Rafed English

Legacy of the Prophet Household


The objective of this brief study is to acquaint readers with the Ahl al-Bait''s (henceforth the prophet household, i.e. the Imams of his descendants) line of thought and political approach that emanated from the depth and authenticity of their Islamic vision. This conviction is distinguished by its devotion to the Imams of the Prophet Household, and attachment to their interpretation of the Islamic doctrine and profound religious knowledge of the Holy Book and the Prophet traditions which led to its development into a school of thought and a political line distinet from other Islamic schools of thought and jurisprudence.

By tracing and clarifying the origins, foundations and development of this scholarly approach, it is hoped that some of the obstacles impeding full understanding between Muslims will be removed and a further step taken toward Islamic accord and unity. There is an urgent need for all Muslims to stand firmly against persistent attempt to incite sectarian animositied, misconceptions and erect psychological walls between sects and followers of various Islamic denominations and thus thwart the plots of the opponents of Islam to undermine Islamic unity. It is our belief that this unity can best be attained and its political structure strengthened in the face of political and cultural challenges through scholarly dialogue, objectivity in analysis and criticism, and a commitment to the Quran.

During the lifetime of the prophet and the diffusion period the Islamic nation was united ideologically and politically. Prophet Muhammad was not only the messenger and interpreter of the sharia (Islamic law) but also the leader and civic ruler. Soon after the Prophet''s death, and indeed during the first hours following that, several divergent intellectual and political streams emerged as a result of controversies over substantive issues such as the caliphate (governship) and the imamate (religious and secular leadership). Later on, further controversies arose regarding the understanding of Islam, clarification of its laws and application of its teachings which led to the emergence of a multiplicity of standpoints, sects and schools of thought. In the midst of this ideological and political diversity, the Prophet''s family, namely his cousin and son-in-law Ali and his posterity, maintained their own school of thought, tradition and political approach.

As a result of these controversies Muslims followed different doctrinal and theological sects and adopted varying political persuasions History informs us that the first such group rallied round Imam Ali on the day of the Prophet''s death and it included the prophet companions opposed to the Sakifa''s appointment of Abu Bakr as caliph or successor to the prophet. This group advocated, instead, the right of Ali to become caliph. However, it remained inactive until the Ummayid clan took over control of the Islamic state during the reign of Caliph Othman when followers of the Prophet Household such as, companions Abu Thar al-Ghaffari, Ammar ibn (son of) Yassir and Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr publically campaigned for reform. After Othman''s death, loyalty to the Prophet Household and their intellectual and political line manifested itself in the advocacy of the right of Ali to succeed Othman as Caliph. Support for this cause came from the Badri companions, i.e. the companions who fought in Badr Battle and the participants in al-Radwan Allegiance (Baiat al-Radwan), all of whom opposed usurpation of power by the Ummayid clan led by Muawiyah ibn Abu Suffian in Syria.

The Caliphate period came to an end upon the martyrdom of Imam Ali ibn abu Talib in 40 a.h. (anno hegira) and abdication of his son, Imam al- Hassan to Muawiyah after assuming the caliphate for several months. Subsequently, loyalty to the Prophet Household and adherence to their path was considered by the Ummayid rulers as a serious crime punishable with harassment, imprisonment and even death. In spite of this, loyalty to the Prophet Household and commitment to their school of thought, political viewpoints, and jurisprudence continued and hardened and their followers increased in number especially after the revolution of Imam Hussain, son of Imam Ali against the rule of Yazid, son of Muawiyah and his martyrdom in 61 a.h. Followers of the prophet household were labeled as Shi''a or Shiite and their persuasion called Shiism.

It is historically documented that the term Shiite originated in the prophet lifetime. It was first used to refer to the four companions, namely Abu Thar, Salman al-Farisi, Ammar ibn Yassir, and al-Muqdad, who were known then as Ali''s partisans of Shiites. The objective of this brief study is to present and discuss the basic tenets of the Shiite school of thought as founded by Ali and his descendants and representing their methodology, vision of Islam and understanding of the Holy Book and the Tradition (Sunna).

The term shiite literally means followers or partisans. It eventually became a specific name for the followers of the Prophet Household, namely Ali and his descendants. Ibn Manthur defined Shiite in his famous lexicon Lisan al- Arab (the Arabic language) as 'the people who are devoted to and follow the prophet household. [The term] his been customarily applied to all those who follow Ali and his posterity until it became a label specific to them'.

Analysis of Shiite doctrines and thought leads us to recognize that the Imamate (leadership) of the Prophet Household, i.e. Ali and his descendants, constitutes a cornerstone in its structure and in fact the very foundation on which it stands. This stems from the belief that the imamate is one of the basic tenets of the Islamic faith embodying the uninterrupted extension of the Prophet's march and deriving its significance from its role in expounding Islamic thought, safeguarding and applying Islamic laws, and shouldering responsibility for its diffusion and progress after the prophecy stage.

Hence, all Muslims with the exception of two minority groups, namely al- Khawarij 1 and al-Mutazila 2 agree on the imperativeness of the Imamate.

The Holy Quran establishes the significance of the imamate institution and its intellectual, political and doctrinal role when it recognizes it as a mandate awarded by God to the elect of the faithful. This is found in the following verse reporting God's dialogue with his prophet Abraham: 3

And when his Lord tried Abraham with his commands and Abraham fulfilled them. He said:

I have appointed you an Imam [leader] for mankind, Abraham asked: and what of my descendants [will they be leaders?] he said: my conveant does not in include wrongdoers.

Another verse provides further clarification of the imamate and its importance for humankind in its definition of the role of imams and their qualifications: 4

We appointed imams [leaders] from among them who gave guidance at our bidding in view of their patience and belief in our portents.

In confirmation of its importance, Prophet Muhammad linked the imamate to true faith in from and substance when he declared: "whoever dies not knowing the imam of his time dies a jahilia [pre-Islamic or pagan] death" 5 and similarly "whoever dies without an imam, dies a pre-Islamic death 6 and finally "whoever dies not having pledged allegiance to an imam dies a pre-Islamic death" 7.

Building on these prophetic revelations, Imam alSadiq underlined the significant role played by the Imam in the doctrinal, political and cultural progress of the nation and hence, the necessity of this institution: "If there were only two persons left on earth one of them must be an Imam" 8.

In view of this overwhelming evidence, Shiite scholars assigned great importance and priority to the issue of the imamate or leadership and believed that the imamate succeeds the prophecy stage.

