Narration and compilation of traditions
After the demise of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.), his companions held conflicting views regarding the traditions they had heard from him. One group was of the opinion that those traditions with religious implications must be recorded for posterity. However, the other group deemed that if the traditions were indeed chronicled, then there was always the danger of the Muslims misinterpreting the traditions vis-à-vis the Holy Quran. Hence this group was in favour of simply narrating the traditions, without recording it on paper. However, Ameerul Momineen Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and his followers (Shias) remained engrossed in diligently compiling and recording the traditions. (This is mainly why traditions quoted from Shia sources are reckoned to be more accurate and reliable.)
NARRATION AND COMPILATION OF TRADITIONS
Out of the two diverse opinions stated above, the view of the former group held sway. This group was in majority and they sought to check the unimpeded propagation of traditions. It was for this reason that the Caliphs frowned upon the dissemination of prophetic traditions and were most repressive in this regard. When Umar b. Abdul Aziz, the Ummayad Caliph, observed that only a handful of the Prophet’s companions were left, he ordered his governors to invite such companions who had heard or recorded the Prophetic traditions. He asked the governors to inquire whether these companions had compiled any book or had recorded the traditions in any other manner. (In fact this proved to be the stepping-stone for the Ahle Sunnah, who also began recording traditions after this incident.)
PROPAGATION OF TRADITIONS UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF THE HOLY IMAMS (A.S.)
FROM THE ERA OF HAZRAT ALI (A.S.) TO THAT OF IMAM ZAINUL ABEDEEN (A.S.) :
After the demise of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.), Hazrat Ali (a.s.) industriously compiled one book on the practical tenets of religion (Ahkam) and another, dealing with the principle of blood money (Diyah) in Islam. Even Salman Farsi and Abu Zar (the Prophet’s scribes and trusted companions) compiled books dealing with the Sunnah and practical laws of the faith. They sought to explain certain complexities in the practical tenets and discussed the various judgements that were decreed, so as to clearly establish the different mandates and injunctions. After that, the reign of Mu’awiyah brought considerable grief to the Muslim nation. He sought to introduce certain contradictory views regarding the issue of the Prophet’s vicegerent (Caliph) that were tailor-made for his needs and designs. The result of Mu’awiyah’s machinations directly reflected in the ensuing battles of Jamal, Siffeen and Nahrawan. These battles took their toll on the hapless Muslims inflicting heavy damage on their lives and property. Moreover, these battles kept Hazrat Ali (a.s.) engaged in his administrative duties, affording him very little time for dissemination of traditions. The Muslims were thus deprived of the knowledge and wisdom of this illustrious personality. Besides, certain other afflictions and hardships were inflicted at one and the same time and the Islamic society lost its internal peace and security.
Quite a few famous books authored by Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) were left behind as memories. His devoted companions who had been personally trained by him, spared no efforts in ensuring the transmission of his teachings. The companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and Hazrat Ali’s devoted Shias were defiant and resisted with all their might the onslaught of Mu’awiyah’s repressive regime. He, with his wealth and threats on life and property, had brainwashed the populace. Obviously, the steadfastness of Hazrat Ali’s (a.s.) Shias did not go down too well with him. He let loose a reign of terror and imprisoned some of the companions. The rest were either martyred or exiled. Indeed, eminent Shias gave their lives, so that these traditions could reach us today, and keep aflame the true Islam.
THE ERA OF IMAM HASAN (A.S.)
Imam Hasan (a.s.) too, was one hand constrained by Mu’awiyah’s schematic disposition and on the other, his disloyal companions deserted him, falling prey to Mu’awiyah’s promise of wealth and riches. Thus Imam Hasan (a.s.) was left to live in a society with not even a handful of Shias. Again like his father, he did not get the opportunity to built a stable foundation for the propagation of traditions.
