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An Interesting Debate between Wahhabi Judge and Shia Cleric in Masjid al-Haram

About the events during his journey to hajj, Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Ali Mobarakeh’i related that, at nights after Maghrib prayer, the Wahhabi supreme judge sat on the ground near Maqām-Ibrāhīm [literally “the Station of Abraham”] and explained rulings according to his school and rejected other schools with some reasons and arguments.

One night, I decided to sit in for his teachings. I wore Iranian clothes and a black turban. I passed through those who sat close to him and sat in the close circle of his companions where the crowd was all behind me.

The judge saw me wearing like Iranians and became anxious, stopped his talk, turned to me and said, “what is your religion?”

I answered, “[my] religion is believing in the unity of God and testimony to the prophethood of Muhammad (a).”

He said, “It is not so! You look like Rāfiḍī[1] and they are all polytheist.”

I said, “Suppose if Rāfiḍī are polytheist; in the Qur’an, God tells His Messenger (p.b.u.h), “If any of the polytheists seeks asylum from you, grant him asylum until he hears the Word of Allah.” (9:6) Now, I have sought asylum to you to hear God’s words from you.

When he heard this answer, his distress diminished to some extent and continued his speech and said, “O Muslims! Anyone who has any criticism about our beliefs may express it and receive the answer.”

An Egyptian man said, “Why do you ban women from visiting graves?” since, they had positioned police officers in Abu Talib cemetery and prohibited women from going to cemetery and visiting graves.

He answered the Egyptian, “because the Prophet (p.b.u.h) cursed those women who go to visit the graves and it is narrated by many of the companions.”

When the judge gave this answer; out of coincidence, the previous day I had bought Sahih Bukhari Book from a bookshop in Bab al-Salam and was studying the chapter on visiting the graves and it was as if God had provided it for me in order to answer the judge. In Sahih Bukhari, I had studied this hadith and stated for the judge and said,

“What do you say about this narration that Ibn ‘Umar related from Umm Malika who said that, ‘I saw ‘Ayisha returning from visiting the graves in Baqi’ cemetery. I told her, ‘did not the Prophet (p.b.u.h) prohibit women from going to visit the dead in the cemetery?’ she answered, ‘yes, but later, he (a) gave permission.’”

The judge said, “the Prophet’s (p.b.u.h) prohibition is definite, but this report is not definite and not followed.”

I said, “O judge! How was Ahmad b. Hanbal’s faith?”

He said, “He was a great man and we follow his rulings in secondary issues.”

I said, “Ahmad b. Hanbal says, ‘the report of Umm Malika is a combination of the Nāsikh (abrogating) and Mansūkh (abrogated).”

Then I said, “If the judge says that the report of Umm Malika is non-definite, then what is this word of Ahmad for?” So, his word is a proof that this narration is definite as well.

When our conversation reached to this point, the judge said, “It is time for performing ‘isha prayer, not the time for discussion” and stood up for congregational prayer.

The Egyptians and most Sunni Arabs realized that the judge took prayer as an excuse and was unable to answer and dodged it. Egyptians gathered around me and kissed my hand and the voices saying “well done! well done!” raised. The judge was eventually irritated, so he asked the police officers, “disperse them!” The crowd was dispersed and I went for my own business.

The next night, the judge again sat for teaching. I went and sat politely at his presence. After the session, he asked me, “where are you from?” I answered, “from Iran.”

He said, “Iranians are all polytheist, because they are all Rāfiḍī.”

I replied, “Thanks to God, I am monotheist, but please tell me why Rāfiḍī are polytheist.”

He said, “because they travel from their towns to other cities to visit the graves of the dead and make vows of donations for the dead and the martyrs of Karbala; while, the Prophet (p.b.u.h) said, ‘do not go from one town to another for pilgrimage, except for three places of Masjid al-Haram, Masjid al-Aqsa and the mosque of Medina’; and that donation is only for God and these two actions are merely polytheistic.”

I answered, “But, travelling from one town to another for pilgrimage is not in the Prophet’s (p.b.u.h) hadith; because, he (p.b.u.h) only spoke about the mosque and does not include other places.

