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HOW DID THE SUNNI MAZHAB BEGIN
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HOW DID THE SUNNI MAZHAB BEGIN (2)

 

          In this text we will give a second version of the story as formulated by Amir Ali, a respected historian of the 19th century.

 

          Amir Ali believes that the establishment of the Sunni religious institution did not take place until the time of the Abbasids. We will see below his arguments. But, let us first give a brief overview of history of that period.

 

          Imam Ali was assassinated in the 40th year of Hijra. Soon after that Imam Hasan was elected to become the Khaleefa of Muslims. Six months later Imam Hasan had to sign a treaty with Mu’awiyya bin Abu Sufyan in which he abdicated from worldly rule in favour of Mu’awiyya with some conditions. There were four basic conditions in the contract:

 

(1)  Mu’awiyyah will rule according to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet.

(2)  He will not have the right to appoint his successor, instead the matter will revert to the community and a democratic process will elect the next Khaleefa.

(3)  The followers of Imam Ali will be left in safety and security.

(4)  Public cursing of Imam Ali from the official pulpits in the Muslim Kingdom will stop.

 

          History is witness to the fact that Mu’awiyyah did not care less about any one of the conditions in the contract. He broke all those conditions. Followers of Imam Ali were found anywhere they were hiding and were then either forced to subjugation or tortured and killed. Cursing of Imam Ali from the official pulpits intensified. A few months before his death, he appointed his debauch son, Yazeed, to the throne of Khilafa.

 

          Mu’awiyyah died in the Rajab of  the 60th year of Hijra. Yazeed took charge immediately and the first thing he did was to send his emissary to Madinah where his cousin named Waleed was the governor. Yazeed’s orders were that Husayn bin Ali and Abdullah bin Zubayr both should be asked to swear allegiance to the Khaleefa, if they refused, they were to be beheaded and their severed heads be sent to Damascus. Abdullah bin Zubayr escaped from Madinah in the middle of the night and took refuge in Makka. Husayn also had to leave Madinah with his family. Six months later, Husayn and a handful of his companions were surrounded at a place called Karbala in Iraq and brutally killed. His family were taken prisoners and presented to Yazeed in Damascus .

 

          Yazeed then sent an army under the command of Muslim bin Uqba (the accursed murderer, as the Muslim historians have remembered him) to ravage the cities of Makka and Madina, that was done. In 64 year of Hijra, Yazeed suddenly died while racing a baboon. Now the rule was taken over by Marwan, another Umayyad. After him his children and their children ruled. In the 132nd year of Hijra a movement began to avenge the blood of Husayn. That gave rise to a ferocious movement and after a lot of killing and fighting, Abul Abbas Saffaah, the first ruler from the family of the Abbasids, was placed as the Khaleefa. Al-Saffah died in 136th year of Hijra. After him his brother Abu Jafar al_Mansoor became the Khaleefa of the Kingdom.

 

          Let us add a paragraph from Amir Ali’s A Short History of the Saracens, at this stage.

 

“ Although Saffaah is the first sovereign of the Banu Abbas, Abu Jafar must be regarded as the real founder of the dynasty. The permanence of the family, the power they wielded, and the influence they exercised, even after they had lost their temporal sovereignty, were due to his foresight. He laid the foundations of the Church which maintained and enhanced  the prestige of the pontifical throne, and in later years became the chief source of its strength and the mainstay of its influence.” (page 212, Note:by the term “Church” Amir Ali means the Sunni religious institution).

 

Amir Ali then goes on to give another aspect of the personality of Mansoor.

 

“Abu Jafar’s character was a strange mix of  good and evil. As a politician, a statesman,, and a sovereign, he is almost unsurpassed. Nor can he be said to be inferior to any in far sighted  wisdom or attention to the public weal. As a parent he was devoted to his children. As a man, however, he was both treacherous and unsparing of human life. Saffah’s cruelty was due to vindictive frenzy; his successor’s bloodshed sprang from calculation. Cold-blooded, calculating, and unscrupulous, he spared none whom he thought in the least dangerous to himself or to his dynasty. His treatment of the descendants of the Caliph Ali forms the darkest page in Abbasid history.” (page 213).

 

          At this point, after having given Amir Ali’s view about the establishment of the Sunni Religious authority and institution, we will say a few words about another famous terminology in the Sunni Islamic literature.

