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Last Updated: 2012/04/17
Summary of question
Is the hadith of Raf’ al-Qalam and the idea that the Shi’ites are absolved of religious duty on the ninth of Rabī’ al-Awwal authentic and valid?
Is the hadith of Raf’ al-Qalam and the idea that the Shi’ites are absolved of religious duty on the ninth of Rabī’ al-Awwal to commit any sin they please, authentic and valid?
Concise answer

This hadith not been narrated in the main and prominent sources of hadith. In addition, what is meant by the absolvement of religious duty (رفع القلم) is that their sins are forgiven because of the pain and suffering they have tolerated in this world, rather than being free to commit whatever sin they wish.

Detailed Answer

‘Allāmah Majlisī narrates a hadith from “Zawāi’d al-Farāi’d” by Sayyid ibn Ṭāwūs and “Al-Mukhtaṣar” by Shaykh Ḥasan bin Sulaymān regarding the virtue of the ninth of Rabī’ al-Awwal and the special manners and acts of worship to performed therein.

The beginning of the hadith indicates that the death and killing of the second caliphate took place on this day (ninth of Rabī’ al-Awwal). Many recommended actions have been mentioned for this day and the nobility of it has been largely emphasized.

Before any explanation about the text of this hadith, let us initially talk about the source of the hadith and its narrators.

The book “Zawāi’d al-Farāi’d”, which ‘Allāmah Majlisī explicitly maintains to be written by Sayyid ibn Ṭāwūs,[1] has been attributed to the son of Sayyid ibn Ṭāwūs, Raḍī al-Dīn ‘Alī by Āghā Buzurg Tehrānī.[2]

‘Allāmaah Muḥsin Amīn has also clearly attributed it to the son of Sayyid ibn Ṭāwūs, saying: “Sayyid Raḍī al-Dīn has mentioned in certain pages of the book that his name and title was Sayyid ibn Ṭāwūs like his father’s.”[3] Thus, the book must be attributed to the son of Sayyid ibn Ṭāwūs’.

The hadith of the ninth of Rabī’ has been narrated in the book of Ḥasan ibn Sulaymān, “Al-Mukhtaṣar” and the hadith that ‘Allāmah Majlisī has narrated regarding the story of the second caliph was, according to himself, from “Al-Mukhtaṣar”.[4] Of course, Majlisi has cited the same hadith in the supplication section of Biḥār al-Anwār, referring it to Sayyid ibn Ṭāwūs.[5]


Assessment of the Hadith

A. This hadith hasn’t been cited in primary sources and given its context, which attempts to prove one of the greatest eids of Shi’ites, it seems unlikely not to have been mentioned in any hadith source and that great scholars such as Shaykh Kulaynī, Shaykh Ṣadūq and Shaykh Ṭūsī have been unaware of it.

B. According to ‘Allāmah Majlisī’s narration, Sayyid ibn Ṭāwūs narrated this hadith from two individuals named “ibn Abī al-‘Alā’ al-Hamadānī” and “Yaḥyā bin Muḥammad bin Ḥuwayj al-Baghdādī” while Shaykh Ḥasan bin Sulaymān narrates the same hadith through another chain of narrators, namely “Muḥammad bin al-‘Alā’ al-Hamadānī (not Ibn abi al-Alā’) and “Yaḥyā bin Muḥammad bin Jarīḥ al-Baghdādī” (not Ḥuwayj), which indicates that there is a difference in the description of the two narrators of two books.

C. If the phrase “یوم رفع القلم” means that in that certain day sins will not be accounted for and everyone is free to commit whatever they please, it will be in complete contradiction with every foundational belief and undisputed fact of the Quran and hadiths.

So he who has done an atom's weight of good shall see (the reward of) it and he who has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it.[6]

This is in addition to the fact that this interpretation of “یوم رفع القلم” is incoherent with the rest of the context of this long hadith. In this hadith, the ninth of Rabī’ al-Awwal is known as the day of piety, repentance and returning to God and the day for self-refinement.[7] How can such descriptions make sense if it is the day when any evil is excused to be done?

