Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Thaqalayn Journal


[## Two issues of a Shia Magazine]


A Quarterly Journal of Islamic Studies

The Ahlul Bayt World Assembly - Tehran, IRAN

In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful


##Volume 10, Number 1, Spring 1430/2009:



Life of the Prophet Mohammad before Starting the Mission, by S. Ahmad Rahnamaei
The Significance of Self-control and Self-purification, by Mohammad Ali Shomali
The Prophetic Hadiths in Al-Khisal, by Mohammad Javad Shomali
An Outline of Law from a Quranic Perspective, by Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi
Authority and Tradition, by Dr. Ghasem Kakaie
Authority from a Shia Perspective, by Dr Muhammad Legenhausen



##Volume 10, Number 2, Summer 1430/2009:



1. The Prophet's Spiritual State at the Time of His Mission, by S. Ahmad Rahnamaei
2. Different Methodological Approaches to Spirituality, by Mohammad Ali Shomali
3. An Outline of Governance from a Quranic Perspective, by Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi
4. Ijtihad: Takhtiah or Taswib, by Dr Mohammad Namazi
5. Intellectual, Political and Social Status of the Shias on the Verge of Occultation, by Mas'ud Pur Sayyid Aqaei
6. Reason, Faith & Authority: A Shia Perspective, by Mohammad Ali Shomali



## Volume 10, Number 1, Spring 1430/2009:



# Editorial:

Publication of this issue has coincided the birth anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be with him and his household) and the Week of Unity. This also comes after unfair and unprecedented attacks against the character and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad in the last few years in some media in certain western countries. It seems clear that such attempts originate more than anything else from the fear that some fundamentally secular and materialist parties and individuals have deep in their hearts when they see that overall religiosity and faith in God in general, and Islam in particular, are growing in the world. In the past they have tried different so called, “logical”, “philosophical”, “sociological” and even “scientific” arguments to disprove, disarm and dismantle faith-based communities. However, to their surprise none of these measures has been able to stop what they consider to be the threat and they are left without choice except either to admit their defeat or to resort to emotional and psychological means such as mocking and ridiculing or frightening and terrifying by things like films, cartoons and novels so that they can at least keep other people away from religious communities and make their own allies alarmed and mobilised.

This reminds us of similar policies adopted by the pagan leaders of Mecca. When they could not find anything wrong in the teachings and conduct of the Prophet and saw how people were impressed by him they started charging him with “madness.” This raised a burning question against them: How is possible that a mad person could present something like the Quran and then challenge all the Arabs who were at the peak of eloquence at that time and their allies to bring something similar to the Quran or at least to ten chapters of the Quran or even to one chapter of the Quran and in the end they all proved incompetent? Maybe this is why they shifted to another accusation: that he was a magician. They even asked people to put some cotton in their ears when they went around Ka'bah so that the voice of the Prophet who used to recite the Quran next to the House of God would not reach them. They also banned people from going near the house of the Prophet in the night and listen to his recitation of the Quran. None of these measures worked. If he were a magician then naturally many questions would arise: Who was his teacher? Why could not the top magicians of the world at that time defeat him or at least compete with him? Why throughout his life before he started proclaiming divine message, that is about 40 years, he was never known to be engaged in anything like magic? And in principle is it possible at all that a text which is available to everyone and remains over centuries be mixed with magic? Why no one, whether those who have believed in the Quran or those who have decided not to believe, feels the force of magic.

In any case, history shows that divine religions, and in particular Islam, have proved quite capable of facing such challenges and in the end coming out with success and more opportunities for progress. By no standards, can Nimrod, Pharaoh, Roman pagans, Abu Sufyan and their like be considered as winners. How can they be winners when no one is happy to be ever associated with them! On the other hand, no one can consider Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad as losers. How can they be losers when billions of people feel honoured to be associated with them!

This is history which serves as a great reassurance for the followers of divine prophets. However, there is a greater reassurance to be found in the Word of God Himself: “They desire to put out the light of God with their mouths, but God is intent on completing His light though the faithless should be averse” (9:32); “They desire to put out the light of God with their mouths, but God shall complete His light though the faithless should be averse.” (61:8) Interestingly, both verses are followed by God's confirmation that “He is the one who has sent His Apostle with the guidance and the religion of truth in order to make the religion of truth prevail over all religions [of falsity], though the polytheists should be averse.” (9:33 & 61:9) Progress of truth, justice and other divine values should be welcomed by all truly religious communities and the only people who may be worried are the faithless and modern pagans.

The Quran warns us that the real challenge and serious threat for the faith and faithful comes usually, if not always, from within and not without. The Quran tells us: “Today the faithless have despaired of your religion. So do not fear them, but fear Me. Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam as your religion.” (5:3) Islam is made so strong by God that no external threat can put it at risk and, therefore, there is no need to fear the faithless. The only one to fear is God. Why? Is it possible or even conceivable that God may harm His own religion? Is it likely that instead of supporting those who truly believe in Him and sincerely follow his Apostles, God may hurt them? Rather, the Quran tells the faithful: “O you who have faith! If you help God, He will help you and make your feet steady” (47:7); “God will surely help those who help Him. Indeed God is All-strong, All-mighty. Those who, if We granted them power in the land, maintain the prayer, give the zakat, and bid what is right and forbid what is wrong. And with God rests the outcome of all matters (22:40 & 41); “Certainly Our decree has gone beforehand in favour of Our servants, the Apostles, that they will indeed receive [God's] help, and indeed Our hosts will be the victors” (37:171-173) and so on.

To fear God means to fear bad outcomes and destructive consequences of our own misconduct which would deprive us from receiving certain types of the mercy of God and expose us to divine punishment and administration of justice. The Quran confirms that unless people change, God will not take away from people what He has given them: “That is because God never changes a blessing that He has bestowed on a people unless they change what is in their own souls, and God is All-hearing, All-knowing” (8:53); “…Indeed God does not change a people's lot, unless they change what is in their souls. And when God wishes to visit ill on a people, there is nothing that can avert it, and they have no protector besides Him” (13:11).

Thus, it becomes clear that “do not fear them (the faithless), but fear Me” implies in a very clear and understandable way that you must be most concerned with your own attitudes and deeds than the external attacks. To take this instruction seriously, two tasks must be accomplished. Firstly, every single faithful must purify himself, that is, his heart and mind, his actions and intentions, and make sure that he is not serving his own selfish interests and lowers desires in the Name of God. Secondly, all the faith communities must safeguard themselves against disunity and divisions amongst themselves and make sure that they do not weaken and endanger the whole faith in God and common divine values in the name of promoting their own party. Of course, this is more true about adherents to the same religion, such as Muslims. There is no way to justify any attempt, planned or unplanned, which may lead to separation, partitioning and division, let alone to fight or conflict.

The Quran tells us that God calls for unity (3:103; 8:46) and actually brings about unity and saves from divisions (8:63). On the other hand, it is people like Pharaoh who divide people (28:4). It is striking that when the Children of Israel started worshipping the calf in the absence of Moses, Aaron tried to keep calm and avoid anything that may divide the people and waited for Moses himself to come and decide. The Quran tells us that on his return, Moses said, 'O Aaron! What kept you, when you saw them going astray, from following me? Did you disobey my command?' He said, 'O son of my mother! Do not hold my beard or my head! I feared lest you should say, ''You have caused a rift among the Children of Israel, and did not heed my word [of advice].'' ' (20:92-94) If Aaron who himself was a prophet and was appointed by Moses as his successor when he left the people to receive Divine Commands witnesses such an obvious case of mischief and deviation and yet does not feel it right for him to do anything that may divide the community and decides to wait for Moses to return, then how come some Sunni or Shia Muslims fail to observe requirements of unity and brotherhood or, God forbid, call for disunity and conflict.

The Message of Thaqalayn feels responsible to present the teachings of Islam in general and the School of the Ahulu Bayt in particular with complete honesty and accuracy and at the same time to stress on the common grounds that bind all Muslims together. Strengthening ties of brotherhood among all Muslims, whatever school of Islam they may adhere to, and establishing genuine, endurable and intimate friendship between all those who believe in God are two of the main aims and tasks of the Message of Thaqalayn and indeed, any responsible media.

This issue includes six papers. The first paper is entitled: “Life of the Prophet Mohammad before Starting the Mission”. In this paper Hujjatu'l-Islam Dr. Sayyed Ahmad Rahnamaei studies some major events related to the first forty years of Prophet Mohammad's life, that is, from the time of his birth until he was appointed by God as His Apostle. Issues such as the date of his birth, his nursing and childhood, the story of the splitting of his chest, his participation in the Sacrilegious War and his trip to Sham are discussed. Hujjatu'l-Islam Dr Rahnamaei is an assistant professor in the Dept. of Education at the Imam Khomeini Education & Research Institute, Qum. This paper is a revised version of the second chapter of his M.A. dissertation submitted to the faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, McGill University, Montreal, Canada, in 1995. The author has revised this paper especially for this issue of the Message of Thaqalayn. God-willing, other aspects and periods of the Life of the Prophet Mohammad will be studied by him in the next two issues of the Message of Thaqalayn.

The second paper is entitled: “The Significance of Self-control and Self-purification”. In this paper Hujjatu'l-Islam Dr. Mohammad Ali Shomali studies the necessity and significance of self-control and self-purification in Islamic Spirituality. He argues that we cannot develop ourselves by simply doing what we wish. By exercising some kind of control, we are able to transform our soul from one which has an interest in lower desires into a soul which has a yearning for good things. By training and purifying, our soul itself becomes a helper and an assistant to us in our spiritual journey. A major task of the Prophets and in particular the Prophet Mohammad was to help people to purify themselves. One major way of purification is to give out one's own money for the sake of God in order to get rid of attachment to the materialistic life. Hujjatu'l-Islam Dr. Shomali is an associate professor and the head of the Dept. of Religions at the Imam Khomeini Education & Research Instittue, Qum. He is also the Dean of Postgraduate Studies for International Students at the Jami'at al-Zahra, the Islamic University for Women in Qum. God-willing, other theoretical and practical aspects of Islamic spirituality will be studied by the same author and others in the forthcoming issues.

The third paper is entitled: “The Prophetic Hadiths in Al-Khisal”. Al-Khisal is a well-known collection of the hadiths (traditions) from the Prophet Mohammad and his household, compiled by one of the great masters of hadith in early centuries of Islam i.e. Shaykh Saduq, Muhammad b. Babawayh al-Qummi (d.329/940). Mr Mohammad Javad Shomali has selected for our readers fifty one hadiths from the Prophet Mohammad reported by Shaykh Saduq in Al-Khisal which relate to Numbers One to Twelve. Mr Mohammad Javad Shomali is a seminarian at the Shahidayn School, Islamic Seminaries of Qum.

The fourth paper is entitled: “An Outline of Law from a Quranic Perspective”. In this paper Dr Karim Aghili presents a brief summary and paraphrase of some of the salient points regarding law from a Quranic point of view, based on Law and Politics in the Quran by Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi, one of the foremost masters of the intellectual and transmitted sciences in present-day Iran. This paper studies the need for law in every human society and continues by showing the relation between law and morality in Islam. The paper ends by discussing the sources of Islamic law and its goals. In addition to his studies in Iran, Dr Karim Aghili has completed his PhD. on Comparative Philosophy of Education at the University of Sheffield and is currently based in Manchester. God-willing, this paper will be followed by a similar paper on government from a Quranic point of view by the same author in the next issue.

The fifth paper is entitled: “Authority and Tradition”. In this paper Hujjat'ul-Islam Dr Ghasem Kakaie studies two major concepts of authority and tradition and their relation from a Shia perspective. Studying the authority of the Prophet Mohammad, the author refers to four tasks of the Prophet i.e. receiving divine revelation, communicating the revelation to people, interpreting the revelation and administering the divine rulings. The paper continues with a discussion about the authority after the demise of the Prophet. The author explains that the Prophet Mohammad was the last Prophet so the first two tasks i.e. receiving divine revelation and communicating it to people ended with his demise, but the other two tasks i.e. interpreting the revelation and administering divine rulings had to be continued. These two were handed over in the first place to the infallible Imams. In the time of occultation when there is no access to the twelfth Imam, it is required of the most qualified Shia jurists to administer divine rulings in addition to present teachings of the Prophet and Imams to the people. This paper was presented in the second Catholic-Shia Dialogue in UK in July 2005 and published in Catholic-Shia Engagement: Reason & Faith in Theory and Practice (2006). Hujjatu'al-Islam Dr. Kakaie is an associate Professor and editor-in-chief of Journal of Religious Thought of the Faculty of Literature and Humanities of Shiraz University.

The sixth and final paper is entitled: “Authority from a Shia Perspective”. In this paper Dr Muhammad Legenhausen contrasts Shia views on authority with those of Catholics, and those of Sunni theologians. The paper begins with explaining the meaning and different facets of authority. The paper continues with a discussion about the source(s) of authority and the way(s) in which it is conferred. After examination of authority, the author turns to the issue of tradition as far as it pertains to authority. This paper was written for the second Catholic-Shia Dialogue in UK in July 2005 and published in Catholic-Shia Engagement: Reason & Faith in Theory and Practice (2006). Dr Mohammad Legenhausen is a professor of philosophy at the Imam Khomeini Education & Research Institute, Qum.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who have contributed to this volume and pray for their success. I want to especially thank Mrs. Fatima Khimji from Canada for editing and proof-reading all the papers of this publication and making valuable comments. I also want to thank Mrs. Zainab Rezavi from UK for reading and commenting on drafts of the second and third papers of this work. I would also like to thank the Ahlul Bayt World Assembly and the Islamic Centre of England for their support and encouragement. And last, but not the least, I thank God the Almighty for His guidance and favour upon us in the past and present.

Mohammad Ali Shomali

March 2009



# Life of the Prophet Mohammad before Starting the Mission

S. Ahmad Rahnamaei

This paper is an attempt to study some aspects of the Prophet Mohammad's life before his mission started. Issues such as the Prophet's birth, his nursing, the story of the splitting of his chest (shaqq al-Sadr) and his participation in the Sacrilegious War (Harb al-Fijar) are discussed.

The Prophet’s Birth

Perhaps one of the most debatable subjects regarding the life of the Prophet is the biographers' dispute on the exact date of his birth. If someone were to gather all of the different opinions on this issue, there would be about twenty options to choose from.1) Of course, the year and the month of the Prophet's birth is agreed upon by the vast majority of both Sunni and Shia historians and narrators of hadith. It is accepted as a well-known fact that the Prophet was born in the lunar month Rabi' al-Awwal of the 'Year of the Elephant', i.e. 570 C. E.2) The majority of Muslim scholars agree with the consensus on the subject.3)

Since the very beginning, however, there has been a difference between the Sunni and Shia schools on the actual day of the birth of the Prophet, and this difference is reflected in their works where they point to the birthday of the Prophet as it will be dealt with here.4) The seventeenth of Rabi' al-Awwal is supported by the Shia due to a famous saying, while the twelfth of the month is recognized by the vast majority of Sunni scholars. Among the Shia, it was only al-Kulayni5) who certified the date of the twelfth of the month.6)

Some Sunni biographers refer to the disagreement among historians7) but conclude: “the majority … agree that Muhammad was born on the twelfth of Rabi' al-Awwal, the claim of Ibn Ishaq and other biographers.”8) Ibn Ishaq observes that the Prophet was born on Monday, the twelfth of Rabi' al-Awwal, in the 'Year of the Elephant'.9) According to the general belief of Sunnis, Monday was the actual day of the birth of the Prophet,10) while among the Shia, Friday is determined to have been the day in question.11) Nowadays, in Islamic Republic of Iran, there is an anniversary celebration which is held every year from the 12th to the 17th of Rabi' al-Awwal. The week during which the ceremony is held, is called the 'Week of Unity'. It indicates that each sect can respect the other's thought, while still focusing on what it has received through its own tradition.

The thirteenth century Shia biographer al-Irbili,12) states that he believes such a disagreement on the day of the Prophet's birth is natural. To him this is because the Arabs then were unfamiliar with dates and calendars. They did not know how to record their children's birthdays. What seems amazing and unreasonable to al-Irbili is the biographers' dispute on the date of the Prophet's death.13)

Extraordinary Events

Some biographers deny any unusual circumstance in respect to the birth of the Prophet and remark that “there was nothing unusual about Amina's pregnancy or delivery.”14) However, some extraordinary events are narrated in almost all Sunni and Shici biographies, events which are alleged to have happened before or very soon after the Prophet's birth.15)

The Prophet’s Suckling

Why would Muhammad have been suckled by a nurse other than his own mother? Biographers accept that the Prophet was nursed by Thuwayba, servant of Abu Lahab, for a while. Then Halima al-Sacdiyya, daughter of Abu Dhu'ayb, accepted him into her charge, because she had found no one other than this orphan child. Halima related that after she took Muhammad with her, she found all kinds of blessings and goodness. She nursed him for two whole years, and then she brought him back to his mother.16)

Ibn Ishaq relates of Halima:

He [the Prophet] was growing up as none of the other children grew and by the time he was two he was a well-made child. We brought him to his mother, though we were most anxious to keep him with us because of the blessing which he brought us. I said to her: “I should like you to leave my little boy with me until he becomes a big boy, for I am afraid on his account of the pest in Mecca.” We persisted until she sent him back with us.17)

Was the Prophet Spurned Because of His Orphanhood?
It is related that Halima used to say that she and other foster-mothers refused the apostle of God when he was offered to each of them, because they could not expect to get payment from the child's father.18) M. Hosayn Haykal (Sunni biographer) says,

the prospect of an orphan child did not much attract them (wet nurses), since they hoped to be well rewarded by the father. The infants of widows, such as Muhammad, were not attractive at all. Not one of them accepted Muhammad into her care, preferring the infants of the living and of the affluent.19)

This point is understood from Ibn Ishaq's sira, according to which Halima states: “We said, 'An orphan! and what will his mother and grandfather do?', and so we spurned him because of that.”20)

S. Ja'far Murtada (Shia biographer) also refers to the same story and states that Halima at first spurned Muhammad (as her colleagues had done before her), but finally she accepted him because she found no child other than him.21) He, however, suggests another possibility which is presented by some Shia scholars. They are not satisfied with this part of the story and refute it on the basis of the following considerations:

1-It is related that 'Abdullah, the Prophet's father, was alive at the time of his son's birth and died a few months after. Some say that the father's death occurred seven months after the Prophet's birth, while some other state that it was seventeen months.22) It is also alleged by some others that 'Abdullah's death occurred twenty-eight months after his son was born.23) Therefore, we are not sure whether the Prophet was an orphan at his birth or not. Even if we accept that Muhammad was an orphan at his birth, he was still a descendant of an honorable and wealthy man like 'Abd al-Muttalib one of whose properties was a herd of two-hundred camels, in the “Year of the Elephant.”24) People knew his grandfather to be a generous and exalted person. They knew that his daughter-in-law Amina also was from a wealthy family. So an orphan such as Muhammad should never have been deprived of the chance to have a foster-mother like the other children of nobles. His rights also could never be disregarded, especially when he was under the protection of his grandfather.25) Moreover, we must consider that asking for nurses was the practice of the Makkan aristocracy26) among whom was the leader of the Quraysh, 'Abd al-Muttalib.

The Custom of Choosing Foster-Mothers

There are good reasons as to why Muhammad, like other infants, was suckled by a desert tribe. On the whole, it was the practice of nobles of the Makka and until recently was still practiced among Makkan aristocracy. They used to send their children to the desert on the eighth day of their birth to remain there until the age of eight or ten. Some of the tribes of the desert had a reputation as providers of excellent wet nurses, specially the tribe of Banu Sa'd.27) From the points of this view, there were some reasons behind this practice, such as:

1- Their children's physical disposition could grow sounder because they inhaled the purest of desert air, and the hardness of desert living, which caused their quick growth and equipped them with a natural adaptability towards different conditions.28)

2- They were able to learn the purest and most classical Arabic language, since they avoided the multi-cultural conditions of Makka, which was usually crowded with different tribes, especially during the season of pilgrimage, or when the trade caravans were in Makka for their transactions. Makkans mostly used to ask the Banu Sa'd to nurse their children, for this tribe was the most preserved Arab of the tribes of the cities or the desert.29) Thus the Prophet himself told his companions: “I am the most perfect Arab of you all. I am of Quraysh, and I was suckled and brought up among the tribe of Banu Sa'd b. Bakr.”30)

3- Inhaling the pure air of the desert caused their children to grow up brave and strong-hearted, and gave them “the spirit of personal freedom and independence.”31)

4- The nature of desert living usually agreed with their children's mental growth, and gave them purer intellect and talent, for they were far from the disturbances and difficulties of urban living, and lived a simple and more natural life.32)

5- it is related that Halima, when returning the Prophet to his mother after two years in the desert, asked Amina to let her take him again to the desert, because of an epidemic then raging at Makka.33)

Makka had bad and hot air, especially during the summer and children were in more danger than adults, for the warm and dry situation of this city did not suit Makkan newborns. Therefore, Makkans used to send their children to the desert where it wasn't warm and dry in order to protect them from the unhealthy air of Makka. They had to look for foster-mothers to nurse their babies far from the city for a few years until they had grown up enough. It is related that Halima brought Muhammad back to his mother when he was four, but Amina wanted her to take him again with her to the desert, because she was afraid of such diseases afflicting him.

Two of the above-mentioned reasons are related in the form of certified hadiths. That is to say, the second one has been related in Ibn Ishaq's sira 34) as one hadith, and the fifth one is presented by Ibn Athir again in the form of a hadith.35) Also it is elaborated by al-Tabari, in his history of the Prophet,36) and by haykal in his Hayat37) as a narrative from Halima. The rest of these reasons are the result of the biographers' understanding of the sira.

The Story of the Splitting of the Prophet’s chest

In several sources from both Sunni and Shia traditions, one may find the story of the splitting of the Prophet's chest. although the original narrative comes from Sunni tradition, the story is narrated in some Shia books too. Different attitudes are expressed by biographers towards this extraordinary anecdote. On the whole, most Sunni scholarship has agreed upon the authenticity of the story, while to the contrary, most Shia scholarship has rejected it.

According to Ibn Ishaq, quoting Halima, the story went like this:

Some months after our return, he and his brother were with our lambs behind the tents when his brother came running and said to us, 'Two men clothed in white have seized that Qurayshi brother of mine and thrown him down and opened up his belly, and are stirring it up.' We ran towards him and found him standing up with a livid face. We took hold of him and asked him what the matter was. He said, 'Two men in white raiment came and threw me down and opened up my belly and searched therein for I know not what.' So we took him back to our tent.38)

This incident was what prompted his foster-mother to return him to his mother. Ibn Ishaq then relates another hadith on the authority of a learned person whom he thinks was khalid b. Ma'dan. This person, on the authority of some of the Apostle's companions, told Ibn Ishaq that the Prophet said:

… I was suckled among the B. Sa cd b. Bakr, and while I was with a brother of mine behind our tents shepherding the lambs, two men in white raiment came to me with a gold basin full of snow. Then they seized me and opened up my belly, extracted my heart and split it; then they extracted a black drop from it and threw it away; then they washed my heart and my belly with that snow until they had thoroughly cleaned them. …39)

In Sahih of Muslim, the story is narrated through a chain on the authority of Anas b. Malik. According to the hadith of Anas, the extracted black drop was the portion of Satan in the Prophet's heart. At the end of this narrative, Anas mentions that he himself used to see the mark of that splitting on the chest of the prophet.40)

Negative Attitude towards the story

Evaluating the story, Haykal states:

Orientalists and many Muslim scholars do not trust the story and find the evidence therefore spurious. The biographers agree that the two men dressed in white were seen by children hardly beyond their second year of age, which constitutes no witness at all, and that Muhammad lived with the tribe of banu Sa'd in the desert until he was five. The claim that this event had taken place while Muhammad was two and a half years old and that Halimah and her husband returned the child to his mother immediately thereafter, contradicts this general consensus. Consequently, some writers have even asserted that Muhammad returned with Halimah for the third time.41)

As an extra proof, Haykal refers to the ideas of two Orientalists, Muir and Dermenghem. Muir states that it is difficult to discover the real fact, for the story have been invested with so many marvelous features. He concludes that the story was probably due to a fit of epilepsy, a sort of nervous or epileptic seizure, which could not at all have hurt Muhammad's healthy constitution.42)

Dermenghem believes that this legend is only based on a verse from the Quran, and has no foundation other than the speculative interpretations of the verses which are depicted in sura al-Inshirah: ”Had We not revived [literally ”opened”] your breast. And had We not removed the burden which galled your back?”43) From point of view of Dermenghem the story of the splitting is based upon the speculative interpretation of these verses.44) Haykal comes to this conclusion:

Certainly, in these verses the Quran is pointing to something purely spiritual. It means to describe a purification of the heart as preparation for receipt of the divine message and to stress Muhammad's over-taxing burden of prophethood. Those Orientalists and Muslim thinkers who take this position vis-à-vis the foregoing tradition do so in consideration of the fact that the life of Muhammad was human through and through and that in order to prove his prophethood the Prophet never had recourse to miracle-mongering as previous prophets had needed to do..

This finding is corroborated by Arab and Muslim historians who consistently assert that the life of the Arab Prophet is free of anything irrational or mysterious and who regard the contrary as inconsistent with the Quranic position that God's creation is rationally analyzable, that His laws are immutable, and that the pagans are blameworthy because they do not reason.45)

According to Haykal, the Prophet was never involved in 'irrational' and 'miraculous' things.

Citing from Sahih of Muslim, S. Ja'far Murtada, remarks that Sunni books of hadith and sira often mention such a story. According to some of these sources, the splitting of the Prophet's chest took place several times. The first time occurred in his third year of age when he was among B. Sa'd, the second one occurred when he was ten, the third one at the time of his Commission, and the fourth at the time of the night journey and his ascent to heaven. The narrators attempt to justify the repetition of the story as increasing his glory.46) Regarding the story in itself, Murtada, points out some of the attitudes which are expressed towards it as follows:

1-The story is considered a clear sign of the prophethood that appeared before the time of his Mission, and according to which the prophetic office of Muhammad was predicted.47)

2-It refers to a verbal and terminological interpretation of sura Inshirah, as mentioned before.48)

3-It does not seem to be a sound and authentic story, since the Prophet was born pure, lacking any defect, imperfection, and impurity.49)

4-It is an unreal story which non-Muslim scholars have either ridiculed or taken as a proof of some of their untrue beliefs. For instance, it is advocated by some Christians that no human beings, even the Prophet of Islam, are infallible; rather they all perform faulty actions except Jesus Christ, who never was touched by Satan. They come to the conclusion that only Jesus was beyond the level of humanity, and he actually was a divine being in the shape of man.50) Thus, in their opinion, it must be assumed that Muhammad was an impure man, as it is shown by the story of splitting.

Among the Orientalists, we can find someone like Dermenghem who in his the life of Mahomet states: “This legend of the opened breast offers, moreover, certain dogmatic interest. The black stain removed by the angels can be linked to the stigma of original sin from which only Mary and Jesus were free.”51)

Murtada, on the other hand, thoroughly refutes the story, and considers it a jahili hadith which is rooted in jahiliya thought, coming out of the opinion of the people of ignorance (ahl al-jahiliya). Quoting some examples from al-Aghani, he asserts that a legend like this has its background in the age of ignorance. According to al-Aghani, the very same event occurred four times to an unlightened person named Umayya b. Abi al-Salt, when he was sleeping in his sister's house. In his case it was two birds that descended upon him, and one of them opened his chest.52)

In support of his position, S. Jacfar Murtada, presents seven proofs, mostly in the form of questions. These are as follows:

1-One of the sources for this narrative is the Sira of Ibn Ishaq, who on the authority of a learned person, declared that what persuaded Halima to return the Prophet to his mother was something apart from the above-mentioned reason. Accordingly, it was because

… a number of Abyssinian Christians saw him with her when she brought him back after he had been weaned. They looked at him, asked questions about him, and studied him carefully, then they said to her, 'Let us take this boy, and bring him to our king and our country; for he will have a great future. We know all about him.' The person who told me this alleged that she could hardly get him away from them.53)

Therefore, the hadiths that attest that his foster-mother was urged to bring him back to his mother by the extraordinary event of splitting his chest in the desert seem to be doubtful.54)

2-How could the return of the prophet to his mother be due to the opening of his chest? On the one hand, it is alleged that this tale happened when he was three or two and some months. And on the other, it is said that he was returned to his mother when he was five years old. How can one harmonize these two claims?55)

3-Is it accurate to aver that the root of evil is a black drop in the heart, and something that requires a physical splitting and operation in order to get rid of it? Does this mean that whosoever has such a black drop can be a virtuous person if the black drop is removed from his heart by an operation? Or is it acceptable to say that this fact was specific only to the Prophet, and no one else can share this event with him? Then why should the Prophet be the only one among human beings whose heart contained this black drop and no one other than him?56)

4-Why should that operation have been repeated several times (four or five times) at great intervals, even a few years after the Mission, and at the time of the night journey (isra) and his ascent to heaven (micraj)? Was this repeated because the black drop, i.e. that satanic portion, was so tenacious in the Prophet's heart, to the extent that it kept growing, and returned again and again? Was that black drop like a cancer, a single operation to excise which was useless, so that it was in need of more extensive operations, one after another? If it were so, then why did that black drop not return after the fourth or fifth operation? Further, why should Allah torture and punish His Prophet by such a chastisement? Wasn't it possible for Him to create His apostle free and pure from any satanic black drop?57)

5-In the event that God does wish His servant not to be immoral and sinful, is it necessary to perform such a terrible cleansing in the sight and hearing of others? And doesn't it mean that the Prophet was obliged to do good unwillingly and automatically, since he was operated upon and cleaned in such a way by God?58)

6-Why must it have been only Muhammad, among all the prophets, who was chosen for this operation?59) Is it rational to believe that Muhammad was the most excellent of prophets, and at the same time he was the only prophet who was in need of such an operation because of having a black drop in his heart? Or is it possible to allege that there was the same satanic drop in the hearts of other prophets, but that they were not removed because the angels, who were responsible for the operation, did not know the method of operation yet?!60)

7-And finally, doesn't a story like this contradict what is revealed in Quranic verses that affirm that Satan neither has any authority over those who believe and trust in their Lord,61) nor over His (pure) servants,62) nor over those who are sincere and purified?63) According to Islamic thought, all prophets including the Prophet of Islam are the most sincere servants of Allah who were sent by Him to people. Then how could Satan have dominance and authority over the Prophet till the time of his night journey and ascent to heaven?64)

In any case, the story is related in its original form only through the authority of Sunni tradition, and that it never goes back to the sayings of one of the Imams of the Shia.65)

The Prophet and the Sacrilegious War (Harb al-Fijar)

The war was known as sacrilegious because the tribes Kinana and Qays 'Aylan violated the holy months66) by conducting warfare therein.67)

Most of Sunni biographers accepted that Muhammad took part in the fijar war and that “he stood on the side of his uncle.” For instance, Haykal states that

there is apparent consensus as to the kind of participation that Muhammad had in this war. Some people claim that he was charged with collecting the arrows falling within the Makkan camp and bringing them over to his uncle for re-use against the enemy.68) Others claim that he himself participated in the shooting of these arrows.69)

Concerning the age of the Prophet at the time of this war, Haykal continues that

History has not established the age of Muhammad during the fijar war. Reports that he was fifteen and twenty years old have circulated. Perhaps the difference is due to the fact that the fijar war lasted at least four years. If Muhammad saw its beginning at the age of fifteen, he must have been close to twenty at the conclusion of the peace. 70)

The circulation of the reports putting the Prophet's age at between fourteen or fifteen and twenty is found in the Sira of Ibn Ishaq. That is to say, according to Ibn Hisham, Muhammad was fourteen or fifteen years old when he participated in the war.71) But in the same Sira, it is quoted from Ibn Ishaq that when the sacrilegious war occurred, the Prophet was twenty years old.72) Harmonizing the two reports, haykal observes, “Since the said war lasted four years, it is not improbable that both claims are true.”73) Haykal then approves of the Prophet's participation and the extent of his participation in this war through a hadith according to which, the Prophet, years after his commission to prophethood, said, “I had witnessed that war with my uncle and shot a few arrows therein. How I wish I had never done so!”74)

This is while for many Shia scholars it is not acceptable that the Prophet participated in the fijar war. To these scholars there are four proofs as follows to support this view:

1-The war broke out in the sacred months, the holiness of which was never violated by the Prophet and his uncle Abu Talib. One who studies the sira of Muhammad and Abu Talib will consider how they used to respect issues like the holiness of the sacred months. As mentioned in al-Kafi, al-Ghadir and some other sources of hadith, Abu Talib believed in the pure Abrahamic religion. furthermore, he was an executor of Abrahamic wills and beliefs. Thus, how could the violation of the holiness of such months be attributed to a religious man like Abu Talib?75) The negation of Abu Talib's participation in fijar means that Muhammad also, who was then under his supervision and his instruction, never participated in this war.76)

2-Ya'qubi reports that it is related that Abu Talib prohibited any of Banu Hisham to take part in fijar war, saying that it was an oppression, a hostile act, breaking with relatives and a violation of the holiness of the sacred months. Abu Talib insisted that he would not participate in that war nor would any of his family. Among Banu Hisham it was only Zubayr b. 'Abd al-Muttalib who took part unwillingly and under the pressure of his alliances. Ya'qubi continues that 'Abdullah b. Jad'an al-Taymi and Harb b. Umayya said that they would never attend any position from which Banu Hisham kept themselves away.77)

3-The conflict of hadiths is another reason. Some of these hadiths restrict his role to collecting and carrying the arrows which had fallen within the camp of the Makkans in order that they may be re-used against their enemy. Also, he was charged with protecting his uncles' equipment.78) A group of hadiths indicate that the Prophet shot a number of arrows against the enemy, but later on he wished that he had never done that.79) The third group of narratives state that the Prophet injured Abu Bara (the head of Banu Qays and a spear-thrower), with the result that Abu bara fell down from his horse.80)

4-Some reports are contradictory, such as in what is related by Ibn Hisham. First he states that the Prophet participated in the fijar war when he was fourteen years old, but at the end of the story he records Ibn Ishaq's opinion that the fijar took place when the Prophet was twenty years old, i.e. twenty years after the Year of the Elephant.81) Another example of contradiction among the narratives is Ya'qubi's reports, according to which Harb b. Umayya did not take part in the fijar war, whereas according to other narratives Harb participated in the war while he was the head of the Quraysh and the Kinana.82)

We come to the conclusion that the Prophet neither partook in the fijar war nor cooperated with any side in the war. So this kind of inconsistency in the narratives should be attributed to the political agenda of the Umayyad, who were responsible for these fabrications.83)

The Prophet’s trip to Sham

Among a number of stories, we may refer to a very famous one which has been accepted by almost all historians and biographers of the Prophet. The story of his first trip to Sham alongside his uncle Abu Talib explains how the monk Bahira foretold the coming apostleship of the Prophet. According to Ibn Ishaq the story went like this: “He (Bahira) saw the Apostle of God in the caravan when they approached, with a cloud over-shadowing him among the people. Then they came and stopped in the shadow of a tree near the monk. He looked at the cloud when it over-shadowed the tree, and its branches were bending and drooping over the apostle of God until he was in the shadow beneath it.”84) After Bahira saw this extraordinary event he stared at the Prophet closely “finding traces of his description (in the Christian books).” He asked him many questions, “and what the apostle of God told him coincided with what Bahira knew of his description.”85) Here the monk foretold the prophethood of the Prophet and he advised Abu Talib to “guard him carefully against the Jews, for by Allah! if they see him and know about him what I know, they will do him evil; a great future lies before this nephew of yours, so take him home quickly.”86)

Summarizing Comments

The dispute surrounding the date of the Prophet's birth is a result of the differences between the hadith and sira sources from both Sunni and Shia sects.

One should be very cautious and careful about the unusual events narrated and associated with the Prophet's birth. On the whole, the narratives which imply such extraordinary events indicate the possibility that there might have been something unusual about Amina's pregnancy or delivery. They show that like some other prophets' births,87) the birth of Muhammad also was accompanied by miraculous events. These extraordinary events may have functioned as signs for Muhammad's prophethood. Narratives that correspond to the life of the Prophet before his mission illustrate that his prophecy never occurred accidentally or by chance. Rather, many things had taken place to gradually establish the doctrine of his apostleship from God. One may express the same attitude in the case of the extraordinary events which happened surrounding the birth of the Prophet. In short, they might be regarded as irhas, a kind of foretelling or prophecy. Such stories are related of previous prophets, and need not contradict the supposition that the Prophet's life was human through and through.

In regard to the story of the Prophet's nursing, if it is accepted that it was the practice of Makkan aristocracy to ask for nurses for their children, then on what basis do some biographers argue that Muhammad was spurned because of his orphanhood and his poverty? Basically, if Muhammad was offered to foster-mothers, it indicates that he was from Makkan aristocracy. And if this was so, how could he have been refused by any wet-nurse to whom he was offered, especially when it is obvious that his grandfather was well-known among all the tribes for his generosity, honor and mastership of the Quraysh?88) It is also said that the Prophet's inheritance from his father 'Abdullah was more than enough for having a foster-mother: at least five camels, a flock of sheep, a sword, and some money. Thus, the reason that Muhammad was nursed by Halima Sa'diya was that he did not accept the breasts of any woman to whom he was offered, except those of Halima. When she put him to her bosom to suckle him, the Quraysh infant surprisingly grasped his foster-mother's breasts, and this made his family very cheerful. 'Abd al-Muttalib then asked Halima: “Which tribe do you belong to?” And she answered: “I am from Banu Sa 'd.” He asked her name, and she said that her name was Halima. 'Abd al-Muttalib became very happy and said: “Excellent, excellent! Two praised and valuable attributes, salvation (sa'd - sa'ada) and patience (hilm). Good tidings to you Halima for having these excellent characteristics that imply eternal happiness and glory!89) concerning the story of the splitting the Prophet's chest, we realize that the story is untrue and unreasonable, and also destructive to the personality of the Prophet.

Regarding the 'sacrilegious war' as an offensive one, we deny the Prophet's participation in it, for this war broke the holiness of the sacred months, the fact that was always observed by the Prophet and his uncle Abu Talib, the master of Quraysh. This is why later on such a pre-Islamic social custom was affirmed by Islam, and Muslims were asked not to fight during the sacred months.

