This is a very lengthy yet interesting tradition that I read recently. It has been recorded in Shaykh Tabarsi’s Volume 2 of al-Ihtijaj. I came across its translation in the English copy of the book Mikyalul Makarim, by Ayatullah Isfahani and translated by Sayyid Athar Hussain S.H. Rizvi. The original Arabic version of the narration can be read between 268 to 277 here in Al-Ihtijaj.
Shaykh Tabarsi (ra) has stated: In the debate of His Eminence, Hujjat Qaim Muntazar Sahib az-Zaman, peace be upon him and his ancestors Saad bin Abdullah Qummi Ashari has said:
“I became involved in a debate with a Nasibi (hater of Ahl ul-Bayt) who was the strongest among Nasibi debaters. One day during the debate he told me: Death be on you and all your coreligionists. You Rafidis lay curse on the Emigrants and Helpers and deny their love for the Holy Prophet while the Siddiq was the most exalted persons among the companions and he had precedence in accepting Islam. Don’t you know that the Messenger of Allah took him along to the cave on the night of migration due to the risk to his life, just as he was concerned for his own safety. Because he knew that he would be his caliph and successor. Therefore he wanted to protect his life like he was concerned about his own security. So that the religion may not be destroyed after him. In those very circumstances he made Ali sleep on his bed as he knew that even if he were killed there would be no problem for Islam in the future because there were people among the companions who could have taken his place, therefore he did not accord much importance to his (Ali) getting killed.”
Saad says: I replied to it but the replies were not so effective. So he said: “You Rafidis say that the first and the second caliphs were hypocrites and you support it by what happened on the Lailatul Uqbah.” Then he said: “Come let us see if they accepted Islam willingly and happily or it was under duress and pressure?”
Here I did not give any reply, because if I said it was under duress it would not be correct as Islam at that time was not dominant and if I said they accepted willingly it would negate their hypocrisy. I returned from this debate with a heavy heart, took a paper and wrote down forty odd questions that were difficult for me and said to myself that I must hand it over to the representative of Maula Abu Muhammad Hasan bin Ali Askari [as] (that is Ahmad bin Ishaq who resided in Qom). But when I went to him I learnt that he had left on a journey. I departed in his pursuit and when I reached him I told him all that had happened. Ahmad bin Ishaq said to me: Come let us go together to Surre man Raa (Samarrah) and ask our master, Hasan bin Ali [as] about this. So I accompanied him to Surre man Raa till we reached the house of our master and asked for permission to enter, which was given and we went inside. Ahmad bin Ishaq had a leather bag that he had concealed inside his Tiberian cloak. The bag contained one hundred and sixty purses containing gold and silver coins. Each purse was sealed with the seal of the sender. When our eyes fell on the elegant face of His Eminence, Abu Muhammad al-Hasan bin Ali [as] we saw that his face was like a full moon and a child was sitting in his lap. He was very beautiful, like a Jupiter star having nice locks of hair. In front of the Imam was placed a golden pomegranate decorated with jewels and precious stones; it was presented by an affluent gentleman from Basra. The Imam was holding a pen and writing something on paper. Whenever the child caught his hand he tossed the pomegranate and the little one chased it and brought it back. In the meanwhile he wrote whatever he wanted. So Ahmad bin Ishaq opened the cloak and the leather bag before Imam Hadi [as] (a title of Imam Hasan Askari [as]). His Eminence threw a glance at the child and said: Remove the seals from the gifts of your Shias and friends. It was asked: O my master, is it lawful that a pure hand should extend towards impure gifts and filthy monies?”
