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Al-Sayyid Isma'il al-Himyari

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Companion of Imam (a)
Al-Sayyid Isma'il al-Himyari
Full Name Isma'il b. Muhammad b. Yazid al-Himyari
Companion of Imam al-Sadiq (a) and Imam al-Kazim (a)
Kunya Abu 'Amir or Abu Hashim
Well Known As Al-Sayyid al-Himyari
Religious Affiliation Ja'fari school
Lineage Al-Himyar tribe
Birth 105/723-24
Place of Birth Amman
Place(s) of Residence Basra, Kufa, Baghdad
Death/Martyrdom 179/795-96
Burial Place Baghdad
Activities Defending Ahl al-Bayt (a)a

Al-Sayyid Ismāʿīl b. Muḥammad b. Yazīd b. Rabīʿa al-Ḥimyari (Arabic: السيد إسماعيل بن محمد بن يزيد بن ربيعة الحميريّ) known as al-Sayyid al-Ḥimyarī (Arabic: السيد الحميري) (b. 105/723-24, d. 179/795-96) was among famous Shi'a poets who composed many poems in defense of Shi'a. His poems are so many that no one has so far been able to compile a complete record of all his poems. Only 2300 of his Hashimiyyat poems have been collected. It is said that he was first among Khawarij, but then converted to Kaysaniyya and later became Twelver Shi'a through the guidance of Imam al-Sadiq (a) and stayed Shi'a until the end of his life.

Lineage and Birth

Himyari was born in Amman (current capital of Jordan) in 105/723-24 and grew up in Basra. His grandfather was Yazid b. Ziyad known as Ibn Mufarriq (d. 69/688-89) who was among famous poets too.

His lineage reached Himyar tribe who were originally from Yemen and were not from Quraysh. Al-Sayyid Isma'il al-Himyari was neither Fatimid nor 'Alawi. "Al-Sayyid" was just a part of his name.

Superiority over Poets

Imam al-Sadiq (a) called him "Sayyid al-Shu'ara" ["Master of Poets"]. In his Rijal, al-Kashshi mentioned that Imam (a) addressed al-Sayyid al-Himyari, "Your mother named you Sayyid and you became successful and now have become master of poets."

Al-Sayyid composed a poem out of this speech of Imam (a).

Religion of His Family

His parents were among Khawarij and followed Abadiyya. They swore at Imam Ali (a) after fajr prayer, but al-Sayyid converted to Shi'a when he was young and composed many poems in defense of Shi'a and Imam Ali (a).

His parent admonished and harassed him to return to the creed of Khawarij, but he did not accept until they planed to kill him. He thus took refuge with 'Uqba b. Salm b. al-Muhanna, the Shi'a ruler of Basra and stayed with him until the death of his parent. In a poem, he cursed his parent.

Conversion of Religion

It is said that al-Himyari was asked how he became Shi'a and in a poem, he answered, "like Mu'min of the people of Pharaoh, the mercy of God was poured upon me all at once."

There is no information about the causes of his conversion and leaving the creed of Khawarij. In those days when Umayyad government was about to fall, inviters of Bani Hashim were all around Iran. Shi'a was spread in Basra and Ahvaz and its followers were supported in those regions.

Al-Himyari first followed Kaysaniyya who believed in the imamate of Muhammad b. Ali b. Abi Talib (a) known as Muhammad b. Hanafiyya after Imam al-Husayn (a).

Al-Sayyid was born at the time of Imam al-Baqir (a) and lived at the times of Imam al-Sadiq (a) and Imam al-Kazim (a). Apparently, after Imam al-Sadiq (a) visited him when he was sick in Kufa, he left Kaysaniyya and converted to Ja'fari School and defended it until the end of his life. He reached such a high position that when Imam al-Sadiq (a) heard his poems, asked the blessings of God upon him three times.

In some hadiths, a miracle of Imam al-Sadiq (a) is reported which proves invalidity of Kaysaniyya in al-Sayyid. In any case, Ibn Babiwayh in Ikmal al-din, al-Shaykh al-Mufid in al-fusul al-mukhtara, Marzbani in Akhbar al-Sayyid, Ibn Mu'tazz in Tabaqat al-Shu'ara, Ibn Shahr Ashub in Manaqib Al Abi Talib (a) and other hadith scholars and historians reported the news about al-Himyari's conversion to Shi'a through the call of Imam al-Sadiq (a) and mentioned that he kept his religion until the end of his life.

