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Maytham Tammar: The Mirror of Truth and Exemplar of Resistance

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The school of Imam Ali (PBUH) was transformative and nurturing. Those who had the capacity for growth and perfection would find life and revitalization in the radiance of the exalted character of the Commander of the Faithful (PBUH). They would follow the path of spiritual excellence and flourishing, reaching the zenith of humanity. Numerous were the souls purified at the spring of his Imamate and guidance, attaining maturity, selflessly devoting themselves to Allah – a testament to their intellectual greatness, faith, justice-seeking, devotion, and sincerity.

And now, behold Maytham Tammar – a man among these wise individuals, a familiar face to seekers of spiritual values and travelers of the path of truth, honor, jihad, patience, and certainty!

If Maytham was enamored with Ali (PBUH), it was because of truth, justice, Islam, and Ali’s virtues. If Maytham had a profound, wondrous love and a clear, deep affection for the Master, it was because that esteemed person was the embodied perfection of Islam, the vocal Qur’an, and the essence of religion. Maytham’s friendship with Imam Ali returned to the truth of his affection; the truth of his affection was related to the faith, belief, knowledge, and insight of that crucified martyr.

Recognizing the prominent figure of Maytham familiarizes us more with the face of religion; the biography of this truthful spokesman of justice and loyal companion of the Commander of the Faithful guides us to the constructive content of the Qur’an and school. The fruitful life and honorable martyrdom of this graduate of the school of Ali ibn Abi Talib, a student in the class of divine revelation and prophetic teachings, are also lessons for us, offering education, inspiration, exemplar, and a model to follow.

The attractive personality of this Shia follower of Ali, a follower of truth and martyr for virtue and righteousness, shines so brightly and illuminatively that for many centuries, it has always been an inspiration and lesson for admirers of justice and freedom. Which free school-goer, honorable person, committed, false fighter, and truth-seeker has not heard the name “Maytham”?”

Though Maytham was a simple tradesman in Kufa, his supreme faith, the greatness of his spirit, the majesty of his character, his unique selflessness, and his strong steadfastness in the path of truth have made him an everlasting human being and a model Muslim. His name adorns the pages of Islamic history, and he is a prestigious testament to the sacred religion of Islam, which has presented such a cultivated and valuable individual to humanity.

And… finally, one must know ‘Maytham’. Pursuing this knowledge and recognition provides the basis for following and adhering to his example. After this introduction, let’s explore him, who calls us, and the awakening resonance of his words that has woven into the fabric of history through his eloquent tongue.

Maytham Al-Tammar

Maytham was the son of Yahya, originating from the region of ‘Nahrawan’, an area between Iraq and Iran. Some consider him Iranian and a native of Persia; he was also referred to as ‘Abu Salim’.

Initially, he was the slave of a woman from the ‘Banu Asad’ tribe. Imam Ali (PBUH) bought him from this woman and granted him freedom (1). Maytham is considered among the companions of the Prophet (2). Though detailed information about his early life and the early days of Islam is not extensively available. The nickname ‘Tammar’ (date-seller) was given to him because he sold dates in Kufa.

In addition to Maytham Tammar being a devoted, pure Muslim, and a loyal and sincere Shia, his family were also among the dignitaries and nobles of the Shia.

Maytham had six sons and many grandchildren, the majority of whom, like their father, followed the straight path of truth, adhered to the Ahl al-Bayt, believed in the guardianship and leadership of the infallible Imams, and are predominantly counted among the narrators of the Imams’ traditions. The Shia Imams expressed affection and interest towards Maytham and his children and held them in high esteem. Maytham’s sons were: Imran, Shu’aib, Salih, Muhammad, Hamzah, and Ali.

Shu’aib was a companion of Imam Sadiq (PBUH), and Salih was a companion of Imam Baqir and Imam Sadiq (PBUH). Even Imam Baqir (PBUH) once said to Salih, “I have a great affection for you and your father.” (3) Imran was also a companion of Imam Sajjad, Imam Baqir, and Imam Sadiq (PBUH). These words indicate both the high esteem this family held amongst the Imams and the continuous relationship, affection, and allegiance of Maytham’s family, including himself, towards the Shia Imams.

Knowing Imam Ali (PBUH)

Imam Ali (PBUH) had previously heard the destiny and biography of Maytham Tammar from the Prophet of Allah. Maytham, too, was already fond of Ahl al-Bayt and interested in that pure lineage.

However, the first face-to-face encounter and meeting between Maytham and the Imam took place during the Imam’s caliphate. Following this encounter and meeting, the Imam decided to buy Maytham from his owner and then set him free, and thus, Maytham eventually gained his freedom.