Accordingly, they defined it as a general headship in matters of religion and life performed by a person in the prophet's place. And since it is a mandate and a deputization by the Prophet, naming the leaders succeeding him must be one of his duties. Furthermore, given the importance of the leadership issue and its consequences for the future of the nation and the faith, the Shiite asserted that the Prophet who is concerned with the nation's future and responsible for the preservation of the faith would not have ignored it and risk discord, dissension and conflict. In support of this viewpoint, the Shiite present Quranic verses and traditions which unequivocally indicate that the Prophet and since the early days of his prophecy sought to educate and prepare some of his companions and followers to become the vanguards of the Islamic march but none of them received the special attention and care he devoted to Imam Ali.

This is clearly seen in the prophet's inclusion of Ali in his household and imparting to him his moral and ethical standards before the beginning of the prophecy. His upbringing in the prophet's house safeguarded Ali from the evil practices of the pre-Islamic era and immunized him against the customs of that pagan society and, as a result, he never worshipped an idol.

When God chose the Prophet Muhammad to convey his message and guide humankind, Ali was the first to embrace Islam. The Prophet tutored Ali in the religious knowledge revealed to him from God and favoured him with the attention a teacher usually assigns to his outstanding and most promising student. As a result, Ali had a firsthand experience of the message with his thoughts, consciousness and conduct. A glimpse of this special relationship is provided by the following statement by Imam Ali: 9

I was granted an hour at dawn [regular audience] to visit the Prophet. If he was in prayer he would indicate his permission for me to enter by reciting glory to God and if he is not praying he would give me his permission.

The same source also quotes Imam Ali as saying: "I used to frequent the prophet twice every day: at night and in the day time". 10 He is also reported to have said: "whenever I asked the prophet he answered me and if I remained silent he addressed me". 11 His close association with the Prophet is also described by Imam Ali as follows: 12

I used to follow him around like an estranged small camel follow his mother's Trail. Every day he enlightened me with an aspect of his virtues and instructed me to emulate him.

On several occasions the prophet proclaimed Ali's special position and status until it became evident to all the companions that he was preparing and qualifying him to undertake the imamate and leadership responsibility.

It is reported that on the day the prophet was commanded by God to call his clan to embrace the faith in the following verse: "Admonish your nearest kinsfolk" 13 he invited thirty members of his clan to a meal. After they finished eating he addressed them: 'who among you will insure my religion on my behalf, keep my promises, and be my successor and companion in Paradise, Ali replied: I will and the prophet said: 'It shall be you'. 14 It is also reported that the Prophet and before embarking on the military campaign which led to the Tabuk battle appointed Ali as his deputy in Medina and said to him: 15

Aren't you satisfied that you are to me in the position of Aaron to Moses save there is no Prophet after me.

Another saying by the Prophet attest to Ali's supreme position: 'Ali is part of me and I am part of Ali and no one acts on my behalf except I and Ali'. 16 In addition to these traditions advanced in support of the imamate of Ali, followers of the Prophet Household also present evidence from the Quran which refer to Ali and his special status in several of its verses such as the following:

'God needs to remove uncleanness from you, the Prophet Household and to purify you thoroughly' 17. This verse has been interpreted by the prophet in words and deeds. An account of this is reported by the Quranic commentator Jalal al-Deen al-Sayuti, in his interpretation of the Quran entitled Al-Dur al-Manthur: 'the prophet threw his cape on Ali, Fatima [the prophet's daughter and Ali's wife], al-Hassan and al-Hussain when this verses was revealed to him and said: 'God, these are Muhammad household, let your prayers and blessings be on them as you have done with Abraham household'. This tradition has been confirmed by a number of sources 18. Finally, followers of the Prophet Household point at the consensus among Muslim interpretors that the following verses was revealed on the occasion of Ali giving alms to a poor man who entered a mosque where Ali was praying:

Your leader is only God, and his Messenger and those who believe; who establish prayer and pay zakat [the poor due] while they are bowing down in prayer. Those who follow God, his Messenger and the faithful must know that God's followers are sure to triumph 19.

1-Al-Khawarij: A group of Muslims who believed that any man is entitled to be chosen as caliph.

2-Al-Mutazila: a sect of Muslims founded in the second Hejra century by Wasil bin

Further evidence is presented in this section in support of the Shiite argument that the imamate is a prophetic mandate and a responsibility which the Prophet fulfilled by shaping and defining the concept of the imamate and preparing the faithful intellectually and psychologically to apply it after his death. This effort culminated in the farewell pilgrimage, on the 18th of the month of Al-Hijra when the pilgrims were convened at a place known as Ghadir Khum (Khum's pond).

On this solemn occasion the prophet conveyed to the nation his last covenant. The following account of this historical event was reported by Ahmed ibn Hanbal whose sources were two chains of narrators quoting the prophet companion Al-Bura' ibn Azib": 20

We were with the prophet under the shade of trees and after performing the noon prayer he took Ali's hand and said: 'Don't you know that I am more heedful of the faithful than their selves'? and they [the congregation] said: Yes [we do], and he said: 'Don't you know that I am more heedful of every faithful than his self? And they said: Yes, he then held Ali's hand and said: 'Whomever I have been his leader Ali is his leader, may God lead those who follow him and oppose those who oppose him. Afterwards, Omar [ibn al-Khatab] met Ali and said to him: 'congratulations, son of Abi Talib! you have become the leader of every faithful man and woman'.

Al-Nassaii reports a similar account of this event and the Prophet speech as witnessed by the companion Zaid ibn Arqam: 21

On the return journey from the farewell pilgrimage, the Prophet stopped at Khum pond and said: 'It seems that God has called me unto himself and I must obey his call, but I leave 'two great things' [al-Thuqalain] with you - one of them is greater than the other, God's book and my Household, my posterity, be careful how you attend to them for the two will be inseparable until they come to me at the pool [Hauz al-Kawthar or al- Kawthar pool in Paradise], then he said: 'God is my lord and I am the lord of every faithful, and taking Ali's hand he added: 'whomever I have been his leader, then Ali is his leader, may God lead those who follow him and oppose those who oppose him'.

This and other evidence referred to earlier convinced a group of the Prophet companions that Ali was the most entitled of all Muslims to the caliphate and imamate. They also found further support for their conviction in the interpretation of the term (wilayat) or leadership mentioned in the following Quranic verse: 22

Your leader is only God, and his Messenger, and those who believe; who establish prayer and pay zakat [the poor due] while they are bowing down in prayer.

They also inferred it from the Prophet's declaration, mentioned earlier, that 'whomever I have been his leader then Ali is his leader, may God lead those who follow him and oppose those who oppose him'.

