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Martyrdom of Maytham al-Tammar

Birth and Early Life

Maytham ibn Yahyā was born at Nihrawan, an area near Kufa He was the son of Yahyā.

Early life

A lady from Banu Asad bought Maytham (as a slave) Accordingly, Maytham worked for this lady until the supreme leader-ship of Imam Ali

Maytham's Titles

The first title/address was Mawali or Mawla, meaning a slave of Persian origin living in Kufa. But after Maytham was freed from the shackles of slavery, he no longer was addressed as a Mawali or Mawla. The second and most famous title given to Maytham was al-Tammar. Tammar stems from the Arabic word Tammer. In Arabic, Tammer means dates (a type of fruit). Therefore, al-Tammar means "the date seller"  Maytham received the title al-Tammar because he owned a market store in Kufa where he would sell dates and other types of fruit. In addition, al-Kufi was another title given to Maytham. Al-Kufi simply means a person from Kufa.

Prophecy about Maytham al-Tammar

Historical records show that the holy prophet Muhammad (PBH) praised Maytham al-Tammar and he would tell Imam Ali that one day you are going to have a group of loyal companions (one of whom was Maytham). Umm Salama, a wife of the holy prophet Muhammad (PBH) , narrates, "There are many nights, I heard Rasulallah (Prophet Muhammad) praising (Maytham al-Tammar) in front of Ali ibn Abi Talib. In the middle of the night Rasulallah would tell Ali, Ali you know you are going to have some loyal companions and of those loyal ones, you'll have Maytham al-Tammar. He will be a loyal companion unlike others. Maytham did not live in Madinah. He (Maytham) was thousands of miles away (in Iraq) and never even met Imam Ali during the lifetime of the holy prophet Muhammad, until his (Imam Ali's) supreme leader-ship 

Freedom from slavery

After the time of Prophet Muhammad and the caliphate of Uthman, Imam Ali became supreme leader in the year 656 AD. As the new supreme leader-ship  (after Uthman ibn Affan's death), Imam Ali moved the Islamic capital from Medina to Kufa for two reasons: to keep Mu'awiyah in check, and because Kufa had an illustrious history (many prophets of Allah lived in Kufa). Moving to Kufa, Imam Ali use to go around the city of Kufa. It is documented that if he encountered a slave he would try to free him or her. One day, Imam Ali saw a lady from the Banu Asad tribe, who had a male slave of Persian origin (Mawali). Imam Ali approached the woman and began to converse with her, in order to purchasing the slave, Salim. The two started to negotiate a price, and the lady's initial asking price was 50 dinar. As Imam Ali gave her the 50 dinar she changed the price to 100 dinar. She kept raising the price, since she realized that Imam Ali was willing to pay her a much higher price. Seeing the price soar, a companion of Imam Ali then asked, "O Amir al-Momineen (Imam Ali), who is this man? What is he? He's originally a Persian, he is a slave, what the point of paying this much? Finally, she settled at 500 dinar.  Imam Ali handed her the 500 dinar. She then called Salim and stated to him that Imam Ali has purchased you. After buying Salim, Imam Ali set him free from the shackles of slavery for the way of Allah. It demonstrated the Islamic view of slavery; Islam establishes that slavery is immoral and that all humans are equal in the perspective of Allah. The only thing that differentiates a human is their piety. Islam called for a gradual emancipation of slaves. Meaning that masters/owners should not just set slaves free but they should help them build a foundation financially so that they (slaves) could support themselves. Thus, Imam Ali toke Maytham under his wings after he freed Maytham. Moreover, a person who frees a slave is showered with blessing and would be protected from hell fire.


Maytham's first encounter with Imam Ali

After Imam Ali set him free, he greeted Salim by the name Maytham. Maytham was the name that his mother gave to him after his birth; no one in Kufa knew that Maytham was Salim's real name. Upon hearing a stranger calling him by Maytham, Salim was shocked, baffled, and astonished that a person other than his parents knew about his real name (Maytham). He questioned Imam Ali as to how did he knew that Maytham was his real name. Imam Ali replied, "Come with me do not worry. Allah's Apostle (Prophet Muhammad) has told me that the Iranians call you Maytham. Still shocked, Maytham willing went with Imam Ali who would later become his best friend and teacher.

Salim (a.k.a. Maytham) himself narrates this event:

Imam Ali: "Salamu alaykum Maytham."

Salim: "What did you say?"

Imam Ali: "Salamu alaykum Maytham."

Salim: "Nobody knows my name except my parents. How did you know my name?"

Imam Ali: "Do not worry, there are areas of knowledge that I may know, which you do not know. Come near me. I want you to come with me."

