When the 12th Imam (a.s) had gone into hiding, people had to depend on the Mujtahids to seek solutions for their day to day religious problems. Ever since then there have been many erudite and eminent Ulema and their period is divided by the historians for ease of identification of the period when each scholar lived and functioned. From the time the Imam (a.s) went into hiding till the time of Allama Hilli, the scholars are called the Ulema e Mutaqaddemeen (the Early Scholars). The last link of that period was Allama Hilli’s maternal uncle, Mohaqqaq Hilli. Then Allama Hilli himself assumed the position of the Marja (Pontiff) of the Shias when the period commenced that is called the period of the Ulema e Mutakhareen (the Later Scholars). Allama Hilli organized the community in such a way that presented the Fiqh in a manner that a new chapter of the history of the Shias commenced. This period of the Ulema e Mutakhareen was there till about a hundred years ago, when the eminent scholar, Sheik Murtada Ansari was the last of that period. During the long period from the time of the Prophet (s.a) till the end of the period of Ulema e Mutaqaddemeen, lot of sacrifices have been made by the Ulema in particular. That was the period of the Banu Abbas who had a sway over the entire realm and there was no place where the persecuted lot could seek refuge.
For the common follower of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) it was possible to protect himself by going int Taqayya (Dissimulition). But there were two groups that faced extreme hardship. The first was the group of the Syeds whose genealogy used to be known to the establishment and there wasn’t any possibility of their going into dissimulation. The second group was that of the Ulema because if they went into dissimulation, the propagation of the word of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) would have come to a grinding halt and the common masses would have gone into the darkness of ignorance. These two groups were always the victims of the persecution of the ruling class.
WHY SHAHEED E AWWAL IS CALLED SO
Persecution of the Shias continued during the entire rule of the Abbasids. But when Halaku invaded Baghdad and demolished the central administration of the Abbasids, smaller principalities sprang up in the Islamic Realm. This provided opportunity for the Shias to move from places ruled by tyrannical rulers to those controlled by milder persons. With the fall of the Abbasid rule the period of our Ulema e Mutakhareen commenced. In this period the persecution of the Ulema again reached its zenith. I would like to put forth to you why Abu Abd Allah Shams ud Deen Mohammed has been given the title of Shaheed e Awwal? Ever since the timesa of the Prophet (s.a) there have been martyrs and Shaheed e Awwal lived hundreds of years thereafter. In fact, because of the efforts of Allama Hilli, and the conversion of King Khuda Banda to the faith of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) there was a period of comparative tranquility for the Shias. But this period was short and with the commencement of the period of the Ulema e Mutakhareen, another period of persecution was set into motion. Shaheed e Awwal was the first prominent scholar who was martyred in that period. Allama Amini has written a book “Shohada e Fazilat” in which he has profiled the prominent martyrs in the annals of Shia history. Sayed Zeeshan Hyder Jawadi has translated the book into Urdu with the title of “Shohada e Iman”.
THE BIRTH OF SHAHEED E AWWAL & HIS FAMILY
Shaheed e Awwal, Abu Abd Allah Shams ud Deen Mohammed was born to Jamal al Deen Makki at the small village of Jazeen in Jabl Amili, Lebanon, during the year 734 H and was martyred on Thursday, 9 Jamadi al Awwal, 786 H at Damascus. He lived for 52 years, an age considered too small for a scholar of his caliber. That is the age when the Ulema are considered as mere students..Like the family of Allama Hilli, the family of Shaheed e Awwal was blessed that several Mujtahids came up from the family. Even women in the family did Ijtehad. The area where Shaheed e Awwal was born had a large Shia population because Hazrat Abu Dhar Ghiffari was exiled there by the ruler of Syria and he propagated the word of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) there. So many Mujtahids were born in the area that a book was written on the Ulema of jabl Amil a few hundred years ago.It was noted that a fifth of the total number of Mujtahids resided in that small area.Shaheed e Awwal’s father and his father in law too were prominent Ulema of Jabl Amil.
