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The Imams and the Ahl al-Bays in relation to the Qur'an

The Shi'ites have agreed that God revealed to Muhammad both the Qur'an and its exegesis and appointed him as the teacher of the Book, 1 while the Prophet appointed his progeny to carry on this work after him. In two places of the Qur'an, (33:33) and (56: 77-79), God has confirmed the Prophet's declaration that his progeny held real knowledge of the Book. 2 In a long and well-known tradition (hadith al-Thaqalayn) related by both Shi'i and Sunni traditionists, the Qur'an is presented as the 'greater weight' (al-thaqal al-akbar) and the Imams as the 'lesser weight' (al-thaqal al-asghar). In the presence of many of his Companions, the Prophet declared: "I am soon about to be received..... I am telling you before I am taken up that I shall leave with you, as representatives after me, the Book of my Lord, and my progeny, the people of my household, the ahl al-bayt that the All-Gracious, All-Knowing, told me that they shall not be separated until they meet me on the day of Resurrection..... Do not precede them, for you would go astray, and do not fall behind them, for you would perish. Do not teach them, for they are of greater knowledge than you." 3

Numerous traditions in several chapters describe the knowledge of the Imams, especially in the hadith collection of Kulayni. The Shi'ites consider the Imams as associates of the Qur'an. The Prophet and Imams are distinguished by the inheritance of divine knowledge and they alone know the full meaning of the Qur'an, since it was to them that it was primarily addressed and through them to the rest of humankind. Also they possess all the revealed Books of the previous Prophets and knew their tafsir and ta'wil despite the number of languages in which they were written. Thus, the Imams have a unique relation to the Qur'an that gives Shi'i tafsir its unique character. It is also believed that the Qur'an, which Ali wrote down from the dictation of Muhammad with its true exegesis (ta'wil), was passed down from one Imam to the next and is now with the hidden Imam who will disclose it and judge by it when he returns as the expected Mahdi. 4

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1 Qur'an : 62 :2

2 Tabataba'i, al-Mizan, p.12

3 Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Bab 7, vol.23, p.108

4 Ibid, Kitab Fadl al-Qur'an, Bab al-Nawadir, vol.6, p.474

Adapted from the book: "Mahdi in the Qur'an" by: "N. Vasram and A. Toussi"

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