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Imamate And Infallibility of Imams In The Qur’an

Imamate And Infallibility of Imams In The Qur’an by : Ridha Kardan

In the Name of Allah, the All–beneficent, the All–merciful

The legacy of the Household [Ahl al–Bayt] of the Prophet (saws) stored in their school of thought and preserved by their followers, is comprehensive and embraces all branches of Islamic knowledge. This school has been able to produce brilliant scholars who have drawn inspiration from this rich and pure resource.

It has presented to the Muslim ummah many scholars who, following in the footsteps of Ima-ms (as) who belong to the Prophet’s Household (Peace be upon them), have provided convincing answers to the questions and doubts raised by various schools and intellectual friends within and outside the Muslim nation. Throughout the past centuries, these scholars have given well reasoned answers and clarifications to these questions and doubts.

To meet the responsibilities assigned to it, the Ahl al–Bayt World Assembly (ABWA) has undertaken to defend the Islamic message and its verities, often obscured by the followers of various sects and by the proponents of the trends which show hostility to Islam. The Assembly follows in the footsteps of Ahl al–Bayt (as) and the followers of their rightly guided school of thought which has been ready to confront these challenges and be in the frontline in consonance with the demands of every age.

The arguments contained in the works of the scholars belonging to the School of the Ahl al–Bayt (as) are of unique significance because they are based on genuine knowledge, appeal to reason, and avoid prejudice and bias. These arguments address scholars and thinkers in a manner that appeals to minds and wholesome human nature.

To assist the seekers of truth, the Ahl al–Bayt World Assembly has endeavoured to present a new phase of these rich arguments through the studies and translations of contemporary Shia writers and of those who have embraced this sublime school of thought through divine blessing.

The Assembly is also engaged in the edition and publication of the valuable works of the leading Shia scholars of earlier ages to assist the seekers of the truth to discover the truths which the School of the Prophet’s Household (P.b.u.th) has offered to the entire world.

The Ahl al–Bayt World Assembly looks forward to benefitting from the opinions suggestions and constructive criticism of the readers in this area.

We beseech God, the Most High, to accept our humble efforts and enable us to enhance them under the auspices of Ima-m al–Mahdi-, His vicegerent on the earth (may Allah expedite his advent).

We express our gratitude to Mr. Rida Kardan the author of the present book, and Sayyid Iraj Razzaqi, its translator. We also thank our colleagues who have participated in producing this work, especially the staff of the Translation Office.

Cultural Affairs Department
The Ahl al–Bayt (as) World Assembly
There are two main viewpoints concerning the issue of Imamate, The first is that of the Sunnis, who hold that the Prophet(saws), may God’s peace and blessing be on him and his descendants, did not introduce any successor and say that the community had to choose the Prophet’s successor and leader of the Muslims.

The second viewpoint is that of the Imamiyyah Shi’ites, who consider Imamate as a divinely ordained position and as a continuation of prophet hood and say that God designates an Imam just as He appoints a prophet.

The Imamiyyah Shi’ites possesses a large number of solid proofs confirmed by intellect, and evidence from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, included in theological, exegetic and hadith sources.

The present preface explicates the Shi’ites’ intellectual viewpoint on the aforementioned issue (of succession) explores the following points about man’s nature and inclinations.

1. We know that Islam is an everlasting religion sent for all people of all times.

2. The holy Prophet (saws) made every effort for the propagation and advancement of the divine religion of Islam, made use of every opportunity, worked hard and gladly throughout his life, made extraordinary sacrifices and was ready to die for strengthening people’s faith. This is confirmed by the following Qur’anic verses:

“Perhaps you will kill yourself with grief because they do not believe” (26:3) also,

“Then maybe you will kill yourself with grief, sorrowing after them, if they do not believe in this announcement” (18:6)

3. A large number of his best and the worthiest men were martyred in the cause of Allah.

4. He made clear to people all that brought to them prosperity in various aspects. Secondary points of fiqh and traditions recorded in the sources of hadith and Islamic jurisprudence of both Shi’ite and Sunni schools testify to this statement.

5. The holy Prophet of Islam (saws) passed away at a time when Islam had not yet extended to all the parts of Arabia let alone worldwide.

6. Certain powers of the time posed threats to Islam and to its spread and continuity especially those who refused to embrace Islam. Some showed unbecoming reactions and behaved rudely when they were invited by the Prophet to embrace Islam. Iran’s emperor, for example, tore the Prophet’s letter.

7. The Muslims felt they were in need of authority and strong leadership in order to confront and suppress such opposing powers after the Prophet’s demise.

8. The love for leadership and yearning for social rank in man was something from which the companions of the Prophet (saws) were not exempted. Perhaps Islam had not fully filled the hearts of most of those who were in the company of the Prophet (saws) although they loved him greatly.

They remained under the influence of the last remnants of the moralities of the Age of Ignorance (Jahiliyya) and tribal prejudices so that they were ready to compete with one another after the demise of the Prophet craving for caliphate. The holy Prophet has been quoted as saying, “I do not fear that you will become polytheists after me, but I fear that you will fight with one another over this world”.1

9. There were hypocrites who constantly plotted against Islam and Muslims and exploited every moment for their own advantage. There was fear of their infiltrating into the Islamic government after the Prophet. Perhaps a group of them entered Islam from the very beginning of the Prophet’s call, craving for authority.

10.History tell us that some of the chiefs of tribes, who had been invited by the Prophet (saws) to embrace Islam, agreed to enter Islam on condition that they would take part in the future Islamic government. In his Sirah, ibn Hisham says, “When the Prophet (saws) came to Bani A-mir clan, he introduced himself to them and invited them to worship Allah, the All–mighty, the High.

One of the men said ‘If we give our allegiance to you, will we manage the affairs (of the state) after you if you prevail over your opponents?’ The Prophet answered, ‘The affair is with Allah. He appoints whoever He wishes”.2

11. Definitely it is central and instinctive for the person who rules over a group not to leave them without appointing someone as a successor even if the group were sheep.

