The Jurisprudence of Ashura (Part 3)

 By Muhammad Jaffer[1] [2]

The prerogative to rationalize Imam Ḥusayn’s movement primarily emerged from theological-polemical exigencies and thereby entered the domain of fiqh only secondarily. We will survey these early 5th-6th century polemic discussions first and then proceed to describe some of the fiqhī implications that emerged out of this discussion.

As we discussed previously, from the perspective of intellectual history, the jurisprudential considerations of ‘Āshūrā’ did not feature prominently in early Shī’ism, especially given the pervading interpretation that his movement was motivated by non-rational factors.[3] Within this framework of reticence to rationalize Imam Ḥusayn’s objectives, scrutinizing his actions from a jurisprudential standpoint, whether extrapolating legal principles from them or jurisprudentially justifying them post-hoc, is a completely frivolous enterprise. Yet another major impediment to jurisprudential analysis of ‘Āshūrā’ is in itself a theological one: under the doctrine of infallibility, Imam Ḥusayn (as) so to speak cannot break the law because ‘he is the law.’ Therefore, even attempting to analyze his actions on the backdrop of the Islamic jurisprudential corpus is not tenable; instead, if there is a perceived contradiction between the behavior of the Imam and our fiqh, we must simply submit that either our jurisprudential paradigm is deficient or that the historical circumstances of Imam Ḥusayn (as) were inscrutably exceptional and unique (as we will see, this observation was pointed out by some latter jurists).

1. The Theological Paradox of Proceeding towards One’s Own Perdition

In the fourth and fifth centuries AH, there were three major Shī’ah dynasties in the Muslim world: the Hamdanids in Syria, the Buyids in Iran, and the Fatimids in Egypt. Meanwhile, the Sunnī Abbasids continued to control much of Iraq and the Hijaz. In this milieu, the environment was quite ripe for theological polemics and disputation, and the Shī’ah scholars of the Baghdad school engaged in this quite prolifically, as is evinced by the highly apologetic literature of this era.[4] One of the main questions which emerged was regarding the following verse of the Qur’ān:

وأنفقوا في سبيل الله ولا تلقوا بأيديكم إلى التهلكة وأحسنوا إن الله يحب المحسنين

“Spend in the way of God and do not throw [yourselves] into perdition with your own hands. And excel, for indeed God loves the excellers.”[5]

In gist, the theological argument raised by critics in reference to ‘Āshūrā’ was that if Imam Ḥusayn (as) had foreknowledge of his martyrdom, then is it not the case that he proceeded to his own perdition? If so, then per this verse, this is a major sin which in turn shall negate his infallibility.

In response to this, Shaykh al-Mufīd (d. 413 AH) writes:

قوله: إن الإمام يعلم ما يكون بإجماعنا، أن الأمر على خلاف ما قال. وما أجمعت الشيعة قط على هذا القول، وإنما إجماعهم ثابت على أن الإمام يعلم الحكم في كل ما يكون، دون أن يكون عالما بأعيان ما يحدث ويكون، على التفصيل والتمييز. وهذا يسقط الأصل الذي بنى عليه الأسئلة بأجمعها. لسنا نمنع أن يعلم الإمام أعيان الحوادث تكون بإعلام الله تعالى له ذلك. فأما القول بأنه يعلم كل ما يكون، فلسنا نطلقه ولا نصوب قائله لدعواه فيه من غير حجة ولا بيان ولو جاء فيه أثر لم يلزم ما ظنه المعترضون، إذ كان لا يمتنع أن يتعبده الله بالصبر على الشهادة والاستلام للقتل، ليبلغه الله بذلك من علو الدرجة ما لا يبلغه إلا به…فأما علم الحسين عليه السلام بأن أهل الكوفة خاذلوه، فلسنا نقطع على ذلك إذ لا حجة عليه من عقل ولا سمع. ولو كان عالما بذلك لكان الجواب عنه ما قدمناه

“Regarding his (the interlocutor’s) statement that we have consensus that the Imam knows what will happen: the situation is opposite of what he says. The Shī’ah have never had consensus on this position. Their consensus is only that the Imam knows the religious edict for all that will happen, without necessarily knowing the particularities of what will occur and happen in full detail and nuance. This completely invalidates the premise upon which these questions are based. We don’t discount that the Imam can know the particularities of events if God Almighty apprises him of it. As for the claim that he knows all that will be, then we do not approve of this view, because its assertor is claiming something without any proof or evidence. Even if a narration should substantiate this claim though, it will not affirm what the interlocutors assume. This is because it is plausible that the Imam may have sought to worship God by observing patience in the face of martyrdom and submitting himself to death. As such he became worthy of a status with God that would be impossible to achieve otherwise…As for the foreknowledge of Ḥusayn that the Kūfans would betray him, then we do not express surety of this since there is no rational or narrational proof to substantiate it. Even if he did know though, our answer would be as aforementioned.”[6]

Another argument that was also raised was that Imam Ḥasan’s peace treaty and Imam Ḥusayn’s uprising seem to contradict one another. If both are considered infallible, then how can the differences in their behavior with the Umayyads be reconciled?

In gist, al-Sharīf al-Murtaḍā (d. 436 AH) wrote in response that the Imam did not know that the Kūfans would betray him and had traveled towards them specifically with the intent of establishing political order as their leader. However, when he realized that he had been betrayed and that Muslim ibn ‘Aqīl had been killed, he sought to reroute from Kūfah, but the relatives of Muslim demanded that he proceed forward to seek revenge; then Ḥurr met his caravan and stopped him from advancing. He tried to negotiate with ‘Umar ibn Sa’d by asking that he either be allowed to return from whence he came, be taken to Yazīd to put his hand in his hand, or be allowed to settle at the outskirts of Muslim territory.[7] However, ibn Ziyād refused to accept the Imam’s proposal and he then realized that they were intent on killing him even if he would surrender, therefore he chose honorable martyrdom over death in captivity:

فلما رأى (ع) إقدام القوم عليه وان الدين منبوذ وراء ظهورهم وعلم أنه إن دخل تحت حكم ابن زياد تعجل الذل وآل امره من بعد إلى القتل، التجأ إلى المحاربة والمدافعة بنفسه وأهله ومن صبر من شيعته، وكان بين إحدى الحسنيين: إما الظفر فربما ظفر الضعيف القليل، أو الشهادة والميتة الكريمة

“When he (as) saw the people rushing in the offense against him, perceived that they had altogether divorced themselves from the religion, and knew that if he should surrender to ibn Ziyād he would be humiliated and would be eventually killed regardless, he took resort in combat and defending himself, his family, and the perseverant ones among his followers. He was therefore between two praiseworthy achievements: either victory or martyrdom and a noble death.”[8]

After presenting this theory, al-Murtaḍā concludes:

الجواب قلنا قد علمنا أن الإمام متی غلب فی ظنه أنه یصل إلی حقه و القیام بما فوض إلیه بضرب من الفعل وجب علیه ذلک و إن کان فیه ضرب من المشقة یتحمل مثلها تحملها و سیدنا أبو عبد الله ع لم یسر طالبا للکوفة إلا بعد توثق من القوم و عهود و عقود و بعد أن کاتبوه و إنما أردنا بذکر هذه الجملة أن أسباب الظفر بالأعداء کانت لائحة متوجهة و أن الاتفاق عکس الأمر و قلبه حتی تم فیه ما تم فکیف یقال إنه علیه السلام ألقی بیده إلی التهلکه… فأما الجمع بين فعله (ع) وفعل أخيه الحسن فواضح صحيح، لان أخاه سلم كفا للفتنة وخوفا على نفسه وأهله وشيعته، واحساسا بالغدر من أصحابه. وهذا لما قوي في ظنه النصرة ممن كاتبه وتوثق له، ورأى من أسباب قوة أنصار الحق وضعف أنصار الباطل ما وجب عليه الطلب والخروج. فلما انعكس ذلك وظهرت امارات الغدر فيه وسوء الاتفاق رام الرجوع والمكافة والتسليم كما فعل أخوه، فمنع من ذلك وحيل بينه وبينه، فالحالان متفقان