 

KHILAFAT-E-RAASHIDA  

          The terms, Khilaafat-e-Raashida and Khulafa-i-Raashidoon are in common use today in Islamic writings, both by Muslims as well as by non-Muslim writers. It wasn't always so.  Let us discuss the historical background of the evolution of these terms in the writings on Islam and Muslims.

          Let us first define those terms here. The first four Khaleefas who came one after the other, after the passing away of the Prophet (pbh), namely: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali are Khulafa-i-Raashideen (or Raashidoon), and their period is known as the Khilafat-i-Rashida. This period is also known as ' Ala minhaj an-Nuboowah,' or, the period similar (lit. on the same path) to that of the Prophethood.

          Let us begin at the point in time when the period of the Umayyad rulers was already over, and the Abbasids had fully established their power.

          If we go back in history and search for this term of Khilafat-e-Raashida or Khulafaa-i-Raashidoon, we will not find them in any of the writings of the pre-Abbasid period. It is though, extremely difficult to find such writings (those produced before 150) in their original texts.  We can however, deduce this by reading the other sources available and analyzing them in the proper background and context. Here is our view and analysis of the known facts.

         

          If one asks the average Sunni Muslim, he/she would give the above mentioned four names for the 'rightly guided Khalaeefas' of the Prophet. However, the Sunni scholars have had to include Hasan bin Ali as the fifth of the 'rightly guided' in most of their works. We have said: 'have had to include.'  Why?  Let us explain.

          There is a hadeeth of the Prophet of Islam which is employed to authenticate the notion of 'Khilafat-i-Raashidah,’ which goes as follows:

 

     Khilafat will last in my Ummah for thirty years, then there are kings (quoted from Mawdoodi, Khilafat-o-Mulookiyyat, pp 148, he quotes this hadeeth from al-bidaya wan-Nihaya of Ibn Katheer. Mawdoodi adds that this period of 30 yers ended in 41 A.H., when Imam Hasan abdicated in favour of Mu’awiyya).

 

        If we separate the period of Imam Hasan, those 30 years cannot be completed. That is why the scholars have had to include the period of Imam Hasan in the terminology of Khilafat-i-Raashidah. (The Prophet passes away in the 11th year of Hijra. Imam Ali is assassinated in the 40th year of Hijra. That only makes 29 years. Imam Hasan abdicates from worldly rule in 41st year of Hijra. That makes the one extra year to complete the 30.)

          As already stated, after the treaty between Muawiyyah and Imam Hasan was signed, Muawiyyah ordered people to come and acknowledge him as the sole ruler of the Muslim kingdom, which they did in most areas. That year was coined as the year of Jamaat, and the historians write about the Muslim community from that point on as Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jamaa.

          During the entire period of the Umayyad rule, the Khaleefa was just Khaleefa, so were the first four of them. The term Raashid and Raashidah were never used. In the period of the Umayyad rule, the court historians had prepared a list of the Khaleefas of the Prophet. The names of Imam Ali and Imam Hasan were not included in that list, for obvious reasons. In that period, the continuous names were:                   

          (1) Abu Bakr, (2) Umar, (3) Uthman, 

          (4) Muawiyyah,  (5) Yazeed, (6) Marwan. 

          It was common practice that the official pulpits were used to praise these names while abuse was thrown at Imam Ali. How could they include Imam Ali in the list of the Khaleefas? In fact, the common word in Syria was that Ali was not even a Muslim. When news arrived in Syria that Imam Ali had been assassinated, people asked as to how he was killed.  When the answer was given that he was killed inside the mosque, they would ask: What was Ali doing inside a mosque? That was the extent of the anti‑Ali propaganda inside Syria .

 

        The event of Karbala shook the foundations of the Umayyad tyranny. The Abbasids took advantage of the popular sentiment and made political capital out of it. They now became the avengers of the blood of Ahl al‑Bayt; and with that premise, the Abbasids took over the rule of the state. However, now they faced a unique dilemma.

        If they had accepted the legitimacy of the Khilafat of Muawiyyah and company, their own claim to that seat would be thrown out the window. If they had cancelled the entire concept of Khilafat, then how would they legitimize their own being in the driving seat? If they had done that, they would have to revert to the Qur’anic theory of Imamat, that is, the notion of IMAM MANSOOS MIN ALLAH, that would force their hand to give the khilafat (or the worldly leadership) back to the members of the Ahl al-Bayt.

