The intellectual criteria of a Marja’ – Part 1 – The Quranic meaning of ‘fiqh’

The Shia School prides itself in opening the door for ijtihad from the first days of Islam, but I will not dwell on its importance here and the evidence for its need to keep up with the changing times, since there is no disagreement on this aspect (although there are different views in defining ijtihad [1]). Shaheed Al Sadr says: ‘Ijtihad allows the muslims to apply islamic theory to daily life, since pracitcal application cannot happen until ijtihad defines the theory and its details.’ [2]

The differences in opinion arose with differing views on the role of the mujtahid and the extent of his responsibilities (although the responsibilites are clearly stated in the Quran and narrations as we’ll see below..).

Imam Khomeini’s view on Ijtihad: ‘We have limited ourselves to a small part of juristic laws, and left many aspects untouched and therefore many aspects of ijtihad remain strange to us.’ [3] He saw that the ijtihad being performed at the religious seminaries was not enough to tackle all the issues faced by the muslim nations, due to the wrong understanding of ijtihad and intellectual standstill due to the focus on the individual and not the society as a whole. The solution he proposed was: ‘Islam deals with all aspects of life, and gave corresponding laws for each (aspect).’

This is where the correct understanding of fiqh becomes critical in understanding the correct purpose of ijtihad and the correct role of the mujtahid. And, as always, to establish the correct meaning of any religious concept, we must go to the Quran:

وَمَا كَانَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لِيَنفِرُ‌وا كَافَّةً ۚ فَلَوْلَا نَفَرَ‌ مِن كُلِّ فِرْ‌قَةٍ مِّنْهُمْ طَائِفَةٌ لِّيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ وَلِيُنذِرُ‌وا قَوْمَهُمْ إِذَا رَ‌جَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَحْذَرُ‌ونَ

‘And it does not beseem the believers that they should go forth all together; why should not then a company from every party from among them go forth that they may apply themselves to obtain understanding in religion, and that they may warn their people when they come back to them that they may be cautious?’ [4]

Before talking about the meaning of the word ‘fiqh’ or ‘tafaquh’ in this verse, another important phrase is ‘why should not’ (فَلَوْلَا), which is used as an exhortation to do a certain thing, in this case: ‘to obtain understanding in religion’, i.e. it is obligatory (for all or some) to obtain religious knowledge.

The verse then defines the role of those who obtained religious knowledge to be ‘that they may warn their people when they come back to them’, correlating understanding in religion with warning, deeming knowledge on its own to be insufficient without spreading it to those who lack it. But what does ‘when they come back to them’ mean? They must have gone somewhere to return to their people. It is evident, then, that migration of those tasked with obtaining knowledge and then returning to their people, having gathered all necessary information and experience, is fundamental to ‘warning’ them and providing themselves and others with the tools to counter any (intellectual) threat they might face.

Allamah al-Tabatabai’s view on the verse: ‘Hence it is clear that the intended meaning of ‘becoming learned’ (tafaquh) is to gain an understanding of all religious sciences, whether the roots of the religion or its branches, and not just the practical laws, which is the formal meaning of fiqh amongst religious people. The proof for this is first, to become learned in religion and second, and to warn their people… because they can only warn their people if they have an understanding of all aspects of the religion, including that which will occasion divine reward or punishment in the Hereafter.’ [5]

Knowledge in religion (tafaquh) in narrations

The narrations dealing with the importance of knowledge and the obligation of its acquisition are numerous, I will mention just one relevant to our discussion above:

Imam al-Sadiq (as) said: ‘Become learned in religion, for those who do not are desert dwellers (i.e. ignorant and lacking knowledge)’ [6]

The term ‘desert dwellers’ should not be taken as an insult, as the Quran has given a clear definition for this group in society:

قَالَتِ الْأَعْرَ‌ابُ آمَنَّا ۖ قُل لَّمْ تُؤْمِنُوا وَلَـٰكِن قُولُوا أَسْلَمْنَا وَلَمَّا يَدْخُلِ الْإِيمَانُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ

‘The dwellers of the desert say: We believe. Say: You do not believe but say, We submit; and faith has not yet entered into your hearts..’ [7]

The desert dwellers are far removed from the centres of knowledge and culture, which will have an effect on their spiritual and behavioural conduct.


[1] See: ‘Ijtihad: its meaning, sources, beginning and practice of ra’y’

[2] Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr: ‘Future directions of the Ijtihad movement’, Al Ghadeer magazine, Dec 1980.

[3] Imam Ruhollah Khomeini, ‘Islamic Government’, pg65.

[4] Al Tawbah:122

[5] Allamah Tabataba’i, Tafsir Al Mizan, Vol9, pg337.

[6] Usul al Kafi, Vol1, pg31, H6.

[7] Al Hujurat:14


Imamah – Clarifying the source of dispute

The Sunni school of thought’s starting point for understanding the concept of Imamah is to give the title of Imam or Khalifah (Caliph, Viceroy) to the elected political leader of the Islamic state, whose responsibility lies in managing various aspects of the affairs of the Muslim populace. They arrived at this conclusion after (claiming) to have referred to the Quran and Hadith/Sunnah (Prophetic narrations), without having found a clear and explicit statement defining the role of the successor of the Holy Prophet (s) (we will not judge or challenge the truth of their claim here), the method of his election/appointment, and his characteristics.