Biographers speak of the Prophet's first trip to Sham. They “tell how the monk recognized in Muhammad the signs of prophethood as told in Christian books.”90) The monk informed the Prophet's uncle Abu Talib that his nephew would be an apostle of Allah.91) Certainly such a prophecy refers to something extraordinary in the life of the Prophet, and is neither denied nor ignored by most biographers. This event assured Abu Talib that Muhammad would be a messenger of God. 92)


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# The Significance of Self-control and Self-purification

Mohammad Ali Shomali

It is a common idea amongst all religious and spiritual traditions that human beings should have some kind of self-control. Although we enjoy free will, we need to exercise our free will in a responsible way. In the same way that we expect others to respect our dignity and interests, we should respect dignity and interests of others. We should also safeguard our own dignity and long term interests. Thus, we cannot simply go after our whims and desires and do whatever we want. We need to have self-control and self-discipline which leads to self-purification. If we purify our hearts we will no longer need to resist our temptations and control ourselves against lower desires and lusts, since a purified person desires nothing except what is good and moral for himself and others. In what follows, we will study the necessity of self-control and self-purification.


On the necessity of self-control, the Glorious Quran says:

And as for him who fears to stand in the presence of his Lord and forbids his own soul from its whims and caprices then surely Paradise is the abode. (79:40 & 41)

O David! …do not follow the whims of your own soul for they will lead you astray from God's path. (38:26)

O you who have faith! Be maintainers of justice and witnesses for the sake of God, even if it should be against yourselves or [your] parents and near relatives, and whether it be [someone] rich or poor, for God has a greater right over them. So do not follow [your] desires, lest you should be unfair, and if you distort [the testimony] or disregard [it], God is indeed well aware of what you do. (4:135)

Here we find two pieces of advice. Firstly, to observe God's Will, to fear Him and to try to obey Him. And secondly, to forbid our soul from doing what is wrong and harmful to us. This becomes only possible when we have some kind of self-control. In Nahj al-Balaghah, there is a very beautiful and insightful description of an un-named brother. Imam Ali a.s. is quoted as saying:

In the past I had a brother-in-faith, and he was prestigious in my view because the world was insignificant in his eyes… If two things confronted him he would see which was more akin to his whims and he would do the other. (Wise Sayings, No. 289)

We see that one of the brother-in-faith's qualities was that when faced with two options, (for example whether to go to one place or another, one meeting or another or to engage in one business or another), that is, when he was at a 'crossroads' and wanted to choose which way to turn, he would look at his own soul/heart, trying to discover which course of action was dearer to his self, his own personal interest and then he would do the other one. For example, one might have the option to either watch TV or to help someone with his work. The soul which is not trained may encourage us to go and watch TV, saying that it is a waste of time to help the other person. But instead it is better to spend the time helping the other person.

Of course, we may not always be able to find out what is the right course of action by just following this instruction. But it is important to at least try to find out what our selfish desire wants us to do. God has given us the ability to distinguish between what our egoism or greediness wants from us and those things which are in our 'real' interests. When we work for our 'real' interest we also secure the interests of other people. God has created us in a way that when we really serve ourselves, then we serve all human beings. But if we try to be 'clever' and only serve ourselves, then we not only damage ourselves but also others. There are lots of ways to damage ourselves and others. But it is not possible to truly serve oneself and not serve others.

There is also another method which we can use when we want to make a decision and have two or three options to consider and do not know what to do. In such cases, it is useful to try to imagine that a person who is very pious, and whose actions you trust and accept, is in your place. Then try to decide what that person would do if he were in your place. Since you have information about the way that person normally makes his decisions and about his intentions and good will, by keeping that person in mind you may be able to understand what to do. For example, you could imagine a pious scholar or pious relative, not necessarily an infallible or saint. You could then think about what they might do and this would give you some kind of insight.

So, it is a basic fact that we must have self-control. If we believe that we should just do what we want by satisfying and gratifying ourselves, then there is no point in talking about spiritual direction. Of course, Islam tells us that self-control is just a beginning; it is for those people who are at the start of the journey. What we need to do is to transform our soul from one which has an interest in lower desires into a soul which instead has a yearning for good things. Then our soul itself becomes a helper and an assistant to us. But this is a matter of training and purifying the soul.

There is a beautiful story in the Mathnawi by Rumi which shows how the heart can be transformed in either a good way or a bad way. Rumi says that once there was a perfume market where every person who wanted to sell perfumes had a shop. As a result, whoever entered this bazaar would only sense the beautiful fragrance of perfumes. Everyone enjoyed it, especially the perfume sellers who of course are the best people to appreciate perfume due to their refined sense of smell, whereas we become confused after smelling too many different fragrances. But one day someone went to the bazaar with a horse and the horse dirtied the passageway of the bazaar. The people became very angry because they could not tolerate the bad smell but no-one had the strength to take the dirt outside. It was like torture for them. So someone suggested that they had better bring someone there whose job was to clean horses' stables. They went to ask a young man to help them. He said that of course he would be able to do this as this was his job and what he always did. But when he entered the bazaar, before even reaching the dirty place, as soon as he smelt the fragrance of perfume he became unconscious because he was used to bad smells and so could not tolerate good fragrances.

In a similar way, on one hand, we find people who enjoy praying, who enjoy having some private time with God. And, on the other hand, we find people who become angry when they see you praying and it causes them pain. And when they see you go to the mosque or the church, they feel troubled by this. There is a hadith which says that a believer in the mosque is like a fish in water but when a hypocrite is in the mosque he feels like he is in prison and always wants to escape. So these are the different states of the soul that we can reach through self-training and self-purification.


In the Glorious Quran, God emphasises the purification and purity of the human soul as follows:

I swear by the sun and its brilliance and the moon when it follows the sun and the day when it makes manifest the sun (and her beauty) and the night when it covers the sun and the heaven and Him who made it and the earth and Him who extended it and the soul and Him who made it perfect, then He inspired it to understand what is right and wrong for it. He will indeed be successful who purifies it and he will indeed fail whoever pollutes and corrupts it. (91:1-10)

So, after swearing eleven times, after so much emphasis, God declares that the person who purifies his soul will be successful and whoever pollutes and corrupts his soul will fail. On the Day of Judgement there will be two groups of people: those who are prosperous and happy because they purified their soul and those who are in an unfortunate position because they were careless and negligent of their soul.

Purification of the soul is a prerequisite for closeness to God. Indeed, the whole point of morality and spirituality is to purify one's soul. It is only then that the soul starts shining, receiving and reflecting utmost radiation and light from God. If we want to meet God, Who is the Most Pure, then we need to achieve purity. It is impossible to be polluted and then try to go towards God. If we want to go somewhere where the people are smart, well-dressed and beautiful, then we too need to make ourselves clean and tidy, we should put on good clothes and thus make ourselves somehow compatible with them. Otherwise they will say that we will spoil their gathering and damage their reputation.

One of the main tasks of all the Prophets (a.s.) and a major aim behind all their endeavours in teaching the divine message was to help people to purify their souls. Referring to the mission of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), the Glorious Quran says:

He is the one who has sent amongst illiterate people an apostle from among themselves who recites to them His verses and purifies them and teaches them the Book and the wisdom. (62:2)

Certainly God conferred a great favour upon the believers when He raised among them a Messenger from among themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them, and teaching them the Book and the wisdom, although before that they were surely in manifest error. (3:164)

As We sent to you an Apostle from among yourselves, who recites to you Our signs, and purifies you, and teaches you the Book and wisdom, and teaches you what you did not know. (2:151)

Thus we see that one of the tasks of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), in addition to reciting the Quran and teaching the Quran and wisdom, was to help us to purify our souls. Indeed, the appointment of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) for such tasks was an answer to the prayer of Abraham (a.s.) and Ishmael (a.s.) after they raised the foundations of the House (ka'bah):

Our Lord! Accept from us; surely You are the Hearing, the Knowing….Our Lord! And raise up in them a Messenger from among them who shall recite to them Your verses and teach them the Book and the wisdom, and purify them; surely You are the Mighty, the Wise. (2:127-129)

Just imagine how wise Abraham was! How lovely his supplication was! In three places in the Quran, God says that He has sent the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) to do the same thing that Abraham (a.s.) and Ishmael (a.s.) had wanted: to recite for the people the verses of the divine Book, to teach them the divine Book and wisdom and to purify their souls. Of course, it must be God Himself who inspired them to pray in this way. God is so merciful that He first invites us to call Him, then He inspires us what to ask and then he answers our call and prayer.

Thus purification of the people was an important task for the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and, indeed, all the Prophets (a.s.). These verses clearly show the great significance of the task of purification of the soul. It is noteworthy that in the prayer of Abraham and Ishmael the request of teaching the Book and wisdom is mentioned before the purification, but in all the three places that God describes the mission of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), purification precedes teaching the Book and wisdom. This indicates the priority and great importance of purification. This also suggests that a prerequisite for learning the Book and wisdom is to be pure.

There are a number of sources of impurity. A major or the major source of impurity is the attachment to the materialistic life and worldly affairs to the extent that the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is quoted as saying:

The attachment to this world is the source for every wrong. Beware how the one who is attached to this world has loved what God dislikes. What wrong can be a greater crime than this?93)

The materialistic world (dunya) is the least important and valuable thing in the sight of God. To be attached to it and make it one's ultimate end in one's life is a grave mistake and impurity. Therefore, one of the major treatments of this problem and a crucial means of purification of the soul is to ask people to give alms. In some twenty verses of the Quran, giving alms (al-zakat) is mentioned right after establishing prayer (iqamat a-salat). For example, Allah (swt) says in the Quran:

And they were not commanded except to worship God, dedicating their faith to Him as men of pure faith, and to maintain the prayer, and pay the zakat. That is the upright religion. (98:5)

Zakat is derived from the same root as tazkiyah (purification) i.e. za-ka-wa which means growth and purity. It has been suggested (Lisan al-'Arab, Vol. 14, p. 358) that the reason for calling alms “zakat” lies in the fact that paying zakat purifies one's money and possessions. It is also true that paying alms causes growth (namā) and blessing (barakah) in one's money and sustenance. It seems more reasonable to suggest that the main reason for calling alms “zakat” is that it helps in purifying the soul by getting rid of the love for this world. This is why God says to the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.):

Take charity from their possessions to cleanse them and purify them thereby, and bless them. Indeed your blessing is a comfort to them, and God is all-hearing, all-knowing. (9:103)

In this verse, instead of the term zakat, sadaqah (charity) is used. However, the same point is there: Giving money for the sake of God helps in purification of the giver.94) Elsewhere the Quran says:

he who gives his wealth to purify himself and does not expect any reward from anyone, but seeks only the pleasure of his Lord, the Most Exalted, and, surely, soon he will be well-pleased. (92:18-21)

Thus when someone spends some money for the sake of God on things such as giving to the needy people or building places for common good such as Mosques, seminaries, schools and hospitals both giver and receiver benefit. However, the main beneficiary is the giver who is giving some money which is the least valuable thing in the sight of God and instead achieves purity and pleasure of God.

… You can only warn those who fear their Lord in secret, and maintain the prayer. Whoever seeks purification for himself, seeks purification only for his own sake, and to God is the return. (35:18)


It is a basic fact that we must have self-control. There can be no spirituality without self-discipline. We cannot develop ourselves by simply doing what we wish and satisfying and gratifying our soul. Of course, Islam tells us that self-control is just a beginning. What we need to do is to transform our soul from one which has an interest in lower desires into a soul which instead has a yearning for good things. By training and purifying our souls, our soul itself becomes a helper and an assistant to us. A major task of the Prophets and in particular the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) was to help people to purify themselves. The reason for such a great emphasis on self-purification is the fact that God is the Most Pure and the Most Perfect and it is only by purification of the soul that we can achieve our ambition of getting close to Him. One major way of purification is to get rid of attachment to the materialistic life by giving out one's own money for the sake of God.



# The Prophetic Hadiths in Al-Khisal

Mohammad Javad Shomali

Al-Khisal (lit. traits of character) of Shaykh Saduq is one of the most valuable early sources of hadiths (narrations) from Prophet Muhammad and his household. Shaykh Saduq, Muhammad b. Babawayh al-Qummi (d.329/940), was an outstanding jurist and a prominent scholar of hadith. He was given the title ”Imad Al-Din” by Shaykh Tusi.

In Al-Khisal, Shaykh Saduq has prepared a collection of traditions in an interesting way. The main themes of the traditions are ethics, manners and good characteristics. All the traditions are presented with a complete record of transmission. Furthermore, they are divided into different groups according to numbers e.g. all the traditions related to the number one are gathered in one part then traditions related to number two and so on. It starts with one and ends with one million. Al-Khisal seems to be the first on record to be compiled with this style. Moreover, Al-Khisal is a great encyclopedia on Islamic knowledge and many authoritative works on Shia traditions such as Bihar Al-Anwar have cited it as a reference.

The following article is a collection of traditions from the Prophet, selected from Parts One to Twelve of Al-Khisal.

Characteristics related to the Number One

* Abandoning the present to attain the promised

Blessed be the one who abandons a current tangible desire to attain an unseen promised reward.95)

* A believer's honor is in one practice and his glory is in one characteristic

It is reported from Prophet Muhammad that the Gabriel went to him and said:

O Muhammad! Live for as long as you want. You will finally die. Love whatever you want. You will finally be separated from it. Do whatever you want. You will finally be rewarded for it. Know that a man's honour is in his staying up at night and his dignity is in his independence from people. 96)

* A characteristic that constitutes half of the religion

Being good-tempered constitutes half of the religion.97)

* A characteristic that is the best thing given to a Muslim

God's Prophet was asked: “What is the best thing given to a Muslim?” He replied: “A good temper”.98)

Characteristics related to the Number Two

* Two blessings which are normally taken for granted

Two blessings are taken for granted, security and health. 99)

* There is no good in this life except for two kinds of men

There is no good in this life except for two kinds of men: a knowledgeable one who is obeyed and an obedient student. 100)

* Seek refuge from two characteristics

God's Prophet said: “I seek refuge in God from disbelief and debt.” He was told, “O Prophet of God! Is debt equal to disbelief?” He replied: “Yes”. 101)

* Whoever possesses two characteristics is a true believer

Whoever is sympathetic with the poor and treats the people fairly is a true believer.102)

* Saying what is right under two conditions

Nothing that a believer does is more loved by God, the Honourable and Exalted, than saying what is right whether he is pleased or angry.103)

* Two characteristics loved by God in the Heavens and by the people on Earth

A man asked the Prophet: “O Prophet of God! Please let me know something which I can do to be loved by God in the Heavens and by the people on Earth.” The Prophet told him: “Be inclined to what belongs to God to be loved by God, the Honourable and Exalted, and abstain from what belongs to people to be loved by people.” 104)

* Jealousy is not proper except in two circumstances

It is not proper to be jealous except in two circumstances. The first case is to be jealous of a man to whom God has granted things and he gives some of them in charity day and night. The second case is to be jealous of a man to whom God has granted the Quran and he recites it during the day and the night.105)

* Two fears and two securities

God's Prophet said: “God the Blessed and the Sublime swore by his Honour and Grandeur that He would not give His servants two fears and two securities. If a person is not afraid of Me in this world, I will scare him on the Day of Resurrection and if he is afraid of Me in this world, I will make him secure on the Day of Resurrection.”106)

* Two things improve this nation and two destroy it

The two things that made early generation(s) of this nation happy are abstinence and certitude, and the two things that would destroy the ending generation(s) of this nation are stinginess and having high aspirations.107)

Characteristics related to the Number Three

* Three characteristics, each of which would cause one to be under the Shade of God's Throne

There are three qualities having each of which would cause one to be under the Shade of God, the Honourable and Exalted, (on the Resurrection day) on the day in which there is no shade but God's Shade. The first characteristic is to grant people what you expect of them. The second characteristic is to only do what pleases God, and not do what would provoke God's Wrath. The third characteristic is not to express the faults of one's Muslim brothers in their absence, unless one first removes such faults from himself. It is better to attend to the improvement of one's own faults than to seek out other people's faults. 108)

* Whoever possesses three characteristics has perfect faith

There are three characteristic which if possessed would perfect one's faith. When one is pleased, his pleasure does not lead him into sin and wrongful deeds; when one is angered, his anger does not lead him away from what is right; and when one is in power, his power does not lead him to acquire what does not rightfully belong to him. 109)

* Having three characteristics is enough for one to be bad

Indeed the reward of doing good to others will arrive much faster than any good deeds, the punishment for doing wrong to others will arrive much faster than any evil deeds. Having three characteristics is enough for one to be considered imperfect: paying attention to other people's faults while ignoring your own; admonishing others against evil deeds without being able to abandon them yourself and hurting your companion for nothing.110)

* Three characteristics without which you are not from God or the Prophet

God's Prophet said: “There are three characteristics which if not possessed then one is neither from me nor from God, the Honourable and Exalted.” The Prophet was asked: “O Prophet of God! What are they?” The Prophet replied: “Patience by which you forgive the ignorance of those who are ignorant, being good-tempered with people and piety which restrains you from rebelling against God, the Honourable and Exalted.” 111)

* Three things to respect and safeguard for God's sake

There are three things to respect so that God will protect your faith and your worldly affairs. And if you disrespect them, God will not protect anything for you. These three things to respect are Islam, me and my 'Itrat (household).112)

* Reality of one's faith can be proved by having three characteristics

Abu Ja'far Al-Baqir said: “God's Apostle encountered a group of riders during one of his journeys. They greeted him and he asked them who they were. They said they were believers. The Apostle asked them about the proof of the reality of their faith. They replied 'Contentment with what God has destined, entrusting ourselves to God, and submitting to God's orders.' Then God's Apostle said, 'These are wise and knowledgeable people with such a high rank, near that of the Prophets.' Then he faced them and said, 'If you are truthful, do not build what you shall not reside in, do not collect what you shall not eat and fear God to whom you shall return.'” 113)

* Faith consists of three things

Faith consists of whole-hearted acceptance, verbal expression and acting accordingly.114)

* It is not allowed for one not to be on speaking terms with one's Muslim brother for more than three days

It is not allowed for one not to be on speaking terms with one's Muslim brother for more than three days.115)

Characteristics related to the Number Four

* Four characteristics that can make one stay in God's light

God's Prophet said: “Whoever has the following four characteristics is in the Greatest Light of God: 1- Witnessing to God's Unity and my Prophethood prevents him from committing sins 2- Saying 'from God we are and to Him we return' in times of calamity 3- Saying 'praise be to the Lord of the two worlds' when he receives some blessings 4- Saying 'I ask for forgiveness from Allah and repent to him' whenever he commits a sin.” 116)

* Four things that the nation should always do

My nation should always do the following four things: 1- They should love those who repent. 2- They should be sympathetic with the weak. 3- They should help good-doers. 4- They should ask for forgiveness for sinners.117)

* Four signs of misery

O Ali! The following are among the signs of misery: solidity of the eye (inability to cry), hard-heartedness, being too ambitious and love for a very long life.118)

* One cannot move on the Resurrection Day until asked about four things

A servant of God will be asked about four (things) on the Resurrection Day before he can move: how he spent his lifetime, what he used his youth for, how he earned his income and how he spent it and about his love for us, the members of the Holy Household.119)

* Four characteristics of a hypocrite

Whoever possesses four characteristics is a hypocrite. Even if one has only one of these characteristics he is a hypocrite, unless he gives up that characteristic. One who lies when he talks, one who breaks his promise, one who breaks his pledges and one who cheats when he fights. 120)

Characteristics related to the Number Five

* A businessman must avoid five things

Whoever engages in buying and selling should avoid the following five things; otherwise he must not do any business. They are as follows: usury, swearing at something or someone, covering up the defects of his goods, praising goods while selling them and finding faults (undervaluing) with goods while buying them.121)

* Requirements of knowledge

A man asked the Prophet: “O Prophet of God! What is (the requirement of) knowledge?” The Prophet replied: “Silence.” The man asked: “What is next?” The Prophet replied: “Listening to knowledge (i.e. those who are knowledgeable).” The man asked: “And what is next?” The Prophet replied: “Remembering it.” The man asked: “And what is next?” The Prophet replied: “Acting upon it.” The man asked: “And what is next?” The Prophet said: “Spreading and sharing it with others.” 122)

* The best of people are those who do five deeds

The Prophet of God was asked about the best of people. He replied: “They are the ones who rejoice when they do good and repent when they do evil. They thank you when you do something good for them and persevere in the face of calamites. They forgive (others) when they get angry.” 123)

Characteristics related to the Number Six

* If you do six things, you would be admitted to Paradise

Promise me that you will do the following six things and then I will promise you that you will go to Paradise. Do not lie when you quote something. Never break your promise. Return what you are entrusted with. Do not look at what is forbidden to see. Guard your modesty. Do not bother people physically or verbally.124)

* Six forms of chivalry

There are six forms of chivalry. Three of them are for when you are at home and three others are for when you are travelling. The three for when you are at home are: reciting the book of God the Honourable and Exalted, developing and promoting God's Mosques and making friends for the sake of God, the Honourable and Exalted. The three for when you are travelling are: to give to others from your own travel provisions, being good-tempered and joking regarding things other than acts of disobedience.125)

* Seek refuge from six characteristics

God's Prophet used to seek refuge from six characteristics every day: doubt, associating partners with God, bias, anger, injustice and jealousy.126)

* Six rights of a quadruped incumbent upon its owner

A quadruped has six rights incumbent upon its owner. When he stops, he should feed it first. He should give it water whenever it passes by water. He should not hit it on the face, since it glorifies God with its face. He should not ride on its back, unless it is in the way of God. He should not overload it beyond its capability. He should not force it to walk more than it can.127)

* There are six who are damned

There are six groups of people who are damned by God and all the Prophets (whose calls are accepted): Those who add to any divine book, those who deny the divine decree, those who abandon my Sunnah (Traditions), those who allow what God has forbidden regarding my Itrat, those who take power by force to debase those whom God has honoured and honour those whom God has debased, those who misappropriate public money that belong to all Muslims.128)

Characteristics related to the Number Seven

* Blessed be those who believe without having seen the Prophet

“Blessed be those who meet me and believe.” Then the Prophet added: “Blessed be those who believe in me without having seen me.” He then repeated it seven times.129)

* Seven people who will be in the shade of God's Throne on Resurrection Day

Seven people will be in the Shade of God, the Honourable and Exalted 's Throne on the day in which there is no shade except for His Shade: just leaders, young people who have grown up in the worship of God, men who give charity in private such that even their left hands do not realize what they gave with their right hands (stressing the fact that they give charity in such a way that no one else sees it), men who remember God, the Honorable and Exalted when they are alone and cry due to fear of God, the Honourable and Exalted, men who upon seeing their believing brethren say, 'I like you for the sake of God, the Honorable and Exalted ', men who intend to return to the Mosque whenever they leave it, men who when enticed by a beautiful woman do not accept her invitation and say that they fear the Lord of all the worlds.” 130)

* God's Prophet gave Abu Dharr seven pieces of advice

Abu Dharr said: “God's Prophet gave me seven pieces of advice. He advised me to always consider the situation of people who are in a worse position (less affluent) than I am. The Prophet advised me never to consider the situation of those who are in a better position (more affluent) than I am. The Prophet advised me to like the poor and associate with them. The Prophet advised me to tell the truth even though it may be unpleasant. The Prophet advised me to visit my relatives, even if they have cut off relations with me. The Prophet advised me not to fear the blame of those who blame me for the sake of God. The Prophet advised me to often say 'There is neither any power nor any strength except with God, the Sublime, the Great' as it is one of the treasures of Paradise.” 131)

* The belief of one who has seven characteristics is complete

God's Prophet told Ali b. Abi Talib (A): “O Ali! The belief of one who has the following seven characteristics is complete and the gates of Paradise shall open up for him: to perform the (ritual) ablution properly, to say the prayers properly, to pay the alms, to quench one's anger, to control one's tongue, to seek God's forgiveness for sins and to (follow and) wish good for the Prophet's Household.” 132)

* God would send seven calamities upon people if He gets angry with them and yet does not destroy them

If God, the Honourable and Exalted, becomes angry with a nation and does not destroy them, He will bring about inflation, shorten their lives, bring loss to their trade, reduce the amount of fruit grown on their trees, reduce the amount of water flowing in their streams, withhold rain from them and wicked ones will prevail over them.133)

* Love for the Prophet and his Household (pbut) is beneficial on seven occasions

Love for me and my Household would be beneficial on seven occasions: at the time of death, in the grave, at the time of Resurrection, at the time of receiving one's record of deeds, at the time of reckoning, at the time of examining good and bad deeds and at the time of crossing the Bridge.134)

Characteristics related to the Number Eight

* A believer should have eight characteristics

God's Prophet told Ali b. Abi Talib (A): “O Ali! A believer should have eight characteristics: 1- He should maintain his dignity when calamities befall him. 2- He should be patient when he is in trouble. 3- He should be grateful when he has plenty of blessings. 4- He should be content with his share of God-given daily bread. 5- He should not oppress his enemies. 6- He should not be a burden on his friends. 7- He should use his body (to perform his duties). 8- People should be safe from him.”135)

* Those who go to the Mosque often shall acquire one of eight characteristics

Those who go to the Mosque often shall acquire one of the following eight characteristics: brotherhood for the sake of God, the Honourable and Exalted, new knowledge, a word of guidance, a word which may save him from destruction, an awaited mercy or abandonment of sins out of shyness or fear. 136)

* The eight classes of people who should blame no one but themselves if they are insulted

God's Prophet told Ali b. Abi Talib (A): “O Ali! The following eight have no one but themselves to blame if they are insulted: those who attend a banquet without being invited, those who order their hosts around at a party, those who expect goodness from their enemies, those who seek favours from lowly people, those who interfere in other people's private affairs without being asked to do so, those who mock rulers, those who sit in a position which they do not deserve and those who converse with people who do not listen to them” 137)

Characteristics related to the Number Nine

* God granted the followers of Ali (A) nine characteristics

Jabir Abdullah al-Ansari reports that one day he was with the Prophet when he turned his face towards Ali b. Abi Talib (A) and said: “O Aba al-Hasan! Do you want me to give you glad tidings?” Ali (A) said: “Yes, O Prophet of God!” The Prophet continued: “God - may His Majesty be Exalted - informed me through Gabriel that He granted nine things to your followers and lovers. They will have: 1- gentle treatment at the time of death, 2- a companion at times of fear, 3- light at times of darkness, 4- security at the time of Resurrection, 5- justice at the time of Reckoning, 6- permission to pass through the bridge (to Heaven), 7- entry to Heaven before other people, 8- with the light (of their faith) shining in front of them and 9- on their right side.”138)

Characteristics related to the Number Ten

* Ten characteristics which are due to nobility

Aba Abdullah Sadiq (A) said: “Indeed God, the Blessed and Sublime, has granted God's Prophet noble characteristics. Examine yourselves. If you have them, praise God, the Honourable and Exalted, and ask Him for their increase. Then Imam Sadiq (A) mentioned the following ten: certitude, contentment, perseverance, gratitude, contentedness, being good-tempered, generosity, zeal, bravery and chivalry.” 139)

* A believer without ten characteristics is not intelligent

God, the Honourable and Exalted, has not been worshipped by anything better than the intellect. A believer is not intelligent unless he has ten characteristics: Good is expected from him. Evil is not expected from him (people should feel safe from his wickedness). He values highly whatever goodness he receives from others and undervalues whatever goodness he does for people. He does not become tired of acquiring knowledge throughout his lifetime. He does not become fed up due to the requests of the needy ones from him. Humbleness should be better in his opinion than pride. Poverty should be better in his opinion than being wealthy. His share of this world should only be his daily sustenance. The tenth characteristic which is extremely important is that he should consider everyone he sees to be more pious and better than himself. Indeed people are only of two kinds. The first group are those who are really better than he is, and the second group are those who are more wicked than he is. He should be humble when he meets someone who is better and more pious than himself, until he attains his rank. If he meets someone who is apparently more wicked than himself, he should say may be in reality I am more wicked than him or may be that person is a good person so as to end up with a better condition of faith and piety. Should he behave this way, he will become honourable and will prevail over people of his own time. 140)

* Islam is founded upon ten pillars

Islam is founded upon ten pillars which are as follows: bearing witness that 'There is no god but God' - that is the basis of a Muslim's faith, prayer which is an obligatory deed, fasting which is a shield against the fire, payment of the alms which purifies one's possessions, going on the Hajj pilgrimage which is a decree, participating in struggle for the sake of God which is to fight (alternative version: an honour), enjoining to do good deeds which is persistence in belief, prohibiting the bad which is giving an ultimatum, attending congregational prayers which results in mutual sympathy and avoiding sins which is the basis of obedience.141)

Characteristics related to the Number Eleven

* The Night of Qadr and the eleven leaders from progeny of Ali b. Abi Talib

The Apostle of God told his companions: “Believe in the Night of Qadr as that belongs to Ali b. Abi Talib and eleven of his progeny after me.”142))

There are many hadiths on the relation between the Night of Qadr and the divinely appointed leader of every age. Shaykh Saduq also reports that Imam Ali (A) told Ibn Abbas: “Indeed there is the Night of Qadr every year. On this night the affairs for the whole year descend. After the Apostle of God there are people who are in charge of those affairs”. Ibn Abbas asked: “Who are they?” Imam Ali replied: “Me and eleven people from my progeny who will be Imams to whom the angels will speak”.143)

Characteristics related to the Number Twelve

* The twelve caliphs and Divine leaders after the Prophet (pbut)

The Prophet said: “There will be twelve people who will rule this nation.” The narrator adds that then the people made some noise and I could not hear what the Prophet said. I asked my father, who was closer to God's Prophet than others, “What did the Prophet say?” My father said: 'The Prophet said: “They are all from the Quraysh.”' 144)

* There are twelve advantages in brushing the teeth

The Prophet told Ali b. Abi Talib (A): “O Ali! Brushing the teeth with a toothbrush is a recommendable practice since it cleans the mouth, improves vision, pleases the Merciful Lord, whitens the teeth, removes the mouth's bad smell, strengthens the gums, improves the food's taste, alleviates the phlegm, improves memory, increases reward for good deeds and makes the angels happy.” 145)

* The twelve dirhams donated to the Prophet

Imam Sadiq (A) reports that a man went to see God's Prophet. When he saw that the Prophet's shirt was old, he gave him twelve dirhams (silver coins). The Prophet said: “O Ali! Take this money and buy me a shirt with it.” Ali (A) said: “I went and bought the Prophet a shirt with twelve dirhams and took it to the Prophet.” The Prophet looked at it and said: “O Ali! I would like a different shirt! Do you think that the seller would take it back?” Ali (A) replied: “I do not know.” The Prophet said: “Then try it.” Ali (A) went back to the seller and told him: “The Prophet of God doesn't like this shirt. He wants another shirt. Please take it back and return my money.” Then he returned the money to the Prophet. The Prophet accompanied Ali (A) to buy another shirt. They came across a slave girl who was sitting there and crying. The Prophet asked her: “Why are you crying?” She said: “O Prophet of God! My master gave me four Dirhams with which to buy things from the market. I don't know where I lost that money. Now I don't have the courage to go back home.” The Prophet gave her four dirhams and told her: “Buy whatever you had to buy and go back home.”

Then the Prophet went to the market to buy a shirt for himself for four dirhams. He put it on, praised God, the Honourable the Exalted and returned. On his way back from the market, the Prophet saw an unclothed man who kept on saying: “God will put heavenly attire on whoever clothes me.” Then the Prophet took off his shirt and put it on the needy man.

Then the Prophet himself went to the market to buy another shirt for himself with the last four dirhams. He put it on, praised God, the Honourable the Exalted and returned. On his way back, he came across the slave-girl again who was sitting there and crying. The Prophet asked her: “Why didn't you go home?” She replied: “O Prophet of God! It is too late for me to return and I am afraid that they might beat me.” The Prophet of God said: “Walk ahead of me and take me to your house.” The Prophet walked with her until they reached her house. He stopped at the door and said: “O residents of this house, Peace be upon you!” There was no response. He gave greetings again but they did not respond. So he greeted them for the third time. Then they said: “O Prophet of God! Please, His Blessings and His Mercy be upon you!” The Prophet asked: “So what was the reason that you didn't respond to my greeting the first and the second time?” They said: “O Prophet of God! Yes! After hearing your voice for the first time we came to know that it was you. However, we loved to hear your voice over and over again.” God's Prophet said: “Your slave-girl has taken a long time to come back. Hence, I have come to request that you do not punish her.” They said: “O Prophet of God! Due to the blessing of your gracious arrival at our home, we have set this slave-girl free.” The Prophet said:

“Praise is due to God. I have not seen any twelve dirhams more blessed than these. With them, God clothed two unclothed persons and freed a slave-girl. ”146)



# An Outline of Law from a Quranic Perspective

Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi

Summarized and Paraphrased by Karim Aghili

This paper is an attempt to partially delineate the salient features of Islamic law from a Quranic perspective. It seeks to clarify that every human society necessitates that there exist a system of rules without which there can be no public order but chaos. It also shows that in Islam, there is no separation of religion from morals, worldly affairs and from politics. Islam is an all-embracing religion consisting of a set of laws and injunctions which are requisite for the establishment of an ideal society. Therefore, all the laws and injunctions which are of a practical character and which should be applied to human society can be subsumed under the general rubric 'law.' The paper continues by discussing the sources of Islamic law and its goals.


The Quran is the verbatim revelation or the Word of God, revealed in Arabic through the archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad during the twenty-three-year period of his prophetic mission.

The practices of Muslims as ordained by the Shari'ah (Islamic Law) have their origin in the Quran. Although the foundations of the Shari'ah must also be sought in the Sunnah and the elaboration of the law depends furthermore, with respect to Shiasm, upon reason ('aql) and consensus (ijma'), all principles of the Shari'ah are already contained in the Quran.

The scheme of life which Islam envisages consists of a set of rights and obligations, which, as already mentioned, have their origin in the Quran, and every human being who accepts this religion is enjoined to live up to them. Broadly speaking, the law of Islam imposes four kinds of rights and obligations on every man: (1) the rights of God, which every man is obliged to fulfill; (2) his own rights upon his own self; (3) the rights of other people over him; and (4) the rights of those powers and resources which God has placed in his service and has empowered him to use for his benefit.

These rights and obligations constitute the corner-stone of Islam and it is the bounden duty of every true Muslim to understand and obey them carefully. The Shari'ah discusses clearly each and every kind of right and deals with it in detail. It also throws light on the ways and means through which the obligations can be discharged.

Social Phenomenon

Issues pertaining to human social life can be divided into two categories: those which deal with social phenomena irrespective of their goodness or badness, and those which are concerned with the value judgements on the various aspects of social life and through which the goodness and badness of each social phenomenon are judged. In other words, there are certain issues which deals with 'is' and 'is not', whereas certain others deal with 'ought to' and 'ought not'. Most issues of the first category relate to sociology and the philosophy of history, while those pertaining to the second fall mainly into the category of morals and rights. The rulings pertaining to the former are called real and descriptive rulings, while those pertaining to the latter are called normative and prescriptive ones.

Religion and worldly affairs

The prescriptive rulings as mentioned above are divided into three categories:

A. The Divine and Religious Laws: These consist of the commands and prohibitions which are attributed to God Almighty and as in every religion, people are required to abide by them, such as keeping the daily prayer and performing the pilgrimage to Mecca, etc.

B. Moral Laws: That is, the laws which are comprehended by human reason, primordial nature (fitra) or consciousness to varying degrees and which are considered to be of value or validity irrespective of the Divine or human criteria, such as the goodness of truthfulness and the ugliness of oppressing others.

C. Legal Laws: That is, the laws which are made for safeguarding the best interests of human beings in their worldly life by a qualified authority in view of the relations of individuals with each other within a society. These laws have an executive backing, which is usually the government.

Over the years, there has been a tendency to separate these three groups of law from one another and to specify a distinct area for each group.. According to this view, the area of Divine laws is restricted to the rituals and rites which concern the followers of each religion in specific times and places, such as the religious ceremonies of the Hindus or the rites of idol-worship which are seen in various parts of the world. These rites and rituals are not connected at all with other social aspects of life but rather they consist of performing the duties which, according to the followers of each religion, are required by the natural or supernatural powers. Religious laws are neither connected to the moral laws nor are they connected to the legal ones.

In the Western world, after Christianity had become the official religion of the Byzantine empire, in spite of accepting Christianity, apparently on account of the exigencies of the time, some rulers planned to separate religion from all its worldly aspects including politics in order to gain the secular power totally, and to rule over the countries under their control as they wished and to exclude the divine commands and prohibitions from the domain of politics and law in their general sense. For this purpose, they used every possible means, even the distortion of the scriptures.

After the Renaissance, this attitude gained more momentum, to the extent that a large number of writers and intellectuals demanded the total separation of religion and law. Furthermore, they supported the total separation of religion from morals. The separation of religion from worldly affairs in general and from politics in particular as seen today in the Muslim countries is nothing but the acceptance of the current mainstream attitude in the Western world.

Such a separation cannot be deemed acceptable in any revealed religion. From the Islamic point of view, religion is a system of theoretical knowledge and practical laws, and its practical laws embrace all three areas of the relation of man to God, the relation of man to himself, and of man to others.147) In the Holy Quran and the traditions narrated from the holy Shia Imams, there is a huge collection of moral and legal laws, therefore the moral and legal systems of Islam are completely based on the fundamental religious principles consisting of the belief in Divine Unity, the Resurrection, etc. In other words, both morals and law are two main sections of the whole of the religion and are deeply rooted in the most fundamental theoretical religious sciences.


In spite of the fact that there are a lot of uses of the word 'law' in legal terms, it does not have a definite and specific meaning and is used in different ways. Sometimes, it is used in a wide sense and includes any prescriptive ruling which should be practised in society whether it be legislated or non-legislated laws, such as social customs and conventions.

Thus, some of the law experts use the term “natural law”, which refers to a type of moral theory, as well as to a type of legal theory, but the core claims of the two kinds of theory are logically independent. According to natural law ethical theory, the moral standards that govern human behaviour are, in some sense, objectively derived from the nature of human beings. However, according to natural law legal theory, the authority of at least some legal standards necessarily derives, at least in part, from considerations having to do with the moral merit of those standards. The phrase “natural law” is sometimes opposed to the positive law of a given political community, society, or nation-state, and thus can function as a standard by which to criticize that law. Positive law in the strictest sense is law made by human beings.

