‘Umar b. ‘Ali b. al-Husayn (ca. 740) on the Ahl al-Bayt

The following is drawn from the Kitāb al-Irshād of Shaykh al-Mufīd (d. 1022), one of the most important theologians and historians in the Twelver Shi’i tradition. It is a narration from ‘Umar b. ‘Alī b. al-Ḥusayn, the son of the fourth Imam Zayn al-‘Abidīn ‘Alī b. al-Ḥusayn (as well as the brother of the fifth Imam Muhammad al-Bāqir) which emphasizes a moderate devotion towards the Family of the Prophet. It also emphasizes the centrality of the Muslim recognition of the rights of the family of the Prophet to authority over the believers. There are dozens of such narrations found within the Kitāb al-Irshād alone, but few which express these, interrelated two ideas so eloquently. The inclusion of this narration (and others like it) by Shaykh al-Mufīd was a clear attempt on his part to undercut the various forms of Shi’i “extremism” (often termed ghuluww) which were prevalent during his time. As such, it should be read as an attempt to reinforce a particular narrative within (and beyond?) the Twelver Shi’i community in the tenth and eleventh centuries by citing the words of an eminent Shi’i authority from the eighth century.


‘Umar b. ‘Alī b. al-Ḥusayn (peace be upon them) was an eminent, illustrious and honorable individual who was responsible for the endowments of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) in Medina, as well as the endowments of the Commander of the Faithful [‘Alī b. Abī Ṭālib]. He was both pious and God-fearing…

Al-Sharīf Abū Muhammad related to me, from his grandfather—Abū al-Ḥasan Bakkār b. Ahmad al-Azdī—al-Ḥasan b. al-Ḥusayn al-‘Uranī—‘Abd Allāh b. Jārīr al-Qattān who said: “I heard ‘Umar b. ‘Alī b. al-Ḥusayn saying: The one who is excessive (al-mufriṭ) in his love for us is the same as the one who is excessive in his hatred for us. Truly, we have a right (over the believers) as a result of our relationship and proximity to our Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him and his family). It is a right which God has bestowed upon us. Therefore, whoever turns away from it (i.e. our rights) has turned away from something great. Grant us the status that God has granted us. Do not say things about us (or our status) that do not exist or which have no basis. If God shall punish us, it will be due to our sins. If He shall bestow His mercy upon us, then it is by His mercy and favor.

[Shaykh al-Mufīd, Kitāb al-Irshād (Beirut, 2008), Vol. 2, pp. 171]


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