These companions interpreted the term wilayat to mean governship, caliphate and imamate especially since it was explained by the Prophet himself in his speech: 'Don't you know that I am more heedful of the faithful than their selves'? and then adding: 'whomever I have been his leader then Ali is his leader. According to their point of view, this was a clear transfer of authority by the Prophet in his capacity as ruler of the Muslims to Ali after him. Acting upon this conviction, these companion reallied round Ali and became his followers and partisans recognizing him as the leader and intellectual authority for the whole nation.

Further support for Ali's imamate is also found in his rejection of the baiaa [allegiance] to Abu Bakr as caliph at the Sakifa's meeting and the announcement of his rightful claim to the caliphate and imamate. And given what was commonly known about the strength of his conviction, ascetic way of life, and unrivalled zeal in defending Islam, they argued that he would not have objected to Abu Bakr's appointment and publically claimed the caliphate if he did not believe in his special right to the imamate.

In contrast to his position taken by Ali and his partisans among the companions, another group of companions held that evidence found in the Quran and the traditions do not amount to an outright confirmation of the right of Ali to the leadership and imamate. In specific, they maintained that the term wilayat mentioned in the Holy Book and the Prophet's speech in the farewell pilgrimage means support, love and affection and not leadership, rulership or the prophet's succession. Hence, they presumed that they had the right to choose someone other than Ali as the prophet's successor. In an effort to explain this controversy, the late theologian al- Sadr identified the emergence of two attitudes or viewpoints among the companions during the Prophet lifetime: 23

"The first viewpoint advocated adherence to the prophetic texts in all aspects of life and denied any one the right - after the prophet made his declaration to Ijtihad or logical deduction at variance with the text in matters of worship, politics, war etc..

The second viewpoint, on the other hand, believed in the admissibility of logical deduction in contrast with the text in some instances. These two viewpoints which completed during the lifetime of the Prophet were reflected in the Muslim's attitude toward Ali's leadership after the Prophet's death. Those who professed conformity to the text found in the prophetic declaration on this issue a sufficient justification to endorse Ali's leadership without hesitation or reservation. The other group, however, thought it permissible to break away from the prescribed plan laid down by the Prophet to a recipe more harmonious with their conception of prevailing circumstances.

It appears then that the Shia was formed immediately after the Prophet's death by those Muslims who actively endorsed Ali's right to the imamate and leadership as ordained by the prophet to be put into effect after his death.

The theologian al-Hili defined the imamate as "a general headship in worldly and religious matters by a person in place of the prophet', 24. As one of the basic pillars of Islam the imamate derives its practical significance from its role in expounding Islamic thought, preserving and applying religious laws and hence in maintain the viability of the message.

Historical accounts confirm that the imamate was the first issue which gave rise to conflicting views and standpoints among Muslims. In specific, they failed to reach an agreement about the procedure. For choosing the imam leader who would succeed the prophet and about the person who would occupy this paramount position.

Consequently, three nominees competed for the position of caliph. The Ansaris [early converts of Medina] assembled at al-Sakifa and chose Saad ibn Abada while a number of Muhajereen [emigrants] selected Abu Bakr, members of the Bani Hashim [the Prophet clan] as well as a number of Ansars and Muhajereens supported Ali's candidacy.

Historically and ideologically, the issue of the imamate is one of the basic issues that helped in shaping the Shiite entity as supporters of Ali and his descendants. Followers of Ali and his posterity believed that Ali had an inalienable right to the Muslim's political and intellectual leadership because he possessed par excellence the qualities if leadership and rulership and was undeniably the highest intellectual authority whose final judgements settled disputes among Muslims. These followers of the Prophet Household were called the Shiite or partisans.

When was the term shiite first used?

It is useful to find out when and how the term Shiite came into use, and how this Islamic group emerged as a school of though, a political group and a religious sect distinct from other such groups. Accordingly to Islamic scholars, the term was first used by Prophet Muhammad in interpreting the following verse: "Those who believe and perform good deeds are the best of creation" 25. In that context, it is reported that he turned to Ali and said: 'It [describes] you and your shiites' 26.

Another mention of the word Shiite is found in the following tradition, quoted by Ibn al-Atheer, in which the prophet addressed Ali by saying: 'You and your shiites will come before God gratified and content while your foes will appear before him angry and chained' 27.

Devotion to the prophet household and reciting prayers on them and, thus in effect becoming one of their followers or shiite is ordained by the Quran in the following verse: "Say for this I ask of you no recompense except love of my kindred" 28. Furthermore, the praying on the prophet which must be recited in every obligatory prayer performed by all Muslims must follow the following text prescribed by the Prophet: 'Say, God [we implore you] to pray on Muhammad and his household as you have prayed on Abraham and his posterity'.

Rallying round Imam Ali

After the death of the prophet, a number of the companions of the Ansars convened at the Sakifa to choose the prophet successor and they elected Saad ibn Abada. As soon as news of this reached the companions Abu Bakr, Omar ibn al-Khatab, Abdul Rahman ibn Awf and Abu ubaida ibn al- Jarah they hurried to the Sakifa where after a heated argument with the Ansars, Saad's appointment was annulled, and instead Abu Bakr received an oath of allegiance as the Caliph. When Ali and a group of companions were informed of this they refused to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr declaring that Ali was the most entitled to the position of caliph and imam. Ali's supporters included al-Abbas (the prophet uncle), Fatima (the prophet's daughter) and a number of prominent companions such as al-Fadl ibn al-Abbas, al-Zubair ibn al-Awam, Khalid ibn Saeed, al-Muqdad ibn al- Aswad, Salman al-Farisi, Abu Thar al-Ghafari, Ammar ibn Yassir, al-Bura ibn Azib, Ubai ibn Kaab 29.

As a result of this, the Shiite came into existence as a group and the companions were divided into two mainstreams and schools of though regarding the issue of the imamate and caliphate.

The Prophet Household

One of the basic principles underlying the concept of the imamate or leadership in shiite thought is the imam's possession of the attributes of perfect human begins and his isma, immunity or exemption from disobedience to God. This is what the Quran referred to as purification and was later known as infallibility.

Shaikh al-Mufeed summarized the Shiite viewpoint on the necessity of the Imam's infallibility by stating that the "Imamiya [shiites] agree that the religious Imam must be infallible and exempt from disobeying God, knowledgeable of all aspects of religion, perfect in totality and distinguished from others by his excellence over them in deeds for which he deserves eternal happiness [Paradise]" 30.

Imam Jafar al-Sadiq defined the infallible as "the one who desist by God's grace from all things forbidden by God" 31. It was also defined by another source as "a hidden grace bestowed by God on the chosen one so that he would not have cause to forsake obedience and commit transgressions despite his ability to do so" 32.

