Recent PEW Survey has revelaed that only 50 per cent of mainstream Sunnis in Pakistan accept Shias as Muslims and that at least 30 per cent of Sunnis think that Sufi (Barelvi Sunni) Muslims are non-Muslims. Reasons for such widespread intolerance about Shias and Sunni Sufi Barelvis are to be found not only in takfiri madrassas and militant groups but also in seemingly moderate scholars. We present one such example, in this post, of a person who is perhaps one of the most influential moderate clerics in Pakistan’s upper-middle class.
Javed Ahmed Ghamidi (born in 1951 in Sahiwal, Punjab) is Pakistan’s leading Islamic scholar who is known for his relatively progressive interpretations of the Quran and Hadith. In his own words, he is inspired by teachings of Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi (1904-1997) and Maulana Hamiduddin Farahi (1863–1930). He is also inspired by teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1328). He was also associated with Maulana Maududi for a few years before parting ways with the Jamaat-e-Islami.
He is the founder of Al-Mawrid Institute of Islamic Sciences and its sister organization Danish Sara. According to his own website “Al-Mawrid”: Ghamidi has drawn heavily from the Qur’anic thought of his two illustrious predecessors, Hamid al-Din Farahi and Amin Ahsan Islahi presenting many of their views in a more precise manner. However, many of his contributions to the Islamic thought are original.
On the same website, Gahmidi is claimed to have presented a framework of Islam “Haqiqat-e-Deen” which is a representative of a complete interpretation of Islam in contrast with the two other prevailing interpretations of Islam in the Muslim ummah: the tassawuf-based interpretation and the jihad-based interpretation.
Ghamidi negates Tasawwuf (Sufism) treating it as a parallel religion to Islam. He also negates violent, Jihadist interpretation and enforcement of Islam. However, in the past, he is known for supporting Afghan Islamist Mujahideen militancy in Afghanistan.
Ghamidi is known for his non-violent approach to different sects of Islam and also towards other faiths.
Ghamidi is not a Takfeeri. He does not treat Shias or Sunni Sufis as infidels. He treats them as deviant sects of Islam who can be treated as Kafir (infidel) only when a State (Pakistan or Saudi Arabia) formally apostates them (just as the State of Pakistan did in the case of Ahmadis). What is unmistakable in his ideology is the fact that he remains inspired by a puritanical ideology.
Ghamidi has a not so subtle anti-Shia and anti-Sunni Sufi tone to his talks. Both Ghamidi and his thought leaders and predecessors (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Farahi, Ibn Taymiyyah etc) are known for their Nasibiat.
While he does not advocate violence, his narrative is one of exclusivism and is an anathema to a pluralist society. This is precisely the sort of discourse that dehamanizes the other. Even if Ghamidi does not advocate violence, his narrow and exclusive discourse provides justification to those who want to apologize, ignore and misrepresent the ongoing Shia Genocide in Pakistan.
It is, therefore, no surprise that despite his non-Takfeeri approach to Shias and Sunni Sufis/Barelvis (something which distinguishes him from violent Takfiri clerics), Ghamidi generally negates almost all traditions in which the Ahl-e-Bait of the Prophet have been praised.
Ghamidi’s views on the great sacrifice of Imam Hussain in Karbala are completely in line with those of Zakir Naik, Israr Ahmed, Islahi, Ibn Taymiyyah etc, although he is not as transparent. He exonerates Yazid from the murder of Imam Hussain and other members of the Prophet’s family. He blames Ibn Ziyad for Hussain’s murder and terms the entire incident as an ‘afsosnak hadsa’ “a regrettable accident”. This apolitical, acontextual assessment of Karbala is in stark contrast with analyses of Karbala by other Sunni and Shia scholars who support Imam Hussain’s just opposition (Qayam) to Yazid ibn Muawiya’s illegitimate rule.
We are not bothered about legitimate historical and interpretational differences in Islam. However, we are concerned that in a society where radical Takfiri violence against Shias, Sunni Barelvis, Christians, Ahmadis etc is commonplace, Javed Ghamidi’s unfair Othering of Sunni Sufis and Shias and frequent insults of their practices may be contributing to their current persecution and genocide.
Why can’t Shia, Sunni, Salafi etc scholars treat all sects and schools of thought as equally respectable and legitimate interpretation of Islam instead of directly or implicitly declaring each other deviant, polytheist, lesser Muslim or non-Muslim?
In our view, it is legitimate if a person considers Imam Hussain as an illegitimate rebel (Baghi) and Yazid as a legitimate ruler. Also it is legitimate if someone does not believe in Ya Rasullualh, Ya Ali or thinks that Imamat has no basis in Islam. It is equally legitimate if a person believes in traditions that show that Hazrat Umar attacked Hazrat Fatima’s house, the dearest daughter of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), in order to extract oath of allegiance (Bayah) from her husband, Hazrat Ali. Notwithstanding historical differences, our only aim is to discourage a puritanical approach to Islam in which one sect is shown better or inferior than others. The problem with calling each other deviant, particularly by a person of Ghamidi’s stature, is that this leads to further intolerance and othering, which in turn feeds into the current atmosphere of sectarian violence against Shias and Barelvis.
In this post, we provide a collection of video clips and articles by Javed Ghamidi and his team (Al Mawrid) to illustrate our assertion that Ghamidi and his team members engage in othering of Sunni Sufis and Shias.
Karbala and Imam Hussain
The following note about Ghamidi is based on views expressed by Sunni and Shia commentators at a different website.
A few years ago, in a TV talkshow (during Muharram) on Aaj and later on Geo TV Ghamidi’s thrust was that Karbala was an uprising against the state and, therefore, wrong. One wonders why his intellectual observations are restricted to Karbala and do not encompass Saqeefa and Jamal? Is it not hypocrisy?
There was a very objectionable statement by a Salafist-Deobandi cleric Tahir Islam in the program “Ghamidi” on GEO TV that “IN THE KARBALA THE WAR AGAINST YAZID WAS THE MISTAKE OF IMAM HUSSAIN”; apparently Ghamidi did not contradict this statement. (April 2007).
Tahir Islam is a disciple of Dr. Israr Ahmed. The discussion in the recorded programme was mainly about what one should do in the face of spread of munkar (evil) in the society. Tahir’s view was that each of us is obligated to stop it bazor-e bazu (with the use of force), if need be. Upon this Ghamidi said that this may lead to anarchy as each individual may interpret munkar differently, and we could be on each others’ throats as a result of this difference in ijtehad by each individual: I may interpret what you were doing was munkar and vice versa. Thus Ghamidi maintained that while the populace at large may do nahi anil munkar bil lisaan, it was only the right of the state do so if the use of force (and possible bloodshed) was foreseen.
Tahir responded by restricting the circle of those obligated to stop munkar to ones who had attained the requisite level of strength (Taliban? Jamia Hafsa?). He said that while the qayaam of Imam Husain in Karbala was as per the Islamic obligation he (the Imam) naudbillah committed khata-e ijtehadi (error of judgement) in over-estimating his strength and not foreseeing the role of Kufis, and was thus (according to Tahir) not successful in his stand.
Ghamidi maintained his view that it was only for the state to do nahi anil munkar if the possibility of resultant bloodshed existed. For him it is perhaps irrelevant that the state then, as now, was responsible for committing and encouraging most of the munkar (evil)!
By saying that only the state has the right to impose nahi anil munkar, Ghamidi implied that the qayaam of Karbala by Imam Hussain against Yazid was illegitimate. Tahir Islam, on the other hand, based his hypothesis on the judgemental error of Hussain. He didn’t disagree with the qayaam of Karbala itself being right.
Ghamidi – supposedly a scholar – is, clearly on the side of the Ulil Amr (State), i.e., Yazeed.
I am not surprised. This khata-e-ijtehadi business has been attributed to Imam Hussain since ages. Whether it was Ghamdi who made the statement, or Tahir Islam or anyone else does not matter. Let us not for a moment forget that however “liberal” and “enlightened” Ghamdi may sound, his knowledge is rooted in the arid and poisonous soil of the early Umayyad historians, and has a discernible Nasibi flavour.
Here’s another clip.
Karbala ka waqia: Ghamidi claims that: “Imam Hussain had reviewed his decision of opposition to Yazid; he wanted to move away from Karbala and even wanted to go to Yazid but Ibn Ziyad’s army did not allow that”.
Hazrat Ali and Muawiya
Ghamidi rationalizes Muawiya’s mutiny (baghawat) against a legitimate ruler (Hazrat Ali, the Khalifa-e-Rashid). He presents a false neutrality between Hazrat Ali and Muaviya and exonerates Muaviah under the cover of Ijtihadi Ghalti and lack of information. Of course, he will not use similar logic to exonerate Abu Jehl or Abu Lahb.
“Rasoolallah ko hazir nazir samajhna ghaleez tareen shirk hai”
“It is worst form of polytheism to consider Prophet as Hazir and Nazir.”
According to Ghamidi, those who say Ya Ali are polytheists (mushrik) and fools.
“Ya Ali Madad kehna Shirk hai aur aik ahmaqana baat hai”
Funeral rituals: Quran Khwani and Chehlum
Qul or Chaliswan najaiz rusoom hain. There is no basis of Qul and chehlum in Islam.
Question About A Naat –“Saray Nabi teray Der Kay Sawali”
According to Ghamidi this phrase is completely wrong, Allah and Quran has stopped from it, it has no basis in the Quran or Hadith.
Prophet is dead in his grave
According to Ghamidi, Shia Islamic notion of Imamat and Imam Mehdi has no basis in Islam.
There is no Imam Mahdi. No basis in Quran or Sahih Hadith.
“There is no concept of Punjtan (Muhammad, Ali, Fatima, Hasan, Hussain) in Islam”.
The Fadak incident: Hazrat Abu Bakr’s decision was according to the Quran in which he did not agree with Hazrat Fatima’s demand/claim for inheritance. There was an internal dispute in the Ahlul-Bayt, therefore, Hazrat Abu Bakr had to intervene to settle the dispute.
Tasawuf / Sufi Islam
There is no basis of Peeri Mureedi in Islam.
Prophet Muhammad’s parents
Prophet Muhammad’s father is in Hell (Jahannum)
Abu Talib ki tauba
According to Ghamidi, Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s.), the benefactor of the Prophet was a non-Muslim until his death.
Questions and Answers from Ghamidi Team (Al-Mawrid)
Reality of the dispute between the Umayyids and Banu Hashim?
How are you? May God Bless you. You are always been a true source of guidance and inspiration for young youth like me. In era of fitna, you are the true representative of Islam. Please help me, I have got much confusion about the saḥābah….let me clear my question.
The confusion started when somebody asked Dr. Zakir Nayek about Yazīd andkarbala war in a program. He said Radiallah for Yazīd and declared karbalā as a political war. I was shocked, because we have been listening that Yazīd was acursed (mal‘ūn) and a brutal (Zālim) person and the war of kerbalā was the war of truth and falsehood (Ḥaq o Bāṭil). The same reaction was aroused in the Muslim community against him. They started condemning him in conferences. They said that Dr. Zakir is a student of comparative religion, not a good scholar of history and Islam. I also started thinking the same but my heart said that how it can be possible that somebody is authority in comparative religion but not having grip in his own religion. My Confusion increased. I decided to do research on this topic and read many books of different opinions on the topic.
The first book I read was ‘Khalāfat-o-Malūkiyyat’ (somebody suggested it) written by Mawlānā Mawdūdī, and reached the conclusion that Haḍrat Mu‘āwiyah (rta) and Yazīd both were of the same calibre and they really degraded Islam and Haḍrat Ali (rta) and Haḍrat Imām Ḥussain (rta) were true defender of Islam. After that somebody suggested me to read ‘Khilāfat-i Mu‘awiyah O Yazīd’ by Mahmūd Ahmed Abbāsī. That book made me think that in reality Haḍrat Mu‘āwiyah was real defender of Islam and Yazīd was a pious person. On the other hand the point of view of Haḍrat Ali and Haḍrat Imām Hussain was not right. My confusion was doubled. First I was having doubt about Haḍrat Mu‘āwiyah (rta) and Yazīd but now confusion about Haḍrat Ali and Imām Hussain (rta) was also created. I have also been researching Shī‘i point of view about Haḍrat Ali (rta) since long time. Suddenly a new controversy began, when Dr. Isrār Ahmed related a ḥadīth about Haḍrat Ali about forbidding alcohol. The same very harsh reaction was observed in the community. I also listened to the lectures of Dr. Ṭāhir al-Qādri about this. Tension increased because he represented Haḍrat Ali as a supernatural personality with his strong evidences. I am totally confused about the role of Saḥābah, who is right, who is wrong, whom to follow, whom to not, whom to please, whom to deny. Sir, please guide me in this regard. I would be highly thankful to you.
I think the main inquiry you have is summarised with the following statement at the end of your post:
“I am totally confused about the role of Ṣaḥābah, who is right, who is wrong, whom to follow, whom to not, whom to please, whom to deny.”
I am going to answer the above in a very simple (but not simplistic) way and will then share some thoughts with you on the issue of Ali (ra) and Hussain (ra) versus Mu’āwiah and Yazīd:
1. who is right, who is wrong?
As a Muslim it is not your duty to figure this out about people who lived in the past, since your decision about who was right and who was wrong is not going to help any one. .
2. whom to follow, whom to not?
First I am not sure what you mean by following certain Saḥābah, do we have a book of guidance written by any of them?
Second, as a Muslim you should not follow any of the Saḥābah, you need to follow the Qur’ān and the Sunnah, on which all the Ṣaḥābah agree.
3. whom to please, whom to deny?
First I am not sure what you mean by pleasing certain Ṣaḥābah, do you believe that by carrying out certain acts or having some beliefs you will be able to please a Ṣaḥābī that is already dead?
Second, as a Muslim you should not seek to please any of the Ṣaḥābah or any human being, you only need to please your Lord.
Now, as for the personalities you referred to, I think there are a number of things that often people confuse with each other and therefore result in unnecessary tensions like that you mentioned.
As a Muslim and, in fact as a human being we need to always support the Truth and to deny the Falsehood and to help the oppressed and to correct the oppressing. Therefore we have every right to criticise a person who knowingly supports the falsehood and denies the truth.
However, the means by which we come to realise what is the truth and what is the falsehood are very subjective, in particular if the matter we are studying is a historical matter belonging to more than 1400 years ago.
Let’s assume that based on the sources of information that were available to us, we have come to conclusion that A is with the truth and B is with the falsehood. When some one starts praising B and criticising A, we become angry because we think he is praising the falsehood and criticising the truth. The reality is, he is still praising the truth and criticising the falsehood, just like us. The difference is, unlike us, the sources of information that were available to this person have led him to believe that A is with the falsehood and B is with the truth.
We need to appreciate that the often conflicting information that has reached us after 1400 years has come to us through fallible narrators and has been affected by many political and social factors. We can never hold any of this information to be the perfect truth. Therefore we cannot and should not expect every individual to come to the same conclusion that we have arrived. The two totally different conclusions that you have reached by reading two different books is a good example of this.
Please note that I am not saying that we should remain neutral when incidents like Karbalā happen. What I am saying is that after 1400 years it is very difficult to find out exactly what happened and why. If this incident was happening during our time then the situation was different. In this case it was of course our duty to do our best to find out who was right and who was wrong because then we could play a positive role to support the truth and to influence the flow of events.
This however is not the case anymore. Whether we believe Yazīd was right or Hussain (rta) was right is not going to help Islam and Muslims in any way. Albeit it is undeniable that Hussain (ra), a beloved member of ahl al-bayt of the Prophet (sws), did not deserve to be murdered. However whether we believe that he was right in rising against Yazīd or not and that to what extent Yazīd was responsible for this calamity can only be a matter of opinion.
Like every other interested Muslim, I too have my own opinion about the story of Karbalā and people who were associated with it. However my opinion is not going to help you in this matter because like every other opinion it is based on the information that was available to me. I have done my best to make sure that this information is reliable but I cannot deny the possibility that the picture that this information has given me might not be 100% true and that it might not be the complete picture of what happened.
You wrote: “(Dr. Ṭāhir al-Qādri) represented Ḥaḍrat Ali as a supernatural personality with his strong evidence (dalīl)”.
I am more than happy to read these evidences ‘dalīl’s and to comment on them.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Posted on: 18-Aug-2009
Conditions of Revolt and Jihad
I have read your book “The Islamic Sharī‘ah of Jihad” by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, which arose a few questions in my mind. Please answer my following questions:
a. In which conditions Jihad against the ruler of one’s own Islamic state can be undertaken?
b. When and how can we declare a ruler of our Islamic state a non-Muslim urge people to defy his orders?
c. In battle of Siffīn Hazrat Mu‘āviah revolted against Hazrat Ali so who was at truth, and whose battle can be taken as jihad?
d. Was the battle of Karbala a revolt against the ruler Yazīd? Give your reasons.
Since your answer is on the basis of the “The Islamic Shari’ah of Jihad” by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, I will answer your first two questions on the basis of the same book and the same premises:
a. Which are the occasions when Jihad against own ruler of Islamic state can be undertaken?