        The court paid political spin doctors, Qadhees and Fuqaha, came up with the combined formula of Khilafat-i-Raashidah (the period of  Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali) and the Khilafat-i-Ghayr Raashidah (the Umayyad period). That was the best way to connect the Abbasid rule with that of the Prophet of Islam, going through the Khaleefas who were rightly guided and cutting those off who were not.

          So, in fact, this notion of Khilafat-i-Raashidah was an urgent need for the emerging Abbasid dynasty, which, eventually, became the back bone of the Islamic political theory as elaborated by the Sunni Muslim scholars at large.  

           By the time the great works of Hadeeth, Tafseer and jurisprudence were being compiled (the second and the third centuries of Hijra) this notion was widely accepted, in fact fully embraced by the Muslim world at large. It had become one of the basic tenets of faith in Islam. Even today when you go to the Grand Mosque in Makkah, you will find those four names inscribed on the pillars of the mosque. Actually there are a total of twelve pillars in the mosque. So, those four names are repeated three times.

 

The Development of The Sunni Law

 

          The first of the four Imams of the Sunni law, namely Imam Abu Haneefa, died in the year 150 Hijra.

          In 99 year of Hijra, Umar bin Abdul Azeez had come to power in the Umayyad dynasty at Damascus . During his three years of rule (he was poisoned to death by the King makers due to his reforms in 101 Hijra), he instituted many reforms. He returned the duchy of Fadak back to the family of the Prophet of Islam, and he stopped the public cursing of Imam Ali from the official pulpits.

          Umar bin Abdul Azeez also appointed Zuhri, the royal teacher at the Umayyad court, to start documenting the Prophet’s hadeeth. It would be this work by Zuhri on which later scholars would build their work on Fiqh, history, hadeeth and Seera, including the works of the great Muhaddith Bukhari.

 

          During the early period of the Abbasid dynasty, times had changed so much and the community had lost its base of the learned men in the form of the companions of the Prophet and their Followers. There was a great need to formulate and document the law. Two scholars emerged in this midst. Imam Malik at Madinah and Imam Abu Haneefa at Koofa in Iraq . Both of them are the contemporaries of Imam Jafar as-Sadiq who also lived in Madina.

          Abu Haneefa started giving scholarly edicts to guide the community (FATWA). The community welcomed the guidance and many followed him. However, Abu Haneefa failed to enunciate the basic rules on which he had based his rulings. He gave currency to the concept of QIYAS in Islamic law.  In many places in his law giving, Abu Haneefa fell foul of the Abbasid authorities. However, one of his students named Abu Yusuf, was later appointed the chief judge in the Abbasid Kingdom . He formulated his teacher’s works in book form and published the work known as The Kitab al-Kharaaj. It was this work and Abu Yusuf’s prestige as the official judge (QADHI) that gave wide currency to Abu Haneefa’s rulings. Even though, many later Hanafite scholars have improvised upon Abu Haneefa’a works and his rulings and have given the Hanafite law a completely new shape.

          In parallel with Abu Haneefa, Imam Malik was working in Madinah and collecting the Hadeeth and documenting it. Malik developed this unique but weird concept that anything that is being discussed in the streets of MAdinah should be accepted as hadeeth. That caused a lot of unauthentic stuff to be recognized as hadeeth. One has to go through the MUWATTA of Imam Malik to find reports which are listed as hadeeth but there are no isnaad. Imam MAlik’s work was also geared towards law giving for the benefit of the community.

          One of the major disagreements appeared between Abu Haneefa and Imam Malik about the method of Salat. Abu Haneefa ruled that hands should  be folded during standing in prayer in the front, Imam Malik ruled that the hands should be held loose on the sides. Malik’s ruling in this context coincides with Fiqh Jafari, the Shi’a also hold their hands loose on the sides during the Qiyaam in prayer.

          A few years later, another scholar named Muhamamd bin Idrees Shafi’ee emerged on the scene. His emphasis was that Abu Haneefa’s rulings were all baseless because he had failed to enunciate the underlying basic principles. He set about documenting those principles and published his ar-Risala. All sects in Islam since that time, have benefited from that work and that effort has given rise to Islamic jurisprudence proper or the science of Usool al-Fiqh.    Shafi’ee died in 204 Hijra.

           

            The fourth Imam of the Sunni schools of law is Ahmad bin Hanbal. He comes after Shafi’ee. Ahmad died in 241 Hijra.