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Belief in Prophethood by the Two Sects

The dispute between the Shi‘ah and Ahl al-Sunnah mainly lies in the issue of ‘ismah (infallibility). As the Shi‘ah believe in the prophets’ ‘ismah before and after their mission (bi‘thah), while Ahl al— Sunnah hold that their infallibility is confined only in Allah’s words that they poropagate, and other than this they, like all other people, may err and be correct. Their Sihàh are filled with narrations indicating that the Messenger of Allah(S) has mistaken in several places, and the Companions were correcting him and telling him the right. The examples they cite for this being the issue of the captives of Battle of Badr, in which the Prophet (S) has erred and ‘Umar hit the mark, and without him the Messenger of Allah would have perished.32 In another place, when he entered al-Madinah, he saw its people cutting the date-palms, whereat he said to them: “Don’t cut them as they will give dates”, but they turned to be shays (unwanted bad dates). Then they came to him complaining about the matter, whereat he said to them: “You are better aware of your world affairs more than me.” In another narration he said:

“I am just a human being, if I command you to anything related to your religion you take it, and if I order you to do anything according to my opinion, I am but a human being.”33

Another time they relate that he was bewitched, remaining so for several days not knowing what to do, to the extent that he was imagining of making sexual intercourse with women and not doing so,34 or fancying to himself the doing of something and not doing it.35

Again they report that he once forgot in his prayer, being uncertain of the number of rak‘ahs he performed,36 and also he once slept so deeply that his snoring could be heard by all, and then he got up and prayed without taking ablution.37 Once again they narrate that he be angry with, reviles and curses whoever undeserving that, saying “O Allah I am no more than a human being, any of the Muslims I have cursed or reviled, You make this exculpatory and purifying fever for him...”38

They also report that he once upon a time he was lying in ‘A’ishah’s house, with his thighs being uncovered, whereat Abu Bakr and then ‘Umar entered upon him, conversing with him while he was on this condition... when ‘Uthmàn asked permission to enter, he (S) sat and made up his clothes. When asked by ‘A’ishah about the reason, he said to her:

“Shouldn’t I be ashamed of a man of whom the angels are ashamed.”39

They further claim that he sometimes would enter upon the morning ritually impure in the Month of Ramadàn,40 missing the dawn prayer... beside other strange traditions that no reason or religion or conscience is ready to accept or approve of.41

Whereas the Shi‘ah — in accordance with Ahl al-Bayt Imams — exculpate the prophets from such trifles and silly things, in particular our Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace and the best of benediction), holding that he is impeccable and immune against all minor and major sins, wrongs and insubordinations. They believe in his being infallible (ma‘sum) against error, forgetfulness, absence of mind, sorcery and whatever causing mind to be disordered. And rather he is impeccable against practising any act contradictory to manliness and good morality, like eating on the roads, or giggling loudly, or joking with impropriety, or any reprehensible act disapproved by public norms. It is needless to refer to their claims that he used to place his cheek on his wife’s cheek before people, sharing her in looking at the dancing of the Negroes,42 or to let his wife go out in a battle, competing with her, in a way defeating her one time, and she defeating him the other, telling her then: “This one is versus that one.”43

The Shi‘ah consider all the narrations reported in this respect, which are incongruous with the prophets’ ‘ismah, to be altogether composed and fabricated by the Umayyads and their supporters with these aims: First, for degrading the Messenger of Allah (S). Second, for seeking justification for their abominable deeds and unsightly wrongs recorded in history books. And if — supposedly — the Messenger of Allah (S) errs and be inclined to love and lust, as in the story they narrated of his passionate love for Zaynab bint Jahash, when he saw her combing her hair (while being the wife of Zayd ibn Hàrithah), exclaiming: “Glorified is Allah Who changes the hearts.”44 Or the story of his inclination toward ‘A’ishah and his unjust treatment with his other wives, that they have delegated to him Fàtimah once and Zaynab bint Jahash another time, asking and pleading him to deal equally between them.45 So if this be the state of the Messenger of Allah (S), no blame then is upon Mu‘àwiyah ibn Abi Sufyàn, or Marwan ibn al-Hakam, or ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, or Yazid ibn Mu‘àwiyah, with all the caliphs who have perpetrated all kinds of abominations, and violated the sanctities and slaughtered the innocent.

This being the case, while the Imams from Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them), the Imams of the Shi‘ah, believe in his ‘ismah (infallibility), interpreting the Qur’anic verses which apparently indicate that Allah has admonished His Prophet, like "He frown and turned away" (80:1), or the verses containing confession of the sins like His saying: "That Allah may forgive thee of thy sin that which is past and that which is to come" (48:2), or His saying: "Allah hath turned in mercy to the Prophet" (9:117), and also: "Allah forgive thee (O Muhammad)! Wherefor didst thou grant them leave." (9:43). They affirm that all these verses never derogate from this (S) ‘ismah, as some of them were not meant at him in particular, while some others have to be figuratively interpreted not according to the external meanings of the words, the method that is most often used in the Arabic language, and also by Allah-the Glorified — in the holy Qur’àn.

