The existential/cosmological dimension to the personality of the Imam

In the world of existence,  some things are a cause with specific effects on other things, like water (the cause) to quench the thirst (the effect) of a human being, and we can say that there exists an existential correlation between a cause and its effect. So, when we come to investigate the reality of the existential role of the Imam, we need to first investigate this correlation between causes and their effects, and to differentiate between ‘mentally posited’ (subjective) concepts and ‘existential (objective) ones.

‘Mentally posited’, or subjective, concepts like political leadership, vary with time, place, and human factors like the type of government and political systems in place, since it is the human population that decides who to elect and how. Populations can elect and overthrow a political leader/party/regime at a time (and method) of their choosing. The same applies to the concept of (subjective) ownership of consumer items like cars and private property, which can be transferred from one owner to the next with no limitations. There is no existential connection between the people and their leader, or a person and his house like that between a person and his eye-sight or the ability to move his/her arms. We are able to transplant body parts, but not the senses which utilize these body parts in order to function.

So the question is: has the infallible Imam been given a similar existential role in relation to the world of existence? If the answer is in the affirmative, and we are able to prove this existential dimension to the personality of the Imam, then it becomes self-evident that the political responsibility undertaken by the Imam is secondary to his existential role.

The theological scholars of the Sunni school, however, reduced the Imam’s responsibility to a single dimension, political leadership in the earthly realm (as mentioned in previous posts). This was the cause for the ‘frustration’ with their Shi’a counterparts with respect to this on-going dispute (the concept of Imamah), and that it (Imamah defined as political leadership) is out-of-date and debating it is a pointless exercise. Since the (Twelver Shi’a) 12th Imam is in occultation and therefore plays no role in people’s lives, so what’s the point in believing in his existence or his occultation if he cannot rule as leader of the Islamic nation? (We have refuted this fallacy in previous posts, and the refutation should be further clarified once the existential dimension of the Imam is demonstrated).

The theory behind the existential role of the Imam

Before we delve into this fascinating theory, we require some introductory points:

1) Mankind was created in this world for a reason and has itself a goal:

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ

And I have not created the jinn and the men except that they should serve Me.                (Al Dhariyat:56)

which is to become servants of God through acts of worship. However, this goal is an intermediary station to the final one, which is to reach a state of ‘certainty’:

وَاعْبُدْ رَ‌بَّكَ حَتَّىٰ يَأْتِيَكَ الْيَقِينُ

And serve your Lord until there comes to you that which is certain. (Al Hijr:99)

This (certainty) is the most honourable goal a human being could attain, as is stated in the description of Prophet Ibrahim’s path to spiritual perfection:

وَكَذَٰلِكَ نُرِ‌ي إِبْرَ‌اهِيمَ مَلَكُوتَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضِ وَلِيَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُوقِنِينَ

And thus did We show Ibrahim the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and that he might be of those who are certain.(Al An’am:75)

And the goal of certainty is to reach nearness to Allah (swt) and the return to Him:

أَفَحَسِبْتُمْ أَنَّمَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ عَبَثًا وَأَنَّكُمْ إِلَيْنَا لَا تُرْ‌جَعُونَ

What! did you then think that We had created you in vain and that you shall not be returned to Us? (Al Mu’minun:115)

يَا أَيُّهَا الْإِنسَانُ إِنَّكَ كَادِحٌ إِلَىٰ رَ‌بِّكَ كَدْحًا فَمُلَاقِيهِ

O man! surely you must strive (to attain) to your Lord, a hard striving until you meet Him. (Al Inshiqaq:6)

2) Mankind is not able to identify what perfections it needs to seek and attain solely relying on its senses and intellect, for both its worldly and other-worldly happiness. Nor what the shortest way to reach these perfections could be. This is where the role of the divine religions comes into play, which show us which perfections to follow (certainty in their belief in God through reaching nearness to Him), and the quickest and shortest routes to attain them (‘the straight path’). And since mankind is unable to establish these two requirements by itself, it is in need of divine guidance, in its different forms:

a. The first is the innate disposition, which every human being is born with (fitrah):

فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا ۚ فِطْرَ‌تَ اللَّـهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ‌ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّـهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ‌ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

Then set your face upright for religion in the right state- the nature (fitrah) made by Allah in which He has made men; there is no altering of Allah’s creation; that is the right religion, but most people do not know. (Al Rum:30)

and is a fixed divine reality:

سُنَّةَ اللَّـهِ فِي الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِن قَبْلُ ۖ وَلَن تَجِدَ لِسُنَّةِ اللَّـهِ تَبْدِيلًا

(Such has been) the course of Allah with respect to those who have gone before; and you shall not find any change in the course of Allah. (Al Ahzab:62)

فَلَن تَجِدَ لِسُنَّتِ اللَّـهِ تَبْدِيلًا ۖ وَلَن تَجِدَ لِسُنَّتِ اللَّـهِ تَحْوِيلًا

For you shall not find any alteration in the course of Allah; and you shall not find any change in the course of Allah. (Fatir:43)

However, this innate guidance does neither specify the perfections, nor the path to attain them. It gives mankind the desire and motivation to attain limitless degrees of virtues and knowledge.

b. The second is the legislative guidance, embodied by prophets and messengers carrying divine messages to show mankind the path towards their intended goals and happiness (nearness to God).

c. The third is existential guidance, which can be also defined to be ‘aiding the traveller towards his goal’, whereas the second type of guidance (showing the path), does not guarantee the traveller to reach his goal. This type of guidance does not allow for deviation, since there is a guarantee that the one guiding the individual will take him to his intended goal.

3) Everything has been created for mankind’s utilization:

اللَّـهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضَ وَأَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَ‌جَ بِهِ مِنَ الثَّمَرَ‌اتِ رِ‌زْقًا لَّكُمْ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ‌ لَكُمُ الْفُلْكَ لِتَجْرِ‌يَ فِي الْبَحْرِ‌ بِأَمْرِ‌هِ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ‌ لَكُمُ الْأَنْهَارَ‌

Allah is He Who created the heavens and the earth and sent down water from the clouds, then brought forth with it fruits as a sustenance for you, and He has made the ships subservient to you, that they might run their course in the sea by His command, and He has made the rivers subservient to you.(Ibrahim:32)

وَسَخَّرَ‌ لَكُم مَّا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْ‌ضِ جَمِيعًا مِّنْهُ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُ‌ونَ

And He has made subservient to you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth, all, from Himself; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect.     (Al Jathiyah:13)

Some people think that this ‘gift to utilize’ is a privilege to humanity which they can exploit how they pleased. In fact, humanity’s abilities and intellect are the gifts given to them to utilise everything else that has been created in an intelligent and just manner. Therefore, the world is a responsibility on mankinds shoulders. We find in narrations that each part in our body has a right on us to treat it in the way God intended. So every blessing and gift given to us, has a corresponding responsibility attached to it. [1]

This is where the Quranic idea of ‘divine vicegerency’ becomes clear, since it means that mankind, as God’s representatives on Earth, have a divine responsibility towards all the things that have been created for them. Yet, they are able to refuse this responsibility as a result of their power of free will, and instead utilise these gifts in the path of evil and corruption instead of good and justice.

So, the Quranic system has promised the third type of (existential) guidance exclusively to the Imam. And the role of mankind is to follow in the footsteps of these 3 guidances towards divine closeness and its intended goal and perfection.


[1] Wasa’el Al Shi’a, Vol. 15, Book of Jihad of the soul, pg.172; or the Book of Rights, by Imam Zain-ul Abideen (as).


