Imam Zayd and Kitaab as-Safwa

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1 month 2 days ago #1042 by Imam Rassi Society
As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum sayyidi,

Hope that you’re well. Is there doubt as to whether or not Imam Zayd (AS) is the actual author of Kitab as-Safwah?

wa alaykum as salaam wa rahmatullahi!

Praying that all is well! Thanks for your question! Just a quick correction: Imam Zayd (as) is not seen as the author of Kitaab as-Safwa; rather the compiler of the text was a key companion of Imam Zayd (as) named Abuz-Zanaad Mawj b. Ali al-Kufi. Abuz-Zanaad collected the statements of Imam Zayd (as) and a complete isnaad is available.

As for the attribution of the statements in Kitaab as-Safwa to Imam Zayd (as), I have not read any criticism or falsification from any of our imams or scholars. Imam Hamideen b. Yahya (as) quotes from the text and prior to that states: "Imam Zayd (as) said..." Therefore, the imam attributes the statements to Imam Zayd (as). Also, in later times, Imam Majideen al-Muayyadi attributes the statements from Kitaab as-Safwa to Imam Zayd in his Lawaami'.

And Allah knows best!

IRS

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1 month 2 days ago #1043 by Imam Rassi Society
Thanks for your reply.

I did notice that Mawj bin Ali al-Kufi is in the isnad of this book. I was curious as to his standing by Zaydi hadith critics as Sunni scholars such as al-Bukhari, ibn Hibban, an-Nasa'i and others classified him as a liar.

What puzzles me in as-Safwah is the statement that "a Persian man has fadl over Zanji man." Even if this is 'urfi, that's a subjective argument, and does not seem like something that Imam Zayd would say to make an 'aqidah argument about al-imamah being with the 'itrah.

as salamu alaykum, ya sidi!

Thank you for your question! As for the statement of Imam Zayd (as), I think it is important to contextualise it. In the portion of the text where you took the quote, he was talking about how some are given more virtue than others. He said that if there is a difference in virtue in the people, then “the Persian man would be over the Zanj man in virtue—even if they were to all enter Islam—in terms of their attribution and colour as is known by the people.” I think that the last portion of this quote is the most important to understand what the imam is saying. Basically, he is saying that according to the people, there is more virtue of a Persian than a Zanj due to their attribution and colour.

What must be understood is that the term ‘Zanj man’ does not mean ‘Black man’ exclusively, at least how we understand it today. The Zanj were known to be East Africans used for slavery and servitude specifically. So the term—rather right or wrong—came to be synonymous with the slave class. It is for this reason—I believe—that there was a sense of inferiority attached to them as they related to Persians. It can be compared to the term ‘Black’ or ‘Negro’ in early American historical writings. Just the other day, I read an article about the Spanish colonisation of the Caribbean and how they distinguished the African slaves from free Africans by labeling the slaves as ‘Black’ or ‘Negro.’ Another term was used to refer to the free Africans. In any case, the same is the case for ‘Zanj.’

Since the people of the imam’s time associated the Zanj with the slave class, they more-than-likely perceived the Persians as being superior. However, it is unlikely that the imam (as) himself subscribed to this view because Imam Zayd (as) was known as the Haleef al-Qur’an, or Intimate Friend of the Qur’an. And as the Intimate Friend of the Qur’an, he would no doubt be aware of verses such as: {…the noblest of you to Allah is the most God-conscious} (Q. 49:13). As the inheritor of the Prophetic legacy, he would no doubt be aware of the Prophet’s statement: ((…there is no superiority of the black over the red or the red over the black…)).

And Allah knows best!

IRS

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