D. There are two other hadiths in the books Ūyūn Akhbār al-Riḍā’ and Faḍāil al-Shīah of Shaykh Ṣadūq implying that duty has been taken off the shoulders Shi’ites of the Ahl al-Bayt. These hadith are general in terms of date, occasion and everything else, meaning that they aren’t circumstanced to the ninth of Rabī’.

In Ūyūn Akhbār al-Riḍā’, Imam Reza (A.S.) states: Our followers have been absolved. The narrator then asks: I asked how is that possible, O my master?

He replied: For they have been assigned to undergo religious dissimulation (taqiyyah) while under the rule of an oppressive government and they have given their oath on this. The people are all secure and safe and they are fearful and worried and they are deemed as non-believers because of us, but we aren’t deemed as non-believers because of them, they are killed in our cause but we aren’t killed for them. There isn’t a single Shi’ite that isn’t stricken by grief when committing sin. His sins will disappear even if his sins are as many as the drops of rain, sand of the desert, thorns and trees. And if he isn’t stricken by grief of his personal life, he will suffer of something relating to his family or other worldly possessions and if he isn’t suffering from any tragedy, he will be affected by bad dreams, which will wash away his sins.[8]

In Faḍāil al-Shīah there is a narration that reads: Abu Ḥamzah says: I heard Imam Sadiq (A.S.) say: Shi’ites have been absolved of duty because God protects them (from sin) with His infallibility and sanctity.[9]

When we closely observe these two hadiths we reach another definition of absolvement of religious duty (رفع القلم); provided what these two hadith denote, especially the hadith in Ūyūn Akhbār al-Riḍā, being absolved of religious duty can be understood as the forgiveness of Shi’ites - in terms of eternal punishment – as a result of the difficulties and sufferings they have bore for God’s satisfaction in religion. This is completely different than to say that Shi’ites are free to do anything in a certain time span without being held accountable at all. This hadith says Shi’ites sometimes commit sins that require them to be punished, but God gradually forgives their sins because of the suffering and pain they have gone through in following the path of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.). This interpretation is in accord with Islamic teachings. The Holy Quran reads: “And if the followers of the Book had believed and guarded (against evil) We would certainly have covered their evil deeds and We would certainly have made them enter gardens of bliss”.[10] This divine precedent is called “takfīr”.[11]

In the book of Fada’il al-Shiah, absolvement of religious duty (رفع القلم) has been mentioned with the meaning that since God protects the (true and pure) Shi’ites with His infallibility and authority, they don’t commit sins so that any sins are recorded for them. Technically, it is negative because of the elimination of the subject, meaning that they are absolved of everything because there are no sins to be recorded in the first place, not that there are sins, but aren't recorded.

Consequently, supposing we accept the authenticity of the hadith of the ninth of Rabī’ and overlook the problems it has in its chain of narrators and context, we can translate and explain the phrase “یوم رفع القلم” by saying that the ninth of Rabī’ al-Awwal is the day that God has forgiven the sins of all Shi’ites because of their pure and true patience in tolerating the difficulties of precautionary concealment (taqiyyah) as a result of following the path of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.).


[1] Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 95, p. 351, Daar Ihyaa’ al-Turaath Press, Beirut, 1403 AH.

[2] Tehrani, Agha Bozorg, Al-Dhari’ah ila Tasanif al-Shia, vol. 12, p. 259, Ismailiyan, Qum, 1408 AH.

[3] Amin Sayyid Muhsin, A’yan al-Shia, vol. 2, p. 267, Daar al-Ta’arof li al-Matbu’aat, Beirut, 1406 AH.

[4] Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 31, p. 120.

[5] Bihar al-Anwar,vol. 95, p. 351.

[6] Zilzal:7 and 8.

[7] Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 31, p. 128.

[8] Saduq, Muhammad ibn Ali, Uyun Akhbar al-Rida (AS), translated by Ghaffari and Mustafid, vol. 2,  575, Saduq Press, Tehran, 1372 (solar).

[9] Saduq, Muhammad ibn Ali, Fadaa’il al-Shia, translated by Tawhidi, p. 43, Zurarah Press, Tehran, 1380 (solar).

[10] Ma’idah:65.

[11] For further information, see: Sobhani, Ja’far, Muhadarat fi al-Ilahiyyat, abridged by Rabbani Golpaygani, p. 451, Imam Sadiq Institute Press, Qum, 1428 AH.


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