According to Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, revolt against own ruler can be taken under the following conditions:
– The government should be guilty of openly denying the shari’ah in any way.
– The government should be a despotic one. It has neither come into existence through the opinion of the people nor can it be changed through their opinion.
– The person who leads this uprising should have a clear cut majority of the nation at his back and they are willing to accept him as their future ruler in favor of the existing one.
b. According to Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, it is as stated above, that is:
“The government should be guilty of openly denying the shari’ah in any way.” When it says “openly denying” that means no doubts will remain and no judgments are needed.
c. In the context of this writing we consider revolt to be rising against the ruler in order to bring him down. To my best understanding based on the historical reports that have been available to me and I am relying on, Mu‘āwiah was not in the stage of revolt at the beginning. He only disobeyed Ali (ra) and criticized him and demanded the assassins of Uthman (ra). This however later reached to the stage that materialized itself as a full revolt against the ruler i.e. Ali (ra). Based on my understanding, Mu‘āwiah had no right to disobey and fight against Ali (ra).
Having said that, neither of the two sides, in my current view, were doing Jihad. Not every battle in which a group of Muslims are involved is supposed to be Jihad. This was simply a battle between two groups of Muslims, where one group was wrong. The best description of such battle is given in the Qur’an, that is, verse 49:9.
d. To my understanding and based on the historical reports that have been available to me and I am relying on, the battle of Karbalaitself was not a revolt. It was in fact self-defense. Ibn Ziyād had demanded Hussain (ra) to submit himself to him and Hussain (ra) did not consider this fair and legal and considered it a humiliating act. The army of Ibn Ziyād did not allow Hussain (ra) and his caravan to leave and practically forced them to fight and defend themselves. Having said that, to my understanding, the move of Hussain (ra) from Madina and then Mecca towards Kufa was a move towards revolt. It appears that Hussain (ra) was trying to fulfill the conditions of a religiously legitimate revolt. His journey to Kufa was in fact his attempt to find a base and to start to get more and more supporters. When he realized that the situation in Kufa was not what he expected it to be, it was already too late and resulted in the occurrence of the sad events that happened.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Posted on: 02-Mar-2012
Tragic Event of Karbala
I am a student and appreicate the works and views of the religious scholar Javed Ahmed Ghamdi and his School. I rely on their views to know about Islam and to get the solution of religious problems. Please help and guide me for literature to know about the indecent Karbala (with Imam Hussain) in reality rather than the common typical stories.
First please bear in mind that knowing part of the Muslim history is educational, eye opener and interesting but it should not affect our understanding of Islam which as you know should be based in the Qur’an and then Sunnah only.
It is difficult to know the reality of something that happened about 1400 years ago. There are incidents happening at our time yet despite so many technological and audio visual advances and tools we can never make sure that we have some to understand the reality of them.
The problem of the story of Karbala is that it relates to sectarian and political debates, while also related to religion. The incidents like this normally are targets of so many exaggerations and story telling.
On one hand there are sectarian motives to exaggerate about the sad story of Karbala. On the other hand there have been political motives of the state at the time and after that during the Umawi regime to affect the way people would see this incident.
In these cases the best is to read books written by people from various backgrounds. I am not sure whether you are limited to English language or if you can also read Arabic or Urdu. In any case I suggest you need to get hold of some of the books on history where the author simply narrates the records that are usually a mixture of false and truth (like Tarikh Tabari), then also get hold of books written by Shia scholars about the incident and also find some books written by those who have positive views about Yazid.
I cannot guarantee that after such study you will be able to get hold of the reality but at least you will have a good chance to get some balanced views and perhaps some very good questions about the incident of Karbala.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Posted on: 22-Dec-2008
Concept of Imam
Where is this God appointed teacher from whom I may ask my question?
Are you living in this world? There is a man, on this earth, alive and who claims to be a direct descendant of our beloved Prophet, the Imam (leader) of the time and age and the holder of Authority, the Noor (نور) or reflection and glow of Ali. Please do some research and I am sure you will be able find an answer. I have Iman in him, I am his follower, and he is my guide for straight path (sirat-al mustaqeem).
Best of luck !
Let’s keep the level of this dialogue in an academic level rather than informal chitchat. Yes I am living in this world, otherwise I was not able to communicate with you. I hope you do not believe that all Muslims who do not know your Imām (perhaps about 98% of Muslims) are not living in this world!
The problem my brother is that once a group of Muslims starts to associate themselves with beliefs that are not established in the Qur’an, they will then easily spread out into many sects and branches, since there won’t remain any tangible source to stop them from doing so. Given that these groups of Muslims decide to believe in things that are not established in the Qur’ān and given the numerous number of these sects who have separated themselves from the mainstream Muslims, it will be very time consuming to get familiarized with all these beliefs and their details.
When I search books and internet in order to guess who your Imāmmight be, I come up with many results. It depends which sect (from among those who have beliefs not established in the Qur’ān) you belong to:
– If you are an Imāmi Shī‘ī your Imam’s name is Muhammad b. Ḥasan and he is in occultation.
– If you are a Nizari Esmayeelee Shī‘ī then your Imam’s name/title is Karim Agha Khan IV.
– If you are a Mustali (Dawoodi Buhra) Esmayeelee Shia then your Imam’s name is Muhammad Burhaneddin.
– If you are a Mustali (Sulaimani Buhra) Esmayeelee Shia then your Imams are Abdullah ibn Hibatullah and/or Mohammed Ibrahim Ziaee.
And to remain brief I do not add more than other dozen Islamic sects who believe in divine authorities after the Prophet (sws) including some of the Sufi sects.
I can spend the rest of my life trying to figure out who among all these people who somehow claim divine authority is the real Imam. However I do not need to do this. The Qur’an has assured me that all disputes in regard to religious guidance have to be decided on the basis of this Book (2:213; 25:1). I am confident that there is no divine authority after the Prophet because the Qur’an has not informed me about it.
All the above sects have one thing in common, that is, they believe in something that is not found in the Qur’an as core of their religion.
All the above sects also have another similarity. They all claim that they follow Ali (ra).
I would like to conclude this discussion with some relevant statements narrated from Ali (ra) in Nahj Al-Balagha:
وَاسْتَدِلُّوهُ عَلى رِّبِّكُمْ، وَاسْتَنْصِحُوهُ عَلى أَنْفُسِكُمْ، وَاتَّهِمُوا عَلَيْهِ آرَاءَكُمْ، وَاسْتَغِشُّوا فِيهِ أَهْوَاءَكُمْ
Make it (the Qur’an) your guide towards Allah. Seek its advice for yourselves and accuse your views (of being false) based on the Qur’an and regard your desires in the matter of the Qur’an as deceitful. (Nahj-Al-Balagha 176)
جَعَلَهُ اللهُ رِيّاً لِعَطَشِ الْعُلَمَاءِوَعُذْراً لِمَنِ انْتَحَلَهُ، وَبُرْهَاناً لِمَنْ تَكَلَّمَ بِهِ، وَشَاهِداً لِمَنْ خَاصَمَ بِهِ، وَفَلْجاًلِمَنْ حَاجَّ بِهِ، وَحَامِلاً لِمَنْ حَمَلَهُ، وَمَطِيَّةً لِمَنْ أَعْمَلَهُ، وَآيَةً لِمَنْ تَوَسَّمَ، وَجُنَّةً لِمَنِ اسْتَلاْمَ، وَعِلْماً لِمَنْ وَعَى، وَحَدِيثاً لِمَنْ رَوَى، وَحُكْماً لِمَنْ قَضَى
Allah has made it (the Qur’an) a quencher of the thirst of the learned … an evidence for him who adopts it, an argument for him who argues with it, a witness for him who quarrels with it, a success for him who argues with it, a carrier of burden for him who seeks the way, a shield for him who arms himself (against misguidance), …. (Nahj-Al-Balagha 198)
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Posted on: 04-Jan-2010
Aayaat-e Tatheer (Verses of Purification)
Some people say that part of surah al-ahzaab is called “aayate tatheer” and it refers to “ahle bait” comprising Hazrat ‘Alī, Hazrat Fatima and their two children only. Is it true.? Also there is “Aayate Mobahila\”.Some people say that our Prophet (sws) took these 4 people to meet Christians for a “mobahila”. Is this mobahla a good thing? Is it not better to discuss the matter with reasoning?
As for your first question please read the following reply that has been sent in one of our affiliated websites:
I have some confusion over hadith-e-kisa. Because Shia people give it much importance. They say that panjtan pak (ehle-baat) have been addressed in this hadith directly. Would you please clarify the situation by throwing some light on this hadith?
Thanking in anticipation
Question from Pakistan
First let us provide an outline of the Hadith of Kasa and the raised issue for those readers who might not be familiarised with the story.
In its generic form (that could be true according to most of the different versions of the hadith, as will be discussed later), this is the outline of the story:
“The Prophet calls Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Hussayn -RAhom- and takes them under a cloak with himself and reads the last part of the verse 33:33 and says to the effect that Oh God these are my Ahl Albayt so make them clean (referring to the content of 33:33).”
Our Shia brothers (referring to a particular version of the hadith) argue that this hadith tells us that the term Ahl Albayt in 33:33 exclusively means the above great persons.
This was a summary of the issue under discussion.
Part of what I would like to explain has been posted before in an answer to a relevant question. I recommend that you read that answer before reading the rest of this post. You can find it here:
About the Purity of Ahl’l Bayet (The Prophet’s Household)
If you appreciate what was explained in the above answer you will agree with me that no matter who is meant with the word Ahl Albayt in 33:33, the verse does not imply any extra-ordinary merits (e.g. infallibility) for the addressees of the verse. Accordingly while it is interesting to investigate who the Ahl Albayt are, the result of this investigation (what ever it might be) cannot affect our understanding of our belief as a Muslim.
After this introduction let us look at the word Ahl Albayt and the Hadith that is known as Kasa (Cloak).
My dear brother, we should appreciate that the Qur’an is an Arabic book that has been revealed to people whose language was Arabic. We will misinterpret the Qur’an if we attempt to understand its words in a way that was not (and could not be) understood by the primary addressees of the book. Today if you ask an Arab friend to come to your house with his Ahl Albayt, the default is that he will come to you with his wife and children who are still staying in his house, he might bring his married children and their spouses or he might not. He might even bring a friend if the friend is considered as one of the permanent residents of his house. He will be extremely shocked if he finds that by Ahl Albayt you meant his married children and grand children and NOT his wife. This is because for any Arab, the word Ahl Albayt (which literally means those staying in the house) includes the wife (or wives) of a person. This was in no way any different at the time of the Prophet (pbuh). (It is interesting that even in Iran (being a Shia-Muslim dominated country) people use the word Ahl Albayt to refer to the wife as well as children of a person.)
If you look at any popular book of Arabic words you will find that in the definition of Ahl Albayt, wife (ves) are included. If you look at elsewhere in the Qur’an (11:73) you will find that one’s wife is included in the meaning of the term. If you look at the usage of the term by the Prophet, his wives and his companions (as recorded in the books of Hadith and history) you will find that it was used in its default meaning (that includes wife[ves]).
Now we know that the Qur’an was revealed (not to confuse or misguide people but) to guide people. As such one of the features of the Qur’an that all scholars agree with is its firmness and straightforwardness in establishing the religious concepts. If for any reason, God wanted to change the default meaning of the term Ahl Albayt and use it in a meaning that was not known to its addressees then the style of the Qur’an makes us expect to see this transformation of meaning firmly established in the Qur’an, in particular when (according to Shia brothers) understanding this meaning will have such a huge effect on our belief. Not only this has not happened in the Qur’an but (as I referred to earlier) the term Ahl Albayt has been used in its default meaning elsewhere in the Qur’an.
Let me also reemphasise the point that was made in the above link that the context in which 33:33 is placed in the Qur’an makes it absolutely clear that the phrase Ahl Albayt is used in its generally understood meaning and leaves no room for discussion in this regard.
Furthermore, it should also be clear that hadith is not a source of determining the meanings of common Arabic words and phrases of the Qur’an. Hadith cannot (and is not capable of) changing the default meaning of a word or phrase that is inline with its context.
Accordingly (and this is a very important point which I cannot emphasise enough) it is the Hadith of Kasa that has to be understood by verses 33:30-35 and not vice versa.
Now all the above arguments might make an impression that Hadith of Kasa is a hadith that firmly suggests wives are not included in the term Ahl Albayt. I will try to show you that this is not at all a case in the remaining of this answer:
Hadith of Kasa has been narrated in a variety of forms.
I try to summarise these here:
In some versions it says that the Prophet came out of his house and then covered these great persons under his cloak and then read the last part of the verse 33:33. This version is narrated in some of the books of Hadith, in particular in the book of Muslim: Muslim: 2424, also in (Mustadrak 4707)- Musnafe Ibn Abi Shayba 32102, Sunane Beyhaqqi 2680.
The same sort of story happens in Fatima’s house while Wasila Ibn Al’Asqa is there. He hears that the Prophet reads the last part of the verse 33:33 about Ahl Albayt and then referring to these four personalities says Oh God these are my Ahl and my Ahl are more deserved (for the context of this verse). Wasila asks the Prophet whether he (being always near the Prophet’s house and under his protection) is also among his Ahl, the Prophet says yes. (Wasila was one of the companions known as Ashab Al-Soffa. These were people who had embraced Islam but were very poor and had no places of their own; they were gathered and stayed near the Prophet house). This version can be found in Sahih Ibn Haban, 6976 also in Sunane Beyhaqqi 2690. This is also narrated in the Shia book of Al-Burhan (3:321).
The same sort of story happens in Umme Salame’s house with no additions (no Q.A.). The Prophet says oh Allah these are my Ahl Albayt and my Ahl Albayt are more deserved for this. This is narrated in Musnad Ibn Abi Shayba 32103.
Same story happens in the house of Umme Salame, it is said that the verse was revealed there, then the Prophet asked for these personalities and gathered them under the cloak and read the verse and prayed for them. Umme Salama asks isn’t she his Ahl Albayt, the Prophet says she is of his Ahl and that his Ahl deserves more for this prayer. Mustadrak – 3558:
Same story as above and reference that the verse was revealed before the Prophet’s prayer but no Q.A. between Umme Salama and the Prophet. Mustadrak – 4705- 4708.
The incident happens like in number 3 above with no Q.A. between the Prophet and others after the prayer. The difference is that here it is indicated that the verse was revealed after the Prophet’s prayer. Mustadrak – 4709.
Same story as 4, the verse was revealed before the prayer, Umme Salama asks if she were not his Ahl Albayt, the Prophet says you are in good and you have your own position. Termezi 3205-3787 – Ahmad 26551.
Same story as 4 but in response to Umme Salama the Prophet says “Yes (i.e. you are my Ahl Albayt). Suane Beyhaqqi 2683.
Same story as 4 and in response to Umme Salama the Prophet says, “yes come under the cloak” and she goes under the cloak. Ahmad : 26592. This version is also narrated in the Shia books of Bihar (45:38) and Al-Burhan (3:321) although through Musnade Ahmad.
Now at this stage I do not want to elaborate on the reliability of each of the above versions of the hadith, although by default we expect the first one to be the most reliable (being in the book of Muslim). As it is clear from the above list, the incident has been reported in many different ways, it is possible to say that the incident has happened in different locations and the reports describing the incident in different locations are not necessarily in conflict. On the other hand it is clear that some of the above reports (that are referring to the same location) are in fact in conflict with each other.
I want to point out few facts that can be revealed from the above:
Fact One: Only one of the versions suggests that the verse was revealed as the result of the Prophet’s prayer for the five personalities (number 6). Other versions (some of which are in more reliable books of hadith) are either silent about this or indicate that the verse was revealed before the Prophet’s prayer (numbers 4, 5, 7, 8). This is an important point because if the verse was revealed after the Prophet’s prayer there could be arguments that the verse was primarily revealed for these personalities. However if the verse was revealed before the prayer (as many of the versions of the hadith suggest) then we cannot say that the verse was revealed primarily for these personalities.
Fact Two: In none of the above versions the Prophet clearly suggests that his wife is not from Ahl Albayt. The closest statement to this (Ahl Albayt not including wife) is the version in which the Prophet says you are my Ahl (number 4), but even there the Prophet prioritises his Ahl to his Ahl Albayt in terms of his prayer. As detailed above, there are also some reports that suggest that the Prophet approved the title for his wife (numbers 8 and 9).
Fact Three: The hadith in Muslim (number 1) does not indicate that Ahl Albayt are restricted to these personalities. The hadith in Sunan Beyhaqqi (number 2) is not about Ahl Albayt; in fact it suggests that these personalities are Ahl of the Prophet and not his Ahl Albayt. A companion is also included in Ahl. The rest of the Ahadith are different versions of a same incident that happened in the house of Umme Salama. Many of these different versions are in conflict to each other. Hadith number 4 is also in clear conflict with Hadith number 2 (in terms of who is Ahl and who is Ahl Albayt).
Looking at the other ahadith (other than Kasa) about the phrase Ahl Albayt, I want to establish the forth fact as well:
Fact Four: There are other ahadith in which either the Prophet or his companions or his wives are referring to wives of the Prophet as Ahl Albayt. Some of these are even narrated in Shia books.
