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6 ‘The Early Imami Shi Narratives and Contestation over Intimate Colloquy Scenes in Muhammad's Mi*raj FREDERICK COLBY The composite story of Mahammaa!’s night journey and ascension describes how ‘Muhammad wastaken by night from Mecca to Jerusalem, how he prayed with proph ets such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus there, how he was then taken upon a tour of the seven heavens, meeting angels and prophets at each level, and finally how he en jyed some kind of revelatory exchange with the divinity atthe climax ofthe ascent before he was brought back to Mecca that same night: The Qur'an contains only the briefest and vaguest of references to Muhammad's night journey and ascension, while the extra-quranic stories that ciculated inthe ist centuries of Islamic history primarily inthe form of ora reports enriched the telling ofthese tales, The conten porary scholarly approach to this oral material typically has been to turn from the Quran immediately to the Sunni collectionsof sound (sah) hadith reports, imagin- ing that these reports preserve the catlicst versions of the story as told among the majority of Muslims.” And yet, these sound Sunni reports on the night journey and ascension did not arise in ayacuum, and they should not be treated as comprehensive accounts of how the first generations of Muslims understood and discussed Muhammad?’ journey. Just ay Cat] Ernst argues tht observers of contemporary Muslim movements repeatedly and mistakenly take puritanical interpretations of Islam as representative ofthe only “true” or “orthodex” Islam of a majority of Mus- Jimstoday,’so Lwouldargue that contemporary historians of the early period repeat- edly and mistakenly take the sound Sunni hadith reports es representative of the true” or “orthodox” mainstream position embraced by the majority ofthe comanu- nity in the formative period of Islamic history. While the Sunni sound collections (the so-called “six books.” and especially those known by the tile Sabi or Sound) certainly come to enjoy an authoritative position among mary later Sunni Muslims, the situation in the frst centuriesof Ilamichistory way more hud and complex, asa study ofthe early night journey and ascension narratives makes clea. ‘The historical record shows that inthis early period. proto-Shi'is made use of the 1 Ma ascension narrative as a context through which to assert the God-given right of Ali and his descendants the imams, to the leadership of the Muslim community after ‘Muhammad.* Concentrating on the proto-Shii approach to the ascension discourse helps one to se how the narratives of proto-Sunnis appear to have been in converst tion with this carly portisan use of the mi‘rdj narrative, By focusing upon the scenes ‘of Muhammad's encounter with God during the ascension (Mlate 4), this study will suggest thatthe proto-Shi‘i dopictions ofthese scenesasa site fortheassertion of Al's leadership was countered by two different approaches on the part of distinct groupsof proto-Sunaischolars:on theone hand,groupsapprop ated and adapted these scenes, and, onthe other,groups rejected and silenced them. Although itisnot possbleat this time to prove whether the carly Shi'ior Sunni ascension narratives arose fist; because written evidence for both flourishes only in the ninth century, 1 argue that viewing the Sunni narratives as reactions to early Shit narratives helps to explain some of the major aysin which laterSunni scholarscame to develop discourseson Muli journey. The sectarian contest over the ascension discourse ait played out atthe be= ginning of the tenth century demonstrates the need to study the dialectical relation- ship between Shi'i and Sunni ascension narratives. Through such an approach, one ight gain a more accurate understanding ofthe sectarian contests within which n discourse first developed and then flourishes Muslim Tyen the earliest of Mustin historical aecounts of Mubammadl’s night journey and ascension bear witnessto the fact that this narrative provoked differences of opin- {np among the Muslims ofthe formative period, For example, Iba Ishq)s night jour- ney account with ils references to scholarly debates over the nature of Mabammad's experience, proves that the narrative was the ste of scholarly controversy even inthe cighth century.’ With the untealized politcal ambitions ofthe ‘Ald loyalists during the early period of the ‘Abbasid caliphate, itis reasonable to conjecture that some of these partisans might have turned to otherwordly narratives in order to provide ar- ‘guments in favor of their ‘Alid cause. Such pro“‘Mlid arguments would have becom especially useful for them prior to and during the “Shi century” be in the firsthalfof the tenth century), when ‘Alid forces gained politcal control in the central lands oftslamdom, ruling overa majority population of non-Shiis“AsT willarguein ‘what follows, those who rejected the clzims ofthese “Ald loyalists aout the exalied status of Ai might naturally have responded to this partisan use ofthe ascension nar- tative by offering their own partisan versions of these same narratives, versions that supported their Soni worklviews and the legitimacy of Sunni leaders. Rather than considering uch theological andl political struggles over the control of the ascension discourse as an anomaly, given the potential religious and political stakes involwe, ‘one might instead expect io find such conflicts over the narrative in general and the scenes of Mubammaa’s encounter with God in particular in early scholasly works Although this study conce groups of Musliinsin the formative period of Tlamie history. itis ine portant 1o recognize that such conilicts were not limited to debates among Muslims thisiascer Les upon conflicts over the ascension narrative Frederick Colby alone, as demonstrated by Aaron Hughes's study of Jowish-Mustim contlicts over the inal-Andalus Michael Sells introduces the useful concept of the nan essay comparing. Jewish and a Safi Muslim ascent text, ex- g how diverse groups offen draw upon and adapt a common set of symbols" x10 Solls's theory, competion over the properuse and interpretation ofthese common symbols often leads to conllict both within and among religious groups: The notion of a language world does rot involve the assumption thst these who share itshares comaion ideology or theology: In Fac