EDUCATION, UP BRINGING & SOME PARTICULARS ABOUT ALLAMA HILLI & FAKHR AL MOHAQQAQEEN
The early education of Shaheed e Awwal was under the tutelage of his father at Jabl Amil. Then he headed for Hilla, which was the fifth important center of Shia learning after Madina, Koofa, Qom and Baghdad. At the time of the invasion of Baghdad by Halaku Khan, the Shia clergy, and most of their followers, moved to the small town of Hilla, and thus it became the fifth important center of Shia learning. During the time of Shaheed e Awwal it was the most important center for Shia learning. Therefore, Hilla was his first choice for going to further his studies with Allama Hilli. He joined the school of the Allama, and after attending it for a day, he decided to go to Najaf, Karbala and Samarra for Ziarat and resume his studies after returning. When he was returning to Hilla he had the thought that he would be receiving instruction from the mentor of the caliber of Allama Hilli. While he was entering the ramparts of Hilla he saw a big procession carrying a cortege. When it came near him, to his shock, he learnt that Allama Hilli had expired and his mortal remains were being carried to Najaf e Ashraf for burial. He joined the procession with a sad heart. He returned back to Hilla and pursued his studies under Fakhr al Mohaqqaqeen, the erudite son of Allama Hilli. Fakhr al Mohaqqaqqeen was the scholar who became a Mujtahid at the young age of 9 years. Some historians are of the view that even Allama Hilli was a full fledged Mujtahid while he was still a minor. Fakhr al Mohaqqaqeen was a scholar of such high caliber that his father, Allama Hilli, called him to his bedside in his last days and asked him to revise the books written by him and complete the book that remained incomplete. The confidence reposed by the great Allama in him is a proof of his erudition and capability.In several of his many books, Allama Hilli has made reference about his illustrious son. There is a very interesting incident about Allama Hilli and Fakhr al Mohaqqaqeen. This has been reported in “Qasas al Ulema” and also slightly differently by Sheik Abbas Qummi. Allama Hilli was once seated in his chamber when a person visited him and posed to him a question. He asked if he did ablution prior to the time of a prayer, say Zuhr; the scheduled time for that prayer is 12.30 in the noon and he did ablution, say at 11 o’clock. Will the ablution be valid for that prayer? The Allama opined that at 11 o’clock there wasn’t time for any prayer that the Fajr prayer was already over early in the morning. He said that the ablution done by the person prior to the Zuhr prayer would be void and, consequently, the prayer offered with that Wadu too would go void. Today the Mujtaheds are f opinion that Wadu performed at any time would be valid for any prayer unless it goes void because of other reasons. But Allama Hilli held that the Wadu must be done with the commencement of the scheduled time of every mandatory prayer. He said that the mandatory prayers are either Wajib (bound with the scheduled timings) or Qaza (Missed Prayers) that are performed after elapse of the scheduled timings. If someone does Wadu for a Wajib prayer when the scheduled time of that prayer hadn’t arrived, the ablution will be invalid and the prayer offered in that state too will go void. The man said that he used to do the Wadu in a similar manner erver since the mandatory prayer became obligatory for him. Allama Hilli opined that the person would have to perform Qaza prayers for all those prayers that had gone void. The person was worried and confused and was walking away with crestfallen face. On the way Fakhr al Mohaqqaqeen saw him and asked why he looked so confused. The person repeated the opinion given by Allama Hilli about his Wadu. Fakhr al Mohaqqaqeen told the person that he will have to offer only one Qaza prayer and all the prayers that he had offered with the way he did the Wadu were valid. In surprise the person ran back to Allama Hilli and reported his exchange with Fakhr al Mohaqqaqeen. The father called the son and asked him to explain the opinion given by him. Fakhr al Mohaqqaqeen said that his opinion was based on the Fatwa given by the father to the person..He said that the person would have to offer Qaza prayer for the first mandatory prayer that he offered with the Wadu he performed prior to the onset of its time. His reason was that when he did the wadu for the first time prior to the onset of the scheduled time of a mandatory prayer, that prayer became invalid and has remained Qaza all these years. But the Wadu he did thereafter and the subsequent mandatory prayers that he offered with that Wadu are all valid. Allama Hilli appreciated the son’s explanation and hugged him.
