He was famous for his knowledge and virtue among the learned men of his time. Being master in debate and speech, this champion was never defeated. It was Hesham who originally put the topics of Imamate and Wilayah (trusteeship) forward on the basis of wisdom and logic; and he proved himself to be fully competent for this task. The Prophet's household and the religious leaders looked upon him with respect and honor .
The Imam Jafar (AS) has prayed for him and said:
"Hesham, I have said about you that very thing which the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) said about Hassan (AS) May the Holy spirit assist you always as long as you assist us by the help of your speech." Imam Al-Sadiq (AS) said, "Hesham is the protector of our right and the annihilator of the babbling and idle speeches of our enemies. To follow him is just like following us and likewise to be at enmity with him is like being at enmity with us."
Hesham was fond of virtue and excellence and thirsty for knowledge from the vast ocean of Imam Sadiq's (AS) wisdom. He used to perform Hajj every year and he used to pay a visit to the Imam Sadiq (AS) or his beloved son, Imam Musa Kazim (AS) at Mecca or Madina. He benefited greatly from these two honorable personalities and returned very much successful. So it was this much acquired knowledge that gave him strength at the time of debate against his opponents and made him always victorious.
Younus ibn Yaqub says: "One day when we were in the presence of Imam al-Sadiq (AS), a man from Syria entered and said, "I am a learned man and well-versed in the fields of speculative theology and Muslim jurisprudence and acquainted with religious obligations. I have come to participate in a discussion with your followers and disciples." Note that this Syrian theologian did not believe on the principle of Imamte (the God appointed leadership and guardianship of religion after the apparent passing of holy Prophet of Islam from this world).
The Imam said: "Is your knowledge and reasoning based on the sayings of the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him and his progeny) or on your own way of thinking?"
The Syrian said: "Partly it is based on my own thoughts and partly on the sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny)."
Imam said: "Then, do you count yourself as a partner in the prophethood?"
He replied: "No, it is not this way."
Imam asked. "Is obedience to you necessary as is obedience to the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny)
He said: "No."
Younus ibn Yaqub noted that the Imam turned his face towards him and said: "This man, prior to participating in discussion with us, was in conflict with himself and he expressed himself quite contrary to his own claim."
It was a few days before the Hajj season. The tent of the Imam was pitched near the Masjid-al-Haram (the sacred Ka'aba Mosque), at the foot of the mountain. The Imam, while leaning on the post of the tent, was looking around. Suddenly a camel rider appeared in the distance and was moving rapidly towards us. The Imam said "I swear to the Lord of the Ka'aba, he is Hesham." That camel rider was Hesham ibn Hakam who was still very young and there was no one younger than him among the Imam’s disciples. The Imam (AS) greeted and honored him. Then he said, "Praise to him who defends us wholeheartedly with all his power and means."
Imam asked some of his theologian students to enter in debate with this Syrian man. The discussion couldn’t end conclusively and the Syrian man still had some confusion regarding the true leadership and guardianship of Islam after the passing of holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny).
Finally, the Imam turned his face to the Syrian and said: "If you like you could also discuss with this young man - Hesham. He accepted but turned rudely towards Hesham and addressed him, "O boy! If you have anything to say about the Imamate of your Imam, tell me?" Hesham, who was very angry and shivering due to his wrath said, "O sir, has your Lord created the human beings in vain and left them without any leader and guide? Or has He paid His kind attention towards them and not left them without any Hujjat or spiritual guide, so that they would not be bewildered?"
The Syrian learned man replied: "Of course, the Kind Creator is generous towards His servants and is not neglectful of them." Hesham said, "If it is just as you say, then describe the conditions of their leadership and guidance." The Syrian replied, "God has appointed His Hujjat (Guide) for the human beings, so that they might not dispute among themselves and not separate from each other. Rather they must love each other and come to friendly terms between themselves. The guide must explain the commandments of the Creator for them."
Hesham asked: "Who is that guide and leader?"
The Syrian replied: "The Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) of God."
Hesham said: "When the Prophet left this world, who became responsible for the guidance of these people?"
The Syrian replied: "The Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet."
Hesham said: "Today, it is a very long time since the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny). Do you think the Book and the traditions alone can solve the conflicts and disputes?"
He replied: "Yes, of course, they are enough and sufficient."
Hesham said: "If it is just as you say, then why do you and I dispute and why have you travelled such a long way from
Younus ibn Yaqub says, "When their discussion came to this point, the learned Syrian put his head down and became quiet."
The Imam (AS) asked him, "Why don't you speak?"
He said: "What shall I say? I have no reply. Because if I say we have no dispute, then I would be telling a lie. On the other hand, if I say: The Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet [s] are enough for the solution of the problems, this would also be a false statement. This is due to the fact that it is not easy to understand the meaning of the Qur'an and the traditions. If we dispute and each of us is of the opinion that our own belief is right, then in this case what is the use of the Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny)? This discussion is not to my benefit."
Imam al-Sadiq (AS) said: "Ask Hesham himself the solution to your difficult problem."
The learned Syrian turned his face towards Hesham and said:
"O Hesham, tell me yourself who is the supervisor of the deeds of the people and who is their leader? Tell me whether the Creator guides them Himself or the people are themselves responsible for their own leadership?"
Hesham replied: "Neither one of these is correct, rather the Kind Creator has appointed leaders for the people from amongst themselves.
The Syrian said: "Whom has He appointed to invite the people to unity and friendship and separate the straight path from that of the wrong one, and the just from that of the unjust?"
Hesham said: "Do you mean in the time of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) or the present time?"
The Syrian said: "The Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) during his own life was the guide of the people. What I am talking about is the present time."
Hesham, with a wide respect and honor, pointed towards the Imam [a] and said: "Today, the only guide for the people is this exalted and holy person in whose presence we are standing now. And the learned men come from all over the world to him to amass knowledge and virtue. It is he who with the help of immense knowledge derived from his ancestors as a heritage, makes us aware of the heavens and the earth."
The Syrian said: "How can I believe this to be so?"
Hesham replied quickly: "Ask the Imam about the future incidents of your life and the accounts of your journey."
The Syrian said: "If it is so then there will be no problem for me."
Then the 6th Imam (AS) started to retell one by one, all the happenings and the details of his journey from Syria to Mecca.
The Syrian who was carefully listening to the detailed accounts given by the Imam (AS) said to the Imam (AS) at the end of the speech: "Whatever have you said is correct, and now I also have become a Muslim."
The Imam (AS) said: "Say I have confessed to the faith. Before you were also Muslim but you followed only the mere and apparent rules and regulations of Islam regarding marriage and inheritance etc. It is now necessary to acquaint yourself with our holy family, as the reward and remuneration of God and the recompense in the other world is obtained only by following us and by accepting our leadership. And until this moment you were deprived of this blessing."
1. Hesham Ibn Hakam, M Reza Atai, Islamic Research Foundation
2. Wasail al-Shiah by Sheikh Horr Ameli, vol. 2. Pg. 2O8.
3. Ma'alem al-Ulama, by Ibn Shahr Ashob.
4. Yunus ibn Yaqub, is one of the famous Hadith narrators and also one of the followers of three of the Imams: Imam Ja'far Al-Sadiq [a] Imam al-Kadhem [a] and Imam Ridha [a]. Najjashi praises him and writes: He has the power of attorney from Imam Mousa b. Ja' far [a]. It is said that he is one of the thiqah (trustworthy) in Kitab Rejal Kashi and there has been a lot written about his virtues. Yunus died in the time of Imam Reza [a]. May God be pleased with him.
5. Translated and abridged from: Kafi - by Kulaini; (Ehtejaj Bihar al-Anwar) by Majlisi. Hesham - The Champion with Inductive Reasoning