“[Therefore], in answer we say that whenever the Imam has a strong suspicion that he will reach his aim and achieve what was relegated to him through carrying out a given action, he is then obligated to do so even if it should carry a great deal of hardship. Our master Abū ‘Abdillāh did not alight towards Kūfah until he verified from the people, took their oaths and pledges, and after they corresponded with him. We only mean by stating this that victory over the enemy was quite imminent and fortune so had it that the situation flipped thereafter so that what transpired came to pass. Therefore how can it be said that he threw himself into perdition?…As for reconciling his action with the action of his brother al-Ḥasan, then this is clear and sound because his brother surrendered in order to prevent dissension, out of fear for himself, his family, and his followers, and because he perceived the betrayal of his companions. As for Ḥusayn, he had a strong suspicion that he would be victorious given those who corresponded with him, as he perceived the people of truth were strong and the people of falsehood were weak—therefore it was mandatory for him to uprise. But when he saw the situation had flipped and saw the signs of treachery, he tried to turn back, cease fighting, and surrender as his brother had done. However, he was restricted from doing so and intercepted. Therefore, the conduct of the Imams in both situations is equivalent.”[9]

In other words, it appears that al-Murtaḍā attempted to reconcile the differences in the two Imams’ behavior by proposing that Imam Ḥasan(as) did not have enough supporters to pledge him assistance, while Imam Ḥusayn (as) apparently did and therefore he proceeded with his project to initiate political reform. He did not know he would be betrayed, but when he was, he tried to reconcile with the Umayyad forces just like Imam Ḥasan (as) had done. However, he realized that there was no way out but inevitable demise and thus opted for martyrdom rather than a humiliating death in captivity. Thus, al-Murtaḍā resolved the issue of casting oneself into perdition by claiming that the Imam did not know beforehand of his martyrdom and proceeded towards Kūfah believing that he would be victorious but was unwittingly betrayed. Of course, this specific analysis of al-Murtaḍā is highly controversial from the mainstream Shī’ah viewpoint, however quite surprisingly it remained mostly unaddressed by Shī’ah scholars for several centuries.[10] By this analysis, it seems that al-Murtaḍā was among the forerunners of the political viewpoint mentioned earlier, although some have questioned this given the dialectical and apologetic style of his works.[11]

Of course, the more traditional answer by Shī’ah scholars is that even though the Imam knew through supernatural sources of his martyrdom, he was tasked by God to follow the apparent and deductive means of knowledge available to non-infallibles in his daily dealings.[12] Yet another answer clarified by al-Mufīd above and endorsed by other Shī’ah scholars is that proceeding towards one’s jihād and martyrdom does not fall under the purview of casting oneself into perdition in the first place, but rather this action is a religious means of proximity (al-takleef al-ta’abbudi) that is not objectionable at all.[13]

2. The Question of Hudnah (Peace Treaty) vs Jihād (Holy War)

In fact, it was from the very aforementioned verse of the Qurān that the initial jurisprudential discussion began. The discussion was framed around the question of when and if it is appropriate to enact a truce with the enemy (al-hudnah or al-muhādanah).[14] This question has been extensively discussed in the Shī’ah jurisprudential corpus under the chapter of jihād with reference to many verses of the Qurān and established practices from the Sunnah.[15]

In our extant literature, the first scholar to discuss Imam Ḥusayn (as) from a jurisprudential lens was Shaykh Abū ‘Alī al-Faḍl ibn Ḥasan al-Ṭabarsī (d. 548 AH), the author of the Shī’ah tafsīr work Majma’ al-Bayān. In his tafsīr of Surah 2:195, he writes as follows:

وفي هذه الآية دلالة على تحريم الإقدام على ما يخاف منه على النفس، وعلى جواز ترك الأمر بالمعروف عند الخوف، لأن في ذلك إلقاء النفس إلى التهلكة. وفيها دلالة على جواز الصلح مع الكفار والبغاة، إذا خاف الإمام على نفسه، أو على المسلمين كما فعله رسول الله ” صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم ” عام الحديبية، وفعله أمير المؤمنين ” عليه السلام ” بصفين، وفعله الحسن ” عليه السلام ” مع معاوية من المصالحة لما تشتت أمره، وخاف على نفسه وشيعته. فإن عورضنا بأن الحسين ” عليه السلام ” قاتل وحده؟ فالجواب: إن فعله يحتمل وجهين أحدهما: إنه ظن أنهم لا يقتلونه لمكانه من رسول الله ” صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم ” والآخر: إنه غلب على ظنه أنه لو ترك قتالهم قتله الملعون ابن زياد صبرا، كما فعل بابن عمه مسلم، فكان القتل مع عز النفس والجهاد، أهون عليه.

“In this verse there is an indication of the prohibition of proceeding towards that which one fears will harm them, and further that it is permissible to abstain from enjoining towards the good (amr bi al-ma’rūf) when there is fear, because that is casting one’s own self into perdition. In it is also an indication of the permissibility in enacting a truce with the disbelievers and transgressors when the Imam fears for his life or for the life of the Muslims, just as the Prophet (saw) did in the year of Hudaybiyyah or how Imam ‘Alī (as) did in Ṣiffīn, and what Imam Ḥasan (as) did with Mu’āwiyah when things became chaotic, which made him fear for his life and his followers. If we are questioned regarding why it is that Imam Ḥusayn (as) was the only one who fought, then the response is: his decision has two possible explanations. Firstly, that he (as) thought they would not kill him due to his relationship with the Messenger of Allah; or secondly he thought that even if he does not fight them, Ibn Ziyād the accursed would imprison and execute him regardless, just as he did with his cousin Muslim (b. ‘Aqīl). Therefore, engaging in combat while safeguarding his honor was more facile for him.”[16]

In gist, therefore, we find that al-Ṭabarsī endorses three points here:

1. Every action that bears the risk of loss of life is forbidden.

2. Amr bi al-ma’rūf can be foregone when there is fear or potential loss of life since this would fall as an instantiation of casting oneself into perdition.

3. During facing the disbelievers or rebels, if the Imam has apprehension about losing his life or that of Muslims, it is permissible for him to instate a truce.

Per these jurisprudential conclusions from the verse at hand, al-Ṭabarsī then seeks to explain why Imam Ḥusayn (as) did not engage in a peace treaty with the opponents. He mirrors Sharīf al-Murtaḍā’s explanations that either Imam Ḥusayn (as) did not know of his eventual demise or he was cornered and chose martyrdom over death in captivity. It appears from this that al-Ṭabarsī believed a truce is incumbent, because otherwise there would be no need for him to propose explanations for why Imam Ḥusayn (as) did not establish one. As we alluded earlier, the former explanation is somewhat contentious within contemporary mainstream Shī’ism.[17]

In conclusion, it appears that al-Ṭabarsī interpreted the uprising of Imam Ḥusayn (as) as being in apparent contradiction with this verse and since he saw that the initiative of Imam Ḥusayn in pursuing these steps was an instantiation of throwing oneself into perdition, he had no choice but to interpret it with these two possibilities to resolve the contradiction. Therefore, it appears that in the viewpoint of al-Tabarsī, we can posit the following: if in enjoining towards goodness, one is faced with the possibility of either dying in the state of humiliation in the hands of the enemy or resisting and dying an honorable martyrdom in the state of honor, the preference should go to the latter as Imam Ḥusayn (as) chose.

