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Imam al-Rida's (a) debate with Sulayman Marwazi

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This article is an introduction to the Imam al-Rida's (a) debate with Sulayman Marwazi; to read its text see text:Imam al-Rida's (a) debate with Sulayman Marwazi.

Imam al-Rida's (a) debate with Sulayman Marwazi is a scientific dialogue between Imam al-Rida (a) and Sulayman Marwazi, one of the theologians of Khorasan, about bada' and the will of God. According to Shiite narrative sources, this debate was held at the request of al-Ma'mun, the Abbasid caliphate and in order to defeat Imam al-Rida (a).

The text of this debate is in the books of Tawhid and 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida (a) by al-Shaykh al-Saduq and al-Ihtijaj by al-Tabrisi. According to their reports, Imam al-Rida (a) won the debate over Sulayman. In this dialogue, Sulayman accepted the theory of bada'. Also, regarding the issue of God's will, he was unable to answer the questions and challenges of Imam al-Rida (a).

Story of Occurrence

One day, Sulayman Marwazi, one of the theologians of Khorasan, went to al-Ma'mun, the Abbasid Caliph. Al-Ma'mun told him that “Ali b. Musa al-Rida (a) has come to me from Hijaz and is interested in theology and theologians. Come here on the day of Tarwiya and debate with him.” Sulayman said, “he is not able to answer my questions and I do not like him to be humiliated before Banu Hashim.” Al-Ma'mun replies that “it is exactly for this reason that I want you to debate with him.” Al-Ma'mun then asks Imam al-Rida (a) to participate in this dialogue and he (a) accepts.[1]

Topics Discussed in Dialogue

The debate begins with a discussion on bada'. Imam al-Rida (a) mentions verses from the Qur'an such as the following verses, “It is He who originates the creation, and then He will bring it back”[2], “the Originator of the heavens and the earth” [3], “[There are] others waiting Allah's edict: either He shall punish them, or turn to them clemently,” [4] and then asks Sulayman how he denies bada' in spite of this. Sulayman asks for more explanations and after Imam al-Rida's (a) elaboration, he accepts his view about bada'.[5]

Sulayman then discusses God's will and how it differs from His other attributes, such as hearing, seeing, and power. In this matter, he believes that the will of God is one of the attributes of His Essence just like His hearing, sight, and power; but Imam al-Rida (a) believes that these are different; because, God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing, and All-Powerful before He created or changed anything; but, only when God creates something He wills. We never say that God created something or changed anything because He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing and All-Powerful; rather, we say that because He willed, He created or changed something.[6] This discussion continues with Imam al-Rida's (a) numerous questions from Sulayman and ends with Sulayman remaining silent and not answering Imam al-Rida's (a) last question.[7]

Conclusion

According to what is stated in this report, in several places in this debate, Sulayman was defeated against the arguments of Imam al-Rida (a). For example, at the end of the discussion of the theory of bada', Sulayman accepts it and says that he will no longer deny it.[8] He also gives answers in speaking about the attributes of God, which are met with opposition of al-Ma'mun and laughter of the audience.[9] In some cases, Imam al-Rida (a) asks him questions and he gives contradictory answers[10] and finally leaves Imam's (a) last question unanswered.[11]

Sources

The text of this debate is given by al-Shaykh al-Saduq (305/917 - 381/991) in two books, Tawhid[12] and Uyun akhbar al-Rida (a).[13] After that, it is reported in the al-Ihtijaj written by al-Tabrisi (lived in the 6th/12th century).[14]

Al-Tabrisi's account of the debate is much shorter than al-Saduq's. According to 'Allama al-Majlisi, in the narration of al-Tabrisi, a part of the report has been omitted for the sake of brevity.[15] This hadith is also mentioned in Bihar al-anwar, quoting from the two books of al-Shaykh al-Saduq.[16]

Notes

  1. Ṣadūq, ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, vol. 1, p. 179; Ṣadūq, al-Tawḥīd, p. 441-442; Ṭabrisī, al-Iḥtijāj ʿalā ahl al-lijāj, vol. 2, p. 401.
  2. Qur'an 30:27.
  3. Qur'an 2:117.
  4. Qur'an 9:106.
  5. Ṣadūq, al-Tawḥīd, p. 443-445; Ṣadūq, ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, vol. 1, p. 180-182; Ṭabrisī, al-Iḥtijāj ʿalā ahl al-lijāj, vol. 2, p. 401.
  6. Ṣadūq, ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, vol. 1, p. 183; Ṣadūq, al-Tawḥīd, p. 445; Ṭabrisī, al-Iḥtijāj ʿalā ahl al-lijāj, vol. 2, p. 402.
  7. Ṭabrisī, al-Iḥtijāj ʿalā ahl al-lijāj, vol. 2, p. 402-404; Ṣadūq, ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, vol. 1, p. 183-191; Ṣadūq, al-Tawḥīd, p. 445-454.
  8. Ṭabrisī, al-Iḥtijāj ʿalā ahl al-lijāj, vol. 2, p. 401; Ṣadūq, al-Tawḥīd, p. 444-445; Ṣadūq, ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, vol. 1, p. 182.
  9. Ṣadūq, al-Tawḥīd, p. 445-452; Ṣadūq, ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, vol. 1, p. 183, 190.
  10. Ṭabrisī, al-Iḥtijāj ʿalā ahl al-lijāj, vol. 2, p. 404.
  11. Ṭabrisī, al-Iḥtijāj ʿalā ahl al-lijāj, vol. 2, p. 404; Ṣadūq, ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, vol. 1, p. 183-191; Ṣadūq, al-Tawḥīd, p. 445-454.
  12. Ṣadūq, al-Tawḥīd, p. 441-454.
  13. Ṣadūq, ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, vol. 1, p. 179-191.
  14. Ṭabrisī, al-Iḥtijāj ʿalā ahl al-lijāj, vol. 2, p. 401-404.
  15. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 10, p. 338.
  16. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 10, p. 329-338.

References

  • Majlisī, Muḥammad Bāqir al-. Biḥār al-anwār al-jāmiʿa li-durar akhbār al-aʾimmat al-aṭhār. 2nd edition. Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1403 AH.
  • Ṣadūq, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-. Al-Tawḥīd. Edited by Hāshim Ḥusaynī Tehrānī. 1st edition. Qom: Daftar-i Intishārāt-i Islāmī-yi wābasti bi Jāmiʿa-yi Mudarrisīn-i Ḥawza-yi ʿIlmīyya-yi Qom, 1398 AH.
  • Ṣadūq, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-. ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā. Edited by Mahdī Lājiwardī. Tehran: Nashr-i Jahān, 1378 AH.
  • Ṭabrisī, Aḥmad b. ʿAlī al-. Al-Iḥtijāj ʿalā ahl al-lijāj. Edited by Muḥammad Bāqir Khirsān. 1st edition. Mashhad: Nashr-i Murtaḍā, 1403 AH.