المقاومة الاسلامية كتائب حزب الله تكشف معلومات عن بعض ضباط المخابرات الامريكية العاملين في العراق متورطين بقتل العراقيين ودعم القاعدة

المقاومة الاسلامية كتائب حزب الله تكشف في تقرير مصور  معلومات  عن بعض ضباط المخابرات الامريكية العاملين في العراق متورطين بقتل العراقيين ودعم القاعدة 

وهذا نص التقرير

                                                    بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والصلاة والسلام على اشرف الخلق محمد وعلى اله الطيبين الطاهرين …
من المعروف ان اميركا بعد احتلالها للعراق كانت تملك اكبر محطة للـ CIA في العالم يبلغ عدد عناصرها اكثر من سبعمئة عنصر يتمتعون بالحصانة و الامتيازات الاخرى وبعد انسحاب اغلب قوات الاحتلال قررت وكالة المخابرات المركزية تخفيض عدد عناصرها في العراق الى 40% . وما يؤكد ذلك انه في عام  2011 درس مسؤولو الــ CIA بعض الخيارات المتاحة للعمل في العراق ومنها قيامهم بعمليات سرية واسعة مع التاكيد على دور القاعدة في العمل الاجرامي الحاصل في العراق . الا اننا نعتقد انها اداة بيد الــ CIA تحركها كيفما تشاء . تجب الاشارة ال ان سبب عرضنا لهذه المعلومات وفي هذا الوقت بالتحديد يعود الى جملة من الاسباب اهمها :
وصول الوضع الامني في العراق المرحلة خطيرة لا يمكن السكوت عليها وكذلك تغاضي وسائل الاعلام عن الاشارة الى الاسباب الحقيقية التي تقف وراء تأزم الاوضاع الامنية و السياسية و الاجتماعية في العراق وهنا سوف نذكر بعض النماذج التي تدل على الدور الخفي للــ CIA في العراق :

1- ضابط الاستخبارات الأمريكي كريس فيكا
موقع العمل : السفارة الامريكية في المنطقة الخضراء
الكنية : كرس .
الرتبة : نقيب .
المـواصفـات الـجسـديـة : طـولـه 180 سـم تقـريبـا – بـديـن- ابيض البشرة – اشيب الشعر- لون العين اسود – لديه لحية خـفيـفـة عمـره (35) سنـة تـقريـبا .
الصفات النفسية : مبتسم دائما  – هادئ الطباع .
نوع العجـلة : سـوداء تحـمل لـوحـات (هيـئات دبلومـاســيـة) .
الغطاء الرسمي  : تنسيق العمل مع ضباط في جهاز المـخـابـرات العراقي المتواجدين في المطار وكذلك التنسيق مع قيادة القوات الخاصة الأولى جهاز مكافحة الارهاب .
المهمة الحقيقية  : يديرشبكات تجسس تقوم باعمال تخريبية بالبلد منها اغتيال العلماء والكوادر العراقية المتقدمة في كـافـة المجالات،  و يدير مجاميع اجرامية تـستهـدف الـمـواطنـيـن بالكواتم والسيارات المفخخة .

  2- ضابط الاستخبارات الامريكية (دوين ديفس)
موقع العمل : مطار بـغداد – مـركز بـغداد للـدعم الـدبلـوماسي( معـسكر سـذر سابــقا)
الكنية : دي .
الرتبة : رائد .
اللغات التي يجيدها : العربـيـة الى جـانـب لـغتـه الانـكليـزية
المواصفات الجسدية :   من اصول افريقـية – طـويـل القـامـة اصـلع الـرأس – يـزن 90 كـغم تقريـبا – يبـلغ عمـره 50 سـنـة لديه تجاعـيد في وجـهه – يرتدي نـظـارات طـبيـة – يـوجـد اثر جرح في جبهته يمتد الى حاجبه الايسر- ذو صوت خشن .
الصفات النفسية : هادئ – حذر – لديه حافـظة قـوية للــوجوه .
الحـالـة الاجـتـماعـيـة : مـتـزوج ولـديـه اربـعـة ابـناء .
نوع العجلة: فورد اكسبلور مصفحة F150 نيلية اللون موديل 2010 .
الغطاء الـرسمي  : التـنسيق ومـساعـدة الاجـهزة الامـنية العراقية .
الـمهمـة الحقيـقية :  يـمـارس نـشاطـاً اسـتـخبـاراتـيـاً  في مــنطـقـتي المنـصـور والـكــرادة ،مـن خــلال ادارة ضباط  ومنتسبين في الأجهزة الأمنية العراقية وتــكليفهم بجمع معلومات عن كل الملفات المرتبطة بالوضع الامني ، وكذلك تكليف مصادره بجمع معلومات عن الضباط والقيادات الامـنية الوطــنية المناهضة للتدخــل الاميركي ، وذلك لغرض تصفيتهم ، اضـافة لذلك قيامه بادارة واجـهات استـخباراتية عديدة داخل
العــراق تعــمل تحت غــطاء شــركات ومنــظمات مجـتمع مـدني .