12. When the second caliph was dying, Abdullah ibn Umar said to him, “people say that you do not intend to appoint a successor. If the shepherd, who looks after your camels or sheep, leaves them without a guard, you will blame him. It is evident that guardianship of the people is more important than looking after camels or sheep. What will you tell God when you meet Him if you do not appoint someone to succeed you?”3

‘A’ishah refers to the same point and says to ibn Umar, “Convey my greetings to Umar and say to him, ‘Don’t leave the umma (the community) of the Prophet (saws) without leader, and don’t leave them to their chances after you lest sedition should befall them”.4

It is also reported that Abdullah ibn Umar has said to his father, “I wish you had designated someone to succeed you. When you send someone who manages the affairs of the people, do you not like him to appoint someone to replace him?”

“Yes, I do”. Umar said. His son added: “If you employ someone to look after your sheep, do you not like to see him appoint someone to replace him?”5

When Mu’awiyyah wanted to appoint Yazid as his successor, he referred to the same point, and said, “I fear to leave the Ummah of Mohammad with no one to look after them like a flock of sheep without a shepherd”.6

Whenever he decided to go on a trip, the holy Prophet (saws) appointed a deputy, and he never left Medina without appointing someone to take care of things. The Sira and history books have made a note of this and mentioned the names of those whom the Prophet had chosen to represent him (while he was away).

For Example, in ibn –Hisham’s Sira, which includes the Prophet’s military expeditions, the names of those the Prophet (saws) had chosen to represent him in Medina (during the Prophet’s absence) have been listed as follows:

1. Bawat expedition: Sa’ib ibn Uthman ibn Madh’un7

2. Ashirah expedition: Aba Selemah ibn ‘Abdul Asad8

3. The expedition of Safwan, Badr the first: Zayd ibn Haritheh9

4. Badr al Kubra expedition: Aba Lubabeh10

5. Bani Saleem expedition: Seba’ ibn ‘Arfatah11

6. Sowaiq expedition: Basheer ibn Abdul–Mundhar (Abu Lubabeh)12

7. Zi–Amr expedition: Uthman ibn Affan13

8. Far’ expedition: ibn Umm Maktoom14

9. Bani Qayniqa’ expedition: Basheer ibn Abdul Mundhir15

10. Uhud expedition: ibn Umm Maktoom16

11. Bani al–Nazeer expedition: ibn Umma Maktoom17

12. Dhat al–Riqa’ expedition: Abudhar al–Ghifari or Uthman ibn Affan18

13. The second Badr expedition: Abdullah ibn Abdullah ibn Ubay ibn Sellul al–Ansari19

14. Dawmat al–Jandal expedition: Seba’ ibn ‘Arfatah20

15. Al–Khandak expedition: ibn Umm Maktoom21

16. Bani Kurayza expedition: ibn Umm Maktoom22

17. Bani Lahyan expedition: ibn Umm Maktoom23

18. Dhi Qurrah expedition: ibn Umm Maktoom24

19. Bani al–Mustalak expedition: Abudhar al–Ghifari25

20. Al–Hudaybiyya expedition: Nomaylat ibn Abdillah al–Laythi26

21. Khaybar expedition: Nomaylat ibn Abdillah al–Laythi27

22. Mecca Conquest: Kalthum ibn Hoseyn28

23. Hunayn expedition: ‘Utab ibn Aseed29

24. Tabuk expedition: Mohammad ibn Muslimat al–Ansari, or Siba’ ibn ‘Arfatah30

According to a correct, and well–known tradition when he wanted to leave Medina for Tabuk, the noble Prophet of Islam (saws) appointed Ali ibn Abi Talib (as), may God bless him, as his successor. There are scores of other evidence in the books of hadith and history books which confirm this view.

25. The farewell pilgrim: Abu Dajani al–Ansari or S’iba’ ibn ‘Arfatah.31

The noble Prophet used to appoint a commander for each expedition in which he himself did not take part. Sometimes, he nominated more than one leader so that if the first was wounded, the second would take the lead instead.

For example, in Mu’tah Battle he appointed Zayd ibn Haritha to be succeeded by Ja’far ibn Abi Talib and the latter by Abdullah ibn Rawaha in case the former commander was wounded.32

When he sent a group of forty men to B’ir Ma’unah, the Prophet (saws) appointed Abdul Mundhir ibn Umar as their leader33 and for the six man group sent to Rajee’ to teach fiqh, the Prophet appointed Marthad ibn Abi Marthad ‘Anawi as a leader.34

Now, it is clear that the Prophet’s aim was to teach the people, as stated by the Qur’anic:

“And purifies them, and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom”.

He never hesitated about appointing someone as his deputy whenever he decided to go on a long or short trip, he never sent a group without a leader, and he was aware of what would take place in the future after his demise.

Great traditionists of both Shi’ite and Sunni denominations have mentioned in their books of hadith that the Prophet was fully aware of the tribulations that would become of his religion after his death.

Given all this, can one claim that the Prophet (saws) has not thought of appointing someone to be his successor, an issue which is most awe–inspiring for the Islamic community or he has paid no attention to this matter?

Can anyone claim that God, the Most High, who has appointed the Prophet (saws) and praised him in the following words,

“Certainly an Apostle has come to you from among yourselves, grievous to him is your falling into distress, excessively solicitous respecting you, to the believers (he is) compassionate, merciful”(9:128).

Has not appointed a successor to safeguard the divine message and preserve religious teachings, and to be an authority on all the teachings of Shariah. This is against the indisputable reasons presented by the Book of Allah and in the Sunna.

For this reason Imamiyyah Shi’ites believe that the holy Prophet (saws) has nominated his successor by divine decree. This question has been made clear in the Qur’an and the Sunna.

The present book cites some Qur’anic verses in order to examine the question of Imamate and characteristics of Imams. These verses are: Ibtila, Mubahaleh, Aulu al–Amr, Wilayah, Sadiqeen, Tatheer, and Ilm al–Kitab.

First the Qur’anic verses are discussed, then relevant traditions are quoted to support the idea included in the stated verses. Since the present book concerns the Sunnis too, the view of their scholars and commentators are stated and the traditions they have reported are soundly investigated; finally the doubts raised about these traditions have been cleared up ...