We now have two choices:
To look at the above collection of often conflicting versions of the hadith and then to decide what version supports our point of view and stick to that version while closing eyes on the other versions and then try to understand the Qur’an in the light of that very version of Hadith.
To look at the whole picture in the light of the Qur’an to find out what makes better sense and to form or if needed correct our belief accordingly.
I go for the second choice:
Let us assume that all the ahadith were gone and we were left only with the Qur’an. I think any rational thinking human being would then agree that the whole verse of 33:33 refers to the wives of the Prophet.
Now let us add the ahadith to our perspective. In the light of the Qur’an, my rationality tells me that what happens was that (out of his love for his daughter, son in law and grand sons) the Prophet wanted to include these personalities in the primary addressees of the verse 33:33. Therefore he gathered them all close to himself and read the last part of the verse 33:33 to ask the same treatment (as described in 33:33) for them. Upon asking by his wife that if she is also included in this special prayer of the Prophet, the Prophet assures her that she is in a good position (obviously because the verse was initially revealed about the wives). In some of the ahadith it is suggested that this assurance was by saying something to the effect that “you are in good” while in some other versions it says to the effect that “yes you are also from Ahl Albayt”.
As you see, what I am doing is that I am trying to understand and explain the overall content of Hadith of Kasa in the light of the Qur’an. What the Shia brothers tend to do is to use only a specific interpretation of a specific verse of the Hadith of Kasa and then trying to understand the verse of the Qur’an based on this.
According to Shia brothers, belief in the notion of Ahl Albayt is one of the fundamentals of belief in Islam.
The Qur’an is a clear book of guidance and when it comes to the fundamentals of belief we can always see strength and clarity of expression, repeating the concept and stressing on it throughout the Qur’an. This is despite the fact that these fundamentals of belief were not totally unknown by the people for whom the Qur’an was revealed. Think of the concept of Tawhid (Oneness of God), Prophethood, Angels, Divine Books and the Day of Judgement to see what I mean.
Now at the first point I cannot see why when it comes to the notion of Ahl Albayt (as put by our Shia brothers), we only arrive on one verse and yet the verse has to be understood out of the context. Moreover the popular phrase of Ahl Albayt has to be interpreted differently from what is generally understood from the phrase. Also a specific version of a single Hadith (or very few ahadith) should be used to understand the (supposedly) correct meaning of the verse.
If for the sake of discussion we agree that such a vague and misguiding way of expression can be used in the book of guidance to establish a concept, then in the next step, the same problem occurs, this time about the Prophet (instead of the Qur’an) and Hadith of Kasa (instead of the verse 33:33).
The Prophet was a very capable religious leader, he always used to talk very clearly and in important matters he used to repeat his words and make sure that all have understood it. In some occasions he used to ask people “did I deliver the message to you” to make sure no doubts remained.
Now the Prophet (supposedly) wants to establish a new meaning for the phrase Ahl Albayt. I cannot think why such an important matter should be done in the privacy of a house where only one person other than people involved can see it (or based on the hadith from Muslim, in a sudden occasion out of the house). Doesn’t such a big message deserve to be announced formally in the crowd like other important messages that the Prophet delivered throughout his life? If the answer to this is that this was merely an incident and the Prophet did not want to use it to establish the supposedly transformed meaning of Ahl Albayt, then my next question would be, “then from what clear and strong evidence a Muslim of our time (or even Muslims at the time of the Prophet) should come to understand the (supposedly) new meaning of the phrase Ahl Albayt”.
At the end let me repeat what was discussed in the link at the beginning of this response that even if for the sake of argument we agree that Ahl Albayt based on Hadith of Kasa exclusively means these five great personalities, (based on the arguments I put forward in that link) this will not prove anything extra ordinary for them and most importantly will not add any thing to our beliefs as Muslims.
In need of your prayers.
As for your second question, the cursing has been prescribed as the last measure after bringing all the possible reasons (and seeing pointless arguments that are only coming out of arrogance). You should also note that inviting to “curse the liar” is also an evidence and reasoning in itself. After all, if the opponent is so sure that the person who debates with him is wrong and is a liar then why should he be worried about that person cursing the liar?
The history is evident that this clever “practical reasoning” proved the falsehood of the opponent as they (those Christians) did not dare to accept the offer.
You should also note that this was a specific directive for the Prophet (sws) and is not a general one for all.
Your answer to the second part of my question negates the first part of the answer. This I say because our Prophet (sws) took only those 4 people, not the ahl-e bait. So the Shia brothers seem correct in giving them preference. Please kindly throw some light on this.
In your second question you asked why cursing instead of reasoning so I only wanted to address this issue. As for the Prophet (sws) taking those great people with him, it is the verse of the Qur’an that directs the two sides to bring the close relatives in order to make it very serious and sensitive. I am not sure what this might imply for our Shiabrothers:
– if they consider this to be an honour for Fatima, Hasanayn and Ali (ra-hum) then for sure it is, may God give us their companionship in the hereafter.
– if they consider this to mean that the verse gives these great personalities a privilege over others in terms of political or religious leadership then please explain in what way you understand this from the verse.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Posted on: 11-Mar-2010
Matamdari and Azadari
What is origin of matam and azadari. What is origin of majlis? Do matam and majlis enjoy any religious basis or these are only cultural activities? Is it fair enough to term both matam and majlisinto haram and halal category or one should not bother about this issue. In a relationship like marriage between sunni and shia one should make these things banned to other spouse or to stop him or her for doing this? Please guide.
Even the learned Shia scholars agree that azadari and majlis in the way that is practiced in our era does not have a very long history and has never been part of the religion. This is nothing but obvious as we do not have any records of such type of azadari during the time of the Prophet (sws), companions or their followers. These practices have cultural and sometimes political roots and this is why in every time and every society it is done in a different way.
As for calling them haram, if they are practicing as part of the corpus of religion then they fall in the category of innovation and become haram.
As for stopping the spouse to participate in these events, this is a matter that needs to be considered on the basis of the case in hand. The relationship between the husband and the wife, the background, education, influence of relatives and many other factors make every case different. However in general it seems like advising in these cases (without expecting it to be immediately effective) usually works much better than aggressive enforcement of the view.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Posted on: 24-Jun-2010
Did Hazrat Ali (rta) and other Imams call them Shi’i?
If Shi‘is are wrong in their beliefs according to sunnis then why did their imams who were close relatives of Hazrat Ali (rta) lead them (shi‘is)? Or in other words what did Shi‘a imams call themselves, sunni or shi‘i?
First, we need to understand our religion from the Qur’an. If we can find the belief of Shia Muslims in the Qur’an then it is correct and if not, then it cannot be correct. This is as simple as that.
Second, if we want to use this argument then nearly every belief or every sect in Islam can be argued to be on the basis of correct premises. Shia itself has been divided into tens of branches, some of which are currently existing. The same question can be asked about all these sects of Shia. The correct method of thinking however is to evaluate people by their arguments rather than to evaluate arguments by looking at people who have said them (this itself is an advice that is narrated from Ali).
Third, if you look at the more reliable narrations from Ali, Hassan, Hussain, Ali b. al-Hussain you do not find any explicit references to the core Shia belief (as we know it today). If you look at the narrations from Muhammad b. Ali and Jafar b. Muhammad you will find two types of narrations from them. Those in which they deny any divine status/position and those in which (quite contrary), they consider divine status/position for each other. Technically speaking many of the latter type of narrators can be proved to be unreliable and weak according to the Shia books of Rijal.
My belief is that Shia Imams used to call themselves with the same title that the Prophet (sws) used to call himself, that is, Muslim.
Verse 22:78 considers this title to be fully satisfactory for us and my belief is that the Shia Imams did not ignore this verse but were in fact among the best who obeyed it.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Kindly comment on Nahj al-Balaghah. Is this truly by Hazrat Ali (ra)? I read “Sermon 3: Sermon of ash-Shiqshiqiyyah.” Please comment.
The book Nahj al-Balagha is a collection of sermons, letters and sayings attributed to Ali (ra) that was collected by Sayyid Radhi in 4th century (died in 404).
Nahj al-Balagha itself does not have any Isnad (chains of narrators), but it is possible to find the Isnad of much of its contents in other sources. It is not possible to rule an overall judgment about the whole book, in terms of reliability. Rather every sermon, letter or saying should be looked at from other sources separately.
An interesting point about Nahj al-Balagha is that while there are a number of places in this book where it is narrated that Ali (ra) was arguing about his right to Khilafa, in no place in this book is there any reference to him being selected by God to be Khalifa or Imam after the prophet (sws) and there is no reference to him being announced as the prophet’s successor. In fact, in all places where these arguments (in favor of Ali having right to Khilafa) are narrated, they are based on kinship and knowledge rather than being appointed.
The Khutba of Sheqsheqya is one example, where you see that despite apparently very open criticism of other companions, there is no mention of Ali (ra) being appointed by the prophet as his successor. This sermon has a few chains of narrators and none of them are flawless, even according to the books of Rijal of Shia.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Hadith about Twelve Imams
My question is about the hadith about the twelve imams. What is your opinion about that hadith? Is it authentic? If it is than who are those imams which are addressed? Shi’is are very much certain that the referred to imams are their imams. If we say they are wrong then who are the imams? If the Shi’is are right then why don’t we accept their views?
As for the Hadith you mentioned, there are a number of points to consider:
1. Hadith on itself is not a source of deriving our obligatory beliefs. Any obligatory belief needs to have its establishment in the Qur’an. If you know of any verses of the Qur’an that says we need to follow certain individuals after the Prophet (sws) then you need to follow that verse, otherwise people who hold a belief based on Ahadith like what you mentioned need to answer the question that why the clear book of guidance that is supposed to include everything for our guidance has not mentioned an obligatory belief.
2. The Hadith you referred to is narrated by Jabir ibn Thamura who at the time was only a kid. He says that the Prophet (sws) said those words in presence of people. The fact that this Hadith is only narrated by Jabir is quite suspicious.
3. The Hadith is not about 12 Imams. It is about 12 Amirs. Amir means someone who has the power in hand. From among the Imams of Shia only Ali (rta) and for a very brief time Hassan (ra) had power.
4. The Hadith does not direct Muslims to follow these 12 Amirs. In fact it does not even say that these 12 Amirs are rightly guided ones. It merely says that at their time Islam is in powerful position. If it was an obligation to follow these Amirs then (beside the fact that it had to come in the Qur’an as well) the Prophet (sws) would have made sure that everyone had heard it and would have made it very clear that following them were obligation.
5. History informs us of existence of only 11 of the Shia Imams. There is no reliable historical evidence about the existence of the 12th Imam of Shia. The existence of the 12th Imam of Shia is mostly argued based on theological and philosophical reasoning rather than any hard historical facts.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Inheritance of the Prophet
When Hazrat Fatimah demanded her right to the Garden of Fidk her claim was denied by the authorities on the force of the following concoction: “We, the Prophets, neither inheret nor are we inherited.”
In her response Hazrat Fatimah quoted the following five verses of the Holy Qur’an against the concocted ḥadīth:
Sūrah al-Namal, verse 16.
Sūrah Maryam, verse 6.
Sūrah al-Anfal, verse 75.
Sūrah al-Nisa, verse 11.
Sūrah al-Baqarah, verse 180.
The first two verses mention the fact that some of the Prophets inherited and were inherited. The last three verses mention the rules governing the inheritance issues. Hazrat Fatimah said: O son of Abū Qahafah (Abū Bakr), where does the Qur’an say that you inherit the property left over by your father and I am deprived of what my father left? Please comment to this issue sent to me by a Shi‘i brother.
I would like to answer your question from three perspectives, from a broader view to a more technical view:
1. Structural Perspective:
I would like to bring to your attention that the issue of Fadak will only become a religious issue if we look at it as part of a wider religious debate where the subject of Fadak is only one of the many branches of the theory of divine Imamah.
If we look at this branch without looking at the root then we are merely looking at a historical incident that will have nothing to do what so ever with our understanding of Islam and with our life as Muslims.
If we however look at this branch as part of the root then suddenly everything starts to find its right place as a religious (and not a mere historical) issue. From this perspective the real subject of the debate is not over a peace of land, but is over the religious and political authority after the prophet (pbuh). If we accept the view that ‘after the prophet (pbuh) there were supposed to be certain divinely appointed infallible Imams from the generation of the prophet (pbuh)’ then we have no choice but to consider the companions who became Khalifa after the prophet (pbuh) as those who went against a divine law. Consequently, with this understanding, we do not need to even bother looking at the historical details of the issue of Fadak. We can easily and simply declare that Abubakr (ra) oppressed Fatima (ra-ha) by denying her the land of Fadak with the same motive that made him denying Ali (ra) his right to Khilafah.
If we appreciate this perspective, then what we need to do is to concentrate on the root not on the branch. We need to discuss the stance of the Qur’an on Imamah and whether there are any verses in the Qur’an that clearly instruct us or categorically inform us about certain divinely appointed infallible Imams after the prophet (pbuh). If we find such verses in the Qur’an then our stance on the issue of Fadak is predetermined. If not, then the issue of Fadak will be a mere historical issue with no bearings on our religion or on us as Muslims.
2. Methodological Perspective:
Following from the above, another point that needs to be appreciated is that if we hold absolutely no assumptions and prejudgments, then we are simply dealing with a disagreement between two personalities. When we read those reports that have at least a relative degree of reliability in bothShia and Sunni sources we do not find anything to suggest that either of the parties were insincere in their claims. We found both Fatima (ra -ha) and Abubakr (ra) to appear very genuine in expressing their points of views. As for Abubakr (ra) we read reports that indicate his genuine sadness about the fact that he cannot provide Fatima (ra-ha) with what she demands.
By default, in situation like the above, we should assume that perhaps one of the two parties made a genuine mistake in his/her judgement. However it seems like we simply dismiss this possibility and assume that one of the two parties has to be the oppressor! We assume that if we prove Fatima (ra-ha) right then that means Abubakr (ra) was an oppressor and vice versa. We then become defensive in accordance to the sect that we belong to!
The methodological flaw that I see in this approach is that we are approaching the story of Fadak based on an assumption that is not yet discussed and established, and that is, Fatima (ra-ha) was divinely protected from any sort of mistakes (a quality that even the prophet – pbuh – did not have), and that people, including Abubakr (ra), knew this.
Unless the above can be proved we have absolutely no reason to apply such a black and white approach to the story of Fadak.
3. Technical Perspective:
After explaining a broader perspective above, I would now like to make some technical comments about the issue of inheritance, the prophets and the verses of the Qur’an that are often referred to. I would like to make it clear that my intention is not at all to prove one side of the debate wrong. I am only trying to show that each side of the debate have some points, worthy of thinking.
3.1. It is true that the general instruction of the verses of the Qur’an on inheritance is that women should inherit from their fathers (4:11, 2:180, verse 8:75 is also referred to in the question but I do not see it relevant here). However we also know that it is an agreed upon principle among the Shiaand the Sunni schools of thought that the Hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) can excempt or specify a directive of the Qur’an. There are many examples of this, for instance the Qur’an directed the companions to give Zakah to poor, it was only the Hadith and the practice of the Prophet (pbuh) that made it clear that this Zakah was forbidden for his family. Therefore from both Shia or Sunni schools of thought it will not be unlikely to accept that based on a Hadith by the prophet (pbuh) he was exempted from the general rule of inheritance.
3.2. It is true that verses 27:16 and 19:6 are using the derivatives of the word ‘Irth’ (inheritance) for prophets, however a simple search on the use of the derivatives of the word ‘Irth’ in the Qur’an clearly shows that these words have not always been used in the meaning of inheriting money or property. They have also been used for other (yet similar) meanings like leaving a responsibility or receiving a great blessing. For instance we can look at the following verses:
“Then We gave the Book as inheritance unto those whom We elected of Our bondmen …” 35:32
“And We verily gave Moses the guidance, and We made the Children of Israel to inherit the Book” 40:53
“It is they (the true believers) who will be the inheritors, who shall inherit paradise, and will remain in it forever.” 23:10
Verses 27:15-17 are referring to the blessings that God gave to David and Suleman. It is in this context that verse 127:6 starts with this statement: “and Suleman inherited from David”. Looking at the context, the inheritance here is the responsibility of being the next messenger of God and the requirements of this responsibility in terms of knowledge and wisdom. Otherwise, if this was about Suleman inheriting only money and property from David then the verse was totally irrelevant to the context and also of little importance in terms of the guidance of the Qur’an.
Same as the above and even more obvious is the verse 19:6. Which one makes more sense, Zakariya praying to God to give him a son so that he could inherit the moneys and properties of him and the family of Jacob (and we know according to the reports that Zakariya was not a wealthy man)? … or Zakariya praying to God to give him a son to carry out the responsibility of prophethood that was running in the family of Zakariya? Look at the reference to ‘Kitaab’ (Book) in verse 19:12 where it says “Oh Yaheya take (and hold) the Book strongly …”. Compare this with the use of the same word (Book) in verses 35:42, 40:53 where it says the Book was inherited.
