- This article is about the famous Shi'a family. For the theological school, see Ash'arism.
Al-Ashʿarī were a tribe from Yemen who were living in Kufa. A number of their members were companions of Prophet Muhammad (s). Some hadith narrators and religious scholars in the second and third century after Hijra were from al-Ash'ari family. It is an honor for them that they converted to Islam before the conquest of Mecca. They had fought alongside Ahl al-Bayt (a) in the battles and supported them greatly, including the battle of Siffin and the Uprising of al-Mukhtar.
As Al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf al-Thaqafi treated al-Ash'ari family harshly and tried to prosecute them, they were forced to migrate from Kufa to Iran and they chose to live in Qom, where they expanded Shi'ism. They chose this city as their ancestor, Malik b. 'Amir had conquered this region before. Their influence made Qom a pivotal city; they even received taxes from people of Isfahan.
Some of the great figures of this family were among the students and companions of Ahl al-Bayt (a).
Ash'aris were originally from Yemen, Qahtani Arabs. As their lineage goes back to Nabat b. Udad b. Zayd b. Yashjib b. 'Urayb b. Zayd b. Kahlan known as Ash'ar, they are called al-Ash'ari Family. Some reports also mentioned they are called al-Ash'ari because their ancestor was hirsute (in Arabic Ash'ar means hairy).
Ash'ar had seven sons and each one became the head of their tribe, all were called al-Ash'ari. In this entry the focus is on Jamahir the son of Ash'ar.
Al-Ash'ari family is regarded as virtuous people and noble family before the emergence of Islam. Based on narrations, they were such generous people that they shared their houses and properties with people.
The First Muslim in Al-Ash'ari Family
Malik b. 'Amir al-Ash'ari is considered the first Muslim in al-Ash'ari family, who is the ancestor of al-Ash'ari family in Qom. He is the first emigrant to meet Prophet Muhammad (s) and he converted to Islam afterwards. Then he returned to his tribe and after some years he brought them to meet Prophet (s).
Converting other Ash'aris to Islam
After Malik b. 'Amir, a group of al-Ash'ari family travelled to Medina in the 7th year of Hijra and converted to Islam as well. It happened after the battle of Khaybar. Some sources stated that Malik b. 'Amir converted to Islam in Mecca; but most of the sources—without mentioning his migration to Mecca—reported that they went to Medina in 7/628 and converted to Islam in the time of the battle of Khaybar. However, they were enthusiastic to convert to Islam unlike some Arab tribes who converted to Islam after the conquest of Mecca, as they were sure Prophet Muhammad (s) would conquer Mecca. Hence, converting to Islam before the conquest of Mecca was regarded as an honor for al-Ash'ari family.
A large number of historians believe al-Ash'ari family converted to Islam in 7/628 after the battle of Khaybar. Zeyni Dahlan stated: "Researchers believe Ash'aris came to Hijaz after the battle of Khaybar in 7/628". Some historians believe that they converted to Islam twenty years after Bi'that of Prophet Muhammad (s).
Abu 'Amir al-Ash'ari and Abu Musa al-Ash'ari are regarded as the main figures of al-Ash'ari family. Abu 'Amir was martyred in the battle of Hunayn, his sons 'Amir b. abi 'Amir and Harith al-Ash'ari have narrated hadiths from Prophet Muhammad (s).
Migration to Iraq
Al-Ash'ari family attended the conquest of Iraq. In the battle of Mada'in, Malik b. 'Amir was the first Arab who passed Tigris River which was followed by other soldiers; it consequently led to victory of Muslims over Sassanid. He is regarded as the conqueror of Jibal region including Saveh. After the conquest of Iraq, al-Ash'ari family along with other people of Yemen, started to settle in Iraq. Sa'ib and Sa'd, the sons of Malik became notable figures of Kufa and Iraq. Sa'd b. Malik was among those who swore to Uthman b. Affan, caliph of Muslims, that Walid b. 'Aqaba, Emir of Kufa was an alcoholic man.