Rid.a Kardan
1. – Sahih of Bukhari, vol. 4, the section on fil Hauz, p. 142, Dar al-Ma’rafat, Beirut.

2. – Vol. 2, p. 425, Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut; al-Rowz al-Unf, vol., 4, p. 38; al-Sirat Al-Nabawiyyah, by Sayyid Ahmad Zayni Dahlan, vol. 1, p. 283, Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut.

3. – Al-Riadhul–Nazirah, vol. 2, p. 353, Dar al-Nadwah al-Jadidah, Beirut; Sunan of Beihaqi, vol. 8, p.149, Dar al-Ma’rifah, Beirut; Hilyat al-Awliya’, vol. 1,p. 44, Dar al-Fikr.

4. – “Al-Imamah wal Siyasah”, vol.1, p.23.

5. – Ibn Sa’ds Tabaqat, vol. 3, p. 343, Dar Beirut lil–Taba’wa Nashr.

6. – Al–Tabari’s History, vol.3 part 5, p.154; Al-Imamah wal-Siyasah, vol.1, p.184.

7. – Ibn Hisham’s Sira, vol. 2, p.248.

8. – Ibid.

9. – Ibid, p. 251.

10. – Ibid, vol. 2, pp 263–4.

11. – Ibid, vol. 3, p. 49.

12. – Ibid, vol. 3, p. 50.

13. – Ibid, vol. 3, p. 49.

14. – Ibid, vol. 3, p. 50.

15. – Ibid, vol. 3, p.52.

16. – Ibid, vol. 3, p. 68.

17. – Ibid, vol. 3, p. 200.

18. – Ibid, vol. 3, p. 214.

19. – Ibid, vol. 3, p. 220.

20. – Ibid, vol. 3, p. 224.

21. – Ibid, vol. 3, p. 231.

22. – Ibid, vol. 3, p. 245.

23. – Ibid, vol. 3, p.292.

24. – Ibid, vol. 3, p. 321.

25. – Ibid, vol. 3, p. 302.

26. – Ibid, vol. 3, p. 321.

27. – Ibid, vol. 3, p. 342.

28. – Ibid, vol. 4, p. 42.

29. – Ibid, vol. 4, p. 83.

30. – Ibid, vol. 4, p. 162

31. – Ibid, vol. 4, p. 248.

32. – Ibid, vol. 4, p. 5.

33. – Ibn Hisham’s Sirah, v. 3, p. 194.

34. – Ibid, v.3, p.183.
وَ إِذِ ابْتَلى إِبْراهِيمَ رَبُّهُ بِكَلِماتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ قالَ إِنِّي جاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِماماً قالَ وَ مِنْ ذُرِّيَّتِي قالَ لا يَنالُ عَهْدِي الظَّالِمِينَ
And when his Lord tried Ibrahim with commands, he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make you an Imam for mankind. (Ibrahim) said: And of my offspring (will there be leaders)? He said, my covenant does not include the unjust. (2:124)
The verse illustrates two points:

1. The position of Imamate is higher in rank than that of Prophet Hood.

2. Imamate (religious leadership) does not include the unjust.

The following section is divided into three parts, each one focuses on one of the following topics:

1. The prominent status of Imamate

2. The (position of) Imamate does not include the unjust

3. The (status of) Imamate in the words of the Imams themselves
Part One: The Prominent Status of Imamate
The above mentioned Qur’anic verse refers to the tests to which Allah exposed the Prophet Ibrahim many years after his prophet hood at the end of his life. Having successfully passed the divine tests and patiently withstood the great hardships, he was granted the position of Imamate.

In order to elucidate the above Qur’anic words, it is necessary to explain some basic questions such as:

1. What relationship was there between the series of trying to which the Prophet Ibrahim was exposed and granting him the position of Imamate?

2. What are the kinds of test to which the verse refers?

3. Can one say that the Imamate bestowed on the Prophet Ibrahim is equal to his Prophetic mission?

4. What idea does the above–mentioned Imamate convey?

We will now go through the above questions one by one.
The Relationship between Trying and the Position of Imamate
Question: In the Qur’anic verse

“And when his Lord tried Ibrahim by means (of certain) words, he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make you an Imam for mankind…,”

The word “when” which is an adverb of time, requires an adjunct. The question is: What is its adjunct? The first supposition is that the word “when” requires the adjunct remember, which has not been stated explicitly. Thus, the verse reads

“O Prophet! Remember the time when his Lord tried Ibrahim by means (of certain) words…”

An assumption like this is open to criticisms, like:

1) This supposition entails deleting something or refraining from stating it explicitly which is contrary to basic rule (of rhetoric).

2) Without a conjunction “and” the clause “Surely I will make you an Imam for mankind”, is separated from the previous one.

Apparently, the context of the clause “I will make you an Imam” is not disconnected from the previous one but it is semantically and syntactically dependent on it. Since there is no conjunction “and” to join the two parts, it seems that when this part comes with the preceding part it forms a whole.

The relation between these two parts is an outcome of the dependence of “when” or “He said”. Thus the meaning will be like this: “When his Lord had tested Ibrahim, He said to him ‘I will make you an Imam’”.

Accordingly, tests prepared the ground for granting Imamate to Prophet Ibrahim. Another solid evidence is the Qur’anic verse wherein the relationship between the “patience” and “Imamate” of prophets is clearly explained:

“And we made of them Imams to guide by our command for they were patient, and they were certain of our clear signs”. (32:24)

The above verse mentions that it is due to the prophets’ “patience” and “certainty” that they were granted Imamate, and this clearly shows that there is a connection between the tests to which the Prophet Ibrahim was exposed and the rank of Imamate to which the stated verse refers.
Ibrahim’s Tests and Trials
What were the tests that made the Prophet Ibrahim worthy of holding the position of Imamate?

The Qur’anic verse states that Ibrahim was tested through “words”, and he brilliantly succeeded in the test. The words were apparently particular commands by means of which he was tested.

What the noble Qur’an means by “manifest trial”1 which the Prophet Ibrahim faced in his life is his determination to offer his son as a sacrifice; an act which confirms Ibrahim’s boundless generosity and complete submission to Almighty God.

