Shakhṣīyyathā-yi Shīʻih dar Ṣadr-i Islām [Shii Dignitaries in the Early Islamic Period]

Author: Jaʻfar Subḥānī
Reviewed by: Muhammad-Reza Fakhr-Rohani

Jaʻfar Subḥānī, Shakhṣīyyathā-yi Shīʻih dar Ṣadr-i Islām [Shii Dignitaries in the Early Islamic Period], ed. Mahdi Pishvai, Qom: Towhid, 1392 Sh/ 2013. 552 pp.

This book is a revised and updated version of a series of lessons Ayatollah Jaʻfar Subḥānī delivered at the Qom seminary over several years of teaching and research there. An earlier version of this book was developed in 1354 Sh/ 1975; however, it has received much revision over the years and its published version was released after 38 years.

Scholars of Islamic history

The book lists over fifty Shii dignitaries, together with their short accounts. They were living in the early Islamic period and proved always loyal to the first Infallible Imam ʻAlī after the demise of the Prophet Muḥammad. The very historical fact nullifies the baseless claim of some people who suppose that Shiism was a later offshoot and much later development. In doing so, the author searched every nook and corner for finding relevant materials to indicate that they were true Shiis who resisted against the cultural hegemony of the Umayyads whose reign was a period of terror and horror. The author’s motif for writing the book has been to make a faithful portrayal of many Shii dignitaries who were either deliberately ignored or misrepresented. The book deals with a selected list Shii dignitaries whose short biographies are given. It starts with Abu Ayyūb al-Anṣārī who paid his oath of allegiance to the Prophet Muḥammad in Mecca. He is credited with being the first host of the Prophet after his historic migration from Mecca. Another personality is Abu Dhar al-Ghifārī who always remained faithful to the Prophet.

In dealing with short biographies of the early Islamic period Shiis, the author has surveyed all the relevant documents. This is followed by pinpointing to certain big mistakes observable in such history books as al-Bukhārī’s Tārīkh, a book that is sometimes regarded as a bible for some historians. At times, some pro-Umayyad propaganda are answered, too.

It is important to note that a staunch supporter of the Prophet and the Ahl al-Bayt, Jābir b. ʻAbd Allāh al-Anṣārī, is introduced in a graphic way. Jābir was so highly respectable to the Prophet and the Ahl al-Bayt that he always symbolized true and staunch defense of the Ahl al-Bayt. The same holds true with regard to Ḥujr b. ʻAdī al-Kindī who resisted against the Umayyad propaganda against the Prophet Muḥammad and Imam ʻAlī.

Drawing upon over 75 classics of Islamic history, the book is a research-level publication. As such, it deserves being translated into many languages.