The Main Differences between Morals and Law

The other point to discuss in this regard is that though there are cases where morals and law overlap with each other, there are some differences between them, the most important of which are as follows:

1. Legal precepts are just concerned with social behaviour, while moral rules cover all voluntary human behaviour.

2. Legal rules are based on an external guarantee of enforcement, while moral rules are not based on such a guarantee of enforcement but based on an internal guarantee of enforcement.

3. Ethical 'dos' and 'don'ts' are permanent, universal and eternal, while legal 'dos' and 'don'ts' are, more or less, changeable.

4. Legal rules are obligatory, while within the moral domain, there are both obligatory and recommended obligations.

5. The goals of legal dos and don'ts are to provide the happiness of people in their worldly life and to establish social justice, order, security and public welfare and the like, while the goals of ethical commands and prohibitions are to achieve spiritual perfection, which is nothing other than proximity to God.

6. Legal rules are just concerned with the external aspect of the act, but are not so concerned with the motivation for and intent of the doer of the action, while the moral rules are mostly concerned with the motivation for and the goal of the doer of the action.

Ethical and Legal Concepts are of Conventional Nature

Apart from the above-mentioned differences between legal and ethical rules, ethical and legal concepts are, however, i'tibari (conventional). For example, considering the concept of property, we see that even if it is applied to such metals as copper and silver, it is not because of their being metals of a specific kind, but because they are desired by people and can be used as a means for meeting their needs. In other words, the acquisition of property by a person signifies another concept called 'possession' without an external instance.

These concepts are only based on the desires of groups or individuals without having a relation to objective truth independent of inclinations of social groups and individuals. These concepts, in spite of being conventional, are not without relation to external reality. Their validity is based on the specific needs of man to attain felicity and his own perfection. Consequently, the worth of these concepts, albeit dependent on convention, lies in their being a symbol of the objectively true relationship between man's actions and their results.

Consider the term “good”: one of its meanings is to achieve a purpose desired by a doer performing an action. The word ''good'' is contrasted with the result that an agent expects. Without a comparison and the relationship between the action and the goal of the action, it may not be possible to say if the action is good or not.

As is the case with the term 'right': one of its meanings in legal terms is an advantage which can be claimed and which must be observed by others. The word ''right'' in this meaning can be understood by considering a person having an advantage as well as others who have to observe this right. Therefore, the term ''right'' is predicated on the external benefit after a comparison and intellectual analysis. The word “right” is associated with duty, and they are two reciprocal concepts which will be further explained.

The Reciprocity of Right and Duty

Right and duty are two reciprocal concepts and the two faces of the same coin. When a person has the right to dispose of his property as he wishes, others consequently are bound not to dispose of it at all. Therefore, right and duty are reciprocally determined. That is, wherever a right is determined, a duty is also determined, and vice versa. Of course, only one of the two is explicitly stated; however, the specification of one necessitates that of the other. It should be noted that right is of a voluntary nature, whereas duty is of an obligatory nature. One has a right against something and can use it or not, but with respect to duty, one is obliged to respect it and should not evade his or her obligation.

It is worth noting that the fundamental principle of Islamic Law is that man has the right and in some cases the bounden duty, to fulfill all his genuine needs and desires and make every conceivable effort to promote his interests and achieve success and happiness. However, he should do all this in such a way that not only are the interests of other people not jeopardized and no harm is caused to their strivings towards the fulfilment of their rights and duties, but there should be all possible social cohesion, mutual assistance and cooperation among human beings in the achievement of their objectives. In respect of those things in which good and evil, gain and loss are inextricably connected, the tenet of the law is to choose, for instance, the least harm for the sake of greater benefit and sacrifice a little benefit, in order to avoid a greater harm. This is the basis of Islamic Law. To what degree one should choose harm for the sake of a greater degree of benefit depends on the circumstances in which one is involved.

Islam attaches great importance to social life, and moreover Islam considers it incumbent upon all to attend to social problems and to struggle for the benefit of all human beings and for the establishing a just society on Earth. Being indifferent to such problems is considered in Islam to be a major sin. Paying attention to such problems is so crucial that sometimes one feels obliged to spend all of one's property and even to endanger one's own life in order to save others from worldly and other-worldly afflictions and harms. It is unlikely to find any other school of thought other than Islam which has advanced this idea so far. Of course, all of the revealed religions are unanimous on basic principles and rules; naturally they are in common with Islam in this regard.

The word al-haqq (truth or the True) in the Quran

In Islam, there appear to be three golden threads that run through all its aspects and these three golden threads are clearly intertwined. They are: truth, justice and equity. The words used in the Quran are al-haqq, al-'adl, and al-qist. It is significant that each of these words is significantly used in the Quran several times; the word al-haqq is used about 247 times, al-qist 15 times and al-'adl 13 times. The word al-haqq incorporates the other two terms and has several meanings depending upon the context: truth, obligation, right and justice.

Al-haqq can be used as a name for God. For example, the Quran says:

That is because Allah, He is the True, and that whereon they call instead of Him, it is the false, and because Allah, He is the High, the Great. (22:62).148)

At this point, it is worth noting that in many Quranic verses, the word `haqq' is used in a sense similar to the technical meaning of law but not identical with it. Similarly in the Treatise on Rights (Risalat al-huquq) by the Fourth Shi`ite Imam, there are topics such as the rights of your womb relatives, the right of your self (nafs) and the rights of the tongue, hearing and sight. Many of these rights are moral in their nature. It should be noted that the word haqq is not used in a legal sense in the above verses but rather it falls into the category of morals. However, in this paper, while dealing with law from a Quranic perspective, we are not concerned with law (huquq) in its moral sense but in its legal sense.

The Source of Right and the Legal Goal of Society from the Islamic Point of View
At the same time, it should be noted that the social laws and injunctions which make up the legal system of Islam should be based on a goal which directly results from that system and which secures man's felicity in social life. The question is: Is there another goal beyond this goal which can be used as a means for the attainment of that goal or not? In other words, the question is: Is providing for man's felicity the ultimate goal or the intermediate one?

In answer to these questions, it should be said that the legal system of Islam is distinct from other ones. The other legal systems based on a secular world view know no goal beyond that of providing for man's felicity in social life, and consequently, this very goal is considered to be the ultimate goal and the desired object per se. In other words, in such systems, only those interests and benefits which can be actualized and attained in this world are taken into consideration. In this regard, God says in the Quran:

They know only some appearance of the life of the world, and are heedless of the Hereafter (30:7).

Then withdraw (O Muhammad) from him who fleeth from Our remembrance and desireth but the life of the world (53:29).

Islam does not restrict man's felicity to this world only but rather the goal of man's creation transcends this world. The ultimate goal is to get spiritually closer to God. Man's felicity in this world can be desirable only when it is consistent with attaining the ultimate goal.

Islam is a religion which encourages the qualities of purity, beauty, goodness, virtue, success and prosperity which Allah wants to flourish in the life of His people and to suppress all kinds of exploitation and injustice. As well as placing before us this high ideal, Islam clearly states the desired virtues and the undesirable evils. Therefore, the members of society should have the right to use all the God-given potentialities and abilities for the attainment of their ultimate goal.

The legal goal of Islam is to prepare the ground and context for the spiritual growth and eternal felicity of the people. At the very least they should not be inconsistent with spiritual development, for, in the view of Islam, the life of this world is but a fleeting phase of the entire human life which despite its short duration, has a fundamental role in human destiny. It is in this phase that with his conscious behaviour the human being prepares for himself his everlasting felicity or wretchedness. Even if a law could maintain the social order in this world but would cause eternal misfortune for humans, it would not be, from an Islamic perspective, a desirable law, even if it were to be accepted by the majority.

The Necessity of Law and Legal Rules in Society

Islamic law is based on a realistic view of things which are on one hand related to God Who created the universe and man based on a definite goal, and on the other hand to Resurrection, because it is the last phase of human existence and the ultimate station of his journey towards God. Finally, it is connected to Divine Wisdom, because the best created order is built upon the most Sublime Divine Wisdom. Since the members of a society are not equal in terms of understanding, and since all the members equally do not seek right and justice, thus, for the establishment of order and for the prevention of chaos, it is necessary that there be some highly qualified institutionalized powers representing the whole society for taking responsibility for the crucial functions. These powers consist of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.

The functions of the legislature are to be exercised through the Islamic Consultative Assembly, consisting of the elected representatives of the people. Legislation approved by this body, after going through certain stages, is communicated to the executive and the judiciary for implementation.

The judiciary is of vital importance in the context of safeguarding the rights of the people in accordance with the line followed by the Islamic movement, and the prevention of deviations within the Islamic nation. Provision has therefore been made for the creation of a judicial system based on Islamic justice and operated by just judges with meticulous knowledge of the Islamic laws. This system, because of its essentially sensitive nature and the need for full ideological conformity, must be free from every kind of unhealthy relation and connection (this is in accordance with the Quranic verse: “When you judge among the people, judge with justice” [4:58]).

Considering the particular importance of the executive power in implementing the laws and ordinances of Islam for the sake of establishing the rule of just relations over society, and considering, too, its vital role in paving the way for the attainment of the ultimate goal of life, the executive power must work toward the creation of a just Islamic society. Consequently, the confinement of the executive power within any kind of complex and inhibiting system that delays or impedes the attainment of this goal is rejected by Islam. Therefore, the system of bureaucracy, the result and product of old forms of government, will be firmly cast away, so that an executive system that functions efficiently and swiftly in the fulfilment of its administrative commitments comes into existence.goal of life, the executive power must work toward the creation of a just Islamic society. Consequently, the confinement of the executive power within any kind of complex and inhibiting system that delays or impedes the attainment of this goal is rejected by Islam. Therefore, the system of bureaucracy, the result and product of old forms of government, will be firmly cast away, so that an executive system that functions efficiently and swiftly in the fulfilment of its administrative commitments comes into existence.

The Separation of Powers

During the past three centuries, there have been a lot of disputes between the philosophers of law and other social scholars. Today the issue of separation of powers has been stressed so much that it has been accepted as an indisputable principle of the philosophy of law and of the basic law.

In the newly-established Islamic society in Medina, the holy Prophet of Islam had responsibility for the three powers, and there occurred no problem in this regard. During the occultation of the twelfth Shia Imam, according to the Shia jurisprudential principles, the leader has responsibility for all the three powers.149) Therefore, the powers of government in the Islamic Republic of Iran, for example, are vested in the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive functioning under the supervision of the supreme Leader.

The Basic Law

Most of the social regulations are legislated and approved by a legislature, but there is another law called basic law which should be specified and validated before the formation of a legislature and which deals with such questions as why it is necessary that there should be a legal system in every society, and why law needs three basic institutions of legislature, judgement and execution, and so on.

The basic law consists of a set of rules which should be validated before the legislation and codification of the social regulations.

In the democratic systems, in order to give credence to the basic law, first the people should elect the members of the constituent assembly by voting for them. Then, the elected members of the constituent assembly will legislate and approve the code of the basic law which is called constitution, and which is offered to be voted for by the people.

The term basic law is used in some places as an alternative to “constitution.” A Basic Law is either a codified constitution, or in countries with constitutions which are not codified, a law given to have constitutional powers and effect. The term basic law is used in some places as an alternative to “constitution.” A Basic Law is either a codified constitution, or in countries with constitutions which are not codified, a law given to have constitutional powers and effect.

The Sources of Law in Islam

Each and every legal system consists of a set of legal rules which are usually derived from one or more sources. In other words, in order to build a legal system, some of these sources, and the elements or constituents which are extracted from them, should be used.

To date the Muslim juristic rationalists (usuliyyun) have never used the term 'the sources of law', and instead they have used the expression 'the jurisprudential proof', though the meaning of the latter expression is not the same as the former. The Shia juristic rationalists (usuliyyun) rely on four proofs called the juristic proofs, which consist of: the Book (the Quran), the Sunnah (the Tradition), consensus, and reason. Some of the other juristic rationalists also add some other proofs or sources which consist of: analogical reasoning (qiyas), juristic preference (istihsan), public interest (masalih mursalah), opening and blocking the means (fath wa sadd al-dharaai'), convention, and so on.

Having said this, it has to be noted that the only source of law in Islam is the Divine Legislative Will. That is, a rule is valid in Islam only when it can be attributed to the legislative Will of God Almighty. Attributing to any other source can never give validity to the legal ruling. Firstly, the unique importance of the Quran and secondly of the Sunnah (the Tradition, that is, the sayings, actions and silent assertions of the Prophet and the Imams) is due to the fact that these two proofs derive from the Divine Legislative Will. That is, if we wish to know about the rulings of God, we will have no choice but to refer to these two proofs. These two are not sources themselves but guide us to the original source. A consensus is binding if it can be a means for discovering the Sunnah (the Tradition) of the holy Prophet or of the Imam

As previously stated, the religion of Islam accepts reason as one of the fundamental proofs of the religious rulings and attaches great importance to it, if it can be a means for discovering the rulings of God. The Book, the Sunnah, consensus and reason are binding simply because they are means of discovering the Will of God, and never are they considered to be independent sources vis-à-vis the Divine Legislative Will.



# Authority and Tradition

Dr. Ghasem Kakaie

Authority, in Islamic terminology, may be defined as ”wilayah”. Literally, this term means intimacy, assistance, love, and tenure of office. He who has such qualities is called ”wali”. According to the Holy Quran, God is to be known as “wali”. God owns all existence150) and as a result, He leads the universe.151) Since God is Wali and Guardian of the entire world, He is its “Guide” as well. God, Who has authority over the entire existence, guides every type of existent to its own way of perfection. Unlike most of the existents, human perfection is to be achieved consciously and freely. Therefore, man is in need of teaching so that this consciousness and freedom may grow.

There are two types of divine guardianship:

Generative Guardianship (al-wilayah al-takwiniyah): God has authority over the entire existence and leads the entire world to perfection. This authority is deterministic and undeniable.

Legislative guardianship (al-wilayah al-tashri'iyah): Human beings are endowed with another kind of guidance. Through prophets, human beings are provided with divine law, and they are free to accept it and act accordingly. If they accept it, they will attain happiness, and otherwise they will go astray. Revelation grants human beings what they need for happiness, and meets their spiritual and individual needs through individual and devotional commandments, including supplications and prayer.

According to Islam, human beings' otherworldly happiness passes through this world and, therefore, human beings must be actively involved in the social life. One of the striking aspects of the Holy Quran is that it announces plans and rules for social life. In this regard, there are four duties for the Holy Prophet:

I Receiving what revealed by God.

II Communicating the revelation to people.

III Interpreting the revelation. In the reception and communication, the Prophet should be infallible and free of mistake. The language of revelation is sometimes of certain complexity, however; thus it should be explained and commented upon. The Prophet himself was responsible for interpretation of the Quran and explaining divine law in a more detailed account. In this detailing and commenting upon the revelation, the Holy Prophet was infallible and free of mistake. At the same time, people are asked to act as the Holy Prophet instructs them: “And whatsoever the messenger giveth you, take it. And whatsoever he forbiddeth, abstain (from it)” (59:7). Whatsoever issued by the Holy Prophet is of a revelatory origin: “Nor doth he speak of (his own) desire. It is naught save an inspiration that is inspired” (53:3/4). Thus, the Holy Prophet's sayings are absolutely valid and should be accepted. This is also true about his conducts: “Verily in the messenger of Allah ye have a good example” (33:21). Thus in addition to the Holy Quran, God's legislative guidance has been revealed in the Holy Prophet's sunnah, i.e. his saying and conducts.

IV Administering the divine rules: Islam has many social, political, and economical commandments. Clearly, the mere existence of rules cannot guarantee society's happiness. These rules should be executed and rule the society. Here, the Holy Prophet's fourth duty entrusted to him by God is execution of rules and establishment of a State. In other words, the Holy Prophet has authority here. This is not only a right, but also an obligation entrusted to the Holy Prophet by God. For example, in the Holy Quran, God commands the Holy Prophet: “thou mayst judge between mankind by that which Allah showeth thee” (4:105).

However, Islam draws no sharp line between this world and the other world, between devotional points and political ones. But rather many Islamic devotional commandments are at the same time political ones as well. No one has cast doubt in the fact that the Holy Prophet had established a State in his own era, during which he led Muslims and appointed some persons for certain positions. Moreover, in some occasions, he issued certain instructions in which rulers' responsibilities had been clarified. Also, to settle disputes among people, he appointed judges. He executed Islamic Penal Statute. Between him and other tribes and sects, pacts were concluded. In order to study people's and tribes' problems, he had appointed some persons to collect information; assigned natural resources, according to rules, to some people to exploit these resources. To collect Islamic taxes, a systematic organization had been established; and many times, he organized and dispatched peoples to resist attacks by other tribes and states. Such activities made sense only in the light of a State led by the Holy Prophet.

After the Holy Prophet

For Muslims, Muhammad is the last and final prophet. In other words, after his demise reception of revelation and communication of revelation had come to an end. But as mentioned, the Holy Prophet had two other offices as well, one of which was infallible explanation of revelation. The other was that the Holy Prophet had authority and based on this he implemented the divine law and presided the state. After the Holy Prophet's death, some questions arose about these two last responsibilities. Did infallible commentary upon religion come to an end after the Holy Prophet's death? Is there no other reference whose explanation of the religion cannot be questioned? On the other hand, is there any one appointed by God to execute God's religion and social rules of the religion? In reply to these questions, two general views were formed. The first one, which is that of Sunnis, considers the Holy Quran's revelation and the Holy Prophet's sunnah to be sufficient, and in this view no one has been appointed by God to execute the religion. In other words, according to them, there is no special authority for an Islamic State.

The Shia, on the other hand, believe that after the Holy Prophet's death, his daughter, Lady Fatima and twelve Imams were infallible. After the Holy Prophet, they undertook to comment upon and explain the religious laws in the same way that the Holy Prophet did. In other words, in the same way that the Holy Prophet took religious sciences from an infallible source and communicated them to people, and declared commandments which had not been apparently described in the Holy Quran for them, after him the aforementioned persons are of the same office, free of mistakes in commenting upon the religion, and infallible. According to what is said in Shia traditions (hadiths), they are aware of all apparent and hidden aspects of the Holy Quran. These persons are of three characteristics. The first one is that they are infallible. The second is that they have knowledge of the hidden world, and the third is that they have been appointed by God to this superior office and introduced by the Holy Prophet to Muslims, and have occupied office of Imamate one after the other. They are perfect human beings and have the highest human characteristics. Thus, in the same way as that of the Holy Prophet, their tradition, i.e. their sayings and conducts, is a firm argument as well. In other words they do not receive the revelation, but they comment upon the Scripture (the Holy Quran) infallibly. In addition to explaining the revelation, these perfect human beings are in charge of execution of divine commandments and establishment of religious state.

Within 250 years of the presence of Imams, they had such scientific position that even scholars from all schools of Islam benefited from their knowledge. In this period, Imams (a) trained many disciples in Islamic sciences. Their spiritual appeals were of great influence on Muslims, and they left many supplications and hadiths.

As for administrative system and establishment of a State, Imams (a) were confronted with many obstacles created by opponents and oppressors, and these obstacles led to martyrdom of first eleven Imams; and apart from a short period at the end of Imam Ali's life and at the beginning of Imam Hasan's Imamate, there was no possibility for other Imams to establish a State. Finally, there came the twelfth Imam. Here, the Shia reached a new stage, and theory of concealment which was predicted in Shia and Sunni religious and ideological resources, was realized. In other words, at this time the twelfth Imam is concealed from view, but like a sun concealed by clouds, he shows his existential blessings. In other words, his generative guidance continues to spiritually guide people; but people are deprived of his legislative and apparent guidance. According to Shia belief, he is still alive, and at the end of the time, he will come together with some prophets including Jesus Christ (a); and establish justice and a just State. Belief in savoir which is part of fundamental creeds of all religions makes itself apparent in Shia view in the existence of Imam of the Time (a). The Shia always await for his return. Such a faith grants a spiritual power to human being that, in spite of all problems and difficulties, he considers himself to be happy and remains hopeful.

Occultation and the Issue of Religious Authority

During the lives of Imams, many scholars benefited from their knowledge. When the minor occultation started, access to this source of teaching and infallible commentary upon the scripture was very limited. After this time, esoteric role of Imams to some extent was inherited by mystics and saints, and their legislative authority was inherited by jurisprudents. There have been, of course, people who have had both dimensions.

All great Sufis were, mediately or immediately, under training and guidance of Imam Ali (a) and other Imams (a). For example, Kumayl is attributed to Ali (a), Ibrahim Adham to the fourth Imam, Bayazid Bastami to the sixth Imam, Shafiq Balkhi and Boshr Hafi to the seventh Imam, and Ma'ruf Balkhi to the eighth Imam. These Sufi masters who considered themselves to be inspired by Imams, brought others to perfection and appointed them their successors; and in this way, various chains of Sufism were formed. Contrary to Sunnis, these great Sufis believe that God's religion is not only the Scripture and the Holy Prophet's tradition so that it may come to an end upon his death; but rather there should be Imam and an authority along with the Scripture to comment upon the latter; and this office came to Ali (a) and his successors. Thus, this kind of mysticism is to some extent similar to esoteric Shiasm.

Exoteric aspect and legislative authority of Imams were inherited by jurisprudents. At the beginning, however, religious scholars contented themselves to narrate sayings and conducts of the Holy Prophet and Imams. Gradually and with appearance of various, intricate, and new needs, the need for reflection on, and analysis of, hadiths arose, and reason was recognized for deduction from the Scripture and tradition; and juridical discretion, i.e. rational deduction of new commandments from the Scripture and sunnah emerged as a discipline. Because of the stress that the Shia have put on reason, natural theology and philosophy elevated to a high place among the Shia.

A religious jurist is he who becomes able, through studying certain sciences and mastering them, to deduce religious rulings from their sources. The difference between a jurist's view and that of Imam is that the former may be mistaken, unlike the latter. Here a jurist is like any expert in any discipline that may make mistake, yet the lay should follow him. Indeed, following e.g. a jurist is following knowledge and expertise and not the person of the jurist as such. Thus, authority of jurist (wialayat faqih) means, in fact, authority of jurisprudence. According to Shia jurisprudence, a religious jurist whom they follow should be alive so that he may recognize requirements and needs of the age and deduce pertaining Islamic rulings from the holy Quran and sunnah. This grants vitality to the Shia jurisprudence, instead of being stuck with the views of the early jurists.

Authority of Jurist in Society

As mentioned before, in addition to individual rulings and devotional issues, Islam has many social, political, and economic rulings. Moreover, Islam is concerned with the happiness of all mankind and not only those who lived in a particular era. In the eras of the Holy Prophet and Imams, they were responsible to do their best for establishing a sociopolitical system in which Islamic rulings could be practiced and human happiness could be secured. In the age of occultation, however, on the one hand such task cannot be abandoned and people cannot be deprived, and on the other there is no Imam available. Thus, the question is: who is in charge with and competent to undertake such responsibility.

There are two outstanding characteristics of Imams that make them distinct from others: infallibility (i.e. being free from mistake and sins) and immense knowledge. When there is no access to Imams naturally people should refer to someone who resembles them the most i.e. someone with highest level of piety and knowledge. This is why the Shia believe that in the time of the occultation it is the responsibility of the just jurist whose piety, knowledge and competence are more than others to be in charge of the Islamic state. This is the same idea which has been crystallized in the Islamic Revolution of Iran and is known as authority of jurist.

This State, however, takes its acceptability from people. For, according to Shia Islam, without acceptance of people, the State will be a despotic one. For this reason, Islamic State in Iran emerged as Islamic Republic. The term “Republic” determines the State's form, and the term “Islamic” specifies its content. Islamic Republic means a State whose form is democracy and its president is elected by people, and its content is Islamic. The role played by a jurist in an Islamic country, i.e. a country in which people have accepted Islam as their way of life is that of a supervisor or an ideologue. His duty is to supervise execution of strategies and overall running of the state. Thus people have to elect from among jurists the most competent one and, by listening to him, give him power to practice his authority.



# Authority from a Shia Perspective

Dr Muhammad Legenhausen

In this paper I propose to describe the teachings of Shia Islam about authority in a manner accessible to Catholic partners in dialogue. For this purpose, I will contrast Shia views on these issues with those of Catholics, and those of Sunni theologians, and I will also mention a few of the differences of opinion on these matters among the various Shia sects and Sufis.

To begin with, we need to clarify what is meant by authority. Needless to say, there is no concept in the Muslim intellectual traditions that is exactly equivalent to the concept of authority as understood by Christians. The differences between Shia and Catholic thinking about what Catholics would describe as issues of authority, are likely to lead to misunderstandings if not directly addressed.

Authority is multifaceted. There is political authority, teaching authority, sacramental authority, spiritual authority, legal authority, and more; but it may be convenient to limit ourselves to these five facets of authority.

Next we can speak of de facto and de jure authority. Someone has de facto authority when he holds a position, and by virtue of holding that position is accorded authority. The person holding the position is able to carry out various activities that are not permitted to persons who do not hold the position. De facto authority may be challenged by those who claim that the person who holds the position does not do so legitimately. They claim that although the person holding the office may have de facto authority, the person lacks de jure authority.

Finally, we should speak of the ways in which authority is conferred, and its source or sources. Various sorts of authority are won by military strength, knowledge, appointment by God, popular approval, birth, wealth, and by other means. Of course, not all of the ways in which people gain positions of de facto authority are considered acceptable. Bribery is a means of gaining various sorts of de facto authority, but it is never a means of winning de jure authority.

After discussing the facets, propriety, and transfer of authority in a rather abstract fashion, we can turn to an examination of how Catholics and Shias understand these issues.

Once we have examined authority, we will turn very briefly to the issue of tradition. Our approach to tradition will not, however, review the relevant concepts in all their generality, but only as they pertain to issues of authority.

Authority and Wilayah

There are various types of authority. Teachers have authority over their students. Employers have authority over their employees. Parents have authority over their children. None of these sorts of authority are absolute. Parents do not have authority to abuse their children. Authority is not mere liberty to command. The limits on authority are especially pronounced in Islam. All authority belongs ultimately to God, and different people exercise specific types of authority according to the responsibilities given to them. One who exercises authority may be required to use personal discretion, but discretion is always to be employed in order to carry out one's duties in the best possible way, and does not imply that one has a free hand to do whatever one wants.

If there is any absolute authority, it is the authority of God. (This sentence questions if there is any absolute authority…. How about: The only absolute authority is the authority of God. )Here, however, there is a difference between Shia and Ash'arite views. Most Sunnite theologians accept an Ash'arite position, according to which all moral obligation derives from divine commands, and that since it does not make sense to speak of God commanding Himself, He is not constrained by any moral obligations. It would not be wrong for Him to command murder and stealing, but rather, if He commanded them, they would become morally obligatory. Shias, on the other hand, along with the Mu'tazilites, hold that what we know by reason to be wrong, could never be commanded by God. The Ash'arites object that this seems to imply that reason—or the absolute moral values discerned by reason—has an authority above the authority of God. Heaven forbid! Shias respond that this is a misunderstanding of the nature of authority. God cannot command what is wrong because He is essentially just, not because He is subservient to justice or reason, or because He lacks sufficient power to be unjust. God has absolute authority, not in the sense that He could command what is wrong, but that He does whatever He wills, and He necessarily wills what is just and what is better than justice, e.g., grace, because He is essentially just and merciful. The God of Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be with him and his progeny and with them all) is no Pater Liber.152)

The absolute authority of God does not mean that God is at liberty to do evil, but neither does it imply that He is not at liberty. Likewise, the expertise of a craftsman does not mean that if the craftsman were to produce something unbefitting his skill, then he has the authority to do so because of his expertise. Neither does it imply that the craftsman who exercises his skill is not at liberty to make what he wants. God does whatever He wills, but His will is not arbitrary. God does whatever He wills, but His willing is never evil, because this would contradict His essence.

In Shia sources, there is no general term for authority as it occurs in Western languages, used for the concepts of divine authority, scriptural authority, church authority, etc.. Occasionally, one who has the power of command is referred to by the word sulţān (from which comes the English “sultan”), malik (sovereign), mālik (owner, possessor), and hujjah. Among the Names of God mentioned in the Qur'ān, we find al-Malik (20:114), and Mālik al-Mulk (which has been translated as “Master of the Kingdom”, “Owner of All”, and “Master of all sovereignty”). There are no divine Names based on the roots of sulţān or hujjah, although reference to divine authority can be found in which such terms are employed. Other terms that are used to indicate divine authority are: al- Haqq (the Truth), al-Rabb (Lord), Dhê al-Jalāl (Possessor of Majesty), and a number of others, each of which repays study with a greater appreciation of the nature of divine authority in Islam. The notion of authority is closely related to that of obedience; so, we should also look at what the Qur'ān has to say about obedience and following in order to get a clearer picture of how authority is viewed in Islam.

Let's begin with sulţān. What is most characteristic of the use of this word in the Qur'ān is that it is used to condemn idolatry as unauthorized, in contrast to which the missions of the prophets are described as authorized.

The following verses may be grouped together because they all pertain to the condemnation of unauthorized idolatry [which is contrasted with the authorized message of monotheism (tawhid) brought through the prophets]. We could say that these verses indicate a negative concept of authority, in that they deny authority for idolatry. These verses are relevant to teaching authority, for they condemn false unauthorized religious teachings, and to sacramental authority, for they condemn unauthorized worship of false gods.

We shall cast terror into the hearts of the faithless because of their ascribing to Allah partners for which He has not sent down any authority, and their refuge shall be the Fire; and evil is the abode of the wrongdoers. (3:151)

How could I [Abraham] fear what you ascribe as partners, when you do not fear ascribing to Allah partners for which He has not sent down any authority to you? (6:81)

Say, 'My Lord has only forbidden indecencies… and that you should ascribe to Allah partners for which He has not sent down any authority… (7:33)

…Do you dispute with me regarding names that you have named—you and your fathers—for which Allah has not sent down any authority? (7:71)153)
You do not worship besides Him but names that you and your fathers have coined for which Allah has not sent down any authority. Sovereignty belongs only to Allah… (12:40)

…if only they would bring some clear authority concerning them [gods besides Him]… (18:15)

Have We sent down to them any authority which might speak of what they associate with Him? (30:35)

They worship besides Allah that for which He has not sent down any authority, and of which they have no knowledge… (22:71

The link between authority and knowledge is important. Those without legitimate authority don't know what they're talking about. This would seem to indicate a lack of teaching authority, since the reference to eavesdropping indicates that those condemned lack knowledge on which to base their pronouncements. They are ridiculed by God in the following verse:

Or do they have a ladder whereby they eavesdrop? If so let their eavesdropper produce a manifest authority. (52:38)

No one becomes privy to the divine knowledge by illegitimate means:

O company of jinn and humans! If you can pass through the confines of the heavens and the earth, then do pass through. But you will not pass through except by an authority. (55:33)

Likewise, the attribution of polytheistic doctrines about God is declared to be unauthorized and not based on any knowledge.

They say, 'Allah has taken a son!' Immaculate is He! To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. You have no authority for this. Do you attribute to Allah what you do not know? (10:68)

This verse has figured prominently in theological disputes between Christians and Muslims, but the point is general, and asserted in much the same way against polytheists who held that the angels were the daughters of God. Christians respond that they do not hold that the second person of the Trinity is a son in the sense condemned in the above verse. However, this is not the place to review the history of that discussion. What is at issue here is that improper religious beliefs are condemned as being taught without authority; and once again, it is primarily teaching authority that is at issue, and those condemned for unauthorized teaching are condemned for making attributions without knowledge.

Do you have a manifest authority? (37:156) [asked of those who hold that Allah has begotten daughters]

Indeed those who dispute the signs of Allah without any authority that may have come to them—there is only vanity in their breasts, which they will never satisfy…. (40:56)

Next we have verses that declare the divine authorization of the prophets, for whom Moses stands as an exemplar. These verses indicate a positive concept of authority, the divine authorization given to the prophets. Here, the authority is not limited to teaching, but has legal and political dimensions, as well.

…and We gave Moses a manifest authority. (4:153)

Certainly We sent Moses with Our signs and a manifest authority/ to Pharaoh and his elite, but they followed Pharaoh's dictates, and Pharaoh's dictates were not right. (11: 96-97)

Then We sent Moses and Aaron, his brother, with Our signs and a manifest authority… (23:45).

This is similar to (28:35), just Moses is mentioned with the signs and manifest authority at (40:23), (51:38). Moses tells Pharaoh that he has a manifest authority from God at (44:19), where opposition to freeing (giving over to Moses) the Israelites, “the servants of God”, is considered rebellion against God. So, the authority given by God to the prophets is over whoever God wishes, and is not confined to the prophet himself or his people. Moses has de jure authority over Pharaoh, even if Pharaoh refuses to recognize it.

…but Allah gives authority to His apostles over whomsoever He wishes (59:6)

While various people challenge the authority of the prophets, the prophets acknowledge that whatever authority they bring is only by the permission of God. Here the authority may be indicated in the form of a miracle, or sign indicative of their mission.

…They said, 'You are nothing but humans like us who desire to bar us from what our fathers used to worship. So bring us a manifest authority.'/ Their apostles said to them, 'Indeed we are just human beings like yourselves, but Allah favors whomever of His servants He wishes. We may not bring you an authority except by Allah's leave, and in Allah let all the faithful put their trust.' (14:10-11)

Another important instance of negative authority, or authority denied, is the case of Iblis, or Satan. What is denied here is not specifically teaching authority, but a quasi-political/legal right to rule over or command.

As for My servants, you [Satan] shall have no authority over them (17:65)

…Satan will say, 'Indeed Allah made you a promise that was true and I made you a promise, but I failed you. I had no authority over you, except that I called you and you responded to me… (14:22)

Just as Satan admits that he had no legitimate authority over man, the idols will testify against their worshippers at the end of the world:

…we [what wrongdoers used to worship] had no authority over you; no, you were an insolent people… (37:30)

Satan does exert a sort of de facto authority over man, as is indicated by the words I called you and you responded to me, but this is not a legitimate form of authority. It merely means that Satan is obeyed by men. We see the same distinction in the following verses.

Indeed as for My servants, you [Iblis] do not have any authority over them, except the perverse who follow you (15:42)

Indeed he [Satan] does not have any authority over those who have faith and put their trust in their Lord./ His authority is only over those who befriend him and those who make him a partner [of Allah]. (16:99-100)

The possibility of de facto Satanic authority is the result of the free will granted to human beings. Satan is able to tempt:

He [Iblis] had no authority over them, but that We may ascertain those who believe in the Hereafter from those who are in doubt about it… (34:21)

Often the believers have been protected by God from the de facto authority of tyrants:

…had Allah wished, He would have given them authority against you, and then they would surely have fought you. (4:90)

There is a recurrent association of tyranny and the illegitimate exercise of authority, the taking up of idols, the failure to follow the prophets, and disputing religious tenets without divine authority.

Those who dispute the signs of Allah without any authority that may have come to them—[that is] greatly outrageous to Allah and to those who have faith. That is how Allah seals the heart of every arrogant tyrant. (40:35)

Authority often has the sense of permission. The signs brought by the prophets are by the permission of God. The religious/legal permission to take retribution for murder is also described as an authority.

…and whoever is killed wrongfully, We have certainly given his heir an authority (17:33)

Likewise permission for self-defence against hostile idolaters is described as an authority, perhaps better translated in this case and the above as authorization. The authorization here pertains to what is to be considered lawful, not to teaching, spirituality, or worship.

…and it is such against whom We have given you a clear authorization. (4:91)

When the hoopoe doesn't show up on time for Solomon, he says:

'I will surely punish him with a severe punishment, or I will surely behead him, unless he brings a clear authority (27:21)

The meaning of “authority” here is also that of an authorization or excuse. When one has no excuse left to offer, one is said to lack authority:

My authority has departed from me (69:29)

This is spoken by the sinners who are given their books in their left hands on the judgment day and have no legal excuse on the basis of which to seek to avoid punishment.

Treachery is seen as an invitation to disaster, as if one were giving permission to God to make one wretched. Of course, God does not need the permission of humans for anything; yet by failing to carry out the conditions needed for being granted a reward, it is as though one gives permission to the authority not to grant the reward.

O you who have faith! Do not take the faithless for friends instead of the faithful. Do you wish to give Allah a clear authorization against yourselves? (4:144)

Every believer seeks divine guidance, and so seeks an authority from God. Divine authority is associated more with divine authorization, assistance, signs and guidance than with having free reign or liberty to rule. Here the authority mentioned is more clearly associated with spiritual guidance than those previously mentioned.

And say, 'My Lord! Admit me with a worthy entrance, and bring me out with a worthy departure, and make for me a helping authority from Yourself.' (17:80)

The examination of these verses and the above-mentioned reflections enable us to reach the following conclusions about the concept of authority in Islam.

1. Divine authority is beneficial. What God commands is for the good of those commanded. Because of this, practical reason is understood to endorse obedience to the divine commands.

2. Divine authority is always presented in contrast to usurped authority or deceitful authority, which is arbitrary, selfish, and of no real benefit, although appearances to the contrary commonly deceive many.

3. Divine authority is guiding, while de facto authority without divine permission is oppressive and misleading.

4. Authority is backed up by signs, by reason, and by knowledge. It is linked to proof (hujjah) and clear explanation (bayyinah). The recognition of authority is by appeal to individual conscience and reason. No one can be forced to recognize the divine authority given to the prophets.

5. The divine authority given to human beings is limited. For example, one is permitted retribution, but one must not be excessive in this. Divine authority cannot be abused because it is conditioned on proper exercise. As soon as one acts abusively, one forfeits any claim to divine authority. No one can claim divine authority for oppression.

6. The divine authority given to the prophets is not divided. Through them, divine guidance is provided in all areas of life: legal, spiritual, sacramental, teaching, political, etc. For example, rules of good hygiene are woven into the rules of ritual practice; moral teachings are not separated from religious law; and spirituality informs the political decisions of the prophets. On the other hand, authority delegated to others is limited to specific authorizations, e.g., retribution.

7. Authority is authorization. One has authorization for what has a good reason, for what excuses one, for what one has been given explicit divine permission, and for what has been divinely commanded.

Our examination of the above verses suffices to establish that the source of authority in Islam is God. This is not surprising. God's authority, however, is not arbitrary. God does whatever He wishes, but His wishes are not capricious. This point is one on which Shia theology differs with the Ash'arite theology that is common among Sunni Islam.

The above verses also demonstrate a principle by which authority is transmitted: by authorization. God delegates authority to the prophets, peace be with them.