it is more offen the oppo- site that ie true. One group will reappropriate the teritary of given language ‘world when it fels threatened by what nother group is doing with that symbolic system... The language World of the ascent through the levels to the divine throne w36-no1 the locus of unified ideology within Tamme literatwre. Rather. it was the poksmieal seens of debate, conteoversy, and conflict! ‘The preseat chapter provides an exemple ofthis debate, controversy, and contlict by illustrating several ways that proto-Shitis and proto-Sunnis struggled over the sgencral representation and specific content of the encounter betvreen Muhammad and God on the night of the ascension, Beginning in the ninth century it becomes « political issue whether or not to mention figures like ‘Ali or Abit Bakr in one's account ofthe intimate colloquy scenes, and even whether or not to include these scenes in one’s account in the first place. [contend that the way each subsequent storyteller orauthor deals with these issues in narrating the story of Muhemmad!’s ‘mi‘raj tells us something about that person's particular sectarian preferences, as an analysis of select early references will suggest. Proto-Shi‘i Accounts and Their Intimate Colloquy Scenes For the purposes ofthe present argument, itis important o begin with a briefsur- vey of proto-Shii accounts of Mubammad’s ascension, given that they tend to be les familiar to most contemporary readers than the proto-Sunni accounts. As Josef van Fss and others have nated, the proto-Shi'is seem to have taken an early interest in the Propher’sotherworidly journey, and apparently they were the first to have composed entire works dedicated to the subject of Mulymmad’s ascension." Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezai has studied the ascension reports of what he terms the “esoteric non-rational” proto-Shi's, illustrating the centrality of the imams in. ‘many ofthese reports. Though the present chapter rakes. wider frame ofanalysis and asks different questions of this material, Amir.Moez2i’s dedicated spadework uncovering ascension references in the proto-Shi' sources provides the founda- ton for my own research in this area, His groundbreaking research demonstrates hhow formative Shi thinkers often included in their discussions of Muhammad's ascension (and the related ascensions attributed to the imams) the idea that at the The Early Imam Shi't Narratives 13 M4 most exalted stage of Muhammad's journey, God informs Muhammad of ‘Als hhigh station and the rightful role of ‘Ali and his spiritual inheritors to succeed Muhammad to the leadership of the Muslim community. While it will not be possible here to explore these esoteric proto-Shi'i intimate colloquy scenes in depth, a survey of key ascension anecdotes in a few contral works will serve to demonstrate this common proto-Shii trope. In the earliest extant of these proto-Shii works that discusses Muhammad's ascension, Safir Qummi (d. 902-903) drav’s upona qur‘snic reference in the chap- terof the Star to the phrase “He revealed to his servant what he revealed” (Q 53:10), seeing in it an allusion to the intimate colleguy scene in which God teaches ‘Muhammad about ‘Ali's extraordinary status: (or Sadiq) eopocted that the Messenger of God said, “My Loed caused me to trayel by night. He revealed to me—jiom behiad e veil—what ie revealed, and he spoke to me (Q $310, 42651). Ameng what he said to me was the followings “Mulba mend, “AI isthe fist, and “Alvis the lst FAI the manifest and ‘Alb §8 the hidden], and hes of al things most knowing” (57:3). said, My Lord, i thot ro yout Is that aot you He replied, ‘Muljsmmad, Fam God, there is mo God But rme(Q 20:1), the Ki, the Holy the Peacejul the Faithful, the Protector the Pow ‘rfal, the Omnipotent, the Proud. Glorified be Ged above what they associate (Q 59:23) Indecd fam God. theve Is no God but we de Creator, the Fashion, the Shaper, to him ave the beautiful nantes with which those in the hewwens and the earths gioriiy hin. He 1s the Powerful, the Wise (Q 59:28). O Mubammed, Lam Good, there is|ao God but me, am she Birt, for there is nothing before mes Lam the Last, for there is nothing after me, lam the Manifest, for there is noth above me: am ihe Hidden, for there is nothing below me. 1am God, therein God but me, of al tinge Most Knowing. [But] © Muhammnacs ‘NI is the free the first of the imams who accepted my covenant, O Mubammad, Allis the last the last of he imams whose soul E will seize... Mubamimad, ‘AI isthe manifet I ‘il make manifest to hin all that [have entrusted to you. You eed nos conceal anything from him. Mubssrumad, “iis de hidden: {will he i nim the seast that L kept secret with you. No secret between ue will be kept from Ali, About all that created, and ofthe permissible and the forbidden, ‘AI is most Anowing”™* ‘Amir-Moezzi interprets this passage asan expression of “cosmic AIR” a figure that lliberately conilates ‘AIT with the divinity’* Read on another level, however, it does riot claim divine siatus for‘AItbut rather employsan esoteric commentary on select (guroanie verses in onder to describe ‘Als most exalted status among created beings, neither case, this revelation ta Mabammrad, depicted as aking place daring the lat- ters intimate colloquy with God at the climax aT hisascension, offers a powerfal exe ample of how some proto-Shiis made use af this symbolically charged setting ln ‘onder to promote partisan ideas regarding the high status of Al, ‘The daring conception of an exalted, or even quasi-divine, figure of AIT in Sulfir Qumnms text becomes only slightly tempered in the work of his contempo- ray, Furdt b, Furat Kadi (dca, $12). Just as SafTar Queamts report found hkdden Frederick Colby zeferences to “All in qu‘anic passages that on the surface had nothing to do with, “Ali, so Furat Kiifi seesa reference toa dialogue between Mahammad and God on the night of the ascension in a passage that on the surface has nothing to do with, the mi rdj, He presents this interpretation in his commentary on the final verses (or “seals”) of the Cow chapter in the Quy’ 285) The Mestenger believes what was sent down to hi from hi Lord. ‘The believers al believe in God, is angels, hs books, end his messengers. We do not diferentate berween any of his nioeengers. They say, "We hear and obey." Forgive us, Lard. To you is she ersval 286) Gea does not burden a sou! beyond