  3- ضابط الاستخبارات الأمريكية (مستر جون)
موقع العمل : شركة بترو ناس النفطية  في الناصرية ألرفاعي .
حقل الغراف .
المواصفات الجسدية: طويل القامة –ضخم البنية – احمر البشرة اشقر الشعر – انمش الوجه
التنقل : يتنقل بعجلة شركة فالكون ألامنية التي تحمل الرقم 17 بين محافظتي البصرة والناصرية
المرافقين : لديه حماية شخصية مكونة من عنصر واحد .
الـغـطـاء الرسـمـي  : مـسـؤول في شـركـة بـترو نـاس .
المهمة  الحقيقية : يدير  شبكة من ضباط مباحث امن كويتيين وعملاء عراقيين ، حيـث قـامـت هـذه الشبــكة بإفشـــاء تجــارة المخدرات في محافظتي الناصرية والبصرة  وإنشاء شبكات غير اخلاقية  اكثـر تحـركـات مسـتر جــون تكـون في منطـقة صفـوان الحـدوديـة ، ومسؤول عن عمليات استهداف المواكب الحسينية في محافظة البـصرة وكـذلك المسـؤول عـن الأحـداث الأخـيرة في محافــظة الناصـرية واحـد المحــرضين على التظــاهـرات .

  4- ضابط الاستخبارات الامريكية (لويس مندوزا)
موقع العمل : مركز بغداد للدعم الدبلوماسي في مطار بغداد(معسكر ساذرسابقا) .
الرتبة : ملازم أول (سيرفع الى رتبة نقيب قريباً ) .
المواصفات الجسدية : امريكي من أصل اسباني – طوله 170 سم تقريبا – اسمر البشرة – ذو شعر اسود خفيف – شكله قريب للملامح العربية .
المواصفات النفسية : يضمر حقداً كبيراً على الشعب العراقي حاد الطباع (متعجرف) .
الحالة الاجتماعية : متزوج ولديه اثنين من الابناء
الغطاء الرسمي : ضـــابط تحقيق ومتابعة داخل المركـــز.
المهمة الحقيقية : جمــع المعلومــات، حيث يخـــرج برفقة الشركات الأمنية وأحيانا يخرج برفقة مجموعة من العملاء بعجلة مدنية صفراء اللون ليلتقي  ببعض القادة الميدانيين في التنظيمات المسلحة لتسليمهم المهام ويعتبر المسؤولعـن بعض الحركــات الشبابية التي تقوم ببعض التظاهرات في بغداد بين فترة وأخرى ، حيث يلتقيبأحد زعماء هذه الحركات في بغداد والذي يملك مطعم شهير في منطقة الكرادة .

إن وعي كتائب حزب الله ومعرفتهم  باساليب العمل  الاستخباراتي للسي اي ايه في العراق  مكنتهم من  كشف خبايا واسرار هذا الجهاز داخل البلد . وما تم عرضه انفا ليس سوى جزء يسير من المعلومات التي يمتلكها جهاز استخبارات الكتائب عن ذلك وعليه أؤكد لكم باننا  بنفس التصميم الذي قاتلناهم به بالأمس ، سنستمر على مواصلة كفاحنا  امنياً واعلامياً  لكشف دورهم الخفي في العراق ومدى الجرائم التي يرتكبونها وأجزم لكم بانهم سيقعون في مستنقع جديد كالذي وقعوا فيه بالأمس .