The difference between Shia and Sunni accounts of the succession to the Prophet is often portrayed as a political dispute. This is misleading. There is a dispute about the political leadership of the Muslim community, but this is secondary to a more fundamental disagreement about authorization. According to the Shiah, the ultimate basis of authority is not what anyone wants—neither the will of the people, nor anyone else. Even the will of God can only be considered the source of authority because of God's essential justice and mercy. Of course, authority is granted by God's will, but it is not because God wills capriciously for the prophets to have authority that they have it; rather, God wills that the prophets have their authority because of His wisdom and mercy, and the prophets' capacity to provide guidance. He chooses whoever He wills in accordance with His wise and beneficent plan for humanity.

God wills justice, for He is just. Justice means that everything should be in its proper place. Those who require guidance should obey those who can best provide it. Thus, God sends His messengers with authority to provide guidance that will enable those who obey His Messengers to arrange their relations with God and men in the way they can acquire virtue and thereby move toward Him.

Likewise, the succession to the Prophet through the Imams is neither determined by heredity nor by the arbitrary selection of the previous authority, but through divine selection announced through the appointment of each of the Imams by the one who held the authority prior to him.

The Prophet Muhammad was authorized by Allah to bring a law for the people that differed in some respects from what was current among the Christians and Jews of the time, although there were many points in common among them. The successors of the Prophet were not authorized to bring any other law. In this sense there is a difference in the legal authority given to the prophets and to the Imams. Both are given authority in the sense of authorization to guide the people, with a right to obedience from the people, not for their own sakes, but in order to fulfil the divine mandate. However, the law promulgated by the Imams is the law that had been given to Muhammad, and the scripture they taught was the scripture given to Muhammad.

The authority given to both the prophets and Imams to guide the people and which requires obedience is called wilāyah. Wilāyah is a special friendship with God, which is usually translated into English as sainthood, but the waliy in Shiasm is not understood as the saint in Catholicism. Sometimes wilāyah and walāyah are distinguished, so that the former means the guardianship and right to obedience that characterizes the relation of the mawlā over his followers, while the latter is used to characterize the special friendship and devotion to God of the waliy Allah, as well as the love and devotion of the people toward him. Shaykh Saduq tells us that the most noble servants of Allah are those whose waliy is the waliy Allah and whose enemy is the enemy of Allah.154) In practice the terms are often confused, and the markings that would distinguish the words wilāyah and walāyah are often omitted in Arabic texts.

Like the Catholic saint, the waliy is a very holy person, one who has an especially intimate relation with God expressed as love and devotion. However, the waliy also takes the utmost care to follow the path prescribed toward God through the guidance given His Prophetص, and because of his success in following the way toward God, he becomes the means through which God guides others to Himself, too, and thus God grants him the right to leadership and to the obedience of the people.

One of the most important narrations on which the authority of Imam 'Ali is based is that of Ghadir, according to which the Prophet appointed 'Ali as his successor after the farewell pilgrimage. It is reported that he brought 'Ali before the people, raised 'Ali's hand in his own and said: “For whomever I am mawlā, this ('Ali) is his waliy. O Allah, befriend those who befriend him and have enmity for those who have enmity toward him.”155)

An early claim to authority that invokes the concept of wilāyah may be found in a hadith according to which the grandson of the Prophet, Imam Husayn, is reported to have written the following in a letter to the Shiah of Basra:

God has chosen Muhammad from among his people, graced him with His prophethood and selected him for His message. After he admonished the people and conveyed His message to them, God took him back unto Himself. We, being his family (ahl), his devotees (awliyā), his trustees, heirs, and legatees, are the most deserving among all the people to take his place.156)

In this statement it is clear that the sort of authority understood by the Imam to have been given through the appointment of the Prophet includes the authority to command, that is, to provide political leadership to the community, and that this authority is based on spiritual authority through which the Imam guides his followers toward God. Furthermore, the political authority is also rooted in the spiritual authority, for the political direction of the community is not for the sake of merely worldly benefits or by the arbitrary exercise of power, rather, the community is guided politically by the waliy so as to provide an appropriate framework for the spiritual perfection of its members. However, the guidance of the community is not only in order to provide this framework for individual spiritual perfection. The Muslim community or ummah also has a moral and spiritual role to play in the greater community of nations.

The political and spiritual guidance of the community and its members by the Prophet and Imams would not be possible if it were not based on a proper knowledge of the divine Will. Because of the possession of this knowledge, the waliy has teaching authority.

Authority may be further delegated by the Prophet or Imams to others. For example, although the authority to bring a covenant with God in the form of religious law ends with the Prophet Muhammad, the legal authority to issue rulings based on this law and to interpret how the law is to be applied in new circumstances is delegated to those who have gained the appropriate knowledge of the law and are God-fearing. Likewise, teaching authority is further delegated to those who have the appropriate knowledge and are pious, regardless of whether that knowledge is of the law, doctrine, hadiths, the recitation of the Quran, its interpretation, etc.

Sacramental authority is a special case that deserves attention given the great differences in this between Catholicism and Islam. There is no priesthood in Islam. There are no sacraments, or special rituals that serve as vehicles for obtaining grace, that require a special person with specific authority to perform them. All of the major sacraments of Islam (if we may be allowed to use the Catholic terminology for them here), that is, bearing witness, prayer, alms, fasting and hajj, can be performed by any Muslim with knowledge of the relevant laws without the presence of the clergy (although leading prayers requires both knowledge of the ritual and justice). There is no power or authority invested in any person by any Muslim religious institution for the performance of any ritual or for the issuing of any decree of Islamic law or for the statement of doctrine.157)

To find something analogous to the Catholic notion of religious authority in Islam, we would do best to take a glance at the Sufi Orders. According to Sufis, spiritual authority has been passed down through a chain of specific designations, called a silsilah, on the basis of which claims are made to spiritual authority. Among both Sunni and Shia Sufis, these chains go back to the Prophet through 'Ali. This not only provides the Sufis with a doctrine of spiritual authority derived by appointment or designation, but it also introduces a sort of sacramental authority that is absent from non-Sufi Islam. The Sufis hold that the pledge between the master and disciple, called bay'ah, is a vehicle of divine grace or barakat, in a manner comparable with Catholic teachings on the sacraments. This initiatory ceremony must be conducted by the Sufi master or someone appointed by him and the initiate. This provides an approximation to the Catholic idea of a sacrament that also can be found in Islam, although it does not correspond to any particular Catholic sacrament. An even closer approximation in Sufism to a specific Catholic sacrament, that of Holy Orders, may be found in the appointment of a shaykh by the Sufi pir, although this is in some ways more like the appointment of a bishop than like the sacrament through which one becomes a Catholic priest. At any rate, even these analogies to Catholic sacraments are only found in Sufi Islam, whether Shia or Sunni branches of Sufism. In non-Sufi Shia Islam as in non-Sufi Sunni Islam, there is nothing like a sacrament that requires performance by a religious authority.

Sunni and Shia theologians differ on the nature of political authority. For the Shiah, the wilāyah of 'Ali is comprehensive, in the sense that it includes spiritual, teaching, legal and political authority. For Sunni theologians, the wilāyah of 'Ali is such that he can be recognized as a spiritual authority, (although his spiritual authority is not comparable with that of the Prophet), but this is held to have no political implications. 'Ali's political authority is limited, in Sunni Islam, to the period of his caliphate. He is recognized as a teaching authority, but only to the extent that he had knowledge of the Qur'ān and the teachings of the Prophet. He is accorded legal authority in Sunni Islam because of this same knowledge. The political authority of the caliphs, according to Sunni Islam, is based on the virtues of the caliph and on his acceptance by the Muslim community. The authority of the Imams in Shia Islam, on the other hand, does not require acceptance by the Muslim community. Their authority is appointed whether anyone recognizes it or not. In theory, there is no significant difference in this regard among the various Shia sects. Ismaili Shia, for example, accept the same basic theory of Imamate as the Twelver Shia, but differ as to the identity of some of the Imams.

In traditional Sunni Islam, legal authority is confined to four schools of jurisprudence: Hanbali, Hanafi, Maliki, and Shafi'i. Although there are Sunni Muslims who have called for a re-examination of the formulation of Muslim law in these four schools, the traditional opinion has been that the doors to ijtihad (the independent deriving of the law from its sources) are closed. In Shia Islam, on the other hand, the doors to ijtihad have never been closed. For the Shiah, legal authority requires not merely a knowledge of the sources, it implicitly also requires the wisdom to derive rulings on specific issues in changing circumstances. Legal authority to derive such rulings is based solely on knowledge and intelligence (as well as piety), however, and does not require any specific sort of permission, according to the dominant view among the Shia 'ulama, called usuli. During the Safavid period, there was a debate between usuli and akhbāri schools of Shia jurisprudence; and the akhbāris argued that any sort of religious authority, whether legal or merely for the narration of hadiths, required permission from a previous authority. Although many Shia religious authorities continue to receive permission from their teachers or from the seminaries for ijtihad, there are notable mujtahids who have practiced ijtihad without obtaining any such permission.

According to Twelver Shia, religious authority and wilayah is currently accorded to the Twelfth Imam, who is in a state of ghaybah, or occultation. The period of ghaybah is divided into two: minor and major. During the minor ghaybah, the 12th Imam appointed deputies in order to attend to various affairs of his followers and to provide guidance on some matters. The period after the death of the last deputy, who acted as an intermediary between the people and the Imam, marks the beginning of the major occultation. So, the question arises as to where religious authority is to be found during the major occultation. For this purpose we need to distinguish authority needed for practical affairs and authority pertaining to doctrine. With regard to teaching, the Qur'ān and the hadiths are available to all who have the ability to understand them. Teaching authority is based on knowledge. There is no magisterium to settle doctrinal disputes in Islam. Such disputes can only be settled through strength of argument, reason and knowledge of the relevant sources. It is the duty of each Muslim to ascertain the truth of the fundamental teachings of the religion by his own intellectual efforts, and merely taking the word of an expert is specifically forbidden.

With respect to legal and political matters, however, some criterion for action is a practical necessity. In matters of religious law, each Shia must either have competence to derive the law from its sources or follow the rulings of someone who has such competence. Those who are not experts are advised to investigate, by asking who devote their lives to the study of Islamic law; and on the basis of this investigation to follow the pious mujtahid they believe is the most knowledgeable as a source or marji' of imitation (taqlid) in matters of the practical laws of Islam.

According to some hadiths, not only did the Imams refer people to the scholars of Islamic law for legal rulings, but also for arbitration of disputes. This has been taken by many Shia scholars to indicate a general delegation of practical authority over disputed issues to the 'ulama. The political form of this idea of delegation is known as the doctrine of wilayah al-faqih, the guardianship of the jurisprudent. Imam Khomeini also argued on rational and practical grounds for the need of religious government. The basic idea is that Islam includes teachings about social, economic and political affairs that can only be put into practice through an Islamic government, a government guided by the teachings and rulings of Islam as understood by those with appropriate expertise in such matters.

There are various interpretations of the doctrine of wilayah al-faqih, which differ on such issues as the qualifications for the position and the scope of its authority; however there is general agreement that the institution is based on exigency and the application of reason to various principles of Islam and governance. It is not a position, like that of the papacy, authorized through something like apostolic succession. One of the most famous statements of the doctrine in recent history is that of Hajj Mulla Ahmad Naraqi (1771-1829):

As for the jurists' duty over people's affairs and over what they have full and all-embracing wilāyah we, by divine grace, say that a just jurist's wilāyah lies in two matters. First, every wilāyah possessed by the Prophet and the Imams (who were the sovereigns and pillars of Islam) is bestowed upon the jurists as well, except what is excluded by juridical proof such as ijmā' (consensus) or nass (established text)…. Secondly, every action concerning the people's faith and worldly affairs is necessary and inescapable according to reason and habit or according to Shar' (law)….

It is obvious and understood by every common or learned man, that when the messenger of God is on a trip, someone behind him is assigned as his substitute, successor, trustee, proof…. This person will accrue all the power that the Prophet enjoyed over his community. There is no doubt that most nusus (texts) concerning the awsiyā (heirs) of the infallible Imam imply the transfer of all power, not merely some of it. This becomes clear especially in connection with the traditions concerning the rank and place of jurists, who are the most excellent men after the Imams….158)

When we look through the history of Shia political thought, we find that from time to time there have been groups of Shia who have taken a position diametrically opposed to that expressed above by Naraqi. One of the most extreme of these groups has been the hujjatiyyah, who argue that during the greater occultation of the Twelfth Imam, the Shia cannot enforce Islamic law, carry out its punishments, or hold Friday prayers. Others, such as Shahid Mutahhari, argued that during the major occultation, many of the responsibilities of the Imam can be carried out by the office of wilāyah al-faqih, but that some remain as the exclusive authority of the Imam. The dominant view among the Shia 'ulama today, however, tends to favor the position that there are no specific areas of authority that are reserved by the Imam and cannot be carried out by the office of wilayah al-faqih.

Despite precedence in Shia theological writings, such as the above quote from Mulla Ahmad Naraqi, the doctrine of wilāyah al-faqih was not put into practice in the formation of a government until the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979. Since the Revolution, the office has become recognized in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Clerical authority in Shia Islam, however, takes various forms. At the core is the capacity for ijtihad, the ability to derive the rulings of religious law from its sources. The conditions traditionally given for one to have this ability are knowledge and piety. Not all who wear the Shia clerical robes and turban have reached the level of ijtihad, however. In an Islamic government, the judges will be appointed by the wali al-faqih. Even in the absence of Islamic government, however, it has been common for Muslim communities to appeal to their local scholars to act as judges in various sorts of disputes. One who has reached the level of ijtihad is able to issue a legal ruling on the basis of the sources of Islamic law, called a fatwa. One who issues such rulings is called a mufti (although this term is not widely used among contemporary Shia).

As mentioned above, every Shia who is not able to derive religious rulings on the basis of their sources must follow one who has this ability. The mujtahid who is followed is called a marji' taqlid (source of following). Traditionally, the conditions given for being a marji' taqlid were that he should be the most learned of the pious scholars. In order to determine who has such qualifications, one should himself be a scholar or one should consult with those who have sufficient expertise. In recent years, however, it has been suggested that the condition of learning includes deep awareness of contemporary issues and views, as well as social and political problems. In the case of wilāyah al-faqih, the person who is to occupy this position should be a mujtahid, he should be pious and just, he should have administrative talent and courage, and he should have social and political insight.159)

In addition to ijtihad, maj'iyah, wilayah al-faqih, and judgeship, the Shia clergy plays many other roles, such as leading prayers, teaching, leading people in the performance of hajj, giving sermons, doing research on theological issues, etc. Each of these positions has its own specific requirements. In general, however, the appeal to the clergy to perform any such function is based on the requisites of knowledge and piety.

With regard to the recognition of authority, there is no compulsion. Each believer is advised to use his own reason to accept the authority of those best qualified for its exercise. No one can be compelled to accept any particular person as marji'. Even with respect to the office of wilāyah al-faqih, the current Leader himself, Ayatollah Khamenei (may Allah protect him), has ruled that no one can be compelled to accept his authority and if one erroneously rejects this authority on the basis of his own reasoning, he is not to be considered a sinner because of this. However, failure to recognize authority is no excuse for disobedience of the law or criminal activity.

Tradition and Sunnah

In both Catholicism and Shia Islam, tradition may be seen as a source for religious teaching second only to scripture, and thus as authoritative. However, what is meant by tradition differs in these two faiths, although there are also several common points. Both Catholics and Muslims agree that divine guidance has been delivered by scripture and by the passing down of narrations from one generation to another. However, for Christians, scripture is also a record of what was passed down about the life of Jesus and his apostles, the epistles of Paul, and other written documents that were selected by the Church as authoritative, while for Muslims, scripture is the record of the revelation given to the Prophet. To Muslims, the New Testament looks more like a book of hadiths than the direct revelation (wahy) of God. Nevertheless, Christians and Muslims, along with Jews and Zoroastrians, are recognized by the Shia as ”ahl al-kitab”, people of the book; and the books in question are taken as containing divine messages for their peoples. These books reach contemporary believers in any of these faiths by being handed down from one generation to another, that is, by tradition.

For Catholics, however, Church tradition is itself authoritative. Catholics believe that the history of the Church, the decisions made in its councils and the statements of doctrine enunciated by its popes are guided by the Holy Spirit, and as such have divine authority. For the Shia, on the contrary, there is no analogous belief. Theological doctrines that were common at one time may be rejected later if good reason is found for so doing regardless of traditional acceptance. Because of this, for example, Shaykh Saduq's theology was largely superceded by that of Shaykh Mufid, and later the akhbari school of thought was displaced by the usuli school. The fact that a given doctrine or practice becomes accepted by the majority of scholars at any given time carries no theoretical weight for other scholars. Each scholar must use the best of his own cognitive abilities to study the sources and reach his own conclusions. In this sense, the Shia approach to religion is a rationalist one.

Sunnah, which is often translated as “tradition”, is indeed authoritative for Muslims, but not the sunnah of the clergy, of the seminaries, or of the Muslim community; rather, it is the sunnah of the Prophet that is taken by Muslims as second in authority only to the Shia.

In Islamic jurisprudence, four sources of legal rulings are commonly mentioned:

The Quran
the Sunnah
Reason (Shia) or Analogy (Sunni)

The reliance on consensus in Sunni legal theory is in some respects similar to the Catholic reliance on tradition, although Catholics have focused more on doctrinal issues while Muslims have been more concerned with practical rulings. However, for the Shia, consensus is reduced to the Sunnah, since it is valid only when it unveils the view of the Prophet or the Imams. Hence, for all practical purposes, in present circumstances the sources of legal rulings among the Shia are limited to the first three mentioned above: the Quran, the Sunnah, and reason.

Sunni and Shia Muslims are in agreement that what is meant by the Sunnah is the example of the Prophet in word and deed as recorded and passed down in the form of narrations, called hadiths. For the Shia, however, narrations of the words and deeds of the twelve Imams are also taken as authoritative. Sometimes this is justified on the grounds that knowledge of the Sunnah of the Prophet was best preserved in his household, his ahl al-bayt. Nevertheless, the authority of the Imams is seen as derivative relative to the Sunnah of the Prophet, and the Imams themselves often justified the stance they took with reference to the Sunnah of the Prophet.


# Notes:

1) Cf. Rasuli, Tarikh, Vol. 1, p. 107.
2) Ibn Hisham, al-Sira al-Nabawiya, 1st edition, edited by ‘Umar ‘Abd al-Salam Tadmuri (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi, 1987),Vol. 1, pp. 183-184 ; Ya‘qubi, Tarikh Ya ‘qubi, Farsi translation by Muhammad Ibrahim Ayati (Tehran),Vol. 1, p. 385. There are very few historians who suggest a date other than the Year of the Elephant. They allege that it was a few years before the occurrence of the Elephant. For instance, al-Maqrizi in his book Imta‘ al-Asma ‘, refers to several opinions which concern the year of the birth. He mentions that the ideas differ from fifteen years before to forty years after the Year of the Elephant. al-Maqrizi himself gives preference to what the majority says, that is the Year of the Elephant. See: Rasuli, Tarikh, Vol. 1, footnote, pp. 107-108, from al-Maqrizi, Vol. 1, pp. 3-4.
3) Haykal, Hayat, p. 108 ; Murtada, Al-Sahih , Vol. 1, p. 78.
4) As Majlisi indicates, the ‘ulama of the Imami school agree that the birth of the Prophet occurred on Friday, the seventeenth of Rabi‘ al-Awwal. However, most of their fellow Sunnis maintain that it took place on Monday, the twelfth, although some insist on the eighth, and others on the tenth of that month, and yet a few others declare that it happened in the month of Ramadan. Majlisi, The Life and Religion of Muhammad, English Translation of Hayat al-Qolub, Vol. 2, by James L. Merrick (1982), p. 34
5) al-Kulayni, (d. 939/ 940)a well known Shia tranditionist of the 4th Muslim century, in his al-Kafi, al-Usul wa al-Rawda, Vol. 7, p. 131 (Mawlid al-Nabi), agrees with the Sunni position that the Prophet was born on the 12th of Rabi‘ al-Awwal. However, he mentions that it was on Friday and not on Monday, as Sunni tradition says.
6) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 78. Majlisi, in his Bihar after differentiating between the two Sunni and Shia traditions, says that among Shia it was al-Kulayni who selected, either intentionally or because of taqiya, what the Sunni tradition advocates. See: Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, (Beirut: al-Wafa’, 1983), Vol. 15, p. 248.
7) Haykal, Hayat, p. 109.
8) Haykal, The Life, p. 48.
9) Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, Vol. 1, p. 183 ; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya wal-Nihaya, edited by Ahmad Abu Muslim et al. (Beirut: al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 1980), Vol. 2, pp. 242-243 ; al-Maqrizi, Imta‘ al-Asma‘, edited by Mahmud Muhammad Shakir (Cairo: 1941), Vol. 1, pp. 3-4
10) , 39) , 56) , 58) , 70) , 74) , 85) Ibid.
11) al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, al-Usul val-Rawda, edited by Ghaffari (Tehran: al-Maktaba al-Islamiyya, 1962), Vol. 7, p. 131 ; Majlisi, Bihar, Vol. 15, p. 248, etc.
12) One of the Iraqi Shia biographers in Baghdad who died in 1293. He wrote his book, Kashf al- Ghumma fî Ma‘rifat al-A’imma, on the biography of the Prophet and the Shia Imams.
13) Murtada, al-Sahiih, Vol. 1, p. 79, citing al-Irbili, Kashf, 2nd edition (Beirut: Dar al-Adwa’, 1985), Vol. 1, p. 14.
14) Haykal, The Life, pp. 47 and 51.
15) For details see: Ibn Ishaq, The life of Muhammad, translated by A. Guillaume (London-New York-Tronto: Oxford University Press, 1955), p. 69; Al-Tabari. Tarikh, Vol. 2, p. 156. It is also narrated by Shia scholars. For instance, see: al-Saduq, Ikmal al-Din wa Itmam al-Ni‘ma (Najaf: 1970), pp. 189-190 ; al-Irbili, Kashf, Vol. 1, pp. 20-21.
16) Ibn Ishaq, The Life, pp. 71-72 ; Haykal, The Life, p. 49 ; Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 81.
17) , 20) Ibn Ishaq, The Life, p. 71.
18) Ibid., p. 71.
19) Haykal, The Life, p. 49.
21) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 81.
22) al-Irbili, Kashf, Vol. 1, p. 15; Murtada, Al-Sahih, v.1, p. 81. Ya‘qubi in his history says that the death of ‘Abdullah happened two months after the Prophet’s birth. He refutes the suggestion that the former’s death was before the birth of the Prophet. He further argues that consensus is established upon the first opinion that the father died after his son’s birth, to the extent of even one year after the Prophet’s birth, as some historians believe. See: Ya‘qubi, Tarikh, Vol. 2, p. 362.
23) Majlisi, Bihar, Vol. 15, p. 125 ; Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 81. In short, as Ibn Athir mentions, the date of ‘Abdullah’s death is a controversial subject among the historians. See: Ibn Athir, Usd al-Ghaba, Vol. 1, p. 20
24) See: Rasuli, Tarikh, Vol. 1, p. 182.
25) Cf. Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 81 ; Subhani, Furugh Abadiyat, 8th edition (Qum: 1993), Vol. 1, p. 160.
26) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 81 ; Haykal, The Life, p. 49.
27) Haykal, The Life, p. 48. See also: Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 81.
28) Haykal, p. 49 ; Murtada, Vol. 1, p. 88.
29) Haykal. p. 52 ; Murtada, Vol. 1, pp. 81-82.
30) Ibn Ishaq, The Life, p. 72 ; Haykal, The Life, p. 52.
31) Haykal, The Life, pp. 51-52 ; Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 82.
32) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 82.
33) Cf. Haykal, Hayat, p. 110 ; Ibn Athir, Usd al-Ghaba, Vol. 1, p. 21. See: al-Tabari, Tarikh, Vol. 2, p, 159 ; Majlisi, Bihar, Vol. 15, p. 401 and Rasuli, Tarikh, Vol. 1, pp. 183-184.
34) Ibn Ishaq, The Life, p. 72.
35) Ibn Athir, Usd al-Ghabah, Vol. 1, p. 21.
36) al-Tabari, Tarikh , Vol. 2, p. 159.
37) Haykal, Hayat, p. 110.
38) Ibn Ishaq, The Life, pp. 71-72.
40) Muslim, Sahih, Vol. 1, pp. 165-166, Hadith 261 ; Murtada, Al-Sahih, v.1, pp. 82-83.
41) Haykal, The Life, pp. 50-51.
42) Muir, The Life, pp. 6-7 ; Haykal, The Life, p. 51.
43) The Quran, 94 : 1-2.
44) Haykal, The Life, p. 51. Dermenghem states that “a wholly mystical operation, the opening and cleansing of a heart destined to receive without reserve and transmit faithfully the divine message, thus bearing the heavy burden of its mission.” He then continues that “The cleansing of the heart takes a well-known place in mystic symbolism. Dermenghem, The Life, pp. 32-33.
45) Haykal, The Life, p. 51.
46) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, pp. 83-84.
47) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 84, citing al-Bui, Fiqh al-Sira, pp. 62-63.
48) Ibid., citing Haykal Hayat, p. 111.
49) Ibid., citing Tabataba’i, al-Mizan, Vol. 13, pp. 32-33, citing al-Tabarsi, “Majma ‘ al-Bayan”, Vol. 3, p. 395.
50) Ibid., pp. 84 & 87-88.
51) Dermenghem, The Life, p. 33.
52) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, pp. 88-89 ; Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani, al-Aghani, Vol. 4. pp. 132-135.
53) Ibn Ishaq, The Life, p. 73. See: Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 85.
54) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 85.
55) Ibid.
57) Ibid., pp. 85-86.
59) Halabi in his Sira maintains that it was only the Prophet of Islam who was operated in this way. By this al-Halabi considers such an operation as an increase in the Prophet’s excellency and honor. See: al-Halabi, al-Sira, Vol. 1, p. 167.
60) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 86.
61) The Quran, 16 : 99.
62) Ibid., 17 : 65.
63) Ibid., 15 : 39-40.
64) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 87.
65) Majlisi, Bihar, Vol. 15, pp. 349-357. Rabbani, the commentator of Bihar indicates that there is no need to confirm the excellent character of the Prophet through such an extraordinary and miraculous event. Ibid., Footnote 2.
66) Most of the Muslim commentators believe that there are four sacred months and they are as follows: Dhu al-qacda, Dhu al-Hijja, Muharram, and Rajab.
67) Ibn Ishaq, The Life, p. 822. Also see: haykal, The Life, p. 56 & Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 95.
68) Haykal, The Life, p. 57. Also see: Ibn hisham, al-Sira, Vol. 1, p. 210.
69) Ibid., p. 57.
71) Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, Vol. 1, p. 208.
72) Ibid., p. 211 ; Ibn Ishaq, The Life, p. 82.
73) haykal, The Life, p. 57.
75) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 95.
76) Since this natural conclusion seems clear to Murtada, he does not mention it at the end of his first argument.
77) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, pp. 95-96, citing al-Ya ‘qubi, Tarikh, Vol. 2, p. 371.
78) Ibid., p. 96, citing Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, Vol. 1, p. 210.
79) Ibid., citing al-Halabi, al-Sira, Vol. 1, p. 207.
80) Ibid., citing al-Halabi, al-Sira, Vol. 1, p. 208.
81) Ibid., citing Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, Vol. 1, pp. 208, 211.
82) Ibid., pp. 96-97.
83) Ibid., p. 97.
84) Ibn Ishaq, The Life, p. 80.
86) Ibid., p. 81.
87) As it is depicted in the Quran, the births of the prophets like ‘Isa Ibn Maryam’, ‘Yahya Ibn Zakariya, etc. were accompanied by some miracles and extraordinary events. See: The Quran, 19 : 7-33.
88) Cf. Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 125.
89) See: Ibn Athir, Usd al-Ghaba, Vol. 1, p. 21 ; Rasuli, Tarikh, Vol. 1, p. 182 ; Majlisi, Bihar, Vol. 15. p. 125 & 442 ; Sobhani, Furugh , Vol. 1, p. 160 ; Halabi, Sira, Vol. 1, p. 147.
90) Haykal, The Life, p. 54.
91) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 91.
92) “They will ask you about fighting during the hallowed month. Say: ‘Fighting therein is a great (transgression), while obstructing God’s way, disbelief in Him and the Hallowed Mosque’, ” The Quran, 2: 217.
93) Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 67, p. 309.
94) This in addition to the great emphasis that the Quran puts on giving alms shows that it is not just a linguistic point or an accident that paying zakat as a religious requirement and tazkiyah (purification of the people) as a major task of the Prophet are so closely linked to each other.
95) P. 2, No. 21.
96) P. 29, No 20.
97) P. 69, No 106.
98) Ibid. No 107.
99) P. 74, No 5.
100) P. 85, No 28.
101) P. 91, No 39.
102) P. 95, No 48.
103) P. 121, No 82.
104) Ibid. No 84.
105) P. 143, No 119.
106) P. 147, No 127.
107) P. 147, No 128.
108) P. 148, No 3.
109) P. 188, No 66.
110) P. 196, No 81.
111) P. 253, No 172.
112) Ibid. No 173.
113) P. 255, No 175.
114) P. 299, No 239.
115) P. 305, No 250.
116) P. 365, No 49.
117) P. 391, No 88.
118) P. 395, No 97.
119) P. 411, No 125.
120) P. 413, No 129.
121) P. 463, No 39.
122) P. 465, No 44.
123) P. 515, No 100.
124) P. 521, No 5.
125) P. 525, No 11.
126) P. 533, No 24.
127) P. 535, No 28.
128) P. 549, No 42.
129) P. 555, N o 6.
130) P. 554, N o 8.
131) P. 559, N o 12.
132) P. 559, N o 14.
133) P. 585, N o 49.
134) P. 585, N o 50.
135) P. 675, N o 2.
136) P. 681, N o 12.
137) P. 681, N o 13.
138) P. 678, N o 2.
139) P. 719, N o 12.
140) P. 721, N o 17.
141) P. 745, N o 48.
142) أَنَّ أَمِيرَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ع قَالَ لِابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ إِنَّ لَيْلَةَ الْقَدْرِ فِي كُلِّ سَنَةٍ وَ إِنَّهُ يَنْزِلُ فِي تِلْكَ اللَّيْلَةِ أَمْرُ السَّنَةِ وَ لِذَلِكَ‏ الْأَمْرِ وُلَاةٌ بَعْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ ص فَقَالَ ابْنُ عَبَّاسٍ مَنْ هُمْ قَالَ أَنَا وَ أَحَدَ عَشَرَ مِنْ صُلْبِي أَئِمَّةٌ مُحَدَّثُونَ. (P. 807, No 49
143) Ibid, No 48.
144) P. 793, N o 30.
145) P. 80, No 55.
146) p. 828, No 70.
147) Based on the religious teachings and the consensus of all the religious scholars, the goal of religion is to provide man with a comprehensive felicity in this world and the next. Islam as a revealed religion is both the path and the guide which will lead to man’s eternal happiness. It is composed of three elements which are intertwined: i. doctrine ii. ethics iii. law. The threefold elements play an effective role in providing man with happiness when all three are combined together just as a single organism is composed of its inseparable organs. These three elements in combination facilitate man’s eternal felicity. The texture or combination of these three elements is such that they should never be separated from one another, and if they are considered separately, they will lose their own essential qualities. Therefore, if anyone believes only in God, the Creator, the all-Wise, the all-Knowing, the all-Powerful, the all-Compassionate, the all-Rich, and the Lord of the Universe, who created man and Who wills both his good and perfection, and who knows his needs, interests and harms or if he observes an ethical discipline only for the purification of the soul and the acquisition of good traits of character or if he only abides by the religious commands and prohibitions, he will never attain to that comprehensive this-worldly and other-worldly felicity, which will be actualized though the three elements mentioned above.. The Islamic intellectual and transmitted sciences (al-’ulum al-’aqliyyah wa’l-naqliyyah) are comprised of an extensive scope dealing with different major issues. However, based on the same threefold elements mentioned above, the religious sciences are comprised of Islamic theology, that is the discipline relating to the beliefs, and ethics, i.e. the discipline relating to the purification of the soul, and moral conduct, and jurisprudence, the discipline concerned with the laws and injunctions relating to man’s individual and social needs. Of course, acquaintance with these sciences entails being familiar with certain disciplines which are considered to be their preliminaries and which can be called religious sciences in one sense.
148) For further study, refer to the following verses: (30:8), (2:61), (38:21), (38:22), (38:26), (21:112), (40:20), (40:78), (39:69), (39:75), (10:47), (10:54), (2:282), (24:48), (24:49) (51:19), (70:24), (70:25), (6:141), (17:26), (30:38), (2:180), (2:236) and (2:241).
149) According to twelve-Imam Shiasm, Abu’l Qasim Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Askari, the Proof (al-hujjah), the righteous descendent (al-khalaf al-salih), the promised Mahdi and the twelfth Imam was born in Surra man ra’a (Samarrah) in the midnight of Sha’ban in the year 255. When his father died, he was five years old and he became Imam through Divine Command as was the case with Yahya (John) as He, the Exalted, says: “O Yahya! Take hold of the Book with strength, and We granted him judgement while yet a child” (19: 12). God made Yahya a prophet while he was a child as He made Christ a prophet while still a little child. God, the Exalted, says through Jesus when he addressed his people: “He said: Surely I am a servant of Allah; he has given me the Book and made me a prophet” (19: 30). The Muslims are agreed on the appearance of the Mahdi at the end of the time for the obliteration of ignorance, oppression and tyranny and for dissemination of the signs of justice and the exaltation of the word of truth and the manifestation of Religion in its entirety even if the polytheists may be averse. By the permission of God, he will deliver the world from the disgrace of servitude to other than God and abolish evil morals and customs and abrogate the irreligious laws as established by whims and break the bonds of national and racial prejudices and eliminate the causes of hostility and hatred which have given rise to the division and disunity of the community, and God, the Exalted, will keep through his appearance His promise which He made to the believers as He says: “Allah has promised to those of you who believe and do good that He will most certainly make them rulers in the earth as he made rulers those before them, and that He will most certainly establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them, and that He will most certainly, after their fear, give them security in exchange; they shall serve Me, not associating aught with Me, and whoever is ungrateful after this, these it is who arte the transgressors” (24:55). “And We desired to bestow a favour upon those who were deemed weak in the land, and to make them the Imams, to make them the heirs” (28:5). “And certainly We wrote in the Book after the reminder that (as for) the land, My righteous servants shall inherit it” (21:105). The Occultation of the twelfth Imam has two distinct stages: the Lesser Occultation and the Greater Occultation. In the Lesser Occultation, which began in 260/872 and ended in 329/939, lasting about seventy years, the Hidden Imam continued to communicate with humanity through his special deputies. The second, the greater occultation which commenced in 329/939 and which is continuing as long as God wills it. According to the Shiah, the Mahdi is alive but hidden. He is the axis mundi, the hidden ruler of the Universe.
150) “Unto Allah (belongeth) whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the Earth” (the Holy Quran, 2:284).
151) “But Allah, He (alone) is the Wali” (42:9), “Ye have not, beside Him, a Wali” (32:4).
152) Pater Liber is one of the Roman gods who came to be identified with Dionysus, or Bacchus, the god of licentiousness and drunkenness.
153) See also 53:23.
154) Muhammad ibn Babawayh al-Qummi, A Shia Creed, tr. Asaf A. A. Fyzee (Tehran: WOFIS, 1982), 85-86.
155) This narration is found in various Shia as well as Sunni collections of hadiths. See the book: Shiasm in Sunnism by Sayyid Muhammad Reza Mudarrisi Yazdi (Qom: Ansariyan, 2003), p. 52.
156) This narration is reported in Tabari, cited by S. H. M. Jafri in The Origins and Development of Shia Islam (Qom: Ansariyan, 1989), 179-180.
157) There is an established idea among many Shia jurists that in the time of the presence of Imams as well as in the reign of a just jurist, certain positions such as acting as a judge or Friday and Eid prayer leader must be decided by appointment. (Editor’s note)
158) Hajj Mulla Ahmad Naraqi, ‘Awaid al-Ayyam (Qom: Maktab-e Basirati, n.d.) 187-188, translated in Wilayah and Marjaiyah Today (Houston: Al-Fajr, 1995), 214.
159) See Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, “Wilayat al-Faqih,” in Wilayah and Marjaiyah Today, 195-200.



A Quarterly Journal of Islamic Studies

## Volume 10, Number 2, Summer 1430/2009:



“The Message of Thaqalayn feels responsible to present the teachings of Islam in general and the School of the Ahlul Bayt in particular with complete honesty and accuracy and at the same time to emphasise the common ground that binds all Muslims together. Strengthening ties of brotherhood amongst all Muslims, whatever school of Islam they may adhere to, and establishing genuine, enduring and intimate friendship between all those who believe in God are two of the main aims and tasks of the Message of Thaqalayn and indeed, any responsible media.”




# Editorial:

In this issue we address different aspects of Islamic thought including the Doctrines, Spirituality, Law and History.

Publication of this issue has coincided great occasions in Islamic calendar. This summer comprises of the blessed months of Rajab and Sha'ban and the holy month of Ramadan. The late Shaykh Abbas Qummi in his Mafaātih al-Jinan quotes the Prophet Mohammad as saying: “Verily Rajab is the great month of God. No other month resembles it in its honour and merit. Fighting against infidels is forbidden. Beware, verily Rajab is God's month and Sa'ban is my month and [the month of] Ramadan is my nations month. Beware whoever fasts a day in Rajab greatest divine pleasure will become decisive for him and divine wrath will go away from him and one of the gates of hell will be closed to him”. He also quotes Imam Kazim, Musa b. Ja'far as saying: “Whoever fasts one day of Rajab fire [of hell] will go away from him equal to distance of one year journey and whoever fasts three days [in Rajab] heaven becomes necessary for him”. Asking forgiveness from Gid is highly recommended in the month of Rajab. Imam Sadiq reports that the Prophet Mohammad said: “Rajab is the month of asking forgiveness [from God] for my nation, so ask for forgiveness in abundance. Verily, He is the Most-forgiving, the Most-merciful. Rajab is called “Rajab”, because mercy on my nation is poured down a thorough pouring. Therefore, say in abundance: 'Astaghfirullaha wa as'aluhū al-tawbah' (I ask forgiveness from God and ask Him [to enable me for] repentance).

