From Bidʿa to Sunna: The Wilāya of ʿAlī in the Shīʿī Adhān

June 5, 2012

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In the attached article, Professor Liyakat Takim (McMaster University in Ontario, Canada)  points out that the recital in Imami Shi’i adhan add a line–not included in the original adhan during the time of the Prophet– that references the wilayah (religious and political authority) of Ali ibn Abi Talib. “Thus, after reciting the shahada (bearing witness to the unity of one God and the prophecy of Muhammad) the mu’adhdhin (caller to prayer) will normally state “Ashhadu anna Aliyyan waliyu’llah” (I bear witness that Ali is the friend of God).” (Takim, 168).

Yet early Shi’i jurists in Islamic history did not recognize such an addition to the call for prayer. In his compilation of hadith known as al-Kafi fi ‘Ilm al-Din (“What is Sufficient in the Knowledge of the Faith”), Muhammad ibn Ya’qub ibn Ishaq al-Kulayni “does not discuss or even mention the wiliyah of Ali as a part of it at all.” (Takim, 168). Moreover, Al-Sheik Al-Saduq, one of the early and seminal Shi’i jurists and author of the highly esteemed book, Man la yahduruhu al-faqih, heavily criticized those among the Muslim community who began inserting the “wiliyah of Ali” as part of the call to prayer:

” In some of their traditions, after uttering “I bear witness that Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah ” [they add] “I bear witness that Ali is the wall (friend) of God” twice. Among them there are others who narrate instead of this “I bear witness that ‘Ali is the true Commander of the Faithful” twice. There is no doubt that Ali ibn Abi Talib is the “friend” of God and that he is the true Commander of the Faithful and that Muhammad and his family are the best of [God’s] creatures. However, that is not [part] of the original adhan.I have mentioned this  so that those who have been accused of concocting the doctrine of al-tafweeth and have insulated themselves among our ranks should become known.” (Quoting Sheik Al-Saduq, original source in article).

Thus, Sheik Al-Saduq tried to expose an “extremist” group by castigating them as the so-called “Mufawwida“, which basically refers to a school of philosophical tradition that sees “the belief that after creation, God delegated His powers over all matters pertaining to creation, provision for His creatures, and worldly affairs to the Prophet and the imams. (If your interested, a very good exposition of this school of thought is provided in the book by Professor Hussein Modarress entitled, Crisis and Consolidation in the Formative Period of Shlite Islam ((Darwin Press, 1993)).

Other early and prominent Shi’i jurists, in their discussions on the jurisprudential aspects of the call to prayer, do not even mention the sentence of invoking the wiliyah of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, including the great Sheik Al-Mufid (who studied with Sheik Al-Saduq), Sharif Al-Murtatha, and Al-Sheik Al-Tusi (both students of Al-Sheik Al-Mufid). (Takim, 168). In his book, Al-Nihaya (one of his lesser-known books), Al-Sheik Al-Tusi states “that one utters the wilaya is in error (mukhti)”. (Takim, 168). Moreover, Sheik Al-Tusi rejects as unreliable the purported hadith transmissions that suggest inserting Ali as Wali of Godin the call for prayer, even going to the extent of asserting that such an insertion to the adhan “is not to be acted upon [fa-laysa bi ma’mul alayhi].” (Takim, 167, original source in article). One of the greatest and most influential Shi’i jurist, Al-Muhaqqiq Al-Hilli (died 1277), asserted that anything added to the adhan, including the wiliayah of Ali, was a “bid’a” (i.e., innovation or extra-scriptural practice).” Al-Muhaqqiq’s student, his brilliant nephew Al-Allama Hilli is said to have specifically prohibited the recital of the “wilaya in his Nihayat al-ahkam, stating that it is not permissible to recite it since there was no ruling for it in the sharia” (li-aadami mashrii’yyatihi). (Takim, 168).

Of course, the aforementioned jurists lived in what is today known as Iran and Iraq. But even prominent Shi’i jurists from Jabal ‘Amil (in what is today known as the south of Lebanon) refused to accept the legitimacy of including the wiliyah of Ali into the adhan. Consider one of the all-stars from Jabal Amil, Muhammad Jamaluddin al-Makki al-Amili (died 1385) (a.k.a.,  Al-Shahid Al-Awwal).  In his seminal work on Islamic Law, Al-Lum’ah ad-Dimashqiya (للمعة الدمشقية‎ ‎ “The Damascene Glitter”),  despite recognizing the prevalence of the insertion of the wiliayah of Ali into the adhan (wa in kana al-waqi’ kadhalik), forbids a Muslim from reciting that line in the call of prayer. (Takim, 168). Al-Shahid Al-Awwal was so insistent on this prohibition that he in fact mentions it in several of his other key writings (see attached article for citations).  Zayn al-Din b. Ali b. Ahmad al-Shami (died 1558), another prominent scholar from Jabal ‘Amil (a.k.a. Al-Shahid Al-Thani), authored a text entitled “Rawda al-jinan fi sharh irshad al-adhhan” in which he argued that historical evidence used to suggest the insertion of the line into the adhan are entirely the product of fabrication. The question is not about the love of ahlul bayt–rather, according to Shahid Al-Thani, the question is “whether the wilaya can be inserted in an act of worship which has been itself divinely ordained.” (Takim, 168). In his highly esteemed book,  ar-Rawda-l-Bahiyah fi Sharh allam’a-d-Dimashqiya الروضة البهيّة في شرح اللمعة الدمشقيّة ), which is essentially a commentary on an earlier work by Shahid Al-Awwal, Zayn al Din again asserts that the inclusion of the wiliyah of Ali is an innovation into the religion, likening it to adding another rik’ah (unit) to the ritual prayer (salat).