Fakhr al Mohaqqqaqeen made a very sad exit from Hilla. There were other scholars in Hilla who were jealous of his erudition and popularity. They spread a canard against him that he had committed a major sin. Fakhr al Mohaqqaqeen felt so belittled that with crying eyes he walked away from there throwing behind his head-gear and the robe. He was never heard of again and none knows where he went and what happened to him! Some historians record the year of death of Fakhr al Mohaqqaqeen as 771 H.
Shaheed e Awwal got the certificate of a Mujtahed, at the age of 17 years, on 20 Shaban 751 H, from Fakhr al Mohaqqaqeen. In the year 786 H Shaheed e Awwal was martyred in Damascus. The scholars rate him as the Mujaddad of the 8th Century Hijra. His status can well be gauged from the fact that a thousand scholars were awarded certificates as Mujtahids under him and the Ulema have been unanimous in conferring the title of Shaheed e Awwal on him. A scholar of the caliber of Sheik Jafar is on record saying that after the times of the Infallibles (a.s) none understood the Fiqh as well as Shaheed e Awwal. We may call it a small miracle that none can attain the position of a Mujtahid unless he studies his book “Lam-aa”. The conditions under which he wrote the book also is a miracle. Shaheed e Awwal was arrested and put in a jail in Damascus. At that time he received a letter from the king of Khorasan requesting him to go over there and take over the reins of administration as the Naib e Imam. One can well imagine the spirit of that king that he was willing to part with his power and authority. Today, we shirk in parting with the Khums that is mandatory on us! While it was impossible for him to go to Khorasan at that time, he wrote a comprehensive book on the matters of Fiqh as a guide for the king in his administration. The miraculous thing is that he completed this wonderful book, Lam-aa, in flat seven days while every moment he had the fear that people would visit him and if they detected him working on the project they would certainly confiscate the papers and inflict misery on him! It is recorded that during those seven days none visited him while prior to that he had a stream of visitors. Shaheed e Awwal was already under the orders of execution. He carefully selected a dependable courier to carry the book to the king of Khorasan. The person, at great personal risk started his jurney with the book. On the way, when he came across the followers of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) who wanted to take the book for themselves. But the person was a man of trust. He carried the book carefully and safely to its destination. But on the way, depending on the short time at his disposal, people copied a few pages at different stations enroute. These pages too have been put together and form a book that is available for us now. During his short life of 52 years Shaheed e Awwal also wrote other books. The well known of them are “Duroos” , “Zikra”, “”Bayan”, “Qawaid” and “Taqleed” in which he has recorded 1,000 Wajibaat (Mandatories). He also penned a book “Naflia” that records 3000 Mustahebaat ( Desirables). Shaheed e Awwal wrote such monumental books in his short life, but similarly his education too makes one to wonder at the tremendous effort put in by him.
The histories record that Shaheed e Awwal was a person of very weak constitution. And that the hair had stopped growing on his head. This happened because he used to work almost 20 hours in a day and night. To keep himself awake he used to touch his head with a hot brass piece whenever he got pangs of sleep. Over a period of time this practice scorched his hair and they stopped growing.