The correct understanding of the Imam’s role

The Imam’s role, as laid out by the Quran, can be summed as follows:

1) To possess the religious authority and source of emulation, and the juristic dimension of clarifying the religious concepts like doctrines, ethics and laws. From this follows that he should be the only one to be obeyed and followed, and therefore his words and actions are on par with the words and actions of the Holy Prophet (s). [1]

2) It is evident that this role requires the Imam to be infallible to the same extent as the Holy Prophet (s) was (i.e. any speech or action that goes against the position of servitude towards God). So the requirement of infallibility is for conveying the religious concepts, and not to prove his ability to lead the people and manage their affairs, as the Sunni school (mis)understood.

3) And once their infallibility is proven, the philosophy of selection/appointment becomes clear, since it (infallibility) is a hidden quality and cannot be established through election and choice of the people, but through divine selection and appointment.

4) The above points do not remove the fact that the divine scripture and narrations indeed have given the political leadership to the Imam as well. [2]

5) The continuity of Imamah will become clear when I address the existential dimension of the Imam in later posts.

So the framework for these posts should be clear with respect to the role of Imamah to consist:

1) The existential role (takweeni)

2) The juristic/religious role (tashree’i)

3) The political leadership

4) The best moral/ethical example

Also, the fundamental aspects of Imamah can be summarised to be:

+ Infallibility

+ Divine selection/appointment

+ Continuity

+ Special knowledge acquired through non-conventional means


[1] See Surah Al-Hashr:7 – وَمَا آتَاكُمُ الرَّ‌سُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانتَهُوا  – ‘And whatever the Messenger has given you – take; and what he has forbidden you – refrain from.’

[2] See Al-Ma’idah:3, 55 & 67 – 

الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَ‌ضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا – ‘This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.’

إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللَّـهُ وَرَ‌سُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَ‌اكِعُونَ – ‘Only Allah is your Vali and His Apostle and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow.’

يَا أَيُّهَا الرَّ‌سُولُ بَلِّغْ مَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّ‌بِّكَ ۖ وَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلْ فَمَا بَلَّغْتَ رِ‌سَالَتَهُ – ‘O Apostle! deliver what has been revealed to you from your Lord; and if you do it not, then you have not delivered His message’


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 – A New Approach

I feel it is high-time that I share, with the non-Arabic speaking world, a new and fresh approach to understanding Islamic doctrines, in order for us to come out of this dormant, repetitive and unproductive state as a Muslim collective.

One such topic is the concept of Imamah (divine vicegerency). I believe that the theological method does not come near to give this topic its due, and in terms of content misses the high status of the Quranic definition, which in turn has created more problems than it has solved. This is not to say that the theological scholars like Sheikh al-Tusi, al-Murtadha and al-Mufid have not contributed to the development of the Shi’a Imamaiyah school of thought. However, they, and their followers, were dragged into reacting to accusations instead of establishment of Quranic concepts, which has left the Muslim collective in a divided state for over 1000 years. Some of these Quranic concepts (within the framework of Imamah), that have been left virtually unaddressed are the responsibility of the Imam, his knowledge, infallibility and divine appointment/selection.

The other (non-Shi’a) schools have limited Imamah to the responsibility of political leadership, with ‘Shura’ council as the means to electing the Imam. The Shi’a school responded with the theory of ‘divine appointment/selection’ of the Imam, even though there is no similarity whatsoever between the two theories, since the purpose of ‘divine selection’ lies somewhere else. Likewise, the issue arose with the concept of infallibility, where the other schools believed that the Shi’a give the status of infallibility to the political ruler, whereas infallibility applies to the (divinely appointed) Imam exclusively. This difference in understand has led the Sunni school to believe that the Shi’a have abandoned the condition of infallibility during the ‘greater occultation’ (of the 12th and final infallible Imam).