In that first meeting, Ali (PBUH) had the following conversation with Maytham:

Ali (PBUH) asked, “What is your name?”

He said: “Salem.”

The Imam said: “I heard from the Messenger of Allah that your father named you ‘Maytham’, return to that name and make your kunya ‘Abu Salem’.”

He said: “Allah, the Messenger, and the Commander of the Faithful spoke the truth.” (4)

Maytham’s acquaintance with his master Ali (PBUH) was a significant blessing and valuable fortune for him. Thus, he became a disciple in the school of Ali (PBUH), opened the door of his heart to Alawi knowledge, and quenched his thirsty soul from the clear spring of the Imam’s sciences.

 The Imam, observing his spiritual potential and suitable ground, taught him much knowledge and acquainted Maytham with hidden secrets. Hence, Maytham benefited from knowledge that even the close angels and divine messengers were aware of. (5)

Maytham learned the science of Quranic interpretation from Ali (PBUH) and compiled a book from the knowledge he had learned from the Imam, which his son narrated from him. Therefore, Maytham is considered one of the Shia authors.

He was close to the Commander of the Faithful, and the Imam had familiarized him with the understanding of the incidents that would happen in the future, and Maytham would sometimes narrate some of these events to people, astonishing them. This knowledge and awareness of people’s destinies and predictions are known as “knowledge of term” or “knowledge of calamities and tribulations”, which the infallible Imams taught to those who had the readiness, talent, discretion, capacity, and attraction for it. Maytham Tammar was a disciple of this school, although envious and opportunistic individuals, or ignorant and uninformed people, accused him of lying.

One day, “Abu Basir” said to Imam Sadiq (PBUH): Why do you torment me by not teaching me knowledge?

The Imam asked: “What knowledge?”

“The knowledge that Commander of the Faithful, Ali (PBUH), had taught to Maytham.”

The imam replied “You are not Maytham. Have I ever told you something, and you haven’t divulged it?”

“No, O son of the Messenger of Allah!”

The Imam said: “So, you are not trustworthy with such knowledge!”

Imam Ali’s (PBUH) and the Imams’ view on “Maytham”

The high position of Maytham in the eyes of the Imams can be understood from their words about him and also from their behavior with him in practice. The purity and intimacy that existed between Ali (PBUH) and Maytham and the extent of their affectionate relationship can be recognized from the affinity and fondness of these two for each other. The Imam even went to Maytham’s date-selling shop and conversed with him there, teaching him the Quran and religious knowledge.

Once, Imam Ali (PBUH) sent Maytham on an errand and stayed in Maytham’s shop until his return. A customer came to buy dates. The Imam said, “Leave the money and take the dates!”… When Maytham returned and learned about this transaction, he realized that the person’s money was counterfeit and told the Imam about it. Ali (PBUH) said, “They will also find the dates bitter.”

In the same conversation, that customer returned the dates and said, “These dates are bitter….” (6)

This demonstrates the ultimate purity between the two and Maytham’s position with the Imam. The Imam, while being the Commander of the Faithful, the leader of the nation, and the trustee of the Islamic government, also sold dates in Maytham’s shop.

In addition, Maytham’s spiritual closeness to Ali (PBUH) can be seen in other moments and situations. For instance, Maytham, alongside distinguished individuals like “Kumail”, was present during the Imam’s moments of prayer and worship and was a companion in the Imam’s spiritual nights, sharing the Imam’s confidential prayers with the Creator.

Maytham recounts an evocative tale of an evening with his guide and mentor, Imam Ali (PBUH), the Commander of the Faithful. They ventured together into the wilderness beyond Kufa until they arrived at the Mosque known as “Ja’fi.” Facing the Kaaba, Imam Ali performed a prayer of four rak’ahs. Upon its completion, he raised his hands in supplication, uttering words imbued with profound humility and longing:

“Oh allah, how can I call upon You when I have been disobedient? Yet, how can I not call upon You when I have recognized You, and my heart houses an abode of Your love? I come to You with hands tarnished by sins, and eyes brimming with hope…”

After the invocation, Imam Ali prostrated himself, his face pressed against the earth. A hundred times, he pleaded for forgiveness: “Pardon me, pardon me…” Rising from the mosque, he ventured out into the wilderness once more, with Maytham trailing behind. At the edge of the desert, Imam Ali drew a line and forbade Maytham from crossing it. Nevertheless, overwhelmed by concern for his mentor amidst lurking enemies, Maytham could not help but follow him.