Tendencies toward Ahl al-Bayt (a)
After the death of Uthman, al-Ash'ari family are divided into three groups:
- A group of them attended the battles in conquests of Muslims they also supported Mu'awiya in the battle against Imam 'Ali (a).
- A group of them followed Abu Musa al-Ash'ari and avoided Imam 'Ali (a) and Uthman.
- And the third group followed Malik b. 'Amir in supporting Shi'ite Muslims and Imam 'Ali (a); they later migrated to Qom.
There are not numerous historical reports on the background of al-Ash'ari family in Shi'ism, however some reports mentioned their tendencies toward Imam 'Ali (a). It is stated on one source that Malik b. 'Amir has fought alongside Imam 'Ali (a) in the battle of Siffin.
Also some narrations mentioned Sa'ib b. Malik had trends toward Shi'ism. It is said in the time of the battle of Jamal, Imam 'Ali (a) ordered Abu Musa al-Ash'ari to gather people and prepare an army for the battle. Abu Musa disagreed with Imam (a). Then he consulted with Sa'ib b. Malik, and Sa'ib suggested him to follow the orders of Imam 'Ali (a).
In addition, when 'Abd Allah b. Muti', the representative of Zubayr stated that he would follow Sira (lifestyle) of 'Umar b. Khattab and Uthman b. Affan in manners of governance, Sa'ib b. Malik criticized him and said that they only want to follow Sira of Imam 'Ali (a).
He also attended the rise of al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi to take revenge of Ahl al-Bayt's (a) blood. When Al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi took control of Kufa, Sa'ib gave a speech in which he started his speaking with "Shi'a of Prophet Muhammad (s)."
Sa'ib was killed by the supporters of Ibn Zubayr. He recited a poem in his last breath: "Oh, Sa'ib the son of Malik al-Ash'ari, keep your shield tight to your body and do not lean toward the enemies. The children of Prophet Muhammad (s) and 'Ali (a) will save me. That is all you could desire."
It is said his children, nephews and nieces were also supporters of Ahl al-Bayt (a).
Migration to Iran
There are three reports on the reasons behind the migration of al-Ash'ari family to Qom:
- Based on some narrations, because al-Ash'ari family supported Imam 'Ali (a) and al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi, they were prosecuted and treated harshly by Al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf al-Thaqafi, the representative of caliph in Iraq. Al-Hajjaj exiled Muhammad b. Sa'ib to Azerbaijan, but he hid in Kufa. When al-Hajjaj found him he slayed him. It is said in sources after the death of Muhammad b. Sa'ib, al-Ash'ari family migrated to Qom.
- Some sources mentioned that they supported 'Abd al-Rahman b. Muhammad b. Ash'ath in his rise against Umayyad. Then after they were defeated by al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf, al-Ash'ari family were put under huge pressure and prosecutions. They were given only three days to leave Kufa, or every member of them will be killed.
- In another report, it is said Ahwas al-Ash'ari treated Iranian villagers who were working for him harshly. Then al-Hajjaj imprisoned Ahwas in 93/711-2 but after requests of his brother for forgiveness, he was released. 'Abd Allah was afraid that al-Hajjaj would become livid at his brother, then they decided to leave Kufa and migrate to Qom.
Anyhow, children of Sa'ib b. Malik migrated to from Kufa and later children of Sa'd b. Malik joined them and they settled in Qom as well. As a result all of the children of Malik b. 'Amir travelled to Iran. They were led by the sons of Sa'd al-Ash'ari, 'Abd Allah and Ahwas.
It is said that al-Ash'ari family chose Qom as this city was conquered by their ancestor Malik b. 'Amir before. Malik b. 'Amir treated them kindly and he made affords to defend this city from the attacks of Tabarestan and Daylam. As a result people were supporting him when he was staying in Qom. When he returned to Kufa, he told his children about people of Daylam and Takhrud (a village near Qom) which has inspired them in order to choose Qom as their destination. People also welcomed them warmly, when they arrived in their city.