His Eminence asked Ahmad bin Ishaq to take out the contents of the bag so the lawful and the unlawful can be separated. He did as he was told. The child said: “This is from so-and-so of so-and-so locality of Qom, containing 62 dinars from sales proceeds of a house, and inheritance from his father 45 dinars and from the money of six dresses 40 dinars and the rent of three shops amounting to three dinars.” Our master said: “You are right, my son. Now tell us what is unlawful in it?” The child said: “There is a dinar in this purse which was minted in Ray in so-and-so year. Half of its inscription is worn out; its three corners are cropped, such that its weight is reduced by 1.5 Daniq. This same amount is unlawful in it because the sender of this purse in so-and-so year, so-and-so month gave to a weaver who was his neighbor a mound and a quarter of old cotton for spinning. That cotton was stolen from the weaver who informed him about it but he didn’t accept his version and in its place took a mound and a half of softer cotton. Then he ordered a garment to be made for him from this material. Thus that money and the cropped amount is from that money.” Ahmad bin Ishaq untied the purse and removed from it the said dinar and the cropped pieces from it. Then he took out another purse. The child said: “This is from so-and-so of so-and-so locality of Qom, containing 50 dinars. It does not befit us to touch it at all.” Ahmad bin Ishaq asked: “Why?” He replied: “It is the sale proceed of wheat that the sender had paid to his farmers but while giving he measured some with a correct measure and some with a tampered measure.”
Imam Hasan Askari [as] said: “You are right my son.” Then he said: “O Ibne Ishaq, take that purse and return it to the sender and tell him to give the money to its actual owner, that is those farmers as we are not in need of this money.” At that moment he said: “Give me the garment sent by the old lady.” Ahmad bin Ishaq said: “I have forgotten it.” He went out to look for it. At that moment my master, His Eminence, Abu Muhammad Hadi [as] looked at me and asked: “What a surprise that you came here?” I said: “Ahmad bin Ishaq encouraged me to come and meet you.” He asked: “What happened to those questions that you wanted to ask?” I said: “They are yet unanswered, my master.” He said: “Ask whatever you want from my dearest son.” And he gestured to the child. I asked: “O our master and master’s son, it is narrated to us that the Holy Prophet [pbuh] had given Ameer ul-Momineen [as] the right to divorce his wives. Therefore on the day of Jamal he sent a message to Ayesha that she had wreaked havoc with Islam and Muslims (and taken wrong advantage of her position). That she has in an ignorant way condemned her children to perdition. ‘Thus if you do not refrain from your act I will divorce you.’ Tell me, my master, that what is the meaning of divorce here? That the Messenger of Allah [pbuh] left it at the discretion of Ameer ul-Momineen [as]?”
He replied: “The Almighty Allah, hallowed be His name, gave an exalted status to the wives of the Prophet and gave them the honor of being the mothers of the faithful. Thus the Messenger of Allah [pbuh] told Ameer ul-Momineen [as]: O Abal Hasan, this status is valid for them till they remain in the obedience of the Almighty Allah. So whoever of them disobeys Allah and after me comes out in armed confrontation against you, remove her from my wifehood and take away her status of motherhood of faithful.”
Then I asked: “What is open obscenity? That if the wife commits, the husband is entitled to expel her from his house even during her menses?”
He replied: “It is Musahiqa and not fornication. Because if she commits fornication they will apply the penalty on her and if one wants to marry her there is no problem in it. And the penalty that is given is no obstacle for it. But if she commits Musahiqa, it is obligatory that she must be stoned and being stoned is a disgrace as for whomsoever Allah has ordered stoning, He has disgraced that person. Therefore no one is permitted to marry her.”
Then I asked: “O son of the Prophet, Tell me about the statement of the Almighty Allah to His Prophet Musa [as] that:
“Therefore put off your shoes; surely you are in the sacred valley, Tuwa.”
Scholars of the two sects are of the view that the shoes of Musa [as] were made of skin of dead animal?”
He replied: “Whoever says this has made a false allegation against His Eminence, Musa and considers him ignorant in his prophethood because it implies one of the two possibilities and each of them is a mistake; either prayer was allowed in it or not. If it was allowed it would also be allowed to hide them in that place as it is pure. If his prayer was not allowed, then His Eminence, Musa [as] failed to discriminate between lawful and unlawful, that wearing what one can pray and with what not, and this is infidelity.”
I said: “So, my master, tell me the exegesis of this verse.” He replied: “His Eminence, was in the sacred valley when he said: ‘O my Lord, I have made my love sincere to You and washed my heart of everything other than You”. But Musa was very much attached to his family. So the Almighty Allah told him:
“Therefore put off your shoes…”
If your love for Me is sincere and your heart is devoid of inclination for anyone except Me, remove the love of your family from your heart.”
