Discovering Shi\\\'i Islam
Discovering Shi’i Islam is a brief introduction to main issues related to Islam in general and Shi’i Islam in particular. Though simply and clearly written, it is an outcome of more than twenty years of involvement in Islamic studies. The text studies the origins of Shi’i Islam and its sources, i.e. the Qur.an, the Sunnah, the reason and consensus. It also studies fundamental doctrines and main practices of Islam. It ends with a brief account of the latest statistics about the present Muslim population of the world along with a breakdown of religious affiliations of some countries with a long history of Shi’i presence therein. Discovering Shi’i Islam represents a sincere commitment to Islamic unity and is hoped to serve as a modest step towards Muslim brotherhood. Indeed, this book echoes the Qur’anic call for unity which extends to all people of faith to unify their efforts and concentrate on their common ground.
Publisher: Jami’at al-Zahra P.O. Box 3493 Qum Islamic Republic of Iran J_al_qom@hotmail.com First Edition 2003 ñ 1381 Second edition 2003 - 1382 Quantity: 3000 Negheen Press Number of pages: 80 Size: 143 x 205 mm ISBN: 964-438-426-1Introduction In the Name of Allah the Compassionate the MercifulAll praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of all worlds
The present work is in large a summarized version of Shi’i Islam: Origins, Faith and Practices (2003, ICAS Press) by the same author. This shorter version aims to briefly address main issues related to Islam in general and Shi’i Islam in particular. These two works represent a modest attempt to fill some of the gaps that exist in the field of Islamic studies in general, and Shi’i studies in particular.Though simply and clearly written, they are outcomes of more than twenty years of involvement in Islamic studies, and based to some extent on two series of lectures about Shi’i Islam delivered to English audiences: a first set of some fifty lectures delivered at Jami’at al-Zahra (the leading Islamic Seminary for Women) in Qum, Iran in 1995 and 1996, and a second set of some thirty lectures delivered at the Manchester Islamic Institute and the Shi’a Welfare Centre in Manchester, England in 1998 and 1999.The first chapter begins by expounding both the literal and technical meanings of the term Shi’a”, and references are made to statements of famous scholars in this regard. Then it proceeds to study the origins of Shi’i Islam and how it came into existence.The second chapter studies the sources of Shi’i thought, i.e. the Qur’an, the Sunnah, the reason and consensus. Discussing the status of the Qur’an, the chapter goes on to establish that the Shi’a like other Muslims believe that the Qur’an which is present today is an embodiment of Divine revelation to the Prophet Muhammad. The chapter continues by explaining the second most important source, i.e. the Sunnah, which includes the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad.The Qur’an itself asks Muslims to take the Prophet as their role model, to refer to him to judge and settle their conflicts, and speaks of the Prophet as the one who recites, teaches and explains the Qur’an. In this chapter there is also a discussion about the household of the Prophet (Ahlul Bayt) and their role in presenting the Sunnah. Then there follows a discussion about the importance of the reason and its role in understanding Islamic beliefs, values and practical laws. Finally there is a discussion about legal consensus (al-ijm‚’) and how it is viewed with respect to the Sunnah in the Shi’i perspective.The third chapter studies fundamental doctrines of the Shi’i faith. Along with Unity of God, prophethood and resurrection which constitute the Principles of Religion (Islam and other Divine religions), some important additional doctrines such as Divine justice and imamate are studied. These doctrines may partly be shared by other Muslims, but the Shi’a are those who believe in all of them.The fourth chapter is a very brief account of Shi’i practices along with brief reference to the objectives and principles underlying them. These practices are in principle shared by all Muslims, though there may be some differences in particulars among different Islamic schools.The fifth and final chapter is a short discussion about the Shi’a world today. This chapter starts with a brief account of the latest statistics about the present Muslim and Shi’i population of the world. There is also a breakdown of religious affiliations of some countries with a long history of Shi’i presence therein. Though there are no accurate and approved statistics on the current Shi’a population in the world, efforts have been made here to collect the best available.I should also note that the author is sincerely and wholeheartedly committed to Islamic unity and hopes that this work can serve as a modest step towards Muslim brotherhood. In fact, one of the best means in achieving