The next major Shī’ah scholar to discuss Imam Ḥusayn’s uprising in the context of jurisprudence was ‘Allāmah Ḥillī (d. 726 AH). In his discussion about establishing a truce, ‘Allāmah Ḥillī states the following:

 والهدنة ليست بواجبة على كلّ تقدير، سواء كان بالمسلمين قوّة أو ضعف، لكنّها جائزة، لقوله تعالى: وَ إِنْ جَنَحُوا لِلسَّلْمِ فَاجْنَحْ لَهٰا، و للآيات المتقدّمة، بل المسلم يتخيّر في فعل ذلك برخصة ما تقدّم و بقوله تعالى: وَ لٰا تُلْقُوا بِأَيْدِيكُمْ إِلَى التَّهْلُكَةِ و إن شاء قاتل حتّى يلقى اللّه شهيدا؛ عملا بقوله تعالى: وَ قٰاتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللّٰهِ الَّذِينَ يُقٰاتِلُونَكُمْ و بقوله تعالى: يٰا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قٰاتِلُوا الَّذِينَ يَلُونَكُمْ مِنَ الْكُفّٰارِ وَ لْيَجِدُوا فِيكُمْ غِلْظَةً و كذلك فعل سيّدنا الحسين عليه السلام، و النفر الذين وجّههم النبيّ صلّى اللّه عليه و آله إلى هذيل، و كانوا عشرة فقاتلوا مائة حتّى قتلوا و لم يفلت منهم أحد إلّا خبيب، فإنّه أسر و قتل بمكّة ‌

“Establishing a truce is not obligatory by any means, regardless of whether Muslims are in a position of strength or weakness—however, it is permissible. This is because of God’s words: “If they should incline towards peace then incline towards it” (Anfāl: 61) as well as aforementioned verses. Rather, the Muslim is granted the choice in doing that given the allowance of the previous verses and because of God’s stating: “…and do not cast yourself with your own hands into perdition” (Baqarah: 195). But if he should wish, he can fight until he meets God as a martyr as in accordance with God’s words: “Fight in the way of God those who fight you” (Baqarah: 190) and “Oh you who believe fight those of the disbelievers that reside near you and let them find within you harshness.” (Tawbah: 123). This is exactly what our Master al-Ḥusayn (as) did as well as the group of individuals that the Prophet directed to Hudhayl: they were ten in number and fought one hundred, with none of them slipping away except Khubayb, who was taken as captive and killed in Makkah.”[18]

In gist, ‘Allāmah believed that a truce is always permissible, and the Muslim is completely free to either cease fighting and make a truce, or continue to do so until martyrdom.[19] Therefore, he believes that Imam Ḥusayn (as) made the conscious decision of choosing the path of martyrdom, although the path of truce and reconciliation was not barred from him and if he had opted for this, he would not have been blameworthy. ‘Allāmah advances the same argument when he discusses the 10 companions of the Prophet that were sent to the tribe of Hudhayl during the incident of al-Rajī’; this group stood firm in the face of 100 adversaries until all of them were martyred except for Khubayb ibn ‘Adī and Zayd ibn Dathīnah who were imprisoned as hostages, although this latter is not mentioned by ‘Allāmah.[20]

In the view of ‘Allāmah then, the movement of Imam Ḥusayn (as) was entirely volitional from a jurisprudential standpoint and there was no obligation for it. He believed that the fact that Imam Ḥusayn (as) still chose to fight despite knowing that he would be killed and that he was in the weaker position indicates that it is never obligatory to enact a truce with the enemy. Therefore, there is no indication that either of these conditions bear any weight in mandating reconciliation. Just as his brother Imam Ḥasan (as), Imam Ḥusayn (as) could have relented and chose peace, but he ardently desired to achieve the status of martyrdom, which is also permissible per the Sharī’ah. Another great Shī’ah jurist who appears to have expressed agreement with ‘Allāmah on this point was the illustrious Zayn al-Dīn ibn ‘Alī al-‘Āmilī (d. 966 AH), known as Shahīd al-Thānī.[21]

Nonetheless, ‘Allāmah soon came to have critics; therefore, we find that the Shī’ah luminary ‘Alī ibn Ḥusayn al-Karakī al-‘Āmilī (d. 940 AH), referred to as Muḥaqqiq Karakī, had the following to state about ‘Allāmah’s claims:

وأما فعل الحسين صلوات الله عليه فإنه لا نعلم منه أن المصلحة كانت في المهادنة وتركها، ولعله عليه السلام علم أنه لو هادن يزيد عليه اللعنة لم يف له، أو أن أمر الحق يضعف كثيرا بحيث يلتبس على الناس، مع أن يزيد لعنه الله كان متهتكا في فعله، معلنا بمخالفة الدين، غير مداهن كأبيه لعنة الله عليهما، ومن هذا شأنه لا يمتنع أن يرى إمام الحق وجوب جهاده وإن علم أنه يستشهد، على أنه عليه السلام في الوقت الذي تصدى للحرب فيه لم يبق له طريق إلى المهادنة، فإن ابن زياد لعنه الله كان غليظا في أمرهم عليهم السلام، فربما فعل بهم ما هو فوق القتل أضعافا مضاعفة[22]

“As for the action of al-Ḥusayn (as), we cannot deduce from it whether there was any expediency in establishing a truce or not. Perhaps he (as) knew that if he makes a peace treaty with Yazīd (la), the latter would not fulfill it or that the cause of truth would become so weakened thereby that it would confuse the people. This is all while Yazīd was sacrilegious in his actions, openly flouting the Sharīah, and not at all like his father who was wont to compromise, may God curse them both. Therefore, it is not farfetched that the Imam of the truth deemed it obligatory to engage in jihad against him, even though he knew he would be martyred. This is notwithstanding that at the time war became imminent, there was no option for him for establishing truce, since ibn Ziyād was draconian in dealing with them. Indeed, [if they had submitted to ibn Ziyād] perhaps he would have exacted upon them what is more grave than death by manifold.”

In gist, Muḥaqqiq Karakī had the opinion that establishing a truce is obligatory in certain conditions where expedience (al-maṣlaḥah) demands it. However, he believed we cannot speak about Imam Ḥusayn’s (as) situation given that his circumstances were unique, and we are unable to clarify where the expedience actually existed. Therefore, al-Karakī disagreed with ‘Allāmah Ḥillī’s deductions that establishing a truce must not be obligatory just because Imam Ḥusayn (as) fought. Instead, he proposes other potential reasons for why Imam Ḥusayn (as) may have seen a truce as a dead-end.

The faqīh Sayyid ‘Alī Ṭabāṭabā’ī (d. 1231 AH), known as Ṣāḥib al-Riyāḍ, also alluded to similar points as al-Karakī in his refutation of the viewpoint of ‘Allāmah Ḥillī. He states:

و اما فعل سيدنا الحسين(ع) فربما يمنع كون خلافه مصلحة و ان فعله كان جوازا لا وجوبا بل لمصلحة كانت فى فعله خاصة لاتركه.كيف لا و لا ريب ان فى شهادته احياء لدين الله قطعا لاعتراض الشيعة على اخيه الحسن فى صلحه مع معاوية، و لو صالح(ع) هوايضا لفسدت الشيعة بالكلية و لتقوى مذهب السنة و الجماعة واى مصلحة اعظم من هذا و اى مفسدة اعظم من خلافه كما لا يخفى[23]

“As for the action of our Master al-Ḥusayn (as), perhaps what prevented him [from establishing a truce] was that it went contrary to expediency, and because his action [jihad] was permissible but not obligatory. Rather, there was only expediency in his action [jihad] and not in his foregoing it. How could this not be, for in his martyrdom there was indeed resurrection of God’s religion, because the Shī’ah had already raised objection against his brother al-Ḥasan for making truce with Mu’āwiyah. If Imam Ḥusayn (as) also did the same, the Shī’ah creed would have become completely spoiled, and the faction of Ahl al-Sunnah would have been augmented. As is apparent, what expediency is more pressing than this and what evil is more dire to be averted than this?”