This raises an immediate question: If early Shi’i jurists were so adamantly opposed to the inclusion of the wiliyat of Ali in the call for prayer from a purely legal/textual perspective, and if there is no evidence to suggest that their rulings were the product of taqiyya, then how in the world did the vast majority of Shi’i Muslims begin to adopt this line into their call for prayer? What happened? How did we arrive at the point where Ayatollah Abul-Qasem al-Khu’i and Al-Golpaygani, among other notable Shi’i scholars of more contemporary times, consider the wilayah as a part of the adhan? And more importantly, why are the contemporary Shi’i jurists so ignorant of these early jurisprudential rulings? Or are they hiding something from their adherents?

According to the author of the attached article, the origin of the this line in the call for prayer came from the Safavid Empire. That Empire was a major Persian empire that ruled from 1501-1722 in areas of what is today known as Central Asia and parts of the Middle East. (I urge the reader to read up on the history of this dynasty-very fascinating!). Shah Ismail, one of its prominent rulers, would establish the Shi’i school of thought as the “official” religion of the Empire, and began embarking on plans to propagate this faith to others in the hope of “converting” the masses. Let’s not sugar coat anything: Shah Ismail’s efforts were largely brutal efforts, using state-sanctioned violence to enforce his goals of Shi’i propagation. This included mandating the cursing of the first three Islamic caliphates (i.e., Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthman) from the sermon mount, and anyone who refused was killed! (Takim, 169). It is also in the times of the Safavid Empire that the huge festivities associated with the annual grieving over the killing of Al-Husayn ibn Ali at the hands of the Ummayad Dynasty became ritualized. (Takim, 169). Shah Ismail also ordered that the 12 Imam names be recited in every lecture from the sermon, and that the inclusion of Ali as the Wali of God be inserted into the adhan.

According to the Article, ” the popular practice of reciting Ali’s wilaya in the adhan was sanctioned in the Shii juridical texts for the first time by Majlisi I in his Rawda al-muttaqin.” Interestingly, Allama All-Majlisi challenged the rulings of Al-Sheik Al-Saduq and other early Shi’i jurists who claimed that this practice was an innovation of an extremist group (see our discussion above). (Takim, 169). Muhammad Baqir Majlesi, known as the Second Majlisi, (died 1698), who as a scholar was closely linked with the ruling family of the Safavid Dynasty, also wrote approvingly of the wiliyah in the adhan. But to be fair, the views of the Majlisi scholars id not generate significant consensus from their contemporaries. For example, Fayd Al-Kashani (died 1680), asserted that  “reciting the wilaya is an abominable (makruh) act that is contrary to the sunna.” There was simply no legal text (nass) to support its inclusion”, according to al-Kashani. Kashani was not alone. Professor Takim mentions others who disapproved of the reasoning advanced by the Majlesi scholars at that time period.

But at the end of the day, “the arguments advanced by the likes of Majlisi I and II had the effect of convincing subsequent jurists that the wilaya could be recited” into the adhan.” (Takim, 175). I do not wish to recite their arguments they made to substantiate this claim–read the article and it spells them out in relatively sophisticated detail. It thus seems that the attempt to carve out a separate identity by the Safavid Dynasty, and the attempts by the Majlisi scholars to induce the masses into believing that the recital is a part of the call to prayer largely succeeded. In relatively modern times, some seminal Lebanese scholars from Jabal Amil seemed to have done a 180 pivot from the writings of Al-Shahid al-Awwal and Al-Shahid Al Thani. Al-Sayed Sharaf al-Din al-Musawi (d. 1957), an important Jabil Amil scholar who wrote the book Al-Nass Wal-Ijtihad, also argued that his predecessors who believed the wiliyah was an innovation were themselves in error. (Takim, 176). Likewise, Sayid Muhsin Al-Hakim (died 1970), another highly regarded scholar from Jabal Amil, argued in his Mustamsak al-‘urwa al-wuthqa that the recital in the adhan was a badge of identity and an honorific act, despite there having been no textual transmission convincing enough for the early great Shi’i jurists. (Takim, 177).

I strongly recommend you download the article and read it all. It is much more detailed and provides more thorough citations and sources. Very interesting research.

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