One of the best ways to understand an ideology is to observe the intellect within it. If an ideology is able to deliver scholars to the society, then it shows the value and capability of such ideology in growth and enlightens intellects in the society.

Historians have reported that over 4000 scholars studied in the school of Imam Sadiq (PBUH). Each student would study a particular subject and specialize in. As an example: “Hamran Ibn “Ayan” studied Qur’anic recitation, “Aban Ibn Taqlib” studied Arabic Literature, “Zarareh” studied Jurisprudence, “Mu’min Taaq” studied theology, “Hamza Tayyar” studied Predestination and Free choice, “Hesham Ibn Salem” studied Divine Unity and “Hesham Ibn Hakam” studied Imamate.

Despite his young age, Hisham Ibn Hakam was very respected by Imam Sadiq (PBUH). Hesham had sought different sects until he found what he was looking for in Imam Sadiq’s (PBUH) school of thought. Hesham was spectacular in debates with different sects; many scholars considered him an eminent intellectual. His debates with Jatheeq Nasrani (the greatest Christian scholar in the Arab world at the time) on the subject of Christian theology and with Nazzam about the everlasting feature of the hereafter are very popular.

Upon the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Sadiq (PBUH) who was the great teacher of Hesham, it would be nice to review an excerpt of Hesham’s debates with a Sunni scholar named “Zerar Bin ‘Amro (Abaa ‘Amro)”:

Once “Zerar Bin ‘Amro” came to visit “Yahya Ibn Khalid Barmaki” (1). Yahya asked: “Abaa ‘Amro! Would you be interested in a debate about a Shiite belief?

Zerar responded: “Bring whoever you want.”

Yahya ordered to call upon Hesham Ibn Hakam. After his entrance, Yahya told him: “O Aba Muhammad! This is Zerar. You are aware of his strength in theology and you know that he does not agree with you in beliefs. Talk to him about Imamate.”

Hesham said: “Alright” and turned to Zerar and said: What is the scale of accepting or denying ones friendship, is it by appearance or inner self?

-Zerar: Obviously, it is not possible to know what is in the hearts of people other than by divine inspiration, so we can only know by what is apparent.   

Hesham: True.  But now say which of the two defended the Holy Prophet more, and drew his sword more often, killing more of the enemies of the Lord, being more effective in the Holy Wars?  Ali ibn Abi Talib or the first caliph?

-Zerar: Obviously, Ali ibn Abi Talib has served more, but Abu Bakr had a higher degree of faith and assurance.

Hesham: Assurance is an innate matter which as you already said, innate matters cannot be proven, and as you said we shall not talk about that.  But according to what you confirmed, Ali ibn Abi Talib had a higher status in what was apparent.  He had a higher virtue in the concept of leadership that the first caliph did not have.  

Zerar: Yes, apparently it is so, and we accept this appearance.

Hesham: Now if the appearance is one with the heart, wouldn’t this be an even better virtue?

Zerar: Indeed.

Hesham: Have you not heard what the prophet said to Ali (PBUH)? “You are to me as Harun is to Musa. With the difference that there is no prophet after me.”2

Zerar: I know.

Hesham: Would it seem suitable for the prophet to say such a thing about a person if he didn’t know whether that person has true faith or not?

Zerar: No it would not.

Hesham: So the appearance and inner self of Ali (PBUH) is equal. [And it now proven that that which is a requirement for leadership, whether apparent or innate has been has been in Ali ibn Abi Talib]. But this matter does not hold true for your leader.  The innate does not match the apparent as much and praise is for Allah (SWT) only. (3)

(Selection taken from the book Hisham ibn al-Hakam; Defender of Divine Leadership”, by Sayyed Ahmad Safayeee, with minor changes)

The Roshd offers condolences to all Muslims, especially you dear friend, upon 25th of Shawwal, the anniversary of the martyrdom of the sixth Imam of Shiites, the discoverer of realities and the truthful Imam, Imam Ja’far ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq (PBUH).

(We humbly apologize for the delay in sending out this note.)


1-Yahya ibn Khalid Barmaki, advisor to Harun al-Rashid Abbasi who had a role in the making him a caliph.  In the beginnings of his rule, Harun appointed him as his advisor and gave him his ring.  Tarikh al-Rosol wal Moluk, p. 5231. He was the first advisor who was also called an Amir, Alwuzara’  wal-ketab, p. 229.

2-This narration has been reported in various Sunni and Shia sources, including:  Shia sources: Usul kafi, vol. 8, p. 107; Amali Tousi pp. 171 and 253; Irshad, vol. 1, pp. 8 and 156; Khesal, vol. 1, p. 311.

Sunni Sources: Sahih Bukhari, vol. 5, p. 19, #3706; Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, p. 1870, # 2404; Musnad Ahmad, vol. 3, p. 160, #1608; Sunnan ibn Majeh, vol. 1, p. 45, #121; Sunnan Tirmidhi, vol. 6, p. 88, #3730…

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