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Abu l-Salt al-Hirawi

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Companion of Imam (a)
Abu l-Salt al-Hirawi
اباصلت.jpg
Shrine of Abu l-Salt in Mashhad
Full Name 'Abd al-Salam b. Salih b. Sulayman b. Ayyub b. Maysara
Companion of Imam al-Rida (a)
Epithet Abu l-Salt al-Hirawi
Birth Around 160/776
Place(s) of Residence Medina, nishapur
Death/Martyrdom Shawwal 14, 236/April 24, 851
Burial Place Mashhad
Works A book about martyrdom of Imam al-Rida (a)

ʿAbd al-Salām b. Ṣāliḥ (Arabic: عبدالسلام بن صالح), known as Abū l-Ṣalt al-Hirawī (Arabic: أبو الصلت الهروي) and Khwāja Aba Ṣalt (Persian: خواجه ابا صلت), (b. about 160/776 d.236/851), was a close companion of Imam al-Rida (a) and a scholar of hadiths and kalam (theology).

After Imam al-Rida's (a) arrival in Khorasan, he went there and accompanied him. He transmitted the Golden Chain Hadith as well as the story of Imam al-Rida (a) being martyred by al-Ma'mun al-'Abbasi. Abu l-Salt passed away in 236/851 in the period of Tahir b. 'Abd Allah b. Tahir's rule in Khorasan. His burial place is located on the Mashhad-Fariman road 10 kilometers from Mashhad. Pilgrims of Imam al-Rida's (a) shrine visit his mausoleum as well.

Lineage, Birth, and Death

His name was 'Abd al-Salam b. Salih b. Sulayman b. Ayyub b. Maysara, but he was known as Abu l-Salt al-Hirawi. It seems that his grandfather or great grandfather lived in Herat, but he was imprisoned in Islamic conquests and was taken as a slave to Hijaz and became 'Abd al-Rahman b. Samura al-Qurashi's servant. This is why some historians referred to Abu l-Salt as mawla (emancipated slave) of 'Abd al-Rahman b. Samura. His best-known title, "Hirawi", referred to by Shi'as and Sunnis, is an attribution to Herat, the place where his ancestors lived. He was also known as "Qurashi", "'Abshami", "Nishaburi", "Basri", and "Khurasani".

The year of his birth is not known, but since he said that he lived with Sufyan b. 'Uyayna (d. 198/813-4) since his childhood for 30 years, he must have been born around 160/776. On one account, Abu l-Salt was born in Medina and lived in Nishapur. He died on Wednesday, Shawwal 14, 236/April 24, 851.

As a Companion of Imam al-Rida (a)

Almost all Imami scholars hold that Abu l-Salt was a companion of Imam al-Rida (a). Although according to the majority of Sunni sources, he was a servant of Imam al-Rida (a), no Imami scholar, except al-Muhaqqiq al-Ardabili, believed that he was his servant. Perhaps because Abu l-Salt's scholarly significance and position in hadiths was more salient than his occupation as a servant, most of the Imami scholars refused to refer to him as a servant.

Abu l-Salt accompanied the Imam (a) in Nishapur, and frequently met him in Sarakhs. When Imam al-Rida (a) arrived in Nishapur, he heard the Golden Chain Hadith from the Imam (a). Most of the hadiths regarding Imam al-Rida's (a) martyrdom are transmitted by Abu l-Salt.

As a Companion of Imam al-Jawad (a)

There is no doubt that Abu l-Salt met Imam al-Jawad (a), since when Imam al-Rida (a) was in his deathbed, Imam al-Jawad (a) went from Medina to Tus and a conversation occurred between Imam al-Jawad (a) and Abu l-Salt. Two meetings between the two are reported after the martyrdom of Imam al-Rida (a): one when Imam al-Jawad (a) said Funeral Prayer for his father, Imam al-Rida (a), and the other when Abu l-Salt was imprisoned at the command of al-Ma'mun and was released from the prison with a miracle by Imam al-Jawad (a) and his miraculous entrance in the prison.