It should be noted here that the Prophet Ibrahim was put to test when he was very old, many years after he had been made a prophet and was given a son, Ismail, when aged.
Does Imamate to which this Qur’anic verse refers mean the same as Prophet Ibrahim’s prophethood?
Some commentators maintain that the Imamate given to the Prophet Ibrahim is identical to his divine mission and prophet hood but as previously stated Imamate is different from prophet hood for two reasons:

(a) The Qur’anic verse clearly states that this Imamate was granted to the Prophet Ibrahim after many trials, one of which is the offering of his son as a sacrifice, long after he had been made a prophet.

(b) The expression ja’iloka (I am assigning you) derived from the verb ja’l (make) is a present participle and its objective complement, imaman ?????? that has nunation (tanween) does not refer to the past it refers to the present or future.

Therefore, (contrary to the claim of some commentators,) the present participle “assigning” does not apply to the past and so it cannot indicate that the divine mission and prophet hood are the same as Imamate.
What does Imamate mean?
From the Qur’anic verse we learn that Imamate or religious leadership is different from nubuwwat (prophet hood). An Imam is a leader, definitely appointed by God, to be a guide and an example for people to follow in all aspects.

1. That the position of Imamate was granted to Ibrahim years after his being messenger and after he had successfully passed the great divine trials, clearly shows that Imamate is not on the same plane as prophet hood, but enjoys a higher status.

2. Now that Imamate has been proved to have a higher status than prophet hood, and according to immutable reasons a prophet must be divinely protected against any error and sin, it follows that inerrancy is inseparably linked to the position that is loftier than prophet hood.
Part Two: Imamate does not include the unjust
The stated Qur’anic verse points to the impeccability of Imams when it says

“My covenant does not include the unjust”

Thus signifying that the unjust must not hold this position.

When God, the Most High said,

“I will make you an Imam for mankind”

The Prophet Ibrahim (as) asked,

“And of my offspring (will there be leaders)?”

God the Most High replied,

“My covenant does not include the unjust”.

So, this verse suggests the following points:

a) Imamate is God’s covenant.

b) This covenant does not include the unjust, and since a sin is considered injustice, a person who is not divinely protected commits sins.

The above verse clearly and irrefutably shows that a religious leader (Imam) must necessarily be immune from sins and errors when his Imamate begins.

Does this mean that those who previously were unjust can hold the position of Imamate? In other words, does the (Arabic) derivative zalim (unjust) concern the present, not the past so that it does not include those who were unjust in the past but those who are just now?

Does the Qur’anic verse suggest that the person who is unjust at the time of undertaking Imamate will be deprived of this position, but the person who was unjust in the past but is not unjust now, can become an imam, (a religious leader)?

In answer to the above assumption, let us consider two citations:

1. In his Qur’anic Exegesis of al–Meezan, Allamah Tabataba’i quotes the renowned scholar the late Haji Sheikh Mohammad al–Husain Isfahani as saying, Prophet Ibrahim’s offspring can be divided into four groups:

a) Those who had been unjust before holding the position of Imamate;

b) Those who had been just before holding the position of Imamate, and became unjust after their holding it.

c) Those who had been unjust prior to holding the position of Imamate, but became just after holding it.

d) Those who were just both before and after holding the position of Imamate.

Prophet Ibrahim, grand as his dignity is, never includes the first two groups in his inquiry. Therefore, his words “and of my offspring?” refer to the third and fourth group.

Then, the reply which he gets from God, the Most High, “My covenant does not include the unjust”, excludes those in the third group who were unjust in the past and are just at the time of occupying the position of Imamate. Accordingly, only the fourth group of his progeny are worthy of Imamate.

2. In his Ma’jma’ al–Bayan, a Qur’anic exegesis, the late Tabarsi says:

“We agree that the term zalim (unjust) does not apply to the person who is not unjust at the present, but this word applies to the person who had previously been unjust at the moment of his exercising injustice. The above mentioned Qur’anic verse refers to such a person whom it considers not worthy of becoming Imam. The statement “does not include”, which is a negative present tense, testifies to this idea”.

It follows that a person who has sinned, though for a single moment throughout his life can never become an Imam because such a person was a sinner at that particular moment, and the noble Qur’an states, “My covenant does not include the unjust”.

It is clear now that the Qur’anic verse emphasizes a twofold inerrancy of Imams, including the time of their holding the position of Imamate and throughout their lifetime. It is also clear that Imamate is a divine post set by the Almighty God, i.e. a divine gift given to those whom God considers worthy of it.
Part Three: The Status of Imamate in the Words of Imams
After we have investigated the Qua’anic verse, it is now befitting to go through a narration reported from Imam Ali ibn Musa al–Rida (as), the 8th Imam of the Shi’ah, in which he elucidates the reality of Imamate:

“Abdul Aziz ibn Muslim is quoted to have said, ‘On the first days of our arrival at Marv, we assembled in the presence of Imam al Rida, (as) in the great mosque of the city of Marv. Some started talking about Imamate and said that there had been different views over it.

So, I went to my master, Imam al–Rida (as), and informed him about people’s arguing about the subject. He smiled and said ‘O Abdul Aziz, these men do not know the reality and have been deviated from what they believe to be right.

‘God, the All–mighty did not raise his Prophet up (to Him) before He had perfected the religion for him ,sent on to him the Qur’an, which ‘clearly explains everything and delineatedthe lawful, the unlawful, hudood (penal law), divine precepts and all that people need, as he says

‘We have not neglected anything in the Book’. (6:38)

In the Farewell pilgrimage and towards the end of the Prophet’s life; God, revealed the verse:

‘This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed my favour on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion”. (5:3)

Therefore, Imamate is indispensable to religion.

The Prophet did not leave this world before he had clarified to the Muslims the principal features of their religion, pointed out the true path and appointed ‘Ali (as) as their leader, leaving nothing of their problems unsettled.

So, those who suppose that God, the All–mighty has not perfected His religion reject the Book of Allah, and those who reject the Book are disbelievers. Do they know the significance of Imamate and its status in the community to allow themselves to embark on it?