The Shiite doctrine regards the traits of purity or infallibility and perfect knowledge of Islamic laws and rulings as the two basic traits required in the Imam. They assert that this doctrine is derived from Quranic and Sunna (tradition) sources, as shown in the following paragraphs.

The most obvious support for the necessity of infallibility in the Imam is provided by the divine dialogue with Abraham on the entitlement to the position of Imam; God said to Abraham: "he said: I have appointed you an imam [leader] for mankind. Abraham asked: and what of my descendants? [will they be leaders?] He said: my covenant does not include wrongdoers" 33. On the basis of this revelation they inferred that the imamate is a divine convenant specific to those who are exempt from evil- doing and possess self purity and infallibility as defined earlier and given that this infallibility is unobtainable without knowledge of Islamic laws.

The Quran also establishes that the Prophet Household have been purified or made infallible: "God wants to remove uncleanness from you the Prophet Household and purify you thoroughly" 34. It is the general consensus among tradition narrators and Quranic commentators that when this verse was revealed, the Prophet summoned Ali, Fatima al-Hassan al-Hussain and said: 'God, these are Muhammad Household, let your prayers and blessings be on them as you done with Abraham household" 35.

Shiite thinkers also argue that the prophetic declaration in the Farewell pilgrimage strongly indicated that the Imams of the prophet household are endowed with purity and infallibility. They draw attention to the following part of his speech, which has been cited earlier" 36.

I leave 'two great things' [al-Thuqalain] with you - one of them is greater than the other, God's Book and my Household, my posterity. Be careful how you attend to them for the two will be inseparable until they come to me at the pool [Paradise].

According to Shiite thinking, describing the Prophet Household and the Holy Book as being inseparable unequivocally means that the Imams of the prophet household adhere to the Quran in words and deeds, and hence are infallible.

The Imamate of the Prophet Household

It should be obvious by now that the imamate constitutes a cornerstone in the structure of Islamic Shiite thinking. Identifying the Imams is significant per se since they are the political and intellectual leaders of the nation and the authorities in understanding the Quran, traditions and religious laws. In addition, the lives and deeds of these Imams who distinguished themselves in knowledge, piety and incomparable services to the faith provide further confirmation of the Shiite imamate doctrine. A brief biography of each of twelve imams of the prophet household follows:

1- Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib

Imam Ali was born in Mecca ten years prior to the beginning of the prophecy and was assassinated on the twenty first of Ramadan in 40 A.H. He was struck with a poisoned sword by Abdul Rahman ibn Muljam while prostrating himself in the dawn prayer.

When every Muslim at Medina was instructed by the Prophet to accept another Muslim as his 'brother', the prophet chose Ali as his brother. He was the first male convert to Islam and for this unique honor he was repeatedly praised in the Quran.

Quranic commentators enumerated tens of verses revealed in praise of Ali and his virtues especially his piety, leadership and sacrifices. Narrators of the traditions also reported several traditions and sayings of the Prophet which pay tribute to his high status, eminence and virtues - some of which have been referred to earlier.

2- Al-Hassan ibn Ali

He is the son of Ali ibn Abi Talib. His mother is Fatima, the prophet's daughter. He was born on the 15th of Ramadan in 3 A.H. and died of poisoning in 50 A.H.

3- Al Hussain ibn Ali

He is also the son of Ali and Fatima, born on the 3rd of Shaban in 4 A.H. and martyred in Kerbala (in present-day Iraq) on the 10th of Muharam in 61 A.H. at the hands of the army sent by the Ummayid ruler, Yazid ibn Muawiyah.

Al-Hassan and Al-Hussain are the Prophet's grandsons and members of his household to whom Muslims must offer affection, allegiance and prayer in compliance with God's commands. Numerous traditions have been transmitted and recorded proclaiming the prominence and virtues of the Prophet Household, i.e. Ali, Fatima, Al-Hassan and al-Hussain such as the Prophet's saying:

"My Household are like Noah's Ark, Whoever goes aboard it will be safe, and whoever turns away from it drown" 37. Also the companion Ibn Abbas reported that when the following verse was revealed to the Prophet: 'say for this I ask of you no recompense except love of my kindred' 38, he was asked about These relatives whose love became obligatory and he replied: 'Ali, Fatima and their two sons, 39. In describing al-Hassan and al-Hussain the Prophet said they are 'my raihanatay [literally two beautiful trees or sons] in this world' 40.

4- Ali ibn al-Hussain

He is the son of Imam Hussain ibn Ali, also known as al-Sajjad (the prostrator) and Zain al-Abideen (the best worshipper) because of his dedication to prayer and worship. He was born in 38 A.H. and died in 95 A.H. Ibn Hajjar described him as follows: "Zain al-Abideen inherited his father's knowledge, ascetic way of life and piety" 41.

In praising him the Sunni imam Malik wrote that "there was no one in the Prophet Household similar to Ali ibn Al-Hussain" 42. Another prominent Sunni theologian, al-Shafi, called him "the most learned jurist and theologian of all the people of Medina" 43.

5- Muhammad al-Baqir

He is the son of Imam Ali ibn al-Hussain, born in 57 A.H. and died in 114 A.H. it is said that his excellence in religious learning was foretold by his great grandfather, the Prophet who entrusted the companion Jabir bin Abdullah al-Ansari to greet al-Baqir when he meets him. The imam was considered the grand teacher of all theologians and the ultimate authority to whose judgements jurists and Muslims deferred. Ibn al-Imad of the Sunni Hanbali school praised him as "one of the Medina's jurist, called al-Baqir because he [metaphorically] cut open the body of Islamic teachings, comprehended its origins and ambiguous aspects, and widened its scope" 44. Finally, Ibn Saad described him as 'authority who possessed immense learning and knowledge of the traditions' 45.

6- Jafar al-Sadiq

He is Imam al-Baqir's son, born in 83 A.H. and died in 148 A.H. Like his father before him, his excellence in learning and piety qualified him to become the teacher of prominent theologians and jurists. The list of his students is long and impressive and includes Ibn Malik, the founder of the Sunni Maliki school and Abu Hanifa, the eponym of the school of the Sunni Hanifas and numerous other jurists. Ibn Haban mentioned him in his book al-Thuqat as "one of the leaders of the Prophet Household whose religious knowledge, jurisprudence and eminence earned him this position. His rulings and arguments were referred to by notable jurists such as al-Thawri, Shuba, and Malik" 46. al-Nasai extold him as "an authority whom Malik said he used to visit and invariantly found him either praying, fasting or reading the Quran" 47.

