Hallmarks of a Shia

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عَنْ اَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ قَالَ كَتَبَ اِلَيَّ اَبُو الْحَسَنِ الرِّضَاؑ عَافَانَا اللَّهُ وَ اِيَّاكَ اَحْسَنَ عَافِيَتِهِ اِنَّمَا شِيعَتُنَا مَنْ تَابَعَنَا وَ لَمْ يُخَالِفْنَا وَ اِذَا خِفْنَا خَافَ وَ اِذَا اَمِنَّا اَمِنَ قَالَ اللَّهُ فَسْئَلُوا اَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ اِنْ كُنْتُمْ لا تَعْلَمُونَ وَ قَالَ فَلَوْ لا نَفَرَ مِنْ كُلِّ فِرْقَةٍ مِنْهُمْ طائِفَةٌ لِيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ وَ لِيُنْذِرُوا قَوْمَهُمْ الْآيَةَ فَقَدْ فُرِضَتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَسْاَلَةُ وَ الرَّدُّ اِلَيْنَا وَ لَمْ يُفْرَضْ عَلَيْنَا الْجَوَابُ اَ وَ لَمْ تُنْهَوْا عَنْ كَثْرَةِ الْمَسَائِلِ فَاَبَيْتُمْ اَنْ تَنْتَهُوا اِيَّاكُمْ وَ ذَاكَ فَاِنَّهُ اِنَّمَا هَلَكَ مَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ بِكَثْرَةِ سُؤَالِهِمْ لِاَنْبِيَائِهِمْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يا اَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لا تَسْئَلُوا عَنْ اَشْياءَ اِنْ تُبْدَ لَكُمْ تَسُؤْكُمْ‏

Ahmad Ibn Muhammad reports, “(Imam) Abu al-Hasan al-Reza (peace be upon him) wrote to me,

“May Allah keep us and you safe in the best of safety! Surely, our Shiite is the one who follows us and does not disobey us. When we are fearful, he is fearful and when we are safe, he is safe. Allah says, ‘Then ask the people of remembrance if you know not.’ And He says, “…then why does not a group among you go to acquire deep knowledge in religion and warn their nation (till the end of the verse).’ Indeed, He has made asking obligatory upon you and referring unto us but He has not made replying obligatory upon us. Have you not been prohibited from excessive questioning? But you refused to restrain yourself. Surely, many people before you have been destroyed due to their excessive questioning from their Prophets (peace be upon them). Allah says, ‘O you who believe! Don’t ask about things which if they are manifested for you, will hurt you.’


Sometimes, in traditions, a word is used in its real and actual sense and at other times, it is used to show its higher or highest levels. For example, a tradition says,

قَالَ النَّبِيُّ ﷺ لَا صَلَاةَ اِلَّا بِفَاتِحَةِ الْكِتَابِ

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) said, “No prayer is performed without the Surah Faatehah.” Here, it is used in its real meaning.

But sometimes, it is used in its higher meanings like قَالَ النَّبِيُّ ﷺ لَا صَلَاةَ لِجَارِ الْمَسْجِدِ اِلَّا فِي مَسْجِدِهِ The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) remarked, “The prayer of a mosque’s neighbor will not be valid till he prays in the mosque.” Here, it is only showing the importance of praying in a mosque. It does not mean that his prayer is void if he doesn’t pray in a mosque. It only implies that it will become more complete if he follows this advice. The same applies for the word Shia or Muslim or Momin or Muttaqi, etc. The more a person follows, the higher his position is. It doesn’t mean that if somebody does not follow 100% he is not a Shia.


1.    Behaar al-Anwaar, vol. 23, p. 183, H. 44

2.    Tafseer al-Ayyaashi (r.a.), vol. 2, p. 261, H. 33

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