Imamate is too great in worth, too lofty in status, too high in rank, too invincible in nature and too profound in depth for people to fathom it by their intellect or approach it through their thought or elect an Imam according to their will.

Imamate is a position for which God, the All–mighty, has singled out Ibrahim (as) after granting him the rank of prophet hood and taking him as a friend, a favour with which He has honoured him, as he said, “I will make you an Imam for mankind”. Then, God’s friend, Ibrahim, who was highly delighted asked, “and of my offspring?”

God the All–mighty said, “My covenant does not include the unjust”. This Qur’anic verse has nullified the possibility of the unjust ones’ becoming imams until the Day of Resurrection and so Imamate has become a privileged position for the purified. God has honoured Ibrahim when He granted Imamated only to the selected and pure ones from among his offspring, as in the Qur’anic verse:

“And We bestowed Isaac and (then) Jacob on him as an additional boon; each We made into honourable man. We made them leaders to guide (others) by Our command and We inspired them to perform good deeds, keep up prayer, and pay alms. They have been serving Us (alone)”. (21:72-3)

Imamate continued as a previledged position for his offspring over the ages until God, the Mighty and High donated it to the holy Prophet, and said,

“Most surely the nearest of people to Ibrahim are those who followed him and this Prophet and those who believe and Allah is the guardian of the believers”. (3:68)

Then, by God’s command, the Prophet (sa) placed Imamate in ‘Ali and in his chosen offspring, to whom God, the Mighty and High, has given knowledge and faith, as the Qur’an says,

And those who are given knowledge and faith will say: Certainly you tarried according to the ordinance of Allah till the day of resurrection”. (30:56)

This position will remain in Ali’s (as) unerring offspring until the day of resurrection. How can these ignorant people designate an Imam? Imamate is a previledged position for the Prophets and a heritage for the Prophet’s trustees.

Imamate is God’s caliphate and a successor to the Prophet’s caliphate (saws) it is a previledged position of the Commander of the Faithful (saws), and the inheritance of al–Hasan (as) and al–Husain (as). Imamate is the reins of the religion, the Muslims’ order, the soundness of this life and the believers’ might. Imamate is the cornerstone of ever-growing Islam and its highest branch.

It is only through the Imam that prayers, alms, fasting, Hajj and holy war (jihad) can be accomplished; it is through Imam that the divine punishments and laws can be executed and frontiers safeguarded.

It is the Imam who proclaims lawful what God has made lawful and proclaims unlawful what God has made unlawful, defends God’s religion, and summons (people) to the way of Allah through wisdom, good advice and conclusive argument. The Imam is like the sun that lights up the world while it is high up in the sky neither hands can reach it nor eyes can perceive it.

The Imam is the bright moon, the illuminating beacon, the radiant light and the star that (safely) guides people in gathering darkness, (unknown) tracks of towns and deserts and swelling waves of sea. The Imam is like pure drinking water, rainy cloud, a falling rain, a bright sun, and a shading canopy, an expanse of land, a gushing spring, and a brook and a garden.

The Imam is a companion, a friend, a loving father, an equal brother, a kind mother, a shelter to the God–fearing at the time of greate distress. The Imam is Allah’s trustee for His creatures, His proof over His worshippers, His calipha in His land, the one who summons (people) to Allah and defends Allah’s sanctity.

The Imam is purified from sins and kept entirely free from defects, singled out as a man of (divine) knowledge and known for his endurance; hea source of the order of the religion, honour of Muslims, anger of hypocrites, and eradication of disbelievers.

The Imam is a peerless one of his time, whose dignity no one (else) can attain, whose merits are not acquired, but are granted to him by God, the Bestower who can (claim to) have known the Imam thoroughly, or to have the ability of electing him?

What an idea! Intellects are lost, visions are weary, the eminent are little, the sage had bewildered, orators have fallen short to give speech, poets have been togue-tied, men of literature have failed and the eloquent have not been able to describe a single feature or a single merit of the Imam, for the Imam is like a star, too distant for men to reach or for describers to describe.

Do you imagine that these attributes are found in other than the family of the Prophet (saws)? I swear by God that, their souls that have cheated them and their illusion has made dire them deviate (from reality).

They have taken a steep roadwhere their legs take them to degradation. They relyed on their defective minds in their conception of the (office of) Imamate, therefore they have gone astray and deviated (from the divine command) so mach so that they have too far from him,

“May Allah destroy them, how they are turned away” (9:30)

Having distanced themselves from the choices of God, His messenger and the Prophet’s Household, they followed their own inclinations, although the Qur’an addresses them as it states:

“And your Lord creates and chooses whom He pleases; to choose is not theirs”, (28:68)

“And it behaves not a believing man and a believing woman that they should have any choice in their matter when Allah and His Apostle have decided a matter” (33:36)

“How do you judge?” (10:35)

“Or have you a book wherein you read? That you have surely therein what you choose? Or have you received from us an agreement confirmed by an oath extending to the day of resurrection that you shall surely have what you demand? Ask them which of them will vouch for that. Or do they have associates if they are truthful” (73: 36-41)

Also, the Qur’an states:

“Do they not then reflect on the Qur’an? Nay, on the hearts there are locks” (47:24)

“…a seal is set on their hearts so they do not understand”. (9:87)

“…they said, we hear, but they did not obey. Surely the vilest of animals, in Allah’s sight, are the deaf, the dumb, who do not understand. And if Allah had known any good in them He would have made them hear, and if He makes them hear they would turn back while they withdraw”. (8:21-23)

“They said; we hear and disobey”. (2:93)

How can they ever venture to elect the Imam? he is one in whose sphere of knowledge ignorance has no place; he is a leader who knows no fear, nor does he retreat; he is the substance of divinity and sanctity, purity, , asceticism renunciation; knowledge and worshop of God.

He has been singled out in the Prophet’s supplications, he is a descendent of the Pure Fatimah, God’s peace be upon her; he is one whose lineage no one can question, he enjoys a unique honourable stition, he comes from the Quraysh and is the pinnacle of the Hashim clan, a descendant of the holy Prophet, may God’s peace and blessing be on him, and the object of God’s good pleasure the honour of the noble.