Also about visiting the graves, what is the difference between near and far distances? while there are authentic reports that the Prophet (p.b.u.h) went to visit the grave of his mother and it is mentioned in all the books of Islamic schools that the Prophet (p.b.u.h) said, ‘I prohibited you from visiting the graves, but [later] I allowed you to go visit the graves, because it reminds you about death.’

And based on these hadiths, Ibn Taymiyya, the head of your school, issued fatwa regarding recommendation of visiting graves of believers and he did not mention any differences between near and far distances. Then, would going of the Shi’a to visit graves from far distances be an evidence for their polytheism?

Also, about donations, no Shi’a makes any donation for the dwellers of graves, they make donations for God and ask God to provide the soul of the grave dweller with its rewards and it is essential in religion and an accusation against Shi’a.”

The judge replied, “If we correct these two issues [about Shia]; it cannot be denied about them that they ask their requests from the grave dwellers and ask them to intercede for them, while asking the prophets for intercession is impossible in the world.”

I said, “O Judge! This is against the text of the Qur’an; because, in the story of Joseph (a) in the Qur’an, it is mentioned that when the sons of Jacob (a) went to him, they said, ‘Ask forgiveness for us before God.’ And he (a) answered to them, ‘I will ask my Lord for your forgiveness.’So, if intercession was impossible in this world, a prophet like Jacob (a) should have prohibited them from asking his intercession and should have told them that it is an act of polytheism, not that he (a) promised them to ask God for their forgiveness. Thus, according to the text of the Qur’an, asking the prophets for intercession is not impossible in this world.”

He answered, “Shi’a people revere and venerate graves and it is polytheistic too and no one other than God should be revered and venerated.”

I said, “Then, it seems that the judge knows the Prophet (p.b.u.h) and other people equal before God and does not believe in revering God’s symbols; because, if the graves of the Prophet (p.b.u.h) and his Caliphs are not revered, there would be no difference between them and others which implies that the Prophet (a) and others would be equal; and if so, then what is the reason for the order in the Qur’an for revering God’s symbols?

Does your school say that the Prophet (a) is not among God’s symbols and is equal with other in all aspects? Should the graves of Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab and the grave of the Prophet (p.b.u.h) be seen the same in the eyes of people? Is God pleased with it?” He said, “Rāfiḍī and Shi’a consider circumambulation around the graves of Imams and martyrs sufficient instead of the obligatory hajj and this is an illegal innovation and evil deed which leads to apostasy and the one, who practices it, will be polytheist and apostate.”I said, “O judge! The proof against your claim which is mere accusation against Shia is that I have come to hajj pilgrimage together with about a thousand other Shia and if they considered circumambulation around the graves of Imams sufficient instead of the obligatory hajj, why would they do here?! And with this claim you attribute to them, what does it mean for them to perform hajj and the rituals?! So, it is nothing but a great accusation against them, and God is Exalted from what oppressors say in their speeches.”

The judge said, “you rejected this claim and say that it is an accusation; but, you cannot deny building domes over the graves of the dead, your Imams and scholars, while it is mentioned in their hadiths and books of fiqh, “whenever something is placed over the grave other than the soil of the grave itself, it will be heavy for the dead person. Also, decorating the graves and raising them to a height more than one handspan is an innovation and any innovation is ignorance and going astray.”

I said, “it is right but where have Shi’a placed anything on a grave other than the soil of the grave or have raised the graves more than the mentioned measure? They have built graves according to hadiths, but installing ḍarīḥ and box is not related to the condition of the grave; but rather, they are for the respect of the believer’s grave which was the tradition of the Prophet (p.b.u.h) and the Caliphs and prohibited walking, sitting and putting step on the graves and it is perfectly clear in the conduct of the Prophet (p.b.u.h) and tradition of the Caliphs; and since there is too much crowd in those places and most people are ignorant about religious manners, they install ḍarīḥ and box in order to maintain the respect of believers’ graves.