However some narrations mentioned that al-Ash'ari family intended to stay in other regions like Isfahan, Qazvin or Azerbaijan, not Qom. But those regions were hit by Cholera, they had to temporarily stay in a village near Qom. Meanwhile people of Daylam attacked Qom and al-Ash'ari family went to help people of Qom. They managed to defeat Daylamis, and accordingly local people asked al-Ash'ari to stay in Qom and settle there.
The growth of population of al-Ash'ari family and increase of their influence in Qom led to start of conflicts in this city. It is said local people treated Ash'aris poorly and they broke their promises. Al-Ash'ari family defeated local people and killed their leaders then.
They also played an important role in development and flourishing of Qom. This city was earlier a collection of a number of villages near each other, which later tuned into an Islamic city. Therefore, it is said Qom was founded by Ash'aris. But it is clear they only developed the city very soon. They were also separated from Isfahan and they became an independent city. Entrance of al-Ash'ari family increased the influence of Islam and expanded Shi'ism in Iran.
Influence and Power
Initially Qom was dependent to Isfahan, but after the arrival of al-Ash'ari family and the efforts they made, Qom became independent and they even received tax from Isfahan. As they were Shi'ites, al-Ash'ari did not allow Abbasid to send their representative to their city, besides they had their own judge. When Husayn b. Hamdan, the Shi'ite representative of caliph was sent as the governor of Qom, people welcomed him warmly. They said, they would not accept any representative who is not Shi'ite. Moreover Aveh, Saveh, Tafresh and Kashan were dependent to Qom. Even some reports mentioned Qazvin was dependent to Qom as well.
Al-Ash'ari family were fond of Ahl al-Bayt (a) since the time of 'Amir b. Malik, but they did not announce following Shi'ism. Musa b. 'Abd Allah al-Ash'ari was the first one from al-Ash'ari family that declared he is a Shi'ite. Since then al-Ash'ari family supported Shi'ism and they tried to preach and expand it as well.
When al-Ash'ari family were in control of the city, they managed to use local economic and human resources; they did not allow agents of caliphs to enter the city and they even chose their own judge. Ash'aris clearly gave Khums to Ahl al-Bayt (a) while they did not pay tax to government, which led to a number of serious conflicts between al-Ash'ari family and caliphs. Besides Ma'mun and Mu'tasim sent armies to Qom to suppress and kill al-Ash'ari members.
However, some caliphs chose the governor of Qom from al-Ash'ari family to avoid conflicts. For example Harun al-Rashid chose 'Amir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ash'ari as the governor of Qom in 192/807-8 and his son became the next governor of the city after him. 'Ali b. 'Isa al-Talhi was appointed as the governor of Qom in 212/827-8 by caliph as well.
Relations with Ahl al-Bayt (a)
Al-Ash'ari family kept a close and strong relationship with Ahl al-Bayt (a) which continued frequently until the Occultation of Imam al-Mahdi (a). Collections of hadith and Rijal books brought information on the quality of their relationship and the status they held among descendants of Ahl al-Bayt (a). Over one hundred companions of Ahl al-Bayt (A) were al-Ash'ari, including twelve children of 'Abd Allah b. Sa'd who were companions of Imam al-Sadiq (a). Even a number of them were regarded as special companions of Imams (a).
About fifty members of al-Ash'ari family have narrated hadiths from four hundred hadith scholars and wrote over 160 books, which were mostly written on fiqh. 'Ali b. Ibrahim al-Qumi, Muhammad b. Hasan Saffar, Al-Humayri, Al-Kulayni, 'Ali b. Babaway, Ibn Humam, Al-Saduq, Ibn Qulwayh, Al-Shaykh al-Tusi and Al-Najashi are among the notable Ash'ari hadith narrators.