After obtaining the certificate of Ijtehaad, Shaheed e Awwal went to the Sunni Ulema to make a study of their Fiqhs. He went to Baghdad and to Egypt, to Madina and to Bayt al Muqdis for this purpose. He acquired such erudition that the Sunni Ulema too gave him certificates of proficiency in Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Jameh Tirmizi, Masnad Abu Dawood, Masnad ibn e Maaja, Masnad Ahmed bin Hanbal, Maktaba Imam Malik, Mustadrak, Hakim and the Ulema who tested him certified that he was perfect in the contents of those books. Then he returned towards Syria. Those days Syria and Lebanon were one area of administration. He was held with great respect by people who followed different schools.He was able to explain to them and resolve their problems on the basis of the norms fixed in their books of Fiqh. Shaheed e Awwal not only seved the common masses, but he took care of the members of his own family. He had three sons who were all accredited Mujtahids. His two daughters too were certified Mujtahids. His three sons were Abu Talib Mohammed, Abul Qasim Ali and Abu Mansoor Hassan. His elder daughter, Fatima, particularly was very erudite and was given the title of “Sibt al Mashaeq” and “Syedatal Mashaeq” Sometimes, to illustrate the erudition of his daughter, Shaheed e Awwal used to say that the women who have to resolve the problems of Fiqh should meet her. I am giving a small example of the keenness of his daughter for learning. When Shaheed e Awwal was martyred, his sizeable estate came up for distribution amongst his children. Those days, as even now, the people used to make good contributions for the maintenance of their scholars. The scholars used to be fairly affluent. Shaheed e Awwal’s daughter told to her siblings that she didn’t want anything from the inheritance other than four things. Those four things were: The copy of the Holy Quran that the king of Khorasan had gifted to her father, Sheik Toosi’s two books: “Misbah—that contains the prayers for the entire year”, and “Tahdeeb al Ahkam- which is one of the four basic tomes of the Shia Faith” and her own father’s book “Qawaed”. She asked her siblings to give her these four books and she would forego her claim on the property and funds left behind by her father as a legacy for his family!
WHAT WAS THE REASON OF HIS MARTYRDOM
Shaheed e Awwal started his work with missionary zeal. People from all the sects visited him with their problems and returned from him with full satisfaction. His name and fame reached far and wide. The Ulema in the city started envying him. They felt that one person had arrived and overshadowed allof them. Ibad ibnal Jimaad thought that he was the cleric of the Shafaee sect but the followers of the sect went to Shaheed e Awwal to seek solutions for their problems. Burhan ud deen Maliki, who was the Chief Qazi of Damascus , and the leading scholar of his sect felt that his followers too went to Shaheed e Awwal to find their solutions. On the other hand the Sultan of Khorasan started corresponding with Shaheed e Awwal and sent valuable gifts to him. The rulers of Syria too felt that Shaheed e Awwal might bring a revolutionary change in the thinking of the people as was done earlier by Allama Hilli in Iran. The clerics of the different sects joined hands to remove this thorn from their necks. At that time there was a person, Al Yadoosh, who was earlier a follower of the Progeny of Mohammed (s.a), but he had turned an apostate and adopted strange beliefs. He started his own sect but was executed by the ruler terming him an apostate. He had a group of 70 followers who too were Shias in their earlier days.
The rulers, with the help of the 70 apostates, got a document prepared and all the 70 signed it saying that they were all the followers of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) but they bore witness that Shaheed e Awwal considered the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) as gods and also that he had been deriding and lampooning the enemies of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) who were held in high respect by the ruling clique. About 1,000 prsons from different sects signed the document to witness the canard. The Qazi of Bahrood sent the false document to Damascus. Shaheed e Awwal was in Damascus at that time and the Shafaee scholar, Ibad ibn al Jimaad, too was in Damascus. He was against Shaheed e Awwal since the early days.when they were both studying at the same seminary. He cunningly sent the petition to the Maliki Scholar and Chief Qazi, Burhan ud deen Maliki for his signature and verdict. One incident had taken place a few days earlier that had angered Ibn e Jumaad against Shaheed e Awwal. Ibn e Jumaad called on him one day. Shaheed e Awwal was sitting on his desk and writing something. Simultaneously they continued to talk.Generally when scholars met, they discussed some topics of mutual interest. Ibn e Jumaad made a pun on Shaheed e Awwal saying that he was hearing a voice from behind the pen but no person was visible there! He meant it as a pun on the Shaheed e Awwal meaning that he was so lean and thin that he was almost invisible! Shaheed e Awwal immediately retorted saying that Ibn e Jumaad meant a son of many men and across the table was only a person who was ibn e Wahid the son of one man! This retort angered Ibn e Jumaad and he departed without uttering a single word.. Within a few days Ibn e Jumaad got the petition prepared and forwarded to Burhan ud Deen, the Qazi, attesting his own signature and asked him to immediately pass the verdict. Shaheed e Awwal was then arrested and brought to the court. The petition and the verdict were read to him that he was to be executed because he was an apostate. He asked how a verdict could be passed without hearing the accused person? He asked the court to permit him to argue his case with the witnesses. The Qazi said that the verdict was passed and it was to be executed. Shaheed e Awwal suddenly turned towards Ibn al Jimaad and said, “I am a follower of the Shafaee Fiqh and there is no capital punishment in this faith! Since you are a Shafaee cleric and Qazi, you must pass the verdict” Ibn al Jimaad couldn’t do anything but say that since the person has professed to Shafaee Faith, he could only be put in jail for one year which is the punishment prescribed in his Fiqh for a Murtid and he must be asked to express repentance of his apostacy.