Shaykh Muḥammad Hasan Najafī (d. 1266 AH), known as Ṣāḥib al-Jawāhir, also echoed these reservations of al-Karakī and holds establishing a truce as obligatory, although he expounded further that he believes that Imam Ḥusayn (as) had a special responsibility and divine covenant mandating martyrdom, from which we cannot deduce anything regarding the jurisprudence of establishing a truce. He nonetheless concurs that perhaps Imam Ḥusayn (as) had no other option because they were adamant on killing him regardless. He then presents a more nuanced explanation by positing the difference between maṣlaḥah (expediency) and ḍarūrah (exigency) and implying that Imam Ḥusayn (as) proceeded with jihad due to exigency to preserve the religion of his grandfather.[24]

As we get into more contemporary times, we notice that this argument of Ṣāḥib al-Jawāhir—that Imam Ḥusayn’s (as) uprising was unique and particular to him and incapable of being generalized—was critiqued. Therefore we find Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn Faḍlallāh (d. 1432 AH) states the following:

وأما ما ذهب إليه صاحب الجواهر من كون قضية الإمام الحسين هي من الأسرار الربانية وأنها من التكاليف الخاصة للإمام فهذا ما لا نجد له معنى لأن فيه نوعا من التبسيط في فهم هذه القضية ومنطلقاتها فالإمام لم يكن ينطلق من خلفيات غائمة غير واضحة بل خضع في تحركه للعناوين العامة والحاكمة آنذاك ولحركة هذه العناوين في أرض الواقع فالجهاد جهاد سواء تم بعملية استشهادية أو بقتال عادي ولا يؤثر القتل بهذه الطريقة أو بغيرها في عنوان الجهاد[25]

“As for what Ṣāḥib al-Jawahir states regarding Imam Ḥusayn’s issue being among Divine Secrets and among his specific duties as an Imam, we do not find any meaning to this statement of his. This is because this statement conveys a type of oversimplification in understanding Imam Ḥusayn’s case and its underlying motivations. The Imam did not advance forward in his movement based on abstruse and unclear factors, but rather his movement was governed by general [legalistic] principles and how these principles interacted in real-time within that clime. Jihad is jihad regardless of whether it is by a martyrdom operation or regular fighting; there is no bearing of the method upon this general principle of jihad.”

Furthermore, as we shall see in the next section Sayyid Khomeinī was one of the major opponents of this belief that Imam Ḥusayn’s (as) movement was clandestine and not amenable to extrapolation; instead, he proceeded from examining the movement of Imam Ḥusayn (as) on the basis of the principle of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.

3. The Discussion Surrounding Enjoining the Good (Amr bi al-Ma’rūf) and Forbidding the Evil (Nahy ‘an al-Munkar)[26]

An overlapping issue within Shī’ah jurisprudence in which the uprising of Imam Ḥusayn (as) has also been contextualized, especially in more contemporary fiqhī discussions, is that of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. In general, the classical opinion within Shī’ah scholarship was that Imam Ḥusayn’s movement should not be viewed in this context but rather under the heading of jihād, since there are two conditions mentioned in our riwāyāt for establishing amr bi al-ma’ruf/nahy ‘an al-munkar that were not present in ‘Āshūrā’: 1) that there should be no harm entailed to the enjoiner of good/forbidder of evil; and

2) that the enjoiner of good/forbidder of evil should be certain that carrying out this duty will result in actual change in the recipient. We will treat the first condition in more depth here, however for the sake of brevity we will not discuss the second one.[27]

We find that Sharīf al-Murtaḍā states as follows:

ثم اختلف الناس فقال قوم: إن الخوف على النفس في إنكار المنكر يزيل الحسن كما يزيل الوجوب، وقال آخرون: إنما يزيل الحسن مضاعفاً إلى الوجوب في الموضع الذي لا يكون في الصبر على القتل إعزازاً للدين، فأما إذا كان في الصبر على القتل إعزازاً للدين حسن الإنكار ولم يجب…ومن هذا الوجه يعلم قبح الصبر على القتل وإن كان فيه إعزاز للدين لأن القتل ظلماً مفسدة فلا يخرج من القبح لحصول إعزاز الدين فيه[28]

“People thereafter differed and some said: having fear for your life in forbidding the evil causes both its commendability and incumbency to be negated; others said: this only negates its commendability and its incumbency when enduring the prospect of murder does not result in any glory for the cause of religion. However, when enduring the prospect of murder shall bring about glory for religion, it is recommended to forbid the evil although it is not obligatory…for this reason it is known that enduring murder is reprehensible, even if it leads to glory for the religion because wrongful murder is a vice and this is not obviated even if glory for the creed is achieved.”

Of course, this particular view of al-Murtaḍā that it is prohibited to forbid the evil when death may ensue explains why he believed that Imam Ḥusayn (as) did not foreknow of his death, because in his opinion this foreknowledge would have necessitated that the Imam made an error by still proceeding to forbid the evil.

In the discussions of nearly all the fuqahā’ in the pre-modern period, we find that there was a strong reliance on the uṣūlī principles of nafy al-ḥaraj (rejecting difficulty in religion) and lā ḍarar wa lā ḍirār (no harm to oneself or others).
Therefore, one of the key conditions in enjoining the good and forbidding the evil was always that there should be no personal harm involved in doing so.[29] Therefore, we find Shahīd Awwal (d. 786 AH) states:

لو أدی الإنکار إلی قتل المنکر، حرم ارتکابه لما سلف. و جوّزه کثیر من العامة، لقوله تعالی وَ کَأَیِّنْ مِنْ نَبِیٍّ قاتَلَ مَعَهُ رِبِّیُّونَ کَثِیرٌ مدحهم بأنهم قتلوا بسبب الأمر بالمعروف و النهی عن المنکر. و هذا مسلم إذا کان علی وجه الجهاد. قالوا: قتل یحیی بن زکریا علیهما السلام لنهیه عن تزویج الربیبة قلنا: وظیفة الأنبیاء غیر وظائفنا. قالوا: قال رسول اللّه صلی اللّه علیه و آله: (أفضل الجهاد کلمة حق عند سلطان جائر)، و فی هذا تعریض لنفسه بالقتل، و لم یفرق بین الکلمات أهی نصّ فی الأصول أو الفروع، من الکبائر أو الصغائر؟ قلنا: محمول علی الإمام، أو نائبه، أو بإذنه، أو علی من لا یظن القتل. قالوا: خرج مع ابن الأشعث جمع عظیم من التابعین فی قتال الحجاج، لإزالة ظلمه و ظلم الخلیفة عبد الملک، و لم ینکر ذلک علیهم أحد من العلماء. قلنا: لم یکونوا کل الأمة. و لا علمنا أنهم ظنوا القتل، بل جوّزوا التأثیر و رفع المنکر. أو جاز أن یکون خروجهم بإذن إمام واجب الطاعة، کخروج زید بن علی علیه السلام و غیره من بنی علی علیه السلام

“If forbidding the evil should lead to the death of the forbidder, it is prohibited for him to do it as discussed. Many of the Sunnīs have allowed it per the verse of God, “How many a Prophet had a God-devoted folk fight alongside him…” (Āl-‘Imran: 146), as God praises them for dying due to enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. This is accepted when it is explained as jihad.[30]

If they say, “Yaḥyā son of Zakariyya (as) was killed due to his prohibiting the marriage of one’s stepdaughter,” then we respond that the duty of the Prophets is different from our duties. If they say “the Prophet (saw) has said “The best jihad is saying the word of truth in the face of a tyrant king,” and this well carries the risk of execution and is a general statement as well since the import of the exact word here is not clarified,” then we say we regard this as specific to the Imam, his representative, with his permission, or for someone who does not think he will be killed.