The offspring of Abd Monaf, praiseworthy who is known for his thrivingknowledge and endless forbearance, Fully competent in imamate and aware of politics, obeying him is in combenton Muslims, he upholds God’s command, offers counselling to god’s servants, and protects God’s religion.

Surely God gives success to prophets and Imams and grants them of his stored knowledge and wisdom, what he has not given to any, and so their knowledge is beyond that of the people of their time, as God has said,

“Is He who guides to the truth more worthy to be followed, or he who himself does not go aright unless he is guided? What is the matter with you; how do you judge?” (10:35)

Or, “and whoever is granted wisdom, is given a great good”. (2:269)

Or, referring to saul he has said “Surely Allah has chosen him in preference to you, and has increased him abundantly in knowledge and physique; and Allah grants His kingdom to whom He pleases, and Allah is Ample–giving, Knowing”. (2:247)

God, the Mighty and High address His Messenger when he says,

“And Allah has revealed to you the Book and the wisdom, and He has taught you what you did not know; Allah’s grace to you is very great” (4:113)

As regards the Imams from the Household of the Prophet, God, the Most High, has said,

“Or do they envy the people for the greace that Allah has given them? We gave the people of Ibrahim the Book and the wisdom, and we gave them a grand kingdom. So some of them believed in him and some turned away from him; and hell is sufficient to burn” (4:54)

When God appoints someone to manage the affairs of His servants, He expands his breast for it, deposits fountainheads of wisdom gush in his heart, and inspires him with abundent knowledge that enables him to answer any question and not to deviate from the right path.

That is, the Imam is fully immune from sin and error, is singled out for this by God to be God’s proof over His servants,

“This is Allah’s grace, He gives it to whom He pleases and Allah is Ample–giving, Knowing”. (5:54)

Do people have the ability to elect such a person? Or does their candidate enjoy such qualities? I swear by the house of God that these people have transgressed the right they have been entitled to,

And they threw the Book of Allah behind their back as if they knew nothing” (2:101)

Whereas in the Book of Allah there is guidance and cure. They disregarded the Book of Allah and followed their own whims, and so God blamed them and despised them, as he says:

“and who is more erring than he who follows his low desires without any guidance from Allah? Surely Allah does not guide the unjust people”, (28:50)

Or, “for them is destruction and He has made their deeds ineffective” (47:8)

Or, “greatly hated is it by Allah and by those who believe. Thus does Allah set a seal over the heart of every proud, haughty one”? (40:35)

“May God’s abundant peace and blessing be upon the Prophet Mohammad and his descendants”!2
1. – Surah 37, verse 106

2. – Usool al-Kafi, the translation of vol. 1, p. 283 (the original text: vol. 1, p. 198); Oyoon Akhbar al-Rida (p.b.u.h.), vol. 1, p. 216.
﴿ فَمَنْ حَاجَّكَ فِيهِ مِنْ بَعْدِ ما جاءَكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ فَقُلْ تَعالَوْا نَدْعُ أَبْناءَنا وَ أَبْناءَكُمْ وَ نِساءَنا وَ نِساءَكُمْ وَ أَنْفُسَنا وَ أَنْفُسَكُمْ ثُمَّ نَبْتَهِلْ فَنَجْعَلْ لَعْنَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَى الْكاذِبِينَ ﴾
So, whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of the knowledge, then sa Come, We will call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and our souls and your souls, then we will pray humbly (to our Lord), and (solemnly) invoke for the curse of Allah upon those who lie. (3:61)
The Christians of Najran and Their False Claim
The above Qur’anic verse refers to the Christians of Najran, who considered Jesus Christ, peace be on him, a deity and assumed that his having no father is a sign of his being a deity. The Qur’anic verse preceding the afore mentioned verse refutes their claim.

“Surely the likeness of Jesus is with Allah as the likeness of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, Be, and he was” (3:59)

The verse above tells the Christians that if Jesus’ birth of no father is a sign of his being a deity as they claim, then Adam (as) is worthier of being a deity because he was born of no father and no mother. But the Christians would not accept the truth however compelling the argument was. Thus, the Prophet was ordered to invite them to mubahalah. (A contest of prayer to God)

Although there are many things to discuss in the Qur’anic verse of mubahalah, we will consider here certain issues concerning the Household of the Prophet (saws), particularly ‘Ali (as), who accompanied the Prophet to the mubahalah. These issues are concerned with the following:

1. Who was the Prophet (saws) assigned to invite to mubahalah?
2. What was the aim of their presence?
3. In compliance with the divine order mentioned in the verse, who did the Prophet take with him?
4. Clarifying the rank of ‘Ali (as) referred to in the Qur’anic verse, and his being “the Prophet’s soul” with traditions to support this point.
5. Answering the questions posed about the stated verse.
One: Those Accompanying the Prophet (saws) as in the Verse of Mubahalah
Concerning the first question about who the Prophet was supposed to invite to Mubahalah, it is necessary to deliberate on two things:

a) To whom do “our sons” and “our women” refer?

b) Who are meant by “our souls”?

The verse:

“... Come! We call our sons and your sons…”

Contains the plural noun “sons” preceded by “our”1 which refers to the Prophet meaning that the Prophet has to invite at least three people from among his sons.

Next comes the phrase “our women and your women”, in which the plural form “women”, preceeded by “our” means that the Prophet has to invite all the women of his Household (if the phrase is taken to mean all of them), or at least three of them – which is the smallest number in a plural noun in Arabic.

This discussion is intended to see to whom the words “our sons, our women and our souls” refer and to examine the aim of mubahalah (contest of the prayer to God). As for how many or who are the people to whom the Qur’anic verse refers in the words “our sons” and “our women” this will be discussed in a later section.

The plural noun “souls” preceded by “our”, which refers to the Prophet, means that he has to invite to mubahalah at least three people whom he considers as his soul.
Can “our souls” be referred to the Prophet (saws)?
The word “soul” in the phrase “our souls” literally means the blessed soul of the Prophet (saws) but when we notice the context, we find that it does not mean so. Let us consider the following indications:

1) The word “souls” is a plural form and a person has only one soul.