Therefore, the logical step (in their view) was to refer to actual events in the post-Prophetic era on the method of electing a leader (after arriving to the conclusion that a political vacuum is detrimental to the unity and strength of the young Islamic state). Hence, Shura council was adopted as one method, then, the first incumbent (who was elected), nominated and appointed his own successor. In the third instance, the second incumbent (who was nominated), appointed a committee of six men and charged them with the duty of selecting one out of themselves as the future leader of the Muslim community.

Secondly, since political leadersip is a ‘matter of the people’, it becomes logical that the people elect their leader and manage its own affairs (it’s human nature to reject the idea of a leader being appointed without them having a say in the matter). They usually point to this Quranic verse as evidence to their logic: ‘… and their rule is to take counsel among themselves, … ‘ (al-Shura:38). This in turn leads to the temporary nature of such an Imamah, since the arrival of the Imam to power relies on his election by the people (their pledge of allegiance to him, in the old terminology), if they chose to do so.

Thirdly, when the scholars of that school came to establish the necessary characteristics of the Imam, they did not find any need for infallibility, and settled for the virtue of justice in the fiqhi (juristic) sense. And with respect to his knowledge, it would suffice for him to possess knowledge that will allow him to perform his political duties.   

So we end up with the following aspects of the Sunni theory of Imamah:

1) it is a worldly matter of political leadership

2) it achieved through popular election or through a council of a few men

3) it is not continuous and is only established if the populace chooses to do so

4) it only requires the individual to possess the commonly understood virtue of justice, and not infallibility.

The consequences of this understanding of Imamah

We find that the theological method in the Shia school has not, in the most case, attempted to resolve the point of contention with the Sunni school on the concept of Imamah. Instead, it allowed itself to get dragged into a never-ending argument and counter-argument dispute, with the Shi’a scholars doing most of the counter-arguing.

Some see this as a normal debate between schools of thought, each with their own opinion on a fundamental religious matter. However, it soon dawned on them that the responsibilities of the Imam as a political leader, are not in harmony with the conditions and characteristics assigned to him by the Shi’a school, considering these conditions to be far wider in scope than required by a political leadership.

This has led to thinkers and some scholars to reject the theory of selection in Imamah. Others started to limit infallibility to a limited sphere, and unnecessary beyond it. Another group rejected infallibility in its entirety, arguing that those who advocate such a theory abandoned it during the greater occultation, allowing fallible leaders to take charge as Imams of the Muslim nation. They consider justice to be a sufficient personal quality for the Imam to do his job as required by Islamic law (some have dropped this requirement as well..).

Others consider this dispute of leadership after the death of the Prophet to be a pointless historic dispute. And finally, we need to address those who question the value of a hidden Imam, who is not able to guide and lead his followers.

The reader needs to bear in mind at all times when dealing with the above criticisms, that they come as a direct consequence of the Sunni understanding of Imamah, which is limited to political leadership.

An alternative approach

When one studies the Quran and the undisputed narrations of the Holy Prophet (s) and his Pure Progeny (as), it becomes evident that the concept of Imamah, as understood by the Shi’a school, differs fundamentally and essentially to the Sunni understanding. The school of Ahlul Bayt (as) believes that the Quranic understanding of this concept gives the Imam roles that are far more important and requiring more stringent conditions, taking it out of the fold of branches of religion (politics, the social sciences and management of the affairs of the people, etc), and into the fundamental doctrines of faith. The Shi’a school considers Imamah to have two dimensions: the first being the juristic role (tashree’i), which necessitates infallibility, and the second being the existential (takweeni) role, or ‘wilayah’ (i.e. authority over the world of existence), which necessitates special knowledge not acquired through conventional means. And this is what martyr Mutahhari calls ‘the height of Shi’a understanding’ of the concept of Imamah. [1]


[1] Imamah, by Martyr Murtadha Mutahhari, pg 44-50.

Imamah in the Quran

I will be posting a series of lectures related to Imamah (divine vicegerency, also known as the Ibrahamic Imamah) as defined in the Holy Quran. These will be mainly translations from the following sources:

1) Al Mizan fi Tafsir al Quran, by Allamah Tabataba’i (qs)

2) Hawza seminary lecture series of Imamah, by Seyyed Kamal Al Haydari

3) Al ‘Isma (Infallibility), by Seyyed Kamal Al Haydari

4) ‘Ilm al Imam (Knowledge of the Imam), by Seyyed Kamal Al Haydari

إيمان أبي طالب

 بحث روائي – الميزان في تفسير القرآن   

الروايات من طرق أهل البيت (عليهم السلام) متظافرة بإيمانه

قال في المجمع،: قد ثبت إجماع أهل البيت (عليهم السلام) بإيمان أبي طالب، و إجماعهم حجة لأنهم أحد الثقلين الذين أمر النبي (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) بالتمسك بهما بقوله: ما إن تمسكتم بهما لن تضلوا