If they say, “A large group of Tābi’īs came out with ibn Ash’ath to fight against al-Ḥajjāj to put an end to his and ‘Abd al-Malik’s oppression and no one refutes what they did among the scholars,” then we say that they were not the entirety of the ummah, and we do not know if they really thought they would be killed. Rather they sought to influence change and cease the forbidden. It is also possible that they uprose with the permission of the Imam who was necessary to obey, just the way that Zayd ibn ‘Alī (as) had uprose from among the Alids.”[31]

In proposing this as a rule, many scholars did not even attempt to treat the stance of Imam Ḥusayn (as) in apparently going against this condition. Even in the modern period, we find that some scholars have affirmed that in the period of occultation, there is no prerogative for doing amr bi al-ma’rūf or nahy ‘an al-munkar on a societal or political level.[32]

In lamenting this state of affairs among early Shī’ah jurists, Shahīd Mutahharī writes:

بعضی از علمای اسلام، و خیلی متاسفم که باید بگویم بعضی از علمای بزرگ شیعه که از آنها چنین انتظاری نمی رفت، می گویند: مرز امر به معروف و نهی از منکر، بی ضرری است نه بی مفسده ای، ضرری به جان یا مال یا آبرویت نرسد، یعنی اگر پای ضرر به اینها در میان بود، امر به معروف و نهی از منکر را رها کن! آن، کوچکتر از این است که با احترام جان یا آبرو یا بدن برابری کند! ارزش امر به معروف و نهی از منکر را پایین می آورند

“Some of the scholars of Islam, and I am sorry to have to say that even some of the major luminaries of the Shī’ah from whom one would never expect such a thing, have said that the limit of doing amr bi al-ma’rūf and nahy ‘an al-munkar is that it should not carry harm, not that it should not carry any mafsadah (corruption). It should be that no harm to your life, wealth, or reputation should occur. That is, if harm is a possibility, then forego amr bi al-ma’rūf and nahy ‘an al-munkar! This obligation is not important enough to stand in the face of preserving your life, dignity, and self. They bring the value of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil this low.”[33]

In this context, Sayyid Khomeinī was one of the first to challenge this assumption on the basis of the principle of ahwan al-ḍararayn (the lesser of the two harms) where he writes:

لو كان المعروف والمنكر من الأمور التي يهتم بها الشارع الأقدس كحفظ نفوس قبيلة من المسلمين وهتك نواميسهم أو محو آثار الاسلام ومحو حجته بما يوجب ضلالة المسلمين أو إمحاء بعض شعائر الاسلام كبيت الله الحرام بحيث يمحى آثاره ومحله وأمثال ذلك لا بد من ملاحظة الأهمية، ولا يكون مطلق الضرر ولو النفسي أو الحرج موجبا لرفع التكليف فلو توقفت إقامة حجج الاسلام بما يرفع بها الضلالة على بذل النفس أو النفوس فالظاهر وجوبه فضلا عن الوقوع في ضرر أو حرج دونها[34]

“If the good and evil are among the issues which the Holy Lawgiver (i.e., God) has placed a great emphasis upon, such as saving the lives of a group of Muslims, the violation of their sanctity, the destruction of the relics of Islam and erasure of its proofs in a way that results in aberration of the Muslims, or destruction of the rites of Islam like sacred House of God (i.e., the Ka’bah), etc., then one must consider the degree of importance. The fact that there is personal harm or severe hardship does not annul this duty. If the erecting of the proofs of Islam in a way that dispels errancy is contingent upon losing one’s life or lives, then it is apparent that it should still be obligatory; this is even more so therefore when only severe hardship or harm is encountered for its sake.”

This example set by Sayyid Khomeinī was soon followed by other jurists, such as Shaykh Muḥammad Amīn Zayn al-Dīn (d. 1419 AH), Sayyid Muḥammad Ṣādiq al-Ṣadr (d. 1419 AH), and Shaykh Hossein-Ali Montazeri (d. 1431 AH).[35] Today, nearly every contemporary religious source of emulation (marja’) has come to follow Sayyid Khomeinī’s example.[36] Of course, this re-envisioning of the discourse surrounding amr bi al-ma’rūf and nahy ‘an al-munkar, specifically with reference to Imam Ḥusayn’s stand, was a major turning point in the fiqhī discourse and led to the deeming of standing against oppression as one of the instantiations of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. Therefore, Sayyid Khomeinī writes:

امام مسلمین به ما آموخت که در حالی که ستمگر زمان به مسلمین، حکومت جابرانه می‌کند، در مقابل او اگر چه قوای شما ناهماهنگ باشد بپاخیزید و استنکار کنید. اگر کیان اسلام را در خطر دیدید، فداکاری کنید و خون نثار کنید

“The Imam of the Muslims (i.e., Imam Ḥusayn) taught us that when the tyrant of the time rules over Muslims tyrannically, even if your power is not consolidated you should stand up against him and voice your dissent. If you see the existence of Islam is in danger, sacrifice yourself and ransom your blood for its sake.”[37]

It was only through revising the jurisprudence via reconsidering the example of Imam Ḥusayn (as) that this paradigm shift became possible. Even though categorization of Imam Ḥusayn’s movement under the heading of jihād vs amr bi al-ma’rūf may seem somewhat arbitrary, this had major repercussions in practice since jihād was often envisioned within Shī’ah fiqh as an obligatory duty specifically contingent on the presence of an Imam. Of course, this topic is quite extensive, and we have abbreviated the discussion here; there are also further discussions regarding taqiyyah (dissimulation) that have been raised about Imam Ḥusayn’s (as) uprising. However, we have eschewed discussing these points here to not protract the discussion; those interested in further discussion on this topic can reference the sources we have quoted.

4. The Question of the Legitimacy of Political Revolt and Establishing A Religious Government: The Scope of the Jurist

As we discussed, the obligation of Imam Ḥusayn’s uprising within the fiqhī context was re-conceptualized as meeting the parameters of amr bi al-ma’rūf and nahy ‘an al-munkar due to the dire threat to Islam that Yazīd and his reign had imposed and the exigency to preserve the Sharī’ah. Although this may be extrapolated in principle, real world instantiations (tashkīṣ al-mawdū’) about when it is appropriate to follow the example of Imam Ḥusayn (as) are left to the expertise of the qualified jurisprudent. One of the questions that can be raised on this frontier is why is it that the majority of Shī’ah scholars over the centuries did not believe that uprising against the tyrannical governments of their time was appropriate, despite the precedent of Imam Ḥusayn (as)? Besides what we stated earlier that Imam Ḥusayn’s movement was seen by some jurists as a special and unique duty incapable of extrapolation, there are several other reasons for this:

i. The existence of a group of narrations that prohibit any uprising or formation of an Islamic government before the advent of Imam al-Mahdi (as). These narrations are of various imports between those that command towards dissimulation, those that deem any uprising before the Mahdi futile, and those that prohibit uprising with any leader prior to the Twelfth Imam’s advent. Of course, many of these narrations are weak and those which are not can be interpreted, but those with heavily traditionist inclinations nonetheless rely on them.[38]

ii. The belief of many Shī’ah jurists, including the likes of Shaykh Murtaḍā al-Anṣārī and Muḥaqqiq Nā’īnī, that the authority of the jurist subsumes issuing religious edicts (al-iftā’) and passing legal judgement (al-qaḍā’), but falls short of establishing political authority for the jurist. Therefore, they did not believe it was the prerogative of the clerical authorities to establish a religious government, although they did not necessarily deem it prohibited.