Sha'ban is the month which is attributed to the Prophet Mohammad. The Prophet Mohammad used to fast the whole month of Sha'ban and connect its fasting to the fasting in the month of Ramadan. Imam Sadiq reports that after the arrival of the month of Sha'ban Imam Sajjad used to gather his companions and say “O my companions, do you know what this month is? This is the month of Sha'ban and the Prophet used to say: 'Sha'ban is my month'. Therefore, fast [in] this month out of your love for your Prophet and seeking proximity to your Lord! By the One who has my life in His Hand, I heard my father, Husayn, saying: 'I heard the Commander of the Faithful saying: whoever fasts [in the month of] Sha'ban out of love for the Apostle of God and seeking proximity to God, God will love him and will make him close to His honour on the Day of Judgement and make heaven necessary for him'.”

According to hadiths, Ramadan is one of the Names of God. Therefore, with respect to the month, we are recommended to say “the month of Ramadan” and not just “Ramḍan”. In any case, this summer will also include the holy and blessed month of Ramadan, in which we are invited to the “divine feast”. Although officially Islamic calendar in its lunar version starts with Muharram, it can be said that in Islam there is also a spiritual calendar that starts with Shawwal and in particular the Feast of Breaking Fast ('Id al-Fitr). The last three month of the spiritual year are Rajab, Sha'ban and the month of Ramadan. From the beginning of year, that is, the day of 'Id al-Fitr, the wayfarer (the faithful who is moving towards God) starts preparing himself for witnessing and entering into the “divine feast” in the next month of Ramadan and in particular the Night/s of Qadr. Every day and indeed every moment of this yearlong journey is significant. However there are highlights and golden opportunities distributed all over the year like the times of daily prayers, the time before dawn for night prayer (salat al-layl), nights and days of Friday and night and day of 'Arafah. Certainly the last three months of this journey i.e. Rajab, Sha'ban and the month of Ramadan stand out and form a spiritual season. Although we must try to take advantage of every moment of life, in this season we must be extra alert, insha Allah.

The month of Ramadan is a great gift from God to us and a unique opportunity to get closer to Him. One of the specialities of this month is what we can learn from the well-known sermon of the Prophet Mohammad on the last Friday of Sha'ban, known as ”Khutbah Sha'baniyyah.” Although we are only rewarded for those good acts that we have voluntarily done or for the good intentions that we have had, but were not able to actualise, the Prophet Mohammad tells us that the month of Ramadan is so fertile and blessed that the situation would be different. According to what the Prophet Mohammad said, “Your sleep in this month is considered as worship and when you breathe in this month it is considered as glorification (tasbih) of God.” It is only in the month of Ramadan that sleep is considered an act of worship, for which you will be rewarded and you will also be rewarded because of the air going into your lungs like the angles or the people who glorify God. In this month, we must be very careful not to miss this opportunity by negligence or, God-forbids, by committing sins. The month of Ramadan itself works day and night to purify us and then when we make more efforts e.g. by doing good deeds we will earn more and more.

This issue includes six papers. The first paper is entitled: “The Prophet's Spiritual State at the Time of His Mission.” Continuing his discussion in the previous paper: “Life of the Prophet Mohammad before Starting the Mission” (The Massage of Thaqalayn, Vol 10, No. 1), in this paper Hujjatu'l-Islam Dr. Sayyed Ahmad Rahnamaei studies some major aspects of the life of the Prophet Mohammad at the beginning of his mission, especially the way he received revelation from God. Hujjatu'l-Islam Dr Rahnamaei is an assistant professor in the Dept. of Education at the Imam Khomeini Education & Research Institute, Qum. This paper is a revised version of part of his M.A. dissertation submitted to the faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, McGill University, Montreal, Canada, in 1995. The author has revised this paper especially for this issue of the Message of Thaqalayn. God-willing, other aspects of the Life of the Prophet Mohammad will be studied by him in the next issue of the Message of Thaqalayn.

The second paper is entitled: “Different Methodological Approaches to Spirituality.” Continuing the discussion on spirituality in the previous issue (“The Significance of Self-control and Self-purification” in The Massage of Thaqalayn, Vol 10, No. 1), in this paper Hujjatu'l-Islam Dr. Mohammad Ali Shomali studies different approaches adopted by Muslim scholars in studying spirituality in general and morality (akhlaq) in particular i.e. the Philosophical Approach, the Mystical Approach and the Scriptural or Text-Based Approach. Comparing these three approaches, he argues that an adequate approach must take into account advantages of each of the three and be a synthetic one. Hujjatu'l-Islam Dr. Shomali is an associate professor and the head of the Dept. of Religions at the Imam Khomeini Education & Research Instittue, Qum. He is also the Dean of Postgraduate Studies for the International Students at the Jami'at al-Zahra, the Islamic University for Women in Qum. God-willing, other theoretical and practical aspects of Islamic spirituality will be studied by the same author and others in the forthcoming issues.

The third paper is entitled: “An Outline of Governance from a Quranic Perspective”. Continuing the discussion in the previous issue on Islamic Law (“An Outline of Islamic Law from a Quranic Perspective” in The Massage of Thaqalayn, Vol 10, No. 1), in this paper Dr Karim Aghili presents a brief summary and paraphrase of some of the salient points regarding governance from a Quranic point of view, based on Law and Politics in the Quran by Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi. This paper is an attempt to clarify that Islam aims at establishing an ideal society by having a just government. The paper continues with a brief discussion about governance during the period of occultation of the twelfth Imam, the theory of the mandate of the jurist (wilayat-e faqih) and the essential qualifications for administrators of the law. In addition to his studies in Iran, Dr Karim Aghili has completed his PhD. on Comparative Philosophy of Education at the University of Sheffield and is currently based in Manchester.

The fourth paper is entitled: “Ijtihad: Taswib or Takhtiah”. In this paper Hujjat'ul-Islam Dr Mohammad Namazi studies a controversial problem in Islamic law, on which different schools of Islam may disagree. Takhti'ah is a type of fallibilism which holds that there is only one true judgement about the divine ruling in each particular case and the role of the jurists is to discover it. Although a qualified jurist who has done his best to discover the divine ruling and those who follow him will be rewarded by God, there is no guarantee that his view is actually in compliance with the reality. Therefore, when there are opposing views among the jurists about the same issue there can be only one true view. Taswib is a type of infallibilism which holds that there can be more than one true views among the jurists. Every qualified jurist who does his best in understanding the divine ruling can be true. The Shi'a scholars believe in takhti'ah. Referring first to the definition and types of ijtihād, he examines briefly the arguments for each of the two positions according to both Shi'a and Sunni scholars and ends with preferring takhti'ah over taswib. Hujjatu'l-Islam Dr Namazi is an assistant professor in the Dept. of Philosophy at the Imam Khomeini Education & Research Institute, Qum.

The fifth paper is entitled: “Intellectual, Political and Social Status of the Shias on the Verge of Occultation”. In this paper, Hujjat'l-Islam Mas'ud Pur Sayyid Aqaei studies a very important part of the history of Islam, that is, the period of the lives of Imam Hadi and Imam Askari. These two Imams made great efforts such as developing a network of agents (wukalā) to prepare the Shi'a community for the era of the occultation of Imam Mahdi, in which for the first time in their history they were faced with their inability to meet their Imam and ask him directly for guidance. Hujjat'l-Islam Mas'ud Pur Sayyid Aqaei is a lecturer at the Islamic Seminary of Qum. The paper is originally written in Farsi and is translated into English by Mr Mohammad Reza Farajian.

The sixth and final paper is entitled: “Reason, Faith and Authority: A Shia Perspective”. In this paper Hujjat'ul-Islam Dr Mohamamd Ali Shomali studies two important concepts in Islamic thought i.e. reason, faith and authority and their relation and interaction from a Shia perspective. This paper was presented in the second Catholic-Shi'a Dialogue in UK in July 2005 and published in Catholic-Shi'a Engagement: Reason & Faith in Theory and Practice (2006).

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who have contributed to this volume and pray for their success. I want to especially thank Mrs. Fatima Khimji from Canada for editing and proofreading all the papers of this publication and making valuable comments. I would also like to thank the Ahlul Bayt World Assembly and the Islamic Centre of England for their support and encouragement. And last, but not the least, I thank God the Almighty for His guidance and favour upon us in the past and present.

Mohammad Ali Shomali

July 2009



1. # The Prophet's Spiritual State at the Time of His Mission

S. Ahmad Rahnamaei


This paper discusses the part of the life of the Prophet wherein all of the aims of the Prophet's apostleship and all of his teachings are concentrated. Those who believe in the doctrine of prophethood acknowledge that it is a divine duty and a mission from God. They consider that God appointed it to those whom He selected from among His good servants, from those who were exalted among mankind. They believe that Allah sent the Prophets to teach people wisdom and knowledge and the ways of happiness and goodness.1)

Revelation is one of the most important basis upon which the ideology of religious truths, realities and teachings is constructed.2) In other words, with Revelation “God prepares His prophet to receive from Him the highest cosmic truths that he may convey them to mankind.”3) Both remarks imply the same concept that is to say that all of the basic premises of a religion such as Islam should have come through revelation.

Muslim scholars and biographers believe that the Mission of the Prophet began with a revelation which was sent from God through His angel Gabriel.4)) If so, the Prophet's Mission occupies the first position in his life. This is the common beliefs of all Muslim biographers, though, as we will see later, there may be differences between their attitudes on the issue of the Mission. In the present discussion, the spiritual and psychological state of the Prophet at the time of his Mission will be analyzed from the point of view of biographers. Here the following issues will be of concern:

1- The date of the Mission which is a Sunni and Shia debate.

2- The specific circumstances of the Mission, such as how prophethood began i.e., in sleep or through true visions. Did the Prophet tremble with fear when he received the revelation?

Where and When the Mission Occurred

As depicted in hadith and sirah sources, there is no doubt that the cave in Mount Hirā', two miles north of Mecca, was the place where the first divine message was sent down.5) The perfect silence of the cave with its total separation from Mecca, provided a comfortable location for worship and retreat.6) Also, there is no disagreement that the Mission happened when Mohammad was forty years old.7) It is said “When Mohammad retreated into the cave of Hirā' as he approached the fortieth year of his age, his soul was fully convinced of the vision of truth he had seen.”8)

All in all, most Sunnis agree that the Prophet's Mission took place in the month of Ramadan,9) yet the specific day in Ramadan is a subject of disagreement among them. According to what Tabari and later on Majlisi related, those who favour Ramadan can choose among three different dates, based on three groups of hadith: the seventeenth, the eighteenth, or the twenty-fourth. Still other Sunni traditions state that the Mission took place in Rabi' al-Awwal.10)

Contrary to most Sunnis, the Shia traditionists and biographers assigned -or as Majlisi states, came to the consensus that- the twenty-seventh of the month Rajab as the specific day and month of the Mission. This idea is found among some Sunni traditions as well.11)

We accept the evidence for the twenty-seventh of Rajab which is related from the Imams of Ahl al-Bayt (the family of the Prophet, peace be upon them), since the descendants of the Prophet knew the Prophet's personal affairs and his sayings better than others, that is to say the people of a house know better what occurs in the house. They state that the Mission was announced on the 27th of Rajab. This is what the vast majority or as Majlisi states, the consensus of Shia scholars agree with.

One would say that there is no problem in accepting that the Prophet began to receive his prophecy in Rajab in preparation for the reception of the Quran later on in Ramadan. This preparedness is something which is understood from the Quran itself, ”Surely We will cast weighty statement on you.”12) Accordingly, the Quran was sent down gradually in Ramadan. This conclusion is supported by a narrative according to which the angel of the revelation used to come to the Prophet and show himself to him before the Quran was sent down to him.13) Thus, one may distinguish between the beginning of the mission which took place on the 27th of Rajab and the revelation of the entire Quran in the month of Ramadan.

The Beginning of the Revelation
A True Dream or a True Vision? Relying on what is related through Ibn Ishaq14) and Ibn Kathir,15) some Sunni thinkers have come to the conclusion that the revelation began with the Prophet's dream which occurred when he was asleep in the cave at Hirā'. For instance, Haykal says, “One day, while Mohammad was asleep in the cave, an angel approached with a sheet in his hand.” The angel asked Mohammad to read.16) A. Wessels, discussing this point, says, “According to Haykal, Mohammad believed strongly in what he had seen in his 'dream'.”17) Haykal refers to another possibility which is suggested by some narrators of hadith and says, “Some of them have claimed that the beginning of revelation was in the hours of wakefulness, and they mention a hadith to the effect that Gabriel first said words of reassurance to assuage Mohammad's fear at his appearance.”18) Haykal then states:

In his al–Kamil fi al-Tarikh,19) Ibn Kathir gave a quotation from the book, Dala'il al-Nubuwwah by Abu Na'im al-Isbahani, in which the latter reported that 'Alqamah b. Qays had said, 'The first revelations came to the prophets in their sleep until their hearts were reassured.'20)

This point is also remarked upon by Bukhari. Regarding the beginning of the revelation, he related hadiths, among which one is as follows: ”The commmencement of the Divine inspiration to Allah's Apostle was in the form of good dreams which came like bright day light (i.e. true)…”21)

The Shi'a thinkers, for their part, are quite clear that the first revelation occurred when the Prophet was praying in the cave. This revelation, descending to the prophet in his perfect awareness, began with the Almighty God's words, ”In the Name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful. Read in the Name of your Lord Who created. Who created man from a clot.”22) This is what has been received from the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt and others.23)

The Psychology of the Prophet When He Received the First Revelation
Ibn Ishaq as well as other Sunni narrators of hadith and biographers describe the state of the Prophet when he received the first revelation.24) Haykal, for example, paraphrases the story as follows:

Stricken with panic, Mohammad arose and asked himself 'What did I see? Did possession of the devil which I feared all along come to pass?' Mohammad looked to his right and his left but saw nothing. For a while he stood there trembling with fear and stricken with awe. He feared the cave might be haunted and that he might run away still unable to explain what he saw. He walked in the area around the mountain asking himself who could have commanded him to read. … who was this who came to remind Mohammad of Him, that He had created man, and that He was the most gracious who taught man by the pen that which he does not know? Pursued by his own questioning and still trembling in fear of what he had seen and heard in the cave, Mohammad stopped in the middle of the road when the same voice called to him from above. Mesmerized in his place, Mohammad lifted his head toward heaven. He saw the angel in the form of a human giant across the sky. For a moment he sought to escape, but wherever he looked or ran, the angel stood right there before him. … Mohammad returned home once the angel disappeared. His state was one of extreme dread. …As Mohammad entered his house he asked Khadijah to wrap him in blankets. She could see that her husband was shivering as if struck with high fever. When he calmed down, he cast toward his wife the glance of a man in need of rescue.25)

The image of the Prophet shown in the mirror of these ancient texts has not been commented on nor criticized by Sunni biographers. The Shia scholar Ja'far Subhani,26) in his biography of the Prophet, says that it is surprising that Dr. Haykal, despite the well-managed preface to his book of the sirah, relates the same fabricated materials which are seen in the ancient books of hadith and sirah. Haykal believed that a lot of slander and lies were unjustly attributed to the Prophet, so he set out to purify the image of the sirah from such defamations.27) As Wessels points out, “He wished to develop an image of Mohammad that would be acceptable primarily to modern educated Muslims, who in his view, needed to return to their own heritage.”28) Moreover, refuting the slander of epilepsy which is attributed by some Orientalists to the Prophet, Haykal, before coming to the section of the Mission, i.e. in his preface to the second edition of his biography of the Prophet, insists:

This was not the case at all with the Prophet at the moment of revelation, for his cognitive faculties used to be strengthened -rather than weakened- and do so to a superlative degree hitherto unknown by the people who knew him most. Mohammad used to remember with utmost precision what he received by way of revelation …29)

It is also stated by Haykal:

[Before the time of the Mission,] Mohammad began to see in his dreams visions of the truth he sought. Contrasted with these visions, the illusory character of this life and the vanity of its ornaments became especially apparent. He had become perfectly convinced that his people had gone utterly astray and that their spiritual lives had been corrupted by their idols and the false beliefs associated with them. He was also convinced that neither the Jews nor the Christians had anything to offer that would save his people from their misguidance.30)

Accordingly, Mohammad's dreams gave him information about the truth he sought, and as a result he was perfectly convinced that his people were in need of a saviour who supposedly was none other than himself.

However, the above-mentioned passages portray a very different image from the one which Haykal depicts of the Prophet's state of mind at the outset of his Mission. Haykal's description of Mohammad's receiving of prophecy implies that he was astonished by an agent who appeared to him to be strange and fearful. Here, the Prophet felt discomfort in the face of this first inspiration, as if he had passed through a time of great distress of the soul. Seen from this perspective, the Prophet seems to have been an uncertain, anxious, sad, and wondering man who trembled with fear, and who was in need of rescue by a person, supposedly, his wife Khadijah or her cousin Waraqah. Such narratives speak of the Prophet's sense of unworthiness, his doubts and fears, and the difficulties of his mission.31)

Furthermore, Bukhari in his Sahih, states that the story of the first revelation begins with what is related on the authority of al- Zuhri from 'Urwah b. Zubayr, from 'A'isha, who narrated,

The commencement of the divine Inspiration to Allah's Apostle … was in the form of good dreams which came like bright daylight (i.e. true) and the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him. He used to go into seclusion in the cave of Hirā' where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days before his desire to see his family. … till suddenly the truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hirā'. The angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet replied, “I do not know how to read.”32)

According to this narrative, this incident occurred three times; each time the angel seizing Mohammad forcibly and pressing him so hard that he could not bear it any more. He then released him and again asked him to read and the Prophet replied, “I do not know how to read.” Finally, the angel said, “Read, in the Name of your Lord, who created, created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the most Generous.”33) 'A'isha continued,

Then Allah's Apostle … returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadijah bint Khuwaylid and said, “Cover me!” “Cover me!” She covered him till his fear was over and after that he told her every thing that had happened and said, “I fear that something may happen to me.” Khadijah replied, “Never! By Allah! Allah will never disgrace you…” Khadijah then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqah bin Nawfil bin 'Abdul 'Uzza, who during the pre-Islamic period became a Christian and used to write the writing with Hebrew letters. … Allah's Apostle … described whatever he had seen. Waraqah said, “This is the same one … (Gabriel) whom Allah had sent to Moses.”34)

Contrary to what is stated by Haykal and some other Sunni scholars, the Shici description leaves no room for any of the afore-mentioned conditions attributed to the Prophet when he received the first revelation. Rather, it is insisted that the revelation was sent to the Prophet when he was fully aware and conscious. He saw and understood what was happening without any fear or doubt.

There are some other narratives concerning this issue of the very beginning of the Mission; nevertheless, all contradict each other in both verbal and conceptual aspects. One of the common ideas of this group of narratives is that they explain the roles of Khadijah, of her cousin Waraqah and of other monks named 'Addas, Nastur and Bahirā'. They illustrate how these monks, especially Waraqah, played an important role in the certification and approval of Mohammad's prophecy.

Such narrations can be evaluated from several aspects:

1-The disputable chain of narration: The most distinguished individuals among the chains of authority are people such as: al-Zuhri and 'Urwa ibn Zubayr.35) Al-Zuhri was one of the supporters of the Umayyad dynasty upon whom he used to rely. He was in the court of Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik and served him as his kātib (scribe and recorder), and as his children's teacher.36) 'Urwa ibn Zubayr was one of the Tābi'in, who had not seen the Prophet, but had seen some of his companions. He was also in close relation with Umayyads.37) Furthermore, it is not proved that al- Zuhri related from 'Urwa, even though some narrationists have accepted this as being the case.38) It should also be noted that 'Aishah is the first person in the chain of narration in most of these narratives. She is the authority by whom the other authorities relate. However, she was born some years after the Mission had started; therefore, she could not be an immediate narrator of the details of the beginning of the Mission. In other words, she should relate on the authority of someone else, whose name is not mentioned. Thus, the quote above should be regarded as a 'mursal' i.e. a hadith that lacks the first immediate authority or authorities.39) The validity of this kind of narrative is usually less than an authentic one whose authorities are all known and approved.40)

2- Contradiction among all narratives: These narratives differ from each other, to greater or lesser extents in both verbal and conceptual content. This contradiction and inconsistency suggests that there was an attempt deliberately to fabricate untrue stories and anecdotes and attribute it to important personalities like 'Aishah, the wife of the Prophet.41) This was undertaken by the Umayyads for political purposes, as one observes in their treatment of the Prophet and his Household.42)

3- Gabriel and his threatening the Prophet: It is not clear why the Prophet should have been threatened by the angel Gabriel. Why should the angel bother him and put him under so much stress and pressure that he imagined he was going to die? Why did the angel treat him oppressively and without any mercy or flexibility, even when he saw that Mohammad was incapable of doing as he was commanded?

4- The role of the monks and Khadijah: When a researcher considers the role of the Prophet's wife and that of Waraqah (or others), he will be concerned with two points:

a: How can a person be the prophet of God while at the same time be ignorant of his prophecy or of his mission, and in need of the help of a woman or of some monks to guide him and calm him? Weren't these guides and helpers more deserving and more appropriate for prophecy than a fearful, doubtful man? Why could he not perceive and recognize the facts just as this woman and this monk did?43)

How can one reconcile these opposing claims? On the one hand, it is said that “The commencement of the divine inspiration to Allah's Apostle was in the form of good dreams which came like bright day light (i.e. true).”44) Ibn Ishaq for instance, relates that ”… the first sign of prophethood vouchsafed to the apostle was true vision, resembling the brightness of daybreak, which was shown to him in his sleep.”45) According to another hadith, the Apostle at the time when Allah willed to bestow His grace upon him and endow him with prophethood, would go forth for his affairs and journey; and not a stone or tree he passed but would say, “Peace unto thee, O apostle of Allah.”46)

However, on the other hand, there are narrators of hadith and biographers who show an image of the Prophet as a man who became doubtful, astounded, ignorant, anxious, etc. after the angel appeared to him at the moment of the revelation. None of these narrators tries to answer this question or to harmonize these two opposing passages of narrations and descriptions.

b: There are some Quranic passages according to which God Himself is responsible for bracing the hearts of His Apostle and believers.

Say, 'The holy spirit has brought it down as truth from your Lord to brace those who believe, and as guidance and good news for Muslims'.47)

Those who disbelieve say, 'Why has not the Quran been sent down to him in one single piece?' [It has been done] like that so your vitals may be braced by it; We have phrased deliberately.48)

Also there are other verses that indicate the Prophet was following evidence from his Lord.

Say, 'I am [looking] for evidence from my Lord while you have rejected it. I do not have what you are trying to hurry up; discretion lies only with God. he relates the Truth and is the best decider.'49)

Say, 'This is my way. I and anyone who follows me, appeal to God through insight. Glory be to God! I am not one of the polytheists.'50)

Therefore, the prophecy and the descending of the Quran can be seen as having braced the Prophet's and believers' hearts. This is in contradiction with the allegation that his spirit was calmed by trusting in Waraqah's assurance.51)

But what is the fact? In answering this question, and based on authentic narrations and rational arguments, we would say that Allah sent the first revelation down to the Prophet while he was in the cave. Then, being in good heart, he returned to his house rejoicing in the good tidings that Allah had given to him. He was certain about the important task which he was supposed to perform. When he was at home after the first revelation and shared the news with his wife Khadijah she believed in him and in what he brought.52) There is one hadith on the authority of Ibn Kathir that seems to be closer to what the Shi'a in general advocate. Ibn Kathir narrates that the Prophet returned to his family, sure that he had been commissioned to perform a great task. He told Khadijah what he had seen, explaining that Gabriel had truly come to him and that he had received his apostleship from his Lord. Khadijah replied, “Rejoice! By Allah, He does good to you. This is surely the Truth; Rejoice! You are the Apostle of Him in certain.”53)

Imam Sadiq54) said that Allah first selected one of His servants as His apostle. Then, He brought down upon him His immanence, peace, gravity and dignity so he would realize that what came to him was certainly from God not from Satan, and it would be the same as what he sees by his eyes.55) The same Imam was asked how prophets understood that they were the apostles of God, and he answered that at the time of their apostleship, God removed any cover from their eyes and insights. Thus, they were able to see the Truth and distinguish it from untruth.56) Furthermore, Tabarsi states that Allah does not reveal to his Prophet except through brilliant shining proofs and evident obvious signs, all demonstrate that what was revealed was from Almighty Allah. Therefore, he never was in need of anyone else to guide him.57)

In short, from the point of view of the Shica, there was no fear, nor anxiety from which the Prophet suffered due to the first revelation.

Summarizing Comments

We realized that Sunni and Shi'a thinkers in large are on two different sides in regard to the attributes and qualifications of the Mission.58) Therefore, such a difference can be regarded as a Sunni- Shi'a dispute.
As we have seen, according to the Sunni account of the Prophet's personality, there should be nothing destructive to the image of him if some fear, ignorance, anxiety, and doubtfulness have been attributed to him. That is to say, Mohammad's life was a human life, and he was merely an ordinary man like other human beings except that the revelation was sent to him. “Like all men, Prophets are truly fallible; their distinction lies in that God does not leave them in their error. He corrects them and often even blames them therefore.”59)
Contrary to this account, the Shi'a believe that God has never revealed His divine message to one of His fallible and imperfect servants, rather He selected the one whom He purified since the very beginning of his life. In keeping with this, they believe, that the Prophet Mohammad, while in essence a man like any other, yet was an exalted and infallible servant of God. In Shi'a tradition any kind of defect or error has been removed from the image of the Prophet, especially at the start of his Mission, for a messenger of God should be infallible. This is why the Shi'a never accept any of the defects which are attributed to the Prophet. Muzaffar, a Shia theologian, maintains:
The reason for the necessity of the infallibility of a prophet is that if he commits a sin or mistakes, or is forgetful or something similar, we have to choose between two alternatives: either we obey his sins and mistakes, in which case in the view of Islam, we do wrong, or we must not obey his sins and mistakes, which too is wrong, because, if everything he says or does has the possibility of being either right or wrong, then it is impossible for us to follow him. The result is that the benefit of his mission is lost; it becomes unnecessary, and the prophet becomes like ordinary people whose acts and speech do not have the excellent worth that we seek.60)



2. # Different Methodological Approaches to Spirituality

Mohammad Ali Shomali

In the previous paper we discussed about the significance of self-control and self-purification. In this paper we will review and briefly discuss different methodologies among Muslim scholars in studying spirituality in general and morality (akhlaq) in particular. In general, we can classify the attitudes of scholars into three main approaches:

The Philosophical Approach
The Mystical Approach
The Scriptural or Text-Based Approach
The Philosophical Approach

Many Muslim scholars have found the outlook of some Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle, to a large extent appealing as a way in which to speak about the human soul. According to this view, the human soul has three different faculties (quwwah) responsible for action; they are:

The rational faculty (al-quwwah al-'aqliyyah) is the faculty responsible for knowledge. It helps us to understand matters and enables us to engage in discussion. If this faculty functions properly, one can attain true wisdom (hikmah). This does not mean that one should strive for an excess of the rational faculty, as this is one of the causes of scepticism; rather, it means that we must be concerned with maintaining a balance. If a person is not rational enough, he can be too accepting and believe whatever he hears. This type of person can be easily deceived. Ibn Sinna, in a profound statement says “Whoever is used to accepting an argument without any reason is no longer a human being.” This is because a fundamental part of humanity is rationality and human being is often defined by philosophers as “rational animal”. Therefore one needs to strike a balance, and not to be too rational and critical or too receptive.
The faculty of anger (al-quwwah al-ghadabiyyah) is the faculty that controls our temper. Without this faculty, we would not have the motivation to protect ourselves from danger. However, if someone allows this faculty to be extreme, they would be aggressive and always ready to attack. On the other hand, if a person lacks the faculty of anger they would be a coward. The philosophers in this school of thought encourage us to attain a balance between these two, so that we can attain the virtue of bravery. A good person, therefore, is one who knows when to become angry and to the right extent.
The appetitive faculty (al-quwwah al-shahwiyyah) is the faculty which mostly consists of sexual appetite, but also includes our appetite for food and other things. If the force of sexual desire did not exist in man, the continued existence of the human species would be endangered. This faculty must also be brought to a balance where a person is chaste and modest.
Therefore, if one were to strike a balance in all these faculties he would have wisdom, bravery and chastity; this is all one needs to attain justice. This means that one who is just or 'ādil is one who has attained perfection in every aspect of his soul. Being 'ādil is not merely about abstinence from sins, but it is also about the perfection of every faculty.

This school of spirituality sets out a very rational response to the question of self-building. Although it is rational, some feel that it is too abstract and lacks the inspirational and emotional qualities that can really engage people and leave them motivated to change. We are taught to strike a balance with our faculties but it can be difficult to know where that balance is in different circumstances. This approach is useful, but not sufficient; we must add practical and inspirational elements to our view of self-building.

The Mystical Approach

The mystics consider the whole process of self-building as a journey towards God or perfection and as a matter of gradual growth. The difference between the previous approach and this approach is as follows:

According to the first approach, the relationship of the soul and self-building can be considered in the following way. Imagine there is a house which you wish to beautify; there are a number of things you could do. You could take out the rubbish, then start decorating the house, and furnishing the house in a wise way. If one manages to remove the rubbish and all the ugly items from the house, and furnishes it with beautiful items, then the house becomes attractive. In the same way we can consider the house which we wish to beautify as the soul we wish to cleanse and adorn with good character. We must remove bad qualities from our hearts in order for Allah (SWT) to let the light in and furnish our hearts with a good character. For example, we read in a hadith, “angels do not enter a house in which dogs are kept”.61) In a similar way we must consider the state of our hearts, and if they are aggressive like a dog, ill tempered or diseased we cannot hope for angels to enter. Therefore, this process involves three main stages

Takhliyah - clean out
Tahliyah - adornment
Tajliyah - starts shining (starts to happen automatically after you do first two).
Although this approach is inspiring to an extent, and can provide us with a framework through which to self-build, it is not a dynamic approach, as it does not fully explain where one should precisely start and finish the spiritual journey. It does not say what we should clean first or what to adorn ourselves with. Again, this approach is useful, but not sufficient in itself as a complete plan of self-building.

According to the second approach, the relationship of the soul and self-building can be considered in the following way. A person is like a flower, and a flower can grow but not without care. A flower can grow like any other that has grown in the past; it is not a unique thing. A flower is gradually growing if everything is carefully looked after. This is similar to how a child grows into an adult. One cannot be a teenager before being a toddler. In the same way, one cannot give the food of a toddler to a teenager or vice versa.

Therefore, the second approach i.e. the mystical approach looks at spiritual growth in a dynamic way as a carefully planned procedure. One needs the guidance of the people who have been to this process, who can provide advice for what to do at each stage. With this approach, every stage must be undertaken separately. This means that the expectations in each stage should be different. What is good for one person at one level may not be necessarily good for another person at a higher level. For example, if a small child memorises Surah Al-Fatihah (the Opening) and recites it people would commend the child and would be impressed, but if the Imam of the prayer recited the Surah in the same way, people would criticise him and not pray behind him. Everything is therefore a matter of comparison as to what we should expect from ourselves in different situations. It is a constant journey from one level to the next.

The Scripture/Text Based Approach

According to this view, the best approach is to refer to the Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (SAW) and his family. Those who advocate this approach therefore felt there was no need for a philosophical framework, and instead they listed the desirable and undesirable qualities of man based on the Quran. For example, for the vice of greed they would extract verses from the Quran which reveal that greed is an undesirable quality and provide evidence and some solutions from hadith.

What should be our own attitude?

All these scholars have made great contributions to Islamic moral thought. However, each of these approaches have their strengths and weaknesses and if we wish to benefit the most we must create a synthetic approach in which the advantages of each school of thought can be incorporated.

Requirements for an Adequate Approach

Our moral outlook should be compatible with the Quran and Sunnah, as there is no one better than Allah (SWT) and the Holy Prophet (SAW) to guide, as to what is good or bad. All truth is from Allah (SWT), no matter if it is relayed to us, by the mystics or the philosophers.
The ethical system has to be comprehensive. No aspect of the human being can be ignored. We do not want to have a person who is only developed in one aspect. A human being must grow in all different aspects.
The ethical system must be rational and supported by rational arguments, but it also must be practical and engaging.
The framework must be consistent and no contradictions should occur.
The ethical system must tell us what to do in different positions and stations as self-building is a dynamic process and is not static. In no field of study or practice can a person say they do not need consultation or advice.
Islam is a religion which considers reason to be very important. There is nothing irrational in Islam. There are many things taught by revelation, but this is not because they are against reason; it is because they are above reason. To illustrate the difference between something being against reason and above reason let us consider an example. If someone was asked how many people are in the next room, using their reason alone, they could not tell you. This answer does not come through reason. However, if someone answered that there are one million people in the next room, knowing the size of the room, we could say that this answer is against reason.

We need a moral system based on the Quran and Sunnah, while at the same time has rational and philosophical grounds. The system must also have clear priorities, and if two things are in conflict, the system must show which is more important. Lastly, we must be able to find out what we can expect from each stage, usually by those who have passed the stage we are now in, as their advice and help is extremely important. Among our contemporary scholars, there have been brilliant teachers of spirituality who have combined these schools of thought, and whom we can learn from, such as: Imam Khomeini, Allamah Tabatabai, Ayatollah Mutahhari and Ayatollah Javadi Amuli.



3. # An Outline of Governance from a Quranic Perspective

Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi

Summarized and Paraphrased by Karim Aghili

This paper is an attempt to partially delineate the salient features of Shia political thought. It seeks to clarify that Islam is an all-embracing religion consisting of a set of laws and injunctions which are requisites for the establishment of an ideal society. The paper presents a brief discussion about governance during the period of occultation of the twelfth Imam, the role of the supreme Leader and the essential qualifications for administrators of the law, especially for the one at the top of the pyramid of power.

Democracy and the Vicegerency of God

From the Islamic point of view, the goal of law is not only to bring about social order and discipline, but also to establish social justice, because firstly, without justice the order would not be durable and the masses of the people would not tolerate injustice and oppression forever; and secondly, in a society not governed by justice most people would not have the opportunity for desired growth and development and hence the goal of man's creation and social life would not be realised.

The main question is how and by whom the law should be legislated. The accepted theory in most current societies is that the laws should be legislated and approved by the people themselves or their representatives. Since the consensus of all of the people or of their representatives is practically impossible, the view of the majority (even if merely half plus one) is the criteria for the validity of the law.

This view, first of all, is based on the idea that the goal of secular law is to satisfy the people's desires but not to provide that which would truly benefit them. In other words, the goal of secular law is not to secure what is truly in the people's best interest and what is in conformity with their felicity. Secondly, since it is impossible to have unanimous agreement, we should content ourselves with the opinion of the majority. However, the first idea mentioned is not accepted by Islam, for many people wish to satisfy their bestial instincts and temporary lusts without thinking of their disastrous consequences. Usually the number of such people is at least one half plus one, so the social laws would be dictated by the desires of such people. It is obvious that the schools which believe in a goal beyond animal lust and base desire will not be able to condone this idea.

With regard to the second idea, that is, the validity of the vote of the majority in the absence of unanimity, it should be said that only in absence of a deciding divine and intellectual criterion can the majority be the criterion for preferring an opinion. However, in the Islamic system there do exist such divine and intellectual criteria. In addition, a powerful minority, by using the facilities for widespread propaganda, has an important role in channelling the thoughts and beliefs of others, and in fact what is approved is only the desire of a limited but powerful minority, not the true desire of the majority of all the people. Furthermore, if the criterion is that the people's choice would be valid for themselves, why should we not also accept the choice of a minority as valid for itself, even if it would result in a type of autonomy? In this case, what would be the logical justification for governments to oppose the wishes of some social groups which they rule by force?

It is worth noting that the many Quranic verses that refer to the vicegerency (khilafah) of man indicate that istikhlaf (appointing as successor on earth) in the sense of rule is strictly restricted in its scope of usage and does not include all humans:

God has promised those of you who have faith and do righteous deeds that He will surely make them successors in the earth, just as He made those who were before them successors, and He will surely establish for them their religion which He has approved for them, and that He will surely change their state to security after their fear, while they worship Me, not ascribing any partners to Me. And whoever is ungrateful after that —it is they who are the transgressors. (24:55).

Islam, an All-embracing Religion

Islam holds that law should be legislated in such a way that they procure the benefits of the members of society, particularly those who desire to improve themselves and to gain eternal felicity. It is obvious that such law should be legislated by one who has enough knowledge about the real and eternal benefits of humans and secondly, who does not sacrifice the benefits of others for his personal interests and vain desires. It is obvious that there is no one wiser than Almighty God, Who has no need of His servants or their works, and Who has provided divine legislation only for the sake of benefitting His servants. Certainly, the social laws described in the Quran do not explicitly state all the social rules which are necessary for every time and place, but the Islamic Law does provide a general framework for the derivation of regulations necessary for changing conditions of time and place, and, at least by observing the limits delineated by this framework it may be possible to avoid falling into the deadly valley of eternal perdition.

The sacred Law of Islam as an all-embracing religion is providentially destined for the whole of humanity in all times and places, and with regard to the legal issues including the designation of the legislator, the judge and the executor, all should be congruous with the laws and injunctions as laid down in the religion of Islam. In this regard, the Quran says:

So if they argue with you, say, 'I have submitted my will to God, and [so has] he who follow me.' And say to those who were given the Book and the uninstructed ones, 'Do you submit?' If they submit, they will certainly be guided; but if they turn away, then your duty is only to communicate; and God sees best the servants. (3:20)

There are some other verses which indicate that the differences between the members of a community should be settled by having recourse to the Scripture and the Law of God as was the case with the divinely-appointed prophets preceding the Prophet of Islam. For example, the Quran says:

Mankind were a single community; then God sent the prophets as bearers of good news and as warners, and He sent down with them the Book with the truth, that it may judge between the people concerning that about which they differed, and none differed in it except those who had been given it, after the manifest proofs had come to them, out of envy among themselves. Then God guided those who had faith to the truth of what they differed in, by His will, and God guides whomever He wishes to a straight path. (2:213)62)

On the other hand, those who claim to have the right to make laws of their own are reproved by God Almighty. For example, the Quran says:

Say, 'Have you regarded what God has sent down for you of [His] provision, whereupon you made some of it unlawful and [some] lawful?' Say, 'Did God give you the sanction [to do so], or do you fabricate a lie against God?' (10:59)

Do not say, asserting falsely with your tongues, 'This is lawful, and this is unlawful,' to fabricate lies against God. Indeed those who fabricate lies against God will not be felicitous. (16:116).