He eventually found Imam Ali conversing with a well, his head immersed in its depth. Sensing Maytham’s presence, Imam Ali questioned him for crossing the boundary he was commanded not to breach. Maytham, filled with worry, confessed his apprehensions for Imam Ali’s safety. After ensuring Maytham had not overheard his conversation with the well, Imam Ali recited verses that unraveled the intimate spiritual bond he shared with the earth and the hidden wisdom it held.

Maytham, known as the confidant of Imam Ali’s secrets, was an esteemed companion who partook in the divine reflections of the infallible Imam. Held in high regard by the sagacious and virtuous Imam Ali (PBUH), Maytham was also esteemed by Imam Hassan and Imam Hussain (AS). Other Imams, such as Imam Baqer and Imam Sadiq (AS), mentioned Maytham with reverence and respect.

Once in Medina, Maytham encountered Umm Salamah, the Prophet’s wife. She mentioned how Imam Hussain often spoke fondly of him. Imam Baqer expressed his deep affection for Maytham, while Imam Sadiq (AS) honored him with a salutation, acknowledging his lofty station and eminent stature.

Maytham’s son, Saleh, shared a conversation with Imam Baqer (AS). When Saleh requested for a Hadith, the Imam asked, “Did you not learn the Hadith from your father?” Saleh replied, “I was a mere child then…”(8). The Imam’s response indicates the profound knowledge and virtues of Maytham, suggesting that being his son would have inherently exposed Saleh to the teachings and wisdom of the tradition.

News of Martyrdom

For someone who recognizes death as a transition to a more expansive world colored by eternity and immortality, if their deeds are virtuous and their faith supreme, the shift to this benign realm is an immense blessing; particularly if the end of their life in this world takes the form of “martyrdom”, which bequeaths everlasting blessed life in the company of the righteous, the prophets, and with Allah’s satisfaction.

Maytham knew about his martyrdom before it happened, having learned it from his master Ali (PBUH).

Imam Ali told Maytham Tammar: “What will you do that day when the impure son of Bani Umayyad, Ubaidullah Ziyad, demands that you renounce me and express your aversion?”

Maytham replied: No, by Allah, I will never do that!

Imam: “Otherwise, they will hang you and kill you.”

Maytham said: I will endure and be patient, it is nothing in the path of Allah…

Not just once, but on many occasions, Imam Ali (PBUH) reminded Maytham of his fate of “martyrdom for belief and faith” and Maytham, without fear or dread, prepared himself for that “red birth”.

The fact that Maytham was aware of his martyrdom, and even knew its details from his master’s mouth, was another testament to the grandeur of his spirit, his high capacity, and his faith’s strength.

By “martyrdom”!

The fear of death that people harbor, perceiving death as a terrifying monster, is because they lack a clear hope… for their life after death.

For this reason, they are scared, but for that pure-minded Shiite, who has internalized the words of Allah and the deeds of Ali, who is generous and patient, what fear of death? Death in the path of a goal or being killed!

Moreover, a martyr is nothing but a perpetually living individual, alive in the hearts of centuries and generations… “(9)

Maytham, with his high spirit and aspiration for martyrdom, was a great defender of the realm of truth and the line of guardianship. After the martyrdom of Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH), he would occasionally visit Medina, and he would keep his distance from Imam Hassan and Imam Hussain (PBUT). The people of Kufa and Medina were receptive to Maytham’s words, and the truthful and virtuous language of Maytham was always expressive in disseminating and expressing the virtues of Ali (PBUH), so that the attempts of the Imam’s enemies to conceal his virtues would be less successful. This was Imam’s own recommendation to Maytham to disseminate his virtues.

Saleh – one of Maytham’s sons – has quoted that: My father said: One day I was in the market, “Asbagh bin Nubatah”, one of Ali’s (PBUH) companions, came to me and said in astonishment: Oh no… Maytham! I heard a hard and strange word from Amir al-Mu’minin.

I asked: What did you hear?

He said: I heard him say, “The discourse and speech of the Ahl al-Bayt are very heavy and difficult, and none but a near angel or a messenger or a believing servant whom Allah has tested his heart for faith, can bear it and understand its depth.”

Immediately, I went to Imam Ali (PBUH) and asked for an explanation about the words I had heard from “Asbagh”. His Holiness smiled and said: “Sit down! Oh, Maytham! Can any scholar carry any science and bear its burden?! When Allah told the angels that He wanted to place a successor on the earth, the angels said: O Allah, will you place someone there who will spread corruption and shed blood? Then referring to the story of Moses and Khidr and the drilling of that ship and the killing of that boy, he said: Our Prophet on the day of Ghadir Khumm took my hand and said: “O Allah! Whoever I am his master, Ali is his master.” But other than the few whom Allah kept, did others carry, understand, and act upon the Prophet’s words? So, good news for you! With what you have carried from the Prophet’s words and committed to it, Allah has granted you a privilege that He did not give to the angels and messengers. So, without any hesitation or sin, retell our virtue and our great work and our high rank to the people!” (10)

In that troubled era when spreading and broadcasting the virtues of Imam Ali (PBUH) was considered a crime and was forbidden, Maytham, having learned a valuable guideline from him, endeavored to act on it even at the cost of his life.