this unity and brotherhood is to know each other and to overcome the historical prejudices that prevent objective understanding between each other. According to an Arabic proverb, “People are enemies of what they ignore”-.A careful study of all major Islamic schools shows that what they have in common is much more than what the y differ. All Muslims believe in the same God, the same Prophet and the same Qur’an. They all believe in the Day of Resurrection and Divine rewards and punishments. They all say their daily prayers towards the same direction, that is, Mecca. They all fast the whole month of Ramadan.They all perform pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at the same time. They all believe in giving alms, enjoining the good and prohibiting the bad. They all believe that they should make friends with the people of faith and good intention and get away from enemies of God. They all adhere to the same virtues and values.According to the Qur’an, all believers are “brothers”. Regardless of their colour, race, gender, and denomination, there are certain duties towards each other that faith brothers and sisters must discharge. Once Mu’alla b. Khunays asked Imam Sadiq about what one Muslim owes another. Imam replied: “There are seven duties incumbent upon him. Should he neglect but one of them, he is not a friend or a servant of God, and truly he has done nothing for the sake of God”. Then Imam mentioned the following:a) Wish for your brother what you wish for yourself, and wish that what you do not desire for yourself should not befall your brother.b) Do not make your brother angry, but seek to please him and obey his wishes.c) Help him with your soul, your tongue, your hands and your feet.d) Be his eye to see by, his guide and his mirror.e) Do not eat your fill when he is hungry, nor drink and clothe yourself when he is thirsty and naked.f) If he has no servant, but you do, it is incumbent on you to send your servant to him to wash his clothes, cook his food and spread out his mattress.g) Accept his promise and his invitation; visit him when he is sick, attend his funeral, and see to his needs before he asks you, hurrying to do them if you can.1
Unfortunately, there have always been some short-sighted people among each group or sect who have tried to magnify the differences and have called for separation instead of unity and brotherhood. They hasten to find some excuses to call anyone who disagrees with them a k‚fir (disbeliever) or a mushrik (polytheist) and any act that does not please them bid’ah (heresy). Of course, there are disbelievers and there are heretics, but one must be very cautious in applying these terms.Great Islamic leaders and scholars, whether they be Sunni or Shi’a, have never attached these labels to each other. In this way, they have represented in their fatwas, sayings and deeds the real spirit of Islam, this harmonious and universal message of peace, justice, unity and mercifulness.Islam brought unity and solidarity for those who suffered a lot from enmity and hostility (3:103). This act of unifying people is highly esteemed as a Divine act (8:63). On the contrary, it was the action of people such as Pharaoh to disunite people (28:4). The Qur’an warns believers that if they start conflicting each other they will weaken and they will, therefore, be defeated (8:46). In fact, the call for unity is not limited to Muslims. The Qur’an invites all people of faith such as Christians and Jews to unify their efforts and concentrate on their common ground (3:64).
Let us hope and pray that day by day this sense of unity and solidarity becomes stronger and intensifies.At the end, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the individuals and organisations that have encouraged me, especially Ayatullah Muhsin Araki, Islamic College for Advanced Studies and the Ahlul Bayt Assembly of UK and the Republic of Ireland in London. Last but certainl y not least, I would like to express my feelings of deep gratitude to God for all His favours that He has bestowed upon us in the past and in the present.Mohammad A. ShomaliRamadan 1423, November 2002
Chapter 1: Origins of Shi’i Islam The meaning of the term Shi‘a
In Arabic, the term “Shi’ah” originally means one, two or a group of followers. In the Glorious Qur\\\'an, this term is used several times in this sense. For example, in the verse (28:15) God speaks of one of the followers of Moses as one of his Shi’a. Elsewhere, Abraham is introduced as a Shi’a of Noah (37:83).In the beginning of the history of Islam, the term “Shi’a” was used in its original or literal sense for followers of different people. For example, some hadiths speak of the Shi’a of Ali b. Abi Talib and others of the Shi’a of Mu\\\'awiyah b. Abi Sufyan. However, gradually the term acquired a secondary or technical meaning, i.e. the followers of Ali, those who believed in his Imamate (divine leadership).Shahrestani (d. 548 A.H) in his Al-Milal wa al-Nihal, an outstanding source about different sects in Islam, writes, \\\" Shi’a are those who followed Ali in particular and believed in his Imamate and caliphate according to the explicit teachings and will of the Prophet Muhammad.\\\"1
