Seyyid ʿAbd al-ʿAẓīm al-Ḥasanī – His Life, Transmitted Traditions, Milieu, Authorities and Students1
By Āyatullah al-Shaykh Jaʿfar al-Subḥānī
Translation and Detailed Annotations by Afzal Sumar
I used to visit the grave of our master ʿAbd al-ʿAẓīm al-Ḥasanī occasionally and whenever good fortune permitted me, for he was one of the descendants of the eldest grandson of the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ), al-Ḥasan bin ʿAli (ʿa). He was a scion of that lofty and blessed tree (of Prophethood), whose branches are spread out in Irān, ʿIrāq, Syria, Yemen and other places.
However, after I had delved thoroughly into his biography and read the words and statements of the biographers in his favour, as well as the descriptions of honour and respect with which Ṣāḥib bin ʿAbbād2 described him in a biographical treatise, which he devoted to his life, I was overcome with shame and realised my shortcomings and negligence with respect to him. This is because Seyyid ʿAbd al-ʿAẓīm al-Ḥasanī was one of the defenders of the true beliefs by his speech and conduct and he was one of the ‘sources of reference’ (مرجح ) in matters of the faith. This is evidenced by the directive of the tenth Imām to his Shiʿites to turn to him (i.e. Seyyid ʿAbd al-ʿAẓīm al-Ḥasanī) in respect of religious matters, which appeared ambiguous and complex to them. The text of that directive will be presented soon.
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- This paper was presented at a conference organised in honour and in memory of Seyyid ʿAbd al-ʿAẓīm al-Ḥasanī, in the town of Ray, in the month of Rabiʿ al-Thāni 1424 AH/2003 AD.
- Translator’s note: His name was Abū al-Qāsim Ismāʿīl bin ʿAbbād bin al-ʿAbbās bin ʿAbbād bin Aḥmad bin Idrīs. A man of letters of the Buyid period, he was also known with the honorific title of Kāfi al-Kufāt. He was probably born at Istakhr in 326 AH/938 AD in a family of high officials. His father had been a vizier of the Buyid prince Rukn al-Dawla. He himself became the vizier of Rukn al-Dawla’s son Muʿayyid al-Dawla when the latter was the governor of Isfahān and its dependencies. Ṣāḥib bin ʿAbbād had written many official correspondences (al-Rasā’il) as part of his administrative and political duties, a volume of which has survived and which was written during the reign of Muʿayyid al-Dawla, wherein the author comes across as demonstrating a constant and efficient pre-occupation with exactitude in the management of finances and the maintenance of public order. After the death of Muʿayyid al-Dawla, he continued to function as vizier to Fakhr al-Dawla who confirmed him in his position. Ṣāḥib bin ʿAbbād is remembered as one of the great viziers of Muslim history even by his adversaries, belonging to the category of ministers who were able to acquire an almost autonomous personal power, becoming temporarily the true masters of the state while serving incompetent princes who were either unsuited or indifferent to the tasks of administration.
Ṣāḥib bin ʿAbbād however, gained greater fame due to the foremost place he occupied in the history of Arab literature and also due to his patronage of scholars and poets. He was apprenticed to the profession of Kātib in his youth with Ibn ʿĀmid, his mentor who possessed a strong traditional cultural background as well as knowledge of theology and philosophy. Further, during his stay in Baghdād he was able to frequent the literary circles there and collect many traditions which he was able to put to use later. He was also fortunate to gain chance access to many teachers including the grammarian Ibn Fāris, at Ray. Thus these favourable circumstances allowed him to acquire an extensive knowledge in all fields of Arabic culture such as exegesis, ḥadīth, history and the literary sciences such as grammar, theology and literary criticism. He was a poet and also skilled in prose and showed a marked taste for rhymed prose.
His biographers disagree as to the identity of his affiliation with any particular school in Islam. The Shiʿites, such as Ibn Bābwayhi claim him to be theirs and the Muʿtazili Qādi ʿAbd al-Jabbār even accused him of being a Rāfidhi, while others mention him to belong to the Zaydis, the Ḥanafis, the Shafiʿis and even to the Ḥashwiyya, but he is supposed to have considered himself to be a Muʿtazili. However, like many Muʿtazilites of the Baghdād School, his position regarding the Imamate was in favour of Imām ʿAli (ʿA) and in later life he also came to believe that the Caliphate was conferred by virtue of naṣṣ, i.e. explicit designation and thus came to be allied with the Shiʿites.
He died at Rayy in 385 AH/995 AD. For more details refer to the article by Cl. Cahen on Ṣāḥib bin ʿAbbād in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition, volume 3, pg 671.