2) The statement, “Then say Come! We will call” makes it incumbent on the Prophet to really issue a call, and the very speaker is never meant by the word “call” when it is used in its real meaning; it would be unreasonable to say that it is incumbent on one to call oneself.
Therefore, those who imagine that in such examples like “فطوعت له نفسه” or “دعوت نفسی”, the word “نفس”, meaning “soul or self”, and the very speaker is concerned, have overlooked the fact that
Either the word “soul” is not used in its real meaning which refers to the very person, or the word “call” is used figuratively.
For example, in the verse “فطوعت له نفسه قتل اخيه” – “his soul prompted him to slay his brother” the real meaning of the word “soul” is man’s inclination.
Likewise, the phrase means I prepared myself to do something, not I invited myself. Thus, the word “دعوت” means something different from “inviting”.
3. Since the holy Prophet has already referred to himself in the phrase “We call”, there is no need for him to invite himself to mubahalah.
Two: the Aim of the Presence of the Prophet’s Family in Mubahalah
Why was the Prophet ordered to invite his family members to mubahalah when the dispute was seemingly between two sides the very Prophet of Islam (saws) and the representatives of Najran Christians?

Some maintain that the presence of the dearest of the Prophet’s close relatives in mubahalah, merely expresses his certainty of and confidence in the truth of his words and his claim. Such a decision will not be wise unless one is completely certain of the truth of one’s words and claim. If he had not had such confidence, he would have exposed his relatives to the danger of annihilation and destruction, an act, which no sensible person will do.

Such a justification cannot explain why the holy Prophet (saws) invited from among all his relatives only the members of his family to attend mubahalah, because if we suppose that the above view is true, the event would seem an ordinary one and their accompanying the Prophet to mubahalah would be of no value.

A deliberation on the Qur’anic verse and the hadiths on the verse of mubahalah will reveal the overwhelming superiority of those who accompanied the Prophet in this event.

a) Al–Zamakhshari, a great Sunni scholar says, that the verse of “mubahalah contains a strongest evidence about the superiority of Ashab al– Kisa”2

b) In his Rooh al–M’ani, al–Alusi says, “That the above Qur’anic verse indicates the superiority of Al–al–Allah i.e. the Household of the Prophet (saws),– is something which no believer can doubt; because showing enmity towards them invalidates faith”.3

Following this observation, al–Alusi, however, tries to say something else about the superiority of the Prophet’s Household.4

Now, let’s see why God, the Exalted, ordered that the Prophet’s family should accompany the Prophet for mubahalah. In order to answer this question, we to need refer to the Qur’anic verse that says,

“Come! We will call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and our souls and your souls, then will pray humbly (to our Lord), and (solemnly) invoke for the curse of Allah upon those who lie”. (3:61)

First comes the idea of inviting “the sons”, “the women” and “the souls”, then their “humble praying” followed by “invoking for the curse of Allah upon those who lie”.
The Highest Status of Prophet’s Family in the Verse of Mubahalah
Commentators of the Qur’an take ibtihal to mean “praying humbly” or “uttering a curse”.

The Qur’anic verse deals with two things: ibtihal from which the word nabtihil (we pray) is derived as well as invoking for the curse upon liars as in the phrase

“Then we will pray humbly for the curse of Allah upon those who lie”.

Each of these things has its particular objective concept. Also, the latter i.e. “invoking for the curse of Allah upon those who lie” is combined with the previous part, i.e “praying humbly” by using “then”.

This means that praying humbly by the Prophet and his family represents the cause and invoking for the curse of Allah as the effect. God’s exposing disbelievers to dread torment due to the humbly praying of the Prophet and his family, may God bless them, lends them a very high status.
One may say that the letter “ف” meaning “then” in the Qur’anic verse, “فنجعل لعنت اللهthen we will pray and invoke for the curse of Allah upon those who lie” in this particular case interprets the sentence rather than indicates sequence, as in the Qur’anic verse 45 of chapter 11,
﴿وَ نادى نُوحٌ رَبَّهُ فَقالَ رَبِّ إِنَّ ابْنِي مِنْ أَهْلِي﴾
And Nuh cried out to his Lord and said: My Lord! Surely my son is of my family (11:45)
Where the word “? –then” is intended to explain the previous part (i.e. explain why Nuh called his Lord). The answer to his claim is as follows:

a) The letter “??– then” indicates two things: ordering and grouping which make the second part dependent on the first part. We can thus come to the conclusion that the Qur’anic verse of mubahalah underlines the elevated rank of the Prophet’s Household for it shows that their ibtihal (praying humbly) is as important as that of the Prophet’s and all this leads to exposing to God’s dread torment those who lie.

b) In the statement: “then we pray for the curse of Allah upon those who lie”, the role of those who pray is (merely) to request from God not to put curses upon the liars. Thus, invoking for the curse is ascribed to the Prophet as well as his Household, may Gods bless them all, and invoking for the curse is one of the effects of their ibtihal as is indicated by the word “??”.

This fact seems to have been grasped by the Christians of Najran too. Al–Fakhr al–Razi mentions in his Commentary: “Having seen their angelic faces, the Bishop of Najran was so impressed that he said, O Christians! I behold faces (of people) who, if they ask God to erase a mountain He will erase it. Therefore, do not dispute with them, lest you should perish and then no Christian will exist on earth until the Day of Judgment”.5

A deliberation on this Qur’anic verse will reveal the following:

1. The holy Prophet (saws) had the members of his family attend the very important ibtihal (contest of prayer) so that his and their family invocation for the curse would be effective.
2. The faith and confidence of the Prophet and his family in his message and invitation have become very evident.
3. Everyone has realized the most elevated position of the members of the Prophet’s family and of their nearness to God.