This is a very accurate definition, since the Shi’a themselves believe that the reason for following Ali is that it was required by the Prophet and it was not their personal decision to choose whom to follow, unlike the non- Shi’a who, after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, followed the one who was chosen at Saqifah and believed that the Prophet had left it to the people themselves to decide whom to follow.Of course, Abu Bakr b. Abi Quhafah, the first Caliph, who himself was chosen in this way, believed that he must appoint his successor. And the second Caliph, ‘Umar b. Khattab, in turn appointed a council of six people to choose one amongst themselves according to a very strict procedure set up by him. It is interesting to note that it was Ali, the fourth Caliph, who was chosen and indeed forced by nearly all Muslims after the murder of the third Caliph, \\\'Uthman b. \\\'Affan, to undertake the position of caliphate.In his Firaq al-Shi\\\'ah, al-Hasan b. Musa al-Nawbakhti (d. 313 A.H), a well-known Shi’a scholar, writes, “the Shi’a are the party of Ali b. Abi Talib. They were called \\\' Shi’a\\\' of Ali during and after the life of the Prophet and are known as the followers of Ali and believers in his Imamate”.2
Shaykh al-Mufid (d. 413 A.H), one of the most outstanding early Shi’a scholars, defines the Shi’a as being those who follow Ali and believe in his immediate successorship to the Prophet. 3
Explaining why Shi’a are also called “Imamiyah”, he says: “This is a title for those who believe in the necessity of Imamate and its continuit y in all ages, and that every Imam must be explicitly designated, and must also be infallible and perfect.”4
Thus, it can be said that Shi’a Muslims are those who have the following beliefs about the successorship to the Prophet Muhammad:a. Successorship to the Prophet is a Divine position.b. As the Prophet was chosen by God, his successor or Imam also must be chosen by God and then made known by the Prophet.c. The immediate successor to the Prophet Muhammad was Ali.When did Shi\\\'ism start?
Naturally the question arises as to when Shi’ism started. There are many hadiths narrated by both Shi’a and non- Shi’a regarding the issue of Imamate that will be studied later when discussing Shi’i doctrines. In what follows, however, we will just study some hadiths in which the Prophet Muhammad spoke of a group of people as “Shi’a” (followers) of Ali and then refer to some extra reasons from hadiths and the history of Islam that can shed more light on the subject at hand.All hadiths mentioned below are cited from respected Sunni sources. These are, however, a few of the most important narrations, and there are many more to be found in the sources mentioned here as well as others.(1) Ibn \\\'Asakir (d. 571 A.H.) narrated from Jabir b. \\\'Abdullah al-Ansari that he said:Once we were with the Prophet Muhammad, when Ali arrived, upon which the Prophet said, \\\'I swear by Him who has my life in His hand that surely this man and his Shi’a will be happy on the Day of Resurrection and then the verse “Surely those who believe and do good deeds are the best of men” (98:7)
was revealed. Later, whenever the companions of the Prophet Muhammad saw Ali coming, they would say, “The best of men has come”.5
(2) Ibn Hajar (d. 974) narrated from Ibn Abbas that when the verse (98:7) was revealed the Prophet told Ali: “Those are you and your Shi’a. You and your Shi’a will come on the day of Resurrection while you will be pleased and well pleasing (to God) and your enemies will come while they will be angry and seized by their necks”. (Ibn Hajar, Section 11, Chapter 1, the Verse 11)6
(3) Ibn al-Athir (d. 606) narrated that, addressing Ali, the Prophet said:\\\"O Ali! You and your Shi\\\'a will reach God being pleased with Him and well pleasing Him, and your enemies will reach Him, being angry and will be seized by their necks\\\". Then the Prophet demonstrated how this would be by putting his hand on his neck. (Ibn al-Athir, Al-Nihayah, the entry \\\"qa-ma-ha\\\")There are other hadiths in which the Prophet Muhammad, addressing Ali, used the expression \\\"our Shi’a\\\". This is in line with what was asserted above that the Shi’a are those who follow Ali, in accordance with the teachings of the Prophet and not because of their own personal decision. For example, Ibn \\\'Asakir narrated that the Prophet said:\\\"Surely there is a spring in Paradise sweeter than nectar, smoother than butter, cooler than ice, and smells better than musk. In that spring is the clay (tinah) from which we (my household and me) were created and our Shi’a are made from the same clay.\\\"7