Scholarly Character and Position in Hadiths

He travelled to different areas, such as Iraq, Hijaz, and Yemen to learn hadiths. He heard hadiths from people such as Hammad b. Zayd, 'Ata' b. Muslim, Mu'tazz b. Sulayman, 'Abd al-Razzaq al-San'ani, Malik b. Anas, Fudayl b. 'Ayyad, and 'Abd Allah b. Mubarak.

Abu l-Salt transmitted hadiths in Baghdad for a while. In the period of al-Ma'mun, he went to Merv to fight. When he went to al-Ma'mun's meeting and he heard his remarks, al-Ma'mun liked him and made him his close companion. Abu l-Salt worked hard to reject Murji'a, Jahmiyya, Zindiqs, and Qadariyya. He repeatedly debated al-Bishr al-Marisi at the presence of al-Ma'mun.

Reliability and People who Transmitted his Hadiths

Abu l-Salt al-Hirawi is considered as reliable by all Shiite scholars of rijal. Among Sunnis, many scholars such as Yahya b. Mu'in, 'Ijli, ibn Shahin have considered him as reliable, while other scholars, such as Jawzajani, Nisa'i, Abu Hatam al-Razi, 'Aqili, ibn Habban, ibn 'Adi, and Darqutni, held that he was unreliable.

Abu l-Salt transmitted many hadiths from Imam al-Rida (a). Most of these hadiths are cited by al-Shaykh al-Saduq in his 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida, al-Amali, and al-Khisal. People who transmitted Abu l-Salt's hadiths include his son, Muhammad, Ahmad b. Yahya al-Baladhuri, 'Abd Allah b. Ahmad Abi Khuthayma, Abu Bakr b. Abi l-Dunya, Ya'qub b. Sufyan al-Basawi, Sahl b. Zanjala, Ahmad b. Mansur al-Ramadi, and 'Abbas b. Muhammad al-Dawri.

Denomination

Although Abu l-Salt counts as a companion of Imam al-Rida (a), there is a disagreement over what Islamic denomination he was inclined to. On the one hand, al-Shaykh al-Tusi believed that he was a Sunni Muslim, but some Sunni scholars of hadiths blamed him for being a Shi'a. They deny that Abu l-Salt was a Sunni Muslim, reproaching him for his Shiite tendencies.

Propagation of Imam Ali (a)

A salient point about Abu l-Salt al-Hirawi was that he propagated hadiths concerning the virtues of Amir al-Mu'minin (a), especially Hadith Madinat al-'Ilm (Hadith of the city of Knowledge), transmitted by prominent Sunni scholars of hadiths. For instance, he transmitted Hadith Madinat al-'Ilm from Abu Mu'awiya and 'Abd al-Razzaq al-San'ani. Some historical reports show that he tried to propagate such hadiths through Sunni chains of transmissions. For example, according to some sources, Abu l-Salt who was a rich man financially supported some masters of hadiths to transmit such hadiths to him.

Work

Abu l-Salt wrote a book about Imam Rida's (a) death. The book is mentioned by al-Najashi. It is cited by al-Shaykh al-Saduq in his 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida.

The fact that reports of Imam al-Rida's (a) death are often transmitted by Abu l-Salt shows that his book was available at least until the 5th/11th or even 6th/12th centuries.

Burial Place

The mausoleum of Khwaja Aba Salt eastwards outside Mashhad

There is a mausoleum eastwards outside Mashhad known as Khwaja Aba Salt. There are also mausoleums in Qom and Semnan attributed to him. The dome and the courtyard over his alleged burial place in Mashhad was reconstructed by Muhammad 'Ali Darwish and people's financial supports. Some Sufis such as Darwish 'Ali (d. 726/1325-6) are buried near his burial place.

References