The opponents of Aal Muhammad (a.s.) and their Shias have no shortage of titles and nicknames when it comes to maligning and groundlessly accusing Shias of disbelief.

They started by branding the lovers of Aal Muhammad (a.s.) as ‘Shias’, as if it was a derogatory term.

The semi-learned among them soon realized that Shias are mentioned in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in glowing terms. Hence calling them Shias would only backfire.

Then they looked for other terms to deride the Shias – something that would draw attention towards the fact that the Shias reject the rulers and so-called caliphs.

That is how they came up with the term رافضى – ‘Rafizi’ – literally a ‘rejectionist’ for abandoning belief in man-made rulers in contravention of clear Quranic verses and prophetic traditions.

But even with this the opponents failed to come up with a demeaning title for the Shias. As we will see, the Shia is proud of being a called a رافضى and considers it a badge of honour.

Who is a رافضى ?

In an interesting incident, Imam Sadiq (a.s.) informs about the origin of the term رافضى:

‘Today Ammar Dohni went as a witness to the jurist Ibn Abi Laila – the judge of Kufa.

The Qazi said: Stand up and get out for we do not accept your testimony, given that you are a Rafizi.

Hearing these words Ammar began shivering, and his tears flowed ceaselessly.

When the Qazi saw this condition, he said: You are a scholar and well versed with narrations. If what I attributed to you has disappointed you then you should confess aversion (with your previous belief), and be from among our brothers.

Ammar said: O man, my disappointment is not about what you think, but my weeping is on myself and on you also. The reason I am weeping over myself is that you have attributed me with a very high and elevated position. You have given me such a valuable status of a Rafizi, which I do not deserve.

Woe be to you, Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) informed me: The foremost persons who were given the title of Rafizi were the magicians of Firaun. When they witnessed the miracle of Moosa (a.s.) with his staff, they believed in him and became his followers and they rejected Firaun and faced with forbearance the ensuing ailments and difficulties from Firaun for rejecting him in favour of Moosa (a.s.).

Since they abandoned Firaun, he declared them as Rafizi.

So Rafizi is the person who leaves whatever is ugly near Allah and acts on whatever Allah is pleased with. Where are the people possessing such rare qualities in this era?

Therefore, I am crying that Allah who is aware of my heart and my character may punish me for appropriating such a pure title for myself and will tell me: O Ammar, did you forsake every falsehood and act on every obedience as you were commanded, so as to assume such at title?  At that time if Allah wishes He will overlook it and forgive me for appropriating the title. However, the claim of being Rafizi may become cause of my degradation if He chooses to scrutinize the matter minutely and questions me strictly. In such a condition, this claim will be a cause of severe punishment for me unless my masters with their intercession compensate my shortcomings (then I will be saved).

And as for my weeping for you it is because you have spoken a serious lie, and have attributed me a name which is not for me. I am disappointed due to the punishment of Allah on you because you have unjustly attributed with me the most pure and holy name. How will your body bear the punishment to utter this sentence?

Imam Sadiq (a.s.) on hearing the incident said: Even if Ammar Dohni’s sins numbered more than the heavens and earth, by virtue of this sentence that he declared in front of the Qazi, he has been purified (from all sins) and these very sentences will be cause of significant rewards for him to the extent that each mustard seed (worth of reward) will be greater than this world by a thousand times.’

  • Tafseer attributed to Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) p. 310-312
  • Tafseer al-Burhaan vol. 4 p. 603 under Surah Saaffaat (37) :83
  • Behaar al-Anwaar vol. 68 p. 156-157

Imam Sadiq (a.s.) comforts Abu Baseer  

In narrations, we see Imams (a.s.) comforting the Shias with this title.

In a lengthy tradition, it is reported that Abu Baseer, the select companion of Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.), complained to him (a.s.):

‘….may I be your ransom, these people (opponents of Shias) have given us such a title that due to which our backs are broken and our hearts have died and due to this title, the governors consider our bloodshed to be permissible because of a tradition which their scholars narrate for them.

Imam (a.s.) asked: Do you mean the title of Rafizi?

Abu Baseer: Yes

Imam (a.s.) informed: No, by Allah, they do not call you with this title, rather Allah has given you this title, O Aba Muhammad!

Don’t you know that 70 persons from Bani Israel, on seeing the deviation of Firaun and his people abandoned them and joined with Moosa (a.s.) in whom they saw guidance. So they were named as Rafizi in the army of Moosa (a.s.), because they rejected Firaun. They were most diligent in worship compared to others. They were most firm compared to others in their love for Moosa (a.s.) and Haroon (a.s.) and their progeny.

Therefore, Allah revealed to Moosa (a.s.): Record this title (Rafizi) for them in Torah because I have given them this title and entitled them with this title. Accordingly, Moosa (a.s.) registered this title for them. Allah has preserved this name for you (Shias) so that it may be given to you.

O Aba Muhammad, they have rejected goodness and you have rejected evil. People have scattered in various groups and have divided in many sects and you have aligned with the group of the progeny of your Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), the path they have tread is also the path that you have selected…

  • Al-Kaafi vol. 8 p. 33-36
  • Awaalim al-Uloom vol. 20 p. 1,061

Branding Shias ‘ Kafir’ as a last resort

After applying various titles and nicknames only to find that Shias have been embellished by these very titles, the opponents simply brand Shias as ‘Kafir’ (disbeliever) out of sheer frustration.

Even in this, Shias find themselves in illustrious company.

Firaun also called Prophet Moosa (a.s.) a Kafir (Allah forbid):

وَأَنتَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ

  • Surah Shuara (26): 19

And even the Shia proudly declares himself a Kafir and hopes for great reward in doing so:

انى) كَافِرٌ بِمَا كَفَرْتُمْ‏ بِه)

Surely I am a disbeliever in everything that you (Imams a.s.) have disbelieved…

(Excerpt from Ziyarat al-Jaameah al-Kabeerah)

  • Al-Mazaar p. 215
  • Al-Misbah of Al-Kafami p. 506

In another place, the Shia declares:

 ‏ (أَنِّي) كَافِرٌ بِعَدُوِّكُمْ وَ بِمَا كَفَرْتُمْ بِه‏

Surely I am a disbeliever in (the religion of) your enemies and in everything that you have disbelieved…

(Excerpt from Ziyarat al-Jaameah for all Imams a.s.)

  • Man laa Yahzorohu al-Faqih vol. 2 p. 614
  • Tahzeeb al-Ahkam vol. 6 p. 98

Therefore, branding Shias as Kafir poses no insult or offense to them. As we have seen, the Shias consider it a badge of honour and have been calling themselves as such based on the supplications and Ziyaarat of the Imams (a.s.).

Whatever the opponents call the lovers of Aal Muhammad (a.s.) – Shia or Rafizi or Kafir, it is a matter of pride for them. There is no loss in dignity, rather their stature increases manifold in the way of Allah and the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and infallible Imams (a.s.).

قُلِ ادْعُواْ اللّهَ أَوِ ادْعُواْ الرَّحْمَـنَ أَيًّا مَّا تَدْعُواْ فَلَهُ الأَسْمَاء الْحُسْنَى