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Summary of question
Is it true that Imam Shafi\'i, the Sunni Imam of the Shafi\'i sect, used to like Ahlul-Bayt (as) and in fact recited poems saying that he himself was a “Rafedhi”?
question
Is it true that Imam Shafi\'i, the Sunni Imam of the Shafi\'i sect, used to like Ahlul-Bayt (as) and in fact recited poems saying that he himself was a “Rafedhi”?
Concise answer

Abu ʿAbdullah Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi‘i is the leader of the Shafi’i school of fiqh (jurisprudence). He was born in Gaza, Palestine and died in Egypt. He was active in juridical matters and his teaching eventually led to the Shafi’i school of fiqh (or Madh’hab) named after him. He was prolific writer and one of his works was a collection of his poems. Shafi’i had special passion and love for Ahlul-Bayt as manifested and expressed in his famous poems. He expressly told that salvation and eternal prosperity rested in obedience and adherence to the teachings of the Prophet of Islam and his holy Ahlul-Bayt (household). He even considered them as his intercessors on the Day of Judgment. Indeed, not only did he consider them as his intercessors but he also linked the validity of his acts of worship and prayers to following them. He maintained that if someone did not salute the Prophet (pbuh) and his family in his prayers, his prayers were void.

Detailed Answer

Abu ʿAbdullah Muhammad bin Idris bin al-Abbas better known as Imam Shafi’i (150 – 204 A.H.) was the leader of the Shafi’i school of fiqh. The Shafi’i school is one of the four major Sunni schools of jurisprudence.[1] Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi‘i was born in Gaza of Palestine. He was Quraishi from mother’s side. He was born in Gaza in the town of Asqalan and moved to Mecca when he was about two years old. He is reported to have studied under the scholars of his time including Muslim Ibn Khalid, the Mufti of Mecca at his time. Having studied Arabic literature with the latter, he started learning fiqh (jurisprudence).

Shafi’i was thirteen when he moved to Medina and started acquiring education under Malik bin Anas, the founder of the Maliki School of jurisprudence. At a young age, he memorized the Holy Quran and got acquainted with different religious sciences. His knowledge of Arabic grammar and Arabic literature was unique. He spent time among Huzail, Rabi’ah and Mudar finding precise roots and origins of words. He learnt fiqh under the students of Ibn Abbas who himself was a student of the Commander of the Faithful, Ali and some other students of the Ahlul-Bayt – peace be upon them. He also lived in Iraq and Egypt where he was busy teaching and giving fatawa (verdicts).[2] Shafi’i lived in the era of the Abbasid caliphs. In the year 204 of the Islamic calendar he travelled to Egypt where he died and was buried in Cairo.[3]

Shafi’i was the most prolific writer among the jurisprudents of his time. He benefited from his literary and scientific capacity in his works because he mastered Arabic literature, etymology, jurisprudential sciences and was very well acquainted with the principles of Arabic eloquence. According to some accounts, he reached a high rank in fiqh, hadith, Quranic sciences, poetry and etymology. He authored many works some of which are surviving. As many as 110 volumes of books and treatises have been ascribed to him most of them on fiqh (jurisprudence). Two of his works are most famous. They are Al-Resala — the best known book by al-Shafi'i in which he examined usul al-fiqh (sources of jurisprudence) – and Kitab al-Umm - his main surviving text on Shafi’i fiqh.[4]

Shafi’i travelled to different places far and wide to acquire knowledge; he travelled to Mecca, Medina, Kufa, Baghdad, Egypt and Yemen. Imam Shafi’i got acquainted with the thoughts, views and doctrines of different jurisprudential and theological schools. He benefited from their experience and scientific achievements and he criticized them wherever necessary. At times, he debated with the prominent figures of these schools.

“Shafi’i had love and respect for Ali bin Abi Talib more than the rest of Sunni leaders. He says about Imam Ali (as) that Ali had four virtues and if someone other than him had one of those virtues, he deserved to be respected and dignified. They are piety, knowledge, bravery and dignity. Shafi’i also says that the Prophet (pbuh) reserved Ali for knowledge of Quran because the Prophet (pbuh) called on him, ordered him to judge among people. The Prophet (pbuh) signed (confirmed) his verdicts and would also say that Ali was true and Mu’awiyah was false.”[5]

One of the subjects seen visibly in al-Shafi’i’s works and is well-known and which he emphasizes upon greatly is superiority of Ahlul-Bayt (as) and love of them.