3.3. When we look at the sources of Ahadith of Shia Muslims, we find in the book Kafi a narration that is considered as authentic by a number of Shia scholars. The narration is as follows:
“… verily the people of knowledge are the inheritors of the prophets. The Prophets did not leave dinars and dirhams as inheritance, but they left knowledge.” (al-Kafi, vol. 1 p. 34, section: The merits of people of knowledge and seekers of knowledge)
I do agree that the above Hadith may be interpreted in a symbolic way, as some Shia brothers argue, however the fact remains that what is narrated from Abubakr (ra) refers to a broad concept that is the same as the one that is given in the above Hadith.
3.4. We need to appreciate that if Fadak was to be inherited by Fatima (ra-ha) then by the rules of inheritance it had to be distributed, according to the rules of the Qur’an, between the inheritors of the prophet (pbuh) who at the time included not only Fatima (ra – ha) but also the wives of the prophet (pbuh) and his uncle Abbas (ra). Question remains that on what basis the whole Fadak could have been given to only one of the inheritors. In fact we have reports saying that some of the wives of the prophet (pbuh) demanded inheritance but Ayesha (ra-ha) reminded them that the prophet (pbuh) does not leave any inheritance.
3.5. If Fadak was really the right of Fatima (ra-ha) by the way of inheriting from the prophet of God (pbuh), then it was in fact the duty of the ruler to implement this right. We know that Ali (ra) became the ruler after Uthman (ra) and we also know that he did not transfer the land of Fadak to Hassan and Hussain (ra-huma) as the inheritors of Fatima (ra-ha). Why is that?
In fact we read in Sharhe Nahj al-Balagha (an explanatory book by a Mutzili scholar, ibn abil-Hadeed, on the Shia source of narrations from Ali – ra – we find this report:
“When Ali (ra) became ruler he was referring to the issue of returning the land of Fadak and said: “I feel ashamed of God to return a thing that Abubakr forbade and Umar confirmed (its forbiddance).” (Sharh al-Nahj al-Balagha, 16:252).
Whether the above report is authentic or not,the above question still applies.
Apart from the above, as further reading, you might like to read a rather long narration in Bukhari, vol. 8. Book 80, No. 720. You can find it here: http://www.sahih-bukhari.com/Pages/Bukhari_8_80.php
I repeat again that by the above technical points I had no intention to defend one side of the argument. Obviously our Shia brothers explain and justify their stance on the basis of what is narrated from Fatima (ra-ha). I only wanted to explain the other side of the story.
As I explained at the start of this post, there can only be two possibilities:
– The issue of Fadak being seen as a branch of the discussion on the theory of Imamah.
In the above case, the more rational approach is to spend time discussing the core issue (Imamah) rather than wasting time discussing one of the branches of the core issue.
– The issue of Fadak being seen as a stand alone issue, disregard of the discussion on the theory ofImamah.
In this case, this will be merely a historical issue that has no bearing on our understanding of Islam and on our life as Muslims.
I hope this helps and please do not hesitate to let us know if more clarification is needed.
According to our understanding no Hadith can specify general directives of the Qur’an. The point however is whether all the instructions of the Qur’an are equally applied to the prophet (pbuh). We know from the established facts of the life of the prophet (pbuh) and his Sunnah that this was not the case for a number of issues like Zakah for his family, number of wives and obligation of the prayer of Tahajjud. Another way of looking at this is that prophet (pbuh) saying that what the prophets leave is not for inheritance but is for charity, is in fact his will (that according to the Hadith is applied to all prophets). The Qur’an does make it clear that any inheritance needs to be distributed only after implementing the will of the deceased (4:11).
Author: Abdullah Rahim
The Imams and the Ḥadīth Narrators
If there are seven hundred thousand narrators whose life history has been recorded in the books of asma al-rajal through whom we have to glance the very word of Holy Prophet (May peace be upon him) than does this not mean that we are accepting, instead of these 12 persons (shi‘ī imams) who are considered infalliable, whole seven hundred thousand persons as infalliale?
My answer to the above is: Not at all.
Please let me explain in a few bullet points:
1. Shia Muslims consider the 12 Imams to be infallible. They therefore do not find it necessary to rely only on the Ahadith that are reported from the Prophet (pbuh). This is why if you look at the Shia books of Hadith like al-Kafi, al-Tahzeeb, al-Istibsaar and Man La Yahzorahu al-Faqih you will find that the vast majority of the narrations end to one of the Shia Imams (usually the 5th and the 6th Imam). In fact you need to spend some time searching in the main Shia books of Hadith to find a Hadith that is narrated from the Prophet (pbuh). This obviously is because of the fact that Shia Muslims consider the Shia Imams to be infallible and the divine sources of religious guidance after the Prophet (pbuh). Obviously these narrations cannot be considered as Hujjah (indisputable reason and evidence) by non-Shia Muslims who do not hold the same belief.
2. Just as there are rijal (narrators) who have narrated Ahadith from the Prophet (pbuh), there are also rijal (narrators) who have narrated Ahadith from the Shia Imams. If you think accepting the narrations of rijal in non-Shia Hadith means believing that they are infallible, then you have to apply the same assumption to the rijal of Shia books (an assumption that is wrong, as explained in the next point).
3. Accepting a Hadith does not mean to believe its narrators are infallible. If you accept a news that some one gives you does that mean that you consider that person to be infallible? It actually only means that you have trusted that person for that news. Same applies to when people accept a Hadith. It simply means that they have trusted the narrators of that Hadith. There are many scholarly books that give us information about the life and degree of trustworthiness of these narrators (Shia or non-Shia) and there is a whole body of discipline that provides methods and ways to analyse whether a narrator or a hadith can be relied on.
4. The most important criteria for assessment of a Hadith is to compare it with the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Hadith on itself is not a primary source of understanding Islam. Only the Qur’an and the Sunnah are the primary sources of understanding the Qur’an.
Please do not hesitate to write to us if you like any clarification or if you have more questions about this subject.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
The Basis of Imamat in the Quran
Please refer to “Sura Nisa Aya 59 (004.059) which reads:
O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination.”
My question pertains to the above-mentioned sura. The translation is Yousuf Ali’s. I have seen your take on this Sura, in which you have categorically rejected the Shia’s interpretation that the Shia’s claim that ‘the men of authority’ are their Imams and their masoomiat (infallibility) is proven here. You reason that the Shia interpretation is not according the Qur’an. You further add that if the ‘men of authority’ were maasoom and were to be followed like the Prophet (pbuh), then “if ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger…” part would not have followed the ‘men of authority’ part. What I do not understand that how does the latter part negate the Shia interpretation. It can be said that ‘men of authority’ are the Imams and in case of any dispute the Imams also refer back to Qur’an and Sunnah to pass their judgments. I know that what you claim about this aya can also be true but at the same time the Shia claim also holds promise. At best all that can be said that this aya does not prove for certain the Shia claim, however it does provide a basis for their validity of their Imams; which is exactly your point of view: that all theahadith/riwayaat must have a basis in Qur’an.
Please let me start with commenting on the conclusion you made in your question before giving you a more technical answer about the verse.
“At best all that can be said that this aya does not prove for certain the Shia claim, however it does provide a basis for their validity of their Imams; which is exactly your point of view: that all theahadith/riwayaat must have a basis in Qur’an.”
I don’t see the above statement to be a self-consistent one. If the verse of the Qur’an does not establish an understanding that relates to our faith, then how we can say that it provides the basis for it? What kind of base this is that (as you wrote) does not even provide any certainty about the concept?
My dear brother, if we want to lower our expectations of the book that is supposed to be Mizaan and Furqan (measure and separator for truth) to this level, then we can find basis of almost any sectarian belief in the Qur’an. This is exactly what all the sects of Islam and also those who claimed prophethood after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) are and were doing. They first decide what their faith is, then they try to find a verse of the Qur’an that can be interpreted as such. This is not the way that we are supposed to learn from the Qur’an. We are supposed to be led by the Qur’an not to lead the Qur’an towards our opinions.
It is beyond my understanding that why the Qur’an needs to be (supposedly) so brief, vague, complicated and implicit about what is supposed to be one of the most important aspects of faith (that is, belief in infallible Imams after the prophet – pbuh). If this verse is supposed to be the basis for such a fundamental theory then in what way the Qur’an claims to have clearly separated truth from the false (2:256)?. To say that the verse you referred to provides the basis for such a fundamental theory, not only degrades the Qur’an but also puts the whole God’s guidance under question.
Now let me make some technical comments about the verse:
1. Expressions always have a clear and a default meaning. We are only allowed to change this meaning when there is a strong evidence for it. Ulil Amr Minkum, simply means “Those in Charge Among You”. This is very crystal clear. To say that this can be only one meaning and another meaning could be Divinely Appointed Infallible Imams simply means to refuse the default and appear meaning of the verse and to assume a very distant and specific meaning for it. This needs a strong evidence in the verse itself and I can not see such evidence. In fact the very point that Ulil Amr are not included as points of reference at the end of the verse backs up its default and clear meaning. So as soon as you agree that the verse can be interpreted in its apparent meaning, you need to do that and to accept that meaning, unless you can bring a strong evidence to suggest that the verse cannot be interpreted as it appears.
2. You wrote ” in case of any dispute the Imams also refer back to Qur’an and Sunnah to pass their judgments”. I’m afraid this is not what the verse is saying. The verse says: “In case YOU had any dispute about something (YOU) refer it to the Qur’an and the Prophet (pbuh).” YOU in the verse cannot mean Ulil Amr. It can only mean those people who were instructed to follow God, the Prophet (pbuh) and the Ulil Amr. It may include Ulil Amr as well but it cannot be only Ulil Amr. If the verse wanted to give the meaning that you suggested, it had to say “In case you had any dispute about something THEY (i.e. Ulil Amr) should refer it to the Qur’an and the Prophet (pbuh).”.
3. If Ulil Amr in the verse referred to infallible Imams, then when it says at the end of the verse that in case of dispute you need to refer to God and the Prophet (pbuh) it would have added Ulil Amras well. In other words it would have said: “and if you disputed in anything then refer it to God and the prophet and the Ulil Amr”. It does not say that, simply because other than God and (with His protection) the Prophet (pbuh), no other infallible source was available or was going to be made available.
4. Look at verse 83 of the same Sura. It says instead of spreading any news related to security or fear, they should have referred it to the Prophet (pbuh) and those in charge. If we consider Ulil Amr to mean Imams that come after the Prophet (pbuh) then what the relevance of this verse was to its primary addressee, that is, the companions? Also, does this mean that at the time of an ‘infallible’ Imam, if there comes a news about security or fear, instead of referring it to the head of the army or other people in charge, we need to keep it secret and only reveal it to the infallible Imam? Is this even practical?
5. Similar to the above, just imagine what could the primary addressees of this verse possibly understand from it if Ulil Amr meant infallible Imams to come after the Prophet (pbuh). Please note that according to the theory of Imamah, the Prophet (pbuh) himself was an Imam, so by definition of this theory the Prophet (pbuh) himself was one of the Ulil Amr. So the verse according to this theory would have the following meaning for its primary addressees: “Obey God and obey the Prophet and THOSE in charge of affairs (that again means the Prophet – pbuh – only as he was the only Imam of his time”!
6. If Ulil Amr meant an infallible Imam (who according to the theory of Imamah can only be one individual at any time) then instead of plural, it should have been singular. It is plural because it simply refers to any one in charge of affairs, which obviously can be more than one person at any time.
7. Obviously following Imams who are divinely appointed and infallible would be a fundamental part of the religion. In that case why only this verse is supposedly referring to this important concept? There are numerous verses of the Qur’an where the instruction is to follow God and the Prophet (pbuh) – 3:32, 3:132, 4:69, 5:92, 8:1, 8:20, 8:46, 24:54, 47:33, 58:13, 64:12 – why following Ulil Amr is not included in any of these to establish the foundation of the theory ofImamah?
8. In Nahjulbalaghah, a book that is believed by our Shia brothers to contain authentic sermons, letters and statements by Ali (ra), there is a letter to Maalik al-Ashtar, the governer of Ali (ra) for Egypt. This is letter number 53. The letter contains instructions and advice to Maalik al-Ashtar. Part of the letter reads as follows:
“When you are faced with problems which you cannot solve or with a difficult situation from which you cannot escape or when uncertain and doubtful circumstances confuse and perplex you, then turn to Allah and the Holy Prophet (s) because Allah has thus ordered those whom He wants to guide. The way to turn to Allah is to act diligently according to the clear and explicit orders given in His Holy Book and to the turn to the Holy Prophet (s) means to follow those of his orders about which there is no doubt and ambiguity and which have been generally accepted to be correctly recorded.”
It is clear from the above that according to the author of this letter, Maalik was an Ulil Amr and he was advised to follow the instruction of the Qur’an and to refer to the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) in case of problems. If to the author of this letter, Ulil Amr meant infallible Imams, then the above advice should have been something to this effect:
“When you are faced with problems which you cannot solve … , then refer it to me (as your Ulil Amr) and I will solve it for you in accordance to the Qur’an and the Sunnah.”
9. The vast majority of Shia brothers in our era (who are Usuli Imami Shia) consider the Qur’an, as we have it today, to be immune of any man made changes. It is perhaps the fact that the verse (as it is) is irrelevant and in fact contrary to the theory of Imamah that has prompted some Shiascholars of the past to quote narrations suggesting that the correct ending of the verse, as it was revealed, was as follows:
“… and if you found dispute on something then refer it to God and the Prophet ‘and the Ulil Amrfrom among you’ …”
(al-Kaafi, 1:276, Tafseer of Qumi, 1:141, Tafseer Ayyashi, 1:254).
May God guide all of us (Shia and Sunni) to understand our religion from the Qur’an and then to evaluate our beliefs accordingly, rather than the other way round. Ameen.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
The Basis of Imamat in the Qur’an II
Thank you very much for your reply. It gives me a great opportunity to correspond with you and learn. My idea is to discuss any Islam-related issue with an open mind. Before I write any further please see my response to your following statements:
My dear brother, if we want to lower our expectations of the book that is supposed to be Mizaanand Furqan (measure and separator for truth) to this level, then we can find basis of almost any sectarian belief in the Qur’an. This is exactly what all the sects of Islam and also those who claimed prophethood after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) are and were doing. They first decide what their faith is, then they try to find a verse of the Qur’an that can be interpreted as such. This is not the way that we are supposed to learn from the Qur’an. We are supposed to be led by the Qur’an not to lead the Qur’an towards our opinions.
At this point let us make any conclusions such as “.us wanting to lower expectation of the book”, since it is too early to say whether we are lowering the expectations of the Book or may be probing further deep in to the ayas of the Book.
After having received your reply, I feel very encouraged and assured to exchange my views with you. But first I want to have a clarification: this and the subsequent replies are directly from Ghamidi Sahib or someone else?
Now, I come back to the question about Imamah and Sura Nisa Aya 59 (004.059). I am not discussing shiaism. I consider myself a student of Islam and thus consider any explanation and teachings from any source and/or interpretation of Islam (may it be sunnism, shiaism, wahabism, or even Ahmidiyat etc). It is just that during my own independent study of Islamic texts, I stumbled upon the concept of Imamat. When I checked this concept in Qur’an and the parallel Islamic texts of Sunnis it did seem that Imamat found its support (however small or large it may be). After all Al-Azhar university did pass a fatwa validating Shiaism as the fifth option for Sunnis.
When I checked Ghamidi Sahib’s take on Imamat, I found he had rejected it on the reason that it did not find any basis in Qur’an, hence all the reported Ahadith (even by authentic sunni sources) are wrong and not trust-worthy. Well, Ghamidi Sahib’s logic is a strong one, indeed: Qur’an must provide the basis for every Ahadith. Now, applying this same principle of Ghamidi Sahib’s, what could be a justification of 5 prayers whereas the Qur’an (to my knowledge) does not mention the total number of the daily salahs. In one of the ayas of Salah (sorry I do not have the aya no.), Qur’an only mentions three time slots, without mentioning the number of salahs. So, by the same principle of Ghamidi Sahib’s, all the ahadith etc. mandating 5 daily salahs should be rejected and instead only 3 daily salahs should be performed.
Talking specifically about Sura Nisa Aya 59 (004.059), I again say that although it does not prove for certain Imamat, but it also does not say the Ulil Amr cannot be the Shia Imams. On the other hand, if all the ahadith about the Shia Imams (Sunni/shia sources) are taken into consideration then those imams can be said to be the best of Ulil Amr. In other words, Imamat in this sense does not seem to really an un-Qur’anic concept. Now how Shias understand Imamat is a different issue, but I think before challenge the Shia’s current concept of Imamat, we need to prove that the concept of Imams has no place in Qur’an. From what I have seen from your and Ghamidi’s arguments, it cannot be said with certainty that Imamat is an un-Islamic concept.
May God guide all of us (Shia and Sunni) to understand our religion from the Qur’an and then to evaluate our beliefs accordingly, rather than the other way round.
The answer is given by the person whose name is at the end of this post, who is a student of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi.
Please let me start with the last line in your post. You wrote:
“May God guide all of us (Shia and Sunni) to understand our religion from the Qur’an”
I would like to make it clear that I am not a Shia or a Sunni, I am only trying my best to be a Muslim.
