Bihar al-Anwar

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Bihar al-Anwar (Oceans of light) by Molla Muhammad-Baqer b. Muhammad-Taqi Majlsisi (d. 1110 or 1111/1699 or 1700) is an encyclopedic compilation in Arabic of Imamite traditions (references are to the lithograph edition unless otherwise indicated). This project, which occupied Majlsisi for most of his adult life, grew from a modest work known as Fehrest Bihar al-anwar or Fehres mosannafat al-ashab, which is essen‌tially an early version of the Bihar; this work was published in 1070/1659, when Majlsisi was thirty-two. It consists of a table of contents (corresponding roughly to that of the final version) and traditions taken from ten Imamite works, six of them by Ebn Babuya . A few years later Majlsisi embarked on a great expansion, involving practically the entire corpus of Imamite hadith. In his introduction to the Bihar, the author emphasizes the crucial religious significance of this corpus. He notes that much of it is little known, having been largely forgotten, either as a result of suppression by Sunni rulers or because Imamite scholars preferred later compilations to the early works. Majlsisi describes his aim as providing the believers with the means to “humble the despicable heretics” (i.e., the Sunnis). This is to be achieved by collecting the available literature—including texts thought to be lost—and arranging its contents by subject matter.

Significance[edit | edit source]

The importance of the Bihar for the study of Imamite literature can hardly be exaggerated. It reflects the accumulated knowledge of a millennium of Imamite hadith scholarship, and covers most aspects of Imamite religious thought: the concept of knowledge (ilm) (vol. 1); tawhid and the divine attributes (2); free will and predestination, death and the after-life (3); arguments (ehtejajat), mainly of the imams, in defense of Imamite beliefs (4); stories of the prophets (5); biographies of the Prophet and his forebears (6); the special position of the imams (7); the injustices perpetrated against Ali and the ahl al-bayt by the first three caliphs and Muawiya (8); biographies of Fatima and the first eleven imams (9-12); the twelfth imam and issues bearing on his occultation (13); cosmology and natural history (14); the concepts of belief and unbelief (15); practical ethics and correct social and religious behavior (16); exhortations (17); the position of the Koran (19/1); the various kinds of supererogatory prayers (doʿa) (19/2-4); the “pillars of Islam” and legal traditions (feqh) relating thereunto (18, 20-21); pilgrimages to the graves of the Prophet, the imams, and other holy men (22); positive law (23-24); the Ketab al-ejazat (25).

Bihar al-Anwar Narrating the Event of Ashura[edit | edit source]

Imam Hussain Leaving Madina[edit | edit source]

Allamah Majlisi relates in Bihar al Anwar that Muhammad bin Abu Talib Musawi says, that when Waleed received the letter to slay Imam Hussain it was very hard upon him and he said, “By Allah! May Allah not let me witness the murder of the son of His Prophet, even if Yazid gives me the entire the world and whatever is contained therein in lieu of it.” It is said that one night Imam Hussain stepped out of his house and went to the head of the grave of his Grandfather and said, “Salutations be upon you O Prophet of Allah! I am Hussain the son of Fatima. I am your beloved and the child of your beloved. I am your son whom you have left as your heir among your ummah. Thus, O Prophet of Allah! Be a witness that these people have deserted me and neglected me while refusing to protect me. This is my complaint to you until I come to your presence.” Then he arose and started reciting the Prayers, constantly bowing and pros­trating. Waleed went to his house to inquire whether the Imam had left Madina or no. When he saw that the Imam was not there he said, “Thanks to Allah that he has left and I have been saved from being indicted and involved in spilling his blood.” Then Imam returned back to his home and on the second night he again went to the grave of the Holy Prophet and recited some units of Prayers. After finishing the Prayers he said, “O Allah! This is the grave of Your Prophet, and I am the grandson of Your Prophet. You are aware as to what has befallen me. Verily I cherish virtue and righteousness and abhor evil. O Lord of Glory and Honor! I adjure You by the right of this grave and the one who is buried therein, to bring forth for me that which is approved by You and Your Prophet.” Imam continued weeping until the morning, then he placed his head on the grave and slept for a short time. He dreamt that the Prophet, surrounded by the Angels from the left, right and front, coming towards him. The Prophet came near and pressed Imam Hussain’s head to his chest. Then he kissed him between his eyes and said, “O my beloved Hussain! It is as if I see you smeared in blood at the place of grief and trials, and a group from among my people have beheaded you, and you are thirsty while they do not quench your thirst. In spite of this they desire my intercession (on the day of Qiyamah). May Allah keep them away from my intercession. O my beloved Hussain! Your Father, Mother and Brother have come to me and they are desirous of meeting you. And you have acquired such a lofty position in Paradise, that unless you attain Martyrdom you shall not get there.” Imam looked at his Grandfather and said, “O Grandfather! I do not desire to return back to this world. Please take me along with you and enter me into your grave.” The Prophet replied, “You should return back (towards the world) and attain Martyrdom, and thus gain whatever great rewards Allah has reserved for you. For on the day of Qiyamah, you, your Father, your Uncle and Yours Father’s Uncle shall arise as a distinguished group until you all enter Paradise.” Imam Hussain arose from his sleep alarmed and narrated his dream to his family and the progeny of Abdul Muttalib. On that day no one in the world was more grievous and sorrowful than the family of the Holy Prophet. Thus, Imam Hussain started making preparations for the journey. During midnight he went to the graves of his Mother Fatima and his Brother Imam Hasan to bid them farewell.