Whoever seeking more information and intending to obtain certain knowledge of things, he has just to refer to the Shi‘ah exegesis books, like al-Mizàn fi tafsir al-Qur’àn of al-‘Allàmah al-Tabàtabà’i, and Tafsir al-Kàshif of Muhammad Jawàd Maghniyyah, and al-’Ihtijàj of al-Tabrasi, beside other books. I haven’t quoted from these books since I intended brevity and exposing the creed and belief of the two parties in general. And the aim of this is but to reflect my own beliefs in which I have conviction, and my self selecting a school believing in the infallibility of the prophets, and successors after them, to relieve my mind, dissipating my concern, and eradicating my suspicion and perplexity.
To claim that the Prophet’s infallibility being confined in propagating Allah’s words (Qur’àn), is just baseless nonsense, since no proof is there indicating which part of his speech is Allah’s, and which one is his, so as to be ma‘sum in the former and not ma‘sum with being liable to err in the latter.

I seek protection by God from this contradictory utterance prompting to doubt and vilification in the sanctity of religions.

This fact recalls to my mind a conversation held between me — after being guided — and a group of friends, in which I tried my best to convince them that the Messenger of Allah (S) being infallible (ma‘sum), while they were attempting to persuade me of his being ma‘sum in propagating the Qur’àn alone. Among them there was a professor from Tozad (region of al-Jarid),46 and they were known of wittiness, knowledge and crack jokes. He contemplated for a while and said: “O company I have an opinion regarding this issue,” we all exclaimed: Please give us what you have! He said:
-What our brother al-Tijani says, as the Shi‘ah hold, is the very truth, and we should believe in the Messenger’s absolute ‘ismah, otherwise suspicion will find its way into our hearts in the Qur’àn itself!

—They asked: What for? He immediately replied:

— Have you seen any of the Qur’anic verses with Allah’s signature underneath??

By the signature he meant: The stamping with which the contracts and letters were sealed, denoting the identity of each party to the contract and sender of the letter. All those present laughed at this witty remark, that was in fact of a deep meaning. Every unprejudiced person, contemplating attentively, will be shocked by the fact that: believing in the Qur’an’s being God’s words is to believe in the absolute infallibility of its communicater, without partitioning it, since it is infeasible for anyone to claim of hearing Allah speak, and no one can allege that he saw Jabriel when descending with revelation (wahy).

The quintessence of the above-mentioned exposition, is that the Shiah’s opinion about ‘ismah is an apposite opinion, making hearts feel assured, eliminating all whispers of the self and Satan, and closing all doors before the riotous, particularly enemies of religion from among the Jews, Christians, and infidels looking for gaps to sneak from. Their aim of this, being to overturn our beliefs and religion from the foundation and degrade our Prophet. So they most often dispute against us with what Sahih al-Bukhàri and Sahih Muslim reported of the deeds and sayings ascribed to the Messenger of Allah (S), from which he is far exempted.47

How can we convince them that the books of al-Bukhàri and Muslim contain many lies and forged narrations, which being a dangerous speech of course, as it is never accepted by Ahl al-Sunnah, who consider Sahih al-Bukhàri as the most authentic book after the Book of Allah!


31. Al-Muràja‘àt is one of the books that should be read by whoever desiring to be acquainted with the Imàmi Shi‘ah’s beliefs and thoughts.

32. Al-Bidàyah wa al-nihàyah, of Ibn Kathir, who reported from al-’Imàm Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dàwud and al-Tirmidhi.

33. Sahih Muslim, “kitàb al-fadà’il”, Vol. VII, p. 95; Musnad al-’Imàm Ahmad, Vol. I, p. 162 and Vol. III, p. 152.

34. Sahih al-Bukhàri, Vol. VII, p. 29.

35. Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 68.

36. Ibid., Vol. I, p. 123 and Vol. II, p. 65.

37. Ibid., Vol. I, pp. 37, 44, 171.

38. Sunan al-Dàrimi, “kitàb al-riqàq”.

39. Sahih Muslim, “bàb fadà’il ‘Uthmàn”, Vol. VII, p. 117.

40. Sahih al-Bukhàri, Vol. II, pp. 232, 234.

41. Ibid., Vol. III, p. 114 and Vol. VII, p. 96.

42. Ibid., Vol. III, p. 228, and Vol. II, p. 3, “kitàb al-‘idayn”.

43. Musnad al-’Imàm Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. VI, p. 75.

44. Tafsir al-Jalàlayn, about interpretation of God’s words: “... And thou didst hide in thy self that which Allah was to bring to light.” (33:37).

45. Sahih Muslim, Vol. VII, p. 136, “bàb fadà’il ‘A’ishah”.

46. Region of al-Jarid is located south of Tunisia, with 92 kms from Qafsah, the birthplace of Abu al-Qàsim al-Shàbi, the renowned poet, and al-Khidr Husayn, who was the head of al-’Azhar, beside many Tunisian ‘ulamà’ who were born in this region.

47. In his Sahih, Vol. III, p. 152, bàb shahàdat al-’a‘mà from “kitàb al-shahàdàt”, al-Bukhàri is reported to have said: Ibn `Ubayd ibn Maymun narrated to us, saying, we are told by `Isa ... from ‘A’ishah who said: The Prophet (upon whom be God’s peace and benediction) heard a (blind) man reciting the Qur’àn in a mosque. Thereat he (S) said: “May Allah have mercy upon him, he reminded me of so and so verses I dropped from so and so surah ...” — How is it wonderful, dear reader, such a messenger who forgets the verses (àyàt), and had not this blind man been there to remind him of them, they would have been buried in oblivion — I seek Allah’s forgiveness of this hallucination.

Adapted from the book: "To Be With the Truthful" by: "Muhammad al-Tijani al-Samawi"

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