7 - Musa al-Kazim

He is Imam Jafar al-Sadiq' son, born in 128 A.H. and died in prison during the reign of the Abbasid ruler, Haroun al-Rasheed. al-Hafiz al-Razi wrote the following short biography of the Imam: "an authority, truthful, and one of the Muslim Imams" 48.

8- Ali al-Rida

He is Imam Musa al-Kazim's son, born in 148 A.H. and died of poisoning in 203 A.H. He became the elder of the Prophet Household during his time. The Abbasid ruler, al-Mamoun was so impressed by the Imam's knowledge and the highest regard accorded to him by Muslims that he appointed him as his successor to the caliphate and gave him his daughter in marriage.

He gained a high reputation for his religious learning, virtues and piety. The biographer, al-Waqidi praised him as an "authority who issued iftas (religious rulings or judgements) at the Prophet's Mosque when he was still in his twenties" 49. His succession to the Imamate was confirmed by his father when he said to his sons: 'your brother Ali is the imam of the prophet household, consult him about religious matters and commit to memory whatever he says to you' 50.

9- Muhammad al-Jawad

He is Imam al-Rida's son, born in 195 A.H. and died in 220 A.H. Sibt ibn al-Jawzi reported that the Imam "followed his father's model in learning, piety, ascetic way of life and generosity" 51.

10- Ali al-Hadi

He is Imam al-Jawad's son, born in 214 A.H. and died in 254 A.H. The historian, al-Thahabi, referred to him in his book, Tarikh al-Islam [History of Islam] as "the honourable sayyid [one of the prophet descendant], a jurist - and one of the twelve [Imams] and the Imamiya call him al- Hadi" 52. Abu al-Falah al-Hanbali described him as "a jurist and a devout Imam' 53.

11- Al-Hassan al-Askari

He is Imam Ali al-Hadi's son, born in 232 A.H. and died in 260 A.H. He was extolled by Ibn al-Jawzi as "a learned authority who narrated the traditions from his father and grandfather" 54.

12- Muhammad al-Mahdi

He is Imam al-Askari's son, born in 255 A.H. Several of the prophet traditions narrated by numerous companions mentioned Imam al-Mahdi of the prophet household, these companions include Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib, Othman ibn Affan, Amar ibn Yassir, Abu Hurraira, Abdullah ibn Abbas, Abdullah ibn Massoud, Huthifa ibn al-Yaman, Umm Salamah, and many others.

Two of these traditions foretold the coming of al-Mahdi: "al-Mahdi is one of us, the prophet Household for whom God will make Provisions in the single night" 55, and al-Mahdi is one of my Itra [posterity], the descendants of Fatima" 56.

In conclusion, this section has reviewed evidence from the two principal sources, namely the Quran and the Prophet's Sunna [traditions] as well as testimonies from historians, jurists and learned men of various Islamic sects and persuasions referred to by shiites in support of the imamate of the twelve Imams. It has also been shown that each one of these Imams received his knowledge from his father and ultimately from the prophet and as such they represent a natural extension of the Islamic march began by the Prophet.

By definition, a religious sect provides a method for understanding Islam an approach to uncover its meanings. Accordingly, our effort here would be incomplete without identifying the basic pillars of Islam as understood by the school of the Prophet Household. These pillars are discussed in the following sections:

1- Al-Tawheed or the belief in divine unity

In one of his speeches, Imam Ali reported to have said:

The basic thing in religion is knowing God; the perfection of knowing him is believing in him; the perfection of believing in him is in worshipping only him, and the perfection of worshipping him is in loyalty to him 57.

Undoubtedly, the basic pillar of the Islamic faith is believing in Allah as the one and only God, asserting his freedom of human or other creatures' characteristics and recognizing his absolute perfection and possession of Asma al-Husna [beautiful or most exalted names]. Much attention is devoted by the Quran to defining divine unity, explaining God's attributes and enumerating his names. God characterized himself to mankind through his revelations to the Prophet. His greatness and uniqueness can also be recognized by the human mind.

When Quranic commentaries multiplied, new sects adapted different understandings of the Holy Book and eventually unorthodox theories and sects arose such as al-Tajseem and al-Tashbeeh, 58 (anthropomorphism), al-Hilul, 59 al-Itihad, 60 al-Gulu and Ghulat, 61 (extremists or Zealots), and al-Jabir (Necessetarianism). In response the Imams of Prophet Household confronted these unorthodox ideas and novelties and called upon Muslims to uphold the true doctrine of divine unity as found in the Quran.

The Imamiya belief regarding divine unity is clearly expressed in a reply by Imam Jafar al-Sadiq to a letter from one of his disciple who complained in it of "group of people in Iraq who describe God figuratively". The Imam wrote back: 62

You have asked about divine unity.. There is nothing like God, the All-Hearer, All-Seeing who is above and beyond the attributes ascribed to him and the descriptions of those who liken him to his creatures, and hence lie against God. Know that the true faith regarding divine unity is found in the Quran's revelations concerning God's characteristics so reject al-Tashbeeh and al-butlan because neither is correct. God is the constant Allah who is above description, so do not forsake the Quran and lose the right path after the message has been revealed".

On the basis of this principle, the Shiite established their own doctrinal vision and elaborated its structure.

The Imams of the Prophet Household persevered in their efforts to expose and denounce all unorthodox views which deviated from the Quranic concept of divine unity. And in conformity with this standpoint, jurists of the Imamiya shiite ruled that such views amount to heresies.

To illustrate, al-Shaikh al-Mufeed, an Imamiya Shiite theologian of the fourth Hijra century wrote: 63 "the Gulat (zealots or extremists) who claim to be Muslims ascribed divinity or prophecy to Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib and the Imams of his posterity and in effect transgressed the limit in describing their eminence in religion and in this world. Hence they are heretics condemned by Imam Ali to death" 64 and the Imams ruled that they committed heresies and forsook Islam.

In conclusion, the concept of divine unity held by the Imamiya Shiite is based on the Quran and a recognition of the unity of God in essence, attributes and acts and that he alone must be worshipped. Upholding this viewpoint embroiled them in ideological conflicts with proponents of ideas and conceptions which do no conform to their understanding of the Quranic concept of divine unity.

2- God's Justice

Based on their belief in divine unity and God's exemption from injustice, the Imamiya shiites established that God is just in the obligations he imposes on his worshippers and in his recompense of them. Accordingly, they maintained that God does not impose duties on humankind in excess of their capabilities. They also rejected the theory of al-Jabur 65 or the Necessitarian and established that man is essentially free to choose his action, and whether he elects to be obedient or disobedient is of his own volition. And since he is a free, uncorked agent he is therefore responsible for his acts and accordingly recompensed as the following verses indicate: "Have we not given him two eyes, a tongue, and two lips and shown him the two paths" 66 and "we have endowed him with sight and hearing and be he thankful or oblivious of our favours, we have shown him the right path" 67.