What I will try to cover in this series of posts, is to establish the Quranic view of the concept of Imamah, which gives 4 complete roles to the Imam, of which is the juristic role (in the holistic sense of explaining doctrines, ethics and that which is permissible and what is not, i.e. to explain the entire Quran), which requires infallibility, therefore making infallibility a necessary condition for the Imam to perform his duties and responsibilities, and not a condition for political leadership. Leadership is one of the responsibilities of the infallible Imam when he is alive and visible to his followers. Therefore the Shi’a school has not abandoned the condition of infallibility during the ‘greater occultation’, and the role of divine appointment is to reveal the infallible Imam and not the political ruler.

The same applies to the knowledge of the Imam, which is considered, along with infallibility, to be of fundamental importance to establishing a complete picture to the concept of Quranic Imamah. These two topics are so vast and deep, that even some Shi’a scholars and their adherents find difficulty in accepting. As for the Sunni school, they see no need for a religious political leader to possess any special knowledge (of the past, present and future), or the absolute infallibility the Shi’a school finds necessary.

Aspects of the new approach

The concept of Imamah according to the Quranic definition, begins by differentiating between ‘General Imamah’ and ‘Specific Imamah’, similar to the methodology used to differentiate between Prophethood as a concept (General Prophethood – the necessity of humanity for Prophets, its conditions and responsibilities, the necessity for infallibility of Prophets, miracles, etc) and the physical real life embodiment of this divine position (Specific Prophethood -who are the Prophets? what are the surrounding socio-political conditions during his mission? what is his miracle? why this particular miracle? etc).

The same method is applied when establishing the concept of Imamah as defined by the Quran (it’s the least we should do if we consider Imamah to be one of the 5 fundamental doctrines of the Shi’a sect). Similar questions must be asked in 2 steps: Is the Imam divinely appointed or elected by the people? Are infallibility and special knowledge necessary? Is Imamah continuous or temporary? Amongst other fundamental topics that define the general understanding of Imamah. Similarly, specific Imamah specifies who the Imams are, their specific characteristics, etc.

In this series, I will focus on establishing the general concept of Imamah according to the Quran, by tackling the following key features: infallibility, divine appointment/selection, continuity, and special knowledge. As for the responsibilities of the Imam, they are: the existential role, the juristic role of religious emulation, political leadership, and the ethical role model.

These features and responsibilities have been the focus of dispute between the two main schools of thought in Islam to this day, which I will detail and clarify in the next post, insha’Allah.


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

From Idolizing to Thinking – Remembering Shaheed Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr

I am absolutely appalled at the non-existent debate on the legacy of Shaheed al-Sa’eed, Seyyed Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (ra), so I have to dedicate a few paragraphs, as a reminder to myself first, and then to everybody else, on the greatness of the loss to this ummah. You can literally write volumes on why this is such a tragic loss. This great mind who had so much to give, and who did indeed give so much, yet there is not ONE article dedicated to him (at least according to my quick search), not one article discussing the consequences of his theories and what they mean to us muslims, especially those living in the west.

Unfortunately, we have reduced him to an idol worshipped once a year at ‘talks’ or ‘seminars’ or nostalgic poetry evenings, or in best cases, to admire SOME of his legacy (and what use is that to US??!?!). Even to this day (more than 30 years after his martyrdom), his legacy has not been studied in earnest, in order to fulfil our duty towards this oppressed scholar (and TRUE marja’ of the religion of Islam not some part-time student of fiqh), and to benefit from the numerous methods and tools he established in order to revive a stagnant hawza.

Thankfully there are a handful (maybe even less) of aware and intelligent scholars who have either studied under him, or followed in his path, and are now trying to both revive and update al-Sadr’s school of thought, and even criticize some of his theories (constructively of course, in the name of keeping this great religion alive and as far away as possible from dormancy and decay). And all agree that the following 4 characteristics are what made al-Sadr stand out above the rest of his contemporaries, in knowledge, awareness, dedication and spirituality, even after his martyrdom (ra):