In one of the hajj rituals when pilgrims were at Mina and when some enemies of the Ahlul-Bayt (as) were in attendance, Shafi’i called the love of Ahlul-Bayt an entitlement of the family of the Prophet and addressed the pilgrims as such:

یا راکِباً قِف بالمُحَصَّبِ مِن منیً

وَاهتِف بِقاعِدِ خَیفِها وَالنَّاهِضِ

سَحَراً إذا فاضَ الحَجیجُ إلی مِنیً

فَیضاً کَمُلتَطِمِ الفُراتِ الفائِضِ

إن کانَ  رَفضاً   حُبُّ  آلِ   مُحمَّدٍ

فَلیَشهَدِ الثَّقَلانِ أنّی رَافضِی[6]

Translation:

"O' Pilgrims! On your way to the House of Allah, pause shortly in the sands of Muzdalifah. At dawn, when the caravans of pilgrims move toward Mina, like a roaring river, call upon them and say: "If love of the Prophet's family means “rafdh", then let mankind know, that surely I am a "Rafedhi."

One of the points raised in Shafi’i’s poems is love of Ahlul-Bayt, the family of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) which he deems obligatory. Shafi’i maintains that if a person does not declare salawaat for him and his family, his prayer is incomplete and will not be accepted:

یا آلَ بَیتِ رَسولِ الله حُبُّکُمُ

فَرضٌ مِنَ الله فی القُرآنِ أنزَلَهُ

کَفاکُم مِن عظیمِ القَدرِ أنّکُم

مَن لَم یُصلِّ عَلَیکُم لَا صَلَاةَ لَهُ[7]

Translation:

"O Ahle Bait of the Prophet of Allah! Love for you has been made obligatory for us by Allah, as revealed in the Holy Qur'an (referring to the above verse). It is sufficient for your dignity that if one does not send salutations to you in the ritual prayers, his prayers will not be accepted."

Among the other poems Shafi’i has composed are poems about Imam Ali (as). When asked about Imam Ali (as), Shafi’i said painfully as such:

إنّا عَبــیدٌ لِفتیً  أنزلَ  فِیـــهِ  هَل أتَی

إلی مَتــی أکتُمُهُ؟ إلی مَتی؟ إلی مَتی؟[8]

Roughly translated:

“I am the servant of that young man about whom Sura Hal Ataa (Chapter Insaan) was revealed. How long should I conceal it? How long? How long?”

He was the one who expressly and openly declared his love and attachment towards the successor of the Prophet. It was at a time when a suffocating atmosphere had been imposed on the lovers of Ali (as):

قَالُوا: تَرَفَّضتَ قُلتُ: کَلَّا

مَا الَّرفضُ دینی وَ لا إعتِقادی

لکِن تَوَلَّیتُ غَیرَ شَکٍّ

خَیرَ إمَامٍ وَ خَیرَ هَادی

إن کَانَ حُبُّ الوَلِیِّ رَفضاً

فإنَّنی أرفَضُ العِبادَ[9]

Translation:

They say: You are a Rafedhi and heretic, I say: Never did I become a Rafedhi, apostasy is not my religion. But needless to say that in my heart, there is much love (and respect) for the greatest leader (Imam Ali (As). If loving Wali of Allah (the friend of God?) is Rafdh, then I'm Rafedhi of 1st rank!

In other poems, he makes clear and tangible reference to intercession of the Ahlul-Bayt (as) of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) hoping to be interceded with God by them on the Day of Resurrection, the day of reckoning:

لَئِن کانَ ذَنبِی حُبُّ آلِ محمَّدٍ

فذلِکَ ذَنبٌ لَستُ عَنهُ أتوبُ

هُمُ شُفَعائی یومَ حَشری و مَوقِفی إذا

کثرتنی یوم ذاک ذنوب[10]

If loving the household of Prophet (pbuh) is a sin, then I will never repent on this sin!
Of course, on the Day of Judgment, they (Ahl-e-Bait) will be my intercessors on the Day when I shall be resurrected. That is when my sins are too many on that day.

Shafi’i was in a gathering when someone started speaking about Ali (as), his two noble sons and his pure wife. A man who had been from the enemies of Ahlul-Bayt (as) says: It is not good to speak about them. Leave it as it is a talk about Rafedhis. At this time Shafi’i says in his poems:

بَرِئتُ إلَی المُهیمِنِ مِن أُناسٍ

یَرَونَ الرَّفضَ حُبَّ الفاطِمیّه

إذا ذکروا عَلیّا أو بَنیه

أفاضوا بالرّوایات الویّه

عَلی آل الرّسُول صلاة رَبی

وَ لَعنتُه لتلکَ الجَاهلیّه[11]

I disassociate myself from those (people) who believe that remembering the sons of Fatima (AS) is Rafdh. If anyone talks about Ali (as) and Fatima (as) and their sons, they (enemies of Ahl-e-Bayt) mend this way, they think that it is a foolishness (to remember Ali and Fatima).  Supplications (Duroods and Salams) of my Allah be upon Prophet (pbuh). And curse of Allah be upon this ignorance and infidelity (hating Ahul-Bayt).