There are yet other hadiths in which the Prophet, addressing Ali, used the expression \\\" Shi’a of your descendants\\\". This confirms what was suggested above, that the Shi’a are those who follow Ali because they believe in the institution of Imamate. As we will see in detail later, the Shi’a believe that Ali was the first Imam and after him the institution of Imamate continued in those offspring of Ali and Fatimah that were chosen by God and introduced by the Prophet.For example, Zamakhshari (d. 528 A.H.) in his Rabi’ al-Abrar reports that the Prophet said: \\\"O Ali! When the Day of Resurrection comes I will hold on to God, you will hold on to me, your descendants will hold on to you and their Shi\\\'a will hold on to them. Then you will see where we will be taken.\\\"8
It has to be noted that according to the Qur\\\'an, prophethood was also inherited. The Qur\\\'an says:\\\"And surely we have sent Noah and Abraham, and we put prophethood and the Book in their offspring\\\". (57:26)
This means that those who were qualified to be chosen as prophets by God were included in their offspring.In addition to the above-mentioned hadiths and their like, and those hadiths on Imamate that will be mentioned later, there are many other reasons that make the appearance of a group of people such as the Shi’a in the lifetime of the Prophet a very natural and even necessary phenomenon.For example, at the beginning of Islam when the Prophet was asked by God to start his public invitation to Islam by inviting his close relatives, he invited his relatives to a meal. After the meal the Prophet expressed his mission and invited the guests to Islam and said that whoever believed in Islam among them and assisted him would be his successor. All kept silent. The only one who accepted the invitation to assist him was Ali, a teenager at that time.The Prophet asked him to sit and repeated his invitation for the second and the third time. Again and again it was just Ali who expressed his readiness to support the Prophet. The Prophet accepted Ali’s submission to the will of God and carried out Allah\\\'s command to designate him as his successor. This event is documented in many sources.9
In a very important statement, the Prophet clearly affirmed that Ali was truthful and free of false beliefs and wrong acts, be it in his personal conduct or in his speech and judgements, and implicitly asked Muslims to follow him. Umm Salamah reported that the Prophet said: \\\"Ali is always with the truth (al-haqq) and the Qur\\\'an and the truth are always with him, and until the Day of Resurrection they will never separate from each other\\\".This particular hadith is narrated by Ibn \\\'Abbas, Abu Bakr, \\\'A\\\'ishah, Abu Sa\\\'id al-Khuddari, Abu Layla, and Abu Ayyub al-Ansari as well.10
The Prophet is also quoted as saying, \\\"May God bless Ali. My Lord, make the truth always be with him\\\".11
The Prophet also asserted on several occasions that Ali was the most knowledgeable among his men in matters pertaining to Islamic sciences. For example, the Prophet said: \\\"Wisdom is divided into ten parts: nine parts are given to Ali and one part is distributed among the rest of the people\\\".12
Later the second Caliph reaffirmed the sayings of the Prophet by saying, \\\"May God never afflict me with a difficult task where Ali is not present\\\".13
One also has to take into account the valuable and vital services and sacrifices of Ali, in order to be able to realise his position among Muslims. For example, when the infidels of Mecca planned to kill the Prophet and God informed him of their plot, the Prophet asked Ali whether he would be willing to sleep in his place so that the pagans would think that he is still at home, allowing him to safely leave Mecca. Ali accepted this task, on the occasion of which the verse was revealed,
“And among people are those who sell their souls to acquire Divine pleasure”
.The emigration of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina marks the beginning of the Islamic Calendar. Ali served the cause of Islam by fighting in the Battles of Badr, Uhud, Khaybar, Khandaq and Hunayn, in which he played crucial roles. These are all registered in numerous historical works and collections of hadiths by non- Shi’a scholars.As was mentioned earlier, the Prophetic hadiths on the issue of the Imamate in general, and about Ali in particular, will be studied later. However, I would like to conclude the discussion here by referring to the well- known hadith of Ghadir Khumm. Returning from his last pilgrimage to Mecca, the Prophet asked thousands of Muslims accompanying him to stop on the way.He stood on a platform or pulpit made for him out of saddles and said, \\\"Whoever has adopted me as his master (mawla), Ali now is his master\\\". Then the people present there, including the first and second Caliphs to be paid allegiance to Ali and congratulated him. This hadith is transmitted by more than one hundred sources.