what it can bear. thas what i as exracd, sind upon its what Wt earned. Lord, da rot blame us when we forget or ere Lod, onctnake usbeara heary weightlike the one vou nade dose befor us to bear Lord, donct make us carry what we are notable. Forgive ws and poran us and dave meney on ws. You arcour Master, so give us victory over the unbelievers * Furit Kiff understands these two “scals ofthe Cow chapter” collect account of the way t Jhim on the night of the ascension. Instead of analyzing separate pha quickly fro Muhsmmad [Digie] reported that the Messenger of God said, "When T vas caused to Journey by night to the heavens), the Almighty sud to me, “Dees the Messenger believe shat was sent dows: to hive from: his Lon eeplied, ‘red the believers fl! beleva...2 (Q 2288) He seid, “You speak the truth, Mubarnmad, ‘peace be upon you. Whom have you left in your place for your community after you? I said, “The bestol the community forits people’ He said, "AIT, ABT Tbe” I said, Yes, Lord He replied, Mubommad, | caused some to rise up upon the earth, and I hose you from among them. [spit off for you a name from among my names. 1 ationcd anywhere without you being mentioned with me, [ am “Mala” ("the praised one") and you are “Muhammad” (highly peaised”) Then [caused second one to rise, aul chose“Ali. splicoff for him z ame from, among my names. Lam “ahaa ("the Most High") and he is"‘At” ("high"), ‘Muhammad, | crested you, ‘AK, Fatima, Hasan and Hsaya as figuees of light out of my light I showed your autherity to the heaveasand their residents as \wellasto the earths and their resident, Those who accept your authority become clase companions inmy eyes, and those whe straggle against it become unbeliex- rs. Muhammad, weroa servant to serve mie until he becomes eut apart or bike a ‘worn aut waterskin, and thon he struggles against your authority will no for- ive hit until heacknowledges your authority’ “0 Mahammad, would you like te se them?" T sald, Indeed, Lord” He sad “Turn to the right side ofthe throne’ I turned to the right side ofthe throve, and there I found myself with the rellections of li, Fatima, Hasan, Husaye, end all of the iamss uni the Mahul, na pol of light, They began to perform ritual prayer, the Mahl in theie midst as if he were ¢ shining star He said to mie, The Early Imam Shi't Narratives asrecord- t Muhammad responds to a question Ged poses to sin these verses, Furat Kiiff cites report that hegins with a reference to this trope, but turns ittoa broader discussion of God’s revelation of Als exalted slatus 5 146 “Muhammad, these are the proofs and thes the avenger of yous stock. [Lewear] by my power and grandeur, he Is¢ necessity proof to my friends, [and hels] ane who takes vo sanice upon my enemies, In this aneedote, God confiems“Ali as the best choice for Muhammad's suecessor, explains that Both‘Aliand Muhammad bear names hat derive from divine names, and shows that the luminous essence of Aland other figures in his houschold re- side neat the foot ofthe divine throne, the messianic figure of the Mahdi promi nent among them. Once again, this passage demonstrates how a prote-Shi'i scholar draws upon the scene of Muharnmad’s dialogue with God during the Prophet’ ascension in order to convey explicitly partisan ideas about God's favor toward “Ali his family, and his spiritual successors, Saffir Quorn ond Furit Kas contemporary, the famous carly Shi exegcte “li Qammi (dca. 919), includesa number of ascension-related enccdotes in refer ence tothe night journey verse (Q 17:), one of which consists ofa longand detailed report ascribed to Imam [afar Sidig. This narrative by Iv'far Sadiq as recorded by “Ali Qummié lacks overt ‘Ali-partisan references, kading Amir-Moerzi to charac- terize it as little more than an appropriation of the proto-Sanni ascension report ascribed to Aba Sed Khudri." Despite this characterization of ‘Ali Qummi’s com- mentary on the night journey verse, just as Safir Qu mi and Furst Kai find ref erences tothe intimate colloguy scene elsewhere in the Quran, so also ‘Ali Quam preserves more partisan approach to the intimate colloquy elsewhere in his com- mentary, specifically in his discussion ofa quranic reference to a debate among the hicavenly host (Q 38:67-71): ©) Say: isa great prophecy 68) One which you oppore @) I did not hare knowledge ofthe heavenly host when they were debating 2) Mwsas only rvwated fo me that Lama clear warner 71) When your Ford said ta the angels, Tam creasing a human bein out of lay” “Ali Qumnmi does not interpret this “heavenly host debate” passage asa reference to the objections ofthe angels to God's creation of human beings, but rather reads the passage asa reference to yet another topic of conversation in the intimate colloquy between Mubammad and God on the night of the ascension, For example, what follows is the detailed report that ‘Alt Qumm1 transmits regarding this heavenly host debate passage, beginning with a debate over the proper understanding of the night journey verse: (AN Quoi] ssid that. seni Ju reported,“ was siting near the sacred ‘osque and Abi Jafar [Maharnmad Digit] was present Is eaised his head end {grzed once at the sky, and once at the Katbs, Then he sa, “Glorfed bo she one tho caused his serait to journey by night from the sacred mosque to he furthest Frederick Colby mosque...” (Q 7A), He rected it three times, then he turned to me ond ssid “What do the people of Iraq say about this verse, [ragi?” I sakl, *They say, he bm to joursey by night from the sacred morgue to the farthest morqus, ‘hati, the house of the suncraary [in Jerusalem,” He sui, “Its not as they say. Rather, he caused him to journey by night from this o that” And he peisted with Jbishand to the sky. “Anything Besides those is fee ftom playing any rea is journey)” sci, “When [Muhammad] ended up atthe Lote Tree ofthe Boundary, Ga brie turned back. The Messenger of God sald, ‘Gabriel inthis spot you desert ‘mc?’ Tle sui ‘Advance forward. By God, you have reached faplace] where cre ated being before you has reached. 