I would like to comment on your writings in a number of bullet points as there are a number of points that you raised in your response. I am not doing this in the same order as in your post, I would like to start with some fundamental points that you raised near the end of your post:
1. You wrote: ” if all the ahadith about the Shia Imams (Sunni/shia sources) are taken into consideration then those imaams can be said to be the best of Ulil Amr.” I am not sure whatAhadith you are referring to but in any case if this is what you mean by Imamah then I have absolutely no problem with this concept and do not expect this to be in the Qur’an. This will not be a religious subject any more, but will be a historical one, and hugely subjective to the matter of opinion and personal preferences. The only concept of Imamah that I expect to be in the Qur’an is the one that has some sort of divine feature in it (infallibility, appointed by God, obligation to follow only them, etc.).
2. You wrote: “Now how Shias understand Imamat is a different issue, but I think before challenge the Shia’s current concept of Imamat, we need to prove that the concept of Imams has no place in Qur’an.”
I am sorry but I fail to understand the above statement. My understanding is that we are discussing the concept of Imamah, as presented by our Imami Shia brothers (i.e. a God appointed infallible person from generation of the prophet – pbuh – who we as Muslims are obliged to follow). If this is not the concept that we are discussing then there can only be two possibilities:
– We are discussing Imamah in its general meaning of ‘leader’. In this case I have absolutely no disagreement with you. In fact in this meaning I do not even expect the Qur’an to give us any directives. It is a common sense to have leader when such a leader is available.
– We are discussing Imamah in a meaning that you have understood and is more specific than the above general meaning but is also different from the meaning that it has for our Imami Shiabrothers. In this case I would like you to please clearly what its meaning is.
I think we first need to settle the above points and then there might not be any need for further discussion. However for the benefit of those who might be interested, I move on to comment on the other points you raised in your post:
3. You wrote: ” it is too early to say whether we are lowering the expectations of the Book or may be probing further deep in to the ayas of the Book”. This is exactly where I see the problem. Every other matter of faith is clearly and repeatedly not only mentioned in the Qur’an, but is in fact established in the Qur’an. Verses 2:285 and 4:136 are telling us what our obligatory beliefs are and then if you open any page of the Qur’an, you will most probably find at least one of these beliefs being referred to. How come when it comes to the concept of Imamah suddenly we are in need of probing further deep into verses of the Book? How come the style of the Book is changed when it comes to this concept? Either the concept is not an important one or the Qur’an is not consistent in its guidance and does not provide clear guidance as it says!
4. You wrote that you found the support of Imamah in the Qur’an. You also wrote that you agree that the verse 59 in Sura of Nisaa does not prove Imamah. I have a few questions:
– Please let me know what verse of the Qur’an does prove Imamah.
– If you find that no verse of the Qur’an clearly proves Imamah then please let me know what does that tell us? What does this mean to you?
– If you believe that while there are no proof of Imamah in the Qur’an there are evidences of it in the Book then please let me know where these evidences are.
– If you are referring to the same verse in Sura of Nisaa (59) as evidence then I request you to kindly address the comments I made in my first post where I tried to explain for you why to me the verse is not only NOT about the concept of Imamah, but is in fact opposed to it.
5. It is not very accurate to say al-Azhar issued fatwa validating Shia’ism as the fifth option for Sunnies. Firstly it was the personal opinion of the head of al-Azhar at the time. Second if you read the fatwa itself you will see that he is not referring to the beliefs of Shia, he is only referring to theShia as a Feqhi (Jurisprudence) school of thought, this is why he refers to Jafari school of thought. He writes at the end of his letter: ” it is permissible to the non-Mujtahid to follow them and to accord with their teaching whether in worship (Ibadaat) or transactions (Mu’amilaat)”. I have absolutely no problem with the Jafari school of thought as a Feqhi school, in fact I like and at times prefer some of the aspects of this Feqhi school of thought. I do not consider Imam Jafar al-Sadiq as a person who believed in the theory of Imamah or a person who considered himself as a God appointed infallible Imam.
6. To compare prayers with Imamah is like comparing apples with oranges. Prayer is a practice,Imamah is a matter of belief. When it comes to practice we have another source that is Sunnah (note, I am not saying Hadith, by Sunnah I mean the religious practices mostly originated from Nuh (pbuh) and Ibrahim (pbuh), that the prophet (pbuh) established among the Muslims of his time). Having said that, I am thankful to you for raising this example. In fact it is very helpful if we compare the two in the Qur’an. Prayer is only a matter of practice and a concept that people knew even before the prophet (pbuh), yet look how much the Qur’an has invested on it. There are more than 80 verses in the Qur’an where the importance of prayer and some of its conditions are clearly and with no need for too much analysis are given. Naturally after seeing all these, a Muslim will ask, what is this prayer that the Qur’an has put so much emphasis on and then he will seek the Sunnah of the prophet (pbuh) to see exactly how prayer can be performed. Is it not strange that when it comes to Imamah that is supposed to be an important part of our faith (without which, according to those who believe in it, our faith is not complete) there is not even one (let alone 80) clear verse in the Qur’an?
7. You wrote: ” In one of the ayas of Salah ( sorry I donot have the aya no.) ,Qur’an only mentions three time slots, without mentioning the number of salahs. So, by the same principle of Ghamdi Sahib’s, all the ahadith etc mandating 5 daily salahs should be rejected and instead only 3 dailysalahs should be performed”.
You are referring to verse 17:78. The verse is not counting the number of prayers, but is mentioning the time periods during which the five daily prayers need to be read. All the learned Shia and Sunni scholars agree with this in principle. Also please note that the primary source of understanding the number of prayers is not Hadith, but is Sunnah.
8. You wrote: “Talking specifically about Sura Nisa Aya 59 (004.059), I again say that although it does not prove for certain Imamat, but it also does not say the Ulil Amr cannot be the ShiaImams.”
I think it does, unless we consider Shia Imams to be ordinary human beings who can make mistakes and errors and who are not appointed by God and who do not have access to hidden knowledge and who may or may not be followed depending on the majority vote, then I fully agree with you.
However if by Shia Imams you mean the same that Shia Muslims mean, that is, God appointed Imams who are infallible, who have occasional access to the hidden knowledge and who are to be followed by Muslims as an obligation then for the reasons that I explained in my earlier post and the ones I explained above, the verse in fact does rule out such meaning for the term Ulil Amr.
9. From reading your post, I got an impression that you have noted many Ahadith in authentic sources that prove the theory of Imamah. I am not aware of any of these and appreciate it if you please quote a few. It seems like my persistence to bring evidence from the Qur’an has created a misunderstanding that I appreciate there are evidences in the authentic Hadith. I can assure you this is not the case.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Basis of Imamat in the Quran III
In your previous response you mentioned:
1. You wrote: “If all the ahadith about the Shia Imams (Sunni/shia sources) are taken into consideration then those imaams can be said to be the best of Ulil Amr.” I am not sure what Ahadith you are referring to but in any case if this is what you mean by Imamah then I have absolutely no problem with this concept and do not expect this to be in the Qur’an. This will not be a religious subject any more, but will be a historical one, and hugely subjective to the matter of opinion and personal preferences. The only concept of Imamah that I expect to be in the Qur’an is the one that has some sort of divine feature in it (infallibility, appointed by God, obligation to follow only them, etc.).
2. You wrote: “Now how Shias understand Imamat is a different issue, but I think before challenge the Shia’s current concept of Imamat, we need to prove that the concept of Imams has no place in Koran.”
I am sorry but I fail to understand the above statement. My understanding is that we are discussing the concept of Imamah, as presented by our Imami Shia brothers (i.e. a God appointed infallible person from generation of the prophet – pbuh – who we as Muslims are obliged to follow). If this is not the concept that we are discussing then there can only be two possibilities:
– We are discussing Imamah in its general meaning of ‘leader’. In this case I have absolutely no disagreement with you. In fact in this meaning I do not even expect the Qur’an to give us any directives. It is a common sense to have leader when such a leader is available.
As I understand, Ghamadi Sahib reasons that since the concept of Imamat has no basis in Koran, all the ahadith/riwayaat on Shia Imaams are invalid. It seems that Ghamidi Sahib did not care to study those shia sources on Imamat because he has ruled them out due to the reason mentioned earlier. Now, my only aim is to establish whether ‘Shia Imaams’ is a valid notion or not. I divide this exercise in two steps: the first step is to see whether does Koran leave any room for special people who are nominated/ recommended/ proposed/ appointed by our Prophet (PBUH) as the leaders of ummah, and the second step is to see whether are those special people worthy of the attributes such as infallibility. So for now I am only focused on the first step independent of the second step. So, right now, I do not care that the Shias think these special people are their Imams and are infallible.
As I understand, if Shia Imams are just the best of Ulil Amr, then you have “absolutely no problem with this concept and do not expect this to be in the Qur’an. This will not be a religious subject any more, but will be a historical one,…..”. If you (or Ghamadi Sahib) have no reservations with this, then why not study the Shia (historical) sources on these ‘ best of Ulilo Amr’. If our Prophet (PBUH) nominated/recommended/proposed/appointed special people for leadership after him, is He (PBUH) doing against the commandments of Koran (Allah)? I can think of two answers to the question: (1) there is no need for Koran to say anything about it (but this will be a very weak argument. It will be better if this act of our Prophet (PBUH) has some basis from Koran), or (2) Koran says something, even generically, validating this act of Prophet (PBUH), like verse 59 sura Nissa. Through this verse, Allah commands us to follow Ulil Amr, and our Prophet (PBUH) then nominates/appoints some special people who are the best leaders of Muslims among the whole Ummah. Now, whether these special people (Prophet appointed/nominated Ulil Amr) are infallible or not, may not be very important right now. All that matters is that they were nominated/appointed as the Muslim leaders by our Prophet (PBUH) whose ‘Ita’at’ is a must on us, whose act or words are not against the word of Allah. You also say “It is a common sense to have leader when such a leader is available.”.
I was trying to find what I would consider as the best representative of your approach to understanding Islam and I found this statement:
“The basis does not have to be a clearly written aya on Imamat itself, but can also be an all inclusive statement of Allah that also covers the Shia Imams, which our Prophet (PBUH) can elucidate in abundance. If such a hint is mentioned … in Koran, then the Shia sources on Imamat … become valid, become worth-exploring, cannot be rejected merely because it has no hint in Koran.”
I would like to comment on the above statement from two perspectives, the methodology and the content:
In terms of methodology:
I think the above approach treats the Qur’an not as the definite book of guidance but as a poetic or mystical book that can lead the reader to almost any direction, depending what hints the reader might perceive in it. Apart from the fact that this treatment is against the verses of the Qur’an itself, it also has a huge practical problem:
Why should you limit yourself to the 12er Imami Shias? Why not searching the truth by reading the sources of other sects of Shia who have different Imams like Zaidi Shia, Esmayeelee Shia and the rest? Moreover, I can assure you that one may easily find something in the Qur’an that one may perceive as a hint supporting Bahai faith, Qadyani faith, Ibadi faith, Nation of Islam faith, Druze faith, Alawi faith, etc. so why not reading all those sources in search of the truth as well?
So basically you will have to spend your entire life reading about any sects of Muslims that has been emerged trying to find out which one might be the true one. While this is an admirable search for the truth and will be a very educating experience, this sought after guidance is far from the guidance that the Qur’an has promised to be so clear and vivid (2:256).
The only way to come out from this never-ending wondering around different sects is to practically accept the Qur’an as the definite authority and not a book that limits itself in giving only hints about some of the most important beliefs in Islam (that is the theory of Imamah).
In terms of content:
I have a number of reservations about the premises behind the above statement:
1. You refer to hint and general inclusiveness of the verse 4:59. I don’t see that. I have tried to write in my past posts why verse 4:59 to my understanding is in conflict with the concept of Imamah. I have not yet seen you addressing these points.
2. Why do you invest so much on what you consider a hint in a verse of the Qur’an but do not give much credit to the many verses of the Qur’an that go against the theory of Imamah, including those verses that praise the companions and indicate that we need to follow their path (e.g. 9:100)? Don’t you think that these verses are directly or indirectly against the theory of Imamah? Is God misguiding us? He has not given us a single verse to clearly instruct us to follow certain infallible Imams but then he praises the companions a lot and gives us a verse like 9:100 that explicitly advises us to follow their path, the same people who ‘assumingly’ took away the right of those Imams and misguided people as the result. Is this what the Qur’an refers to as clear guidance?!
3. You wrote the prophet (pbuh) has elucidated on Imamah in abundance. I am not sure narrations you are referring to. There is absolutely no reliable reference to the Shia concept of 12 Imams in the mainstream sources. Even in Shia sources you can hardly find a narration by the prophet (pbuh) instructing about the 12 Imams that would be considered as reliable even by Shia standards.
4. You refer to Shia sources on Imamah. Let us be specific. The main Shia sources are as follows:
– Nahj al-Balagha attributed to Ali (ra). Not only there is nothing about the Imamah theory in this book, there are plenty there that goes explicitly against the theory of Imamah. You can find the book here, http://www.al-islam.org/nahj/ please have a look and see if you can find any reference to the theory of Imamah in this book. Please see if you can find even one tiny suggestion by Ali (ra) in this book that he was the divinely appointed Imam and that he was appointed by the prophet (pbuh) as Khalifa and that people were supposed to follow divinely appointed Imams after the prophet (pbuh).
– Sahife al-Sajjadya by Ali ibn al-Hussayn. Please read prayer number 4 in the book http://www.al-islam.org/sahifa/dua4.html and consider whether it encourages people to follow Imams from generation of the prophet (pbuh) or (as the Qur’an advises us – 9:100) to follow the companions of the prophet (pbuh)? Do you not see any hints there against the Shia theory of Imamah?
– Narrations from Muhammad ibn Ali (known as Imam Baqir) and Jafar ibn Muhammad (known as Imam Sadiq) in the collections of narrations by Shia scholarship. Yes you will have plenty of explanations about the theory of Imamah in these books however there are two major problems:
a. Many of these narrations are considered as weak even by Shia standards.
b. You can easily find narrations in these books that go against the theory of Imamah
I would also like to address some of the secondary issues that you mentioned in your post:
– I really cannot understand your argument about the letter of Sheikh Shaltut. As I wrote a simple reading of the letter makes it crystal clear that Sheikh Shaltut was referring to the juristic school of thought in Shia and not their beliefs.
I am not sure what you mean by relating this to a book that is supposedly a discussion between a Shia scholar and a Sunni scholar from al-Azhar. You might be interested to know that there is a huge controversy about the reliability of this book, meaning, whether it was really a debate between a Shia scholar and a Sunni scholar. It is considered as reliable only in Shia sources. I find it very difficult to accept that the person who was arguing with the Shia scholar in this book (if existed) was a scholar. Please let me know if there is anything in this book that you think proves Shia’ism and I am more than happy to comment on it.
– You wrote in response to my comment on verse 17:78:
“What you are saying about the slots not being the number of prayers can be argued as a personal interpretation”. I can only repeat what I wrote:
“The verse is not counting the number of prayers, but is mentioning the time periods during which the five daily prayers need to be read. ALL THE LEARNED SHIA AND SUNNI SCHOLARS agree with this in principle. “
I am not aware of any reliable Shia source that interprets this verse the way you are interpreting it. Therefore while my interpretation is in principle the same as the interpretation of all learned Shiaand Sunni scholars, it seems like it is your interpretation that is a personal one.
– You wrote: “who will interpret Allah and Prophet for the solutions to their dispute?”
First please note that verse 4:59 has full application only for those who lived at the time of the prophet (pbuh). During those days any dispute could easily be removed by the direct guidance of God through His prophet (pbuh). As for when the prophet (pbuh) is not there I have already posted a letter from Ali (ra) in the Shia source of Nahj al-Balagha that seems to be an answer, and the answer as you see is denfintly not an inflallible Imam who would help us out. I copy it again:
“When you are faced with problems which you cannot solve or with a difficult situation from which you cannot escape or when uncertain and doubtful circumstances confuse and perplex you, then turn to Allah and the Holy Prophet (s) because Allah has thus ordered those whom He wants to guide. The way to turn to Allah is to act diligently according to the clear and explicit orders given in His Holy Book and to the turn to the Holy Prophet (s) means to follow the Sunnah of the prophet who all agree on with no dispute.”
Anything that cannot be resolved by the above directive can be resolved by consultation as mentioned in the Qur’an (42:38) which yet is another verse of the Qur’an that goes against the theory of Imamah.
– You wrote: “As I understand, Ghamadi Sahib reasons that since the concept of Imamat has no basis in Koran, all the ahadith/riwayaat on Shia Imaams are invalid. It seems that Ghamidi Sahib did not care to study those shia sources on Imamat because he has ruled them out due to the reason mentioned earlier.”
I think there is a misunderstanding. I can assure you that these Shia sources have been studied in scholarly level among our colleagues.
However both Shia and Sunni scholars agree that a narration that is not inline with the Qur’an is not a valid one. It will go against logic and honesty if a scholar finds that a narration is against the Qur’an but still accepts it. This is about the narrations in Shia sources that are narrated from the prophet (pbuh). You may know that vast majority of the narrations in Shia sources do not even go back to the prophet (pbuh) but go back only to the Shia Imams (normally Imam Baqir or Imam Sadiq). Obviously one first needs to believe in divine position of these Imams before accepting them as absolute and unchallengeable source of guidance. Logically this acceptance needs to be authorised by an external divine source (the Qur’an) and not by these sources themselves.