Imam Hasan (a.s.) tried his best to explain to the Muslims that Mu’awiyah, the governor of Syria, was simply a power hungry opportunist, who had nothing to do with Islam. He was not the designated Caliph, but just a king. He had employed his machinations to exploit religion and gain ascendancy over the Muslims. Imam Hasan (a.s.) had exhausted all proofs in this regard. During the last few years of his life, he used to sit in the Prophet’s mosque and explain the necessary tenets of faith. Imam (a.s.) focussed largely on the fundamental aspects of religion. He tried to instill in the Muslims the true Islamic principles, with an eye on their ethics and etiquette. Simultaneously, he also highlighted Mu’awiyah’s evil intentions and his looming threat over Islam.
THE ERA OF IMAM HUSAIN (A.S.)
Even after the martyrdom of Imam Hasan (may our souls be sacrificed for him), Mu’awiyah did not mend his ways. If anything, his schematic disposition and his conspiracies to weaken Islam only increased further. Thus Imam Husain (a.s.) too, like his brother did not get the requisite environment to disseminate traditions and Islamic teachings. In fact a considerable part of Imam’s energy was expended in simply resolving matters related to the practical edicts (ahkam) of religion. The other half was expended in safeguarding the true Islamic beliefs and protecting the Muslims from the mischief of tyrants.
However, expounding the true concept of vicegerency (khilafat) always ranked high in Imam’s list of priorities. On the other hand, Mu’awiyah always accorded top priority to establishing the rule of his accursed progeny over the Muslims. To this end, he endeavoured for years to acquire some kind of basic support for his licentious and contemptible son, Yazid. This was regardless of the loss of lives and property that the Muslims were sure to suffer under his reign. Consequently, Yazid too had to face stiff opposition from the Muslims, even more than his father. Imam Husain (a.s.) rose against Yazid, and initiated a major revolution against the Umayyad dynasty. Through his sacrifices at Karbala, Imam sought to unveil the true faces of the Umayyads behind the façade of Islam. Imam with his gallantry and strength of character frustrated Yazid’s stratagem of wreaking terror within the Muslim community.
THE ERA OF IMAM ZAINUL ABEDEEN (A.S.)
Imam Ali b. Husain (a.s.) took over the reins of Imamate, after Imam Husain’s martyrdom in Karbala, where he was a witness to the perpetrated barbaric carnage. After his return to Medina, the Muslims rallied round him. Imam (a.s.) grabbed every opportunity to educate the Muslims, more so during the occasion of Hajj and other social and religious congregations. He tried to propagate the true Islamic values that were distorted by the Umayyads. Imam’s (a.s.) awe was such, that the government did not dare touch him and, in fact bent backwards to respect and honour Imam (a.s.). Although the government was not very pleased with the fact that the Muslims thronged the Imam, they were forced to gulp this bitter reality.
However, the Umayyads did not sit idle, but imposed restrictions and endeavoured to severe the contact between the Muslims and Imam (a.s.). The Shias were not at liberty to meet the Imam (a.s.).Yet, Imam (a.s.) had trained and prepared some illustrious companions and imbibed in them the true spirit of Islam. Often this training was in the guise of supplications that later became the subject matter of Imam’s Sahifa-e-Kaamilah. When the circumstances permitted, Imam (a.s.) used to sit in the Prophet’s mosque and explain the practical affairs of religion, acquainting the Muslims with the lawful and unlawful aspects of religion. Thus a lot of Muslims were enlightened with his teachings. In fact those visiting Mecca, used to make it a point to visit Imam (a.s.) in Medina before returning to their hometown. Saeed b. Musayyab narrates, ‘The reciters of Quran used to throng Imam (a.s.). Once when we met Imam (a.s.), we all added up to a thousand.’
(The Introduction to Sahifa-e-Sajjaadiyyah
by Sayed Baqer al-Sadr)
Apart from this, Imam’s invaluable traditions have been chronicled in a treatise called as ‘Risaalah al-Huquq'(The Treatise of Rights). This instrumentation explains fifty-one such rights and obligations that an individual has to deal with in his daily life.