Rafed English

Regarding the popular belief that the 'ulama cannot be tainted by immorality

Adopted from the book : "The Principles of Ijtihad in Islam" by : "Shahid Murtadha Mutahhari"

Some people imagine that the effect of sin on individuals is not of only one kind: that sin has an effect on ordinary people which annuls their piety and right behaviour, but that it has no effect on the 'ulama' who have some kind of immunity. It is like the difference between a little water and a lot which, if it is more than one kurr35, cannot be tainted by any unclean thing. Now, in fact, Islam does not consider anyone to be untaintable, not even the Prophet. For why then should God have said : [O Prophet] say: 'I also, if I commit a sin, fear punishment on the Great Day.'?

Why should He have said : If any kind of attributing godhood to other than Allah (shirk) enters your actions, your work will be spoilt ? All this is to show that there is no kind of partiality or discrimination, there is no immunity from sin for anyone. The story of Moses and God's righteous servants, which is in the Qur'an, is a wonderful story. One moral which can be drawn from it is that the follower should surrender to the one he is following up to the point where basic principles and the law are not contravened. If it is seen that the leader does something against these principles, one must not remain silent. It is true that the fact that in the story the things which the servant of God does are not, in his view, against these basic principles, since he sees a wider horizon and can see into the heart of the matter; they were, rather, his very duty and responsibility. But the question here is why Moses was not patient, and why he gave vent to his criticisms, despite the fact that he had promised [the servant of God] and himself that he would not make any objection? Why, then, did he protest and criticise? The defect in Moses' actions was not his protesting and criticising, but the fact that he was not aware of the undivulged aspect of the matter, the inward and secret side of the events. Of course, if he had been aware of the hidden reasons for what happened, he would not have objected, and he would have wanted to discover the secret of the affair; but as long as his actions were, from his own point of view, against basic principles and the divine Law, his faith would not allow him to remain silent. There are those who have said that if the actions of that servant of God were to be repeated on the Day of the Resurrection, Moses would still object to them and criticise them, unless, by that time, he were to become aware of the hidden reasons behind them. Moses said to the servant of God : "Shall I follow you so that you may teach me, of what you have been taught, right judgement."

"Assuredly you will not be able to bear with me patiently."

Then he explained the reason very clearly : "And how should you bear patiently what you have never encompassed in your knowledge?"

Moses said : "Yet you will find me, if Allah will, patient, and I shall not rebel against you in anything."

Moses did not say that he would be patient whether he discovered the secret of the matter or not. He merely said that he hoped he would have that patience. Of course, this patience did exist within Moses as long as he understood the reason for things. Then the servant of God wanted to have something more definite from him; that, even if he did not discover the reason for what had happened, he would remain silent and not protest until the time came for him to explain. "Then, if you follow me, do not question me on anything until I myself introduce the mention of it to you." (117:66-70)

Here, the verse does not say if Moses accepted; it only says that after this they both set out together and continued till the end of the story which we all know. At any rate, I wanted to show that the ignorant person's taqlid of the learned should not be blind allegiance. The unlawful kind of taqlid between one who is ignorant and one who has knowledge is that kind in which unquestioning obedience exists, which takes some such form as: "an ignorant person cannot quarrel with a learned person; we don't understand, perhaps the duties imposed by the shari'a necessitate its being like this." I have mentioned this story as evidence and corroboration for what was in the hadith of the Imam al-Sadiq.

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35. One kurr of water is approximately 377 litres. In religious law if an amount less than this comes into contact with a religiously impure thing, the water too becomes impure, whereas above this amount the purity is not endangered.

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