Imam al-Sadiq explained the concept of God's justice in his reply to a question by one of his disciples on whether God has given mankind total freedom of action: "God is too generous to give them total freedom of choice". And then the companion asked him: "Did he then compel them to disobey?" Al-Sadiq answered him: "God is too just to coerce a person to commit a certain act and then punish him for it" 68.

3- Prophecy

The Shiite belief in prophets and prophecy is also based on their understanding of divine unity. Al-Muqdad al-Sayuri defined the prophet "as a person who reports from God without human intermediaries" 69. The prophet receives the message, religious knowledge and divine instructions in the form of revelations through an angel, an inspiration or a vision.

The prophets are the elites of God's creation, chosen by him because he knows them to be capable of conveying his message. They are exempted by God from disobeying him so that they can serve as models for mankind and disseminators of his laws by words and deeds.

The historical origin of the prophecy is made clear in the following Quranic verse: 70

Mankind was once one nation. then God sent forth prophets with good tidings and warnings, and with these he sent down the book in truth to judge between people in matters which they dispute.

The Imamate's importance in Islamic thought emanates from the fact that it succeeded the prophecy and constituted the natural extension of the prophet's efforts in leading the nation, disseminating the Islamic doctrine, and applying and safeguarding the laws. This point has been expounded earlier.

4- The After Life

The Quran teaches us:

It is not righteousness that you turn your face towards east or west but it is righteousness to believe in Allah, the Last Day, the angels the Book and the Prophets" 71.

and also:

You must not reckon those who were slain in the cause of God as dead, They are alive and well provided for by their Lord" 72.

One of the basic tenets of Islam is a belief in the after-life, resurrection, final judgement and recompense. With the exception of few philosophers who believed in spiritual resurrection, Muslims hold that the resurrection is corporeal. They also share a belief in al-Barzakh which is a form of existence intervening between death and Judgement Day. Another related article of faith is the belief that a dead person is interrogated in his grave and subsequently rewarded or punished.

Shiite scholars have devoted much attention to explaining these basic tenets.

The distinguished theologian al-Hili wrote the following commentary on the belief in the resurrection and recompense in the after-life: 73

This is a major tenet, and its confirmation is one of the religion's pillars. Whoever denies it is by consensus a heretic and anyone who dose not believe in corporeal resurrection, reward and punishment and the description of the after-life is also a heretic by unanimous agreement.

The viewpoint of the Imamiya scholars on the Barzakh is summed up by the theologian al-Majlisi as follows: 74

Recompense in the Barzakh has been agreed upon by the [Muslim] nation now and in the past. Only an insignificant minority of Muslims have rejected it and these have been unanimously opposed. Congruent traditions supporting this consensus have been narrated by Imamiya and other Muslim sources.

Al-Shafa (Intercession)

A closely related tenet to the belief in the after-life and Judgement Day is al- Shafa or intercession. Muslims not only believe in corporeal resurrection, the Barzakh state and recompense but also believe in intercession as expressed in the Quran and the Prophet's traditions. Those empowered to intercede, i.e. ask clemency for sinners, include the Prophet, his Household, benevolent believers, martyrs and the faithful in general as indicated in the following Two verses: "They intercede for none save those whom he accepts" 75 and 'no intercession shall avail with him but that which he himself allow' 76. On the same subject the Prophet is reported by the companion Abu Thar to have said: "I beseeched my Lord for intercession for my nation and he granted me that, and God willing it will be obtained for anyone who worship only God" 77. Another saying by the Prophet reported by the companion Abu Saeed al-Khudari shed further light on how faithfuls benefit from intercession: 78

One man of my nation may intercede for a group of people who would enter Paradise as a result of this. One man may intercede for a whole tribe and they would enter Paradise due to his intercession. And one man may intercede for another man and his household and they would enter paradise because of his intercession.

Imam Jafar al-Sadiq regarded intercession as one of three basic tenets: "whoever denies the following three things is not one of our followers: the ascension, interrogation in the grave and intercession 79. It is worth mentioning here that the belief in intercession does not license believers to disobey or neglect their religious duties. Basically, a Muslim is recompensed in accordance with the principles laid down by the Quran as follows: "Each man shall be judged by his own labours" 80, and "Whoever has done an atom's weight of good shall see it and whoever has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it" 81. However, God by his mercy and kindness lightens the faithful of their burdens of sins by overlooking some of these transgressions. This is done by accepting intercession on their behalf and granting them forgiveness and clemency in view of their faith and good deeds.

And then we have set you on the right path. Follow it and do not follow the whims of those who are ignorant 82.

Islamic Sharia (laws) are a body of divine laws and rules conveyed by the prophet for the purpose of regulating human life and directing it in all aspects of its existence. A notable jurist of the Imamyia shiite, the late al- Sadr defined a religious law as "a legislation issued by God to organize and direct human life" 83.

During the lifetime of the Prophet, Muslims obtained the laws directly from him. The Prophet not only conveyed the laws from God but also explained and clarified them. The Quran informs us that Holy Book and the Prophet's traditions are the two sources of legislation and laws as follows: "and then we have set you on the right path. follow it and don't follow the whims of those who are ignorant" 84, and "whatever the Prophet gives you, accept it; and whatever he forbids you forbear" 85. These principles were held as supreme guidelines by the Imams of the Prophet Household and their followers who persevered in their scholarly efforts and intellectual and political struggle to protect the Quran and the Prophet's Sunna or tradition. Confirmation of this is found in the following statement by Imam Muhammad al-Baqir: "God left nothing that this nation needed which is not revealed in his book and made clear to the Prophet, and he set bounds to everything, and provided a lead so that these bounds could be identified, and he laid down a penalty for any one who transgress the bounds" 86.

To impress on his companions and disciples this principle and establish it as an intellectual and legislation method Imam al-Sadiq narrated the following saying by the Prophet: "for every right there is a truth, and for every rightness there is a light, so accept whatever concurs with the Holy Book and reject whatever disagrees with it"87. He also reiterated this principle by declaring that "every thing originate in the Holy Book and the Sunna (prophet's tradition) and any saying inconsistent with the holy book is false" 88. He then specified the sources of laws and rulings issued by the Imams of the Prophet Household in their lectures, replies and declaration as follows:

"When we speak we do in agreement with the Quran and the Sunna" 89. Commitment to these two sources was further stressed in the following dialogue between Imam Musa ibn Jafar and one of his companion: "The companion asked the Imam: 'Is everything found in the Holy Book and the Prophet's Sunna? or do you contribute your opinions? the Imam replied: 'Everything is found in the Holy Book and the Sunna' 90.

