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Sa'sa'a b. Sawhan

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Companion of Imam (a)
Sa'sa'a b. Sawhan
Companion of Imam Ali (a) and Imam al-Hasan (a)
Teknonym Abu Talha
Religious Affiliation Shi'a
Lineage Abd al-Qays tribe
Wellknown Relatives Zayd b. Sawhan
Place of Birth Qatif
Place(s) of Residence Kufa
Martyrdom In the reign of Mu'awiya, around 70/689
Burial Place In the city of Askar in Bahrain, there is a grave attributed to him

Ṣa'ṣa'a b. Ṣawḥān (Arabic:صعصة بن صوحان) was a companion of Imam Ali (a) who was present in battles of Jamal, Siffin, and Nahrawan. Sa'sa'a was a skilled orator. He deployed his skill to defend Imam Ali (a) and criticize Mu'awiya b. Abu Sufyan. Imam Ali (a) has characterized Sa'sa'a as a great companion of his. Imam al-Sadiq (a) referred to him as one of the few people who rightfully knew Imam Ali (a).


Sa'sa'a b. Sawhan was from Abd al-Qays tribe. He was born near Qatif and then he moved to Kufa. Thus, he came to be known as "Kufi" as well. Sa'sa'a's teknonym was Abu Talha. Zayd and Sayhan were his brothers and both were Shi'as of Imam Ali (a).

In the Period of Caliphs

Sa'sa'a converted to Islam in the period of the Prophet (s), but he never saw the Prophet (s). In the period of Umar b. al-Khattab, the second caliph, Abu Musa al-Ash'ari sent some money to the caliph, and the caliph distributed it among people, but some amount of the money remained after the distribution. He inquired the views of Muslims about the remaining money. Sa'sa'a said,

"Consult with people about things God has said nothing about in the Qur'an. But when God has issued a ruling about something, then act upon the ruling."

Sa'sa'a was an opponent of Uthman b. Affan, the third caliph, in Kufa. He and some other people, including his brother Zayd b. Sawhan as well as Malik al-Ashtar, were banished to Syria at the caliph's command. A critical conversation between him and Uthman is cited in historical sources.

Imam Ali's (a) Companion

According to al-Shaykh al-Mufid, Sa'sa'a was a great companion of Imam Ali (a). Ibn Qutayba al-Dinawari, the scholar of the third/ninth century, has mentioned Sa'sa'a as a well-known Shi'a. According to al-Mas'udi in Muruj al-dhahab, Imam Ali (a) has characterized Sa'sa'a as a great Arab figure and a head of his companions. According to a hadith cited by al-Kulayni, Imam Ali (a) asked Sa'sa'a to be a witness on his will.

Sa'sa'a was present in the funeral of Imam Ali (a). After the burial, he went to the Imam's (a) grave, and while he was throwing soil on his head and sobbing, he described Imam Ali's (a) virtues, and asked God to make him a friend of Imam Ali (a) and help him remain steadfast on his path.

Sa'sa'a referred to Imam Ali (a) as the adornment of caliphate, believing that Imam Ali (a) gave value to the position of caliphate and that caliphate needed Imam Ali (a) more than he needed caliphate.

Imam al-Sadiq (a) said, "There was no one with Imam Ali (a) who knew him deservedly except Sa'sa'a and his friends."

Presence in Jamal, Siffin, and Nahrawan

Sa'sa'a was present in battles that took place in the period of Imam Ali's (a) government. In the Battle of Jamal, his brother Sayhan was the flag-holder of Abd al-Qays tribe. After Sayhan's martyrdom, his other brother, Zayd, became the flag-holder, and after Zayd's death, Sa'sa'a himself held the flag.

In the Battle of Siffin, Sa'sa'a was the commander of Abd al-Qays tribe in Kufa. Prior to the commence of the war, Mu'awiya's army gained dominion over water and blocked Imam Ali's (a) army from any access to it. Imam Ali (a) sent Sa'sa'a to Mu'awiya for negotiations.

Also, before the commence of the Battle of Nahrawan, Imam Ali (a) sent Sa'sa'a to Khawarij for negotiations and advice. In these talks, he emphasized on following Imam Ali (a). His talks with Khawarij appear in al-Ikhtisas by al-Shaykh al-Mufid.

Intercession for Mundhir b. Jarud

According to Bihar al-anwar, Mundhir b. Jarud was appointed as the head of an area by Imam Ali (a), but he illegally took out money from the treasury (Bayt al-Mal). So he was imprisoned by Imam Ali (a), but after Sa'sa'as intercession, he was released. According to al-Gharat, Sa'sa'a told Imam Ali (a), "Mundhir b. Jarud's sister cries for him every day. Release him and I will warrant what he has taken from Bayt al-Mal." Imam Ali (a) replied, "There is no need for the warrant. If he takes an oath to the effect that he did not take the money, I will release him."

Opposition to Mu'awiya

According to al-Kashshi in Ma'rifat al-rijal, in the story of Imam al-Hasan's (a) Peace Treaty with Mu'awiya, Sa'sa'a was one of the people for whom the Imam (a) received a safe conduct from Mu'awiya. After the peace treaty, Mu'awiya met Sa'sa'a in Kufa and told him, "I swear to God that I did not like to give you a safe conduct." Sa'sa'a said, "I swear to God that I did not like to call you like this," and then he called Mu'awiya "the Caliph." Mu'awiya said, "If you are honest in my recognition as the caliph, then climb the pulpit and then curse Ali." Sa'sa'a climbed the pulpit and after praising God, said the following structurally ambiguous sentence, "O people! I have just met a man (i.e. Mu'awiya) who has commanded me to curse Ali. So, curse him."

According to a report by Ibn A'tham al-Kufi, Mu'awiya told prominent figures of Kufa, "Why do you think I have given you amnesty despite your follies, and despite the fact that you deserved to be punished? May God bless Abu Sufyan who was tolerant, and if all people were his children, they would become tolerant too." Sa'sa'a said, "O Mu'awiya! I swear to God that these people are children of people better than Abu Sufyan, and the number of foolish people from Abu Sufyan's progeny is greater than the tolerant ones."

Skillful Orator

Sa'sa'a was a skillful orator. In sources of history and hadiths, he is described as an eloquent person. Imam Ali (a) characterized Sa'sa'a as "al-khatib al-shahshah" (the skillful orator). Mu'awiya and Mughira b. Shu'ba have also talked about his eloquence. Mu'awia referred to Sa'sa'a as having an iron tongue.

According to al-Kashshi, he deployed his oratorical skill to introduce and defend Imam Ali (a).

The mosque and attributed grave to Sa'sa'a in Bahrain


Sa'sa'a allegedly passed away in Kufa in the period of Mu'awiya's caliphate. However, according to some sources, at the command of Mu'awiya, Mughira banished Sa'sa'a to an island in Bahrain, where he eventually passed away in about 70/689.

In the city of Askar in Bahrain, there is a grave attributed to Sa'sa'a, known as the Mosque of Sa'sa'a b Sawhan. Also, near the Mosque of Sahla in Kufa there is a mosque known as the Mosque of Sa'sa'a, which was his place of worship.

See Also