1 saw the light of my Lord, and immediately between him and me there was a glorification. Fasked, “What glorification should you perform a8 your sacrifice” Fre gestured wit his head to the ground and with his hands to the sky,and sald, “The sublimity of my Lord, the sublimaty of my Lorel,”thece times. [God] said, °O Muhamrac” replied, “Here Lam” He aid, "What da the heav- «nly host debate?” ssid, “Glorified a7e you, [have no knowledge except what you teach me.” He put his hand, that t, the “hand of power” (gd) between my nipples, sad I felt their coldness between my shoulderblades. I knew everything that be asked me bout, whst hee passed and what remained, Ho eid, ulsammad, what do the heavenly host debate?” Fst, "Lord, [about] the dee sees, the penitential nets ane the gocdnesses.” Hi esi, "Muhammad, when your property hae passed and you have stopped cating, who will be your trastee?” I said, “Lord, I have tested your ereation and Ihave net seen among them any more obedient to me than ‘Ali He suid, “Same with me, Mubamesac.”[sai, “Lord, have tested your exeation and did wot see anyone more intensely i love with ae than “Ali” He seid “It isthe same with ‘ne, Mulsammad. Rejoice, for hets the archer af guidance, theleader of my sats, and a victory to these who obey me.” After deating with several issues. inchiding the proper understanding ofthe destina- tion indicated in the night journey verse, the reason Gabriel made Mulammad pro naaccompanie beyond the Lote Tres, the proper way to glorify Goad daring sppeaach, etc this passage deseribes how the divinity teaches Mohammad the ‘ofthe heavenly host debate, The lesson is conveyed through the touch of God's hand, here understood ina metaphorical sense. “AltQummafs report describes how God approves of Muharamal’s choice of ‘Alias his successor, and God showers ‘Altwith praise, Once again, this passage illustrates how & proto-Shi' scholar near the turn ofthe tenth century preserves report on Muhammad's night joarney and ascension that presents the intimate cllaquy scene a8 the stage upon which God ‘voices his support for‘Altina sectarian fashion, In each ofthe instances ced above, provo-Shfi scholars interpret quranie references a8 allusions w a conversation be- tween Muhammad and God on the night of the ascension, intimate colloguies through which Muhammad receives confiemation of God's favor toward ‘Ali, and of God's support fora particularly partisan view in which Alvan his descendants te= ceive the divine mandate to lead the Muslim community sfice Muhammad's death, The Early Imam Shi't Narratives Wy 148 Proto-Sunni Accounts and their Intimate Colloquy Scenes iis were some of the first to compose anil circulate ry and ascension narratives.” then in the midst of these partisan versions ofthe intimate colloquy that highlighted “Als special sta- tus, some proto-Surini scholars in the tenth century woukl have been faced with the dilemma of how best to respond. T woul maintain that one avenue of Sunni response wasto reclaim the intimate colloquy scene in their awn accounts, divest- ing it of Alid-partisan language. Sells language world theory anticipates such a process: “One group will re-appropriate the territory of a given language world ‘when it feels threatened by what another group is doing with that symbolic sys- tem” While examples of such a response may well have circulated in hadith re- ports prior to the turn of the tenth century, Ihn Jari Tabari (2, 923) preserves at least to references in his Qur'an commentary on the night journey verse (Q 17:1) that prove that the full-fledged appropriation of this intimate colloquy scene had certainly begun by this period First, Tabari records a Tong version of the ascension narrative ascribed to Abi. urayra in which God's showering of praise upon ‘Allin the intimate colloquy scene ‘becomes transformed into God's showering of praise upon Mufammad himself= ‘he relevant passage begins when Muhammad cites references to blessings roeived by previous prophets, and heasks God ithe himsel will receive similar divine favors. While Muslims may certainly have had a number of reasons for developing what I call this “favor of the prophets” trope and its exaltation of Muhammad, not least among these its usefulness in their debates with non-Muslims, its appearance as a major trope of the intimate colloquy scones at the beginning of the tenth century, precisely when versions of proto-Shi' ascension narratives exalting ‘All were circu- ating, suggests that it may have functioned partially as. ejoinder to the Sh sion tales, That is, God's expression of particular titles and favors that God bestows ‘upon “Alt as conveyed in the preto-Shi'i texts may well have thele parallel In God’s expression of particular titles and favors that God bestows upon Muhammad in the proto-Sunnitexts.Tabar's Aba Hurayra anecdote then, could be said to preserves ly example ofthis competitive approach. 4 second alhision in Tabaris Qur'an commentary thot offers evidence of a proto-Sunni rejoinder to Shi‘ use of the iatimate colloguy scene appears in a brief reference to Ibn“Abbiss position on Muhammad's vision of God during his hea: Ione accepts that the prote works dedicated to night joun cenly ascension: Ibn ‘Abbas reported that the Messenger of God said, “l sw my Lord in the ‘best form. [Gad] said to me, "Muhammac, do you know what the heavenly h debate!" Tsahd, No, Lord Sa he placed hishand between my shoulder blades nd [fet the coldness between my nipples. knew what wasin the heavens] an! whet ‘was in the earth. Isaié, Loe, they discuss] the degrees (a- dara} and the pon Frederick Colby itential act af-kayfara, going.on foot tothe congregtional prayers (0m) and waiting for prayer after prayer (a-salt)’ Tsai ‘Lord, you wok Abraham as ‘an itinaate friend (Q 125) acd you spoke to Moses direct (1164), ane you did thisand that’ He sai, "Did I ot open your breast? Did noe remove your burden from you? (Q $4:1-2}. Did I not do this and that sith you!” [Mubommad] said “Then he informed me of things that he did not permit mi t tell you shout. Fe said, "That is [God's] saying in his book that he dacs tll you: Ten he drew closer and descended, and wasa distance oftwo bows or closer He vealed t his servant what he revealed. The heart did not Ie ir what it save (Q 5%8-11) Me made the light of my vision in my heart, and f gazed upon him with my heart” This passage in Tabari’s commentary highlights the intimate colloguy scene ofa lon~ ger Ibn ‘Abbas ascension narrative, citing from that narrative in passing in order to make a larger point about Mubammad’s vision of Ged. The citation refers briefly to both the heavenly host debate and the favor of the prophets tropes in its aecount of the intimate colloquy. These tropes were