Salim: "How did you know my name? There is no one in Kufa that knows me by Maytham. My mother named me Maytham. Only a person of great knowledge knows that that’s my original name."

Imam Ali: "Come with me do not worry. Allah's Apostle (Prophet Muhammad) has told me that the Iranians call you Maytham."

Salim: "Allah and His Apostle are truthful.

Other narrations state that Imam Ali tells Salim, "Your name is Maytham, you are Iranian, and you are of Iranian origin. Be proud of your Iranian origin.

The Counterfeit Money Incident

The caliph, Imam Ali, would at times visit the market place of Kufa. In his visits he would stop by Maytham's store to converse with him. One day, Maytham was at his market store in Kufa selling dates. Imam Ali approached Maytham and said to him to take a prayer break. Other variants of this event state that Imam Ali told Maytham to take a break and visit his family. Another variant states that Maytham went to go buy something. Before leaving, Maytham requested Imam Ali to sell some dates.  While Maytham was gone, Imam Ali looked over his shop. A shopper came looking to buy some dates. He looked around and then purchased four dates from Imam Ali. Some variants say he purchased four Dirhams worth of dates. But he purchased the dates using counterfeit money (fake money) Eventually, Maytham returned to his stall and asked Imam Ali if he managed to sell any dates. Imam Ali tells Maytham he sold some dates and handed Maytham the money. Maytham was shocked that Imam Ali sold the dates and did not realize that the money was fake. However, Imam Ali mentions to Maytham to remain patient because the shopper would come back for a reason. Maytham became confused, he had a feeling that the shopper would not come back because he essentially got free dates.  A couple hours passed by, the man returned to Maytham's market shop upset at the taste of the dates that he recently purchased from the ruling caliph of the time, Imam Ali. The man requested for a return. Imam Ali then tells the man the dates were bitter because the money you gave was bitter (fake). The man was surprised and astonished. He then took his counterfeit money and left.

Maytham himself narrates this event:

Imam Ali: "Maytham go and have a break. Go and pray your Salah. I will look after your date stall."

Maytham: "Very well. Try and sell a few dates if you could sell anything."

Imam Ali: "Do not worry, just go and pray."

(Other variation of this event says that Maytham wanted to go and buy something. Another variation states that Imam Ali said to Maytham to go and give your family some time.)

Maytham comes back:

Maytham: "O Amir al-Momineen (Imam Ali), did you manage to sell?"

Imam Ali: "Yes, I managed to sell."

Maytham: "How much?"

Imam Ali: "I managed, Alhamdulillah to sell four dates." (Other variations state that Imam Ali sold four Dirhams (currency) worth of dates.)

Maytham: "Where is the money?"

Imam Ali: "Here is the money."

Maytham: "Imam this person has given you bitter money (fake money). It's not real."

Imam Ali: "Maytham sit down, do not worry. Allah will provide Rizq (sustenance/livelihood). The owner of the dirhams (money) will come back."

Maytham: "The man bought the dates by false dirhams! Why will he come back?"

The man returns:

The Man: "These dates that you have given me taste bitter." (Some variants say "I don't want these dates! They are bitter! Why are they bitter?")

Imam Ali: "Because the money you gave was bitter" (Some variants say "Because your dirhams are false!")

Maytham's Views of Imam Ali

Maytham viewed Imam Ali in a very positive light. He saw him as a humble and down to earth Caliph, who sought to teach his fellow citizens manners, religion, and a good lifestyle  Maytham himself says, "Only Allah knows what lessons I learned from Ali ibn Abi Talib. I didn't find a human on this earth like Amir al-Momineen (Imam Ali). If you want to see the embodiment of humility, then see what I saw with Ali ibn Abi Talib. He also says, "Ali ibn Abi Talib is the caliph of the state and I am a Tammar (date seller). Amir al-Momineen would come and sit by me. I would be there, I would sell dates. He would come and sit near me. Which king would sit next to a man selling dates? Whereas Ali ibn Abi Talib would come, sit near me. Look at the humility of the man (referring to Imam Ali). Furthermore, people who knew the caliph, Imam Ali, were astonished to find him at times sitting next to a Tammar (date seller) conversing.

Teachings of Imam Ali[

As the cousin of Prophet Muhammad, Ali would follow his footsteps and educate people about the teachings of Islam. He taught/trained many religious scholars both Muslims and non-Muslims. Among these religious scholars was Maytham al-Tammar. Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib took Maytham under his wings, he taught Maytham many secrets about faith, religion, and the world. In addition, he taught Maytham many branches of knowledge, including ilm-e-Manaya wal Balaya (esoteric knowledge of future events) and ilm-e-Taweel (interpretation and exegesis of the Quran) It is documented that Imam Ali would take Maytham to a nearby dessert in the middle of the night to teach him about future affairs/matters/events.  At times with the permission of his master/teacher, Maytham used to acquaint the public about the deep secrets that he learned from Imam Ali. On account of the frank speech of Maytham, people used to think that Maytham had lost his head/gone insane. They could hardly understand the depth and logic of his words.

