The Baqi Question by Wissam Charafeddine

September 16, 2010


The Imams (may peace be upon them) buried each other in the bakee in the way exactly that you see today there. These were the graves made by the imam. It is as original as it gets, …and frankly I felt very spiritual to see the original state of the grave as it was built by the imams without the additions of all the other people. In that way, I am, from an aesthetic and archeological point of view, in support of the originality of the location.

I have the same opinion for all historical locations of Islam every where. Since they are historical, they should be preserved and restored and not modernized. Historians would agree that it is the right of people to see the original work untouched. That is why there are no glass containers for even the most important paintings in the museums.

The first time buildings were erected over the bakee were at the time of the Abbasids. It was until the Ottoman empire, where emperors always had Nazr’s and Gifts to give to different holy people, and it usually came in the shape of tombs and minarets. The Green tomb over the Prophet’s grave itself is a gift from an Ottoman Sultan. The Hashimites (grand father of the current King Abdullah of Jordan) were in charge in the late Ottoman Empire and they preserved these places and ornamented them since it was their family heritage and honor. Then the Wahhabis attacked and destroyed all the ornamentation over all the Sahabah and Imams graves because they believed in the ideology of anti symbolism and salafism.

Their teachings were definitely a catastrophe, but you have to understand that they were a reaction against Sufism that swept the Islamic world at that time and created a pseudo body of Islam (especially in muslim Africa which still till now).

I still believe that Wahabism and Safawism were the two biggest catastrophes in Islamic Intellect, but pragmatically, wahabism combated soofism, and safawism preserved the power of shiaism.

I agree with you that the Baqi was destroyed in the dishonorable way…

but let me bring your attention to something that might not be clear over here. Wahabis did not attack s…hia or the imams in the bakee specifically. The Wahabis were attacking the Sunnis who had control of Madinah and were destroying the buildings in teh Bakee that the Sunni’s have built. We have a misconception that the attack was
against Shia. The Wahabis destroyed the tombs of Othman, Aisha, and all the Sahabis who are revered by the Sunna. The belief of visiting graves is a common belief among Sunna and Shia.

I want to bring to your attention that when the Wahabi movement launched, it was a movement against the general Sunni’s. They were considered deviant by the Wahabis and they were announced Kafirs until late in the 20th century, when the Saudi family forced the Wahabi agenda to change.

Also, Wahabism have split into factions and not all of them are militant. Nevertheless, they have the most blood on their hands among all Islamic ideologies.

I know there is no need for this, but let me state the following disclaimer: I am not defending Wahabis here, nor do I reckon myself as a Sunni or a Shia. I do think that Wahabis are the most closed minded faction of the Ummah. I am speaking from an academic point of view only and as a member of IRSHAD.

Regarding Safawism, I think the shia terrorist retaliations and the shia Death Squads that appeared in Iraq are no less bloody and terrorizing than the Wahabis, and I consider the Sufawi rhetoric is responsible about developing this mentality among many Shia, the mentality of hatred and enmity towards other muslims, so I do blame them equally. Also, the safawi extremism in deviating from main stream Islam and attacking Islamic sensitive figures and concepts have resulted in the polarization and recruitment of the Wahabis further.

According to the resources I red, the specific description of how imams buried each other are usually listed and shrines in Baqi were not built till the time of the Abbasids. Please inform me if you have any other s…ources.

In my hawza studies, shrines are not recommended on the top of graves according to most Shia Scholars and there are specific requirements for grave building.

In the case of Imam Ali, he was buried in secrecy and his grave was claimed to be discovered by Haroon Alrasheed in the Abbasid time, and that is when the shrine was resurrected by the Abbasid Khalifa.

You see, through my readings, I find that the Imam have nothing to do with building shrines, ecouraging shrines, or visiting shrines, nor they have travelled to visit any shrine in their lives (other than the Mosque of the Prophet (s))… so I find it hard to corelate shrines with the love of ahlulbait. Nevertheless, traditionally, especially through the Indian and Persian cultures, shrine building was imported and emphasized to the level that people started to associate religion with them, with no strong evidence.

Most of the literature in that direction is strong safawi propaganda, and you can study Ali Shariati’s “The Alawy Shiaism and the Safavi Shiaism” to understand further the reasoning.

Regarding Shia Scholars who do not recommend shrines on top of graves, well, they give an exception to the “holy” people because it functions as a reminders for others, but If you review the original books of fiqh, and when they talk about the grave, they even discourage from raising the grave more than 4 fingers (about 3-4 inches). They follow the way the Prophet buried his son Ibrahim (as you have seen the grave in the bakee).

In Alkafi, part III, the Prophet forbade to build upon a grave what has not come out of it (of soil). In Alistibsar Part 1, Sheik Tousi narrates that Imam Kazim (a.s.) said that buildings should not be built upon graves.

Also it has been narrated in numerous books, both Shia and Sunna, that the Prophet has ordered Imam Ali when he was sent to an area (and Imam Ali used to quote the Prophet when he used to send others at the time of his Khilafa) to destroy every idol and flatten every grave yard.

and these ahadeeth and others, Ulama, especially the older ones, discouraged from building upon graves because of.

You see, whenever things are simple but unsatisfactory to some of our scholars, they will do their philosophy magic to make anything, and I mean anything, legitimate! 🙂

Look at the simple bottom line: The Imams burried each other and the way they built the grave is the way it is now … any dissatisfaction is a dissatisfaction with the Imam himself.

I mean, are we more religious than them, so we know how to honor Imam Albakir (a.s.) for example more than Imam AlSadik, so we think it is religious to build a tomb over him with gold and diamonds!

Since when do we have “ordinary” and “awliyah” in fiqh! There is no distinction among different classes of people based on “holy blood” or “iman”. This is something that is special with Allah only, he rewards for it in the day of judgement. His Awliyah are hidden among his slaves and in dunya, and in the eyes of fiqh, everyone is equal!

Ruling #620 by Sayid Seestani is an example of a secondary exception in this case, and it proves that nothing should be built upon the grave except under very severe circumstances like the one it mentioned (fear of beasts eating the corpse!)

We can do our research and we can sit and discuss them, but this is not an adequate place for a detailed academic discussion.  Pick any book of fiqh and see the requirements of a grave and see if they list exceptions for Awliyah, because I didn’t find any.

We know that Imams never built shrines, visited shrines, encouraged building shrines, owned shrines, or had to do anything with any of the shrines built later by mostly hypocrite Sultans and sneaky dictators.

It is habits brought to us from India and Persia, entered into shiaism by Safawi’s, who are not a dead empire, but actually they are still in control of 90% of Shiaism, and 99% of Qum. They are so much in control that they fear even Ali Shariati’s dead body, denying his family a request to transfer his corpse back to IRAN (even though Imam Khomaini, Sayid KHamenai, and Sayid Khatamy dedicated so much respect and reverence to him).

So, ok, it is fine .. nice architecture, beautiful buildings, spiritual experience, there aren’t strong opposition to that in our fiqh, but let’s not make it a religious thing, and then find nothing to do now except rebuilding the Bakee.

How about we focus on rebuilding our cities and villages for they are made of mostly mud. At the end, “Ahya2 umati awla beldadakat min baytellah elharam” [the alive of my ummah are more worthy of Sadakah than the holy house of god (kabaa)].

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About W

Wissam, Wesley, or simply W, is an educator, writer, entrepreneur, engineer, activist, ex-Imam, humanist, liberal thinker with interest and mediocre attempt at many takes of life. A modern confused Renaissance man, who uses doubt as a path for emancipation and science as a road towards enlightenment.

View all posts by W


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