deseribed above with reference tothe proto- versions, but in the Ibn ‘Abbis narrative they ate presented without any Shii= partisan language.” Not long after Tabaris desth, « traditionist from Nishapur named Ibn Hibban (d. 965) records a fall version ofthe Ibn ‘Abbas ascension narra tive, one that continucs to develop and expand the details of such types of references in the centuries that followed. ‘Versions ofthe Ibn ‘Abbis ascension narrative repeatedly transform symbols that appear in these carly Shii narratives and appropriate them into its Sunni-va- lenced discourse. For example in its intimate collogny scene the fully elaborated Iba ‘Abbis narrative comes to include the heavenly host debate, the scals of the Cow chapter, and the favor ofthe prophets themes es prominent tropes. The favor of the prophets trope inthe thn ‘Abbas narrative ofien segues intoa discussion of the special gifs that God has chosen to bestow upon Muhammad (with no men= tion of Ali or his family). Tobarts reference to the Ibn ‘Abbas ascension narrative docs not contain all these nuances, but the anecdote cited above offers clear proof that Taba was aware of this type of narrative that was circulating in [bn ‘Abbas's name. fa Tabari' (ime. if not before. such fbn ‘Abbas narratives formed part of a ‘growing body of oral literature that began inereasingly to take a Sunni partisan approach to what appear to have been originally Shit ascension themes. Inlater Sunni versionsof the Ibn ‘Abbas discourse, the appropriations of Shi tuopes hecome even more explicit. For instance, in one version an angel in the form of ‘Ali described in the proto-Shii ascension reports is replaced in later ni Ibn ‘Abbas ascension reports with an angel in the form of Abs Bakr.” Abit {kr of course. is the companion of the Prophet whom the majority of Muslims accepted as the leader of the Mustim community upon Muhammad's death, but who was cursed as a usurper by the early partisans of‘Aly.Enserting Abii Bakrin the place of ‘Alvi this otherworldly narrative, then, becomes a symbolie way to ject an assertion of Sunni allegiance into an originally Shii-valenced account. The Early Imam Shi't Narratives 149 In another instance of this same type of appropriation, the idea of God speaking to Muhammad in the voice of ‘Ali gets transformed into God speaking to ‘Muhammad in the voice of Aba ake.” Elsewhere accounts that occasionally de- pict @ prominent Shii figure such as ‘Alv or the Mahdi as wielding a sword near the base of God's throne become adapted in the Ibn ‘Abbas narratives intoa trope in which a “sword of vengeance” hangs from the side of God's throne, sed to explain the divine purpose behind the strife that befalls the Muslim: community.” Such examples could be multiplied, but the preceding references provideadequate support for the idea that debates between Shi'i and Sunni partisans become in- serted into and narrated through the story of the Prophet’s ascension in general, and the account of his intimate colloguy with God on the night of the ascension in particuler. ‘hat such types of appropriations were not merely unidirectional (from Shi to Sunni narratives) becomes clear upon turning to consider the lengthy and le sectarian proto-Shi'i narrative ascribed to J'far Sidig in ‘Ali Qumm’s commen- tary on the night journey verse (Q 17:1). The intimate colloguy scene in the Jafar narrative, which makes no mention of ‘Alor the imams, mizrors the reports of the seals of the Cow chapter and favor ofthe prophets tropes that form standard ee ments (elong with the heavenly host debate) of ncarly every subscquent Sunni as- cension narrative that is ascribed to Ibn ‘Abbas Tedd a the Lote Tree ofthe Boundary, one ef of which would shadean entre community. was [adistancel fom tas Gonlsas fn the verse, te distance tw tows oF clover” (Q 538), when [God] called out to me, "The Mevengerbalieves shat was ene dan t0 from his Lord (2.285), sbi (le someting] | have veiten inthe chapter ofthe Cow.” Tesi, “My Lord, you gare your prophets favors, 3 give mi fome as well” God sai, {have given you lvors among shih see two phrases fom under iny throne: ‘Thee s no might aoe power save with God, and there is no relage From you except to you.” While this account by "Tar Sadi offers an abbreviated form of these tropes, ie is lear from this section and elsewhere ia the narrative that draws liberally from. the Sunai-valenced Ibn ‘Abbis ascension narrative.» Furthermore, as mentioned tbove, the long “far hadith” combines the primitive Ih“Abbisascension arr another major ascension account embraced by early Sunnis, namely the extended report attributed to Abu Seid Khudrithatiscited by Tha Hisham, Tabact, Qushaysi, and others, Prom the evidence advanced thus far, a case can be made that the proto-Shi'l depictions of the intimate colloquy scene played a pivotal role In determining the direction in which one strand of the Sunni ascension aarra- tives would develop, namely the appropriation and reinterpretation of eanly Shi‘ tropes, As evidenced by the above [a'far narrative, such Sunni developments may also have affected the development of formative SHY accounts, Frederick Colby Accounts that Silence the Intimate Colloguy Scenes Diverging from the aforementioned anecdotes that show partisan debates over the control of the ascension narrative in general andl the divine colloquy scenes in par= ticular a different response among early traditionists was to marginalize all such constructions by downplaying any notion that Mubammad enjoyed a substantive exchange with God on the night of the ascension apart from his negotiations aver ‘the number of daily ritual prayers that Mustims were commanded to observe. In view of the above descriptions of the intimate colloquy scenes that were circulating among both proto-Sunnisand Shi's between the ninth and tenth cen= tures, the absence of such scenes in the relatively unallorned ascension narratives: recorded in the two most important collections of Sunni hadith reports, those of Muhammad Bukhari (4.870) and Muslim b, Haijaj Qushayri (875), can be seen in a new light.” Those sound Sunni reports that tell the narrative in its entirety, rather than isolated anecdotes or narremes, nearly without exception trace their origin to the accounts of single individual: Anas b. Malik." Furthermore, these sound reports transmitted by Anas b, Malik all come to a narrative climax