It may be useful at this point to trace briefly the rise of Islamic theological schools and their historical and ideological roots and in particular the emergence of the Prophet Household's school and development of its distinct character. As it is commonly known, the Prophet's companions had their own political views, rulings and understandings of the Quran and Sunna to the extent that the term 'companion's sect or persuasion' 91, i.e. his understanding of Islam and rulings. In addition the conduct of the companion was coined his Sunna or tradition. According to al-Shatibi, the companion's tradition is "the tradition he applied and adhered to". Abu Hanifa referred to this tradition when he ruled that "if I did not find a lead in the Holy Quran or the prophet's tradition. I would endorse his companions' sayings, choosing from them as I see fit" 92.

The significance or precedence assigned to a companion's persuasion is discussed by al-Amadi of the sunni hanbali school as follow: 93

Everyone agree that the companion's persuasion regarding issues left to ijtihad 94 can not be used as a hujjat [evidence or argument] vis-a-vis another companion's persuasion regardless of whether he is on Imam, a judge or a jurist. But there is disagreement regarding whether it can be considered as an evidence against the [opinions] of those who came later and other mujtahideen [learned men]. The Ashaira 95, al- Mutazila 96, al-Shafi - in one of his sayings - Ahmed ibn Hanbal - according to one of two traditions reported by him and al-Karkhi were of The favoured opinion that it is not a precedent'.

The Imamiya Shiites, on the other hand, regarded all that issued from Imam Ali and the Imams of his descendants as a precedent which must be followed in view of the documented declarations of the Prophet that Ali is the most learned of all his companions and the authority in rule-making and elaboration of legislation. Support of this standpoint in provided by the following tradition: "After the Prophet recited the Quranic verse: 'And it shall be comprehended by an attentive ear' he turned to Ali and said: 'I have asked my Lord that it be your ears'. Ali said later: 'I never forgot anything I heard from the Prophet' 97.

On several occasions the Prophet praised Ali's religious knowledge as the following sayings illustrate: "Ali is the most capable judge among you" 98 and: "I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate" 99, and finally: "I leave 'two great things' [al-Thuqalain] with you - one of them is greater than the other, God's Book and my Household, my posterity. Be careful how you attend to them for the two will be inseparable until they come to me at the pool [paradise]".

The Imamiya Shiite school endorsed. Imam Ali's and his descendants' views on the basic doctrines, the imamate, jurisprudence, commentary and traditions. When theoretical deduction came into use and various' sects such as those of Abu Hanifa, Malik, al-Shafi and Ahmad emerged, the Imamiya school affirmed its adherence to the jurisprudence of Imams Muhammad al- Baqir and Jafar al-Sadiq, the latter of whom taught Abu Hanifa, Malik and a group of jurists from other Islamic sects. The growth and development of the Imamiya school continued under the leadership of the Imams and on the bases of the Holy Book and the Prophet's tradition as the sources of legislation this approach was clearly explained by the late al-Sadr 100.

With regard to the sources of fatwa [religious rules] we see necessary to refer briefly to the two sources principally relied upon in deducing these rules, namely the Holy Book and the Prophet's traditions as narrated by trustworthy and reliable narrators regardless of their sectarian affiliation with regard to Qiyas 101 [measurement] and Istihsan 102 [expediency] we see no reason to depend upon them. And concerning intellectual evidence or reasoning whose legitimacy in jurisprudence has been a point of disagreement, we believe that using it is justified but we have not found a single rule whose proof depends on intellectual evidence per se Everything that has been proven by this method has been established by the Holy Book of the Sunna. Also, Ijma or consensus can not be regarded as a source of legislation in addition to the Holy Book and the tradition but it can be used as a tool of validation in some cases. Consequently, the only acceptable sources of Islamic legislation are the Holy Book and the tradition and those who adhere to them - as the Quran describes them - "shall grasp a firm handle that will never break God hears and knows all" 103.

94-Ijtihad: logical deduction on a legal or theological issue by a learned jurist or theologian who would be called 'mujtahid' (Translator's note).

95-Asharia: A group founded by Abu al-Hassan al-Ashari (260-324 A.H.) they held that God had eternal attributes distinct from his essence such as his knowledge, speech and that it was by these that he was knowing, seeing and speaking they also maintained that good and evil is willed by God (Translator's note) .

96-Al-Mutazila: a group founded in the second Hijri century by Wasil ibn Ata. They affirmed that God has no attributes distinct from his essence and rejected the doctrine of predestination.

101-Qiyas: It is a method of analogical reasoning used by juriconsults to define a rule which is not explicitly provided for in the Quran or the tradition.

102-Istihsan: It is used in the exegesis of the Quran and the Prophet's tradition and stems from a rejection of Qiyas and acceptance of the expediency rule.

The Quran is the eternal divine message preserved from the distortion and falsification that occured to the new and old testaments. This is affirmed in the following Quranic verses: "We revealed the Quran and shall preserve it" 104 and "We shall see to its [the Quran's] collection and recital" 105. However, a number of unscrupulous narrators and counterfeiters invented a number of sayings and traditions which claim that the Quran has been distorted either by addition or deletion. This claim has been deplored and rejected by the Imamiya scholars who ruled that the Quran is intact and preserved from distortion. The completeness of the Quran has been repeatedly reaffirmed by these scholars in their books and arguments regarding the Quran's integrity as the following comment by Al-Tebrasi, a prominent scholar of the Imamiya Shiite in the fourth hijra century illustrates: 106

What is being said about additions and deletions [in the Quran] is inappropriate because [claims of] additions in the Quran are considered by consensus to be unfounded and so is the case regarding deletions. These are our views which have been supported by [the scholar] al-Murtada and confirmed by the tradition".

On the same subject, al-Tebrasi wrote that "it is widely accepted by the Imamiya scholars that the Quran has not been distorted" 107. Further support of this standpoint was provided by al-Sadduq, a prominent Imamiya scholar of the third and fourth Hijra century as follows: 108 "It is our belief that the Quran revealed by God to his Prophet is all that is found between its covers, and not more than this. Whoever claims that we say it is more than this is a liar".

Finally, the late abu al-Qasim al-Khoui, a notable scholar of the Imamiya, also commented on the same subject: 109

We want to make clear that what Othman collected was the Quran known to all Muslims and handed down from the Prophet. Any distortion resulting from addition or deletion may have occurred to those versions 110 that have been unavailable since the time of the Othman. The available Quran is intact and free of addition and deletion.