There are some other verses which indicate that the Prophet of Islam was emphatically commanded by God to follow the Divine Revelation only and at the same time, he was strictly prevented from following others' views:

… Say, 'Indeed it is the guidance of God which is the [true] guidance.' And should you follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you will not have against God any guardian nor any helper. (2:120)

We have sent down to you the Book with the truth, confirming what was before it of the Book and as a guardian over it. So judge between them by what God has sent down, and do not follow their desires against the truth that has come to you. For each [community] among you We had appointed a code [of law] and a path, and had God wished He would have made you one community, but [His purposes required] that He should test you in respect to what He has given you. So take the lead in all good works. To God shall be the return of you all, whereat He will inform you concerning that about which you used to differ. (5:48)63)

The Necessity of obeying the Holy Prophet

At this point, we will refer to certain verses which relate to the holy Prophet of Islam and the necessity of obedience to him. These verses can be divided into three categories:

1. The verses which indicate that unconditional obedience to the Messenger of God is obligatory, such as:

… and whoever obeys God and His Apostle, He will admit him into gardens with streams running in them, and whoever refuses to comply, He will punish him with a painful punishment. (48:17)

These are God's bounds, and whoever obeys God and His Apostle, He shall admit him to gardens with streams running in them, to remain in them [forever]. That is the great success. (4:13)64)

2. The verses which reprove those who disobey and oppose the Prophet, such as:

Say, 'Obey God and the Apostle.' But if they turn away, indeed God does not like the faithless. (3:32).

But whoever disobeys God and His Apostle, and transgresses the bounds set by God, He shall make him enter a Fire, to remain in it [forever], and there will be a humiliating punishment for him. (4:14) 65)

3. The verses which are on the rule and judgement of the Prophet and which specify that obedience to his rule and judgement is obligatory. For example, the Quran says:

But no, by your Lord! They will not believe until they make you a judge in their disputes, then do not find within their hearts any dissent to your verdict and submit in full submission. (4:65) 66)

The Rule of ulu'l-amr (those vested with authority)

In the Quran, the necessity of obedience to those other than the Prophet has been mentioned, and they are called ulu'l-amr in the language of the Quran:

O you who have faith! Obey God and obey the Apostle and those vested with authority among you. And if you dispute concerning anything, refer it to God and the Apostle, if you have faith in God and the Last Day. That is better and more favourable in outcome. (4:59)

This verse obliges the Muslims to two types of obedience: First, the obedience to Allah; second, the obedience to the Apostle and 'those vested with authority from among you' (uli'l-amr-i minkum). The arrangement of the words shows that the obedience to ulu'l-amr is as much obligatory as is the obedience to the Apostle, though they are certainly lower in rank than the Apostle. This verse clearly shows two things:

First: The authority of the Holy Prophet upon the believers was unlimited and all-comprehensive. Any order given by him, under any condition, in any place, at any time, was to be obeyed unconditionally.

Second: That supreme authority was given to him because he was infallible and free from all types of error and sin. Otherwise, God would not have ordered us to obey him unconditionally.

In this verse, ulu'l-amr, have been given exactly the same authority over the Muslims, because both the 'Apostle' and the ulu 'l-amr have been jointly mentioned under one word “obey”; which shows that the obedience of ulu 'l-amr has the same standing as the obedience of the Apostle. It naturally follows that ulu'l-amr must also be infallible and free from any type of error and sin.

Therefore, the only way to interpret this verse is to accept that it refers to the Twelve Imams from the Holy Prophet's household, the only people for whom the status of infallibility after the Prophet Mohamamd has ever been claimed. They were, in their times, the most knowledgeable, the most illustrious, the most God-fearing, the most pious, the highest in their family lineage, the best in personal virtues, and the most honoured before God; and their knowledge was derived from their ancestor (the Prophet) through their fathers, and by inheritance and by direct inspirations from God. All the Shia scholars unanimously hold that ulu'l-amr are meant to be the twelve Shia Imams, the first of whom is Imam 'Ali and the twelfth of whom is al-Imam Mahdi.

The next verse on the necessity of following those other than the Prophet is the verse of mastership (wilyah):

Your guardian is only God, His Apostle, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give the alms while bowing down. (5:55)

The Muslim scholars, Sunni and Shi'a alike, agree that this verse was revealed in honour of Imam Ali. It clearly shows that there are only three types of masters for the believers. Firstly, God secondly, His Prophet and thirdly, Ali (with the eleven succeeding Imams).

The word waliyy in this verse signifies worldly and spiritual authority, and what is more is that the authority of the infallible Imams is juxtaposed with the authority of the Prophet and of God.

Islamic Government during the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam

During the occultation of the twelfth Imam, Islamic society requires the existence of a government as a power which is able to prevent violations of the law, and lack of the government is equivalent to the suspension of law, chaos and the violation of the rights of the weak. For further clarification of the necessity for an Islamic government during the occultation of the twelfth Imam, it will be pertinent to refer to the following points:

There is no separation of religion from politics in Islam. Belief in the necessity of forming a government and establishing an executive system is a part of wilayah. Likewise, any attempt in this direction is also part of the belief in wilayah. In other words, belief in wilayah is tantamount to that of the acceptance of the leadership of the infallible Imams. But a profound understanding of the declaration of a divinely-appointed leader of Muslims by the Prophet would make it clear that unqualified persons should not be allowed to rule over the Muslims. Thus, anybody who believes in wilayah should eschew entrusting the state to unqualified persons in the absence of Imam Mahdi.

The nature of Islamic law indicates that it is possible to form a government and manage the cultural, economic and political affairs of a society. Firstly, comprehensiveness of the Islamic laws and regulations ranging from the laws regarding the relations with one's neighbours, children, family, private affairs, matrimonial matters, war, peace, relations with other countries, economy, trade, industry, and agriculture all are meant for running the affairs of the society. These points indicate that Islam seriously deals with political and economic affairs. Secondly, a quick look at the nature of religious commandments will prove that it is necessary to form a government. Without forming a government it is not possible to execute these laws.

By establishing an Islamic government man can establish justice and execute the divine commandments. This particular feature of Islam is not only related to the Prophet's time but it is applicable to all times including the period of the absence of Imam Mahdi.

Some of the reasons behind appointment of ulu'l-amr (those vested with authority) by God and making their obedience obligatory are as follows. Firstly, people would feel duty-bound to follow certain rules that would rescue them from corruption. It is not possible to follow such rules unless power is entrusted to a trustworthy ruler. Secondly, the prosperity of nations depends on the existence of rulers who try to solve their temporal and spiritual problems. God, the Wise, never leaves His creatures (people) without a guide. The third reason is that in the absence of a just and qualified leader and guide, the religious commandments and orders would be ineffective or abused.

Thus, Islam is a comprehensive religion consisting of the laws on politics, society, economy, etc, and the Divine commandments are applicable to all societies in all eras. Religious commandments are not useful unless they are applied to form a state on the basis of divine guardianship. Moreover, in order to protect the Islamic system, control the borders of Muslims from any encroachment by the enemy, and prevent disorder in Islamic society, it is necessary to form an Islamic government.

The leadership of an Islamic government has not been specifically entrusted to a particular person during the occultation of Imam Mahdi; rather a qualified leader has been characterised in a general way. Since the government is Islamic in nature, its ruler should possess at least the following two qualifications: he should have command over religious laws (fiqh) and he should be a just and righteous person.

The guardianship of the jurist

Basically, the basis of the thesis of Wiláyat-e faqih or the guardianship of the qualified jurisprudent, is the proposition that a person who is nearer to the station of infallibility should occupy the position of the infallible one, i.e. on the top of the pyramid of power, in order that this position may be occupied by the one with the best knowledge of the precepts and laws and their fundamental bases, and the one who has the most piety and self-control. By means of these two basic qualifications (expertise in jurisprudence and piety) it is at least possible that he will be less likely, intentionally or unintentionally, to transgress against values.

It should be emphasized that from an Islamic perspective no human has any intrinsic right to rule over another, even if he issues valid and just decrees. For all people, like other creatures, have been created by and are the property of Almighty God, and no one may interfere with another's property without God's permission. A human being has no right even to use his own bodily organs in a manner contrary to God's Will and consequently he cannot allow others to do so. Hence, the only one Who Himself has an absolute right to govern. Every authority and wilayah should be from Him or at least with His sanction. It is obvious that no one would ever be able to execute the divine law without having the necessary knowledge of His laws, or without piety and the necessary moral qualifications.

On the other hand, we know that except for the prophets and their selected successors, no one else was specifically designated by Almighty God to execute the law and to govern. So, people must try to find persons who resemble the prophets and the infallible Imams as closely as possible. It seems that the best way is first to select committed experts of religion (pious jurists), and then to allow them to select from among themselves the best one, for the experts are more able to correctly identify the best amongst them. Such selection is safer from the defects of an intentional or unintentional character.

It has also become clear that the political features of Islam derive from the basic elements of the world view of Islam and its view of man. That is, the emphasis on the just character of law and its harmony with human spiritual development derives from the view that God Almighty created all mankind in order that people may follow the way of development toward nearness to God and eternal felicity by their meritorious conduct in life.

The right of all humans to happiness and enjoyment of the blessings of this world exists in order that all may advance in the way of their development in a better and speedier manner. The legislation of the divine laws and religious principles, whether they apply to the individual or society, is for determining the basic outlines of this path. The conditions of expertise in law and piety, in addition to other necessary administrative qualifications, are required for securing the necessary conditions for the general development of the people, for reaching eternal felicity and for preventing intentional and unintentional deviation from the correct way of social life.

It should be noted that the ideal is that the administrator of the law should generally be completely free from ignorance, selfishness, and other vices, and such a person is one who, in religious terminology, is called ma'sum (infallible). All Muslims believe in the infallibility of the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and upon his progeny, and the Shias also believe in the infallibility of the Imams, peace be upon them. In the absence of an infallible person, these criteria should be observed, to the extent possible, for the selection of the leader as well as for lower positions in the hierarchical structure of the government in a proportionate manner.

The Quranic Basis of Shura (Consultation)

In view of the ultimate aim of consultation or shura as a collective rational means for arriving at truth, it may be added that the legitimacy of the principle of shura in Islam is supported both by reason and by prophetic revelation. Several verses of the Quran refer to consultation. According to the Quran, the Prophet himself was asked to consult the people:

It is by God's mercy that you are gentle to them; and had you been harsh and hardhearted, surely they would have scattered from around you. So excuse them, and plead for forgiveness for them, and consult them in the affairs, and once you are resolved, put your trust in God. Indeed God loves those who trust in Him. (3:159)

She (the Queen of Sheba) said, 'O [members of the] elite! Indeed a noble letter has been delivered to me. It is from Solomon, and it begins in the name of God, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful. [It states,] ''Do not defy me, and come to me in submission.'' ' She said, 'O [members of the] elite! Give me your opinion concerning my matter. I do not decide any matter until you are present.' They said, 'We are powerful and possess a great might. But it is up to you to command. So see what you will command.' (27:29-33)

And there came a man from the city outskirts, hurrying. He said, 'Moses! The elite are indeed conspiring to kill you. So leave. I am indeed your well-wisher.' (28:20)

House them where you live, in accordance with your means, and do not harass them to put them in straits, and should they be pregnant, maintain them until they deliver. Then, if they suckle [the baby] for you, give them their wages and consult together honourably… (65:6)

All the above verses indicate the significance of consultation and point out to a basic reality that a number of individuals, when organized into a group, can benefit from one another's understanding and intellect for the attainment of certain goals. The least that can be said about the people coming together for mutual consultation is that their individual understanding increases.

Shura in the Political system of Islam

Here we mean by Shura an assembly of a group of people who are capable, reliable and well-­informed about a subject for the purpose of making the best decision with respect to a given subject through consultation.

The subject of shura in Islam, that is, the affairs which are subject to counsel and consultation consists of all of the spheres of human life as well as the background for determination of the secon­dary laws (al‑ahkām al‑thānawiyyah). To explain this further, it may be said that all rulings pertaining to the individual and collec­tive life of Muslims are divided into two categories: the primary (awwali) and the secondary (thānawi) rulings.

The Primary Rulings

The primary rulings constitute all Islamic duties and obligations deduced and inferred by jurists from the four sources consisting of the Holy Quran, the Sunnah, consensus and reason, and are communicated to all Muslims. The primary rulings constitute the duties of all responsible (mukallaf) Muslim men and women. These rulings are fixed and therefore they are not set forth for consultation, such as rulings pertaining to the acts of worship (like ritual prayer, fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca) and rulings pertaining to the commercial dealings, punishments (hudud), compensation (diyah, blood money or indemnity for bodily injury), and yet others relate to the process of trial, testimony and litigation, and so on. The general definition for this category is that these rulings are those which, being based on the Quran, sunnah, ijma' and 'aql, with due consideration of the physical and spiritual nature of man and its proneness to various deviations and defects, and with a view to various things which are to its benefit and advantage, are not subject to any form of change whatsoever; although they are subject to modulation, depending on the varying states and conditions of a mukallaf (a responsible Muslim). These varying conditions of a mukallaf may be such as travelling, presence in one's home‑town, compulsion, exigency, or any other ordinary or extraordinary condition.

The Secondary Rulings

The secondary rulings are those deduced by a fully qualified jurist with due consideration for the circumstances and condi­tions of an individual or society. An example of this category of laws is the famous fatwa issued by the late Ayatollah Mirza Mohammad Hasan Shirazi (1815-1895), may God's mercy be upon him, forbidding the use of tobacco.

The difference between the primary and secondary rulings can be explained as follows:

1. The former are directly based on the four sources, which being the class of unchang­ing Islamic laws, together with the fundamental doctrines of the faith, constitute the framework of Islam. The secondary laws, on the other hand, do not directly correlate with the four above‑mentioned sources, but are the product of juristic inference drawn in light of the provisional conditions of an individual or the community. This does not, however, mean that the secondary laws deduced by a qualified jurist have no connection with the four sources of law. It means that the qualified jurist, perhaps in consultation with other jurisprudents, issues a legal verdict for the benefit of the Muslim society, or in order to thwart a danger threatening it, through inspiration from general principles and laws that specify the duty to safeguard the existence of the Islamic society.

2. An important point to note in connection with the secondary rulings is that they relate to the category of actions and affairs that are generally considered mubāh or neutral. The primary rulings, on the other hand, are not changeable on any account.

3. The primary rulings which are suspended in case of iḍtirār (exigency), ijbār (coercion), or karāhiyyah (reprehensibility) should not be confused with the secondary rulings (al‑ahkam al‑thanawiyyah). For instance, in case of insecurity of roads and sea routes the faqih may suspend the obligation of the hajj pilgrimage. This is not a secondary ruling because the duty of hajj is suspended, since 'ilm (knowledge), ikhtiyār (freedom) and qudrah (power) are the fundamental requirements for the application of an obligatory duty.

4. With the disappearance of the cause and motive behind the secondary rulings, their validity expires and the domain of its application returns to the sphere of primary rulings.


The Islamic system of government is based upon the Quran and the Sunnah. The basic rules and principles are set out in the Quran but the details are for the Muslim jurists to extract from the four sources. The sovereignty of God is the foundation of the system. Legislation contained in the Quran becomes the basic law of the state.

The aim and purpose of Islamic government is the establishment, maintenance and development of those virtues which the Creator of the universe wishes human life to be enriched by, and the prevention and eradication of those evils which are abhorrent to God. That is why the prophets were sent by God to guide us over the centuries. It is the duty of every individual Muslim and of the Islamic government to strive for justice and to prevent and oppose evil. If injustice spreads in a community with no one to denounce it, then that whole community and its government is considered to be transgressing the law of God. Where injustice is rife, there cannot be an endurable peace. The Quran warns that nations in the past have been destroyed for such neglect.

The doctrine of wilayat al-faqih forms the core of Shia political thought. It is a position which is delegated to a just and capable jurist who takes responsibility for Islamic government during the occultation of the twelfth Imam.

Shura also plays a major role in the political system of Islam. The subject of shura in Islam embraces all the spheres of human life as well as the background for determination of the secondary rulings. The secondary rulings are deduced by a fully-qualified jurist with regard to the circumstances and condi­tions of an individual or society.



4. # Ijtihad: Takhtiah or Taswib

Mohammad Namazi


Since Islamic shari'ah (law) is for all people at all times and in all places, it provides for every Muslim all the legal rules regarding whether an act is obligatory, forbidden, disliked, recommended or permissible, which he needs in order to obtain his real salvation.67) Since the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet do not deal with all the individual rulings in a very specific and detailed way and contain mostly general rulings, ijtihâd, i.e. a total expenditure of effort in the seeking of an opinion regarding a rule of divine law, is often needed.68) 69) According to B. G. Weiss, “since the law of God comprehends, in principle, the whole of life, it must be continually expounded as novel life situations present themselves. Consequently, the existence of ijtihâd is not a right but a responsibility, one that rests in every age upon the community as a whole.” 70) However one of the controversial problems in ijtihâd is that of takhti'ah (fallibilism; admission of the possibility of error in the judgments of the jurist, mujtahid) and taswib (infallibilism; maintenance of the jurist's infallibility and denial of any possibility of error). In other words, there is a question whether jurists holding conflicting opinions can all be said to be above error. Muslim thinking on this issue is truly divided. There are two completely different opinions. Shi'ah scholars and a number of Sunni scholars admit the possibility of error in the fatwas of the jurists and accordingly they are called, “mukhatti'ah (derived from khata', error),71) whereas a majority of Sunni scholars believe that the mujtahids are above error, and hence refer to them as musawwibah (derived from sawâb)72). In this paper I intend to consider briefly the concept, definition, and types of ijtihâd and then examine briefly the criteria and justification of takhti'ah and taswib according to both Shi'a and Sunni scholars. I will also try to present the arguments of both sides in the issue.

It is narrated that the great Hanafi jurist 'Alā' al-Dîn al-Kāshāni (d. 578/1182), once conducted a disputation about the Hanafi doctrine of ijtihād with another Hanafi jurist in Anatolia. Al-Kāsānî's opponent observed that for Abu Hanîfah, every mujtahid was correct. Losing his patience al-Kâsânî finally raised his whip to strike the other jurist.73) Commenting on the doctrine that every mujtahid is correct, Aron Zysow quotes Bāqillāni as having said: “Had al-Shāfi'î not accepted it I would not number him among the usulîs.”74) Consequently one important aspect of the intellectual doctrine of the infallibility of ijtihâd is the emphasis it places on the act of the jurist, i.e. on the process of ijtihâd as opposed to its product.75)

In considering this problem, one should define ijtihâd in detail according to both Shi'a and Sunni scholars in order to see what this word implies. Literally ijtihâd means “a total expenditure of effort in the attempt to achieve something whose realization is burdensome and difficult.”76) In jurisprudence, according to Âmidî, it means “a total expenditure of effort in seeking an opinion regarding a religious ruling such that the one (putting forth the effort) senses within himself an inability to do more (than he has done).”77) Although Shi'a scholars accept the above definition,78) they nevertheless differ from Sunni scholars in enumerating the authentic sources. According to many Sunni Scholars, there are four sources of law: the Quran, the Sunnah, ijmā' (consensus) and qiyās. After the Quran and the Sunnah, instead of qiyās which does not lead to certainty, the Shi'a invoke to 'aql (reason) and believe that decisive rational judgements are approved by religion. The Shi'a also accept ijmā' but not as an independent source from the Sunnah; for them it is accepted as a proof if and only if it could unveil the Sunnah.

It has to be noted that among the Sunni scholars especially in the early centuries, ijtihād was normally used in the sense of qiyās, that is to extend the ruling of one case for which we have proof in religious sources to another case for which we have no proof in religious sources, just because they look similar. Therefore, the Shi'a scholars were reluctant to use the term injtihād for the whole process of exhausting one's talents and abilities to discover a religious ruling from its sources. Ayatollah Mutahhari was of the idea that presumably “the first among the Shi'a to use the term ijtihâd and mujtahid in the latter sense was 'Allāmah al-Hillî (647-726 A.H). In the chapter on ijtihâd, in his book Tahdhîb al-Wusûl ilā 'Ilm al-Usûl, he used the word in the same sense as it is used today.”79)

Types of Ijtihâd

According to the Shi'a scholars, ijtihād is of two types; one is legitimate and the other is forbidden. The forbidden ijtihâd has the sense of legislation; i.e. when a mujtahid formulates a rule by his own personal judgment which is neither based on the Quran nor the Sunnah.80) This is called, ”ijtihad bi al-ra'y”. Unlike some Sunni scholars who consider this permissible and count it as an independent source of legislation parallel to the Quran and the Sunnah, the Shî'a have forbidden it.81) In this regard B. G. Weiss states:

The use of analogical reasoning (qiyâs) to deduce additional rulings from rulings established through exegesis of the texts has been a matter of considerable controversy among Muslims. The main living adversaries of this method are Twelve Shî'î scholars. Among Sunnîs of all four surviving schools of law, the method is universally accepted…In any case, ijtihâd is clearly not to be identified solely with qîyâs. 82)

Iijtihād bi al-ra'y is not considered legitimate by the Shi'a and their Imāms. They reject it primarily on the basis that the general principles and guidelines given in the Quran and the Sunnah are sufficient. For example, there are many hadiths in Al-Kāfi, a major collection of Shi'a hadith, stressing on the fact that there is no harām or halal and nothing needed by the people except that it is present in the Quran or in the Sunnah.83) Discussing this point, J. Calmard states that “Imāmi methodology remains broadly anchored in al-ijtihâd al-shar'i, based on rev elation and on the sciences of hadîth and its major authorities (rijâl) and not on al-ijtihâd al-'aqlî, related to qiyâs.”84) However it is beyond the limits of this paper to bring these considerations forward and discuss them.

For the Shi'a, who define ijtihâd as the effort to discover the real law from the sources of the Shari'ah, it is difficult to imagine that every mujtahid is always right. According to Mutahhari, “it is not possible that whatever any mujtahid may judge should be correct and his judgment should be the real law; for it is possible that different mujtahids may hold divergent opinions simultaneously about the certain subject and the same mujtahids may hold different opinions at different times about the same issue. How is it possible that he should always be right?”85) To elucidate the real significance of this idea, I must explain briefly the criteria of the opposite view i.e. taswib and the historical background of this subject.

Ijtihād and Taswîb

The main issue between musawwibîn and mukhatti'in is this: when we have no certain text which is applicable to an event then is there truly a Divine law related to it and should the mujtahid try to draw it out? If he succeeds he is musib, if not, he is mukhti. Or perhaps God has no real law for every event or problem and the mujtahid's solution is entirely of his own devising. Thus, in a case where we have no text or proof, God's law is a function of the mujtahid's reasoning.86) According to B. G. Weiss, “Though this way of thinking had at least one great Ash'ari divine among its supporters, it could clearly be disturbing to anyone who built his entire jurisprudence around the notion of a single correct rule as the object of the whole enterprise of ijtihâd. …if the law did not reside in an original intent of the Legislator, what was the mujtahid striving for in the first place? Was there an original intent that he should seek to understand.”87)

According to Mutahhari, the main element of the theory of taswib lies in a certain theory of ijtihâd which is held by those who defined ijtihâd as the practice of qiyâs and ra'y. They point out that the laws sanctioned by the Prophet through revelation are limited, whereas issues and problems which require legislation are unlimited in number. Therefore, the laws given by the Divine Lawgiver are not sufficient to meet the requirements. Accordingly, God has given the right to the scholars of the Ummah, or a group of them, to employ their personal taste and intelligence in cases where there are no religious dicta and select something which resembles other Islamic laws and is closer to the criteria of justice and truth. In accordance with this view of ijtihâd, Mutahhari says, they accept the theory of taswib, for, according to this view, ijtihâd itself is one of the sources of Divine Law.88)

However, this idea is unacceptable to Shi'a scholars because they believe that there is a real divine ruling pertaining to every problem and the most a jurist needs to do through ijtihād is to discover it with the help of reliable canonical sources. So, in the light of such an understanding of ijtihâd it is impossible that every mujtahid should be right.89) In this regard 'Allāmah Hilli states:

The scholars are in agreement that there is only one correct opinion in rational matters (al-'aqliyyāt),90) except al-Jāhiẓ91) and al-'Anbari,92) who were of the opinion that every person who practiced ijtihâd with respect to rational issues produced a correct opinion, not in the sense of a correspondence with the truth but in the sense of a reprehensible error being eliminated. But the true opinion is the first, because God made the search for knowledge a duty and set up a proof for it, and whoever is incorrect therein still has to discharge his duty.93)

So according to the Shi'a viewpoint, there is only one correct opinion, which is that which corresponds in reality to God's commandment. In other words the rule is specific and there is only one correct opinion, and one who opposes it is in error.94)

The Idea of Taswib and Its Justification

Those who believe in taswib have mentioned many arguments of which two are very important. The first argument which they employ is based on the following verses:

And David and Solomon-when they gave judgment concerning the tillage, when the sheep of the people strayed there, and We bore witness to their judgment and We made Solomon to understand it and unto each gave We judgment and knowledge. (21:79 & 80)

Those who believe in taswib argue that the final statement in this passage could not be true if one of the two men (let us assume David) was in error; therefore, both Solomon and David must be considered to have been right (musîb) even though their judgments differed.95) Âmidî answers this argument by saying that the main point in this statement is that both David and Solomon possessed judgment and knowledge that God had given them. And this judgment and knowledge did not, in the case of David, necessarily support the case mentioned in this passage. The judgment and knowledge referred to could very well have consisted merely of judgment and knowledge relating to the employment of indicators of the law and the methodology of derivation of law from texts, namely ijtihâd.96)

The second argument mentioned by Sunni scholars is based on the Prophet's saying, “My Companions are like stars; whomsoever you follow you will be guided”. This statement makes the opinions of the Companions a source of guidance even if they differ from one another. It follows that if it were possible for any companion to err he could not therefore have been described as “like a star” in the sense intended by the Prophet; namely as a guide.97) However the argument based on this hadith was criticized by Muslim scholars. Ayatollah Ridā Sadr makes several points here:98)

1. This hadith is weak, since it is not well documented.

2. To accept this report from a companion because every companion is to be taken as a guide is a clear circulation.

3. The expression “whomsoever you follow” requires possibility of following any companion, even the most ignorant of them. Clearly this is an injustice to the more learned companions.

4. If we accept this argument we should accept that guidance could be given even by two contradictory traditions, for, we often see that sometimes there are differences in the companion's views.

5. The comparison in this hadith does not take place between every one of the companions and every star, rather it is made between the entirety of the companions and the entirety of the stars, which implies that we have to follow companions only in their totality, that is, when they are in complete agreement. For, although the stars have different locations and appear at different moments, all stars agree in indicating celestial time.

6. Âmidî also responds99) to this problem by saying that although the Prophet's saying applies to all the companions, it cannot be taken to mean that we are to follow their example in all matters.

Finally according to A. Zysow some of the objectionable consequences of taswib are:

a) rejection of the systematic quality of the legal process;

b) the anti-systematic character of taswib appears in its relativism;

c) taswib appears equally anti-systematic when looked at from the point of view of the lay followers (muqallid). 100)

The Idea of Takhti'ah

As was mentioned before, the main idea of the mukhatti'ah is that there is only one correct opinion, which corresponds in reality to God's commandment. In other words, the rule is specific, and there is only one correct opinion, just as the one who opposes it, is in error.101) According to Tusi, God has only one ruling for each problem, and a qualified jurist may err in discovering the real divine ruling, but he is excused, if he has done his best.102) According to Arthur Pap, in contrast to taswib which introduces into the law a discontinuity between the revealed texts and the product of ijtihâd, takhti'ah holds that just as there can be no inconsistencies between the revealed texts, there can be none in the rules derived from those texts.103) Pap also says: “Infallibilisim is thus a form of pragmatism as opposed to the realism of fallibilism. It is essentially an extension of utilitarian ways of thinking (or speaking) from ethics to epistemology.”104)



5. # Intellectual, Political and Social Status
of the Shias on the Verge of Occultation

Mas'ud Pur Sayyid Aqaei

Translated by Mohammad Reza Farajian

In the period prior to the beginning of occultation (260 A.H), Shias were fortunate to have outstanding intellectual scholars who were trained by Imams and to whom the principles were taught. Those principles were known as the “Four Hundred Principles” (Usūl 'Arbi'a Mi'ah). Principles of Shia jurisprudence and beliefs were explained by Imams and were gathered in these collections of hadith. However, the situation was politically grave and critical. Imams of the Shias were besieged and despite their firm taqīyah (prudent dissimulation); they were brought to Samarra from Medina to be kept under stricter control. Shias' contact with Imams was very risky and difficult.

In that stage, when the struggle became so crucial and complex, the strategic plan of the Shias was formed in the “Secret Network of Deputation”; a network which was founded during the age of Imam Sādiq and came to power during the age of 'Askarīyán (the two imprisoned Imams i.e. the 10th and the 11th Imams). The secret network of deputation was a very complex organized system whose depth, complexity and significant role cannot be analyzed without an intensive study and analysis of its hidden aspects.

In that period, having hidden tactful contacts [with his companions] the Imams developed that network and subsequently guarded, strengthened and developed the Shia community.

During that momentous stage of oppositions, another step that Shia Imams took was to support and advocate some of 'Alawīs' oppositions in weakening the pillars of Abbasid government and preventing their tyranny and aggression.

From the social view, the Shia community was under Caliphs' strong pressure and aggression. Their properties were confiscated and their lives were in danger. They were also unseated from important posts and positions and oppressed as much as possible. Some of them took important posts by practicing taqīyah so that they could help the poor and the oppressed and take appropriate measures when necessary.

Although Shia leadership was kept under control, as with the other Imams, it had an outstanding authority among all social classes.

Kulayni quoted from a member of Banī Hanīfah tribe living in Sīstān who had told him: “At the beginning of Mu'tasim's Caliphate, I accompanied Abu Ja'far, Imam Jawād, when he was going to Hajj. Then one day, when we sat to eat while some people of the royal court were with us, I told him: “O' May I be sacrificed in your way! Our governor is one who is among your Shias and in his records (account book, record book) some taxes are assigned for me. I wondered if you think it is appropriate that you write a letter to him and tell him to have mercy on me [about this].”

Abu Ja'far stated: “I do not know him.” I said: “O' May I be sacrificed in your way! As I mentioned, he is among your Shias and your letter will be to my benefit.” So, he took a paper and wrote:

“In the Name of Allah the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. And then; the carrier of this letter described your religion and undertaking as to be very nice. Surely, the beneficial deed for you is the one in which you do the good; then do well by your brethren and know (be aware) that the God Almighty will ask you about [your deed even if having] an amount of a particle.”

The man said: “when I came to Sīstān, I found that Ḥusayn b. 'Abdullah Neyshābūrī, the governor, already knew about the matter. He came out of the city about two parasangs [about 11~12 kilometers] to welcome me; then I gave him the letter. He kissed it and put it on his eyes and asked me: “what do you want?” I said: “There is some tax assigned for me in your finance bureau.” He ordered to abolish that [unjust] tax from me.105)

Intellectual Status
Intellectually, Shias had a privileged status in that period. Moreover, their doctrines of religion were established by Imam Sādiq and Imam Baqir and also Hadiths were saved in forms of Uṣūl and Jawāmi'106)) while validation criteria of Hadiths and their refinement were gained from Imams. Sheikhs, pupils and companions107) were trained to resolve crises and also support Shia's reputation in beliefs and jurisprudence against different groups and sects, especially those who had Caliphs' support.

Guarding Islam and the concept of revelation and protecting it from misleaders and crises are among the duties of Imams. Some significant features of this period were 'Askariyain's illuminations and true policy-makings against society's intellectual deviances such as the Waqifites, the Mufawwidah, dualists (thanawiyah) and zealots (ghulāt).108) Answering to jurisprudential questions and thought problems as well as keeping Shias away from engaging in useless debates and unnecessary conflicts were among remarkable characteristics of that period.

Once, in answering one of the Shias' question about whether the Qur'ān is created [by God], Imam Hādī wrote: “In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; May God keeps us from being affected by this tribulation for then He has bestowed us the greatest bounty and the rest is all distractions ahead of us. In our opinion, arguing about the Qur'ān (that if it has been created or it has been eternal) is a (reprehensible) innovation whose questioner and questioned are involved; because the questioner is looking for what he does not deserve it and the one who is questioned runs himself into trouble for an unimportant matter which is out of his competence. The creator is no one but Allah and all others are creatures except Him, so the Qur'ān is His words. Then, do not name it otherwise, for then you will be among the those who go astray. May Allah hold you and us up as exemplars of His word that states: 'The pious who fear their Lord in secret, and who are apprehensive of the Hour. (21:49).'109)”

Of the other key measures 'Askarīyān took in that period was to provide intellectual preparation for Shias for entering “the age of occultation”; among whose procedures were their hadiths about approaching occultation and their good news about the birth of Allah's authority (the promised Mahdi)110). Other activities consisted of referring the Shias to Imam's deputies111) and validating some of jurisprudential books and hadith references112) and finally reducing their direct contacts with Shias, until even in Samarra, they would answer Shias' problems and issues by letter or their deputies and doing so, they prepared the Shias to adapt themselves to conditions of the age of occultation and also indirect contact with Imam.113) As we will see later, this was the policy that the Twelfth Imam himself later on adopted during the age of “minor occultation” and gradually prepared Shias for the “greater occultation”.

Political Situation
1. Transferring 'Askarīyān from Medina to Samarra and strict Control Over Them

In that period, the policy of the 'Abbasid Caliph Mutawakkil was the same as Ma'mūn's against Imam Ridā and Imam Jawād and that was to draw Imam Hādī nearer to the court and limit him to the periphery of government to be able to control Imam totally and to know about all his movements and to isolate him from the Shias. The same policy was followed with respect to Imam 'Askarī; therefore, similar to his father, he was kept under control in Samarra and had to call the Caliph's palace every Monday and Thursday.114)

The reason for calling Imam Hādī to Samarra was the reports that Mutawakkil had received about Imam's activities in Medina and people's attention and interest about him.115) They brought Imam from Medina to Samarra forcibly116)) and kept him under strict control and attacked his house at midnight and inspected it on the slightest pretext, such as that Imam had hidden money and weaponry.117)

After Imam Hādī passed away, Imam 'Askarī became the next Imam at the age of 22 and until his martyrdom at the age of 28, he was under control of the Caliph's agents in Samarra.

2. 'Askariyān's different methods of political oppositions

'Askariyān's political oppositions, similar to their intellectual oppositions, had different approaches and aspects; from the policy of taqīyah to allowing some Shias to assume positions in the government (in order to help the poor and the opressed),118) preservation of the Shias119), fulfilling their needs120), approving and supporting some opposing groups121) and most of all, developing and reinforcing the secret network of deputies; a network which was founded at the time of Imam Sādiq and in 'Askarīyān's period came to develop at a faster pace. More about this network and the factors of its development in that period, its importance, features and historical course will be discussed in detail in the next section; and are mentioned here just to introduce the matter. We will have a brief look at the policy of taqīyah as the key to understand Imamate history.

With respect to taqīyah, it should be briefly stated that it is a complex form of opposition. Taqīyah is not doing nothing, but it is doing everything needed in secret; and in all its kinds, it is a kind of holy struggle and defense. We read in hadiths, “Taqīyah is a part of my faith and my fathers', and no one is faithful unless he practices taqīyah [if needed]”;122) “Nine tenth of the religion is in taqīyah, and no one follows the religion unless he practices taqīyah”;123) “The faithful should be like descendants of Imam Ali. The faithful should be a [holy] struggler, but you are recommended to perform the practice of taqīyah under an illegitimate government and to fight full-frontally under a legitimate one.”124)

Taqīyah has been the reason for Shi'a's survival against all illegitimate rulers and arrogant powers. The history of Imams' taqīyah is the key to understand the history of Shi'a, and without it, Imams' movement will not be analyzable while it will also be considered as non-systematic, non-strategic, weak and cowardly. Inevitably, we have to cose this issue with three hadiths from Imam 'Ali, Imam Hādī and Imam 'Askarī about the importance of taqīyah.

Referring to the what happened after the demise of the Prophet Mohammad, Imam Ali states: “…I sat aside and thought whether I have to fight without hands or I must be patient with the blind unknowingness. This unknowingness which kills the old, ages the child and grinds the faithful down in pain till he meets his Lord. I found patience with this all better and wiser. So I tolerated with wet eyes and aching throat; while I was watching my heritage being robbed.”125) And that is the very Imam 'Ali's taqīyah. He had to forbear in loneliness.

Imam Hādī told Dāwūd Sarumī: “O' Dāwūd! I would have been right if I had stated that the one who ignores taqīyah is like the one who leaves daily prayer”.126) In this tradition, giving up taqīyah is compared to giving up the prayer.

Imam 'Askarī told one of his Shias who had advised his friend to practice taqīyah: “You are the exemplar of what the Prophet (p.b.w.h) stated that: One who advises another to the good, it is as though he himself has done it.” Then Imam continued:

God gave him reward for the sake of your friend's taqīyah as to the number of those who practiced it and those who gave it up (rightly) from among our followers and Shias, as if the slightest amount of those rewards would absolve sins committed in a hundred years. Moreover, because of your advice you receive as much reward as your friend does.127)

It is obvious that this much reward is for many fruits of taqīyah. The amount of practice of taqīyah during Imam's period was to such an extent that he would send his Shias a message that they had to point or wave with their hands instead of say ing hello to Imam in order to save their lives.128)) And once he told one of his Shias openly that: “If you did not practice taqīyah you would be killed; [you have to choose] either taqīyah and concealment or death and being killed.”129))

Social Situation
In this part, we will analyze the social situation of the Shias, their status and their leadership authority.

1. Shias' Situation

Although in that period, many cities were Shia-resident centres,130)) Shias' condition could be described as being poor, suppressed, removed from posts and most of all, deprivation from the privilege of being with Imam and in fact, reducing the contact with Imam to the minimum.

Minimum contact with Imam
Although Imam would make contact with his Shias, by any means, strict control of Imam and torture and harassment of those in contact with Imam would lead the contact of Imam with his Shia to be at a minimum. This very matter would lead to adverse consequences; although with Imam's wisdom, those consequences were kept at a minimum, but not completely eliminated.