with the imposition ofthe five daily ritual prayers, making absolutely no mention of an Intimate colloquy scene between Muhammad and God. By limiting the interac- tion between Muhammad and God to such a briof exchange over the number of daily ritual prayers, these “official” accounts leave no room for any partisan debate ver the content of God's other message(s) to the Muslim community that might have been expressed to Mulpammadd in person on the night ofthe ascension, Itis certainly possible that the intimate colloquy scenes reflect a development the ascension narratives that appearod later, only after these official hadith col- lections wereassembled. Viewing the evidence from this perspective would lead to the conchision that the lack of substantial caloguy scenes in the ascension narra~ tives appearing in the sound Sunni collections helps us to date the appearance of these scenes to the end of the ninth century. It is also possible, however, that their absence reflects: deliberate choice on the past “oficial” scholarsto exclude these intimate colloquy scones from those roports selected for inclusion in the Sunni Sound collections. That is the fact that they do not appear in the sound reports, maybe the result of strategy on the part of a group of Sunni scholars who sought to inoculate the ascension natrativesagainst the types of creative partisan thetoric that competing groups might seck to inject into the body of the ascension text, The fet that Bukhari and Muslin’s extended ascension reports only include those nar- ratives transmitted by Anas b. Mili, not roports by ethers—for instance, those whom Ibn Hisham cites in his recension of Ibn Ishigis work, such as ‘Aisha, Mu‘awiyya, Qatéda, Umm Hani Abd Said Khud, et al. —further suggests thet the simplicity ofthe Sunni sound reports may have more to do with an ideological decision to promote a stripped-down ascension narrative than with concerns over preserving the most widely attested and most authentic hadith reports. The Early Imam Shi't Narratives se ‘he sound Sunni collections may have maintained a deliberate silence about the intimate colloquy as. strategy to counter and/or to render moot the partisan use of these scenes in which God endorses the leadership of AlTand the iniams. Ths fort, at silencing the intimate colloquy scenes ean be traced not only in Sunni hadith col- lections but also in the widely accepted collections of Shi hadith reports, J would suggest that this silence in the oficial sources did not satisfy subsequent generations of Muslims, as references in the work of the famous Nishapuri Sufi Abi ‘Abd al Rabman Salami (.1021},” hisstadent Abi al-Qisim Qushayri(d. 1072), and many thers attest.” the popularity of mi‘raj narratives that included the intimate coll «qu scenes grew overtime, either because ofthe political usefulness ofthese scenes for sectarian posturing, or because ofthe religious usefalness of these scenes for pro ‘viding exira-quranic divine legitimacy to key concepts such as intercession, Asa re sult, the appropriation of and contestation ovcr the intimate colloquy scenes comes to forma centcal partof the escension discourse inthe mike periods of lslamichis tory, despite their absence from the official collections of ascension hadith reports, and the wilespread perception among Sunni scholars that these ciicial collections record the most roiable versions ofthe story of Mubammad!’s journey. ‘the widespread circulation of the fbn ‘Abbas ascension narcatives in the middle periods of Islamic history demonstrates that the effort at marginalizing the more elaborate versions of the story, ones that often included @ cetailed! account of the intimate colloguy between Mabammad and God, was not gencrally successful in the pre-modern era, The evidence presented above suggests that esoteric proto-Shii aneedotes about the revelation of ‘Als status during the intimate colloquy between Muhammad and God on the night of the ascension, reports for which we have write ten evidence beginning in the ninth century, seem to have affected the emerging Sunni ascension discourse. There was undoubtedly a political dimension tothe d yelopment and spread ofthe intimate colloquy scenes, and the politcal contexts the years immediately before, during, and after the “Shi century” might well have precipitated this process, Some early Shi and Sunni scholars clearly used the inti- inate colloquy scenes of the wif ni) narrative as a sectarian battleground, Mean- while, some other scholars apparently attempted to reduce the threatening potential of these scenes by limiting the discourse, promoting as authentic only those ascen- sion narratives originating with a single individual (Anas, Malik). and only those reports that remained silent about Mubammai’s intimate colloquy with God. In the contemporary era this latter approach has gained significant ground! among, Muslims, but in the middle periods of Isamic history it faced serious competition from the rising popularity of more detailed! and full rij narratives, a number of which were cicculated in the name of Ibn ‘Abbas, narratives that preserved evidence of the partisan contexts in which they originally were articulated This study has made the ease that understanding the partisan use of the eatly ‘ai jaccountsis crucial to a proper understanding ofthe formative development of Frederick Colby the Islamic wscension discourse. The Sunni appropriations of originally Shi tropes transform praise for ‘Ali into praise for the Prophet hinislf. References to quranic passages that on their surface have little to do with Muhammad's ascension, such as the seals of the Cow chapter and the reference to the heavenly host debate, which were associated with the intimate calloguy by esoteric proto-Shii authors, become adopted as standard tropes in Sunni depictions of the conversation between Muhammad and God on the night of the ascension, While the struggle between Shi‘isand Sunnis over the content and meaning of Muhammad's night journey was to continue in the centuries that follow by the end of the ninth and beginning of the tenth centuries the emergence of this sectarian struggle influenced how Muslims came to narrate the story of Muhammad'sascension, and thereby to forward and le- sitimize their own sectarian belief systems inthe process. Notes This chaptor ws daivered asa paporat the Anaial Meatingofibe American Academy