iii. There were Shī’ah scholars who believed that the jurist does have authority to establish a religious government, such as Shaykh Ja’far Kāshif al-Ghiṭā’, however this may be conditioned upon certain factors, namely that the religious authority has the power to do so and it is sought after by the believers.[39] As long as the jurists do not have these conditions met and do not believe they have the ability to establish a government, it is not obligatory on them to move forward with this task.

iv. Due to the religious culture of precaution, there was fear about attempting to erect a government. Since the establishing of a political order is often predicated upon loss of life, violation of human dignity, and squandering of the money of Muslims, all things which are sacred in the Sharī’ah, a group expressed religious reservations about proceeding with establishing a government. Therefore, as long as there was a possibility that the corruption from establishing a government would outweigh the expediency, they opted to remain devoted towards separation of the religious authority from the political sphere.

v. The overwhelming external pressure upon Shī’ah scholars to maintain the dictates of dissimulation in their dealings with the governments of their time; due to the heavy persecution and political surveillance, it was not possible for them to execute any plans in establishing a religious government.[40]

Of course, with the oppression rampant during the Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties, the conditions became ripe for the jurists to reconsider the prerogative of establishing a religious government, and this reached its apex in the writings of Sayyid Khomeinī and Shaykh Salehī Najafābādī, whom we discussed earlier. It behooves us to quote one example of Sayyid Khomeinī’s leveraging Imam Ḥusayn’s example on this point here:

وقتی که حضرت سیدالشهداء آمد مکه، و از مکه در آن حال بیرون رفت، یک حرکت سیاسی بزرگی بود، تمام حرکات حضرت، حرکات سیاسی بود، اسلامی ـ سیاسی، و این حرکت اسلامی ـ سیاسی بود که بنی امیه را از بین برد و اگر این حرکت نبود، اسلام پایمال شده بود.

“When Sayyid al-Shuhadā’ came to Makkah and when he left it, it was all a grand political movement; all the maneuvers of Imam Ḥusayn (as) were Islamic-political and it was this Islamic-political movement that dismantled the Umayyads. If this movement had not taken place, then Islam would have been destroyed.”[41]

5. The Jihād of Imam: Ibtidā’ī (Offensive) or Difā’ī (Defensive)[42]

Of course, the role of jihād in Imam Ḥusayn’s uprising cannot be understated, even if we should propose that his major underlying motive had been enjoining the good and forbidding the evil as redefined by contemporary jurists. The fact that Imam Ḥusayn and his companions are referred to as shuhadā’ (martyrs) is testament to this fact. In fiqh, individuals who die on the battlefield of jihad do not require any ablution (al-taghseel) or enshrouding (al-takfeen), but are rather buried in their bloodied clothes.[43] However, a question arises as to what type of jihād specifically the Imam had been carrying out. Within Islamic fiqh, there are traditionally two types of jihād that are proposed:

i. Jihād Ibtidā’ī (Offensive War): this type of war is predicated upon desiring to spread Islam and expand its influence. This is considered wājib kifā’ī (obligatory on a sufficient lot of powerful men), and women, children, as well as the old/sick are excluded from it. It can only be enacted in the presence of an infallible Imam and there are other conditions to it, including the combatants’ receiving permission to fight from their parents.

ii. Jihād Difā’ī (Defensive War): this is predicated upon defending Muslim lands from threats to the life/property of its constituents and is considered wājib ‘aynī (obligatory on all who are mukallaf), including women, the old, and the sick to the capacity they can participate. There is no permission required from an infallible Imam nor one’s parents.

In light of this differentiation, perhaps most scholars will categorize Imam Ḥusayn (as) as a shahīd who was killed defending himself in a case where the foundations of Islam were under attack; however some others such as Shaykh Muḥammad Jawād Fāḍil Lankarānī  – the son of the deceased grand-jurist Ayatullah Fāḍil Lankarānī (d. 1428 AH) – have found this explanation problematic, particularly when considering the presence of children in such a battle and the fact that Imam Ḥusayn (as) did not seek to defend his life and property, but rather went towards Kūfah despite knowing his fate. He has instead revisited the rulings on this matter altogether and has argued for a third category – not offensive, nor defensive – rather a dhabbī (preservatory) war. According to Shaykh Lankarānī, this war has around ten differences from offensive war as well as a few differences from defensive war. It is a war in which a person, his land or government are not directly under attack, but rather they observe that the foundations of Islam are under attack and near annihilation. Seeing this, they revolt and uprise against this attack to save the foundations of Islam. Within this type of war, every single person—including children—are included and one must actively engage with the threat rather than simply seeking to secure one’s property or life.[44]

In modern-day times, Lankarānī believes that defending Palestinian rights and combating ISIS are instantiations of this type of jihād.

6. Why Did Imam Ḥusayn Give Permission to His Companions to Depart on the Night of ‘Āshūrā’?[45]

As we discussed in the previous section, Imam Ḥusayn’s conflict on the Day of ‘Āshūrā’ can be envisioned as either a defensive or preservatory war; in both cases, however, there is an absolute obligation on all (wājib ‘aynī) to participate. Therefore, the question arises as to how we can jurisprudentially justify the Imam allowing his companions to depart on the night of ‘Āshūrā, as mentioned in the maqātil literature.[46] The question that arises here is that if it was incumbent for them to remain with Imam Ḥusayn (as), then why did he give them this allowance? And if they were to take up his recommendation and depart, would they have committed a sin?[47] There is a fiqhī discussion on this issue among the jurists under the heading of retreat from combat (al-farār min al-zaḥf); although its application here is arguable, if we consider that Imam Ḥusayn’s permission to his companions can be among its instantiations, perhaps we may be able to jurisprudentially reconcile this conundrum.

In general, of course, retreating from combat during jihad is not permitted as per the dictates of the verse of the Qurān:

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ إِذَا لَقِيتُمُ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ زَحۡفٗا فَلَا تُوَلُّوهُمُ ٱلۡأَدۡبَار

“Believers, whenever you encounter a hostile force of unbelievers, do not turn your backs to them in flight.” (al-Anfāl: 15)

In general, Imāmī jurists are unanimous that during jihād, if Muslims are outnumbered 2:1, it is necessary to fight and retreating from combat is prohibited. This is based on the verse of the Qurān:

ٱلۡءَٰنَ خَفَّفَ ٱللَّهُ عَنكُمۡ وَعَلِمَ أَنَّ فِیكُمۡ ضَعۡفࣰاۚ فَإِن یَكُن مِّنكُم مِّا۟ئَةࣱ صَابِرَةࣱ یَغۡلِبُوا۟ مِا۟ئَتَیۡنِۚ وَإِن یَكُن مِّنكُمۡ أَلۡفࣱ یَغۡلِبُوۤا۟ أَلۡفَیۡنِ بِإِذۡنِ ٱللَّهِۗ وَٱللَّهُ مَعَ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِین

“For the time being, [however,] God has lightened your burden. for He knows that you are weak: and so, if there be one hundred of you who are patient in adversity, they should [be able to]’ overcome two hundred; and if there be one thousand of you, they should [be able to] overcome two thousand by God’s leave: for God is with those who are patient in adversity.” (al-Anfāl: 66)

Therefore in the condition that the Muslims are outnumbered by a ratio of more than 2:1, the opinion of most Shī’ah Imāmī jurists is that it is allowed to retreat from combat, as clearly stated by Shaykh al-Ṭūsī in his al-Mabsūṭ and others.[48] Of course, some have said that it is still recommended to fight for the sake of seeking martyrdom, especially when the Muslim warrior has a suspicion that his camp may still be victorious due to their prowess. Thus we find Ṣāḥib al-Jawāhir states as follows:

القول بالاستحباب هو الأشبه بأصول المذهب وقواعده فإن الجهاد حسب الكتاب والسنة أمر مرغوب والله وعد المجاهدين بالنصر فأقل مراتبه هو الرجحان والاستحباب وسيد الشهداء (ع) وأصحابه في يوم عاشوراء كانوا عاملين بهذا الاستحباب

The view that it is mustaḥabb is closer to the principles and rules of the creed, since jihād according to the Qur’ān and Sunnah is among those things loved by God and He has promised the believers victory. Thus at the minimum it is preferred and commendable, and Sayyid al-Shuhadā’ and his comrades on the Day of ‘Āshūrā’ therefore acted on the basis of this istiḥbāb.[49]

Therefore, given that the Imam’s forces were outnumbered at a ratio of approximately 1:1000 (~70-100 men vs. 70,000 men), the allowance granted by the Imam for retreating from battle can be justified. Although this discussion can be expanded and made more complicated than this, we will suffice with this synopsis here.[50]


[1] There is a book published on this topic in Arabic entitled “Al-Mabānī al-Fiqhiyyah li Thawrat al-Imām al-Ḥusayn” by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ilāh Ni’mat al-Shabīb which advanced readers are recommended to reference.

[2] I would like to thank some brothers for reviewing this piece, including Sayyid Burair Abbas, Sayyid Muhsin Kashmiri, Sayyid Ali Imran, and Abu Dujana.

[3] For more details on this viewpoint and the evidences presented to substantiate it, we would highly recommend this Arabic lecture series by Shaykh Muhammad Obaidan: and

[4] As an example, we previously translated an article on Iqraonline regarding the treatises of al-Mufīd in reference to Imam al-Mahdī, which employ a highly dialectical style of argumentation:

[5] Sūrah al-Baqarah verse 195

[6] Al-Masā’il al-‘Ukbariyyah pages 70-71

[7] The narration from al-Ṭabarī that al-Murtaḍā uses here has been widely criticized by Shī’ah scholars, as it is narrated from ‘Umar ibn Sa’d who had a vested interest in twisting the facts and claiming Imam Ḥusayn sought to give allegiance to Yazīd. Some like the Iranian intellectual Dr. Hassan Ansarī have said that al-Murtaḍā was being concessionary here in his Tanzīh al-Anbiyā for the sake of arguing with his Sunni interlocutors (ilzām al-khāsm), as this riwāyah is accepted by them. See here for more details on critique of this narration:

[8] Talkhīṣ al-Shāfī volume 4 page 186

[9] Tanzīh al-Anbiyā, pages 170-177

[10] In his Talkhīs al-Shāfī, Shaykh al-Ṭūsī reports he differs with al-Murtaḍā regarding his analysis but does not clarify how. It is also claimed that ibn Ṭāwūs wrote his al-Luhūf as an implicit rebuttal of al-Murtaḍā. Al-Majlisī has some observations on this statement of al-Murtaḍā in his Biḥār al-Anwār, however he elides out the more controversial issues and addresses only al-Murtaḍā’s words regarding reconciling the actions of Imams Ḥasan and Ḥusayn (as).

[11] For instance, Shaykh Sardrūdī has stated that al-Murtaḍā has clarified elsewhere his acceptance of the riwāyāt that Imam ‘Alī (as) knew that ibn Muljam would be his killer, and this indicates he personally believed the Imams had knowledge of their death. Hassan Ansari has noted that al-Murtaḍā did not personally accept solitary reports at all, and thus only posited his explanation for the sake of argument against Sunni contentions.

[12] Aḍwā’ ‘alā Thawrat al-Ḥusayn page 38

[13] This answer is elaborated further by Sayyid ibn Ṭāwūs in his Al-Luhūf page 20. We have written a separate article on this topic of the Imam’s foreknowledge here and encourage readers to review for a more detailed discussion:

[14] This is defined in the writings of Shahīd Awwal (d. 676 AH) as well as ‘Allāmah Ḥillī (d.  726 AH) as follows:

هي المعاقدة على ترك الحرب مدة معينة من غير عوض

“It is a mutual pact to cease war for a period of time without (imposing) any tribute.”

[15] The following verses are usually employed in these discussions: Sūrah Anfāl verse 61, Sūrah Baqarah verse 195, Sūrah Baqarah verse 190, Sūrah Tawbah verse 123, Sūrah Tawbah verse 4, Sūrah Tawbah verse 5, Sūrah Tawbah verse 7, Sūrah Tawbah verse 29, Sūrah Anfāl verse 59, and Sūrah Muḥammad verse 35. In terms of the Prophetic sunnah and sīrah of the Ahl al-Bayt, the following examples of peace treaties or lack thereof are referenced in fiqhi discussions: 1) the treaty of Ḥudaybiyyah; 2) the peace treaty made with the people of Najrān; 3) the peace treaty of Imam Ḥasan (as); 4) the negotiations of the Holy Prophet with Banu Ghaṭafān during the Battle of Aḥzāb; 5) the incidents of al-Rajī’ and Bi’r Ma’ūnah; and 6) Imam Ḥusayn’s refusing to relent to peace treaty and his eventual martyrdom in Karbalā.

[16] Majma’ al-Bayān volume 2 page 35 at

[17] Although outside the scope of this article, there are many narrations that support that Imam Ḥusayn (as) foreknew of his martyrdom. For example, there is a narration from Baṣā’ir al-Darajāt as follows:
بصائر الدرجات: أيوب بن نوح، عن صفوان، عن مروان بن إسماعيل، عن حمزة ابن حمران، عن أبي عبد الله عليه السلام قال: ذكرنا خروج الحسين وتخلف ابن الحنفية عنه، قال: قال أبو عبد الله عليه السلام: يا حمزة إني سأحدثك في هذا الحديث ولا تسأل عنه بعد مجلسنا هذا، إن الحسين لما فصل متوجها دعا بقرطاس وكتب: بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم من الحسين بن علي إلي بني هاشم أما بعد فإنه من لحق بي منكم استشهد معي ومن تخلف لم يبلغ الفتح، والسلام

It is somewhat unclear then that the likes of al-Mufīd and al-Murtaḍā did not pay attention to such narrations. Some like Najafābādī have opined that this indicates they were later fabrications, whereas others believe that they did not reference them because they were engaging in dialectical apologetics and thus eschewed quoting references that were particular to the Shī’ah alone.

[18] Muntahā al-Maṭlab fī Taḥqīq al-Madhhab, volume 2 page 974

[19] It should be said that given the prerogative for enacting a truce or continuing the war lies in the hands of the Imam, as elucidated by the fuqahā’, so why is it that ‘Allāmah Ḥillī phrases it as relegated to the Muslim? Perhaps the reason for this is that when the Imam does not demand either a jihad or truce, each individual is capable for themselves to decide their path of choice. Perhaps this is why Imam Ḥusayn (as) offered his companions a choice to either stay at his side, cancelling out their previous allegiance to him and let them choose on their own volition. Since the Imam was not obligated to fight and was capable of salvaging himself through a truce, he allowed each of his followers to make the same choice for themselves, and of course some accepted and others rejected.

[20] For more details about this incident in English, please see here: or in Persian see here
Tārīkh Zindagānī-ye-Payāmbar, by Muhammad Ibrahimi Āyatī pages 352-357

[21] Masālik al-Afhām ilā Tanqīḥ Sharāi’ al-Islām volume 3 page 82

[22] Jāmi’ al-Maqāṣid fī Sharḥ al-Qawā’id volume 3 pages 466-467

[23] Riyāḍ al-Masā’il fī Bayān al-Aḥkām bi al-Dalā’il volume 1 pages 492-497

[24] Due to the length of the excerpt, we have avoided citing the full passage here. For more details, see volume 21 pages 295-296.