Maytham, with the news that the Imam had given him, knew that after the martyrdom of his master, they would take him and hang him on a palm branch; he even knew that tree.

Sometimes when passing by that tree, Imam Ali (PBUH) would tell him: “O Maytham! You will have adventures with this tree in the future… They will divide this date palm into four parts, and they will hang you from the fourth part”. So, Maytham would often come to the tree and pray beside it and say: Blessed are you, O palm! I was created for you and you have grown for me, and he always looked at that palm. (11)

The day when Ibn Ziyad became the governor of Kufa, as he entered the city, his flag got stuck in a branch of that palm tree and was torn. Ibn Ziyad considered this event a bad omen and ordered to cut it down. A carpenter bought it and split it into four parts. Maytham told his son Saleh: Carve the names of me and my father on the wood of that palm!

Saleh says: I wrote my father’s name on that wood that day. When Ibn Ziyad hanged my father, after a few days, I saw the gallows. It was the same part of that palm on which I had written my father’s name!… (12)

Virtues

The greatest virtue of a person is faith, knowledge, and piety, which were also present in Maytham. But in addition to these, sometimes there are some special highlights in the personality of a pious believer that make him superior to others. In this section, a brief reference is made to some of these valuable qualities and special virtues of Maytham:

1- Eloquence: Maytham was eloquent and powerful in speech. The eloquence of Maytham Tammar can be inferred from the following narrated incident:

In the market, Maytham was the head of the fruit sellers’ guild. Whenever a speech was to be given somewhere, before someone, or at a crucial time, they asked Maytham Tammar to be their spokesperson. A group of merchants went to Maytham to go together to complain to Ibn Ziyad, the governor of Kufa, about the market manager. In this encounter with Ibn Ziyad, it was Maytham who, representing the others, spoke with suitable courage. Maytham himself speaks about this meeting and his words:

“Ibn Ziyad was astonished by my words and fell silent.” (13)

This explicit expression and clear truthfulness caused a grudge to remain in the heart of Ibn Ziyad against Maytham.

2- Quran Interpreter: Interpretation of the Quran is a valuable science in Islam, and this knowledge, which is understanding the lofty meanings of Quranic verses, is found among the Prophet and the infallible Imams.

Although the Quran is a clear book of truth and a remarkable miracle from Allah for all people, it contains many deep secrets, subtleties, and meaningful hints that are revealed in the science of interpretation, leading to a better and deeper understanding of the content of the verses of this heavenly book, which is the revelation of Allah.

Our religious leaders – may Allah’s blessings be upon them – derived their understanding of the Quran from divine knowledge and taught their high knowledge to their disciples and companions according to their understanding and talent. Maytham Tammar was one of these high-ranking disciples in Imam Ali’s (AS) interpretive school. Maytham learned the knowledge of interpreting the meanings of the Quran from him and became knowledgeable and insightful in Quranic studies.

One day, Maytham met “Ibn Abbas” – a Quran interpreter and disciple of Imam Ali (AS) – in Medina and told him: Ask what you want from the interpretation of the Quran! I learned the entire Quran from Imam Ali (AS), and he taught me the interpretation of the Quran. Ibn Abbas, who knew the ranks of Maytham’s virtue, knowledge, and piety, asked for paper and a pen to write down Maytham’s words about the interpretation of the Quran. Before explaining the interpretation, Maytham said: O Ibn Abbas! How will you feel when you see me crucified and hanged, the ninth person whose gallows is shorter than the others? ….

Ibn Abbas said: So you’re a fortune-teller?! And he wanted to tear up the paper.