For a comprehensive list of non- Shi’a sources of this hadith, see \\\'Abaqat al-Anwar by Mir Hamid Husayn al-Hindi (d. 1306 A.H.) and Al-Ghadir by \\\'Abd al-Husayn al-Amini (d. 1390 A.H.). Having affirmed the veracity of the hadith, some Sunni writers have interpreted the term mawl‚ used in this hadith in another way.According to them, the term mawla here is used in the sense of friendship. Whether this can be accepted or not, there is no doubt that this tradition and the event gave Ali a unique and central position among the Companions of the Prophet.Thus, it seems that the different sets of hadiths along with the historical evidence mentioned above leave no doubt that during the lifetime of the Prophet many Muslims came to love Ali deeply and sought his company and were determined to follow him after the Prophet. These people were so frequently and significantly referred to as Shi’a of Ali that gradually the term “Shi’a” alone became equivalent to the Shi’a of Ali.More important than this is the fact that the idea of the Imamate of Ali certainl y started in the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. The demise of the Prophet naturally brought the issue into focus and distinguished those who still believed in the necessity of following Ali from other Muslims, who sooner or later came to believe in the institution of the caliphate as the successorship to the Prophet in ruling the Islamic society, and not as a Divine position.Describing events after the death of the prophet, Al-Mas\\\'udi (d. 345 A.H), a great Sunni historian, writes: \\\"Surely Imam Ali and those of his Shi’a who were with him stayed in his house at the time that the allegiance to Abu Bakr was made.\\\"14
Later certain events, such as the wars that occurred during the Caliphate of Ali and the event of Karbal‚ in which Husayn, the third imam of the Shi’a and 72 people of his family and companions were killed, made the Shi’a of Ali more recognised and defined Shi’a identity more sharply.For example, we find in one of the early works that Ali, condemning Talhah and Zubayr, said: \\\"Surely the followers of Talhah and Zubayr in Basra killed my Shi’a and my agents\\\".15
Ab˚ Mikhnaf (d. 158 A.H) reports that after the death of Mu\\\'awiyah the Shi’a gathered at the house of Sulayman b. Surad and he told them: “Mu\\\'awiyah has died and Husayn has refused to pay allegiance to the Umayyads and has departed towards Mecca and you are his Shi’a and the Shi’a of his father”.16Early Shi‘a
Naturally Shi’a Islam first started in the Hijaz amongst the companions of the Prophet. Reference to the Islamic historical and biographical works shows that the list of the Shi’a among the companions of the Prophet includes the following well-known bani Hashim (offspring of Hashim, great-grand father of the Prophet Muhammad): ‘Abdullah b. al-’Abbas, al-Fadl b. al-Abbas, ‘Ubaydillah b. al- ‘Abbas, Qiththam b. al-’Abbas, ‘Abd al-Rahman b. al-‘Abbas, Tamam b. al-’Abbas, Aqil b. Abi Talib, Abu Sufyan b. al-Harth b. ‘Abd al-Mutallib, Naufil b. al-Harth, ‘Abdullah b. Ja’far b. Abi Talib, ‘Awn b. Ja’far, Muhammad b. Ja’far, Rabi’at b. al-Harth b. ‘Abd al-Mutallib, al-Tufayl b. al-Harth, al-Mughayrat b. Nawfil b. al-Harith, ‘Abdullah b. al-Harth b. Nawfil, ‘Abdullah b. Abi Sufyan b. al-Harth, al-’Abbas b. Rabi’at b. al-Harth, al-’Abbas b. ‘Utbah b. Abi Lahab, ‘Abd al-Mutallib b. Rabi’at b. al-Harth, Ja’far b. Abi Sufyan b. al-Harth.The list of Shi’a among those companions of the Prophet who were not bani Hashim includes: Salman, Miqdad, Abu Dharr, ‘Ammar b. Yasir, Hudhayfah b. al-Yaman, Khuzaymah b. Thabit, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, Abu al- Haytham Malik b. al-Tihan, Ubayy b. Ka’b, Qays b. Sa’d b. ‘Ubadah, ‘Adiy b. Hatam, ‘Ubadah b. al-Samit, Bilal al- Habashi, Abu Rafi’, Hashim b. ‘Utbah, ‘Uthman b. Hunayf, Sahl b. Hunayf, Hakim b. Jibillah al-’Abdi, Khalid b. Sa’id b. al-’Aas, Ibn Husayb al-Aslami, Hind b. Abi Halah al-Tamimi, Ju’dah b. Hubayrah, Hujr b. ‘Adiy al-Kindi, ‘Amr b. al-Hamq al-Khuza’i, Jabir b. ‘Abdullah al-Ansari, Muhammad b. Abi Bakr (the son of the first Caliph), Aban b. Sa’id b. al-’Asi, Zayd b. Sauhan.17