So basically if you are referring to studying Shia sources for the sake of scholarship and knowledge then I think not just Shia sources but we need to study as many sources as possible. However when it comes to understanding our religion, the source can only be the Qur’an and not narrations and writings of different sects of Muslims, being Shia, Sunni, Sufi, etc.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
The Obligation to follow Ahl-e-Bayt
Thank you very much for your answer regarding Offering Prayer according to the Shi‘ī Fiqh. Actually, my would be doesn’t have any problem if I still follow my fiqh school but I am trying to see if it is possible to practise Islam in a same way in order to teach our children one way for wudu, praying and fasting because, for example, if we pray differently, how our children will pray?
That’s why to me it is very important to agree with him on a way to bring up our children later, and to think of all the problems which may occur in the future, and this, of course, before getting married.
If you don’t mind, I would also like to ask you another question as I am trying to know more aboutshia/sunni beliefs. I found out that there are many sunni ahadith which tell us to follow ahl al-bait:
Tirmidhi, vol.5. Page 626, Hadith 3788 / Mustadrak al-Hakim, Vol.3, Page 160, Hadith 4711: ” Verily I am leaving in you that to which if you firmly hold onto you will not go astray after me; The Book of Allah and my family the Ahl al-bait. These two will not be separated until they meet me at the Fountain (of Kawthar), so look (take care) at how you deal with them after me.”
-Both al Tabrani’s Al-Mujma` al-Kabir and Rafi`i’s Musnad, quoting Ibn `Abbas, state that “The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, has said: `Let whoever is pleased to live like me and die like me and inhabit Eden’s Paradise which my Lord cultivated take `Ali as his master after me, and let him obey whoever he places in charge over him, and let him follow the example of my Ahl al Bayt after me, for they are my progeny: they are created of my own mold and blessed with my own comprehension and knowledge. Woe unto those who reject them and separate me from them! May Allah never permit them to enjoy my intercession.’”
-Al Matir, al Barudi, Ibn Jarir, Ibn Shahin, and Ibn Mundah have all quoted Ishaq citing Ziyad ibn Matraf saying: “I have heard the Messenger of Allah saying: `Whoever wishes to live my life and die my death and enter the Garden which my Lord promised me, the Garden of eternity, then let him take `Ali and his progeny after him as his masters, for they shall never take you out of guidance, nor let you stray.’”
-Similarly, Zayd ibn Arqam is quoted in one hadith saying: “The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, has said: `Whoever wishes to live like me and die my death and inhabit the perpetual Garden promised to me by my Lord, let him take `Ali as his master, for he shall never get you out of guidance, nor shall he let you stray.’”
– Sahih Muslim, Vol.4, Page 36, hadith 1837/ Musnad Ahmad, Vol.5, Page 492, hadith 18780 / Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah, Vol.4, page 62, Hadith 2357: “I remind you of Allah (to fear Him) about my Ahl al-bait”.
-Tabarani in Al-Awsat, Vol.3, page 122, Hadith 2251| Al-Shifa, Vol.2, Page 48: “Make the love of our Ahl al-bait compulsory for whoever meets Allah having love for us shall enter paradise with our intercession and By He in whose Hand is my life no deed will benefit a servant except by recognizing our right”
And, there are many other ahadith.
Thus, my question is how sunnis explain them?
Thank you again very much for explanation and for your answers.
First, I answer this as a Muslim not as a Sunni Muslim, if you are interested in a Sunni Muslim to answer your questions then please send your question to the Sunni websites. Al-Mawrid website is not associated with any sects.
Second, it is of course good that you are trying to bring some harmony in between by performing your prayers in the Shia way. While I believe that there is no religious problem in a Shia and a Sunni Muslim marrying each other, I would like to bring to your attention a point that is more important than the differences in prayers.
If the brother you mentioned is a typical Shia brother than you need to be aware that the differences is not only in the way we pray and in who to prefer among the companions and the family of the Prophet (pbuh).
The main difference between a Shia Muslim and a mainstream Muslim (including a Sunni Muslim) is that according to a Shia Muslim, after the death of the Prophet (pbuh) there were 12 God appointed infallible Imams from the generation of the Prophet (pbuh) who were supposed to be followed by Muslims and that it is only their guidance that is the true guidance. Who ever tries to take their place and become the leader of Muslims is a transgressor and is disobeying God. According to them the last Shia Imam went to occultation around 1100 years ago and is supposed to return before the end of the world to bring justice to the world.
Since you referred to your future children, I thought warning you that I think it will be deciding about fundamental concepts like the above that will be the future challenge of your children. This is not necessarily something bad, every individual needs to find his way through challenges. It could be a blessing for children to have open minded and tolerating parents from two different schools of thought.
You wrote: ” I found out that there are many sunni’s ahadith which tell us to follow ahl el beit”.
The primary source of understanding our faith as Muslims is the Qur’an. We first need to consult the Qur’an to understand our religion. We can then look at Ahadith as secondary sources for more details, however in doing that we can only accept those Ahadith that are inline with the Qur’an.
Don’t you think that if we were supposed to follow the Ahl Al-Bayt of the Prophet (pbuh) – particularly in the specific meaning that Shia Muslims interpret the meaning of Ahl-Albayt – then it was only natural that we should find an instruction about this in the Qur’an?
Are there any verses of the Qur’an that tells us or informs us (with no need for analysis and sectarian interpretations) that we should follow Ahl-Albayt (meaning Ali – ra – Hassan and Hussan – rahuma – and nine specific descendants from the generation of Hussain – ra)?
If we cannot find such a verse in the Qur’an, what does this absence of such a fundamental information from the book of guidance tell us?
On the other hand, let us see, do we have any verse of the Qur’an that informs us that we should follow the path of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh)?
“And the forerunners of Mohajerin and Ansar and also those who followed Them in good are those who are Well-pleased by Allah and they are Pleased with Him and He has Prepared for them Gardens in which Streams flow, to abide therein forever; And that is the Great Achievement.” (9:100)
Don’t you think that if we were supposed to follow Ahl Albayt then in the above verse instead of ” the forerunners of Mohajerin and Ansar” we should have “Ahl-Albayt”? or at least we needed to have a verse stronger than the above about following Ahl-Albayt?
And I can quote a number of other verses of the Qur’an with similar question.
Now as for the Ahadith you mentioned, we also have Ahadith that suggest that the Prophet (pbuh) said we needed to follow his companions. So which group of these Ahadith should we follow? Are we supposed to first decide which faith we want to have and then simply find Ahadith that are inline with that faith? Perhaps a safer and more logical way is to learn our religion from the Qur’an and then when we find a Hadith we test the authenticity of the Hadith based on the Qur’an.
You quoted six Ahadith, I can tell you straightforwardly even without looking at their chains of narrators that 5 of them are definitely fabricated or have been reported inaccurately or because of not knowing the context and the background of the Hadith its apparent meaning is different from its intended meaning.
This is because these five are apparently adding an important concept to the corpus of religion that our primary source of guidance (the Qur’an) does not support. Also these five are not reported in the books of Hadith that are considered as the most reliable books which suggest the possibility that the narrators and the chain of narrators are weak.
As an example you can find detailed analysis of the first narration (which is a version of a Hadith known as Hadith al-Theqelayn) here:
I didn’t think that you were interested in a very technical reply but if you like I am more than happy to examine the narrators of the other Ahadith as well (although as I wrote, once we establish that it is not inline with the Qur’an then this further examination of narrators will be only academically interesting otherwise it is not even needed).
The only Hadith from the ones you quoted that is not out of line with the Qur’an is the one in the book of Muslim: “” I remind you of Allah (to fear Him) about my Ahl al-bait”.
The above Hadith simply advises Muslims to respect and to take care of the family of the Prophet (pbuh) (and in Arabic, Ahl Al-Bayt includes wives as well). I cannot think of a Muslim who does not love Ahl Al-Bayt and does not respecting them. Loving and respecting some one however is not equal to exclusively obeying him/her as a divine source of guidance.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Blessing the Prophet (sws)
There is a Quranic verse which states that Allah and His Angels send their blessings (i.e recite darood) to bless the Holy Prophet. I am very much confused about the interpretation of this verse. Why does Allah send blessing to the Holy Prophet? Is it in line with the other verses of the Holy Quran which portray Allah as Al-mighty and Omniscient?
Secondly, what is the meaning of “Aal-e-Muhammad” in the Darood that we recite so often? Many of my Shia and Sunni “Syed” friends claim that it refers to the descendants and family of the Holy Prophet, and not to the Ummah of the Holy Prophet in general.
What follows the verse you refer to and a simple transition:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا
Allah and His angels shower blessings on the Prophet. Believers! Send blessings on him as much as you can. (33:56)
We seek Allah’s blessings for the Prophet (nusallī). We ask for God’s mercy on him. On the contrary God blesses the Prophet (yusallī). He blesses the Prophet and showers His mercy on him. In Arabic many words are used in opposite meaning in different contexts, for example we say ‘taaba al rajulu’meaning “the man repented” and “taaba Allah” meaning “God accepted the repentance.”
As for the word Aal it takes both the family and the followers. In the Holy Qur’an the Almighty variously says that the Almighty punished Aal-e-Firhawn. It is evident that the punishment was not meted out only to the family and progeny of Pharaoh. He did not have any offspring and the punishment struck his followers as well. In certain connotations the word excludes the member of the family. When we say that the Almighty blessed the family of Abraham we exclude the transgressors among them since the Almighty made it clear that his favors would not be bestowed upon the transgressors among his family.
Thus we can say that the word encompasses the family and the followers both. It cannot be confined to the family in all cases. It can even exclude the family members from its application in some other instances.
We believe that the word in the Durood should be explained in the light of the Holy Qur’an. How was the family of Abraham blessed? According to the Holy Qur’an the progeny of Abraham was blessed as they were raised over other nations and were made guides for mankind. They were given special status of Shahdah al annas (being witness of the truth against other nations of the world). The same status was transferred to the Bani Ismael (Ismalites) who replaced the Israelites. Therefore the prayer is not confined to the progeny of the Holy Prophet (sws). Rather it takes the family to whom the Prophet belonged and his followers as well.
Author: Tariq Mahmood Hashmi
A Discussion on Sufism, Epistemology, and Usūl
This discussion took place last year through e-mails among a number of students at McGill and Concordia Universities in Montreal, Canada. The gist of the original is presented here for the readers. (Editor)
Hassan A Mian’s letter:
The Divine inspiration of the Sufis, that you have criticised in your article ‘Tawhīd in Sufism’ (http://www.monthly-renaissance.com/jlaued97.html) in the monthly Renaissance, is a knowledge gained by experience and should not be commented on until it has been witnessed by the heart of the critic. Here is a good piece of advice: leave that which does not concern you. We have been told by the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace):
From the excellence of one’s Islam is to leave that which does not concern one. (A sound (hasan) hadīth, transmitted by Tirmidhī and others)
Asif Iftikhar’s response:
The question is not only about the source of the knowledge but also about the certitude that is ascribed to it. Sufis claim direct knowledge for themselves through the same Divine source that was the basis of Divine guidance given to the Messengers of God and His prophets (For example see, Shah Muhammad Ismā‘īl, ‘Abaqāt, ‘Abaqah 11, al-Ishārah al-ijmāliyyah ila marātib kamāl al-nafs). In al-Munqad min al-Dalāl, Ghazālī explains the level of certitude that the Sufi attains (which by no means is less than the certitude in religion granted to the Prophets of God):
In the next place I recognized that certitude (al-‘ilm al-yaqīnī) is the clear and complete knowledge of things, such knowledge as leaves no room for doubt nor possibility of error and conjecture, so that there remains no room in the mind for error to find an entrance.
In case there is any doubt about the source of such certitude, consider what he writes in the same treatise:
From the time that they set out on this path, revelations commence for them. They come to see in the waking state angels and souls of prophets; they hear their voices and wise counsels. By means of beholding heavenly forms and images they rise by degrees to heights which human language cannot reach, which one cannot even indicate without falling into great and inevitable errors. The degree of proximity to Deity that they attain is regarded by some as intermixture of being (hulūl)), by others as identification (ittihād), by others as intimate union (wasl). But all these expressions are wrong, as we have explained in our work entitled, ‘The Chief Aim’. Those who have reached that stage should confine themselves to repeating the verse ‘What I experience I shall not try to say’; Call me happy, but ask me no more. In short, he who does not arrive at the intuition of these truths by means of ecstasy knows only the name of inspiration (haqīqat al-nabuwwah). The miracles wrought by the saints are, in fact, merely the earliest forms of prophetic manifestation (bidāya al-anbiyā’).
Although the Sufis believe that no further directives are given to them after the Prophet (sws) as far as the content of religion is concerned, yet the fact that they present their ‘prescriptions’ for the ‘application’ of the principles of the Qur’ān and the Sunnah on the basis of their ‘direct and certain knowledge’ and therefore with the same degree of authority that religion itself has is a sufficient cause for concern over innovation in religion and over denial of the end of wahī with the last
Prophet (sws). What then is the philosophical difference in their claims and those of Mīrzā Ghulām Ahmad Qādiyānī except that he was ‘audacious’ enough to term the same idea of his ‘certain knowledge’ wahī? Was his cardinal sin just his error in nomenclature or was his concept too erroneous per se? If the concept itself was wrong, did it become ‘hallowed’ just by being christened as ‘kashf’ of the venerated Sufis? Isn’t that argumentum ad hominem in the first case and argumentm ad vericundiam in the latter one?
Hassan A Mian’s rejoinder:
The condition for the acceptance of any spiritual inspiration or intuition is that it does not contradict the Qur’ān and the Sunnah. This is agreed upon by the Sufis, who say, ‘any inward that contradicts the outward is misguidance’. These spiritual inspirations and intuitions occur to all sincere Muslims.
Asif Iftikhar’s response:
All true ‘devotees’ are committed to their respective religions. But that is not a necessary criterion for the truth of what they follow (argumentum ad vericundiam). True Salafis, for example, are as committed to their understanding of Islam as the Sufis are to theirs. Moreover, the question is not what the conditions are for the acceptance of the verdicts Sufis give on the basis of their divine inspiration, but whether the basis for that inspiration itself has any justification in the Qur’ān and the Sunnah. Therefore, your response, dear brother, proves something that is not the subject of discussion. To put it simply, let me ask you this question once again: is there any difference in the value of the epistemological certainty of the divine inspiration that the Sufis get and the divine inspiration in religion granted to the Prophet (sws)? If you believe that, unlike the case in the divine inspiration or wahī of the Prophet (sws), there are possibilities of error in the divine inspiration of the Sufis, then this is precisely the claim which is refuted by the assertions of all major Sufis—as is also obvious from the extracts I cited in my last e-mail. On the other hand, if you do believe, as do all major Sufis, that the certitude of the Sufis in their divine inspiration is delivered from all error, then my simple question is: what is the difference between their kashf and the wahī of the Prophet(sws)—except in name? If your response is what the Sufis generally give: ‘we do not bring any new sharī‘ah’, then my question is exactly the one I ask the Ahmadīs: when absolute certainty is ascribed on the basis of divine inspiration to a ‘prescription’ (tarīqah) for following the Sharī‘ah more effectively, then why wouldn’t that ‘prescription’, being a certain command of God given directly to a Sufi/the inspired person, be God’s word itself? In short, why wouldn’t it be an addition to the Sharī‘ah—but obviously with a different name?
Hassan A Mian’s reply:
What about the word wahī being used in Sūrah Nahl that your God sent a wahī to the honey bee and what about Sūrah Maryam when God sent her (peace and blessings of God on the best woman ever born) His spirit… wasn’t following him binding on her? Was she a prophetess? There is a difference of opinion about that amongst scholars!
Asif Iftikhar’s response:
And what would that make the bee: a Sufi perhaps?
There is no doubt about the fact that the word wahī is used in different senses in Arabic language and indeed in the Qur’ān. Would you for instance disagree that linguistically the active participle of the word can also be someone other than Allah, for example a human (Qur’ān, 19:11) or even Satan (Qur’ān, 6:121). It’s not only this word but also almost all the terms in the Qur’ān which became specific terms because the Qur’ān gave them a specific connotation. Outside that specific connotation, the word obviously retains its ordinary meanings and usage. Take words as Rasūl or Jihād for instance. I am sure you don’t need me to give you examples of their use as specific Qur’ānic terms as well as words with their usual meanings in the Qur’ān. My question did not pertain to different meanings of wahī but to the specific sense in which it applies to the certain religious guidance received by a Prophet from God. You are therefore, my dear brother, again proving something that is not the subject of discussion. I shall try to make my question as simple as possible this time:
In your opinion, is the value of epistemological certitude in religious knowledge gained by a Sufi through his Divine inspiration the same as the value of epistemological certitude in the Divine inspiration granted to the Prophet by God to reveal His religion to him? In other words, was the religious knowledge of Ghazālī et al that they gained through Divine inspiration delivered from all possibilities of error – just as the religious knowledge of the Prophet was? This is quite simply a yes or no question. Please remember that the question is not about whether or not the knowledge of the Sufis contradicts the Sharī‘ah. The question is about its source and the degree of its certitude. I hope you won’t have any difficulty in answering it this time.