و يدل على ذلك أيضا ما رواه ابن عمر: أن أبا بكر جاء بأبيه أبي قحافة يوم الفتح إلى رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) فقال: أ لا تركت الشيخ فآتيه؟ و كان أعمى، فقال أبو بكر: أردت أن يأجره الله تعالى، و الذي بعثك بالحق لأنا كنت بإسلام أبي طالب أشد فرحا مني بإسلام أبي ألتمس بذلك قرة عينك، فقال (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم): صدقت

و روى الطبري، بإسناده: أن رؤساء قريش لما رأوا ذب أبي طالب عن النبي (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) اجتمعوا عليه و قالوا: جئناك بفتى قريش جمالا و جودا و شهامة عمارة بن الوليد ندفعه إليك و تدفع إلينا ابن أخيك الذي فرق جماعتنا، و سفه أحلامنا فنقتله، فقال أبو طالب ما أنصفتموني تعطونني ابنكم فأغذوه، و أعطيكم ابني فتقتلونه بل فليأت كل امرىء منكم بولده فأقتله، و قال: منعنا الرسول رسول المليك. ببيض تلألأ كلمع البروق. أذود و أحمي رسول المليك. حماية حام عليه شفيق. و أقواله و أشعاره المنبئة عن إسلامه كثيرة مشهورة لا تحصى فمن ذلك قوله

     أ لم تعلموا أنا وجدنا محمدا     نبيا كموسى خط في أول الكتب

 أ ليس أبونا هاشم شد أزره     و أوصى بنيه بالطعان و بالحرب

و قوله من قصيدة

و قالوا لأحمد أنت امرؤ        خلوف اللسان ضعيف السبب

ألا إن أحمد قد جاءهم           بحق و لم يأتهم بالكذب

و قوله في حديث الصحيفة و هو من معجزات النبي (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم

و قد كان في أمر الصحيفة عبرة    متى ما يخبر غائب القوم يعجب

محا الله منها كفرهم و عقوقهم        و ما نقموا من ناطق الحق معرب

و أمسى ابن عبد الله فينا مصدقا       على سخط من قومنا غير معتب

و قوله في قصيدة يحض أخاه حمزة على اتباع النبي و الصبر في طاعته:

صبرا أبا يعلى على دين أحمد         و كن مظهرا للدين وفقت صابرا

فقد سرني إذ قلت إنك مؤمن            فكن لرسول الله في الله ناصرا

و قوله من قصيدة

أقيم على نصر النبي محمد    أقاتل عنه بالقنا و القنابل

و قوله يحض النجاشي على نصر النبي (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم

تعلم مليك الحبش أن محمدا     وزير لموسى و المسيح بن مريم

أتى بهدى مثل الذي أتيا به       و كل بأمر الله يهدي و يعصم

و إنكم تتلونه في كتابكم          بصدق حديث لا حديث المرجم

فلا تجعلوا لله ندا و أسلموا        و إن طريق الحق ليس بمظلم

و قوله في وصيته و قد حضرته الوفاة

أوصى بنصر النبي الخير مشهده      عليا ابني و شيخ القوم عباسا

و حمزة الأسد الحامي حقيقته            و جعفرا أن يذودوا دونه الناسا

كونوا فدى لكم أمي و ما ولدت           في نصر أحمد دون الناس أتراسا

و أمثال هذه الأبيات مما هو موجود في قصائده المشهورة و وصاياه و خطبه يطول بها الكتاب، انتهى

و العمدة في مستند من قال بعدم إسلامه بعض روايات واردة من طريق الجمهور في ذلك، و في الجانب الآخر إجماع أهل البيت (عليهم السلام) و بعض الروايات من طريق الجمهور، و أشعاره المنقولة عنه، و لكل امرىء ما اختار

Universal Guardianship (Qur’an 5:55)

Some people say: ‘If you (Shi’ah of Ali (as)) claim Imamate and Leadership is a doctrine of faith, then why hasn’t it been mentioned in the Qur’an?’

Those that ask this question are ignorant of the teachings of the Qur’an, since itself clearly states that:

إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاَةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ – وَمَن يَتَوَلَّ اللّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ فَإِنَّ حِزْبَ اللّهِ هُمُ الْغَالِبُونَ

Only Allah is your Guardian and His Messenger and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay zakat while they bow. {56} And whoever takes Allah and His Messenger and those who believe for a Guardian, then surely the party of Allah are they that shall be triumphant.[5:55]

No one (from the esteemed scholars in either school of thought) in their right frame of mind could possibly argue that waliy (guardian) means ‘aiding to victory’, as we’ll see later.


يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَطِيعُواْ اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِي الأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ فَإِن تَنَازَعْتُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ إِن كُنتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ ذَلِكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَحْسَنُ تَأْوِيلاً

0 you who believe! obey Allah and the Messenger and those vested with authority from among you; then if you quarrel about any thing, refer it to Allah and the Messenger if you believe in Allah and the last day; this is better and very good in the end. [4:59]


وَإِذَا جَاءَهُمْ أَمْرٌ مِّنَ الأَمْنِ أَوِ الْخَوْفِ أَذَاعُواْ بِهِ وَلَوْ رَدُّوهُ إِلَى الرَّسُولِ وَإِلَى أُولِي الأَمْرِ مِنْهُمْ لَعَلِمَهُ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَنبِطُونَهُ مِنْهُمْ وَلَوْلاَ فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَتُهُ لاَتَّبَعْتُمُ الشَّيْطَانَ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً

And when there comes to them news of security or fear, they spread it; and if they had referred it to the Messenger and to those in authority among them, those among them who (can) draw out the truth in it would have known it, and were it not for the grace of Allah upon you and His mercy, you would have certainly followed the Satan, save a few.[4:83]

Since the matter of Imamate has been the greatest disputed matter in the history of the Islamic ummah, we need to refer it to Allah and the Messenger. Now, let’s assume for the sake of argument, that the doctrine of Imamate has not been mentioned in the Qur’an (I’ve refuted that in an earlier post in the section on Imamate), we should refer our dispute to the Prophetic Traditions (hadith), as ordered by this holy verse.

First though, Allamah Tabataba’i [1] says on the matter of wilayah (guardianship), in the verse 5:55:

‘Ar-Raghib [2] has said in his Mufradatu’l-Quran: "alwilayah" and "at-tawallah" denote that two or more things are so positioned as nothing extraneous comes between them. Metaphorically it is used to indicate proximity in place, or affinity, or friendship, and in help, or in belief al-wilayah is help, and/or management of affairs. It has been said that al-walayah and al-wilayah both are one like al-dalalah and al-dilalah and it really means management of affairs; and al-waliyy addal-mawla denote this meaning, and both are used as nomen agentis, i.e. guardian/manager; and as nomen patientis, i.e. one whose affairs are managed. A believer is called waliyy of Allah, but nowhere is he referred to as mawla of Allah; while Allah is called waliyy of the believers, as well as their mawla.

Further he says: "They say, tawalli when used without any preposition, gives the meaning of wilayah, indicating that it is related to the nearest objective; they say, ‘I turned my ears/eyes/face to so and so. Allah says: …so We shall surely turn thee to a qiblah which thou shall be pleased with; turn then thy face towards the Sacred Mosque; and wherever you are, turn your faces towards it,…. (2:144); but when it is followed by preposition min (from) clearly or implied, it means turning away and leaving the proximity."

So Allah is the Guardian of the believers, inasmuch as He manages the affairs of their religion through guiding, calling, and helping them and so on. And the Prophet is the Guardian of the believers inasmuch as he has the authority to decide between them, for them and against them through legislation and judgment. Likewise, the hakim (ruler, judge) is the guardian of the people over whom he rules within his jurisdiction. The same is the case with other examples of wilayah, like that of emancipation, covenant, protection, neighbourhood and divorce; similarly, the wilayah of a cousin, of love and of a designated successor, and so on. In short, looking at wilayah in its different usages, we get the meaning of a sort of proximity that gives its subject some authority of management and possession of planning.

Looking at the context of the verse under discussion: "Only Allah is your Guardian and His Messenger and those who believe", we find that the meaning of wilayah (guardianship) for all the guardians is the same, because "Allah, His Messenger and the believers", have all been ascribed to one word: "your Guardian", and clearly guardianship of each has the same meaning. This is also supported by the clause at the end of the second verse: then surely the party of Allah are they that shall be triumphant, as it indicates or clearly shows that all the guardians are the party of Allah, because they are under His Guardianship; thus the guardianship of the Messenger and of those who believe sprout from the root of Allah’s Guardianship.

In short, the Prophet (s.a.w.) has the wilayah over the ummah, inasmuch as he leads them to Allah, rules over them, judges and decides in all their affairs. It is incumbent on them to obey him unconditionally. In this way, his wilayah springs from Allah’s wilayah, in the meaning of the authority of legislation. In other words, the Prophet (s.a.w.) has precedence over them as they are bound to obey him, because his obedience is Allah’s obedience. Thus, his wilayah is the wilayah of Allah, as some previously quoted verses prove, for example: …obey Allah and obey the Messenger… (4:59); And it is not for a believing man, nor for a believing woman to have any choice in their affairs when Alldh and His Messenger have decided a matter;… (33:36), apart from other such verses.

It is this meaning of wilayah as ascribed to Allah and His Messenger, which is bestowed on the believers in the verse under discussion, when it says: "Only Allah is your Guardian and His Messenger and those who believe." You have seen that the context proves that it is only one wilayah, and it belongs to Allah directly and to the Messenger and to those who believe indirectly by permission of Allah. Had the wilayah ascribed to Allah in this verse, been different from that ascribed to those who believe, it was more appropriate, in order to avoid any confusion, to bring another word of wilayah before mentioning "those who believe", as Allah has done in similar situations. For example, He says: Say: "A hearer of good for you (who) believes in Allah and believes the faithful…" (9:6 1). The word: "believes", has been repeated because its connotations in the two clauses are different. A similar style was used in the verse: …obey Allah and obey the Messenger… (4:59.

