought were to discuss, would showcase and reaffirm what we are saying, that they unfortunately do not have enough familiarity with jurisprudence, thelogy nor legal theory.
2) The second issue many proponents of Religious Enlightenment have is intellecutal poverty in historiography. A lot of new ijtihād efforts and reformed ideas in matters of the Shari’ah, theology, legal theory and particular jurisprudential matters require extensive historical research, and this requires expertise in history and historical sources. Unfortunately, even in this aspect Religious Enlightenment thinkers have not done enough work. A lot of the opinions they express in matters of religion are not dependent on serious historical research in the field of Islam and Tashayyu’. Due to this, a lot of their theoretical reflections – at least of many of these figures – are reduced to the level of transient, superficial and ineffective solutions.
Religious Enlightenment thinkers however do focus and emphasize on another element within Islamic culture. In particular, they emphasize on the role of mysticism and spirituality, and the significance of magnifying this element, while arguing for a minimalistic nature of the Shari’ah. This is itself a debate, but nevertheless even here two points are often neglected by these thinkers: 1) This switch to emphasizing the role of spirituality and mysticism itself requires the two aforementioned prerequistes. That is, without expertise and authority in jurisprudence and theology, as well as expertise in the historiography of religious thought, this substitiuion cannot be achieved effecitvely; and 2) Islam – according to its own history – testifies that it is a jurisprudence-based religion and jurisprudence is built on consensus. The position and centrality of mysticism and magnifying it, instead of magnifying jurisprudence is determined either by the consensus of the congregation, or the history and evolution of a civilization, or both. As such, reconstruction of religious thought is not achieved only by theoretical suggestions or reflections, but requires a more complex religious, social, political, historical and civilizational processes.
If these two points are not considered by Religious Enlightenment thinkers, whose representatives have not generally enjoyed popularity despite the diversity of ideas from some of their representatives, religious reformist trends will not be considered a movement that has a long and deep impact at different levels of communities. In that case, reformist scholarship will descend to merely a level of literature, poetry and literary spiritualism.
And for Allah is all praise, from the beginning till the end.9
Sayyid Ali studied in the seminary of Qom from 2012 to 2021, while also concurrently obtaining a M.A in Islamic Studies from the Islamic College of London in 2018. In the seminary he engaged in the study of legal theory, jurisprudence and philosophy, eventually attending the advanced kharij of Usul and Fiqh in 2018. He is currently completing his Masters of Education at the University of Toronto and is the head of a private faith-based school in Toronto, as well as an instructor at the Mizan Institute and Mufid Seminary.
- The references for this are many, and anyone adept can look them up. I’ll reference just one source only for brevity: Fiqh al-Ṣādiq, vol. 2, pg. 328, by Ayatullah Sayyid Muḥammad Ṣadiq al-Rūḥānī.
- For those interested, you can read my paper Shī’ī Ruling on Praying in Congregation Behind a Sunnī Imām.
- To see a sample of this, read: The Shia, Rafida, and the Martyrdom of Lady Fatima in 2nd Century Hijri.
- Durar al-Fawā’id, pg. 122.
- See Ḥujjīyyat Khabar al-Wāḥid, transcribed by Sayyid Muḥammad ‘Alī al-Rabbānī, pg. 20; al-Ijtihād wa al-Taqlīd wa al-Iḥtiyāṭ, by Sayyid Muḥammad ‘Alī al-Rabbānī, pg. 23, pg. 46; Ta‘āruḍ al-Adillah, pg. 170-171; 267, 371-372, 382, 389-390, 479. Also see: Identifying the Legislator of Islamic Law | Sayyid Ali al-Sistani – Part 2 ; Sayyid Sīstānī on Why Shīʿa and Sunni Ḥadīth Differ ; and Sayyid Sīstānī on Why Shīʿa Ḥadīth Contradict (Pt. I)
- For reference, see commentary on al-Bāb al-Hādī ‘Ashar by Fāḍil Miqdād.
- There are dozens of posts on Iqra Online addressing these matters, for a recent article see: Imitating the Infallibles (i).
حتى في الصحيفة المباركة السجادية فإن سندها ضعيف ، وعلو مضمونها وفصاحتها وبلاغتها وإن توجب نحو وثوق على صدورها لكن لا توجبه في جميع فقراتها واحدة بعد واحدة حتى تكون حجة يستدل بها في الفقه وتلقى أصحابنا إياها بالقبول كتلقيهم نهج البلاغة به لو ثبت في الفقه أيضا إنما هو على نحو الاجمال وهو غير ثابت في جميع الفقرات
He says: …even in al-Ṣaḥīfa al-Mubāraka al-Sajjādīyyah, even though its chain of transmitters is weak, and the greatness of its content, its eloquence and rhetoric results in a kind of wuthūq in its issuance, but it does not result in wuthūq in every single sentence of it, one after another, such that it can became an evidence by which one can argue in a matter of jurisprudence. Our scholars accepting the work is similar to them accepting Nahj al-Balāgha where even if it is used in jurisprudence, it is done so generally – ijmālan – as it is not proven in every single one of its sentences. [Source]
- Dr. Hassan Ansari’s Telegram channel