Ibn Abbas was devoid of knowledge of the future, and when he heard such news and prophecy from Maytham that he was talking about the details of his martyrdom, it was indigestible for him, therefore. He reacted this way. But Maytham said: Calm down!… Write down what you hear from me and keep it! If what I say is true, keep it, and if it is false, then tear it up…. And Ibn Abbas agreed to do so. (14)

3- Narrator of Hadith in the early Islam: With his unique talents and advantageous position, Maytham had heard numerous Hadiths from Ali (PBUH). As gleaned from the accounts of his sons, he had even compiled a book of Hadiths. Regrettably, none of his written works survived, and other narrators did not frequently quote him due to a lack of understanding his position and significance. Most of his writings became inaccessible over time. Only a handful of Maytham’s narrations have been cited in the Hadith books. His sons, Ya’qub and Salih, relayed narrations from his writings. (15)

4- Knower of Mysteries: As previously mentioned, Maytham had knowledge of many future events and sometimes foretold them. He was a knower of hidden secrets. He could read sealed letters and reveal undisclosed mysteries… He had learned this from his master Imam Ali (PBUH). His understanding of his own destiny and that of others, being aware of events that would occur in the future, foreseeing the disputes that would arise, the dates and circumstances of martyrdoms and deaths… These were the sciences that Ali had taught to some of his chosen companions, who possessed great spirits, high talents, expansive hearts, and abundant capacity. These individuals were known by the Imam as the “Men of Secrets,” and Maytham was one of them. (16)

On numerous occasions, he used this gift to inform others of forthcoming incidents, which then came to pass exactly as he had foretold. (17) A few examples of his predictions are as follows:

A – Foretelling his Martyrdom Maytham knew when, how, and by whose hand he would be killed. This point was elaborated upon extensively earlier.

B – News of Muawiyah’s Death Abu Khalid informed Salih, Maytham’s son, that he was on a boat on the Euphrates with his father one Friday when a fierce wind suddenly blew. This wind, known as “Asif,” signaled Muawiyah’s death and that he had just died.

A week later, a messenger arrived from Sham. I met with him and asked for the news. He said, “People are living in peace and security. Muawiyah has passed away, and people have pledged allegiance to his son Yazid.” I asked, “When did Muawiyah die?” He answered, “Last Friday.” (18)

C – Mukhtar’s Uprising After the martyrdom of Muslim Bin Aqeel in Kufa, Ibn Ziyad, the governor of Kufa, arrested Maytham, Mukhtar, and a group of others. Maytham told Mukhtar, “You will be freed from prison and will rise in vengeance for Hussain bin Ali (PBUH). You will kill this very person – Ibn Ziyad – who is killing us.”


Ibn Ziyad ordered for Mukhtar to be fetched from the prison intending to kill him. However, at that moment, a messenger arrived from Yazid carrying a letter commanding Mukhtar’s release. He followed the order, freed Mukhtar, and hanged Maytham. (19)

He has read in the history of Mukhtar’s uprising how he captured and punished the perpetrators of the tragedy of Ashura. Ibn Ziyad was among those captured, and his beheaded corpse was brought to Mukhtar.

D – The Event of Karbala A woman named “Jabla Makki” narrates that she heard Maytham Tammar saying: “This nation will murder the daughter’s son of their Prophet on the tenth of Muharram, and Allah’s enemies will deem this day blessed. This event will surely come to pass. This is a tale that my master, the Commander of the Faithful, has made me aware of. He has told me that everything will weep for Hussain (PBUH), even the animals of the desert, the sea, the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, humans, the embryos of the faithful, everything…

Then Maytham said: “Oh Jabla! Know that Hussain bin Ali (PBUH) is the master of the martyrs on the Day of Resurrection, and his companions are superior to other martyrs. Oh Jabla! Whenever you look at the sun and see it as fresh blood, know that the Master of the Martyrs has been killed.”

Jabla says: “One day, I came out of the house. I saw the sun shining on the walls, looking like dyed fabric glowing red. I screamed and cried, exclaiming: ‘By Allah, our master Hussain bin Ali (PBUH) has been killed!….’ (20)”

Martyrdom, the Crimson Chapter of Life

Supporting the truth has consequences, such as “martyrdom.” However, for those who stand by the truth, there is no pleasure higher than this, as their love for sublime and everlasting divine values has freed them from worldly attachments. They are ready to pay the price of their lives in the fields of sacrifice, dedication, and struggle to meet their Creator and achieve eternal bliss.

Islam is dearer than the Muslim. If a Muslim has honor, it is in the shadow of faith and Islam. Therefore, a Muslim is one who assists Islam in decisive moments and times of need, even at the expense of their wealth, life, and existence.

Maytham was one of these warriors of faith and dedicated supporters of divine governance, truth, and justice. He sacrificed his life for the virtues embodied in the being of Ali (PBUH) and in the line of his divine governance. Martyrdom was Maytham’s crimson birth. It was a leaf inscribed with the mark of eternity in blood, and his life’s book attained immortality after death. Let us now read these blood-red pages, another testament to Maytham Tammar’s perfection, superiority, and prominence:

With “Habib”

Martyrdom in the way of Allah was the great wish of “Maytham Tammar” and “Habib bin Mazaher.” Both achieved their desire; Habib in Hussain’s (PBUH) company and Maytham in his struggle against the tyranny of “Ibn Ziyad.”

