Hisham b. al-Hakam on Infallibility


Were the Imams protected from sin? The common Shi’i position is to affirm their infallibility.

How can the infallibility of the Imam be proven?


Hisham’s Argumentation

One early attempt to ground this doctrine relying solely on logical argument is demonstrated below:

حدثنا محمد بن علي ماجيلويه رضي الله عنه قال: حدثنا علي بن إبراهيم ابن هاشم، عن أبيه، عن محمد بن أبي عمير قال: ما سمعت ولا استفدت من هشام بن الحكم في طول صحبتي له شيئا أحسن من هذا الكلام في عصمة الإمام، فإني سألته يوما عن الإمام أهو معصوم؟ فقال: نعم، فقلت: فما صفة العصمة فيه؟ وبأي شيء يعرف؟ فقال: إن جميع الذنوب أربعة أوجه لا خامس لها، الحرص والحسد والغضب والشهوة، وهذه منفية عنه لا يجوز أن يكون حريصا على هذه الدنيا وهي تحت خاتمه، لأنه خازن المسلمين فعلى ماذا يحرص، ولا يجوز أن يكون حسودا، لأن الإنسان يحسد من فوقه وليس فوقه أحد فكيف يحسد من هو دونه، ولا يجوز أن يغضب لشيء من أمور الدنيا إلا أن يكون غضبه لله تعالى، فإن الله تعالى قد فرض عليه إقامة الحدود وألا تأخذه في الله لومة لائم ولا رأفة في دينه حتى يقيم حدود الله تعالى، ولا يجوز له أن يتبع الشهوات ويؤثر الدنيا على الآخرة، لأنه تعالى حبب إليه الآخرة كما حبب إلينا الدنيا، فهو ينظر إلى الآخرة كما ننظر إلى الدنيا، فهل رأيت أحدا ترك وجها حسنا لوجه قبيح، وترك طعاما طيبا لطعام مر، وثوبا لينا لثوب خشن، ونعمة دائمة باقية لنعمة زائلة فانية

Muhammad b. Ali b. Majilwayh – Ali b. Ibrahim b. Hashim – his father – Muhammad b. Abi Umayr who said:

I did not hear nor benefit from Hisham b. al-Hakam throughout my long association with him words as good as these concerning the Isma (infallibility) of the Imam. I asked him once whether the Imam is infallible? He said: Yes. I said: What is the sign of his infallibility? How can this be known?

He said: All sins fall within four categories and there is no fifth. Greed, jealousy, anger and desire. These are all negated for him (i.e. the Imam).

It is not possible for him to be greedy over this world while it is all under his seal [authority], for he is the treasurer of the Muslims so what should he greed over?

It is also not possible for him to be jealous, for a man becomes jealous of those who are above him and there is no one above him (i.e. the Imam) (in stature) – how can he be jealous of someone who is below him?

It is not possible for him to become angry for a worldly thing, unless his anger is on behalf of Allah the Elevated, for Allah the Elevated has imposed upon him to establish the penal code (Hudud) without paying attention to the blame of a blamer in a matter concerning Allah or acting with undue compassion in the religion by failing to enact the Hudud of Allah the Elevated.

It is also not possible for him to hanker after the desires and to prefer this world over the hereafter for He the Elevated has created love in him for the hereafter the way He has created love in us for this world, thus he (the Imam) looks at the hereafter the way we look at this world, so have you seen anyone abandoning a good thing for a bad thing? or abandoning good food for bitter food? or soft clothes for rough ones? or a constant and abiding blessing for a temporal and passing blessing?

Look at the clear and systematic thinking of the man. Hisham b. al-Hakam (d. 179), was probably the greatest theologian of the first three centuries of Islam and one of the foremost students of al-Sadiq and al-Kadhim. This reliable narration indicates that the doctrine of the protection of the Imam from sin is quite an ancient one, unlike some who presume it to be a later development.


Why Did Ibn Abi Umayr Abandon Hisham?

As a side note, Muhammad b. Abi Umayr did indeed study under Hisham b. al-Hakam for quite some time before they went their separate ways. Evidence for this break comes from the report below:

علي بن إبراهيم، عن السري بن الربيع قال: لم يكن ابن أبي عمير يعدل بهشام بن الحكم شيئا وكان لا يغب إتيانه، ثم انقطع عنه وخالفه وكان سبب ذلك أن أبا مالك الحضرمي كان أحد رجال هشام ووقع بينه وبين أبن أبي عمير ملاحاة في شئ من الامامة، قال ابن ابي عمير: الدنيا كلها للامام عليه السلام على جهة الملك وأنه أولى بها من الذين هي في أيديهم، وقال أبومالك: ليس كذلك أملاك الناس لهم إلا ما حكم الله به للامام من الفيئ والخمس والمغنم فذلك له و ذلك أيضا قد بين الله للامام أين يضعه وكيف يصنع به، فتراضيا بهشام بن الحكم و صار إليه، فحكم هشام لابي مالك على ابن أبي عمير فغضب ابن أبي عمير وهجر هشاما بعد ذلك

Ali b. Ibrahim – al-Sirri b. al-Rabi’ who said: Ibn Abi Umayr would not compare anyone to Hisham b. al-Hakam (would consider him to be the best) and would never miss going to him (to learn), then he stopped and opposed him. The reason was that Aba Malik al-Hadhrami who was one of the students of Hisham had an argument with Ibn Abi Umayr concerning an aspect of the Imama.

Ibn Abi Umayr said: The whole earth belongs to the Imam in terms of ownership (the Imam is the original owner) and that he (the Imam) has more of a right to dispose of it then those in whose hands it (the wealth) is.

Abu Malik on the other hand said: it is not so, the wealth of the people belongs to them, except that which Allah has given over to the Imam of the Fayy, Khums and war-booty, it is only the latter which belongs to him, and even in this it is Allah who has explained to the Imam how to use it and what to do with it.

They chose Hisham b. al-Hakam as their arbiter and went to him. Hisham ruled in favour of Abi Malik over Ibn Abi Umayr which led to Ibn Abi Umayr becoming angry and forsaking Hisham due to that.

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