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Hisham b. al-Hakam

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Companion of Imam (a)
Hisham b. al-Hakam
Full Name Hisham b. al-Hakam
Companion of Imam al-Sadiq (a) and Imam al-Kazim (a)
Lineage Khuza'a
Place of Birth Kufa
Place(s) of Residence Kufa , Wasit
Death/Martyrdom 179/795-796
Burial Place Kufa
Students Yunus b. 'Abd al-Rahman, Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. Jalil al-Sakkak, Abu l-Hasan Ali b. Mansur
Works Al-Alfaz, al-Tawhid, ...
Activities Debate with non-Shi'as

Hishām b. al-Ḥakam (Arabic:هشام بن الحکم), Shi'a theologian of the 2nd/8th century and one of the companions of Imam al-Sadiq (a) and Imam al-Kazim (a). His knowledge is praised by both Shi'a and Sunni scholars. Hisham's presence in scholarly debates held by Yahya b. Khalid al-Barmaki as moderator, observer and referee, and receiving several prizes from Harun al-Rashid attest to this claim.

Birth and Genealogy

Hisham's kunyas were Abu Muhammad and Abu l-Hakam. His birth date is not exactly known, except that he was born in early second century AH. Most biographers have mentioned that he was a mawla, but some have regarded him as an Arab from the tribe of Khuza'a.

Al-Kashshi has reported on the authority of Fadl b. Shadhan that Hisham was originally Kufan and that he was born and raised in Wasit. It is reported that Hisham's occupation was selling canvas.

In rijal sources, it has been mentioned that Hisham had a brother named Muhammad, who was a Hadith transmitter and from whom Muhammad b. Abi 'Umayr narrated hadiths. Moreover, it is mentioned that Hisham had two children: Hakam and Fatima. Hisham lived in Basra and was a theologian. He had a book on Imamate, and some of his debates are reported in the sources.

Religious and Intellectual Inclinations

There are different viewpoints as to the religious and intellectual inclinations of Hisham:

  • Some regard Hisham a disciple of Abu Shakir al-Daysani, who was an atheist. However, this viewpoint is not reliable.
  • Ibn al-Nadim regards Hisham as a disciple of Jahm b. Safwan, who later joined Imamiyya. The similarity between some of the viewpoints attributed to Hisham with those attributed to Jahm is an indication of his being a Jahmite for some time in his life.
  • The third viewpoint is that he was one of the greatest Imami scholars and knowledgeable companions of Imam al-Sadiq (a) and Imam al-Kazim (a).

Depiction of Hisham in Hadiths

The hadiths on Hisham are of two types:

  • Those which praise him. According to these hadiths, Hisham is the standard-bearer and defender of truth and the wilaya of Ahl al-Bayt (a).

He is the righteous servant of God who is envied by his friends. He is the supporter of the Imams (a) by his "heart and tongue and hand."

  • Those which villify him. A number of hadiths vilify Hisham for his alleged role in the imprisonment and martyrdom of Imam al-Kazim (a). According to these hadiths, the Imam (a) had prohibited his companions from debating, but Hisham did not obey and continued his debates, which led to the Imam's imprisonment and martyrdom.

Critique of the vilifying hadiths

Several responses have been given to the hadiths that villify Hisham:

  • The prohibition of debating was issued at the time of the Abbasid caliph al-Mahdi. After that the period of taqiyya ended, and Hisham engaged in debates when the prohibition was no longer in effect.
  • Another response is that the the prohibition did not include Hisham or those like him from the beginning. According to a hadith, Imam al-Sadiq (a) had told Hisham, "Someone like you should debate people."

Moreover, if this alleged role had been true, Imam al-Rida (a) and Imam al-Jawad (a) would not have prayed for Hisham.

Scholarly Place

Hisham was one of the most prominent intellectual figures and most well-known Shi'a scholars of the second century AH. He was praised by both Shi'a and Sunni scholars. His presence in the scholarly sessions of Yahya b. Khalid al-Barmaki as the host or the judge of debates and his receiving several prizes from Harun al-Rashid attests to his high scholarly status.

Hisham was familiar with many disciplines and sciences of his time and produced scholarly works on them. Ibn al-Nadim regards Hisham as a Shiite theologian who was skillful in debating. Al-Shahrastani doubts the authenticity of some of the viewpoints attributed to Hisham, as they do not suit Hisham's profound though.

It has been reported that Hisham was critical of philosophers, which indicates his familiarity with their ideas. Hisham was also familiar with traditional sciences. Kitab al-alfaz (the Book of Words), which is regarded as the first work in Usul al-fiqh, belongs to him. His Usuli viewpoints include the authority of mutawatir hadith, istishab, and consensus.

