Hisham Ibn Hikam

The Youthful Missionary Of Shia Islam

When there is discussion about young people who possessed exceptional capabilities and who were having unsurpassed merits and excellence it would not be fair to ignore Hisham Ibn Hikam, the youthful missionary of Imamate. He was among the best students of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) and the incidents connected with him are very interesting and thought provoking.

Hisham, the best student of Imam Sadiq (a.s) had a debate with Amr Ibn Ubaid, the Mutazali scholar of Sunni faith. The debate is very interesting and clear.

Hisham was a great scholar of jurisprudence, a traditionalist, a scholastic theologian and an eloquent speaker. He was an expert in religious debates and his forceful and convincing arguments silenced even the most proficient opponents. Hisham was the most outstanding among the four thousand students of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s). He possessed such intellect, understanding, knowledge and wit that his fame had spread far and wide.

His debates and discussions with the great scholars of Ahle Sunnat are found in books to illustrate points of fundamental beliefs and juristic matters.

Hisham was born in Kufa, a center of Shias and he was brought up in Wast near Baghdad . He traveled to Baghdad on business.

He is the first person who discussed in rational terms the principles of Islamic faith and belief and especially the matter of Imamate. He also penned books on this topic leaving precious material for the coming generations. He has explained and proved his premises in such a beautiful manner with the help of logical and textual proofs that the Shias of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) in particular and all the Muslim scholars in general have benefited to a great degree by his argumentative methods.

He was such a meritorious knowledgeable personality that he never fell short in discussion about divine recognition. No one ever was able to defeat Hisham in any religious debate. Rather he used to single-handedly defeat a large group of opponents.

Every year Hisham used to travel for Hajj pilgrimage and after that arrived in Medina to be in the presence of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s). After that he continued to benefit from the company of Imam Musa Kazim (a.s). He had the advantage of gaining knowledge from these two Imams. He had his difficult scientific problems solved through them and also asked them questions regarding other sciences and arts. Then he committed to memory whatever replies he received. In this way he used to return to his native place with a great wealth of knowledge.

Yunus Ibn Yaqub who was another prominent student of Imam Sadiq (a.s) says, “It was the Hajj season and Hisham met Imam Sadiq (a.s) in Mina. At that time Hisham was just entering into youth and his facial hair was just appearing. When he reached the company of Imam Sadiq (a.s) there were many senior people present whose life had passed in acquisition of knowledge, like Humran ibn Uyoon, Qays ibn Masir and Abu Ja'far Ahwal (Momin al-Taq) etc.”

At that time Imam Sadiq (a.s) instructed Hisham, who was very young in age, to sit at a place of prominence thus according him precedence over all other people in the gathering, and in order to assure that no one should feel ill about it, he said, “Gentlemen! This is a young man who helps me with his words, deeds and heart.” Then he said, “O Hisham! Narrate to us the debate you had with Amr Ibn Ubaid and inform us what you told him.”

Hisham said, “May I be sacrificed for you. I consider your position and status so elevated that I cannot dare to speak in your presence. My tongue stammers to say anything before you.” The Imam said, “O Hisham! Do as I say and take this matter to conclusion.” Thus Hisham did as commanded by the Imam and began to narrate as follows:

I received information that Amr Ibn Ubaid had daily sittings with his students in the Basra Mosque, and there he spoke about the subject of Imamate and debated and discussed about it. They used to take the Shia belief of Imamate as their target practice. I did not like this at all and I planned a journey to Basra .

When I reached Basra it was a Friday. I went to the mosque where Amr Ibn Ubaid held his classes. I saw that a

multitude of students had surrounded Amr who was wearing a black silk dress and had a cloth like a cloak put over his shoulders. All the students were posing questions to him one after the other and he was replying them. I reached near him and requested those present there to allow me some space to sit and I sat down close to him. Then I addressed Amr Ibn Ubaid and said: “O Intellectual gentleman! Please permit me to ask you something.” He replied, “You may!”

Hisham: Do you have eyes?

Amr: Young man! What kind of a question is that? Ask something proper.

Hisham: I will ask these kinds of questions only.

Amr: All right! Ask and I will answer, though your question is foolish.

Hisham: Do you have eyes?

Amr: Yes.

Hisham: Of what use are these?

Amr: They see colors and shapes.

Hisham: Have you a nose?

Amr: Yes.

Hisham: What is it used for?

Amr: To smell.

Hisham: Have you a mouth?

Amr: Yes.

Hisham: What do you use it for?

Amr: To taste food.

Hisham: Have you mind and intellect?

Amr: Yes.

Hisham: Of what use is it?

Amr: Everything that I sense through my organs (eyes, nose, mouth, etc.), I recognize with my mind and intellect.

Hisham: Don't your organs make you independent of your intellect?

Amr: No.

Hisham: Why, when all your organs are intact?

Amr: When the organs face a doubt, they refer to the intellect to remove the doubt and confirm the truth.

Hisham: This means that God has given us intellect to remove the doubts of our senses and to inform them of the truth.

Amr: Yes, of course.

Hisham: So we are dependent on the intellect in all circumstances.

Amr: Yes.

Hisham: God has not left our organs and senses without an Imam who can clarify their doubts, but the same God has left His creatures amidst their doubts and did not ordain any Imam for them who could remove their doubts and confirm the truth?

Amr remained silent for some time, then asked, “Are you Hisham?”

“No,” said Hisham.

“Do you frequent his company?”

“No.”

“Then what is your native place?”

“I am a native of Kufa”

“Then it is confirmed that you are Hisham Ibn Hikam.”

Then he seated Hisham in his place and as long as Hisham remained there, he refused to answer the questions of all the people gathered around him. After sometime Hisham returned.

After Hisham had related this incident to Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s), the Imam smiled and asked, “Who taught you this argument?”

Hisham replied, “The words automatically came on my tongue, O son of Allah’s Messenger!”

The Imam said, “Hisham, this method is present in the scrolls of Ibrahim and Musa.”[1]


[1] Al-Kafi Vol. 1, pg. 169, Rijal Kishi,pg. 232

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