One day, Maytham met Habib bin Mazaher at a gathering of “Bani Asad.” They talked for a while. At the end of this meeting, Habib bin Mazaher said, “I seem to see an old melon seller (21) hanged on a gallows for his love of the Prophet’s family. They tear open his belly on the gallows.” (Referring to Maytham’s martyrdom in Kufa)

Maytham replied, “I too see and recognize a red-faced man, with two tufts of hair on his head, rising to aid the Prophet’s daughter’s son, and being killed. His head is paraded around in Kufa.” (Referring to Habib’s martyrdom in Karbala). After this conversation, they parted ways.

The people of the gathering, who accused the two of lying, hadn’t dispersed when “Rashid Hijri,” one of Ali’s (PBUH) companions, arrived and asked about Maytham and Habib. They said, “They were here and they said so and so.” Rashid replied, “Allah have mercy on Maytham! He forgot to add this to his narrative: ‘A hundred dirhams more is given to the one who brings Habib’s beheaded body to Kufa.'” They said, “This man is even more of a liar than the two!” However, within a few days, they saw Maytham hanged, and Habib’s head was brought after his murder, and everything that the two had said happened exactly as described. (22)

In Pursuit of “Hussein” (PBUH)

Maytham heard about Imam Hussein’s (PBUH) movement towards Mecca. That same year, he decided to head towards Mecca with the intention of performing Hajj Umrah. In Mecca, he did not manage to meet Imam Hussein (PBUH). After the Hajj, he went to Medina. In a meeting with “Umm Salamah” – the Prophet’s wife – he introduced himself. Umm Salamah said, “The Prophet often mentioned you and would give his commandments about you to Ali (PBUH) in the middle of the night.” Maytham asked Umm Salamah about Hussein bin Ali. Umm Salamah said, “He has gone to the outskirts of Medina, and he too often mentioned you.” Maytham said, “I also always remember that great man. Today I was not fortunate enough to meet him. Please tell him I wanted to say hello. I am returning now, and Allah willing, we will meet each other in the presence of our Lord.” (This was a reference to the imminent martyrdom of Imam Hussein (PBUH), as it was twenty days after this conversation that Imam Hussein (PBUH) was martyred.) (23)

Maytham’s Arrest

Maytham was respected in Kufa, and his social status made him a sensitive figure from all aspects. As he was returning to Kufa from the Hajj pilgrimage, “Ibn Ziyad” ordered his arrest before he reached the city. This happened while Muslim bin Aqeel was martyred in Kufa, and the city was gripped by unrest and anxiety. Prominent Shiites and eminent figures who supported the Ahl al-Bayt were under pursuit or in prison, and the ground was fertile for protests and rebellions.

“Arif,” along with a hundred officers, prepared to arrest Maytham before he entered Kufa. Ibn Ziyad had threatened him that if he didn’t arrest Maytham, he himself would be killed. Arif arrived at “Hira,” and with his companions, waited for Maytham’s arrival. They captured Maytham right there before he could reach his home. Maytham told the officers about future incidents and how he would be martyred.

Although Maytham was an old man whose bones were barely covered with skin (24) and physically frail, he was courageous and strong-hearted with a strong spiritual power, a firm will, an eloquent and fluent tongue, and a deeply rooted faith. This was to such an extent that he frightened Ibn Ziyad, with all his power, and his officers; that’s why he had sent a hundred officers to arrest this brave and capable old man.

The officers brought Maytham into Kufa. They informed Ubaidullah ibn Ziyad that Maytham had been captured and taken prisoner. In introducing Maytham to Ibn Ziyad, they said: he is one of the closest and most chosen companions of Abutarab, Imam Ali (PBUH).

Ibn Ziyad said, “Woe to you! Has this foreign man’s affair reached this point?! Bring him…!” They brought Maytham from the detention center to the presence of the governor of Kufa.

To test Maytham’s spirit and to converse with him, Ibn Ziyad asked, “Where is your Lord?”

“In ambush for the oppressors… and you are one of them.”

“You dare to speak to me this way even though you are a foreigner?! I’ve been told that you were very close to ‘Abutarab’!”

“Yes, they are right.”

“You must renounce Ali and express your disgust for him, call him ugly, or I will cut your hands and feet and hang you.”

Maytham, in the face of this threat, said, “Ali (PBUH) told me that you would hang me.”

To compensate for this unfortunate situation that had arisen, Ibn Ziyad said, “Woe to you! I will not be taken in by Ali’s words. (He planned to act contrary to the prophecy).”