Asif Iftikhar further wrote:
Regarding your question about Maryam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon her), the question is not whether she was or was not a prophetess (although in my understanding she was at least not from amongst the Rusul, the word Rusul being used here as a specific Qur’ānic term). The question is whether she received the glad tidings from an angel of God after the last Prophet or before him. Another important question is whether the certainty we have on the authority of the Qur’ān that she received glad tidings from God through his angel is also the certainty we can have regarding the claim of a Sufi that he too has been blessed with absolute certainty in religion through Divine inspiration. In the absence of a Qur’ānic nass, what would the basis for your absolute certainty be that a particular Sufi that you have chosen to believe in is, despite his apparent sincerity not lying or, even if he is absolutely sincere, having problems of mental delusion rather than Divine inspiration? Also, if certitude in religious knowledge could be had in this way, why do you suppose all the great jurists had to go to such painstaking measures to find solutions to the problems that confronted them in understanding religion? Wouldn’t an easier alternative have been to resort to a Sufi, who could then have simply invoked the Theophany to resolve all the khilāfiyyāt that fill our fiqh manuals? Of course the Shiites solved this problem by attributing certainty of religious knowledge and infallible piety to their imams while the Sunni jurists, after long efforts, were finally able to discover some kind of rationale for justifying the ijmā’ of their schools to have the same degree of certainty in the interpretation of the Qur’ān and the Sunnah and in their derivations from these sources. The kind of certainty in religious knowledge that the Sufis claim to have – which I don’t know if the majority of the Sahābah ever claimed for themselves at an individual or collective level – is the certainty that at least the Sunni jurists could not by any stretch of imagination hope for themselves at an individual level. It’s quite a surprise really to note that in the Sunni manuals of usūl, at least during the early periods, one doesn’t easily find the Divine inspiration of a Sufi as the third source of certitude in religious knowledge after the Qur’ān and Sunnah and definitely before the Sunni ijmā’.
Hassan’s friend’s response [a scholar]:
Someone who follows their mere whims in interpreting the primary texts is not an upright Muslim, for they are far from the command of Allah, which enjoins us to, ‘Ask the people of understanding when you know not’ (Qur’ān, 16:43). Ibn Abbās (Allah be pleased with him) related that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘whoever interprets the Qur’ān based on mere opinion let them prepare their seat in Hell’. [Tirmadhī and Ahmad, in a sound hadīth].
The commentators on Sunnan al-Tirmadhī explain that mere opinion here means without having the interpretative knowledge to be able to do so, based on the established principles of Qur’ānic interpretation (which requires deep knowledge of classical Arabic, the primary texts, and Sharī‘ah sciences). What your friend has fallen into illustrates why Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari, one of the foremost Sunni scholars of the 20th Century, wrote a short treatise entitled, Non-Madhhabism is the bridge to non-religion.
When one veers away from the well-trodden path of Sunni scholarship, as embodied in the scholarly output of the inheritors of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) from the four schools of fiqh, one goes from one absurdity to the next. One falls far from the Command of Allah, and on a direct route to loss of religion, faith, and, ultimately, to Hell.
Asif Iftikhar’s response:
My very dear brother
May Allah guide us both to his ways and save us from His wrath.
I have been waiting for your answer to my question for some time now. I confess I was a bit disappointed (though by no means surprised) to find out that your response again completely avoids answering my question. The core question, as you will recall, was:
In your opinion, is the value of epistemological certitude in religious knowledge gained by a Sufi through his Divine inspiration the same as the value of epistemological certitude in the Divine inspiration granted to the Prophet by God to reveal His religion to him? In other words, was the religious knowledge of Ghazālī et al that they gained through Divine inspiration delivered from all possibilities of error – just as the religious knowledge of the Prophet was? This is quite simply a yes or no question. (Please remember that the question is not about whether or not the knowledge of the Sufis contradicts the Sharī‘ah. The question is about its source and the degree of its certitude).
Essentially this is the question I have been asking right from the beginning of our discussion. I have tried to point out earlier as well that in none of your responses you attempted to answer this question on the basis of either your own knowledge or that of your scholars. Whether or not the assertions made by your friend in this latest response are correct is a separate question to which I intend to respond soon. But even if I don’t accept the idea that his cliques are the ultimate ‘know all’, how is it a heresy on my part to ask them for their opinion? Why don’t they answer my question for you if you can’t or are reluctant to? I hope the Sunnis too don’t have a policy of hiding their religion.
With respect, love, and lots of prayers
Asif Iftikhar wrote there to Hassan:
Here is the first part of my answers – as promised:
Your friend says: Someone who follows their mere whims in interpreting the primary texts is not an upright Muslim, for they are far from the command of Allah, which enjoins us to, Ask the people of understanding when you know not (Qur’ān, 16:43).
My questions are:
1. What meaning is Ibn Abbās reported to have ascribed to the words ahl al-dhikr in the verse 16:43? (For example see Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr).
2. What is Ibn Kathīr’s objection to ‘Abd al-Rahmān’s view on al-dhikr in the Qur’ān?
3. According to your own methodology, what is the occasion of revelation of this verse? If the word originally meant: ‘The People of the Book’ on the occasion of its revelation, what, according to your one methodology, prevents the meaning from not continuing?
4. Also what is the denotation of the word al-dhikr? According to your own methodology, what qarīnah (contextual factor) changes the denotation to the specific connotation that has been given to it by your clique?
5. A translation of the verse reads (from the Majestic Qur’ān – Nawwawī and Ibn Khuldūn Foundations): ‘The messengers We sent before you (O Muhammad) were only men to whom we gave the revelation. Ask the People of the Reminder if you do not know.’ Is this translation wrong?
6. The footnote to this translation gives the active participle of the verb ‘ask’ as the pagan Arabs and the explanation of ‘The People of the Reminder’ as the Jews (that is The People of the Book).
What objections do you have against this explanation?
7. If I were to say that the verse is telling the pagan Arabs that if they think it strange that the Prophet of Allah is a human, then they should ask The People of the Book (the Jews) whether the messengers before the Prophet were men or not – would my assertion be incorrect?
8. Even if your juristic interpretation is taken correct, the verse says:
‘ask …. if you do not know’. What if you do know? Also, in relation to the given context of the verse, if you know and fully believe that Muhammad (sws) was the Prophet despite being a human, do you still need to ask? Why? Hasn’t the condition of the verse been fulfilled? Why not?
9. When you say: ‘when somebody follows his whims’, in relation to the given context of the verse, you seem to imply that the person follows his desire rather than conscience and therefore deliberately avoids the truth. God could obviously imply this about the pagan Arabs mentioned in the verse on the basis of His Divine knowledge. On what basis do you make such implications about any person today?
More questions will follow soon, inshā Allah.
Hassan A Mian’s reply:
People in our tradition have not been idiots. Inshā Allah they are in Paradise. They are the scholars of Sunni Islam who have all concurred that for a person like me and you, we need to follow a Madhab and not use our ‘Aql to interpret the texts (and not to use the sayings of companions without knowing theirs Isnād through traditional scholars as proofs to justify our own whims).
See for example the fatwa of one of the biggest scholars alive in the world i.e. Sheikh Murabat al-Hajj attached to this email. May Allah give you and your friends the tawfīq to understand the gravity of what you are doing in order to harm Islam and Muslims, by sowing seeds of doubt (the work of Shaytān) in Muslims thereby depriving them of their Īmān. May He guide you or if He does not wish to guide you, may He liberate us of your Sharr. (and it would only be time that would prove who is correct and who is wrong as Allah has promised to preserve this Dīn). What you have created is a clique of orientalists in the garb of Islam. I am sorry if it hurts and if it defies your man made logic (defined by people who according to your own testimony are not upright Muslims), but what I am saying comes from the heart and it is enough for me as a proof. As for the answers to your questions, I am not a scholar and consider it bad adab to give my opinion when I am not entitled to. I will insha’ Allah search people of Light to answer your questions. If you are sincere you yourself should be asking these questions to the scholars that Allah has used to guide masses to his Oneness because of their sincerity and sound knowledge: you know who they are and where to find them.
I don’t want you to reply to this e-mail as I am not a scholar of Islam and do not answer questions on Islam. Rather I follow qualified scholarship.
(The fatwa has not been included here as it is on Following One of the Four Accepted Madhāhib rather than to Sufi epistemology. The fatwa is by Shaykh Murabat al-Hajj and has been translated by Hamza Yusuf Hanson. It can be seen on various related websites).
Asif Iftikhar’s response:
My Dear Brother
Thank you for being candid with me. The anger with which you speak convinces me that deep down you are sincerely committed to what you believe in as the truth, and, therefore, contrary to the favour you have so eloquently and easily bestowed upon me, I do not assume that your intention is to harm Islam. I am however sorry that I cannot accept your request of not responding to your message as this discussion started as a public debate and must end as such for I do not think it is ethical on either your part or mine to unceremoniously walk out of the discussion for personal reasons. I am therefore forwarding this e-mail to all those who were willingly or unwillingly part of this discussion right from the beginning. However, should you choose not to respond further or to take your time in responding, I shall understand.
As requested by you, I shall not trouble you for now with requests for answers to more of my questions on religion, but now that you have told me that you do not wish to answer any of my questions, I do intend to make a few clarifications in relation to some of the accusations that you made against me. Before I do that, however, I would like to state that I never said you couldn’t go and ask your scholars for answers to my questions. I find it strange that scholars you think I should go to and assume that I know are scholars you couldn’t approach for a yes or no answer to a simple question.1
Is answering a simple question like that one also one of the secrets of the Sufi Divine revelation which the Sufis, unlike the Prophet (sws) in relation to his Divine revelation (Qur’ān, 5:67), are not supposed to disseminate? If that is the case, then at least I can see one difference in the Sufi Divine revelation and that of the Prophet (sws), though I still can’t understand that if something is the truth why ‘exposing it,’ in Ghazzālī’s words becomes an act ‘that amounts to infidelity’ [Ihya ‘Ulumi’l-Din]. Why do we then blame the Shiite imāms for kitmān? Nevertheless, I still await the answer to my question, which is just one of the thousand others that I still have. I have never stopped your scholars from answering them for you. And now I shall try to give my response to the charges you have levied against me.
Can you show me any place where I have said that the scholars in our tradition were idiots? Please don’t put words into my mouth that I have not used. I never said they were idiots. I don’t believe they were idiots. I have stated this earlier, and, I state it now: I believe they were great scholars and very pious people. My own father died with a firm faith in Sufism and the Hanafite tradition. I have never assumed that he will be denied Paradise for that. In fact, I pray every day that he be in Paradise. Similarly, I also believe, as you do, that inshā Allah, the scholars of Muslim tradition will be in Paradise. What I don’t believe however is that they were prophets or infallible or delivered from all possibilities of error in their judgment. Also, I agree that, in religious matters, an ordinary person should follow the verdicts of competent scholars he can trust – unless it is absolutely clear to him that the opinion of a scholar is incorrect in a certain matter. Therefore, if the same faculty which enabled him to trust the scholar in the first place now entails that he look for some other scholar he can trust in that particular opinion, then he has the right, indeed he has the duty, to do that. If he doesn’t find any other scholar, then obviously he has no choice but to exert his own effort to make his decision. What I don’t believe however is that scholarship in the Muslim world has ended with or is confined just to the four Sunni schools. Therefore, if your heart feels that you have to trust a modern scholar belonging to one of these four schools, and that feeling of your heart is a sufficient proof for you, a similar feeling in my heart should give me an equal justification to choose another scholar who does not necessarily belong to these schools. Also, I do not mean to say that the wisdom of the past scholars is worthless or should be ignored for trivial reasons. However, they should not be made into another Deity or a prophet with the belief that they can never, ever be wrong. Furthermore, the following are also my assertions:
1. I give a lot of importance to any consensus of opinion on a matter of interpretation or on an ijtihād in religion in the four schools. But I do not believe that there is any concurrent textual evidence from the original sources of Islam (the Qur’ān and the Sunnah) to suggest that such consensus is delivered from all possibilities of error and cannot be differed from by a present scholar.2
2. I believe that the only two sources which have the level of concurrence (tawātur) that takes them to the point of absolute certitude are the Qur’ān and the Sunnah. These two sources, established by tawātur and ijmā‘ of the Prophet’s companions, go back to the Prophet (sws) himself and contain the ‘content’ of religion, which content then has been interpreted by various Muslims throughout our history. Since these ‘interpretations’ and instances of ijtihād on their basis do not have the tawātur that goes back to the Prophet (sws) himself, we cannot say that there is no possibility of error in them.
3. I believe that all isolated reports (akhbār ahād) are zanni (probable) with varying degrees of probability, but it is legitimate for a competent scholar to draw legal opinions on the basis of such a report if it is sound in transmission, and the basis for that legal opinion already exists in the Qur’ān or the Sunnah or the universal principles of reason, and it does not contradict any of these bases.
4. I believe that there is only one God and that there is no one or nothing like Him. Therefore, I reject and denounce – with all my heart, and all my soul, and all my mind – all assertions on part of any human, howsoever pious he may seem to you, that suggest ideas as: ‘…in reality the Creator is but Creation and Creation is but the Creator. All these are from one reality’ (Ibn ‘Arabi in Fusūs al-Hikm) or ‘ana al- Haqq’. (Hallāj).
5. I also believe that the Prophet (sws) was the last Rasūl and Nabī and no one, howsoever pious he may seem to you, has any credibility in his claim that even after the Prophet (sws), he receives Divine inspiration from the same sources as did the Prophet (sws) and which gives him the same certitude of religious knowledge as was given to the Prophet (sws). Therefore, any tashrih (explanation of Sharī‘ah) or Tarīqah (prescription of a way to follow the Sharī‘ah) on the basis of such a claim amounts to an intentional or unintentional addition to the Shari‘ah.
As far as most matters of fiqh (understanding of the Shari‘ah as it is contained in the Qur’ān and the Sunnah) are concerned, I too base my decisions on the opinions of scholars I have found to be trustworthy in accordance with the methodology I have spelled out above. But, unlike you, I do not have your personal certitude or the Kashf of any Sufi Master to claim with the typical Sufi calm and that another person who professes to be a Muslim has intentions to harm Islam and the Muslims and that he intends to do the work of Satan. I seek refuge of Allah from finding out that on the Day of Judgment a Muslim has the right to hold me by the throat because I was wrong about him in similar claims of mine against him. Nor do I have the certainty to know who – whether that person be a Muslim or a Christian or a Jew or someone else – is denying the truth of God’s message after it has become evident to him, and, therefore, my scholars and I, unlike you and your scholars, do not make judgments of Takfīr (in the sense of declaring a person guilty of wilful and deliberate denial of the true faith) – a judgment we believe is the sole right of God Almighty Himself. I do hope you and your scholars realize the gravity of what you do when you declare such a person Kāfir as professes faith in the unity of God and the finality of Muhammad’s prophethood (sws) and in the unaltered authenticity of the Qur’ān and the concurrent Sunnah and accepts the pillars of Islam. Tell me if I’m wrong that some – if not all – of the scholars that you trust in also believe that kafirs like me – of whom the attached verdict of the acclaimed ‘best scholar of Islam alive’ would surely have informed you – ought to be killed if they do not accept your version of Islam – namely belief in the consensus in interpretation of the four schools. My brother, don’t think that people like Uthāmah Ibn Laden don’t have their scholars to rely on – or that they are not sincerely committed to what they believe in or that there are no chances that God will reward them for their sincerity. But that still doesn’t necessarily make them right. This is what I have learnt from my scholars, whom you say are not upright Muslims according to my testimony – a testimony I never gave. My testimony is that they are good Muslims but have their failings and weaknesses, and that they are not the paragons of perfection that are delivered from all possibilities of error, and I reserve the right to disagree with them and follow the verdict of some other scholar in an opinion that doesn’t convince me. As for your charge that I am an Orientalist in the garb of Islam, I will say this: I don’t believe that everything the Orientalists have said is necessarily wrong. However, unlike scholars as Patricia Crone et al, I believe in the truth of Islam as I have explained it in the points enumerated above. I love God and the Prophet (sws) and glorify their names and believe in the Qur’ān and the Sunnah as unaltered, authentic and final Divine guidance. And I respect and honour all the companions of the Prophet (sws) who were true to him (as Abū Bakr, ‘Umar, Uthmān, ‘Ali, Mu‘āwiyyah et al radī Allah ‘anhum). Despite these beliefs of mine, if you still want to call me an Orientalist, that’s your choice. Or you could use some other invective that you like, but don’t insinuate wrongly that I disparage scholars as Abū Hanifah or Mālik or Shāfi‘ī or Ibn Hanbal (may God reward them for their efforts) – who never proclaimed infallibility for themselves despite their immense stature and competence, for, to my mind, they were great scholars and great Muslims – but they were also humans, who could make mistakes and falter. As I love you still as a brother-in-faith whose tears would be my tears and whose laughter would be my laughter, whose dreams would be my dreams and whose prayer would be my prayer, I can only pray: May Allah reward you with a good reward for following your heart even in your hate for me, and that may He also give you the sagacity to love Him with a mind that continues to seek the truth in the spirit that Imam Shāfi‘ī’s words epitomize:
I am convinced of the veracity of my opinions, but I do consider it possible that they may turn out to be incorrect. Likewise, I am convinced that the views different from mine are incorrect, but I do concede the possibility that they may turn out to be right.