1. Shahres tani, Vol. 1, p. 1462. Al-Nawbakhti, p. 17.3. See al-Mufid, p. 36.4. Ibid, p. 38.5. Ibn ‘Asakir, Vol. 2, p. 442 & al-Suyuti, Vol. 6, p. 58906. In the same book, Ibn Hajar has also narrated from Umm Salamah that one night when the Prophet was in her house, his daughter Fatimah arrived, with Ali following her. Then the Prophet said: .O Ali! You and your companions are in Heaven. You and your Shi’a are in Heaven..7. Ibn ‘Asakir, Vol. 1, p. 129, No. 1808. Cited in S ubhani, Vol, 6, p. 104.9. Among non-Shi\\\'a sources , one c an refer to Tarikh a l-Uma m wa al- Muluk by Tabar i (d. 310 A.H.), Vol. 3, pp. 62, 63; Al-Kamil fi al- Tarik h by I bn al-Athir (d. 630 A.H.), V ol. 2, pp. 40, 41& Musna d by Ahmad b. Hanabal, Mus nad al-’Asharah al-Mubashshar in bi al- Jannah, Sakhr serial no. 841.10. According to Ghafari, p. 10, this tradition has been tr ansm itted through 15 non-S hi’a channels, s uc h as Musta dark by al-H akim al- Nishabur i, al-Sa wa’iq by ibn H ajar, Ka nz al-’Ummal and Yanabi’ al- Mawaddah.11. See, e.g. al-Tirm idhi, Kitab al-Manaq ib, Sakhr ser ial no. 3647.12. Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihaya h by I bn Kathir (d. 774 A. H), Vol. 7, p. 359.13. See for exam ple Al-Isa ba h fi Tamy iz al -Sa haba h by Ibn H ajar, V ol. 2, p. 509 and Al-Bidaya h wa al-Nihaya h by I bn Kathir , Vol. 7, p. 36.14. Ithba t al-Was iyah, p. 121.15. Waq\\\'at S effin by Nasr b. Muzahim (d. 212 A.H ).16. Maqtal al -Imam al -Husayn by Abu Mik hnaf, p. 15.17. For example, see Buhuth fi al-Milal wa al -Nihal by J. Subhani, V ol. 6, pp. 109 & 110. Sayyid Ali al-Madani (d. 1120 A.H.) in his Al- Darjat al-Rafi’a t fi Tabaqa t al-Shi’a al -Imamiya h mentions names of 69 Com panions of the Prophet who were Shi’a. Sayyid ‘Abd al- Husayn Sharaf al-Din (1377 A.H.) in his Al-Fusul al-Muhimma h fi Ta’l if al-Umma h mentions names of more than two hundred Companions of the Prophet Muhamm ad who were Shi’a in an A-Z order star ting with Abu R afi’ and ending with Yazid b. Hautharah al-Ansar i. Yous uf b. ‘Abdullah (d. 456) in his Al-Is ti’ab, Ibn al-Athir in his Us d al-Gha bah and Ibn H ajar (d. 852 A.H.) in his Al-Isaba h are some of the non-Shi’a scholars who have mentioned some of the S hi’a pioneersChapter 2: Sources of shi’i thought Before studying Shi’a doctrines or practices, it is necessary to know the sources on which the Shi’a rely for understanding Islam. In what follows, we will study the four sources of Shi’i thought or in other words the four sources on which, from a Shi’i point of view any investigation about Islam has to be based: the Glorious Qur’an, the Sunnah, the reason and the consensus.The Glorious Qur‘anNeedless to say, the Qur’an is the most important source for all Muslims, including the Shi’a. The Qur’an also acts as an instrument of unity among all Muslims. Regardless of their different sectarian and cultural backgrounds, all Muslims refer to the same book as the Divine guide to govern their life. As in any other time, today throughout the Muslim world there exists only one Qur’an without any addition or alterations. A typical Shi’a standpoint towards the Qur’an can be found in the following passage:We believe that the Qur’an was Divinely inspired, and revealed by Allah on the tongue of His honourable Prophet, making clear everything, an everlasting miracle. Man is unable to write anything like it because of its eloquence, clarity, truth and knowledge, and no alteration can be made to it. The Qur’an we have now is exactly what was sent to the Prophet, and anyone who claims otherwise is either an evil-doer, a mere sophist or else a person in error, and all of them have gone astray, because it is the speech of Allah, and:“Falsehood cannot come at it from before it or from behind.” (41:42)We also believe that we must respect and give dignity to the Glorious Qur’an, and this both in word and in deed. Therefore, it must not be defiled intentionally, not even one of its letters, and it must not be touched by one who is not tahir [i.e. ‘pure’]. It is said in the Qur’an:“None can touch it save the purified.” (56:79) 1 Shi ‘a deny any alteration in the Qur‘anAs mentioned above, the Shi’a deny any alteration in