Teachers and Students

We don't have much information about Hisham's teachers. Some believe that he was a disciple of Jahm b. Safwan. But, to be sure, Hisham was a student of Imam al-Sadiq (a) and Imam al-Kazim (a) for a long time. His beliefs and viewpoints are to a great extent in lines with the hadiths of the two Imams (a).

Among the students of Hisham are the following:

Prominent figures, such as Muhammad b. Abi 'Umayr (d. 217/832), Nashit b. Salih, 'Abd al-'Azim al-Hasani (d. 252/866), transmitted hadith from Hisham, who in turn transmitted hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a) and Imam al-Kazim (a). Some of the prominent Mu'tazilite, such as al-Nazzam, were, influenced by him.


Hisham was very skillful in debating. He debated with prominent figures of the Mu'tazila, such as Abu 'Uthman 'Amr b. 'Ubayd, (d. 144/761-762), the second leader of the Mu'tazila, 'Abd al-Rahman b. Kaysan (d. 200/815-816), Abu l-Hudhayl al-'Allaf (d. 144/761-762), and al-Nazzam (d. 231/845-846)


Hisham has been praised for his virtues, especially his tolerance, an instance of which was his business partnership with 'Abd Allah b. Yazid al-Ibadi, with whom he had deep differences in belief.

Participating in different debates attests to his courage. Moreover, being respectfulness, just, and honest is counted among his virtues.

Theological Viewpoints

Hisham's theological viewpoints can be divided into five categories: theology, anthropology, cosmology, prophetology, and Imamology.


It is reported that Hisham believed in the necessity of knowing God. In his al-Tawhid, al-Shaykh al-Saduq reports that Hisham argued for the existence of God through self-knowledge and creation.

Hisham does not negate God's attributes, nor does he regard them as identical to the divine essence. With regard to God's knowledge, some scholars (such as al-'Allama al-Hilli) report that Hisham believed in the creation of God's knowledge in time. But most scholars have rejected this attribution.

Among the ideas attributed to Hisham is anthropomorphism, but Shi'a scholars disagree about the authenticity of this attribution.

Hisham believed in the temporal createdness of the world and its limitedness. He denied the existence of juz' la yatajazza (indivisible part). He maintained that jinns are responsible (mukallaf) as are human beings.

There are different reports as to Hisham's viewpoint on the issue of free will and predestination. According to some reports, he believed in predestination, bit scholars like al-Sharif al-Murtada reject this attribution.

Hisham believed that the necessity of prophet-hood and of imamate is the same, having to do with preventing conflict and promoting amity in the society and informing people of divine laws among other things.

Hisham was one of the most prominent theologians of his time, who debated with other theologians over the issue of imamate. He believed that the Imam must be appointed by God, and not by people. He believed that the Imam is infallible because he knows the reality of the sin; on the one hand, and is aware of the presence of God, on the other. According to Hisham, the Imam must be the person among the people of his time. He must be the bravest and the most generous of them.


In rijal and fihrist sources, thirty-five books and treatises have been attributed to Hisham, but none of them are extant today. Some of his works are the following:

His works concerning fiqh and usul al-fiqh:

  • 'Ilal al-tahrim
  • Al-Fara'id
  • Al-Alfaz
  • Al-Akhbar kayf tuftah
  • Asl li l-Hisham
  • Kitab al-mirath

His theological and philosophical works:

  • Al-Imama
  • Al-Tadbir fi l-imama
  • Al-Wasiyya wa l-radd 'ala man ankaraha
  • Ikhtilaf al-nass fi l-imama
  • Al-Majalis fi l-imama
  • Al-Tamyiz wa ithbat al-hujaj 'ala man khalafa l-Shi'a
  • Al-Mizan
  • Kitab al-hakamayn
  • Al-Altaf
  • Al-Tawhid
  • Al-Shaykh wa l-ghulam fi l-Tawhid
  • Al-Jabr wa l-qadar
  • Al-Ma'rifa
  • Al-Majalis fi l-tawhid
  • Al-Qadar
  • Al-Dilala 'ala huduth al-ashya'
  • Tafsir ma yalzim al-'ibada al-iqrar bih
  • Al-Istita'a
  • Al-Radd 'ala l-zanadiqa
  • Al-Radd 'ala ashab al-ithnayn
  • Al-Radd 'ala ashab al-taba'i'
  • Al-Radd 'ala Aristotle fi l-tawhid
  • Al-Radd 'ala man qala bi imama l-mafdul
  • Al-Radd 'ala al-Mu'tazila
  • Al-Radd 'ala al-Mu'tazila fi amr Talha wa l-Zubayr
  • Al-Radd 'ala Shaytan al-taq
  • Al-Radd 'ala Hisham al-Jawaliqi


There are different reports as to the time and place of Hisham's death, but the viewpoint of al-Kashshi, according to which he passed away in 179/795-796 in Kufa, seems more likely.