In that period, Shias were completely suppressed by Abbasid Caliphs. Mutawakkil's offences against Shias varied from the network of the troops of Shākiriyyah to destroying Imam Husayn's shrine. To suppress Shias even more, Mutawakkil commanded the governor of Egypt to exile Talibiyūn to Iraq. The governor of Egypt did so; then in 236 A.H. Mutawakkil drove them out to Medina where earlier 'Alawīs (the descendents of Imam Ali) were exiled.131)

Mutawakkil also warned residents of Hijāz not to make any contact with 'Alawīs or support them financially. Many of them were punished very severely because of disobeying his command. As Isfahānī wrote, in this way, Mutawakkil treated 'Alawīs very aggressively in Medina, whereby 'Alawīs were completely segregated from others and deprived of the very basic means of subsistence.

Dismissal from posts
According to Mas'ūdī, Mutawakkil dismissed Ishāq b. Ibrāhīm, the governor of Samarra and Sirwān in Jabal province, from his post because of being a Shia.132) Many other people also lost their positions because of similar reasons.133) 134)

Withholding financial aids
Mutawakkil confiscated Fadak estates which belonged to the descendants of Lady Fatimah. According to Sayyid ibn Ṭawūs' writings, the income of Fadak was more than 24,000 dinars at that time. Mutawakkil gave it to his friend, 'Abdullah b. 'Umar Bezyār.135) And as mentioned before, he warned Hijāz residents not to make any contact with 'Alawīs nor support them financially.

Abu al-Faraj Isfahānī wrote: “Mutawakkil put severe financial pressures on 'Alawīs and officially banned giving any kind of aid to them. He severely punished the offenders.”136)

2. Social Status and the Influence of Shia leadership

Despite all obstacles put by the government in their way, spiritual influence of Shia Imams increased every day. The influence was to such an extent that even extended to Caliphs' courts. Many people were greatly attracted to Imams; even some ministers and commanders wholeheartedly did believe that the Imams were just and right, and knew them as deserving the Caliphate, although they concealed their belief. In this section some examples of Imam Hādī and Imam 'Askarī's social status will be mentioned.

Imam Hādī's authority
Here we will mention his influence in the court, among 'Alawīs, people of the Book, Medina residents and the Shias.

In the Court
Mutawakkil was suffering from a painful abscess. He was very ill and was dying from pain but nobody ever dared to perform a surgery on it. Mutawakkil's mother (Shujā') made a vow that if her son recovered from the illness, she would send a great deal of money to Imam Hādī. Fath b. Khāqān - a nobleman very close to him137) - suggested to Mutawakkil to send someone to Abu al-Hassan al-Hādī and to ask him about the cure for this illness; for he may know the cure for it and give an advice. Mutawakkil ordered: “Send somebody to him” Then his messenger went and came back with an instruction which cured Mutawakkil.138) Also Mutawakkil called Imam by Yahya b. Harthamah to Samarra because of slanders against Imam in Medina. Imam set out for Samarra accompanied by his family. Yahya himself rendered the service to Imam and became impressed by Imam's piety. The caravan travelled through desert and arrived in Baghdad. Ya'qūbī said that as soon as Imam (A.S.) arrived in “Yāsirīyih”, Īshāq b. Ībrāhīm the governor of Bagdad met Imam (A.S.). When he saw the eagerness and interest of people toward Imam, he invited him to stay in Baghdad that night.139))

Yahya told Baghdad's governor the story. Baghdad's governor said: “This man is the Prophet's son while you know Mutawakkil's deviation from the Prophet's family; so if you tell him a wrong word about Imam Hādī; he will kill Imam and on the day of Judgment, the Prophet (p.b.w.h) will be your enemy…” Yahya answered: “Swear by God, neither did I see anything in him but the good, nor anything I disliked…” then they left Baghdad and set out for Samarra. As soon as they arrived, Yahya reached Wasīf Turkī who was a high ranking official in the government and informed him of Imam's arrival. Wasīf also warned him of telling things that would cause any danger to Imam and told him: “O' Yahya! Swear by God, if ever slightest danger faces Imam, you will be the only person responsible for it…”

Yahya was surprised by the similarity of Ishāq and Wasīf's concern about guarding Imam and his health.140) Imam's popularity was to the extent that upon his arrival in Mutawakkil's court, all courtiers and security guards would stand up before him, involuntarily open the doors immediately without any delay or question and draw aside the curtains.

Once Imam was invited to a banquet which was held for a Caliph's son's birthday celebration. When Imam entered the party, everyone fell silent treating him out of respect…141)

Among 'Alawīs and others
Muhammad b Hassan Ashtar 'Alawī said: “With my father, some of 'Abbasids, Tālibīs (descendants of Abu Talib, the father of Imam Ali), some of the army officers and some other people were standing in the doorway of Mutawakkil's palace and suddenly Abu al-Hassan Imam Hādī came and wanted to enter the palace. All the people who were in attendance got down their mounts and show[ed] him great respect until he entered the palace. One person got angry about such homage and tribute and began to complain that: “To whom does all this acknowledgement and courtliness belong? Why do we have to pay this young man this much respect? He is neither higher than us in rank nor older in age! Swear by God, we will not rise for him or come off our mounts at the time of his coming out…”

Abu Hāshim Ja'farī answered him that: “Swear by God, you will respect him in the humblest manner!” After some moments, Imam came out of palace. The sound of acclamation echoed and all people stood up, showing respect to Imam; Abu Hāshim addressed people: “Were not you who decided not to respect his holiness?”

They answered: “Swear by God, we could not control our emotions and involuntarily came off our mounts to respect him.”142)

Descendants of the Prophet (p.b.w.h) and noblemen were harmonious in respecting Imam and all of them had accepted his leadership and preeminence. Zayd b. Mūsa b. Ja'far was among these 'Alawīs known as Zayd al-Nār who was Imam's uncle and was so old and long-lived. Once when visiting Imam, he came to the doorway of the Imam's (A.S.) house and wanted 'Amr b. Faraj who was the doorway guard to ask entrance permission from Imam for him. Imam granted the permission and Zayd came in and sat politely and respectfully before Imam who was sitting in the upper part of (assembly) room and doing so, he acknowledged Imam's supremacy and leadership.

Another day, Zayd came to see Imam but Imam was not present in the room and Zayd sat in the upper part of the room; after a few moments, Imam entered; as soon as Zayd saw Imam, he rose from his place and offered the same seat to Imam while he himself sat politely in front of Imam. This happened when Imam was so young and Zayd was an elderly man; but Zayd's action was considered as his acknowledgement of Imam's leadership and supremacy and it was similar to how all people acknowledged Imam's leadership.143)

Among Medina's residents
When people of Medina found out about the mission of Mutawakkil's executive agent, Yahya b. Harthamah, who wanted to take Imam to Samarra, they began to cry and weep in such a way that Yahya said: “I had never seen or heard like that, and that was so that I had to calm them down and that did not take effect until I swore by God that no harm would ever come to him.144)

Among People of the Book
Imam's authority was not limited to Shias; it included people of the Book as well. They greatly respected Imam, and when having trouble and difficulty, they used to seek help from him. They even gave him presents.

Hibatallah b. Abī Manṣūr said: “Once Yusuf b. Ya'qūb who was Christian and of my father's friends, came to our home in Baghdad. My father asked him the reason for coming. Yusuf said: “Mutawakkil 'Abbāsī has summoned me, but I do not know why. So I have insured myself for one hundred dinars and have come to give them to 'Ali b. Mohammad b. Ali Ridā.”145)

Among Samarra Shias
Mutawakkil would always prevent people from visiting Imam Hādī. Once Imam was in Mutawakkil's palace, and numerous people were behind the door. The narrator said that: “I asked them why they were gathering there. They answered that: “We are waiting for our lord to see him and salute him and then we will go.” I asked them if they knew him. They answered: “Yes! We all know him”.146)

Imam 'Askarī's authority
In this part, we will have a short review about Imam 'Askarī's social status in the court, among caliphs and ministers, to people of the Book, religious leaders, Shias and others.

Among Caliphs
Some of that period's caliphs like Mu'tamid would seek recourse to Imam 'Askarī when they were in considerable need; and they would ask him for prayer.147) They would also ask him for help in crises and at key points. For once Mu'tamid ordered to free Imam 'Askarī from prison temporarily to stand against deviants' perversities and to resolve all doubts and incredulities they had casted on people. Mu'tamid addressed Imam and said: “Save your father's religion”!

Another time, he addressed Ja'far, Imam 'Askarī's brother, when Ja'far asked Mu'tamid to grant him his brother's position; Mu'tamid answered: “Your brother's position was not in our hand, that it was from Allah; and despite our determined attempts in lowering your brother's status, his authority would rise increasingly because of his knowledge and religious practices.”148)

Among ministers
'Ubayd b. Khāqān was one of the ministers in Abbasid's caliphate who was concurrent with Imam. He said that: “If none of Abbasid caliphs is anymore caliph, then no one out of the Hashemite deserves caliphate but him (Imam Hassan 'Askarī). It is only this man who deservs caliphate because of his knowledge, virtue, guidance, self-possession, piety, religious practice and good morals. His father also like him was noble, generous, knowledgeable and well-meaning.149)

Ahmad b. 'Ubaydillah b. Khāqān who was Nāsibī (anti-Ahlul Bayt), described Imam 'Askarī's social status and authority like this: “In Samarra, I saw nobody among 'Alawis like Hassan b. 'Alī b. Mohammad al-Rida in conduct, virtue, magnanimity, generosity, being respected by the family, the caliph and all Hāshimīs. Not only these people, but also all ministers, secretaries, commanders of army and others considered Imam superior to all great ones.”150)

He himself said that: “Anyone among the Hashemite, commanders, secretaries, judges, jurisprudents and other people would consider Imam at the highest point of greatness, grandeur and superiority, when I asked them about him (Imam Hassan 'Askarī); They knew him superior to all the relatives, nobles and all others and they would all say that: “He is the leader of Shias” and he was of great nobility and position before me because everyone would speak of him as benevolent and widely regarded him as great.”151)

Among Commanders
One of the commanders and generals got off his mount as soon as he saw Imam 'Askarī and showed him respect. Imam addressed him and stated: “Return to your place.” He returned while he was showing Imam respect.152)

Before Mutawakkil's doctor
Bakhtīshū' - Mutawakkil's personal doctor - was one of the most distinguished doctors of his time. He told one of his pupils to perform phlebotomy for Imam. He told him: “Ibn al-Rida (Imam Askari) has asked me to send someone to perform phlebotomy for him; I chose you to go, you must know that he is the most knowledgeable person living under the sun. So, do not ever neglect his orders or complain”.153)

Among religious scholars
Imam had an absolutely outstanding status among his contemporaneous religious scholars. Jāhiz was among great writers of that period living in Basra. He met Imam when he was a young man of 22 years old, and passed away five years before Imam's martyrdom. He said about Imam: “It has never happened for any of Arab or non-Arab ancestries except Tālibiyān that all of whom become scholars, virtuous, pious, brave, generous, pure, of a noble nature and some of whom become the Prophet's successor and some others became the nominees of his successors; whose names from fathers to their sons are: Hasan b. 'Ali b. Mohammad b. 'Ali b. Mūsā b. Ja'far b. Mohammad b. 'Ali b. Husayn b. 'Ali”.154)

Among People of the Book
Some of the nobles and scholars of the Book acknowledged Imam's superiority and high status in a way Imam would state about some of them: “Praise be to Allah that made Christians more aware about our right than some Muslims.”155)

From among them, some became Muslims, such as Anūsh Nasrānī and the monk of 'Āqūl monastery.156)

Among common people
People would rush to meet Imam from everywhere, and on the very day that Imam was supposed to come to the court, numerous Imam's devotees gathered with tearful eyes on Imam's route to meet him, in a way that the way would get blocked and no one could pass through. The sound of lament and wailing could be heard from everywhere but once Imam came out of the door, silence would reign everywhere and everyone would be stunned by his supreme majesty and pave the way for him and stand there waiting for his return.157)

Sheikh Sadūq quoted from Ahmad b. 'Ubaydillah b. Khāqān - the caliph's deputy in Qom - who was a Nāsibī and anti-Shia that he said:

“At the time of Imam 'Askarī's martyrdom, the whole bazaar (marketplace) closed and the Hashemite, all military men, secretaries, other people and my father ('Ubaydillah b. Khāqān - Mu'tamid Abbāsī's minister) attended the Imam's funeral. That day, considering the crowd, and the number of people wailing, was like a shot of the Day of Judgment.”

Among Shias
Abu Hāshim Ja'farī who was among the faithful companions of Imam 'Askarī and Imam Hādī had poems about Imam 'Askarī which described his supreme status among Shias very well. Translation of some of those poems is the following:

“God granted him - Imam 'Askarī - all miracles of Imamate as He had earlier granted Moses the miracles of splitting the sea, white hand and the stick.

God did not grant any miracles to the Prophets unless He granted Imams the same; and if you doubt about it, you may go and seek for the proof and evidence.”158)


Intellectual, political and social status of Shias and their leadership in the time of the Imam Hadi and Imam Askari had special characteristics.

Shia hadiths were compiled and maters of hadith and religious scholars were trained to resolve crises and troublesome events. Among Imams' efforts in that period were protecting Islam from being robbed by deviants, their proper positioning and elucidations, answering intellectual and jurisprudential questions and enabling Shias to be prepared for entrance into the age of occultation of the Twelfth Imam.

In political aspect, the Shia leadership was brought to Samarra from Medina forcibly and taken under strict control. Imam Hadi and Imam Askari began to develop and reinforce the deputies' network following the policy of taqīyah.

Among their other measures were their support for some 'Alawīs' uprisings, preserving Shias and allowing some of them to assume some positions in the government in order to help the poor and the oppressed.

From the social aspect, Shias were in poverty, under pressure, suppression of beliefs and deprivation. And although Shia leadership were besieged and restricted from making any contact with Shias and other people, they had great influence among all classes of society, from Shias and common people to religious scholars, nobles, people of the Scriptures, commanders and ministers.



6. # Reason, Faith & Authority: A Shia Perspective

Mohammad Ali Shomali

From a Shi'a point of view, there are four sources on which any investigation about Islam has to be based: the Glorious Quran, the Sunnah (including sayings, actions and tacit approval of the Prophet), reason, and consensus. After a careful consideration of these four sources, it becomes clear that the Quran and the Sunnah both originate from revelation and that consensus is reducible to the Sunnah. Therefore, there are two types of sources:

* the Quran and the Sunnah that constitute the revealed or the transmitted sources (al-adillah al-naqliyyah)
* reason or intellect that constitutes the rational source (al-dalil al-'aqli).159)

It has to be noted that what has been said above does not mean that every single enquiry must be based on all the aforementioned sources; rather it means that there is no way to establish the truths about Islam other than referring to one or more of the above sources. There are fields of studies that are completely intellectual such as natural theology or philosophy, and there are fields of study that are purely based on revealed information such as revealed theology, and there are fields that rely on both, such as law and morality.160)

It should also be noted that when Muslim scholars mention the Quran and the Sunnah as revealed sources this does not mean that they do not believe in previous revelations. Indeed, it is part of Islamic faith to confirm all the previous prophets and revelations. The only problem here is how to identify what was actually revealed to them. Therefore, whenever something is known to represent a fact or a universal or unconditional rule revealed previously by God, that too, is certainly accepted.

Thus, we can conclude that there are two major common ways to understand and discover religious truths: revelation and reason.161) The Shi'a believe that reason is a reliable source of knowledge and that it is in complete harmony with revelation. According to some hadiths, God has two proofs (hujjah) through which humans can understand His will: the internal one, reason (al-'aql), and the external one, the prophets. Sometimes reason is called, “the internal prophet” and the prophets are called “the external reason”. There is an established rule among Shi'a jurists that whatever judgement is made by reason is the same as that made by religion (shar') and vice versa.

In what follows, I will try to explore the status of reason in Islam and then I will refer to different roles of reason in general and in understanding moral values in particular. Having studied revelation and reason as two sources of understanding Islam, I will briefly refer to the Shi'a understanding of faith and authority.

The status of reason

Islam regards reason as one of the greatest blessings bestowed by God on human beings. It is by means of reason that we understand ourselves and the world around us. It is by means of reason that we realise the necessity of investigating our origin and the One who has created us. If we had no reason, we would not be responsible for our acts or beliefs. In Shia Islam in particular, great emphasis has always been placed on reason and the rational sciences. This emphasis derives from the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet and the Imams of his household. The Quran says in several verses:

Surely there are signs in this for those who ponder. (13:4; 16:12; 30:24)

The Quran also condemns more than once those who do not think or use their reason. The following two traditions, selected from the large number of hadiths available on the subject, show the place of reason in Shi'a belief. Imam Sadiq (A.S.) says:

Whoever has intellect has faith and whoever has faith will enter Paradise.162)

With reason one comes to understand the truth, to believe in Islam and follow the teachings of the Prophet, and consequently will be able to enter Paradise. In an insightful hadith addressing one of his companions, Hisham b. Hakam, Imam Musa Kazim said:

With reason God completes His proof. God has equipped His prophets with the ability of expressing their ideas in a way that all people can understand. God has shown people His lordship through reason.

Then the Imam recited the following verse of the Glorious Quran, “Your God is the One God, there is no god but God who is the Compassionate the Merciful…Surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of days and night, and in the ships that move in the sea, and in the rain that descends from the sky to bring life on the earth, and all kinds of animals that God has spread over the earth, and also in the movement of the wind and the clouds which God has kept between the earth and the sky– in all these there are signs for those who are thoughtful.” (2:163 & 164) Then the Imam said:

God has made these signs a proof to show people that they have a Creator Who arranges everything for them and Who directs everything, because God then says “surely there are signs in these facts for those who use their reason”.163)

Many other references to the Quran are made in this tradition to show that God in His final message considers reason as the only means by which human beings become responsible. It is unanimously accepted that one of the conditions of moral or legal responsibility is to have sound reason. If someone is insane, he is not considered as responsible for his acts. What is expected of people in religion also varies according to their mental and rational capacity. Those with a higher degree of intelligence or learning are expected to be more knowledgeable, pious and obedient than others.164)

On the continuity and development of the philosophical tradition, S. M. H. Tabataba'i (1892-1981), who was the most celebrated contemporary master of Islamic philosophy, writes:

In the same way that from the beginning Shiasm played an effective role in the formation of Islamic philosophical thought, it was also a principal factor in the further development and propagation of philosophy and the Islamic sciences… In the same manner, in the other intellectual sciences, there appeared many outstanding figures such as Nasir al-Din Tusi (who was both philosopher and mathematician) and Birjandi, who was also an outstanding mathematician.

All the sciences, particularly metaphysics or theosophy (falsafah-i ilahi or hikmat-i ilahi), made major advances thanks to the indefatigable endeavour of Shia scholars. This fact can be seen if one compares the works of Nasir al-Din Tusi, Shams al-Din Turkah, Mir Damad, and Sadr al-Din Shirazi with the writings of those who came before them.165)

On the place of intellectual sciences among the Shi'a, Yann Richard writes:

Today, however, one of the originalities of Shia Islam is to recognize that metaphysical speculation and philosophical discourse have a certain place in religious knowledge. The Centre for Theological Studies at Qom is certainly the only place of Islamic studies in the world where one dares comment on the philosophical treatises of Aristotle or Avicenna, and where the post-Platonic philosophical tradition has remained alive. Ayatollah Khomeini was known at Qom up till the beginning of the 1950s for his philosophy course.166)

Different roles of reason

In general, reason contributes to religious sciences in the following major areas:

I. The first step towards religion, inquiring into it and searching for its truth, is taken by reason. It is reason that drives us to take the issue seriously and tells us that our interests would be harmed if the claims of religion are true and we fail to discover and believe in them. According to the Quran, God requires all human beings to exercise their rational faculty and to ponder on His signs and communications in the universe. On many occasions disbelievers are condemned and criticized because of their failure to think or to act according to rational requirements. For example, they are condemned because of their blind imitation of their ancestors, and there are many verses containing rhetorical questions calling on people to think, such as the following: “Do not they think?”, or “Do not they ponder?”

II. The second role of reason is to set up standards and logical processes for reasoning and for inference from the Scriptures. Once we have started our research and investigation, it is again reason that instructs us on how to think and how to argue. It is also reason that tells us to be fair and committed to the truth during and after the entire process of rational discovery.

III. The third is to understand the realities of the world, such as the existence of God and the truth of religion. The Shi'a believe that by the exercise of reason every person can come to understand that God exists, that He has sent certain people as His messengers, and that Resurrection will take place. Indeed, it is obligatory for every Muslim to examine and question his beliefs until he attains certainty, and to be able to support his beliefs with valid logical arguments, including the intellectual ones. Muslims are not allowed to say that they believe in God for no particular reason, or call themselves Muslim simply because their parents are Muslim, or because they were born in a Muslim community. Faith is a matter of reasoning, not of imitation. Everyone is advised to secure his faith with sound arguments. In this way, one can have complete confidence in his belief, and nothing can cause him to doubt it.167) Of course, once the truth of a given prophet or book is established, many further truths can be learnt from that prophet or that book.

IV. The forth is to understand and present moral and legal principles, such as the wrongness of oppression and the rightness of justice. Details are, of course, provided by religious sources, although the process of understanding the Scriptures and the implications of religious judgements again is governed by reason. For example, if God says that you must perform hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca), it rationally implies that we must make all necessary preparations, such as buying tickets or obtaining a visa. If there is a conflict between two obligations such as saving an innocent life and performing our prayers, what should we do? In this case, even if there is no explicit or specific religious instruction we still rationally understand that we must act according to the certain and clear judgement of our reason, which is to save the person's life.

All the above roles of reason are recognised and, indeed, encouraged and urged in Islam. In contrast, the role of revelation or the scripture in religious sciences can be summed up as follows:

- confirming truths that are already known by reason;

- teaching truths that are not known by reason, such as the details of the resurrection and detailed injunctions of moral and legal systems;168)

- establishing due recompense sanctions through the religiously determined system of reward and punishment.

Here I should make two points:

a. One has to distinguish between the decisive and certain rational judgements and things such as guessing or personal opinions or weak arguments. There have always been some people who introduced their ideas, or even they themselves thought so, as enjoying rational grounds, while after consideration it becomes clear that there is no basis for such a claim. Similarly, there are people who represent their ideas as Islamic ideas, while religious sources do not support them in any known way.

b. Although reason is recognised as an independent source of knowledge, it has its own limits. There are many things on which reason has no judgement and is silent, because they are beyond its scope. Therefore, there might be many things that we can understand by other ways of understanding such as perception, intuition or revelation that do not fall in the scope of reason. You can not really understand through rational arguments how a rose smells or what a mother feels when her child is dead. In respect to religious issues, there are many facts that are not knowable by reason, such as many details of the resurrection. What is important is that there is nothing in Islam that contradicts reason. One must therefore distinguish between what lies beyond one's actual rational capacity and what conflicts with rational standards.

Thus, we should not base our acceptance of religious facts on finding a rational proof or justification for them, though they must be rationally possible. The Quran sometimes uses the expression of “vision” and attributes it to the heart for some type of knowledge which is much higher than perception and rational knowledge. For example, on the ascension of the Prophet Muhammad to the heaven, the Quran says:

The heart did not tell lies about what it saw. (53:11)

Role of reason in understanding moral values

Now let us study in more detail the role of reason in understanding moral good and bad or what is right and wrong. This has been an important issue for all religious traditions, especially Judaism, Christianity and Islam. According to “Divine Command Theory”, “good” or “morally right” means “Commanded by God”, and “bad” or “morally wrong” means forbidden by God.”169)) On the other hand, there have also been some theologians who have argued for rational approach to ethics. They believed that there are independent criteria of good and bad that can be understood by our reason. God's commands are not arbitrary and we can exercise rational methods to discover moral norms. Among Muslim theologians, the Ash'arites held the former view and the Shi'a and the Mu'tazilites held the latter.170)

According to the Ash'arites, all values are determined by the will of God and moral concepts such as 'good' and 'right' have no meaning other than 'that which God wills' or 'what is commanded by God'. These words have no objective meaning. According to the Shia and the Mu 'tazilites, values such as justice and goodness have a real existence, independent of anyone's will, even God's. Values are objective.

Based on the above question, the other controversy concerns the question of whether good and evil are rational (al-husn wal qubh al-'aqliyyān) or revealed. The Shia and the Mu 'tazilites believed that good and evil are objective and therefore can be known rationally. Allamah Hilli, a great Shia scholar, in his comments on Al-Yāqút by al-Nawbakhti writes:

The principle, on which the problems concerning justice depend is that God is the Wise, He never does an evil action and He never fails to perform any necessary (wājib) action. When this principle is proved questions concerning justice, such as goodness of obligation (taklif), necessity of Grace (lutf) and the like are constructed upon. And since this principle depends on knowing good and evil and their rationality, the author started his discussion with these. (Anwār al-Malakut fi Sharh al-Yāqut, p. 104)

Else where he writes:

Imamites and their followers, the Mu 'tazilites, believe that goodness and badness of some actions are known by reason evidently such as our knowledge of goodness of beneficial telling truth and badness of harmful lies, on which no reasonable person have doubt, and his certainty about this is not weaker than his certainty about the need of a contingent being [in its existence] to a cause or about the equality of two things which are each equal to a third thing. They believe that there are some actions, understanding of whose goodness or badness needs reflection such as goodness of harmful telling truth and badness of beneficial lies, and finally that there are some actions, on which reason is unable to make judgement and their goodness and badness is to be expressed by the religious law, Shar', such as [how to perform] worships. (Nahj al-Haqq wa Kashf al-Sidq, p. 82)

On the other hand, there are the Ash'arites who deny rationality of goodness and badness. Shahrestani in his Al-Milal wa al-Nihal describes the idea of Ash'arites as follows:

All obligations are to be learnt from the scriptures. Reason (al-'aql) does not make any thing obligatory and does not make anything deserve to be considered as good or bad. Thus, knowing God becomes possible by reason and becomes obligatory (wājib) by the scripture (sam'). God, the most High, says: “We have never chastised unless we have despatched some messenger”. (The Quran, 17:15) Similarly, gratitude to the blessing-giver, rewarding the obedient and punishing the disobedient all become obligatory (wājib) by the revealed, and not reason. (Vol. 1, p. 115)

In contrast, the Shia and the Mu 'tazilites have argued that if goodness and badness were just religious and not understandable by reason, unbelievers would not recognise them today or before they knew of revelations e.g. the Quran. But we know that there are many common values and moral principles among both theists and atheists. 'Abd al-Jabbar, a great Mu 'tazilite theologian, says: “any sane person knows his obligations even though he does not know that there is a commander and forbidder” (Al-Mughni, Vol. 1, p. 45).

The Quran in fact implies in many statements that knowledge of what is obligatory, good, and evil is accessible to everyone, “Surely God bids to justice and good-doing and giving to kinsmen, and He forbids indecency, dishonour and insolence”. (16:92) These virtues and vices must have been understood as such prior to revelation. The objectivity of ethical value is asserted or implied all through the Quran. For instance, the repeated commands of God to do what is right would be empty of force and spirit if they meant only “commands to do what He commands”. It is even harder to make sense of statements that God is always just to His servants on the supposition that “just” means “commanded by God”.

None of this means, of course, that humans are not in need of religious guidance. The argument is rather that in order to benefit fully from religious guidance, humans have been endowed with reason, and it is only when they are thoughtful and rational that they can comprehend revelation. The truth of religion and the principles of morality are understood by reason, but there is much more to be learnt from revelation. According to Shia thinkers, religion can provide us with a fuller and more comprehensive account of morality, and moreover motivates us to observe moral requirements.

Faith & reason

Before we study the relation between faith and reason we need to know more about the nature of faith.

The nature of faith

Faith is a voluntary act of human kind, although some degrees of faith may require special grace and guidance of God. Man needs to try to be faithful and make preparations for faith. One reason for holding faith as a human act is that according to the Quran the people are held responsible or accountable for being faithful or non-faithful. People, on occasions, are blamed in the Quran for their failure in becoming faithful and this shows that it is because of their own decision. The other reason is that in the Quran or hadiths people are encouraged to have faith by referring to its good outcomes. The other reason is that faith may decrease or increase depending on human practices and characters. Imam Ali , the first Shia Imam, says: “Do not be jealous because jealousy eats away faith just as fire eats away dried wood.”171)

Among philosophers of religion, there are two main views about the nature of faith: the propositional view which takes faith as “belief that” (fides) and the non-propositional which takes faith as “belief in” (fidusia). Of course, each may imply the other secondarily and in practice a faithful person is the one who both believes that God exists and trusts Him. However, the question is which one primarily constitutes the faith

Reflecting on relevant verses of the Glorious Quran, normally the assumption among philosophers of religion is that in Islam faith has a propositional nature. For example, we read:

“… the believers; they all believe in Allah and His angels and His books and His apostles; we make no difference between any of his apostles; and they say: we hear and obey, our Lord”.172)

“the believers are only those who believe in Allah and His Apostle then they doubt not”.173)

I think faith means acceptance of or submission to certain truths and involves three elements, but it is not identical with any of them:

(a) A heartfelt knowledge. This knowledge is propositional. No one can be faithful while he is in doubt. It should be noted that according to the Glorious Quran, faith is different from knowledge, because sometimes a person may have knowledge in its most certain form, but lack faith. Sometimes people know some truths, but deny them unjustly or arrogantly.174) The knowledge, thus, prepares the ground for faith, and faith needs knowledge; but it is not knowledge.

(b) A verbal declaration of that heartfelt knowledge.

Acting in accord with that knowledge. The believer in his life must work in harmony with that knowledge he has, otherwise there would be no benefit in that knowledge. When Imam Ali was asked about belief, he said: “Faith involves appreciation with heart, acknowledgement with tongue and actions with limbs.”175)

Thus, faith is a voluntary act for which knowledge is a pre-requisite) and should imply declaration with tongue and practice with limbs. Faith is a reality that might decrease or increase. Taking into account all the above aspects of faith and based on the Quran and the Sunnah, I believe that faith consists in submission to certain truths, such as existence of God (God exists).176) Therefore, faith is neither “belief that” nor “belief in”. One may believe that something is true and at the same time deny or reject it. Among those who believe in basic religious truths and commit themselves to those truths, some people may be prepared to commit and submit themselves just in declaration of faith, some may be prepared to fully or partly practice their faith and some may be prepared to submit their entire reality including acts, heart and mind to God. Faith may also have degrees according to different degrees of the required knowledge or different degrees of the consequent acts.

Faith requires reason

As we saw above, reason comes before faith, and proves the existence of God and His attributes, like His omnipotence, omniscience, goodness and charity, and etc. For this purpose, there are many intellectual discussions in the Shia theological books and, indeed, one part of Islamic theology is called “intellectual kalam”. Imam Sadiq referred to faith as a soldier of reason or its minister.177) And in another narration, he said: “with reason, worshippers know their Creator, and know that they are creations of Him and He is their Lord … and with reason the worshippers separate good and evil acting and …”178)

Faith, however, is more than knowledge; reason, by securing required knowledge, just prepares the ground for faith. In the end it is the individual himself that decides whether to commit himself or not. A person becomes faithful and a believer only when he has respect and love for certain facts i.e. articles of faith. Once the Prophet Muhammad asked his companions of “the firmest handhold of faith”. They suggested different things like prayer and hajj. When they could not give the appropriate answer the Prophet said:

“The firmest handhold of faith is to love for the sake of God and to hate for the sake of God, to befriend God's friends and to renounce His enemies.”179)

The same idea is emphasised by Imams of the Household of the Prophet. For example, in reply to the question whether love and hatred derive from faith, Imam Sadiq said: “Is faith anything but love and hate?”180) It is also narrated that Imam Baqir said: “The faith is love and love is the faith.”181)

Faith supports and strengthens reason

With disbelief, reason loses its power and sharpness and may fail to discover or acknowledge even trivial facts. Disbelievers are like those who walk in darkness and do not know which path they have taken:

“God is the guardian of those who believe. He brings them out of the darkness into the light; and (as to) those who disbelieve, their guardians are Satans who take them out of light into the darkness…” 182)

That is to say, they do not know about their world and their purpose of life. They have no insight about reality. In Islamic thinking, two kinds of guidance must be distinguished: primary or inclusive guidance and secondary or exclusive guidance. The former is for all humans, with which mankind potentially might acquire and obtain some initial knowledge about the world and its creator and the need for prophecy and religion. The latter is only for believers. The Quran says:

“Surely (as for) those who believe and do well, their Lord will guide them by their faith.” (10:9)

“Those who guided, We will add their guidance.” (47:17)183)

Reason after faith is different from reason before faith. Faith helps reason to have complete function. Faith without reason is blind and reason without faith is crippled and barren. Faith opens for reason realms other than worldly life and reason makes grounds for true belief and faith.


In Islam, everything originates from God. Islam also emphasises that, 'There is no authority except for God and whoever is appointed by God'. In what follows, I will try to refer to the principles, on which the Islamic view on authority is based:

Principle One: Obedience belongs only to God
God is the only One that we have to obey. Independent from Him, nobody can ask for obedience. He has created us free. Why should anyone obey men like Nimrod or Abu Sufyan or the arrogant people of his time? God has created us free so that nobody can ask us to obey him.

Principle Two: Human freedom

We are free. This is philosophically true because no one has complete control upon our decision or acts by himself. This is also morally and politically true because no one other than God has authority upon us and therefore needs to be served or obeyed. In a well known hadith, Imam Ali says:

“Do not be a servant of other people. God has created you free.”

Principle Three: Delegation of obedience

God, due to some benefits for us, may ask us to obey some people or groups of people, e.g. our parents. We obey our parents because God has asked us to obey them.184) As a result, if they want us to disobey God then we would not obey them. The general rule (without exception) is: There is no obedience to the creature in the disobedience of the Creator. Thus, when obeying the legitimate leader one first of all obeys God and then the position of leadership and not the person per se. Even the person who is a leader, he himself must respect the position of leadership and act according to his commands as a leader.

Principle Four: Authority of the Prophet

As we saw above, the authority or the right to be obeyed originally belongs to God, but God Himself may have given this authority in a limited or unlimited way to others. Above all, the Prophets were given this authority. Among the Prophets, some had more authorities including the authority to rule. The Holy Quran is very clear in this regard and we can find many verses about the Prophets who have had this position, e.g. the Prophet Abraham and the Prophet David.

The Prophet Muhammad was not just asked by God to recite and teach the Holy Quran; he was also asked to rule, that is, to implement the Quranic rulings in the socio-political life of the nation. The following verses indicate the necessity of obedience to the Holy Prophet:

'O you who believe! Obey God and obey the Apostle and those in authority from among you!' (4:59)

'The Prophet has a greater claim on the faithful than they have on themselves.' (33:6)185)

To have a better idea, we should note that there were three areas in which the Prophet exercised his authority:

First: Delivering Divine Message

For delivering the Message, he was answerable to God. Teaching Islam and delivering the Message involved reciting the Holy Quran to the people, teaching them the Holy Quran, teaching them moral values, and exemplifying in his life those values.

Second: Judgement

One of the roles of the Prophet Muhammad was to judge among the People. The Quran says:

'Surely We have revealed the Book to you with the truth that you may judge between people by means of that which God has taught you.' (4:105)

To judge is only for God, the Holy Prophet and those who are given authority by God. The Quran says:

'O David! Surely We have made you a ruler in the land; so judge between men with justice…' (38:26)

Therefore, if a judge is appointed by an unjust ruler, he has no authority to force people to abide by his judgement. It is a principle of Shia fiqh (jurisprudence) that the judge must be appointed by a just ruler who in turn gets his authority from God.

Third: Rule

The Prophet as reinforced by himself at Ghadeer al-Khum, had the position of wilayah, that is, the authority to rule and the people needed to obey him. The Prophet asked the crowd:

“Do I not have a greater right on your souls than you yourselves have on them?”

They answered with one voice:

“The Apostle of God has a greater right on our souls than we ourselves have on them”.

The Prophet has more authority on the believers than what they have on themselves. Why? This is because God has this authority and has given it to the Holy Prophet.

Principle Five: Delegation of the Prophet’s Authority to Imam Ali and successive Imams

In the same event, the Prophet was asked by God to transfer this same authority to Imam Ali. He was commanded to tell the people that which, if he did not tell, was as though he had not delivered the entire message.

“All those men and women who acknowledge me as their Master, I want them to acknowledge (at this point he held Imam Ali's hand and lifted it high over his head) Ali also as their Master. Ali is the Master of all those men and women whose Master I am.”

This indicates the point of delegation of the Holy Prophet's authority to Imam Ali by divine command.186) As soon as this announcement was made, the following verse was revealed:

“This day I have perfected for you, your religion and have completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam to be your religion.” (5:3)

We also read in the Quran:

“Only God is your Guardian and His Apostle and those who believe. Who perform prayer and pay alms while they bow”. 187) (5:55)

The Shi'a believe that the Imams who succeeded the Prophet continued the same roles in presenting Islam (teaching and preaching), judging and leading the society. The difference was that there was no further revelation after the demise of the Prophet; all knowledge of Imams was received from the Holy Prophet.

Principle Six: Delegation of the authority of Imams to the jurists

During the time of the occultation of the Imam Mahdi , in which they have no direct access to the Imam, the Shi'a fuqaha (jurists) inherit the authority which was originally given by God to the Prophet and then to the Imams. In what follows, I will first describe the concept of faqih and then refer to the extent of the authority that a Shi'a faqih has. Of course, a proper review of the topic needs a thorough discussion about the institution of marji'iyya and that of wilayat al-faqih (mandate of the jurist), including their requirements and responsibilities.

Who is a faqih?

A faqih or mujtahid or Ayatollah is the one who has the quality of ijtihad. Technically, ijtihad means 'the process of deriving religious rulings from their religious sources'. For example, it is the role of such person to discover Islamic view on banking or politics or international relations. Of course, the procedure is very sophisticated.188) Sometimes for one single fatwa (edict) to be issued, ijtihad might involve weeks of enquiry and investigation of religious sources. Obviously ijtihad must be based on revelation and reason.189)

The role of jurists in the time of minor occultation

The period of the presence of the Imams ended in the year 260AH, when Imam Askari was martyred. This period is called 'asr al-zuhur (the age of the presence), in contrast to 'asr al-ghaybah (the age of the occultation).

In the time of the presence of the Imams, the role of Shi'a jurists was not very complicated since most of the time there was more or less the possibility of referring to the Imams personally and asking them for guidance.190) Of course this was not always easy and free from risks. Therefore, during the time of the Imams, they trained a group of the companions to start ijtihad, to start deriving specific rules from general rules. In a clear and very well known hadith (narration), Imam Sadiq said to one of his companions:

“Our task is to give you the principles and your task is to derive the implications”.

