The Policy of Hishām ibn 'Abd al-Malik against Imam Al-Baqir (‘a)

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The Policy of Hishām ibn 'Abd al-Malik against Imam Al-Baqir (‘a)

Question: How did Hishām ibn 'Abd al-Malik act towards the Imam ('a)?
Concise answer:

Hishām ibn ‘Abd al-Malik, one of the caliphs during the time of Imam al-Baqir (‘a), was always fearful of the Imam’s (‘a) extraordinary rank and the people’s love towards him. Since he also knew that his followers considered him to be the Imam, he was perpetually working to prevent the spread of the spiritual influence of these followers, as well as an increase in their numbers.

Detailed answer:

Hishām ibn ‘Abd al-Malik, one of the caliphs during the time of Imam al-Baqir (‘a), was always fearful of the Imam’s (‘a) extraordinary rank and the people’s love towards him. Since he also knew that his followers considered him to be the Imam, he was perpetually working to prevent the spread of the spiritual influence of these followers, as well as an increase in their numbers.

During one of the years that Imam al-Baqir (‘a) and his son Ja’far ibn Muhammad (‘a) were on the Ḥajj pilgrimage, Hishām was also coincidently making the same pilgrimage. During the days of the Ḥajj, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) gave a sermon to a group of the Muslims about the virtues and the Imamate of the family of the Prophet (ṣ); this event was immediately reported to Hishām by his agents.  Hishām, who considered the very existence of Imam al-Baqir (‘a) to be a threat to his government, became severely shaken by this sermon. Still, perhaps due to some other considerations, he did not interfere or disturb the Imam (‘a) and his son (‘a). Immediately when he reached his capital city of Damascus, he ordered the governor of Medina to have the Imam (‘a) and his son (‘a) sent towards Syria.

The Imam (‘a), of necessity, left Medina with his son (‘a) and entered the city of Damascus. Hishām, in order to lower the exoteric greatness of the Imam (‘a) and to raise his own position, did not allow a meeting to take place for a period of three days. It is possible that Hishām spent these three days contemplating on how to engage the Imam (‘a) and what sort of a plan to enact upon him, in order to lessen his position in the eyes of the people.

Interestingly enough, if the government of Hishām had made itself the focus of learning and scholarly knowledge, then it would have had a gathering of eloquent and knowledgeable scholars, who could have been invited to discuss and debate various matters with the Imam (‘a). Hishām’s government, like much of the Umayyid governments which came before him, was bereft of such individuals, and instead, poets, storytellers, and eulogists had taken their place.

Due to this situation, Hishām did not attempt to gather scholars to debate the Imam (‘a); he knew full well that if he engaged in such a gathering, not one of his functionaries would come out it in victory. Instead, he decided to engage the Imam (‘a) in another way; a way which he thought would assure him victory.

Hishām decided to put on a shooting competition, and thought of a way to have the Imam (‘a) participate; Hishām assumed that with the defeat of the Imam (‘a) in such a competition, he would be lowered in the view of the people. In preparation, he gathered a group of people before the entry of the Imam (‘a) in to the palace, and had them busy themselves in shooting at targets. Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) entered in to the gathering and sat for a little while. Suddenly, Hishām faced the Imam (‘a) and said, ‘Do you wish to participate in this archery competition?’ The Imam (‘a) replied: ‘I have become old and my time for shooting is past; excuse me from this.’ Hishām, who assumed that he had gained an excellent opportunity and was about to defeat the Imam (‘a), insisted, and at the same time, signaled for one of the notables of the Banū Ummayyah to give him his bow.  The Imam (‘a) reached out and took the bow. He set an arrow on the string and then took aim. He released the arrow, and the arrow hit the exact center of the target! Then he took a second arrow and set it upon the string; when he released his second shot, it hit the other arrow exactly and split it dead center. The third arrow again hit the second and split that one as well. In this same fashion, the Imam (‘a) shot nine arrows, all of which hit the previous arrows and split the wood!

This amazing scene affected everyone who was present and they were struck with amazement and surprise. Hishām, who had calculated incorrectly on all counts, was also taken severely by surprise. Uncontrollably he said: Amazing oh Abū Ja’far. You are the master of archers from amongst the Arabs and Ajams (non-Arabs); how was it that you said you had become old? Then Hishām looked downwards for several moments and was quiet with thought. Then he sat Imam Al-Baqir (‘a) and his son (‘a) next to himself and honored and praised them in an exceptional and unusual manner. Then he faced Imam al-Baqir (‘a) and said: The Quraysh, due to the light of your existence, are worthy of being the masters amongst the Arabs and Ajams (non-Arabs). Tell me, who taught you this skill of archery and how long did it take you to master it? Imam al-Baqir (‘a) responded: You know that the people of Medina practice this art; in the days of my youth, I also spent a period of time engaged in it, but later I left it; today, since you insisted, I accepted perforce.

Hishām said: Does your son Jaʿfar (Imam al-Sadiq (‘a)) also have this level of proficiency in shooting? Imam al-Baqir (‘a) replied: ‘We, the Household, are the ‘Perfection of The Religion’ and the ‘Completion of the Blessings’; the verse (الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ) has been revealed about us (Imamate and Wilāyah) and we succeed one another. The earth will never remain empty of one of us.’[1] [2] [3]

Footnote:

[1] (الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا )‘This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.’ Surah Māida, Verse 3. [2] Muḥammad ibn Jarīr ibn Rustam al-Ṭabarī, Dalā'il al-imāmah, Najaf, Manshūrāt al-Maṭba'at al-Ḥaydarīyah, 1383 Hijrī, p. 105. [3] Taken from the text: Sīrah Pīshvāyān, Mahdī Pīshvāī, p. 339.


Published on: « 1393/01/27 »
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