Shafi’i considers love of the Ahlul-Bayt (as) to be in his flesh and blood and this family as a means for his growth, guidance and everything he has. He says:

و سائلی عن حُب أهل البیت هل؟

أُقرّ إعلاناً به أم أجحدُ

هَیهاتَ ممزوجٌ بلحمی و دَمی

حُبُّهم و هو الهُدی و الرشدُ

یا أهل بیتِ المصطفی یا عدتی

وَ مَن علی حبّهُم أعتَمدُ

أنتم إلی اللهِ غَداً وَسیلَتی

و کیف أخشی؟ و بکم اعتضدُ

ولیّکم فی الخُلدِ حَیّ خَالدٌ

و الضدُ فی نارٍ لَظیً مُخلّدُ[12]

Translation:

“O those who ask me about my love of Ahlul-Bayt (as); should I confess openly that I love them or should I deny that? Never shall I deny their love because their love and affinity is blended in my flesh and blood. Their love is a means of my guidance and growth. O family of Muhammad, O those whom I turn to, O those whose love is my reliance, you are my intercessors on the Day of Judgment. Why should I be afraid when I trust you and have confidence in you? He who loves you will reside eternally in Paradise and your enemies will be for ever in Hell fire”

Else where, he describes, in his poems, the pure family of Prophet Muhammad as the ark of salvation and love of them as the covenant of Allah. So he says:

وَ لَمَّا رَأیتُ النَّاسَ قَد ذَهَبَت بِهِم

مَذَاهِبُهُم فِی أبحُرِ الغَیِّ وَ الجَهلِ

رَکِبتُ عَلَی اسمِ الله فِی سُفُنِ النَّجَا

وَ هُم آل بَیتِ المُصطفَی خَاتَمِ الرُّسُلِ

وَ أمسَکتُ حَبلَ اللهِ وَ هُوَ وَلاءوهُم

کَما قَد أُمِرنَا بالتَمسُّکِ بالحَبلِ[13]

When I saw different religions and jurisprudential schools steering towards ignorance and misguidance, I embarked in the name of God on the ark of salvation i.e. the family of the Seal of Prophets and got hold of the divine covenant which is the very love of them. Indeed, God has commanded us to hold fast to the divine covenant.

Therefore, it is understood from Shafi’i’s poems that he held high respect for the family of the Prophet of Islam (s) and he was not afraid of telling it to others. He considered guidance and prosperity to be found and achievable only through following the Prophet (pbuh) and his noble family. It is his ardent aspiration to be interceded with God on the Day of Judgment.   Indeed, not only does he consider them as his intercessors but he also linked the validity of his acts of worship and prayers to following them. He maintained that if someone did not salute the Prophet (pbuh) and his family in his prayer, his prayer were void.

It is noteworthy that one of the reasons and proofs indicating Imam Shafi’i’s fondness and attachment towards Ahlul-Bayt (as) is his making reference to the sayings of Imam Sadiq (as) in his book titled “Al-Umm”.

 


[1] The four Sunni legals schools or madhhabs which the majority of Muslims follow are Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi’i and Hanbali.

[2] Vide: Badi’ Ya’qub, Emil, Diwan al-Imam al-Shafi’i, Beirut – Lebanon, Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, 1430 A.H.

[3] Masudi, Ali bin Hussein, Murawij al-Dhahab, vol.3, p. 437, Tehran, Scientific and Cultural Publications, 1374 (1995).

[4]  Vide: Tawakkoli, Muhammad Rauf, The Fourth Imam of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah, Tehran, Tawkkoli, 1377 (A.H.)

[5] Muhammad Abu Zuhra, p. 3, 252, Gulzihar, Al-Aqidah wash-Sharih’ah al-Islam, p. 200, cited from History of Shia and Islamic sects until the fourth century, Muhammad Jawad Mashkoor, third edition, p. 103 – 104 , Ishraqi Bookstore, 1262 (1983).

[6] Collection of Imam Shafi’i Poetry, p. 93, Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, Beirut, 1414 A.H.

[7] Ibid, p. 115.

[8] Ibid, p. 59.

[9] Ibid, p. 72

[10] Ibid, p. 48.

[11] Ibid, p. 152.

[12]  Ibid, p. 222 – 223.

[13]  Ibid, p. 278.  For more details vide: Praise of Ahlul-Bayt (as) in Muhammad bin Idri al-Shafi’I’s Poems, Ayyub Shafi’i Pour, Taghrib News Agency; Barfi, Muhammad, (article), A Study of the Causes of Convergence and Divergence between Shafi’i and Hanafi Religions with Imamiyah Shi’ah, Resalat News Papaper, No. 6942 dated 20, 12, 88 (Cultural); Suyuti Shafi’i, Jalaluddin Abdur Rahman, Virtues of Ali (as) (911 A.H.).

 

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