There are also cases in which the Imams have asked some of their companions, e.g. Aban ibn Taghlib to issue fatwa for the Muslims.

After the martyrdom of Imam Askari, the Shi'a started to experience a new age in which they could not visit their Imam (i.e. the 12th Imam). This was the period of the minor occultation. The 12th Imam personally appointed four individuals (one after the other) to act as representatives for himself to the Shi'a community. These deputies of the Imam were called the nuwwab al-arbi'ah (the Four Deputies) including Uthman ibn Sa'id, his son, Mohammad ibn Uthman, Husayn b. Ruh and Ali b. Muhammad al-Saymuri respectively. When the Shi'a had questions for the Imam they referred to these deputies who then acted as a means of communication between the Shi'a and Imam Mahdi.

One reason for having this state was to prepare the Shi'a for the next age, which is known as ghaybat al-kubra (the major occultation). Before Ali ibn Mohammad died, Imam Mahdi gave him a message. This message was a condolence to the Shi'a for losing him (in advance) as he was the last means of communication to the Imam and a command to Ali b. Muhammad not to introduce anyone as the deputy after himself. So with the passing away of Ali b. Muhammad, the major occultation started. In this period no particular person was appointed as deputy and the age of generally appointed deputies (al-na'ib al-'amm) started.

The scope of the authority or deputyship of faqih is one of the most essential elements of the Shi'a political doctrine. In what follows I will try to briefly point out the main areas of this authority:

Authority in presenting Islamic rulings and issuing fatwa: A Faqih is the one who has the authority in presenting Islamic views on practical issues including moral and legal ones e.g. abortion, euthanasia, banking, insurance and marriage. With respect to the beliefs, everyone is responsible to investigate and inquire about the principles of the faith by himself and cannot rely on anyone. Of course, having proved the truth of the religion for himself, one can refer in details to the experts. Expertise needed for doctrinal issues include great knowledge of both intellectual and revealed theology and it is obvious that to be able to understand the revealed theology one needs to master the methodology of understanding the Quran and the Sunnah which is provided in fiqh and its principles.

It has to be noted that a faqih or any other scholar has no authority to legislate or alter the laws. His role is just to do his best to understand the religious position by scholarly consulting the Scriptures and reason.

This type of authority is unanimously accepted.

Authority in judging: This is also unanimously accepted.

Authority in administering hisbah affairs: It is unanimously accepted that a Faqih is responsible for administering hisbah affairs i.e. those things that we know for sure the Legislator is not pleased with them being ignored or unattended, even though they are not as such or primarily obligatory. For example, if there is an orphan who possesses some money but he has no guardian to look after his money to his best interest all Shi'a faqihs say that this is responsibility of the just faqih to undertake such task. Or if there are properties whose owners are unknown it would be again the responsibility of faqih to protect them from being wasted. Any social affair with whose negligence the Legislator is not pleased, thus, must be undertaken and supervised by the just faqih.

Authority in ruling the society: As we saw above, there is no doubt among the Shi'a scholars that the faqih has responsibility and authority for getting somehow involved in socio-political spheres. Islam is to bring happiness by offering a comprehensive plan of life and it is job of the faqih to understand, present and implement this plan. No one can remain indifferent in respect to what happens in the society and the knowledgeable people have greater responsibility.

Unlike some faqihs who had the idea that the authority of faqih in socio-political affairs is limited to hisbah affairs, some have had the idea that the Faqhi has all the power needed to rule the society. The Ayatollah Khomeini has said:

'By authority we mean governance, the administration of the country and the implementation of the sacred laws of the Shari'ah. This constitutes a serious and difficult duty but does not earn anyone an extraordinary status or raise him above the level of common humanity. In other words, authority here has the meaning of a government, administration and execution of law. Contrary to what many people believe, it is not a privilege but a grave responsibility.'191)

This is echoed in the constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran as follows:

'The powers of government in the Islamic Republic of Iran are vested in the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive powers, functioning under the supervision of the absolute religious leader and the leadership of the Ummah.' (Article 57)

Thus, it becomes clear that in Shia Islam the authority primarily belongs to God and then to the people with whom God is pleased. After the Prophets and Imams, just faqihs are granted such authority. The main requirement for having such authority is justice and deep acquaintance with the religious sources, i.e. the Quran, the Sunnah and reason. Reason is one source and at the same time reason helps us to define the proper method for understanding the first two (the Quran & Sunnah). Once again it becomes clear how important reason, justice and piety are for Shia Islam.


# Notes:

1) Al-Muzaffar, The Faith of Shica Islam, second edition (Qum: Ansariyan Publications, 1986), p. 17.
2) Murtada, al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 234.
3) Hayakl, The Life, p. lxxiii.
4) Ibid., p. 197 ; Haykal, Hayat, p. 133. The Mission began with the following verses: In the name of Allah the Compassionate the Merciful “Read in the name of your Lord the Creator; Who created man from a clot; Read, your Lord is most Generous …” (The Quran, 96 : 1-3
5) Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirah, Vol. 1, p. 263 ; Haykal, The Life, p. 70 ; Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 192 etc.
6) Haykal, The Life, p. 70.
7) Ibn Hisham, al-Sira, Vol. 1, p. 293 ; Haykal, The Life, p. 70 ; Murtada, al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 197 etc. Al-Tabari, in his history, mentions three sayings concerning the age of the Prophet at the time of the Mission. Besides those that say that Muhammad was forty when the first revelation came down to him, there is one hadith that advocates that the Prophet was forty three, and another that selects twenty as his age when he became the Apostle of God. See: al-Tabari, Tarikh, Vol. 2, pp. 290-292.
8) , 16) Haykal, The Life, p. 73.
9) Ibid., p. 70; Murtada, al-Sahih, p. 192
10) Tabari, Tarikh, Vol. 2, p. 293 ; Majlisi, Bihar, Vol. 15, p. 190 ; Murtada, al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 192.
11) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 192, quoting from Halabi, al-Sira, Vol. 1, p. 384, and Majlisi Bihar, Vol. 18, pp. 190 & 204.
12) The Quran, 73 : 5.
13) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 195.
14) Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirah, Vol. 1, p. 267.
15) Ibn Kathir, Al-Sirah, Vol. 1, pp. 387-388.
17) Wessels, Biography, p. 55.
18) Haykal, The Life, p. 74.
19) In Haykal’s Hayat, p. 133, footnote 2, it is mentioned that Ibn Kathir, in his Tarikh, cites al-Hafiz Abu Na‘im . The reference should be to Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah and not to Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh since the latter is written by Ibn Athir and not by Ibn Kathir. This is apparently a mistake either by the author or by the translator. In all events, the above-mentioned passage is in fact cited from Ibn Kathir’s Sirah, Vol. 1, pp. 387 & 388.
20) Ibid.; Hayat, p. 133, footnote.
21) See: Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, (Al-Madinah: Islamic University, Arabic-English edition translated by Muhammad Muhsin Khan, 1971.) Vol. 1, p. 2-3, hadith 3.
22) The Quran, 96: 1-2.
23) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, pp. 197 & 223.
24) Nowhere in his Hayat Muhammad, does Haykal cite any reference on which he relies for his description. However, in the footnote, it is mentioned that Ibn Ishaq advocated the same idea and that the books of the sirah also reported the same. See: Haykal, Hayat, p. 133, footnote 2.
25) Ibid., pp. 74-75.
26) Ja‘far Subhani, a contemporary Shia scholar was educated in Qum under the supervision of some of the great ayatollahs, among whom was the late Imam Khomeyni. he is presently professor of jurisprudence, philosophy and theology in the Islamic Seminaries of Qum. So far, he has written a great number of books in different areas, among which are his two analytical volumes on the biography of the Prophet in Persian, entitled Furugh-i Abadiyat.
27) Cf. Subhani, Furugh-i Abadiyat, eighth edition (Qum: Summer 1993), Vol. 1, p. 228; Haykal, Hayat, p. 40.
28) Wessels, Biography, p. 43.
29) Ibid., the author’s preface to the second edition, p. lxxii.
30) Haykal, The Life, p. 72.
31) Ibid., pp.73-75.
32) Bukhari, Sahih (Arabic-English edition), Vol. 1, pp. 2 & 3.
33) The Quran, 96: 1-3.
34) Bukhari, Sahih (Arabic-English edition), Vol. 1, pp. 3 & 4.
35) Here Murtada analyzes the story as a typical traditional hadith scholar.
36) Murtada, Al-Sahih, v. 1, p. 221, citing Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Sharh, Vol. 4, p. 102 ; Majlisi, Bihar, Vol. 46, p. 143.
37) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 221, citing Bayhaqi, Al-Sunan al-Kubra, 1st edition (Haydarabad al-Dakkan, Hind: 1925), Vol. 8, pp. 165-166.
38) Ibid., p. 222.
39) , 89) , 96) , 151) Ibid.
40) Kazim Mudir Shanichi, ‘Ilm al-Hadith wa Dirayat al-Hadith, 3rd edition, (Qum: Daftar Intisharat Islami, 1990), pp. 160-161. The author mentions that al-Suyuti related ten different ideas regarding the subject of authenticity and inauthenticity of mursal.
41) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, pp. 222 & 223.
42) Ibid., pp. 17-30.
43) Ibid., p. 225.
44) Bukhari, Sahih (Arabic-English edition), v. 1, pp. 2-3.
45) Ibn Ishaq, The Life, p. 105.
46) Ibid. ; Murtada, Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 226, citing Ibn Hisham, Al- Sirah, Vol. 1, pp. 264 & 265. Here Murtada does not deal with the details.
47) The Quran, 16:102.
48) Ibid., 25:32.
49) Ibid., 6:57.
50) Ibid., 12:108 ; Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 226.
51) For more details see: Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol.1, pp. 226-233.
52) Ibid., pp. 220 & 233 ; Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah, Vol. 3, p. 13.
53) , 94) , 123) Ibid.
54) Abu ‘Abdullah Ja‘far b. Muhammad, the sixth Imam of the Shia called al-Sadiq (83-148/702-765).
55) Murtada, Al-Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 223, citing Majlisi, Bihar, Vol. 18, p. 262.
56) Ibid., citing Majlisi, Bihar, Vol. 11, p. 59.
57) Ibid., citing al-Tabarsi, Majma‘ , Vol. 5, p. 384.
58) For instance, see: Subhani, Furugh Abadiyat, Vol. 1, pp. 213-237 ; Rasuli, Tarikh, Vol. 2, pp. 189-236.
59) See: Haykal, The Life, p. xxiv, Foreword to the first edition, by al-Maraghi, 15, Feb., 1935.
60) Muzaffar, the faith, pp. 21-22.
61) See e.g. Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. , p. 56, p. 177.
62) See also the verse 42:3.
63) See also the verses 33:2; 45:18; 45:19 and 5:47.
64) See also the verses 4:69; 4:70 and 33:71.
65) See also the verses 4:15; 4:42 and 5:49.
66) See also the verses 4:105, 24:47, 24:48, 24:49, 24:50, 24:51 and 24:52.
67) 1 Rizâ Sadr, al-Ijtihâd wa al-Taqlîd (Beirût: Dâr al-Kutub al-Lubnânî, 1976), p. 15.
68) 2 Wael Bahjat Hallaq, “The Gate of Ijtihâd: A Study In Islamic Legal History”, Ph. D. dissertation University of Washington, 1983, p.13. See also Muhammad ibn Musâ Shâtibî, al-Muwâfiqât fi Ahªwâl al-Sharî‘ah, vol. 4, (Beirût: Dâr al-Kutub al-‘Ilmîyyah, 19–), p. 66.
69) Bernard G. Weiss, The Search for God's Law: Islamic jurisprudence in the writing of Sayf al-Dîn al-Âmidî (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1992), p. 683. See also Sayf al-Dîn al-Âmidî, al-Ihkâm fî Usûl al-Ahkâm, Vol. 4, (Cairo: Dâr al-Hadîth, 19–), p. 218, where this definition of ijtihâd can be found: “Istifrâghu al-wus‘ fî tahqîq-i amrin min al-umûr mustalzimin lil-kulfati wal-mashaqqah.”
70) Bernard G. Weiss, “Ijtihâd”, The Encyclopedia of Religion, vol. 7, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987), p. 92. See also W. B. Hallaq, “On the Origins of the Controversy about the Existence of Mujtahida and the Gate of Ijtihâd”, Studia Islamica, vol. 63 (1986), pp.132-3.
71) Âmidî, al-Ihkâm, p. 247. Âmidî himself is in this group. I will discuss his ideas below. According to Âmidî, Ibn Furak and Abû Ishâq al-Isfarâ’inî are also members. See John Cooper, trans. “‘Allâmah Hillî on the Imamate and Ijtihâd”, in Authority and Political Culture in Islam, ed. S. Amir Arjomand (Albany: State University of New York, 1988), p. 245. Hillî adds to this group Bishr al-Marîsî (d. 218/833).
72) Âmidî, al-Ihkâm, p. 246. Among those who supported this position Âmidî mentions Abû Bakr al-Bâqillânî, Abû al-Hudhayl al-`Allâf (d. 226/840-41 or 235/849-50), the first systematic theologian of the Mu‘tazilî school, Abû Alî al-Jubbâ'î (d. 303/915-6), and his son Abû Hâshim (d. 321/933) the famous Mu‘tazilî theologians. See also John Cooper, “‘Allâmah Hillî on the Imamate and Ijtihâd”, p. 245.
73) Aron Zysow, The Economy of Certainty: An Introduction to the Typology of Islamic Legal Theory (Cambridge Mass. : Harvard University, 1984), p. 459.
74) al-Bâqilânî, Mankhûl, p. 453 (quoted in A. Zysow, The Economy of Certainty, p. 459).
75) A. Zysow, The Economy of Certainty, p. 460.
76) Ibid. See also R. Sadr, al-Ijtihâd wa al-Taqlîd, p. 19.
77) B. G. Weiss, The Search for God's Law, p. 683. See also Âmidî, Ihkâm, p. 218.
78) See al-‘Allâmah Hillî, Mabâdi al-Wusûl 'ilâ ‘Ilm al-Usûl (Beirut: al-Dâr al-Islâmîyyah, 1970), p. 24. See also Sheikh Hasan b. Zayn al-Dîn Shahîd Thânî, Ma‘âlim al-Usûl, ed. Mahdî Muhaghigh (Tehran: Shirkat-i Intishârât-i `Ilmî wa Farhangî, 1985), p. 268. See also al-Âkhûnd Muhammad Kâåim al-Khurâsânî, Kifâyat al-Usûl (Qum: Mu'assisah Âl al-Bayt, 1990), p. 464.
79) Murtadâ Mutahharî, “Ijtihad in the Imâmîyah Tradition”, trans. Mahliqâ Qarâ'î, Al-Tawhîd, vol. 4 (1986-87), pp. 29-30.
80) The Sunnah is the narrative recording the divinely sanctioned customs of the Prophet (and thirteen infallible memebers of his household).
81) M. Mutahharî, “Ijtihad in the Imâmîyah Tradition”, pp. 26-7; A. Zysow, The Economy of Certainty, p. 462. Zysow states that the objection against analogy had been raised earlier (than Abû Ya‘lâ b. al-Farrâ) by al-Shaykh al-Mufîd in a disputation with al-Bâqilânî.
82) Bernard G. Weiss, “Ijtihâd”, The Encyclopedia of Religion, vol. 7, p. 91.
83) M. Mutahharî, “Ijtihad in the Imâmîyyah Tradition”, pp. 27-8.
84) J. Calmard, “Mudjtahid” in The Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd ed. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 19–), vol. 7. p. 297.
85) Murtadâ Mutahharî, “The Role of Ijtihad in Legislation”, trans. Mahliqâ Qarâ'î, Al-Tawhîd, vol. 4 (1986-7), p. 28.
86) R. Sadr, al-Ijtihâd wa al-Taqlîd, p. 33.
87) B. G. Weiss, The Search for God's Law, p. 700.
88) M. Mutahharî, “The Role of Ijtihad in Legislation”, p. 28. See also Muhammad Bâqir al-Sadr, al-Ma‘âlim al-Jadîdah lil-Usûl (Tehran: Maktabat al-Najâh, 1975) pp. 38-9.
90) I believe this term al-‘Aqlîyât has the connotation that no text is available to aid in rendering a judgment.
91) al-Jâhiz (160/776 - 255/868-9), the famous man of letters and Mu‘tazilî theologian of the Basran school.
92) ‘Ubayd Allah b. al-Hasan b. al-Husayn al-‘Anbari (105/723 - 168/785), a Basran jurist and traditionalist.
93) J. Cooper, “ ‘Allāmah Hilli on the Imamate and Ijtihād”, p. 245.
95) B. G. Weiss, The Search for God's Law, p. 702.
97) Ibid. See also R. Sadr, al-Ijtihâd wa al-Taqlîd, p. 35-6.
98) Sadr, Ibid.
99) B. G. Weiss, The Search for God's Law, p. 702. See also Âmidî, al-Ihkâm, p. 262.
100) A. Zysow, The Economy of Certainty, p. 480-1.
101) J. Cooper, “‘Allâmah Hillî on the Imamate and Ijtihâd,” p. 245. See also M. K. al-Khurâsânî, Kifâyat al-Usûl, p. 468-9. See A. Hillî, Mabâdi al-Wusûl 'ilâ ‘Ilm al-Usûl, p. 244; See also H. Z. Shahîd Thânî, Ma‘âlim al-Usûl, p. 272-3.
102) Norman Calder, “Doubt and Prerogative: The Emergence of an Imâmî Shî'î Theory of Ijtihâd” in Studia Islamica, vol. 70 (1989), p. 71.
103) Bukhârî, 4:23; Mîzân, f. 204a (quoted in A. Zysow, The Economy of Certainty, p. 483).
104) Arthur Pap, Elements of Analytic Philosophy (New York: Macmillan, 1949), pp. 372-73 (quoted in A. Zysow, The Economy of Certainty, p. 483).
105) Al-Kāfī, Vol. 5, pp. 111 & 112; Bihār Al-Anwār, Vol. 50, pp. 86 & 87.

106) Mohammad b. Ma‘ruf Hilalī said: “I went Hirah to Ja‘far b. Sadiq [Imam Sadiq] (A.S.). I could not reach him because of the many people around him, until the fourth day he saw me and took me beside himself. He went on pilgrimage to Imam Ali’s shrine after people went away, while I was his companion and heard what he stated. (Dr. Gorji, Tārīkh Fiqh wa Fuqahā’, p. 115, quoted from Rijāl Najāshi) Hasan b. ‘Ali b. Ziyād and Sha’ told Ibn ‘Īsa: “I saw 900 Sheikhs in this mosque (Kūfah Mosque), all of whom would say: ‘Haddathani Ja’far b. Mohammad [Imam Ja’far Sadiq]’”. Hafiz Abu al-‘Abbās b. Uqdah Hamidānī Kūfī (died 333 A.H) has written a book about the names of whom had quoted from Imam Sādiq and has introduced 4000 persons. During the time of Imam Baqir and Imam Sadiq,, hadithes spread so much among Shī‘ites that had never spread before in any period or religion. (ref. Faḍli, ’Abdul Hādī, pp. 203 & 204) This period is called the period of spreading knowledge of ‘Aal-e Muhammad. (Ibid., p. 95

107) To know the number and the names of ‘Askarīyān’s pupils and companions ref. Tārīkh al-Tashrī‘ al-Islāmī. Sheikh Tūsī counts the number of Imam Hādī’s pupils in different fields as 185; among whom are distinguished people such as: Faḍl b. Shādhān, Husayn b. Sa‘id Ahwazi, Ayub b. Nuh, Abu ‘Ali Hasan b. Rāshid, Hasan b. ‘Ali Nāsir Kabīr, ‘Abdul ‘Azīm Hasani, ‘Utmān b. Sa‘id Ahwazi, some of whom have definitive works and publications in different fields of Islamic sciences. (Al-Rijāl, Sheikh Tūsī, pp. 409 - 429) and also ref. Hayāt al-Imām al-Hādī, pp. 170 – 230. Some researchers have counted the number of Imam ‘Askarī’s pupils and transmitters of his Hadiths up to 213; ref. Ḥayāt al-Imām al-‘Askarī, pp. 345 – 413. The author of A‘yān al-Shī‘ah also says: “Different sciences and knowledge acquired from Imam ‘Askarī have filled papers of books.” A‘yān al-Shī‘ah, Vol. 1, p. 40.

108) Hayāt al-Imām al-‘Askarī, pp. 287-295.
109) Tawhīd, p. 224.
110) Hayāt al-Imām al-‘Askarī, p.316.
111) Ibid. p.324
112) Ibid. p.325
113) Ibid. p.324
114) Al-Ghaybah, Sheikh al-Ṭūsī, p. 139 (cited in Tārīkh Siyasī Gheybat-e Imam-e Davāzdahom, p.78); Biḥār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, p.251; Manāqib, Vol. 4, p.432; Dalāil al-Imamah, p.226.
115) Al-Irshād, p. 333; Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, p. 200; Ithbāt al-Wasiyyah, p. 225 (cited in Tārīkh Siyasī Gheybat-e Emam-e Davāzdahom, p.83).
116) Imam himself stated: “They brought me from Medina to Samarra forcibly.” (Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, p. 129
117) Muruj al-Dhahab, Vol. 4, p. 93; Al-Irshād, Vol. 2, p. 303.
118) Dr. Jāsim Hussain wrote that: “Imamate [deputies’] network let its followers to work inside Abbasid Caliphate’s government; therefore, Mohammad b. Isma‘il b. Bazi, Ahmad b. Hamzah b. Qommī took prominent positions in ministry. (Rijāl Najāshī, p.254) Nooh b. Darrāj first became Baghdad’s judge and then Kūfah’s judge and he concealed his faith during his working life because his relatives were among Imam Javād’s officials. (Rijāl Najāshī, pp. 80 - 98) Some of the other Shias like Husayn b. ‘Abdullah Neishabūrī became Sīstān’s governor and Hakam b. ‘Ulyā As‘adī was elected as the governor of Bahrain. Both these people paid Khums (the one fifth tax) to Imam Javād that suggested their allegiance to the Ninth Imam (Al-Kāfī, Vol. 5, p. 111); (Al-Istibsār, Vol. 2, p. 58); Tārīkh Siyāsī Gheybat-e Emām-e Davāzdahom, p. 79.
119) Ref. Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, pp. 140, 254, 269, 270 and 298.
120) Ref. Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, pp. 259, 304; also ref. Hayāt al-Imām al-‘Askarī, pp. 261- 266.

121) Ref. Tārīkh Siyāsī Gheybat-e Emām-e Davāzdahom, pp. 85 – 89; Many historians like Isfahānī say that ‘Alawwiān’s uprisings in 250 – 251 A.H began in Kufah, Tabaristān, Rey, Qazvīn, Egypt and Hijāz. It is possible that these uprisings had been led by one group or more precisely, one leader…. Despite the Zaydi frontier of the uprising, many devoted Shi‘ās were involved. The leader of the insurgents was Yahya b. ‘Umar who was assassinated (250 A.H.) while he was praised by Abu al-Qāsim Ja’farī, Imam Hādī’s deputy and gained his favor. (Tabarī, Vol. 3, p. 1522) Additionally, Mas‘ūdī said that Ali b. Mūsā b. Ismā‘īl b. Mūsā al-Kādhim joined in the Rey’s uprising but the caliph arrested him. Because this person was the grandchild of Ismā’īl b. Mūsā al-Kādhim and served as an envoy of Twelvers in Egypt, it seems highly likely that his uprising was for Twelvers’ support (Murūj al-Zahab, Vol. 7, p. 404). In addition, relevant information about secret activities of Twelvers and their role in the uprising is mentioned by Tabarī. Government officials considered the uprising to be by Zaydis rather than Twelvers. Mas‘ūdī also said that ‘Abbāsī spies discovered some correspondence between the leader of the uprising in Tabarestan called Hasan b. Zayd and his nephew, Mohammad b. ‘Ali b. Khalaf al-‘Atār. Both of them were devotees of Imam Hādī (Tabarī, Vol. 3, pp. 1362, 1383; Ikhtiār, p. 68). The Twelvers denied anyone among ‘Alawis who claimed to be the promised Mahdi, but they used to support some ‘Alawis’ uprisings who were loyal to them. We can conclude that Imams planned two ways to reach their goals. First they developed scientific, cultural and religious activities among people without their explicit engagement in political affairs. Next, they covertly supported some of the uprisings of their devotees in the hope that they could gain the power.

122) Wasā’il al-Shī‘a, Vol. 11, p. 160.
124) Ibid. p. 464.
125) Nahj al-Balāghah, Sermon 3 (known as Shaqshaqiyyah).
126) Wasāil al-Shī‘ā, Vol. 11, p. 466 (quoted from Ibn Idrīs, Sarā’ir); Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, p. 181.
127) Al-‘Ihtijāj, Vol. 2, p. 266 (quoted from Hayāt al-Imām al-‘Askarī, p.240).
128) Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, p. 269. (quoted from Hayāt al-Imām al-‘Askarī, p. 237
129) Ithbāt al-Wasiyyah, p. 243. (quoted from Hayāt al-Imām al-‘Askarī, p.238
130) Refer to Hayāt al-Imām al-‘Askarī, pp. 223 – 232. Among those cities are: Kūfa, Baghdad, Neyshābūr, Qom, Ābeh, Madāin, Khurāsān, Yemen, Rey, Āzarbāyjān, Samarra, Jurjān, Basra and tens of other cities. (Ibid.
131) Kendī, Wulātu Misr, p. 177 (cited in Tārīkh Siyāsī Gheybat-e Emām-e Davāzdahom, pp. 83 & 849.
132) Muruj al-Dhahab, Vol. 4, p. 106; Al-Kāfī, Vol. 1, p. 500.
133) Refer to Al-Kāfī, Vol. 1, p. 500.
134) Manāqib, Vol. 4, p. 411; Biḥār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, p. 127.
135) Sayyid b. Tāwūs, Kashf al-Muhajjah, p. 124.
136) Maqātil al-Tālibiyyin, p. 599 (cited in Hayat al-Imām al-Hādī, trans. by Sayyid Hasan Islāmī, p. 326.)
137) Muruj al-Dhahab, Vol. 4, p. 86; cf. Al-Fihrist, pp. 116 – 117.
138) Al-Kāfī, Vol. 1, p. 499; Al-Irshād, Vol. 2, p. 302.
139) Tārīkh Ya‘qūbī, Vol. 3, p. 209 (quoted from: Hayāt al-Imām al-Hādī, trans. by Sayyid Hasan Islāmī, p. 326.
140) Mir’āt al-Zamān, Vol. 9, p. 553; Ibn Jawzī, Tadhkirat al-Khawāss, p. 359 (quoted from: Hayāt al-Imām al-Hādī, trans. by Sayyid Hasan Islāmī, p. 263); Biḥār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, p. 203.
141) A’lām al-Warā, p. 346; Manāqib, Vol. 4, p. 407; Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 5, p. 182.
142) Manāqib, Vol. 4, p. 407; A‘lām al-Warā, p. 343; Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, p. 137.
143) Ma’āthir al-Kubarā, Vol. 3, p. 94 (Hayāt al-Imām al-Hādī, trans. by Sayyid Ḥasan Islāmī, pp. 25 & 26.).
144) Biḥār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, p. 207; Tadhkirat al-Khawāss, p. 22 (quoted from Biḥār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, p. 201).

145) Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, pp 144 & 145; the rest of the story is: “My father encouraged him. After a while, he left Baghdad and set out for Samarra. Some days later Yusuf came back to our home happily. My father asked him about what had happened. He said: “It was the first time I have been in Samarra and I would like to give my present to Ibn al-Riḍā (Imam Hādī) before going to Mutawakkil. But I found out that Mutawakkil did not let him go out of home and he was always at home. I wondered what to do. If I asked for his address, I would cause myself more trouble. For a while I was looking for a solution before a thought crossed my mind. I got on my animal and let him go wherever he wanted. He passed quarters and markets (bazaars) one after another, until he stopped in front of a house and refused to go farther. I felt that house was Imam’s, so I wanted my slave to ask whose house was that. The slave asked and told me it was Ibn al-Riḍā’s. “O’ My God! Swear by God, It is an obvious sign!” I thought to myself. Suddenly a black slave came out of the house and asked me: “Are you Yusuf b. Ya‘qūb?” I said: “Yes”. He told me to get off the animal and I did. Then he guided me through a corridor into the house. I thought to myself he called me by my name, while nobody knew me in that town, so I considered it as another sign. Soon after, the slave came back and said: “Give me those one hundred dinars that you have hidden inside your sleeve.” I gave them to him and thought to myself that it was the third sign. He took them to Imam, then he came back and let me go in. I went in and saw Imam was sitting alone. He gave me an affectionate look and said: “Is not it the time to come to the right way and become guided?” I said: “O’ My lord! I saw enough obvious signs and proofs to be guided.” But Imam said: “Alas! You will not submit to Islam, but your son will soon submit to Islam and will become Shī‘ite. O’ Yusuf! Some people think that our love and friendship is not beneficial for ones like you. Swear by God, they are telling lies. Go on to see Mutawakkil and be sure your wish will be fulfilled. Hibatallah added: “After Yusuf passed away, I met his son. He was a Muslim and a real faithful Shī‘ite. He told me that his father had died as a Christian, but he [Yusuf’s son] converted to Islam and became one of the real friends of the Prophet’s household. He would always say that: “I am the good tiding of my patron – ‘Ali al-Hādī”.

146) Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 5, p. 148.
147) Manāqib, Vol. 4, p. 430; Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, p. 309; Al-Irshād, p. 324.
148) Kamāl al-Dīn wa Tamām al-Ni‘mah, p. 479.
149) Kamāl al-Dīn wa Tamām al-Ni‘mah, p. 41; Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, p. 327 (quoted from Kamāl al-Dīn wa Tamām al-Ni‘mah) To know more about his talk to Ja‘far, Imam ‘Askarī’s brother in paying respect to Imam see cf. Kamāl al-Dīn wa Tamām al-Ni‘mah, p. 44; Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, p. 329.
150) Kamāl al-Dīn wa Tamām al-Ni‘mah, p. 42; Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, p. 327.
152) Madīnat al-Ma’ājiz, p. 570 (cited in Hayāt al-Imām al-‘Askarī, p. 97).
153) Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 5, p. 261 (cited in Al-Kharā’ij, Vol. 1, p. 422).
154) Āthār Jāhiz, p. 235 (cited in Al-Hayāt al-Siyāsiyah lī’l-Imām al-Rīḍā, p. 403).
155) Safīnat al-Bihār, Vol. 1, p. 260 (cited in Hilyat al-‘Abrār, Vol. 2, p. 268 (cited in Hayāt al-Imām al-‘Askarī, p. 98).
156) Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 50, p. 261 (cited in Ibid.) To know more about these two occurrences and Imam’s meeting with them refer to above mentioned sources.
157) Ṭūsī, Al-Ghaybah, p. 128; Dalā’il al-Imāmah, p. 226.
158) A‘lām al-Warā, p. 372 (cited in Hayāt al-Imām al-‘Askarī, trans. by Sayyid Hasan Islāmī, p. 64).
159) By “reason” we mean an instrument or a faculty of understanding of theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge. With the first, we can obtain some knowledge about existing things in the world, and with the second we can acquire some knowledge about what humans must or must not do. In other words, reason enables us to know what is there in the world and ability to know what one ought to do. For example, see Mohammad Taghi Misbah Yasdi, Dorus-e Falsafe-ye Akhlagh, Ettela‘at Publications, Tehran, 1994.

160) Al-Ghazali, a renowned Sunni thinker from the Ash‘arite tradition, divides theological issues into three categories: issues that can only be known through religious sources, issues that can only be known with the intellect, and issues that can be known in both ways. He mentions the visibility of God (according to the Ash‘arites, God is visible, at least in the Hereafter) as an example for the first category and exclusiveness of creating movements to God for the second category. With respect to cases in which both intellect and naql (transmitted knowledge) have judgement, al-Ghazali adds that whenever we receive something from religious sources, we have to see what the rational judgement is. If intellect allows us to do so we have to follow the religious sources. But if that thing is rationally impossible we have to interpret that text in another way, since there is no disharmony or contradiction between religion and intellect. Then, al-Ghazali adds that in cases in which intellect is silent again we have to accept and follow the demands of religious sources. He insists that rational permission for possibility of something is not required. What is really required is to be free from rational impossibility. “There is a [subtle] difference between these two, which unintelligent people sometimes fail to recognise.” [Al-Iqtisaad fi al-I‘tiqaad, (Arabic), p. 133]

161) Things which are understood through personal intuitions or mystical experiences are valid for the very person who has had these intuitions or experiences, and is certain about the truth and validity of them or beliefs which are based on them. However, these are not included in our discussion here, partly because this sort of knowledge cannot be communicated through discussion or argumentation to others. The only way to learn and accept these issues is to undergo the same experiences.
162) Ussul al-Kaafi, Vol. 1, p.11.
163) Ibid., p. 13.
164) For example, we read in a divine saying (al-hadith al-qudsi) in Usul al-Kafi, the Book of Reason & Ignorance that “God rewards and punishes people in proportion to their reason”.
165) Tabataba’i, Shia Islam, Part II, “Outstanding Intellectual Figures of Shiasm”.
166) Richard, p. 61.

167) M. R. Muzaffar in his commentary on reason says the following: We believe that Allah has endowed us with the faculty of the intellect (‘aql), and that He has ordered us to ponder over His Creation, noting with care the signs of His Power and His Glory throughout the entire universe as well as within ourselves. It is stated in the Quran: “We shall show them Our signs on the horizons and in themselves, till it is clear to them that it is the Truth.” (41:53) Allah has shown His disapproval of those who blindly follow the ways of those who were before them: “They say: ‘No, but we will follow such things as we found our fathers doing’. What! And if their fathers had no understanding of anything.” (2:170) And He has shown His dislike for those who follow nothing but their own personal whims: “They follow naught but an opinion.” (6:117) Indeed, our intellect forces us to reflect upon Creation so as to know the Creator of the universe, just as it makes it necessary for us to examine the claims of someone to prophethood and to consider the truth of his miracles. It is not correct to accept the ideas of someone without criticism, even if that person has the gift of great knowledge or holds an esteemed position.

168) Having verified the truth of the Prophet or the Quran, we come to know many things that we were unable to know by ourselves, because of our lack of access to certain realms of reality or certain evidence.
169) In this regard, George Hourani says: “It (Ash‘arite view, or what he calls ‘theistic subjectivism’, or what others have called ‘ethical voluntarism’) is not peculiar to Islam, since it occurs in medieval Judaism and occasionally in western thought; but it was probably more prominent and widespread in Islam than in any other civilization.” (1985, p. 57

170) Despite some differences in positions of the Shia and the Mu‘tazilites, they are both called “ahl al-‘adl” (the people of justice), because they both believe in independent moral values and in the existence of rational criteria for judging what is good and what is bad, and because a proper defence of the principle of divine justice depends on the belief in independent and rational good and evil.
171) . Imam Ali, Nahj al- Balaghah, Sermons, no. 86.
172) Quran, 2:285. This verse indicates that the believers are those who believe that Allah, His angels, His books and His apostles are true.
173) Quran, 49:15. This verse indicates that the believers are only those who believe that Allah and His Apostle are true.
174) Quran, 27:14.
175) Imam Ali, Nahj al- Balaghah, Sayings, no. 227.
176) According to the Glorious Quran, the objects of faith include: God (2:62) and His attributes (67:29); the day of Judgment (2:62); God’s Apostles and His revelations to the apostles (2:285; 3:53); God’s Angels (2:285) and the invisible world (2:3).
177) Al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, the Book of Reason and Ignorance, no. 14.
178) . Ibid., no. 34.
179) Ibid., the Book of Faith and Disbelief, “Bab al-hubb fi Allah wa ai-bughd fi Allah”, No. 6, p.126.
180) Ibid, No. 5, p. 125.
181) Al-Majlisi, 1983, Kitab al-iman wal-kufr, “Bab al-hubb fi Allah wa al-bughd fi Allah”, lxvi, p. 238.
182) Quran, 2: 257.
183) See also the verses: 8:29 & 20:123.
184) Obedience here does not mean inferiority. Even the Prophets had to obey their parents.
185) See also the verses: 5:55 and 59:7.
186) For a comprehensive list of non-Shi'a sources of this hadith, see numerous volumes of ‘Abaqaat al-Anwaar by Mir Haamid Husayn al-Hindi (d. 1306 A.H.) and Al- Ghadir by ‘Abd al-Husayn al-Amini (d. 1390 A.H.).
187) For more information about this verse and some debates that have arisen by the verse among Shi’a and Sunni scholars refer to: Sharafud-Din, Abdul Husayn, Al- Muraja’at, translated from Arabic to English by Yasin T al-Jibouri, World Ahlul-bayt Islamic League (WABIL), pp. 173-180.

188) Ijtihad is a very demanding qualification and involves deep knowledge of several disciplines and mastering several skills. Nowadays it usually takes around twenty years or even more of hard study to become a well-established mujtahid. However, the time taken is somewhat dependant on one’s talents. Thus, it becomes clear that in the Shia thought respect for and obedience to the faqih is respect for and obedience to knowledge and piety that qualify someone to have such a position and not to the person as such. The Shia follow the most knowledgeable and the most pious jurist, since he is the person who would be most likely to represent the views of the Prophet and the Imams.
189) The methodology of understanding religious rulings from the sources is well studied in the science of the principles of jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh).
190) We say most of the time because during this period it was not always possible to refer to the Imams, especially when they were under house arrest, e.g. the 10th and 11th Imams, and the Shia had no easy access to them. Or sometimes the Shia were living in some cities far away.
191) Ayatollah Khomeini, Islam and Revolution, pp. 62-62.

"Message of Thaqalayn: A Quarterly Journal of Islamic Studies"

Editor-in Chief: Mohammad Ali Shomali
Editor: Fatima Khimji

Editorial Board:
Hujatul Islam Mohammad Hasan Akhtari, Secretary General, the Ahlul Bayt World Assembly
Hujatul Islam Abdulhusein Moezzi, Diretor, the Islamic Centre of England
Hujatul Islam Dr Ahmad Rahnamaei, Assistant Professor, the Imam Khomeini Education & Research Institute, Qum
Dr Muhamamd Legenhausen, Professor, the Imam Khomeini Education & Research Institute, Qum
Dr Karim Aghili


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