Meeting Imam Mahdi (as) – Two Scholars – Shiah and Sunni

Maulana Abul Qasim Mohammed Ibne Abil Qasim Hashmi enjoyed a old friendship with Maulana Rafi’uddeen – a scholar from the school of Ahle Sunnah Wal Jama’at. Such was the strength of their friendship that they often travelled together and shared each other’s wealth and possessions. Their faiths were not hidden from each other and sometimes, in jest, they called each other Rafidhi and Nasibi. However, despite their long friendship, they had never entered into a religious argument with each other.

Incidentally it so happened that once in the mosque of Hamadan (also known as Masjide’ Ateeq), they got into a discussion which eventually steered towards religion. During the conversation, Maulana Rafi’uddeen who was a scholar of Ahle Sunnah Wal Jama’at claimed the superiority of Umar and Abu Bakr over Imam Ali (as). Maulana Abul Qasim refuted this and enumerated the superiority of Imam Ali (as) over both caliphs. To establish his point, he quoted several verses of the Quran and traditions of the prophet (sawa). He brought forth the merits and the miracles of Imam Ali (as) as well.

However despite these proofs, Maulana Rafi’uddeen remained firm upon his belief. He brought forth the incident of the cave when the Holy Prophet (sawa) and Abu Bakr were together as a proof for the superiority of Abu Bakr. Further he said, Abu Bakr enjoyed some merits amongst the Mohajereen and the Ansaar. Firstly, the prophet (sawa) was the son-in-law of Abu Bakr and secondly, he was selected as the  successor to the prophet. Then he quoted two traditions from the Holy Prophet (sawa) as follows –O Abu Bakr! You are as close to me as my garment. Secondly, he ordered the people such –After me you must follow two people, Abu Bakr and Umar.

After listening to this, Maulana Abul Qasim retorted, on what basis are you preferring Abu Bakr over Imam Ali – the one who is the leader of all successors, the bearer of the flag of Hamdo Liva, the one who will divide the people into paradise and hell. You are well aware at Imam Ali (as) is also Siddique Akbar, Farooque’ Aa’zam, brother of the Holy Prophet (sawa) and the husband of his daughter Hazrat Fatemah Zahra (sa). You also know very well that when the Holy Prophet (sawa) migrated from Makkah Mu’azzamah to Medinah Munawwarah, Hazrat Ali (as) slept on his bed. Imam Ali (as) supported and remained close to Holy Prophet (sawa) at every difficult step. The Holy Prophet (sawa) ordered the closure of all the doors to the mosque in Medina except that of Imam Ali (as) and at the time of idol breaking in Makkah, the prophet (sawa) carried Imam Ali (as) upon his shoulders. The marriage of Imam Ali (as) with Hazrat Zahra (sa) was fixed in the heavens. Imam Ali (as) killed Amr Ibne Abdawood and conquered Khandaq and never wavered from the unity of Allah for even a second. As opposed to all of these merits, these three spent a large part of their lives in idol worship. In addition, the Holy Prophet (sawa) gave the similitude of Imam Ali (as) with four prophets. Then the prophet (sawa) said – those who wish to see the knowledge of Adam (as), the forbearance of Nuh (as), the respect of Musa (as) and the worship of Isa (as) should look at the face of Hazrat Ali (as). After all these ‘clear-as-sunshine’ merits and by virtue of the proximity that Imam Ali (as) enjoyed with the Holy Prophet (sawa) and the returning of the sun for Imam Ali, on what grounds is it appropriate to prefer Abu Bakr over Imam Ali (as)?

Maulana Rafi’uddeen was unable to offer an fitting reply to all these proofs. As the discussion progressed, more and more proofs in favour of Imam Ali (as) were presented. He then said, do have some patience. Let us appoint the first person who enters the mosque as a judge amongst us and whatever he says – whether in favour of my faith or yours, we will accept it as the binding truth.

Maulana Abul Qasim was well aware of the faith of the people of Hamadan. Most of them were from the Ahle Sunnah school of thought. He was therefore wary of accepting this challenge and thought about his next step. However since a lot of discussion had already taken place on this subject, he had no choice but to accept this condition. Not much time had elapsed, when a handsome youth entered the mosque. The glowing face of this youth reflected his nobility and brilliance. He entered the mosque and came towards us.

Maulana Rafi’uddeen immediately stood up from his place and after conveying salutations to him asked – Who is superior, Imam Ali (as) or Abu Bakr?

The youth, without any hesitation recited these couplets –

Whenever I compare Imam Ali (as) with those two,
I feel I have lowered the position and status of my Imam (as)

Do you not know that the sword will admonish you,
If you say that the blade of the sword is sharper than the stick

(indicating that two items which are compared should be comparable itself in the first place)

When this youth completed the recitation of these couple, both Maulana Abul Qasim and Maulana Rafi’uddeen were awestruck by the beauty and composition of his language. They wanted to speak with him and know more about him, but suddenly he disappeared from sight. When this occurred, there was no end to their amazement. They fervently searched for him, but were unable to find any trace of him.

On witnessing this scene, Maulana Rafi’uddeen left the religion of Ahle Sunnah and accepted the faith of the Shiah Ithna Ashari.

There is a deep wisdom in the couplets of Imam Mahdi (as) and he has given a great message to the world that, in reality, Imam Ali (as) cannot be compared to the two. And whosoever compares Imam Ali (as) to Abu Bakr or while debating compares Imam Ali with any person and says that Imam Ali (as) is superior to so and so, then in reality, he has lowered the status and position of the Imam (as) which is not permitted.

The perfection of words and wisdom of the words of the Imam are beyond comparison in the sense that in the conversation while the Imam established the superiority of Imam Ali (as), he did not compare him with any person. This should give us an estimate of the superiority of the virtues of the Ahle Bayt (as).

Ref: Najmus Saqib, page 579

Lessons from this incident

Our youngsters and lovers of Ahle Bayt (as) can know that the love of Ahle’ Bayt (as) can never come in the way of our friendship with those who may be inimical towards Ahle’ Bayt (as). They can never be any doubt that our love for Ahle Bayt (as) comes above everything else.

We should never be the ones to initiate such types of debates and dialogues. However when we are confronted with such a debate, then one should offer a complete and satisfactory response. Therefore it is necessary that the lovers of Ahle Bayt (as) be aware of the objections raised by their enemies and have full knowledge of the appropriate answer to such objections.

Participating in such debates requires knowledge and seeking help (tawassul) from the Imam (as) in equal measure. It is only the help from Ahle Bayt (as) which can conclusively silence the opposition.

Defending the right of the Imams (as) through such debates is a great work and those who defend the Imams in such a way, for example, Hisham Ibne Hakam, whom the Imam made to sit next to him even though he was young in age, are blessed by a special help. As per a respected scholar, defending the right of the Imam (as) is similar to those soldiers who defend the boundaries of the country. The officers who manage such troops maintain a clear knowledge about their positions and try to ensure that the best possible help reaches them. In the same way, Hazrat Imam Mahdi (as) observes his Shiahs and helps them even though he is in occultation.

One should avoid debates in Medina and especially in Jannatul Baqi. This is because the purpose of the people stationed there is to waste the time of the pilgrims and they are trained to ignore any type of response from our side. Rather when they are silenced by the response, they drive people away from Baqi.

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