1. which was: In your opinion, is the value of epistemological certitude in religious knowledge gained by a Sufi through his Divine inspiration the same as the value of epistemological certitude in the Divine inspiration granted to the Prophet by God to reveal His religion to him? In other words, was the religious knowledge of Ghāzalī et al that they gained through Divine inspiration delivered from all possibilities of error – just as the religious knowledge of the Prophet was?
2. I believe there is no textual evidence to suggest that the ijtihād of a competent scholar – regardless of which tradition he belongs to – or even that of a whole school or all the traditional schools is infallible. The notion that the ijmā‘ of the four schools in Sunni jurisprudence has epistemological certitude in religion, and thus, by implication, the authority equivalent to that of the Qur’ān and the Sunnah is as shaky as it is circular. When the idea gained currency in the fourth century hijrah, the proponents, with an essentially deontological epistemology, had to look to the Qur’ān for textual evidence. Interestingly, few of the verses adduced were relevant. Moreover, there was hardly any consensus on the interpretation of these verses. Having found that the basis for their thesis was not sufficient to afford certitude to their conception, the proponents of ijmā‘ then turned to the Sunnah for support, only to find that there was nothing mutawātir (sufficiently concurrent to become conclusive evidence) there as well. The next stop obviously was hadīth, most of which corpus was in form of akhbār ahād (isolated narrations). These akhbār ahād, according to Sunni usūl al-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence), were themselves zannī (probable) in varying degrees. Quite obviously, probability itself, regardless of its degree, could not become the epistemological foundation of certitude. Therefore, the jurists came up with a novel concept: that of tawātur ma‘nawī (concurrence of meaning), which they adduced as conclusive evidence based on inductive corroboration. The basic problem is not certitude of what the words in certain narrations mean but whether the words themselves can be traced back to the Prophet with certitude. All other sources gain certitude only when it can be established with certainty that the Prophet himself gave them this position. Since the words of the narrations in question themselves cannot be traced back to the Prophet with absolute certainty, it will be logically inconsistent to assert that certitude of meaning derived from something that does not itself have epistemological certitude can lend certitude to an entirely new concept, that is to ijmā‘. Therefore, in terms of logical consistency, the idea of epistemological certitude through ijmā‘ as a basis for ijtihād and interpretation is essentially based on circular argument. Apart from this major flaw in the foundational argument, there are many other inconsistencies in the whole construct as well as argumentation, which require a separate discussion.
Author: Asif Iftikhar
Regarding Hadrat Abu Talib
Kindly write detailed reply to my following question what do the scholars and muftis of the Islamic sharriah say regarding “Hadrat Abu Talib(RTA)”. Few people call him kafir and they also claim that the kuffar of Abu Talib is proved from clearquranic ayaat and sahih authentic ahadith. Anyone who considers Abu Talib a momin is munkir e quraan, munkir eahadith and is extremely deviated/(gumraah) and is a rafizi shiite. But i’ve heard that many of the legendary Islamic scholars of the past believed that hazrat abu talib was a momin. Kindly issue a deciding fatwa as to what is the true position of ahle sunnat wal jamaat regarding Hazrat Abu Talib. I will always be grateful to you for your kindness.
We appreciate it if you use low case when writing to us as it is not easy to read an all capital question.
Whether Abu Talib was a believer or not has absolutely no religious significance for us. We will not be asked in the hereafter whether we believe that Abu Talib was a believer or a non-believer. Considering Abu Talib to be a believer or not does not make some one Kafir. This is merely a historical issue.
We have no verse of the Qur’an that says explicitly that Abu Talib was Kafir. Those who use some verses of the Qur’an to prove their point on this issue are in fact relying on Ahadith that interpret those verses. On the other hand those who consider Abu Talib as a believer, too are relying on some other reports to that effect.
All these Ahadith and reports need to be studied in detail before forming any opinion about the belief of Abu Talib. The question however is that what good such study will bring to us from religious perspective? In my opinion, none!
Please also note that we are not associated with any religious sect and are not representative of any.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Do Shi’i condemn the Major Companions?
Thank you very much for your reply to my questions. I still need some clarifications: Do Shī‘ī consider the 1st three caliphs (Khulafā-i Rāshidūn), Ḥaḍrat ‘Ā’ishah (rta) and Ḥaḍrat Ḥafṣah (rta) amongst enemies of God. And do they consider curse them a virtue?
The Shī‘ī do not consider the first three caliphs Khulafā legitimate and consider them usurpers to the right of Ali (ra) who only believe to be the only legitimate and divinely appointed caliph. Because of this they consider the three Khulafā as those who did not follow the order of the Prophet about Ali (ra). As for ‘Ā’ishah (rta), because of her involvement in the battle of Jamal and because of some other historical Aḥādīth, generally Shī‘ī consider her as one who had enmity with Ali (ra) and his family (Ra-hom). However, there is less sensitivity about Ḥafṣah (rta).
As for whether the Shī‘ī consider it a rewarding virtue to curse the above personalities, I would say that, cursing the first three caliphs Khulafā and in particular the first two is not unusual. This, however, varies among the Shī‘ī. There are Shī‘ī minorities who are more moderate in this regard and do not curse; there are another bigger minority who are on the other extreme and curse these personalities on a regular basis to earn reward. The majority do not mind cursing them but also do not do it on a regular basis.
One of the popular supplications that the Shī‘ī read is called Ziarah Ashura. This is a Ziarah in which the Shī‘ī say salām to Hussain (rta). The Ziarah is generally considered as very reliable and a regular reading of it is recommended. At the end of this Ziarah there is a sentence that says:
O God let the first oppressor to be specifically cursed by me and start (this cursing) with him as the first one. Then (curse) the second and the third and the forth. Oh God curse Yazid as the fifth one and …”
It is generally believed that the first to fourth in the above refer to the first three Khulafā and Mu’āwiyah (rta).
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Significance of Incident of Ghadeer
What is the status of hadīth-e ghadir? Is it true or not as many authentic hadīth books consider it to be true. Secondly in that hadīth one point is confusing that prophet (sws) took Ali’s hand in air and said: “All my friends and allies are friends of Ali”. According to the sunni version: “Everyone whose master is Muhammad, Ali is his master”. My question is that we must consider the fact that all the pilgrims were returning from Makkah and Ghadir is the place from where all were going to depart. At this place and at this moment when most of the pilgrims were there from all the tribes the Prophet must have had something important to tell about Ali and his status. Merely taking it to mean that he wanted to tell that Ali was his friend does not apparently seem to be the purpose. Does it sound proper from the Prophet to stop the people and tell them with great care that Ali was his friend? I think it must have a more important significance.
Hadith of Ghadeer is a reliable Hadith since it has reached us through a number of sources and narrators. Of course there are versions of it that are not reliable however the narration of the main story is a reliable one.
Your question is based on a number of assumptions that to me are not true:
1. The place that the Prophet (pbuh) gave the Khutba was in fact far from Mecca. Most of people who were in Hajj where not there simply because many remained in Mecca and many went to other directions. Ghadeer Khum was in fact a place where people of Madina and surrounding areas were separated. It seems like the Prophet (pbuh) left this message about Ali (ra) to this point simply because it was related to the issue that had raised in the army that was led by Ali (ra). The army consisted of people from Madina and surrounding. If we assume that what the Prophet (pbuh) said had a very important implication for all Muslims, then it would only make sense that the Prophet (pbuh) say it in Mecca and during the Hajj, where he had the most population of Muslims around him.
2. The Khutba that the Prophet gave was not just about Ali (ra). It was a longer Khutba and near the end the Prophet (pbuh) also said that wonderful sentence about Ali (ra).
3. The degree of importance of a message that comes from the Prophet (pbuh) for his followers can only be assessed by looking at whether this message has been also given in the Qur’an or not. It is only obvious that if a message of the Prophet (pbuh) carried so much fundamental importance and added a significant substance to the corpus of religion then it had to be included in the Qur’an, that is Furqan and Mizan. This of course is not to say that what the Prophet (pbuh) said was not important! However the issue is, whether it had implications as important as some Muslims believe it had.
4. The implication of the Hadith of Ghadeer is not depending on the meaning of the word Maula. Maula can be interpreted as friend or master, but what makes us understand the implication of the Hadith is first, whether the issue is also addressed in the Qur’an (see point 3 above) and second what the background of this Hadith was (see point 1 above).
5. One of the best ways of understanding the implications of this saying of the Prophet (pbuh) is to see (through reliable narrations) whether Ali (ra) himself interpreted the Hadith of Ghadeer the way that some Muslims interpret it. As far as I have seen, there is no such reliable narration from Ali (ra) about this, which makes me conclude that even Ali (ra) had not seen Ghadeer the way that some Muslims see it today.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Following Shi’i Fiqh
I wanted to learn the meaning of the expression ‘ul al-‘amr (those vested with authority) in Q 4:59. The verse says:
O you who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger and ‘ul al-‘amr minkum.
TheShi’is take it as a basis for their concept of imamat? Secondly would you kindly tell me if I can follow fiqh-e Ja‘friyah if it appeals me? What about the small differences for example in method of wudu and placement of hands in the Prayer?
Thank you for writing to us. We believe that the words ‘ul al-‘amr minkum refer to the rulers. They do not refer to the religious scholars. As for the question of following fiqh-e ja’friyah it is upon you to decide. Though the questions dealt with in a fiqh are mainly of practical nature and we may adopt any of the existing ones or found a new one yet we must appreciate the fact that fiqh-e ja’friyah is based on belief inimamat which fundamentally differs from the sunni Islam. We do not find the belief in conformity with the basic Islamic beliefs. For example we do not find it possible to hold someone ma’soom (infallible) source of religious knowledge. But the shi’i hold their imams as infallible. In their fiqh the ruling of the imam would be final. This is why we cannot suggest or recommend following this fiqh.
Author: Tariq Mahmood Hashmi
On Appointment of the First Caliph
Several ahadith approve Ali’s (rta) khilafat. Abu Bakar’s (rta) khilafat was either an accident or deliberation. And in the light of the above; was he a true khalifah al-Rasool? Was Muawiya’s decision to appoint Yazid as his successor, legitimate especially in the presence of Hussayn?
Khilafah of Abu Bakr Siddique (rta) was acknowledged by the entire community of the Companions of the Prophet (sws). The Companions as a community, could not have joined hands on deviating from the command of the Prophet (sws). The Holy Qur’an affirms their truthfulness and puts on them the huge responsibility of communicating the religion of God to the world. Since their veracity is confirmed by the Book of God we cannot claim they disregarded the command of the Prophet (sws) regarding imamat of Ali (rta). Who would have known more than them that the Prophet (sws) intended them to take Ali (rta) as a caliph if that was the case? The whole dispute of khilafat, it needs to be appreciated, originates in the fact the Prophet (sws) did not appoint anybody.
I am sorry I cannot comment on the decision of the Caliph Mu’awiyah. This is because I do not and cannot know the ground realities in that time. We believe that Islam does not bestow any special privilege on religious basis to the members of the family of the Prophet (sws).
Author: Tariq Mahmood Hashmi
Invoking a Qur’anic Verse to Prove Imamat of ‘Ali (rta)
“(We sent) messengers as the givers of good news and as warners, so that people should not have a plea against Allah after the (coming of) messengers; and Allah is Mighty, Wise.” (Q 4:165)
The good news could have been the designation of Hazrat Alī as imām after him and the coming of the imāms after Alī. This verse also shows that the Prophet (sws) was only a warner and there will be guides after him.
My dear brother, understanding Islam cannot be based on works of guess and estimation. The meaning of the verse is crystal clear and all the significant experts of the Qur’ān, the Shī‘ī and Sunni, in principle have the same understanding of the “givers of good news” in the verse that is a translation for the word “Mubashshirīn”. According to their understanding, which is also in line with other verses of the Qur’ān, the good news is the fact that those who accept the message of a Messenger will reach salvation and paradise in the hereafter.
If unlike all the Shī‘ī and Sunni experts of the Qur’ān, you believe that “good news” here means the designation of Alī (ra) as the Imām then the onus is on you to prove this. We are supposed to learn our religion from the Qur’ān, not to interpret the verses of the Qur’ān based on our own understanding of religion. What you are doing here is exactly what Alī (ra) has advised us not to do in Nahj al-Balāghah, that is, leading the Qur’ān to our personal beliefs rather than letting the Qur’ān leading us to the correct belief.
The verse has no indication that the Prophet (sws) was not a guide and that there will be guides coming after him. In fact, this goes directly opposite to what the verse is saying. The verse is saying that after the Messengers there remain no excuses for people. A genuine excuse emerges when there is a genuine unfulfilled need. The verse is in fact saying that this “need” is fulfilled with the coming of the Messengers.
I would also like to remind you that according to Shī‘ī, the Prophet (sws) himself was an Imam. Therefore according to Shī‘ī, the Prophet (sws) was also a guide.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Difference between Shi’ism, Sufism and Sunnism and the Rightly Guided Sect of the Muslims
1- Are the human beings kind or evil by nature? Common questions kids ask these days as taught in school? 2- What is difference between sufī, Shī‘ī and Sunnī, which is right path?
My answers to your questions follow:
1- Are the human beings kind or evil by nature? Common questions kids ask these days as taught in school.
According to the Qur’ān human being by nature is a humble entity that likes to be a servant of his Lord. (Q 30:30)
2- What is the difference between sufism, Shī‘īism and Sunnīism? Which is the right path?
Sufis are group of people (some considering themselves as Muslims and some coming from other faiths) who believe in certain mentors (Sheikh) as the medium between God and his servants and are often engaged in doing certain practices (like uttering certain names of God at certain times in specified numbers or using music or chanting in an attempt to find spiritual aspiration). One of the main characteristics of a typical Sufi is that they do not observe rules of the religion they are originally ascribed to (e.g. Islam). They consider these rules to be only for normal (not Sufi) followers of those religions.
Sunnīs are the majority of Muslims who follow the Qur’ān, Ḥadīth and the works of traditional scholars of Islam. Their beliefs and practices are very much influenced by their perception of the opinions of traditional scholars. Apart from the Qur’ān, a major source of understanding Islam for this group is Ḥadīth, specifically the six main books of Ḥadīth known as Ṣiḥāḥ (the sound ones). Sunnīs often use Aḥādīth to interpret the Qur’ān.
Shī‘ī are those Muslims who believe that after the death of the Prophet (sws) there were divinely appointed infallible individuals from the generation of the Prophet (sws), calledimāms, who were and are supposed to be followed. Any understanding of the Qur’ān and Islam according to this group should be through these individuals. Consequently books and narrations attributed to these imāms are considered as the most important sources of understanding Islam after the Qur’ān. These sources are also used by Shī‘ī to interpret the Qur’ān.
The right path in Islam is the one that is relying on fully reliable divine sources, where unreliable sources are not used to interpret these reliable sources. The only fully reliable divine sources in Islam are the Qur’ān (as an independent source) and the religious practices that were established by the Prophet (sws) among his companions, the knowledge of which was transferred, generation after generation, to our time and on which there is general agreement (Sunnah).
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Need for an Imam
Why do we need an Imam?
If by Imam you mean a leader, I think every human being and every civilised society agrees that every group of people with a common goal need a leader to coordinate all the tasks and to guide people towards their goals with the best of his/her abilities.
However if by Imam you mean a divinely appointed person who is supposed to be there for us after the death of the Prophet (sws), then I should say there is no need for such a person and in fact there has not been such a person after the death of the Prophet (sws).
The Qur’ān has made it clear for us that after the Messengers, we do not need any other live and divinely appointed guidance and that the delivering of the message of Islam has been completed at the time of the Prophet (sws):
(We sent) messengers as the givers of good news and as warners, so that people should not have a plea against Allah after the (coming of) messengers; and Allah is Mighty, Wise. (Al-Nisā 4:165)
This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favour on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion. (Al-Mā’idah 5:3)
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Concept of imām in the Holy Qur’ān
Is their a concept of imām in the Holy Qur’ān?
I believe the answer to this question depends on what you mean by imām. If you mean some one who guides others, then yes it definitely exists in the Holy Qur’ān. However if you mean a divinely appointed guide other than a Prophet that is supposed to be followed by people and one that only through his guidance followers of Islam can reach salvation, then the answer is no, there is no such a concept in the Qur’an.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Ahl-e-bayt of The Prophet (His Household )
Who are the Ahl al-bayt of the Prophet (sws)?
Ahl Al-bayt literally means household and has been used with the same meaning in the history of Arabs, as well as the Qur’ān. Household includes wife/wives and dependants. The meaning can be developed to include other close members of the family as well (like the example of Ḥadīth of Kaasa).
Author: Abdullah Rahim