Maytham said, “How? When this news was announced by Ali – peace be upon him – from the Prophet, and he from Gabriel, and Gabriel from Allah. I swear by Allah! I know well the place where I will be hanged in Kufa, and I am the first Muslim to be gagged for the sake of Islam.”

Upon hearing this, Ibn Ziyad became even more enraged and said, “By Allah! I will cut off your hands and feet and let your tongue free to expose the lie of your master and your lie.” And at that moment, he ordered to cut off his hands and feet and hang him on the gallows. (25)

And as we will see, Ibn Ziyad could not bear to see Maytham’s tongue free and speaking, and he also ordered it to be cut off.(26)

On the gallows

A loft for the men of Allah, a raised platform for ascension.

For the wise and honorable men, being hung on the gallows is as much a sign of weakness and fear of the revelation of truth, the glow of virtue, and honesty for the unjust self-serving powers, as it is a badge of honor and proof of dignity for the crucified martyrs. They took Maytham, due to his truthfulness and his refusal to compromise with the tyrannical rule of Yazid, towards the gallows.

They hung Maytham on the gallows. Maytham disregarded death, received it so casually and nonchalantly that it increased the enemy’s anger. From high upon the gallows, with a resonant voice, Maytham summoned people to hear the truths of Islam and the hidden sayings of Ali. Maytham would say: “Whoever wants to hear Ali’s precious and confidential narrations should come before I’m killed. I will inform you of future events until the end of the world.” Enthusiastically, people gathered around him. From atop his “pulpit”, the gallows, he would address the gathered crowd, recounting the virtues and merits of the Prophet’s family, Ali’s descendants, and revealing the betrayals and corruptions of the Umayyad dynasty.

Maytham’s revelations and truth-telling, in those final moments of life and from atop the gallows, were so effective and startling that they informed Ibn Ziyad: “This servant is disgracing you.” He said: “Gag him.” And Maytham was the first person to be gagged for the sake of Islam.(27)

Afterward, they cut off the truthful tongue of Maytham, which was as candid as the day and as cutting as a sword. The man who was assigned to cut his tongue said to Maytham: “Say whatever you want to say! The emir has ordered me to cut off your tongue.” Maytham said: “The son of the sinful woman – Ubaidullah Ibn Ziyad – imagines that he can accuse me and my master of lying! This is my tongue.”

And that mercenary plucked Maytham’s tongue out of his mouth….(28)

Maytham remained in this condition until the next day, with thick blood coming from his nose and mouth, and thus, as prophesied, his white beard was dyed red with blood.

On the third day, a man came near Maytham and gestured to him with a spear, saying: “I swear to Allah I know you were a devout worshipper and spent your nights in prayer.” Then he delivered such a blow with the spear to Maytham’s side or stomach that his body was torn apart and the pure soul of that model of patience, resistance, and bravery soared to the heavens. Maytham began his ascension with his lofty spirit, a spiritual flight that still continues today, and with each blessing sent his way by the pure-hearted and virtuous seekers of Allah, his rank in the highest paradise and near the Creator elevates even more.

Martyr’s Shrine

For some time after his martyrdom, the pure and holy body of Maytham remained on the gallows. Ibn Ziyad did not allow Maytham’s holy body to be lowered and buried to further insult him. Moreover, he wanted to continue this scene, to take more people’s eye poison and make them understand that this is the fate of the defenders and followers of Ali (AS). However, he was unaware that a martyr, even after his martyrdom, still guides, inspires, generates hope, and induces fear and trembleness in unjust and oppressive regimes.

Seven committed and zealous Muslims, who were his colleagues and date sellers, couldn’t bear to see the martyr Maytham still hanging high on the gallows. They pledged to lift and bury the martyr’s body. To distract the officers who were monitoring the body and the gallows, they devised a plan. They set a fire nearby at night, and some of them stood by the fire.

The guards, trying to warm themselves, moved towards the fire. At the same time, a few other friends of the martyr, trying to rescue the holy body of Maytham, had moved away from the fire. Naturally, the officers standing in the light of the fire could not see the dark scene of the gallows. The few reached the body, released it from the gallows, and buried it in a dried-up pond nearby.

Morning came. The officers didn’t see the body on the gallows. The news reached Ibn Ziyad. Ibn Ziyad knew that the grave would become a shrine for Ali’s (AS) followers. So he ordered a large group to find Maytham’s body, to inspect and search the vast area extensively. But no matter how much they searched, they found no trace of the body and gave up.(29)

Now the martyr’s tomb is a shrine and stands for martyrdom. It testifies to the victory of truth and the disgrace and destruction of falsehood. In Iraq, between Najaf Ashraf and Kufa, there is a shrine where Maytham Tammar is buried. His name is written on his tombstone as a companion of Ali (AS).