It is therefore the consensus among Islamic scholars that allegations of distortions in the Quran made by some Sunni and Shiite sources are unsupported and hence unacceptable. Also a number of the traditions of the Imams of the Prophet Household which refer to distortions in the Quran actually imply its meanings, and not its text, have been distorted by some commentators and unscrupulous people who are described in the following Quranic verse: 111

Those whose hearts are infected with perversity follow the part that is allegorical, so as to create discord by seeking to explain its hidden meanings. But no one knows its meaning except God and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge Say: we believe in the book, the whole of it is from our Lord, but only the wise take heed.

Misconceptions Regarding Fatima's Book

Before concluding this section on the Quran it is essential to clarify and dispel misconceptions regarding what is known as Fatima's Mushaf (Fatima's book). This has been intentionally misconstructed by those who seek to sow dissent among Muslims to imply that the Imamiya shiite have a Quran which is different from the one knows to Muslims.

Propagating such misconceptions is characteristic of those who disregard true intentions and clear meanings and seek to promote perversity and discord as described in the following Quranic verses: 112

He [God] has revealed to you the Quran. Some of its verses are precise in meaning they are the foundations of the book - and others allegorical. Those whose hearts are infected with perversity follow the part that is allegorical, so as to create discord by seeking to explain its hidden meanings...

To expose this misinterpretation and intentional attempt to throw suspicion on the Imamiya creed, the literal meaning of the term Mushaf need to be clarified to establish whether it is one of the legitimate names of the Quran or not. The meaning of this term will also be investigated with reference to Imam al-Sadiq's comments on it.

Al-Raghib al-Asfahani defined the word Sahifa to mean "any flat object such as a page, and its plural is suhuf or pages. Al-Mushaf denotes a collection of pages, i.e. a book" 113. According to al-Razi, a "Sahifa is a book and its plural is Suhuf of Sahifa. The Mushaf is that in which the suhuf are collected 114. Obviously this terms has been known to Arabs and commonly used to refer to a number of written pages. It is not, therefore, one of the specific names of the Quran. Muslims called the Holy Quran Al-Mushaf after it was collected and bound in a single book made up of parchments. Legitimate names of the Quran mentioned by God are in addition to the Quran, al-Furkan, al-Thikr, al-Kitab, and Kalam Allah.

The Quran also has a number of labels such as al-Noor, al-Mubeen, al- Suraj and al-Huda. The name al-Mushaf was used not by God but by ordinary Muslims and religious scholars refrain from using it in their lectures or publications.

With regard to Imam al-Sadiq's mention of Fatima's Mushaf it was made in reference to the knowledge inherited by the Imams from the Prophet and written down in a Mushaf or scroll. The Imam said: "We have Fatima's Mushaf and it includes none of the Quranic verses 115. He is also reported to have said that 'We have Fatima's Mushaf and it includes none of the verses of God's Book. The Prophet dictated it and Ali wrote it down in his own handwriting' 116. These two statements clearly establish that the material dictated by the prophet to Imam Ali was not the Quran and does not include any part of the Quran. This material, however, contained religious knowledge and laws recorded by Ali in a scroll for his wife Fatima and this explains the term Fatima's Mushaf or scroll.

This scroll or book has been referred to by the Imam as a source of religious knowledge and laws. However, and contrary to false claims that this book is another Quran, Muslim scholars of various sects including Shiites and Sunnis share in the belief that the available Quran contain all the verses revealed to the Prophet without addition or deletion, and it has been preserved by God as the following two verses promise: "We revealed the Quran and shall preserve it" 117, and "We shall see to its collection and recital." 118 Accordingly, scholars dismiss weak traditions related by single source and narrated by Sunni and Shiite authors in contradiction with this consensus.

Finally, it must be remembered that the collection and transcription of the Quran were accomplished during the lifetime of the prophet who commissioned a number of secretaries for this purpose. Furthermore, a number of companions recited the verses they had memorized in front of the Prophet and he approved them. The Quran received from the Prophet and transcribed has been handed down from one generation to another with utmost care. This has been confirmed by the Imamiya scholars over the centuries including al-Sadduq, al-Mufeed, al-Murtada, al-Tebrasi, al-Hili and numerous contemporary scholars.

Al-Tafseer or Quranic commentary has been defined as "a clarification of God's intentions in his Holy Book" 119. Imam Ali ibn al-Hussain described the Quran's verses as 'vaults' and he instructed the faithful to "look into a 'vault' whenever one is opened" 120. Since early times, Muslims have paid special attention to understanding and commenting on the Quran because of its significance for building up Islamic knowledge and thought. Unfortunately, errors in understandings and commentaries led to unorthodox ideas while differences in understandings resulted in a multiplicity of theological and jurisprudence schools.

Quranic commentaries follow specific methodologies and the Imamiya Shiite school has laid down its own methodology based on the following principles:

1- Commitment to the concrete evidence or (Hujjat al-Dhur): This school regarded as evidence or proof whatever meaning or understanding is obtained on the basic of a sound knowledge of the Arabic language. This stems from the fact that the Quran was revealed in the Arabic language which the Arab at that time used and understood. This is expressed in the Quran as follows: "We have revealed the Quran in Arabic so that you may understand [it]" 121.

2- Commenting on the Quran in accordance with the Prophet's traditions and those of the Imam who inherited his knowledge: According to the following verse, the prophet understood the Quran fully: "We have revealed to you the book so that you make clear to them those things in which they differ" 122.

3- Using human intelligence and reasoning in understanding the Quran: The Quran calls for the use of intelligence in comprehending the word of God and deducing their meanings: 123 "Will they not seek to understand the Quran or are there locks upon their hearts".

Evidently, the commentary methodology used by the Imamiya school is strictly based on the Quran and this is why the Imams of the prophet household forbade commentaries based on personal viewpoints.

Validating the Traditions

The Prophet Sunna or traditions was defined by Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr as "everything that issued from the Prophet including his sayings acts and rulings" 124. The Prophet's companions received these traditions directly from the Prophet or from those who witnessed his deeds and sayings. At that time, the traditions were intact and preserved from distortion become it was possible to verify their authenticity by referring them to the prophet or the companions who could testify to the authentic traditions witnessed by them.

However, numerous sayings and traditions have been falsely attributed to the Prophet and many of his authentic traditions were either suppressed or distorted. Two major reasons are advanced to account for this. First, the traditions remained for a long time transmitted orally and unrecorded. Second, the prophet's statements were formed in human language and hence vulnerable to distortions and difficult to distinguish from fabricated statements.

It must be mentioned here that followers of the Imamiya school considered all that issued from the Imams in clarifying religious laws as an extension of the traditions and a so

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