[25] Kitāb al-Jihād page 355

[26] I am indebted for this portion to the exposition in this article: Al-Khiṭab al-Fiqhī li al-Thawrat al-Ḥusayniyyah by al-Shaykh Sa’īd Mīrzā al-Nūrī (

[27] Advanced readers interested in further discussion about this may read this Arabic article by Shaykh Safa al-Din al-Khazraji here: In gist, this argument only presents itself if one posits that the Imam had foreknowledge of his demise. The arguments presented on this frontier are that this condition is arguable given the commandment towards amr bi al-ma’ruf and nahy ‘an al-munkar is categorical in its import and one must stand up specifically when being quiet will convey a sense of support of innovation in religion. Furthermore, if the Imam had foreknowledge, he knew that it would enact change in the psyche of the Muslim public for all posterity even if the direct audience turned a deaf ear. Therefore, this condition is met for his enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.

[28] Al-Dhakhīrah fī ‘Ilm al-Kalām

[29] For instance, one may review Ṣāhīb al-Jawāhir’s justifications for defending this condition in enjoining the good and forbidding the evil while he does commentary on the following ḥadīth:

وقول الباقر يكون في آخر الزمان قوم مراءون يتقرءون- إلى أن قال-: لا يوجبون أمرا بمعروف و لا نهيا عن منكر إلا إذا أمنوا الضرر، يطلبون لأنفسهم الرخص و المعاذير

محمول على أناس مخصوصين موصوفين بهذه الصفات، أو على إرادة فوات النفع من الضرر، بل في الوسائل أو على وجوب تحمل الضرر اليسير، أو على استحباب تحمل الضرر العظيم، و إن كان لا يخلو من نظر بل منع في الأخير ضرورة‌ ثبوت الحرمة حينئذ كما صرح به الشهيدان و السيوري

[30] Notice here that Shahīd Awwal alludes to the fact that when one considers the question of death, there is no problem classifying this under the category of jihād. However, his contention is with placement under the heading of enjoining the good/forbidding the evil.

[31] Al-Qawā’id wa al-Fawā’id volume 2 page 207

[32] For instance see Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din in his Fiqh al-‘Unf al-Musallaḥ fī al-Islām pages 80-81

[33] Hamāse-ye-Husaynī volume 1 page 128

[34] Taḥrīr al-Wasīlah, volume 1, page 473

[35] For references to their works clarifying their position, please see the article referenced at the start of this part.

[36] For example, in one of his answers to religious inquires, Sayyid Sistānī writes:

أن لا يخاف الآمر بالمعروف والناهي عن المنكر ترتّب ضرر عليه في نفسه أو عرضه أو ماله بالمقدار المعتدّ به، ولا يستلزم ذلك وقوعه في حرج شديد لا يتحمّل عادةً، إلاّ إذا أحرز كون فعل المعروف أو ترك المنكر بمثابة من الأهميّة عند الشارع المقدّس يهون دونه تحمّل الضرر والحرج وإذا كان في الأمر بالمعروف أو النهي عن المنكر خوف الإضرار ببعض المسلمين في نفسه أو عرضه أو ماله المعتدّ به سقط وجوبه. نعم، إذا كان المعروف والمنكر من الأمور المهمّة شرعاً فلا بدّ من الموازنة بين الجانبين من جهة درجة الاحتمال وأهميّة المحتمل، فربما لا يحكم بسقوط الوجوب.

[37] Ṣahīfe-ye-Imām volume 3 page 225

[38] For more details, there is a book called the Era of Perplexion (‘Asr-e-Hayrat) written by Mahdi Nasiri that surveys many of these narrations.

[39] Within those who believe in the political authority of the jurist, there are those who believe it is granted directly by the Imam (al-wilāyah al-intiṣābiyyah) and those who believe it is established on the basis of popular endorsement by the believers (al-wilāyah al-intikhābiyyah).

[40] For more details about the various viewpoints of Shi’ah scholars on this frontier, please see this article:

[41] Ṣahīfeh-ye-Imam, volume 18, pages 117-118

[42] I was given some of the information for this part by Sayyid Ali Imran. For further details regarding this issue, please see this set of Persian articles here: and

[43] There is a dispute among the fuqaha’ regarding whether this specific rule regarding no need for taghseel or takfeen for shaheeds applies; some believe that it only applies if you are waging jihad in the presence of an Imam or his specially chosen representative. Others believe that it may also apply during the age of occultation. This is a discussion outside the scope of this article, but further details can be found in Ahmad al-Naraqi’s Mustanad al-Shi’ah fi Ahkam al-Shari’ah volume 3 pages 118-120.

[44] Of course, participation in jihād here does not mean combat per se, and may also subsume propagation of the message (jihād al-tabyīn) for those who cannot fight, as espoused by Sayyid Khameneī.

[45] For more details regarding the discussion here, please see the article by Sayyid al-Ḥusayniyān mentioned in footnote 1.

[46] There are two versions of a khutbah that are quoted to substantiate this; one is quoted by Sayyid ibn Ṭāwūs as follows:

أما بعد فإني لا أعلم أصحاب أصلح منكم ولا أهل بيت أبر وأفضل من أهل بيتي فجزاكم الله عني خيراً وهذا الليل قد غشيكم فاتخذوه جملاً وليأخذ کل رجل منكم برجل من أهل بيتي ثم تفرقوا في البلاد حتی یفرج الله وهؤلاء القوم فإنهم لا يريدون إلا غيري

“And thereafter: I do not know of any companions more rectified than you, nor any household which is more pious and better than mine. May God reward you with goodness on my behalf. This night has enveloped you so seize it to traverse and let each man among you take a man from my household and then disperse in the land until God ushers deliverance. For these people are not seeking anyone except me.”

The second version of the khuṭbah is quoted by ibn Shahr Āshūb as follows:

وإني قد أذنت لكم فأطلقوا جميعاً في حل ليس عليكم مني ذمام هذا الليل قد غشيكم فاتخذوه جملا وليأخذ كل رجل بيد رجل من أهل بيتي وتفرقوا في سوادكم ومدائنكم فإن القوم إنما يطلبونني ولو قد أصابونني لهوا عن طلب غيري

“I have indeed given you permission so leave altogether, free of any onus from me. This night has enveloped you so seize it to traverse and let each man among you take the hand of a man from my household and disperse into your villages and cities. For these people only are seeking after me, and if they indeed reach me they will turn away from seeking anyone else.”

[47] There are of course some arguments presented on this frontier regarding the fact that the Imam wanted to simply test his companions and that his allowance was not a serious proposition, but rather simply to purify their sincerity and show to all posterity that the rank of his companions was peerless. Regardless, we will not delve into this ethical discussion here.

[48] As such, one finds a chapter in Wasā’il al-Shī’ah entitled as follows:
بَابُ جَوَازِ فِرَارِ الْمُسْلِمِ مِنْ ثَلَاثَةٍ فِي الْحَرْبِ وَ تَحْرِيمِهِ مِنْ وَاحِدٍ أَوِ اثْنَيْنِ بِأَنْ يَكُونَ الْعَدُوُّ عَلَى الضَّعْفِ لَا أَزْيَد

“The Chapter on the Permissibility of a Muslim to Flee from Three in War and the Impermissibility of Doing So When Facing One or Two, Such That the Enemy is Double and Not More”

[49] I have excerpted this citation from the same article from Sayyid Ḥusayniyān, quoting from Jawāhir al-Kalām.

[50] One of the contentions that can be raised against this explanation is that many jurists believe that the rules of retreat from combat specifically apply to offenfsive wars rather than defensive ones, although some scholars have disputed this (see here: ). More detailed fiqhī discussions on this point are beyond the scope of this article and can be found in higher-level jurisprudential discussions.