the Qur’an and believe that the Qur’an available today is the same one that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The Qur’an is complete. No one has ever seen a copy of the Qur’an different from the standard one in any part of the Islamic world. There are manuscripts of the Qur’an available today that go back to the time of Shi’a Imams and they are exactly the same as the current ones.The Glorious Qur\'an itself explicitly says that God Himself preserves the Qur\'an from any alteration and mutilation:Surely We have revealed the Reminder and We will most surely be its preserver. (15:9)2Regarding this verse, `Allamah Tabataba\'i in his renowned Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Qur’an, one of the greatest commentaries of the Qur’an, states:…the Qur’an is a living and eternal Reminder which will never die and fall into oblivion. It is immune from any addition and loss. It is immune from and secure against any alterations in form and style which could affect its character and role, that is, as, \"the Reminder of Allah which expresses divine truth and knowledge\". For this reason, the aforesaid verse indicates that the Divine Book has always been and will continue to be guarded against any mutilation and alteration.The SunnahAfter the Glorious Qur’an, the most important source for understanding Islam and therefore Shi’i thought is the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, including his sayings and his deeds. The Qur’an itself clearly gives such a high position to the Prophet, as he is referred to as the one who is responsible for explaining the Qur’an (16:44) and teaching the Qur’an and wisdom (62:2).
The Prophet is a perfect example for the believers (33:21). He never speaks out of his own wishes (53:3). Muslims are asked to hold on to whatever he gives them and refrain from whatever he prohibits (59:7).Knowing the above verses and many other verses on the status of the Prophet and taking into account the significance of acting as a divine messenger chosen directly by God and spoken to by Him, the Shi’a, along with other Muslims, cultivated a state of sincere love for and devotion to the Prophet Muhammad.The household of the Prophet
There seems to be no disagreement among Muslims about the validity of following the teachings of the household of the Prophet in understanding Islam, especially according to the Sunni view which considers even all the companions of the Prophet as reliable sources of understanding Islam.3
There is no doubt, then, that the household of the Prophet are reliable and trustworthy in presenting Islam.This fact becomes even clearer when we refer to the traditions from the Prophet about his household, and examine sayings of Sunni scholars about the knowledge of Ali and members of the household of the Prophet. For example, Imam Malik says: “No eyes have seen, no ears have heard, and nothing has come to the heart of any human being better than Ja’far b. Muhammad in his knowledge, in his piety, in his asceticism and in his servitude to God.” This is what Ibn Taymiyah reports from Imam Malik in his book. 4
In a survey about those people who narrated from Imam Sadiq, Shaykh al-Mufid (d.413) in his al-Irshad asserts that those who were trustworthy among them from different schools of thought were 4000 in number. Thus, there is no ambiguity here and this is why many Sunny scholars such as the late Shaykh Shaltut have clearly pointed out that every Muslim is allowed to act according to one of the five Islamic schools of fiqh: Ja’fari, Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and Shafi’i.The reason is clear, because if Imam Ja’far Sadiq or other members of the household of the Prophet did not possess more knowledge or better access to the knowledge of theProphet than the rest, then one has to admit that he must have been at least equal to others, especially if he is to have taught them such as Abu Hanifah, the Imam of Hanafi Muslims who attended Imam Sadiq’s lectures for two years. People who are educated or who are seeking the truth are expected, therefore, to examine all Islamic sources available, and thereby come to a conclusion about the ways