Moreover, the word: "Your Guardian", is singular and is ascribed to, "those who believe", i.e. plural. According to the exegetes, it is because wilayah here has a single meaning, and it directly belongs to Allah and as for the Messenger and the believers, it is indirectly, through Allah. It is clear from above that the restriction in "Only" aims at confining the wilayah to those mentioned in the verse. It removes the possible misunderstanding that it might cover those who are mentioned and also the others. There is another possibility that this restriction negates the wilayah of all persons other than those mentioned therein.’

So bearing the above in mind, let’s look at what the (clear and correct and accepted by all) prophet tradition has to say in this matter:

In Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, vol. 16, pg.497, H.22908 [3]:

حدثنا ابن نمير حدثني أجلح الكندي عن عبد الله بن بريدة عن أبيه بريدة قال بعث رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بعثين إلى اليمن على أحدهما علي بن أبي طالب وعلى الآخر خالد بن الوليد فقال إذا التقيتم فعلي على الناس وإن افترقتما فكل واحد منكما على جنده قال فلقينا بني زيد من أهل اليمن فاقتتلنا فظهر المسلمون على المشركين فقتلنا المقاتلة وسبينا الذرية فاصطفى علي امرأة من السبي لنفسه قال بريدة فكتب معي خالد بن الوليد إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يخبره بذلك فلما أتيت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم دفعت الكتاب فقرئ عليه فرأيت الغضب في وجه رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقلت يا رسول الله هذا مكان العائذ بعثتني مع رجل وأمرتني أن أطيعه ففعلت ما أرسلت به فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لا تقع في علي فإنه مني وأنا منه وهو وليكم بعدي وإنه مني وأنا منه وهو وليكم بعدي

‘Ibn Namir has narrated, through Ajlah Al Kindi and Abd-Allaah ibn Buraydah from his father, said that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sent two missionaries to Yemen, one of them, Ali ibn Abi Talib and the other Khalid ibn al-Walid. Then he said, if you meet, then Ali will lead over (both)groups (of soldiers), if you separate, then every one of you leads his (own) soldiers. He said, we saw Bani Zeid of the people of Yemen, whom we fought, and the Muslims overcame the infidels, so we killed the fighters and captured the others (women, children and elderly), and Ali kept a woman to himself, said Buraidah: I and Khalid ibn al-Walid wrote to the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him, telling him so (of this incident). Then when I came to the Prophet peace be upon him, I gave him the letter and I saw anger in the face of the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him and I said, O Messenger of God, you sent me with a man and asked me to obey him, so I did (i.e. I’m just the messenger of this letter). The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said: Do not produce falsehoods about Ali, he is from me and I am of him, and he is your guardian after me, he is from me and I am of him, and he is your guardian after me.’

You be the judge on the meaning of this narration.

Here’s the clip from the the episode of Mutarahat in arabic talking about this narration.


[1] Allamah Muhammad Hussein Tabataba’i, Al Mizan fi Tafsir Al Qur’an; 20 volume quranic exegesis.

[2] Ar Raghib Al Isfahani – Mufradat Al Qur’an; famous arabic dictionary on quranic words.

[3] This narration can also be fond in the following sources –

المحدث: الألباني المصدر: السلسلة الصحيحة – الصفحة أو الرقم: 5/262 

Al Silsillah Al Sahiha, Al Albani

المحدث: ابن كثير – المصدر: البداية والنهاية – الصفحة أو الرقم: 7/356

Al Bidayah wa Al Nihayah, Ibn Kathir

الهيثمي – المصدر: مجمع الزوائد – الصفحة أو الرقم: 9/130

Majma’ Al Zawa’id, Al Haithami

Meaning of Al-‘Ismah

QUR’AN: and Allah has revealed to you the Book and the Wisdom, and He has taught you what you did not know[1]: As pointed out above it gives the reason why they cannot harm the Prophet in any way. Or may be it shows the reason of the full statement, and they do not mislead but their own souls, and they shall not harm you in any way. In any case, this revelation of the Book and this teaching of the Wisdom is the reason why their attempts to mislead the Prophet (s.a.w.) can never succeed. This is the foundation of his al- ‘ismah (sinlessness, infallibility).

The verse apparently shows that the basic factor from which al-‘ismah emanates is a sort of knowledge which prevents the knower from indulging in sin and mistake. In other words, knowledge prevents one from going astray. Likewise, all good characteristics, like bravery chastity and generosity are the forms of knowledge which are deep rooted in psyche and create their effects and at the same time prevent one from indulging in their opposites like cowardice or rashness, lack of desire or greed, miserliness or extravagance.
Although beneficial knowledge and perfect sagacity keep one clean and prevent his falling in quagmire of depravity or being soiled with filth of sins, (as we see in the people who have knowledge and wisdom, and steeped in piety and religion). However, it is such a cause as brings its effects most of the times but not always. The same is the case with all material and natural causes which are found in the universe. Look at anyone who is perfect in any field; you will find that his perfection does not protect him from mistake always and without any fail. It is a common trait of all causes which we see and observe.

The reason is that man possesses various powers of conscious­ness and at times some of them push the others to the back of the mind and man becomes oblivious of those factors. A man with faculty of piety will not be inclined to follow base desires as long as he is con­scious of the virtue of his piety; but a time may come when the fire of desire is inflamed and he being tempted by that desire becomes oblivious of the virtue of piety or his consciousness of piety becomes weak, and he commits what piety would never tolerate and indulges in base desires. The same is the case with all conscious causes found in man. Otherwise, man will never deviate from the effects of any of these causes as long as the cause remains intact. In short, whenever man goes against the dictates of virtue, it happens when some causes overpower the others and man forgets the dictates of virtue. But as for this faculty which is called the power of al-‘ismah it is a conscious cause emanating from knowledge which can never be overpowered. Had it been like other consciousness and comprehensions, it could have sometimes failed and deviated from the right path. This knowledge is not like other knowledge and comprehensions which we are familiar with and which can be acquired and learned from teachers.

Allah has pointed to this unique knowledge in this talk addressed particularly to His Prophet (s.a.w.) when he says: and Allah has revealed to you the Book and the Wisdom and He has taught you what you did not know. It is an exclusive talk which we cannot properly understand because we have not tasted this type of knowledge and consciousness. However, if we look at some of the Divine speeches -for example: Say: "Whoever is the enemy of Jibril – for surely he brought it down to your heart by Allah’s command…" (2:97). The faithful spirit has descended with it upon your heart that you may be of the warners in plain Arabic language (26:193-5) – we will clearly see that this sending down of the Book is rooted in knowledge. Some other verses show that this sending down of the Book refers to revel­ation and talking as may be seen in the following verses: He has made plain to you of the religion what He enjoined upon Nuh and that which We have revealed to you and that We enjoined upon Ibrahim and Musa and’Isa… (42: 1 3); Surely, We have revealed to you as We revealed to Nuh and the prophets after him… (4:163); "… / do not follow aught save that which is revealed tome…" (6:50); "… I only follow what is revealed to me from my Lord…" (7:203).

It is inferred from these various verses that al-inzal (sending down) means revelation of the Book and the Wisdom – and it is a sort of divine teaching to the Prophet (s.a.w.). Nevertheless, the teaching referred to by the words: and He has taught you what you did not know, is something quite different from the teaching through revelation of the Book and the Wisdom; the verses deal with the judicial decisions of the Prophet (s.a.w.) in various events and in the litigations which are brought to him for judgment, and that judgment is given by his own opinion. It has nothing to do with the Book and the Wisdom – although it depends on them – it is the result of his own view and opinion.
It appears from the above that the sending down and the teaching in the words: and Allah has sent down to you the Book and Wisdom and He has taught you what you did not know, refer to two categories of knowledge: one, teaching through revelation and sending of the faithful spirit to the Prophet (s.a.w.); two, teaching through inspiration created in the heart and the secret divine thought without the agency of any angel. This is what is supported by the traditions which have come to us about the prophetic knowledge. Therefore, the sentence: and He has taught you what you did not know, means: Allah has given you a particular knowledge which you could never get through the normal means which help man in learning acquired knowledge; that particular knowledge is given only by Allah to His chosen ones.

Clearly, this Divine gift which we call al-‘is,mah is a sort of knowledge and consciousness which is totally different from all other types of knowledge inasmuch as this knowledge is never overpowered by any other faculty; rather it overpowers all other faculties and uses them according to its own wisdom. In this way, it fully protects the holder of al-‘ismah from going astray and committing mistakes. It has come in the traditions that the Prophet and the Imams do have a spirit which is called the Holy Spirit; and it supports them and protects them from sin and mistake. It is this Spirit which is mentioned in the verse: And thus did We reveal to you a Spirit by Our command. You did not know what the Book was nor (what) the faith (was), but We made it a light guiding thereby whom We please of Our servants (42:52). (This meaning may be inferred if we take the apparent meaning of the verse that a guiding Spirit was sent to the Prophet, s.a.w.). Similarly, there is the verse: And We made them Imams who guided (people) by Our command and We revealed to them the doing of good and the keeping up of the prayer and the giving of the alms and Us (alone) did they worship (21:73). We shall explain in its place the meaning of this verse, God willing, that it refers to the support given by the Holy Spirit to the Imams for doing good and worshipping Allah.

The above explanations also show that the Book mentioned in the verse: and Allah has revealed to you the Book and the Wisdom and has taught you what you did not know, refers to the revelations sent for removing the peoples’ conflicts; as was mentioned in the verse: Mankind was but one people; so Allah sent the prophets as bearers of good tidings and as warners, and He sent down with them the book with the truth, so that it might judge between the people in that in which they differed… (2:213), as was explained in the second volume of this book.
The wisdom mentioned in the verse refers to all Divine cog­nition sent through revelation which were beneficial for this world and the hereafter. The sentence: and He has taught you what you did not know, refers to something totally different from general cognition obtained from the Book and the Wisdom.

The above explanations show the shortcomings of some exegetes regarding exegesis of this verse. Some have taken the Book as the Qur’an and the Wisdom as the commandments found in it and have said that: what you did not know refers to the shari’ah and the knowledge of the unseen. Others have explained the Book and the Wisdom as the Qur’an and the sunnah and what you did not know as the shari’ah and the stories of the previous prophets and other such information. There are other such explanations; but what we have written in the explanation shows how weak such other explanations are.


[1] 4:113; this popular discourse is taken from the english translation of the book ‘Tafseer Al Mizan’, by the late Allamah Tabataba’i (qs), available here.

تفسير سورة العصر

منبر المحراب- السنة السادسة عشرة- العدد:917- 15 محرم 1432 هـ الموافق 21 كانون أول 2010م

محاور الموضوع الرئيسة

-تفسير قوله تعالى: وَالْعَصْرِ
-قوله تعالى: إِنَّ الإنسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ
-تفسير قوله تعالى: إِلاَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا.

التعرّف على أهم المفاهيم في سورة العصر.

تصدير الموضوع: بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ،﴿وَالْعَصْرِ (1) إِنَّ الإِنْسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ (2) إِلاَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ (3)﴾.

تلخِّص سورة العصر جميع المعارف القرآنية وتجمع شتات مقاصد القرآن في أوجز بيان 1، ولها فضل عظيم “ومن قرأها ختم الله له بالصبر وكان مع أصحاب الحق يوم القيامة”.ونقل عن الشافعي أنه قال:”لو لم ينزل من القرآن سوى هذه السورة لكفت2 .

1-تفسير قوله تعالى

وَالْعَصْر:أقسم سبحانه وتعالى بالدهر لأنّ فيه عبرة لذوي الأبصار، والقسم من الموارد التي تكرَّرت في القرآن الكريم في مواضع يبرز فيها جوانب الأهمية، وتهدف للتأكيد على موضوع القسم وإبراز أهميته، والمراد بالعصر على الأشهر عصر النبي صلّى الله عليه وآله وهو عصر طلوع شمس الإسلام على المجتمع البشري، وظهور الحق على الباطل 3، وذكر الشهيد مطهري رضوان الله عليه أن الأنسب في المقام هو أن القسم بالزمان وتاريخ البشرية لأن القَسَم في القرآن يتناسب مع الموضوع الذي أقسم الله من أجله، فإذا أراد القرآن أن يتبيّن أهمية ذلك العصر أقسم به، والمعلوم أن عصر النبي صلّى الله عليه وآله هو عصر طلوع الإسلام4 .

2-قوله تعالى:إنّ الإنسانَ لفي خُسر

أ -جنس الإنسان:إن المقصود بالإنسان هنا هو جنسه، بمعنى أن الخسران الوارد في هذه الآية شامل لجميع أفراد البشر، ولعموم الإنسان المكلف، فالألف واللام في لفظ “الإنسان”للجنس الذي يفيد الاستغراق في كل أفراد الإنسان، والإتيان بحرف للتأكيد على الكون في الخسران والاستغراق فيه.

ب-خسارة الإنسان:ذكر القرآن الكريم موضوع خسارة الإنسان للنفس أو المال أو الأهل أو الدنيا والآخرة في سبعين مورد5 ، وهذا ما يبرز أهمية هذا المفهوم وضرورة تحديد مراد الله تعالى من خسارة الإنسان الذي يعتبر من أكرم المخلوقات وأفضلها عند الله تعالى.

ج-فما هو الخسران الطارئ على الإنسان الذي تؤكِّد عليه الآية الكريمة؟
الخسر والخسران والخسارة يعني نقصان رأس المال، لا النقصان فيما زاد أو فضل عنه من الأرباح ونحوها، وينسب ذلك إلى الإنسان فيقال: خسر زيد، وإلى الفعل فيقال: خسرت تجارته 6.

د-فماذا يخسر الإنسان؟
يخسر الإنسان رأسماله الحقيقي، وأغلى ما يملك في هذا الوجود وهو عمره، فالعمر في حالة نقصان وتسرّب دائمين، ويتناقص يوماً بعد يوم، وساعة بعد ساعة ولحظة بعد لحظة، ينقل أحد العلماء في تفسير هذه الآية عن أحد الصالحين أنه تعلم معنى هذه الآية من بائع ثلج، يعرض بضاعته تحت الشمس وكان يصيح ويقول: ارحموا من يذوب رأس ماله 7.فالمعلوم كما في الروايات أن كل نفس من أنفاس الإنسان يقرّبه خطوة نحو الموت، يقول الإمام علي عليه السلام:” نفسُ المرء خطاه إلى أجله 8.

هـ-الدنيا دار ربح وخسارة: لقد وهب الله تعالى الإنسان رأسمال عظيم وهو العمر لينجز فيه في الدنيا الذي يعبّر عنها بأنها سوق تجارة، يقول الإمام علي الهادي عليه السلام:”الدنيا سوق ربح فيها قوم وخسر آخرون 9.ولكن كيف ينفق الإنسان رأس ماله هذا!!

– فهناك من ينفق رأس ماله مقابل الحصول على مال، أو شهرة أو رئاسة…
– وهناك من ينفقه في سبيل أهوائه وملذاته..
– ويوجد من ينفق كل وجوده وحياته ويهبهما لله تعالى وفي سبيله.

و-من هم الخاسرون؟
-خسران الأنفس:قال الله تعالى:﴿وَمَنْ خَفَّتْ مَوَازِينُهُ فَأُولَئِكَ الَّذِينَ خَسِرُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ بِمَا كَانُوا بِآيَاتِنَا يَظْلِمُونَ﴾10.
-الخسران وعدم الإيمان:قال الله تعالى:﴿قُل لِّمَن مَّا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ قُل لِلّهِ كَتَبَ عَلَى نَفْسِهِ الرَّحْمَةَ لَيَجْمَعَنَّكُمْ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ لاَ رَيْبَ فِيهِ الَّذِينَ خَسِرُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ فَهُمْ لاَ يُؤْمِنُون﴾َ11 .
– خسران الدنيا والآخرة:قال الله تعالى:﴿وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَعْبُدُ اللهَ عَلَى حَرْفٍ فَإِنْ أَصَابَهُ خَيْرٌ اطْمَأَنَّ بِهِ وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ فِتْنَةٌ انْقَلَبَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ خَسِرَ الدُّنْيَا وَالآَخِرَةَ ذَلِكَ هُوَ الْخُسْرَانُ الْمُبِين﴾ُ12 .
-الأخسرون:قال الله تعالى:﴿قُلْ هَلْ نُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِالأخْسَرِينَ أَعْمَالاً * الَّذِينَ ضَلَّ سَعْيُهُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ يَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّهُمْ يُحْسِنُونَ صُنْعاً13.

3- تفسير قوله تعالى

﴿إِلاَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ.
وضع القرآن الكريم منهجاً للنجاة من ذلك الخسران يتكون من أربعة أصول، تحول دون هذا الخسران الكبير وتبدّله إلى منفعة كبيرة، وربح عظيم، وهي:
1-الإيمان:قوله تعالى:﴿إِلاَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا.
2-العمل الصالح:قوله تعالى:﴿وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ.
3-التواصي بالحق:قوله تعالى:﴿وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ.
4-التواصي بالصبر:قوله تعالى:﴿وَتَوَاصَوْا بالصبر.
أ-المؤمن:فالإنسان المؤمن لا تقع عليه الخسارة لأنه راجع وذاهب إلى حيث يُحب وهو الله تعالى، قال تعالى:﴿ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ثُمَّ إِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ14 . ثُمَّ يُمِيتُكُمْ ثُمَّ يُحْيِيكُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ15 .

ب-الإيمان والعمل الصالح رفيقان لا يفترقان:عندما نتأمل في آيات القرآن نلاحظ تلازماً واضحاً للعمل الصالح مع الإيمان، وما ذلك إلا للدلالة على أن الإيمان يلازمه الالتزام العملي التام بأحكام الشريعة، ولا إيمان بدون عمل، أو أن الإيمان في القلب…

قال الله تعالى:…﴿ إِلاَ مَنْ تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحاً فَأُولَئِكَ يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ16… . إِلاَ مَنْ تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ عَمَلاً صَالِحاً فَأُولَئِكَ يُبَدِّلُ اللهُ سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ حَسَنَاتٍ﴾.17.. .
فالقاعدة المستفادة من هذه الآيات وغيرها هي: عدم وجود إيمان بلا عمل والعمل يجب أن يكون صالحاً، منسجماً مع الشريعة المقدّسة، فكل عمل من شأنه أن يهدي الناس أو يرفع من مستواهم العلمي أو العملي أو الثقافي أو… هو عمل صالح، وبالتالي فالعمل الصالح هو الجانب العملي للإيمان الإيمان عمل كله.

ج-التواصي بالحق والصبر:تواصوا بالحق والصبر:أي الوصية المتقابلة فيوصي كل مؤمن المؤمن الآخر، فالايصاء فعل مزدوج والإيصاء هنا إشارة إلى وظيفتنا تجاه الآخرين من أبناء المجتمع الحدث، فتوصي الآخر وتقبل وصيته لك.
الصبر:إذ بعد الإيمان قد يبرز عوائق وموانع وصعوبات ويتعرّض المؤمن للأذى، فلا بد له من الصبر ليقوى على الاستمرار خاصة وأن البقاء على الإيمان للعمل أصعب من العمل نفسه.

1-السيد الطباطبائي/ تفسير الميزان/ ج3، ص409.
2-محمد جواد مغنية، التفسير المبين، 821.
3-السيد الطباطبائي، المصدر السابق.
4-الشهيد مطهري، تفسير قصار السور.
5-راجع سورة البقرة الآيات: 27، 64، 121- وآل عمران: 85، 149- والنساء: 119- والمائدة: 5، 21، 30، 53- والأنعام: 12، 20، 31، 140-والأعراف:9، 23، 53.
6-الراغب الأصفهاني، شرح مفردات القرآن.
7-تفسير الفخر الرازي، ج32.
8-نهج البلاغة، الكلمات القصار، 47.
9-تحف العقول، ص361، كلمات الإمام علي الهادي.
10-الأعراف: 9.
11-الأنعام: 12.
12-الحج: 11.
13-الكهف: 103- 104.
14-العنكبوت: 57.
15-البقرة: 28.
16-مريم: 60.
17-الفرقان: 70.