Last Conversation with Muhammad ibn Hanafiyah[edit | edit source]

In the morning when he returned back to his home, his brother Muhammad ibn Hanafiyah came to him and said, “O dear brother! You are most dear and beloved to me than anyone else. And I will not refuse to advise anyone except you, being most worthy of it, for you are from me, and are my life, my spirit and my eyes and the elder of my family. Your obedience is obligatory upon me for Allah has exalted you over me and has chosen you as the Master of the Youth of Paradise.” Then he recited the entire Tradition narrated by the Prophet. “Hasan and Hussain are the chiefs of the youth of Paradise.” Then he said, “I desire that you go to Makkah, if you find peace, stay there, and if the matter turns out to be different, then go to Yemen, for the people therein are among the helpers and followers of your Grandfather and Father. And they are the most kind hearted and merciful among men, while their towns and cities are vast. Then if you can halt there, do so, if not, then seek shelter in the deserts and mountain-caves and go from one town to the other until you witness the state of affairs of people, and may Allah judge between us and the group these of evil-doers.” Imam Hussain replied, “O brother! Although there is no place left in this world for sheltering me, I shall never ever swear the oath of allegiance to Yazid.” Hearing this Muhammad ibn Hanafiyah concluded his speech and started weeping and the Imam too wept. Then he said, “O Brother! May Allah reward you favorably, for you have advised me and have opined righteously. As regards yourself O dear brother! You may stay behind in Madina and be alert and keep informing me about the affairs of the enemies.” Then Imam Hussain asked for paper and pen and wrote the following recommendation for his brother Muhammad bin Hanafiyah: “In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. This contains that which has been willed by Hussain bin Ali bin Abi Talib to his brother Muhammad re­nowned as Ibn Hanafiyah. Verily Hussain bears witness that there is no Lord except Allah Alone. And bears witness that Muhammad is the Slave and the Messenger of Allah, who has been righteously chosen by Him. And that Paradise and hell are truth, and without doubt the day of Qiyamah will come. And Allah will arise all those who are buried inside their graves. I have not risen to spread evil or to show off, nor for spreading immorality or oppression. But I have left for the betterment of the ummah of my Grand­father and I desire to propagate the Religion and forbid against evil, thus following the footsteps of my Grandfather and Father Ali bin Abi Talib. Thus the one who accepts truth through me, will have received truth from Allah, while the one who betrays me, I shall forebear until Allah judges between myself and the oppressive creed and verily Allah is the Best Judge. This is the testimony to you from me O brother. And my favors is with Allah Alone on Whom alone I rely, and my return is towards Him.” Then he folded the letter and affixed his seal on it and gave it to his brother Muhammad ibn Hanafiyah and bade him farewell and left in the darkness of the night.

Muhammad bin Abu Talib says that Muhammad bin Ya’qoob has related in Wasael from Muhammad bin Yahya, from Muhammad bin Hussain, from Ayyub bin Nuh, from Safwaan, from Marwan bin Isma’il, from Hamza bin Humran who says that we questioned Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq regarding the uprising of Imam Hussain and the lagging behind of Muhammad ibn Hanafiyah in Madina. Imam replied, “O Hamza! I shall relate to you a report after which you will never put forward such questions to me in any gathering. When Imam Hussain intended to leave Madina, he called for the paper and wrote therein: In the Name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful. This is from Hussain bin Ali bin Abi Talib to the Bani Hashim. Now then! The one who accompanies me shall be martyred, while the one who separates from me will not attain success and peace. Salutations.”

Source[edit | edit source]