“Please tell me what is the interpretation of the verse Kaaf Ha Ya Ain Saad?”
He replied: “These letters are from the unseen information that the Almighty Allah conveyed to His servant, Zakariya. Then He related the story to Muhammad [pbuh]. It was that when Zakariya implored his Lord to teach him the names of the holy five the Almighty Allah sent Jibraeel to him and he taught him their names. Thus whenever Zakariya mentioned (remembered) the names of Muhammad, Ali, Fatima or Hasan [as] his sorrow and grief used to go away, but whenever he thought of Husain [as] a terrible grief used to beset him and he was very much astonished why it was so. Thus one day he prayed to the Almighty:
O my God, how is it so that when I remember the four names I obtain peace, but when I think of Husain tears flow from my eyes and I begin to wail?
Allah, the Mighty and the High informed him about the tragedy of Imam Husain [as] and told him that in Kaaf Ha Ya Ain Saad: Kaaf is for Kerbala, Ha stands for Halakat (getting killed) of the ‘Itrat’ (progeny) of the Holy Prophet [pbuh], Ya implies Yazeed who would oppress Husain [as], Ain denotes ‘Atash’ (thirst) of Husain [as] and Saad indicates ‘Sabr’ (patience).
Thus when Zakariya heard this he did not leave the Masjid for three days and did not allow anyone to meet him and continued to weep and wail. He lamented on Husain [as] and prayed to Allah: My God, will they make the best of Your creature sit in mourning for his son? O Lord, would this tremendous tragedy befall him? My God, would they make Ali and Fatima put on the dress of mourning? Would they make the shock of this calamity reach their abode? Then he said: Bestow me a son so that I can be pleased in my old age and that his love affects my heart. After that make me sit in his mourning as You would make Muhammad, Your beloved sit. So the Almighty Allah gave him Yahya and later his martyrdom made him aggrieved. And the period of Yahya’s pregnancy was six months like in the case of Husain [as].”
Then I asked: “O my master, why is it so that people cannot select the Imam for themselves?”
He replied: “Righteous or a corrupt Imam?”
I said: “Righteous.”
He said: “Is there a possibility that they may choose a transgressor while they are not aware what goes on in his mind, whether is righteous or corrupt?”
“Yes,” I said.
He said: “That is the reason that I shall explain to you with logical argument.”
I said: “Please do.”
He said: “Let us consider the prophets that the Almighty Allah has appointed, on whom He revealed heavenly scriptures and supported them with revelation and infallibility. They were the leaders of nations, like Musa and Isa. In spite of having knowledge and sharp insight were they not prone to select hypocrites considering them believers?”
“No,” said I.
The Imam said: “Then how did it happen that His Eminence, Musa Kaleemullah, in spite of having that same knowledge and receiving revelations he chose seventy persons from the senior ones of the community and those who were in the forefront of his army; about whose sincerity he was sure and about whom he had no doubt, in fact he had selected hypocrites. Allah, the Mighty and the High says:
“And Musa chose out of his people seventy men for Our appointment…”
As we have seen that when someone who is appointed by the Almighty Allah (like Musa and Isa) when he could select the corrupt instead of the righteous we realize that selection is not lawful except for one who is aware of hidden secrets and the concealed thoughts. And we understand that the selection of the Emigrants and Helpers was worthless, after the prophets intending to select good people ended up choosing corrupt men. Then he said: O Saad, your opponents claim that the Holy Prophet [pbuh] took with him the selected one of this Ummah to the cave as he was afraid for his safety in the same way as he was worried about his personal security because he knew that he would be the caliph of the Ummah after him. While the necessity of hiding in the cave only arose because he took him along. As for Ali [as] he made him sleep on his bed as he knew that the vacuum created by the death of Abu Bakr will not be as that due to the death of Ali because there were others who could fill that vacuum. You can reply by asking him that are you not having the belief that the Holy Prophet [pbuh] said: After me the caliphate shall be for thirty years. And they apply it to the tenures of the four persons, Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali [as]. The opponent will have to agree. Tell him if this is correct, why did he take only one caliph, Abu Bakr, to the cave, leaving the other three. This shows that the Prophet considered them unimportant since it was necessary that he acts with them all like he did with Abu Bakr. Since he did not do it, he considered their rights unimportant and he discriminated between them in his kindness to them while it was necessary for him to have the same concern for all of them.