Shaheed e Awwal asked what wrong he had done to express repentance for that? In our Shariah it is permissible to do Tauba to save oneself. But he knew that he wasn’t talking to men of piety. If he confessed to apostacy, they would certainly execute him. Then the Shaheed e Awwal was put into jail for one year. While he was in the jail the clerics used to visit him for discussions and advice.
During the period of his incarceration he received a letter from the king of Khorasan to go over there and take charge of the administration as the Naib e Imam. He expressed his inability but promised to write a book that would help the king to administer his realm according to the norms of Shariah. He wrote the famous book “Lam-aa” within a short period of seven days. It is a miracle that in the jail he didn’t have access to any books of reference and he wrote everything from his memory. Another miracle was that during those seven days none of the clerics visited him. If anyone had detected that he was writing a book, they would have confiscated the manuscript from him.He sent the book to the King of Khorasan with a very dependable person. The person carried the book with more care than he would carry his own life. On the way when he met the followers of the Infallibles (a.s) they wanted to get the book from him. He told them that it was a trust with him and he had to reach it to the destination. The persons however copied a few pages at each stop and a collection of those copies forms that book that is with us even now.
Afterr one year had elapsed they forced him to confess to apostacy that they release him according to the Shafaee Fiqh. When they forced him very much, he had to acquiesce to their request. Now Burhan ud Deen Maliki said that since he had confessed to apostacy, he must be executed.
On Thursday, 9th jamadi al Awwal, 786 H Shaheed e Awwal was martyred. The scholars differ about his punishment. The author of Qasas al Ulema says that the verdict pronounced that his two legs were to be tied to two camels and they were to be driven in the opposite direction. Thus his body was sundered into two. But Qazi Noor Ullah Shustri Shaheed e Salith writes in his book, Majalis al Momineen, that while he was being taken for the execution he had a paper and pen in his hand. On that piece of paper he wrote, “I am now surrounded by my enemies, please help me!” Then he threw the paper in the wind. When the paper fell down to the ground, on the back of it was found written, “Be patient if you are Allah’s Creature!”
A divine message coming in his name is sufficient to prove his greatness. Shaheed e Awwal was being taken for execution. If it was an ordinary crime, the execution would have been with a sword. But it was the result of the hate and enmity of the clerics that he was awarded the most heinous punishment. When his body was rolling restlessly it was also hanged on a tree.
Normally a criminal is given a decent burial after execution.. But his body was kept hanging on a tree till the evening and then it was taken down, stoned and arrows were showered on it. Around the time of Maghrib the cadaver was put to flame. They thought that they had finished Shaheed e Awwal and wreaked their revenge. But the Holy Quran says: “Certainly the death hasn’t come (to them)! They are with their Lord receiving their sustenance!”
Allahu ma sale ala Mohammedin wa ale Mohammed
Source Urdu Lectures of Moulana Sadiq Hassan Book