Teachins narrated my Maytham:

"Ali ibn Abi Talib taught us the first lesson in life that whatever job you have as a human being, if you are earning wealth in Halal it's a worship of Allah (God)."

Ilm-e-Manaya wal Balaya

As a student of Imam Ali, Maytham was taught various categories of knowledge. One of these categories was ilm-e-Manaya wal Balaya (the knowledge of death and future calamities). With ilm-e-Manaya wal Balaya, Maytham prophesied specific events that would occur in the future. According to Kashshi and Liyakatali Takim, Maytham possessed supernatural knowledge unmatched by ordinary people. Kashshi also mentions that Maytham's ability to predict future events was a feat that was later matched by Muhammad ibn Sinan.

Maytham the Scholar

Maytham became one of the top scholars of his time, in part of his desire to increase his understanding about various subjects and the teachings of Imam Ali. People would come to Maytham for explanations of Quranic verses, since he possessed ilm-e-Taweel (interpretation and exegesis of the Quran). Abdullah ibn Abbas is documented to be one of the people that would take lessons from Maytham. Maytham also composed a book on Imamate. He is reported to have discussions with Mu'tazili Ali al-Aswari concerning imamate. Furthermore, he is reputed to be the first Shia theologian to uphold the principle of leadership chosen by Allah (the concept of Ahl al-Bayt). And according to Tusi, Maytham was the first to expound the Imamate theological doctrine.[23]

Prophecy of death

Once Ali ibn Abi Talib, told Maytham that he would be hanged on account of the love for the Imam of his time. He also gave the address and told him that he would be hanged in a farm next to the house of Amr lbn Huraith. The tree on which he would be hanged was the smallest of the ten trees existing in the farm at that time. Maytham was also informed that his tongue would be cut out because he would not stop praising his Imam of time (Ali ibn Abi Talib). After getting this information, it is recorded in history that, Maytham used to go to the tree pointed out by Ali ibn Abi Talib, clean the place and water the tree and offer prayers saying, "O tree! You are for me and I am for you. Months and years passed by, Ali was martyred then Hasan ibn Ali (the Second Shī`a Imām) was martyred and Maytham kept waiting for the time.

Confrontation with ibn Ziyad

In 60 A.H., when Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad was appointed as the Governor of Kufa, things started to get complicated. Maytham then went to perform Hajj and thereafter returned to Kufa. One day, Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad, called him and asked him to come to his Court, and said, "O Maytham! Inform me where your Allah is?" Maytham immediately replied. "He is in quest of an opportunity to punish the transgressors." Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad then asked him about his connections with Ali ibn Abi Talib. Maytham replied that Ali ibn Abi Talib was his master and that he loved him. Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad then asked him, "Did your master tell you anything about your end?" Maytham replied, "Yes, he informed me that I would be hanged and that my tongue would be cut." Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad sent a roar of laughter and said, "I will see that your master did not tell you the truth. I will see that his prophecy is belied." Maytham said, "My master's words are true because he got that information from Allah. The Islamic Prophet Muhammad was informed by Jibril, and Jibril came with the message of Allah."

Final days and death

Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad ordered Maytham to be jailed and sent him to al-Tamura, a fearful prison underground, Mukhtar al-Thaqafi was in the same prison with Maytham.  Maytham escaped from jail and joined Al-Mukhtar. Al-Mukhtar had risen in revolt to avenge the massacre of Karbala. Discussions took place between Al-Mukhtar and Maytham. Revenge was planned. But Maytham was caught by the order of Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad and was ordered to be hanged. Maytham was brought to the same tree to be hanged as pointed out by Ali ibn Abi Talib. Maytham began singing the praises of his master Ali, and about a thousand people gathered to see Maytham being hanged. Even after being hanged, the tongue of Maytham went on singing the praises of Ali ibn Abi Talib. Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad was informed about this and the tyrant ordered that the tongue of Maytham to be cut and thus the prophecy of Ali ibn Abi Talib came true and Maytham died after his tongue was cut out.

The book Nafasul Mahmoom states that "Maytham was martyred ten days before Imam Husain (a.s.) came to Iraq." Imam Hussein entered Sharraf, on the border of Iraq and Hijaz on the 25th of Dhul Hijjah 60AH.