Maytham tirelessly strived and aspired. He sacrificed his life to establish truth and keep the torch of truth and valuable virtues from extinguishing. With his steady faith and steadfast jihad, he was a true follower on the path of truth; he was a fighter full of sincerity and a high embodiment of faith and struggle.

It is fitting for those who seek truth and tread the pure path that Maytham achieved, to emulate him, and in thought and action, step where he stepped. For he was a role model.

Following such perfect role models is a duty for those seeking perfection.

In this way, martyrs reach eternal life through the continuity of their path through loyal followers.

May the peace of Allah and angels and pure ones be upon Maytham Tammar, who is still a shining light on the path of humanity, illuminating and showing the “way.”

Research sources:

  1. Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Explanation of Nahj al-Balagha, twenty volumes, first print, Dar Ihya’ al-Kutub al-Arabiya, Beirut.
  2. Al-Amin, Sayyid Mohsen, Distinguished Figures of Shia, ten volumes, Dar al-Ta’aruf, Beirut, 1403 AH.
  3. Ibn Hajar Asqalani, Al-Isaba in Identifying the Companions, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut 1328 AH.
  4. Qumi, Sheikh Abbas, The Ultimate Hopes, Javidan Publications, Tehran.
  5. Nafas al-Mahmoom, translated by Sha’rani, Islamic Bookstore, Tehran, 1374.
  6. Safinat al-Bihar, Farahani Publications.
  7. Mufid, Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Nu’man, Guidance, Sheikh Mufid Congress, Qom, 1413 AH.
  8. Kashi, Men, Mashhad University Publications, Mashhad.
  9. Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir, Seas of Lights, Al-Wafa’ Foundation, Beirut, 1403 AH.

Footnotes:

  1. Explanation by Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Vol 2, p 291.
  2. Ibn Hajar Asqalani, Al-Isaba in Identifying the Companions, Vol 3, p 4.
  3. Sheikh Abbas Qumi, Nafas al-Mahmoom, translated by Sha’rani, p 59.
  4. Sheikh Mufid, Guidance, Vol 1, p 323; Explanation by Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Vol 2, p 291.
  5. Safinat al-Bihar, Vol 2, p 524.
  6. Safinat al-Bihar; Vol 2, p 525; Seas of Lights, Vol 41, p 268.
  7. Sheikh Abbas Qumi, Nafas al-Mahmoom, p 60; Sheikh Abbas Qumi, The Ultimate Hopes, p 276; Seas of Lights, Vol 40, p 200. And in my chest are seeds; when my chest tightens, the earth is pierced with handfuls, I revealed my secret to her, so whatever the earth grows, so is the growth from my seed.
  8. Seas of Lights, Vol 53, p 112; Safinat al-Bihar, Vol 2, p 524.
  9. Jawad Muhadithi, A Prisoner Freed, p 46, verse “I swear by martyrdom”.
  10. Seas of Lights, Vol 20, p 383.
  11. Explanation by Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Vol 2, p 292; Sheikh Mufid, Guidance, Vol 1, p 324.
  12. Men of Kashi, p 85.
  13. Men of Kashi, p 86.
  14. Seas of Lights, Vol 42, p 128; Safinat al-Bihar, Vol 2, p 524.
  15. Safinat al-Bihar, Vol 2, p 524.
  16. Sheikh Abbas Qumi, Nafas al-Mahmoom, p 59.
  17. In the terminology of the scholars, this knowledge is called “Knowledge of Trials and Tribulations”.
  18. Men of Kashi, p 80.
  19. Seas of Lights, Vol 42, p 125.
  20. Seas of Lights, Vol 45, p 202.
  21. One of the professions and occupations of Maytham.
  22. Safinat al-Bihar, Vol 1, p 205; Nafas al-Mahmoom, p 60.
  23. Explanation by Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Vol 2, p 292; Distinguished Figures of Shia, Vol 10, p 198.
  24. Sheikh Abbas Qumi, Nafas al-Mahmoom, p 59.
  25. Explanation by Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Vol 2, p 293; Seas of Lights, Vol 42, p 124.
  26. In the past, hanging was mostly done in this way: the person was hanged from the gallows by a rope, not by the neck, but by the shoulders. The crucified person did not die from strangulation, but gradually from the pressure of the rope, hunger, and …
  27. Explanation by Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Vol 2, p 294; Seas of Lights, Vol 42, p 125.
  28. Men of Kashi, p 87.
  29. Men of Kashi, p 83.
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