But the buildings over the graves are not for the dead, but for the living, to protect them from the heat, the cold, the rain and snow; and where in the religion and in which hadith have the Prophet (p.b.u.h) or the Caliphs prohibited building a place the benefits of which are for all believers?! Whether it be in the cemetery, in the desert or in the city. Is there any prohibition in religion for the buildings of mortuaries which are for protection of the embalmers and cortege that it should be destroyed because it is built over the dead?! Or would anyone say that it is built for the dead?

Also about decoration, they are not for the dead either, but rather for the living.Those places are also considered as the houses of God and there are many reports that the Caliphs tried to decorate the house of God and the text of the Qur’an says, “In houses Allah has allowed to be raised and wherein His Name is celebrated” (24:36) Exegetes of all schools have interpreted the “houses” as “the houses of the Households”; and also, there are many hadiths that the companions and even the Prophet (p.b.u.h) frequently went to the house of Ali (a) and said, ‘Peace be upon you O the Households of the Prophethood’ and the tradition of the Caliphs was similar.”

The Judge said, “it is during their lifetime, not after their deaths.”

I said, “You yourself say that the appearance of the Qur’an should not be interpreted [based on personal opinion] and even you say that, “the All-beneficent, settled on the Throne.” (20:5) means as its appearance denotes; as your chiefs Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim have said. Thus, according to the appearance of the Qur’an, the Twelve Imams (a) are not dead, but they are alive as God says, “Do not suppose those who were slain in the way of Allah to be dead; no, they are living and provided for near their Lord” (3:169)

Then, was Ali b. Abi Talib (p.b.u.h) killed in the path of God or not? If you say that he (p.b.u.h) was killed in the path of God, then he (a) is alive and his tomb is his abode and God has allowed the glory and exaltation of his house in the Qur’an and if you say that he (a) is dead, how do you consider him the caliph of the Prophet (p.b.u.h) and regard his words and actions a proof in you religious secondary issues?”

The judge said, “assuming what you interpret and reject its attribution, what does it mean that Shi’a adopt the graves of their imams as the qibla of their prayers?”

I said, “this too is an accusation like the previous accusation you mentioned that consider circumambulation around the graves of Imams sufficient instead of the obligatory hajj and out of respect, they [Shi’a] do not go ahead of the grave in those tombs; because, they do not consider an imam dead or alive. Based on the mentioned verse, if Ali b. Abi Talib (p.b.u.h) is alive and wants to perform prayer in the gathering of the judge and stands behind the judge, what would the judge do?

If you say that you would turn your back to him and consider facing the qibla prior saying that facing God is prior, I would say that two issues may arise: one is that God has no direction (“so whichever way you turn, there is the face of Allah!” (2:115) then, the goal is to face the Kaaba.

And in case of facing the Kaaba, then turning your back to Imam and the caliph, whose obedient is necessary, would be an expression of disbelief; because, he (a) is the guide to the Kaaba and rejecting the caliph and disrespecting him is disbelief; and facing the qibla in this manner is not acceptable; since, you consider the people of qibla other than you as disbelievers and consider their attention toward qibla at the time of the prayer true and a proof for their Islam; because then, you would say that these people have turned their back to caliphs and do not follow their words. Thus, one should not turn his back to Imam, as he is alive.

Therefore, one should act so that he does not disregard either facing the qibla or respecting the imam and acting so requires that in the tombs of Imams (a),at the time of prayer,when facing the qibla for performing the prayer, they stand behind or in line with the grave, so that both concerns are met and Shia do not perform prayer with their back to the graves of Imams (a) because this reason, not that they turn to Imams’ (a) grave and back to the qibla; and, this claim of the judge is either out of ignorance about Shi’a beliefs or an accusation you have heard from others and believed it.

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Reference

[1] The word Rāfiḍī (Arabic: الرافضي, plural: Rafida, Rawafid), among Shi’as, refers to any of those who abandoned the army of Zayd b. ‘Ali b. Husayn and left him alone. Some Sunni labeled all Shi’a as “Rafidi” because they refuse the caliphate of the first caliphs. Shi’as rely on some hadiths take the label as an honor

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