of Re ligion in Philselphia in November 2006. Spesial thanks are du to Chiistiane Gruber for her constructive remarks Both 24 that pane! and subsequently. rors herein are, however, my 1. On the basic outlines ofthe aight jatmney and ascension narratives, and their develop tment in the formative period of Islamic history sce my Narcating Mukamnad’s Night Journey: Tracing the Development aj the Ibn ‘Abbas Ascension Discourse (Albany: State University of New York Press 2008); Brooke Olson Vuckori's Heavenly Journey and Earthly Coneeras: The Leguey ofthe Mien the Formationof filam (New Yerkand Londore Routledge, 2005j,Christiane Gr ers “The Prophet Mubasimal’s Ascension (Ming) in Islanie Areata Literature, 1300-1604" (Ph.D. chs, Unversity of Pennsyleamia, 2005) ant em, The hand Book of Ascension: A Pere siare-Swreai Devotional Tale (London: Tauris, 2009), See also the relevant eneyelopedia st «les, such as those by Gethas! Bevering, sv. "Nia" Enoylopeia of Religion: June E&dine Sencheikh, sv. °Mi'rad}” Encyclopaedia of Ifans Frederick Colby and Michael Sell “Mini Encylopedia f Ilan ana the Muslin World 2. Sucha patter, longfolloned by Suani Maslia scholars snes the formative perk, nas ‘established as the typical apprrac in westera scholarship From the end of the minetsenth ane Deginningf the twentieth centuries in studies by European scholars. 3. Car] Ernst, Folowing Mubanemad (Chapel Hill: Universky of North Carolina Press, 2005), 45, 4. 4. On this eulyperied of profe-Shit history, sce Moharamad Ali Amir-Moczzi La vl ston diseréce(Parts:Liraire Peosophique]. Vein, 2000). especlally the essay tncludedt herein tiled “LImam dane eich acension limitation,” which wae firs! published os"l’imm dans leek ascensionet initiation faypests de Inzimsfogie Duodevinnaine)” in em (el) Le Voy age initiatigue en tere diblant ascensans celeste ef sinaires spiitele (onvain- aie: Peeters, 1996). Subsequent relerences to this essay will give the page aumberG) forthe 2006 edition, followed by the page number) for te 1986 edition i parentheses. 5. Dakss in ihn sha narrative range fram simple questions such 2 the numberof cops that Mubsenmad was offered inthe “cup fst" to mars complex and abstract qastion auch aa ‘whether Mubamnadsjourney took place in bod, in pint. orn sont other manner Th Ts Version i most enily acess in the consion ofthe Biography ofthe Messer of Gelb) le shim, Sue Rast Allah, ed. Feedinaoel Westeafed, yl 1/1 (Gitingen, 1858). Readersof Ens The Early Imam Shi't Narratives 134 Lsshaay wish toconsultthetranslationby A. Guillaume, The Lifeef Mulemmad (Oxtorc: Oxtord University Press, 1955), 181-187, Although I refer here te the pestoa of “Ibe Isbik?” as repre sensed by the version ef hisaccount gven by Ibn H sham, | do safer having compared the Ibn ihn recension wh that of another aden! of Iba Ishig by the nome of ba Buksye | dicuss the inue of interpolating Ibn Ishias portrayal ofthe ight journey and.ancension aeons for theto diferent extant versionsia vay Narrating Muananad's Night ourney. 5 {Fora discussion ofthe phrase “Shi'l century” in connsstion withthe ris of the Eis sand she Fattnkls a the central ands Islands inthe tet ad eevert entree Mar ‘hall odgeon, Th Uoture of lan, vo 2 (Chicago: Uniersty af Cseaga Pres 7, See Aaron Hughes, “Mirai an the language of Lexitimation in the Med ana Jewish Philosophical Traditions A Case Study of Avicenna and Abraham ibn Era chap ter inthe present volume. Michael Sells} Enoch (Sefer lekhalo}) andthe Mi‘aj of Aba Vaeidal-Bistmi" paper read before the American Academy af Religion in Anaheim, California, November 1889, This paper was kindly provided by Michael Sls othe autos 9. Slls"3 Enoch.’ 1, 10 “The caries independent wail dedicated to the Prophets axcension appears ta be th ‘ofthe Shticomplee Hisham b Sin Jawealig (Reith century See the notice on this figure by Josef van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft fm 2 ou 3. Jakthuadert Hidschra (Berlin de Gruyter, 1991-1997), vo. 345; bid, ve. 5,69; this work icited and briefly discussed in Mo- Jhomaad Ali Amir Moczr's "Limam dons le ciel’ 135 (100), 1H. In addition to his pivotal stad cited shove, Amie-Moer7| devel the more general ‘concept ofthe “erotic aon satin” strand of proto Shim in his work The Divine utd in arly Sui: The Sources of Exotericis fn flan, traaslted by David Strcight (Albany: State University of New York Dress, 1991), 12, See Amir Mocz2i,"LTairn dans ke ciel” 136-144 (100-110) 13, Thi sas see iy NarraityyMubaanaad’s Night Pourney, ch H¥ Mutfammad b. Hasan Sotfor Quam (L co. 902), Bast akdarajar gf fail A Mudiconmad, ed. Mires Muhsin Kuchabighi Tabrizi (Qum: Maktabot Ayat Allsh alUzma arash Naja, 1982), 515 (10, ¢h 18,99. 30): the passage is Hansa into French 1 ‘Amir Moezsi,“Llrsim dane le ciel,” 139-140 (101), All English tenasletions inthe present chapter are my on anade from the original language ures otherwise stated. Here and else= Uohere in his chapter, words or phrases directly quoted rom the Quran are given in Haies 5. Amir-Meez, "L'a danse ciel,” 138 (101). 16 Q2:265-286. 1D. Furaths Fart KOM (lca 912), Tae Fura l-Nuf eo M. a-Si (Tehran: Massa al Taka Nosh, 1990), 74-75, commentary to Q 2285-286, There are references to this pas sags, andothercelaved passages amongthiceaely Shs In Amie-Moez2,"LTmam danse ce 130 18 (105-18) 1A. Amlr-Mecze,"'hmam danse cel,” 1369. 6(100 n. 6), where he aims that this Taf rorralie*constittesa parallel versanto that of the Sane Aba S74 Khari” While the Jae parative certainly draws upon the Kiudri version, Ralso drawe substantially upon the [ba “Abbis ascension discourse,as | lscuss in Narrating Muhammad s Night Journey, 101-104 19. Although the consensus ofthe Musi contmiity would comet Toem around the dca thatthe destination of Muboramad sigh journey tothe furthest place ofprostrtien (a fay al-agsd represented an allusion to Jerusalem, inthe formaeive period cine Musins ‘apparently unverstaod the verse ditty Instead of roading the llason as repeesonting 8 terrestrial journey to Jerusalem, some ofthese Muslims interpreted it asa celestial journey to the heavens diceely from Mecca, An example ofthis fatter positon can be seen in the fallow ing aneedcte from ‘AIT Quavn's commentary. Fora discussion of the nuances ofthis extly debate sce Herbert Busse, “Jesusaleu inthe Story of Mubammal’s Night Journey and Ascea: Sion" Jerusalem Studies Arabic end Islam 14 (1991) 1-40. Busse fellows the lead of eater Orieotliste who axgued that this lsbion of interpreting Q 17:1 asa reference to a heavenly Frederick Colby journey proceed that ofthe Jrucalem interpretation Howaver theft that Ibn Hisham ‘cnsion of Tb Ishi’ very ealy discussion of the night journey slready equates alma {aga with Jerasalem proves that both inerpretsions originaed $n the formative period. 