Position before Caliphs

Al-Sayyid Isma'il al-Himyari lived during the rules of ten caliphs: Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik, Walid b. Yazid, Yazid b. al-Walid, Ibrahim b. al-Walid and Marwan al-Himar from Umayyads and Saffah, Mahdi, Hadi, Harun al-Rashid from Abbasids. He was loved by the court and received many gifts and privileges from them and was supported by them.

Characteristics

Al-Sayyid al-Himyari is introduced as a good-looking person who had eloquence and fluency of speech and delicacy of manner. He had a good knowledge of the Qur'an, hadiths, fiqh, history of Islam, conduct of the Prophet (s) and Imams (a) and brought almost all hadiths about the merits of Imam Ali (a) and criticized his dissidents in his poems.

He was powerful in debates with Sunni dissidents. He mentioned the reasons for caliphate and wilaya of Imam Ali (a), proofs for Shi'a beliefs, rejection of dissidents' sayings and examples of the usurpers of the rights of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) with a sharp language showing tawalla and tabarra [friendship with the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and rejection of their enemies]. He was safe from harassment of Sunni bigots since the leaders of Twelver Shi'a, Abbasid caliphs and rulers praised and defended him, for he criticized Umayyads, praised Bani Hashim and defended Abbasid caliphs.

It is said that al-Mansur al-'Abbasi dismissed Sawar b. 'Abd Allah because of his disrespect toward al-Sayyid al-Himyari and despite Sawar's dislike, gifted a farm in Basra to al-Himyari to make a living.

Poetry of al-Himyari

Al-Sayyid al-Himyari composed many poems. Abu l-Faraj al-Isfahani considered al-Sayyid al-Himyari one of most prolific poets of the time of Jahiliyya and Islam. Poems received from al-Sayyid are more than any other poets and just from his Hashimiyyat, 2300 poems have been collected. Abu 'Ubayda Lughawi said that no one has ever been able to collect all poems of al-Himyari.

There is much sarcasm about companions and the three caliphs in the poems of al-Himyari.

During his life, some women transmitters of hadiths including his four daughters wrote his poems with good eloquence. Each of them memorized a part of his poems and altogether memorized 400 poems.

The truth about the state and positions of al-Sayyid is lost in a mist of love and hate and there are many opinions pro and against him.

Alawi Sayyids in Shi'a regions recite his poems with beautiful voices in masses of wedding parties, Eid al-Ghadir and other celebrations and show their tawalla and tabarra.

In his al-Ghadir, Allama Amini mentioned some of al-Sayyid's 21 poems of Ghadiriyya and his Hashimiyyat and elegies for the martyrs of Taff have always been a source of inspiration for Shi'a poets.

Book of Poems

Al-Sayyid's Diwan [book of poem] was published with the research of Husayn A'lami by Mu'assisa al-A'lami lilmatbu'at in Beirut. According to Aqa Buzurg, author of al-Dhari'a, the manuscript of al-Sayyid's diwan is available in one of the libraries of Yemen and a copy of it is kept in Maktaba Tahiriyya of Damascus. The French orientalist, Barbie Dominard published a 100-page biography of al-Sayyid al-Himyari in French in Paris. Many men of literature, poets and historians such as Abu Bakr al-Sawli, Muhammad Marzbani and others after 4th/10th century have written books about al-Sayyid and anthologies of his poems.

Of contemporary scholars, al-Sayyid Muhammad Taqi al-Hakim wrote a book called Sha'ir al-'aqida in Najaf about the life of al-Himyari and Shaykh Ali Khaqani, manager of al-Bayan magazine published a special issue about him.

Demise

He passed away at the age of 68 or 74 in Rumayla neighborhood of Baghdad. Harun al-Rashid ordered to hold an honorable funeral for him. His body was wrapped in shrouds caliph sent by his brother. Ali b. Mahdi, brother of Harun accompanied the body to the cemetery and prayed over it. To respect his body, he recited 5 Takbir like Shi'a tradition and by the order of caliph, stayed there after prayer until the funeral finished. His grave is in Karkh, Shi'a neighborhood of Baghdad, in Junayna near Qati' al-Rabi'.

References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from سید اسماعیل بن محمد حمیری in Farsi WikiShi'a.