And as for your opponent’s question that: Did those two accept Islam willingly or unwillingly?
Why don’t you say: It was due to greed. Because they used to sit in the company of Jews and they were knowing about the proclamation and victory of Muhammad [pbuh] on the Arabs. The Jews had told them all about the prophecies in the Old Testament and ancient scriptures. They had said that his domination over the Arabs would resemble that of Nebuchadnezzar in Bani Israel except that he would be claiming prophethood while in fact he would not be one. Thus when the proclamation of the Messenger of Allah [pbuh] was made they helped him on the testimony of ‘There is no god except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah’ with the greedy intention that when circumstances are good and his affairs are in order, they would also be able to get his deputyship and authority. But when they despaired of getting rulership from His Eminence they joined other people having same view on the night of Uqbah to frighten the camel of Prophet [pbuh] so that it may throw him down, killing him. They covered their faces like others but the Almighty Allah kept His Prophet safe from their plot and they could not harm him in any way. Those two were just like Talha and Zubair who came and pledged allegiance to Ali [as] coveting governorship of a province. But when they despaired, they broke the pledge and rose up in rebellion against His Eminence till they met the fate of those who break the pledge of allegiance.”
When the conversation reached this point, our master, Imam Hasan bin Ali [as] arose to pray. Qaim [as] also arose with him and I returned from their company and came out looking for Ahmad bin Ishaq. I saw him coming to me weeping. I asked: “Why were you delayed? And why are you crying?” He replied: “I don’t have the garment that my master has asked for.” I said: “Don’t be upset, go and tell the Imam about it.” So he went inside and returned smiling and reciting Durood on Muhammad and Aale Muhammad. I asked: “What happened?” He replied: “I saw the garment concealed under the feet of my master.” So we praised Allah the Almighty. After that day we visited the house of our master a few times more but did not see that child with His Eminence again. When it was time to say farewell I, Ahmad bin Ishaq and some of our coreligionists came to His Eminence. Ahmad bin Ishaq stood up and said: “O son of Allah’s Messenger, departure is soon and our grief is intense. I pray to Allah to convey our Durood on your grandfather Muhammad Mustafa, your father, Murtaza, your mother, Sayydatunnisa and the two chiefs of the youths of Paradise, your uncle and your father and the Purified Imams after them from your forefathers. And also we convey our Durood and Salawaat on you and your son. And we pray that may your station be exalted and may your enemies be disgraced. And may not Allah make this our last audience with you.” When Ahmad bin Ishaq reached this point His Eminence was moved to such an extent that tears flowed from his eyes. Then he said:
“O Ahmad bin Ishaq, in your supplication, do not ask for invalid thing as in this journey you will meet the Lord.” When Ahmad bin Ishaq heard this he fell down unconscious. On regaining consciousness he said: “I implore you by the sanctity of your grandfather, grant me a piece of cloth that I can take as my shroud.”
Our master, put his hand under his seat and removed thirteen dirhams and said: “Take this and don’t spend anything else on yourself and you will not be deprived of what you desire. Indeed Allah does not waste the reward of the doers of good.”
Saad continues: “On the return journey when three farsangs remained from Halwan, Ahmad bin Ishaq developed fever and became seriously ill and was on the verge of death. When we arrived at Halwan and lodged at one of the caravanserai, Ahmad bin Ishaq summoned one of his townsmen who lived in that place, and after that he said to us: ‘Tonight, you all leave me alone.’ Each of us retired to our bedrooms, and near dawn a thought came to my mind. When I opened my eyes I saw Kafoor, servant of my master, Abu Muhammad [as] who said to me: ‘May Allah increase your reward in this calamity and may He compensate you for this tragedy. We have finished the funeral bath and shrouding of your friend. You may please get up for his burial, because his status in the view of your master is more exalted than that of you all.’ After that he went out of my sight and we participated in the funeral of Ahmad bin Ishaq, weeping and wailing. We fulfilled his rights and completed his last rituals, may Allah have mercy on him.”
 Surah Araaf 7:155