1 ‘would contend that itis no longer possible, fi ever were, determine whiet interpretation Should be considered the criginal one, 2. This pasage alludes to the tope that would become more developed inthe Tin “Abbas sscension course and later Suf ext namely that Mubammed was forced to leave Gabriel behind daring the highest stages ofthe night fourney. Tn same of these versions, Gabriel ex plain that he would buen ap wore he fo continue the shortest distance heyond bis “known, ation” near the Lote Tree in the seventh heaven Sce Narrating Muhammad's Night Jour chapters Sard 9, 21. ‘AWE. Tbeahim al-CQuanni (dca 919), Kit tas AU Ive (abet lithograph, 1895) 572-573, commentary to Q3857-71 22. Ascited ahve, this theory has been aticlated with neference to the work of Jawai (eighth century by Jost'van Ls, Theologie wad Gesellchaft ins 2. und 3. Jahrhundert Hidscra, woh 1,345; sbid vl 5,68, 38. slley"3 Enoch,” 1 21 For example, the “heavenly host debate” trope appoots inthe proto Sunni collection of| sound hth reporis compiled by Timid. 892}; see my Narra Muhammad Night fourmey, Muhansinad b, fare Taber (4923), Tfsral-Tabart (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub ally, 1992) vol.8.7=12,commentarytoQ 17 The Abu Horayra reparthasbeea trashed by Reuven Eirestone in John Renardycd., Wandor#on the Hones of Ilan (Berkley: University of California Press 1998), 336-345, Iba bccn discussed by Eliane Rea “Le Rit du m8 ane version atabe de scensinn ds Poopheto, dane le Tafsr de Tabari” tm Apaca ype voyages dans Fet= ‘et, ed. Chae Kappler (Paris CERF, 1987), 267-200 scealsouny Nerrating Mahan oval’ Night Journey, 96-101 26, Tabat, Tafis, vol 11, 510, commentary to Q 5 this passage fe both quoted and di cursed in my Narcuting Muhammad» Night Journey, A, (On the formative development of the Tb “Abbas ascension narrative, see my dissert tion, “Constructing an Islami Azssasion Narrative: The Inlerplay of Oficial and Poplar Cl ture in Poeudo-tbn “Abbis" (Dake University PhD. diss, 2002% see also my Nervaing Mubomnad sight Journey, passin, but especally chapters, 8,249. 2. Abdith report recorded byThy Hibbsq Busi (4 965),preserved by falsal-Din ab Saya (4 1505) in his Lal ab-mwsui’a fi abacith el-maeiva, Abu ‘Abd al-Raauin Salab b. ‘Muhanymnad bUwtaya (Blea Dar alsKutu aI thy, 1886), 62-75. hae dscovered £66 ‘other recension ofthe same carly hadith, recorded by Absal-Qisim Qushaye (4.1072) and‘Abd alRabuman Wasi (d, 1343), 1 examine these revenslons in my Narauing Mulianraad’s Night Journey, ch. 2,apd | include a fall trazsation of this hadith in eppendis Aof tas samme Work 29. Inaadition tothe Tames form of Alsond his family presented inthe passoge quoted above from Fura: Kas Taft in anotheranecdote the sume exegete recordshow Godexptains that he creaed anangelin‘ALTs image Teirati) because of the ther angel® Tong ng or Al Te anecdote is discunes in my Narnatng Mulromad's Nip! Journey, 73-76; a Preach rans Iation andl farther references appear in Arwit-Moeral, Llatam dans leclely 140-L40 (103). A& for am ange in the focta of Abt Bakr, one voreioa of the hadith in which God creates an angel “an his inage” (7 sara) seconded by Molganmnad b. Yesur Shut SHIT A 13) in the final chapter of hie macsive work bled “allyat al-asioe al-alins meray ceyyid ht al Aya a “Tahir” MS Murad Molla 532, Bayea Kulphanes, btanbul, fel 82v, See my Constructing an Islamic Ascension Narrative” 361 30, Relerences to. God speaking to Muara inthe wie of ‘Ai can be fond in Ami ‘Moezi"Ulnnias dans le” HD (04); God speaking to Mubamasd in the wie of Abii Bokr appears inthe modern prints version ofthe nbs ascension narrative. whichappcars tole been alate recensicn, Nevethelss,the litter trope certainly circulated prior the time of Shami, The Early Imam Shi't Narratives ‘who reconde i amoag his collection af fabsssted oscension ceport; sae ol Aya alas, fe, 2y- 82ye passage enedatein my" Constructing an Ishaie Ascension Nagrtive” 359-361. 31 Ip Furat XOfl Taf Fur a-Kufl vo 2. 372-824 (commentary on Q 391) an ane ‘dote describes an inscription on a tre af the gate of Paradise: "Ihere is ao god but God, ‘Musial isthe Messenger of God, “Alrb, Ab TSlis i God's solid grip the sword of his vengeance upon the idolators” The hanging sword traps, im which Mabammad spies the “sword of vengeance” apf magna) that hangs from the throne, serves as common feature ‘of mnay Ibn “ablasascenson narratives since the receeston of Alaa Hasan al-Bokr¥ CL bie teenth century a tho tea). Soo my Marvating Alone ¥ Night Jouney, chapters 32. ‘Ali Quaoesi, Taste Qua (1885 lithograph), ‘commentary on Q Y71. The enti far narrative spans 368-390 i the 1995 lithograph edition The narrative wes po ‘Suced wholesale in Moisi Bit of aavtdr (Tehran end Quam: Haya, 1986-1972), vol 18, 319-331; his ater version of Masi was translated ets English by James Merrick The Life ‘and Religion af Muheirmad (Heston: Pillip, Sampson & Co, 1830) vol-2, 192-188, 33. Adiscussion fthis}afarasconsion hadith report appearsinay Narraing Ala horwad ig fourney 105-108. 'S_Abn“Abst Allsh Mabarsmacls email Bukhari (470), Salis Bakar, ed ukeemenad NirSe Tamim apd Haythom Nizar Tamim (leiewe: Sharighat Das al-Arginb. ABI Arima, rn Masti b. Haj al-Qushayr al-Naysabte (875), Sath Maslin, (Betrut Daral-Kurub al Uniyy3, 1998, 35, See my Narratiag Mulsrmmadl’s Night Journey, 81-82. 46. Ibn tisham, Star Kasil Ail, 20)-Guilaume, The Life of Mehammnad,ISt:and Colby Narating Muhammad’ Night Journey S1-57 17 Salam, The Sublletics of the Ascension, tans. Predcrick Colby (Loisill, KY: Foss ae, 2008), 38, al-Qushayri, Kitab al-MYrdj ed, ‘Ali Hasan ‘Abd ol-Qihie (Cabro: Dir al-Xutab al Haditha, 1954). 139, Subseent Suna authors of Arabi books dedicated to working out the iste arising from the accounts of Mivhammad'sescension are too instoes o mention ace the extensive, Lrincomplet,bibliogsaphy of works nthe introduction to Suyolt, a-Ayaa-kubra, e8. May ‘al-Din Mist (Beirut Dar Iba Kathir, 198% Medina: Daz al Tors, 1987). Frederick Colby