We will see now who the Prophet meant by “our sons”, “our women” and “our souls” and whom he took along for mubahalah.
Three: Whom Did the Prophet Bring along to Mubahalah?
The Shi’ites and Sunnis unanimously hold that in order to participate in mubahalah (the contest of prayer to God), the Prophet (saws) took no one with him other than ‘Ali, Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain, May God’s blessing be on them. Here, the following points are worth considering:

a. There are traditions that confirm the presence of the members of the Prophet’s family in the contest.
b. The authenticity of these traditions.
c. The hadiths recorded in some Sunni books of traditions and are worth noticing.
Traditions (Hadiths) on the Participation of the Members of the Prophet’s Family in Mubahalah

1) Hadiths in Sunni Resources
Since the present discussion is directed mainly to the Sunnis, the traditions that follow are taken mostly from their hadith sources:
The First Tradition
Muslim has reported in his Sahih6, Tirmidhi in his Sunan7 and Ahmad in his Musnad8:

“Qotaibah ibn Sa’id and Mohammad ibn ‘Abbad have narrated from ‘Amir ibn Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas, on the authority of his father (Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas) that the latter said: Mu’awiyyah asked Sa’d, “Why don’t you curse Abu Turab (he meant Ali ibn Abi Talib, peace be upon him)?”

Saa’d answered: “I remember three outstanding merits that the Prophet (saws) attributed to Ali (as). So I will never curse him. If I had only one of these merits, it would be more valuable to me than my red hair camels.

a) One day the Prophet (saws) wanted to set out for a military expedition, and have Ali, peace on him, stay in Medina, so Ali said, “O Messenger of God! Do you leave me to take care of the women and children?” The Messenger of God replied, “Are you not content to be to me what Aaron was to Moses, except that there will be no prophet after me?”

b) During the battle of Khaybar, I heard the Prophet (saws) say, “I will give the banner to someone who loves God and His Apostle, and whom God and His Apostle love”. Sa’d added, “We were then craving for that. Then the Prophet of God said, “Call Ali to come”.

When he came, the Prophet let some of his saliva go into Ali’s eyes (to cure him of eye–ache), submitted the standard to him, and then God granted victory to Muslims at his hands”.

c) “When the Qur’anic verse

‘Then say, ‘Come, we will call our sons and your sons…”

was revealed, the Prophet (saws) asked Ali and Fatimah, al–Hasan and al–Husain (p.b.u.th.), to come and said, “O God, these are Ahli (my family).
What can be inferred from the aforementioned tradition?
1. The last words of the Prophet: “O God, these are my family” confirm the idea that “our sons”, “our women” and “our souls” in the Qur’anic verse refer to the Prophet’s family.

2. Each of these words: “sons”, “women” and “souls” is in the plural from, as a result the Prophet had to invite to mubahalah all the sons and women of his family and those who are like himself, whereas he invited only “Hasan and al–Husain” for his “sons”, “Fatimah” for his “women” and “Ali, peace be on him” for his “souls”

An event signifying that it is only these people whom the Prophet meant by Ahli (my family), and so his wives are not included.

3. The words “Ahl” and “Ahl al–Bayt” technically mean only the five people known as “Ashab al–Kisa”, as is clearly demonstrated by a large number of the Prophet’s traditions relating to the verse of Tatheer and proclaimed in other occasions.
The Second Tradition
In his al–Tafseer al–Kabeer, a Qur’an commentary, when Fakhr al–Razi comes to the verse of mubahalah he states:

“It has been recounted that after the Prophet (saws) had presented to Najran Christians proofs (concerning his divine mission) and they persisted on their ignorance, he said to them, “God, the Almighty, has informed me to have mubahalah (a contest of prayer) with you if you do not accept the proofs”.

“O Abu al–Qasim, we will return (to our tribe) to consider (what you say) and come to you later” they said.

Having gone back to their tribe, they asked al–aqib, who was their advisor, called Abd al–Masih, to give them his opinion on the issue. He said, “O Christians! You know Mohammad, and you know that he is a prophet sent by Allah, and he has said the truth as regards your prophet, Jesus Christ.

By God! No people have ever had a contest of prayer with a prophet unless their younger ones and older ones were annihilated. If you have contest of prayer to God, you will all die. If you are determined to abide by your religion, leave him and go back to your land”.

When the Prophet (saws) came out (of Medina), he carried al–Husain (as) in his lap and held al–Hasan (as) by the hand, while Fatimah, God’s blessing on her, was following him, and Ali, peace be on him came next. The Prophet (saws) said, “When I pray to God, say: ‘Amen!’ “

The bishop of Najran said, “O Christians! I behold faces (of people) who, if they ask God to erase a mountain, He will erase it. Therefore, do not dispute with them lest you should perish and then no Christian will exist on earth until the Day of Judgment.

The bishop of Najran said, “O Abu al–Qasim, we have decided not to have a contest of prayer with you and we acknowledge you as a prophet”. The Prophet (saws) said, “If you refuse to have a contest of prayers, you can profess Islam and share Muslims’ faith” but, they refused. He (saws) said, “Then, there will be war between us”.

They said, “We are too weak to fight the Arabs. We are ready to compromise with you (that you) will not make us break away with our religion and in return, we will annually give you two–thousand dirham worth of silk clothes in the month of Safar and one–thousand worth of them in the month of Rajab in addition to thirty protective breastplates”.

So, the Prophet (saws) accepted their proposal and said “By the One in whose hand my life is impending destruction was awaiting the people of Najran. If mubahalah had been held, they would have transformed into monkeys and pigs, the valley in which they are would have been burnt, and all the Christians would have died before the year ends and no bird would have remained on the trees”.

It has been reported that when the Prophet (saws) left Medina he had a black cloak on (kisa). When al–Hasan arrived, the Prophet (saws) let him go inside it. Then came al–Husain (as), and he (the Prophet) also let him go inside it.

Then came Ali(as) and Fatimah (sa) and joined them respectively. So, the Prophet recited,

“Allah only desires to keep away uncleanness from you, O people of the House, and purify you a (thorough) purifying”. (33:33)

“This tradition has been confirmed as authentic and correct by traditionists and authorities on Qur’an commentary”.9
What can be inferred from the aforementioned Tradition?
1. The tradition describes the way the Prophet’s family, God bless them all, were moving along for the contest of prayer as follows: Carrying al–Husain (as), who was still a child, the Prophet led the procession holding the hand of al–Hasan (as), who was not much older than al–Husain (as).

Then came Fatimah (sa), his dear daughter, followed by Ali (as), God’s blessing on them. This striking array, quite in line with the verse of mubahalah, has the follo

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