Muslims can lead exemplary lives. Certainly one rich source is the teachings of the household of the Prophet.Now, let us see whether it is necessary to refer to the household of the Prophet in understanding Islam or not. To provide an answer I will just focus on some traditions from the Prophet narrated by great Sunni narrationists and accepted by both Sunni and Shi’a scholars. But prior to that it has to be noted that all the teachings of the household of the Prophet were always based on the Glorious Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet.No one should think that for example Imam Sadiq was saying something according to his own opinion about Islam. Whatever they uttered was exactly what they had themselves received from the Prophet. There are many traditions in this regard. For example, in Usul al-Kafi we find that Imam Sadiq said that whatever he said was what he had received through his forefathers from the Prophet.One of these traditions is the famous tradition of Thaqalayn. This tradition was uttered by the Prophet on different occasions, including the day of ‘Arafah in his last pilgrimage and the 18t h of Dhu’l-Hijjah in Ghadir Khum. Despite minor differences in the wording the essence remains the same in all versions of the tradition.For example, in one version of the tradition the Prophet said:
“Oh people! I leave among you two precious things: the Book of God and my household. As long as you hold on to them you will not go astray.”Or in another tradition the Prophet said:
“I leave among you two precious things, which if you hold on to you will not go astray after me: the Book of God which is like a rope extended between the heaven and the earth, and my household. These two things will not separate from each other until they reach me near the fountain on the Day of Judgement. Look and be careful how you treat them after me.”This shows that the Prophet was worried about the way that Muslims, or at least some of them, would treat the Qur’an and his household. In another tradition he said:
“I leave two successors: first the Book of God which is like a rope extended between heaven and the earth and second my household. They will not separate from each other until they come to me near the fountain of Kawthar.”The above traditions can be found in major Sunni sources, such as: Sahih Muslim (Vol. 8, p. 25, No. 2408), Musnad by Imam Ahmad (Vol. 3, p.388, No.10720), Sunan by Darimi (Vol. 2, p. 432), and Sahih by Tirmidhi (Vol. 5, p. 6432, No. 3788).They are also mentioned in books such as Usd al-Ghabah by Ibn Athir (Vol. 2, p. 13), Al-Sunan al-Kubra by Bayhaqi (Vol. 2, p. 198) and Kanz al-’Ummal (Vol. 1, p. 44).Now let us reflect on the content of the hadith, i.e. the fact that the Prophet has left among Muslims two weighty things: the Qur’an and his household and that as long as people hold on to them both, they will not go astray. This shows that these two things must always be in harmony with each other, and that they never contradict each other. Otherwise, the Prophet would not have given the instruction to follow both of them.Moreover, the people would get puzzled about what to do if the household of the Prophet were to tell them to go in one direction and the Book of God says to go in another. Although this fact is implicitly understandable from the beginning of hadith, the Prophet himself later explicitly confirmed this fact by saying, “They will not separate from each other until they come to me near the fountain of Kawthar”.Thus, this hadith in all versions indicates that:• From the time of the Prophet until the end of the world the Book of God and the household of the Prophet will always be together.• No one can say that the book of God is enough, and that we do not need the household of the Prophet, or vice versa, for the Prophet clearly said: I leave two precious things that you must grasp and if you do so you will not be misled.• The household of the Prophet would never make mistakes and they are always truthful.• It is also interesting that according to this hadith the household of the Prophet, like the Qur’an itself, is held to be continuous, persisting until the Day of Judgement and Paradise. