The meaning of “Shi’a” in the Opinion of the Household of the Prophet
The Imams of the Household (A.S.) did not receive the leadership of Islam, although, however, they never had any designs towards it. So they devoted themselves to educating the Muslims, and to instructing them as Allah had ordered. They remained with those who were faithful to them, and confided in them their secrets, took great pains to teach them all the religious commandments and instill in them religious knowledge, and showed them what is of advantage to man and what is harmful. They recognised no-one as Shi’i or as one of their followers unless he obeyed the commands of Allah, kept himself apart from his desires and carried out what they taught and guided him towards. Only to love them will not suffice to save someone, it. that person also follows his desires. making excuses for his disobedience to Allah, because they have clearly said that love of them will save no-one unless it is accompanied by pure actions, truth, honesty, piety and virtue.
Imam Baqir (A.S.) said:
O Khuthayma! Say to our friends that we can be of no help to them before Allah unless their actions are pure, and that they cannot attain our friendship and love except through their virtue.
For surely, one who reveres justice, but does not act in accordance with it, will be stricken with grief and remorse more than anyone else.
The Imams desired and expected their followers to guide others and show them the correct path of goodness, and they instructed them to call the people to the truth by good actions, saying that this was more important than calling by word.
Call the people unto the truth by your behaviour, so that they can see your obedience, and know that you are truthful and obedient.
We shall give some extracts here from conversations between the Imams and their followers, so that the reader may see how they were anxious to educate the people.
1. From Imam Baqir’s conversation with Jabir al-Ju’afi:
O Jabir! How can someone who claims to follow us be content with only loving us? I swear that our follower is one who carries out his duty to Allah and fears Him. Our followers are known by their humility. modesty, exceeding remembrance of Allah, fasting, prayer, being sympathetic and helpful towards the poor, their reading of the Qur’an, saying nothing about a person except concerning his good actions, and they are most trustworthy among those close to them. (O ye who follow!) Observe your duty to Allah, and perform good actions for His reward, for there is no preference by Allah towards anyone. The most beloved of His servants in the presence of Allah is the best in conduct and obedience to Him. O Jabir! Nobody can come close to Allah except through obedience. Without this nobody will be saved from Hell, nor can anybody excuse himself before Allah without it. Whosoever obeys Him, he is our friend, but whosoever disobeys Him, he is our enemy. You cannot attain to our friendship except through good actions and virtuousness.
2. From Imam Baqir’s conversation with Sa’id ibn al-Hasan:
al-Imam: ‘Does it happen to you that one of you approaches his brother and puts his hand into his brother’s pocket to take some money of which he is in need, without his brother preventing him?’
Sa’id: ‘I do not know of such a thing.’
‘Then truly, there are no real Shi’i among you.’
‘Shall we all perish, in that case?’.
‘Yes, indeed, for such people do not put into action what they say.’
3. From Imam Ja’far’s conversation with Abi as-Sabah al-Kanani:
al-Kanani: ‘How much harassment we receive from people for your sake!’
al-Imam: ‘What harassment do you receive from them?’
‘When there is a dispute between one of us and one of them, they immediately condemn us for following you.’
‘Do they condemn you for my sake?’
‘But there are only a few of my followers among you. Only those who possess great and real virtue, whose acts are only for the sake of the Creator and to obtain his reward, only these are my followers.’
4. There are many traditions from Imam Ja’far concerning these matters. Here we have chosen some of them and written them down.
– If a man lives in a town with a hundred thousand inhabitants or more, and there is someone in that town whose virtue is greater then his, then that man is not one of my followers.
– We do not count among the believers anyone unless he obeys all our commandments. Indeed, righteousness is the only sign of one who follows us. Adorn yourselves with it, and may Allah have Mercy on you.
– One whose chasteness and abstinence from unlawful sexuality is not the subject of talk among women is not one of our followers. And one who lives in a town with ten thousand inhabitants, and one of them is greater in righteousness than he, then that man is not one of our followers.
-Truly, a follower of Ja’far is one who does not listen to his stomach or to his carnal desires, who endeavours in the path of Islam, who acts for the sake of Allah, hoping only for His reward and fearing His chastisement. Yes, indeed, such are the followers of Ja’far.