  1. He was a scholar of religion, and not only fiqh (jurisprudence). The reality of the current world requires one to deal with contemporary issues with intelligence and awareness, and some scholars (as well as some commoners like myself) feel that our Islamic intellectual output has been somewhat, lacking, to be polite, limiting itself to the fiqh sphere (I know, for example, 99% of MSc thesis in religious studies in Iraq, deal exclusively in fiqh matters, and not even all fiqh matters). This has created a false understanding of the word religious scholar, where everyone is painted with this one brush, irrespective of the scholars intellectual output, or socio-political awareness, or understanding of the Quran, or, or or…. These days, every Ali, Abbas and Hussein can wear a white or black turban, put a hundred titles before his name and call himself ‘whatever’. Now this might be an issue the hawza has to deal with in its own way and time, but we as intelligent and aware muslims living in the west (and east) have a responsibility to address this issue with our maraji’, and demand to be provided with the methods and tools with contemporary issues that we face as communities.Anyway, I digress, one of the most important characteristics of Seyyed al-Sadr (ra), was his unique ability to deal with numerous speciality subjects at once without compartmentalizing his studies to a single topic or contemporary issue. He was a philosopher, sociologist, theoretician, historian, jurist, economist, politician, exegete of Quran, etc etc. Indeed, a TRUE marja’ of religion in every sense of the word. Therefore, it is of the essence to differentiate between a marja’ of deen (religion) and maraj’ of fiqh; since according to the Quranic nomenclature, scholars (nay, all Muslims) are commanded to ‘taffaquh in deen’, and not ‘halal and haram’.
  2. He was a thinker, an Islamic intellectual. Religious scholars are of two kinds: those who study the available heritage for 5-10 years, maybe become mujtahid along the way, and go out into the big wide world, repeating what they’ve been taught, without much addition or deletion (like a walking encyclopaedia). There are others, however, who take in all available heritage (internal and external), digest it, and produce new and fresh knowledge, which is able to deal with contemporary issues and protect the Islamic nation from both internal and external threats and challenges. This is what I call ‘thought production’, which is a necessary pre-requisite for any other type of production. And we, as muslims, are really really poor in producing any intellectual material that is anywhere near the level that is Quranically expected of us (You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind.3:110). And for those who occupied themselves with reading anything they can get their hands on, al-Sadr spent 10% reading and 90% thinking (of course his level of reading and thinking which reflects even worse on us..), which just emphasizes my point.
  3. He was aware of the issues of his time. All of the above is not enough, if you are not aware of the contemporary problems and issues that face the Islamic nation. Shaheed al-Sadr wasn’t just an expert in his field, he was completely aware of what ‘the other’ was thinking, be they western philosophers, secular arab thinkers, or fellow scholars, on top of the problems that faced his followers and the Islamic nation as a whole. He knew when to speak, when to remain silent, when to apply the correct juristic rulings. This is called insight (or baseerah), which is different to knowledge or piety, yet he possessed all three virtues, where many of his contemporary scholars (and those that followed) lacked one or more.
  4. He was brave. What makes a marja’ truly unique is not his knowledge or piety or even his insight and awareness, but his ability to manage the affairs and guide his community and the Islamic nation (if the opportunity arose). Now this requires a certain type of bravery and spiritual power, balanced with wisdom and freedom from arrogance or nationalism or racism towards people of other cultures. The marja’ needs to be out there facing the world and its socio-political, economic and spiritual (doctrines and fiqh) problems head on. What will add here as well, was his bravery to critique both himself and the school of thought he represented. He was after all, one of the foremost ‘mujjadid’ (reformer) of his time, establishing new methods and tools and ideas that challenged the status-quo. A true scholar is able to balance preserving his identity and reform his reality at the same time.

So what can you deduce from the above? I’ve come to the conclusion that Shaheed al-Sadr’s role in this world was no different to that of Prophets (ulema of my ummah are like the prophets of bani Israel). And he managed to live up to this responsibility as much as he could in the circumstances surrounding him, and early martyrdom.

So it’s time to go back and revisit this great man’s legacy, analyse it, digest it well, take from it what we can, and develop it to the standard required in order to solve our contemporary issues. No more accepting the (internal/external) status-quo, it’s time for action and reform. We need more Sadrs, and Mutahharis, and Shariatis and Tabatabais.

(some comments were taken from a talk Seyyed Kamal Al Haydari gave to his students at one of his lectures.)