Rejecting exaggeration, was a significant characteristic of hadith school of Qom which was founded by al-Ash'ari family. Their grand figures opposed exaggeration and they even deported a number of Shi'ite narrators due to narrating possibly-exaggerated hadiths.
Al-Ash'ari family have made huge efforts to expand Shi'ism and they have brought up a number of grand Shi'ite figures in their family who are regarded as prominent figures in Shi'ite Rijal. Some sources mentioned over hundred and thirty prominent figures in al-Ash'ari family including:
- Malik b. 'Amir al-Ash'ari; the first Muslim in al-Ash'ari family.
- Sa'ib b. Malik al-Ash'ari; some believe he was a companion of Ahl al-Bayt (a) who lived in Kufa. He was killed by Mus'ab b. Zubayr in the rise of Mukhtar al-Thaqafi.
- Sa'd b. Malik al-Ash'ari; the ancestor of al-Ash'ari family settled in Qom.
- Ahwas b. Sa'd b. Malik al-Ash'ari; he was the first Ash'ari who migrated to Qom from Kufa.
- Adam b. 'Abd Allah b. Sa'd al-Ash'ari al-Qumi; he was regarded as companion of Imam al-Sadiq (a) by Al-Shaykh al-Tusi and Al-Barqi.
- Hamza b. Yasa' al-Ash'ari; he was a companion of Imam al-Sadiq (a) and Imam al-Kazim (a). Hamza made Qom an independent city departed from Isfahan. A village called Hamza Abad near Qom is named after him.
- Adam b. Ishaq b. Adam al-Ash'ari; he lived in the time of Imam al-Kazim (a), Imam al-Rida (a) and Imam al-Jawad (a). Al-Najashi regarded him as thiqa (reliable) in narration.
- Ahmad b. Ishaq al-Ash'ari; he was a companion of Imam al-Jawad (a) and Imam al-Hadi (a) and a special companion of Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari (a).
- Ahmad b. Muhammad b. 'Isa al-Ash'ari, who lived in the time of Imam al-Rida (a), Imam al-Jawad (a) and Imam al-Hadi (a). His representatives met Imam al-Rida (a). The significant action taken by him was to deport al-Barqi out of Qom because of narrating Al-Da'if (weak) hadiths [a hadith is da'if when it is not sahih (authentic), nor hasan (reliable).
Based on researches, out of 83 hadith narrators of al-Ash'ari family, 38 were living in the second century/eighth century, 33 were living in the third/ninth and seven were living in the fourth/tenth century which represents prime scientific era and decline of this family. In the fourth/tenth century after the major occultation of Imam al-Mahdi (a) they began to decline. Continuous rebels and military attacks of local people against the government was the main reason behind their fall. The author of "The History of Qom" described the reasons of their decline as:
When Ash'aris were declining, their enemies defeated them. A number of them were perished, some ran away, only few stayed with them and fought until the end. They rationed their food to survive. Some even took money and food from the passing caravans.
Only two families (Taheri and Ansari) remained from al-Ash'ari family, the former one are descendants of Zakariyya b. Adam and the latter one are descendants of Sa'd b. 'Abd Allah b. Abi Khalaf al-Ash'ari. Muhammad Tahir al-Ash'ari, his son 'Abd Allah and his grandson Muhammd Tahir al-Ash'ari al-Qumi are the famous clergymen of Qom who were teachers of Imam Khomeini. Muhammad Tahir al-Ash'ari is buried in Qom. Imam Khomeini stated on the son of Mirza 'Ali Asghar al-Qumi al-Ash'ari: "we were studying together for 46 years; he did not commit any reprehensible act."
Al-Murtada al-Ansari, the student of 'Abd al-Karim Ha'iri Yazdi was also a descendant of al-Ash'ari family; he was a notable preacher as well. He memorized over three thousand hadiths and he opposed Communism and Baha'ism. It is said the first attack of the army of Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi to Seminary of Qom took place when he was giving a speech there.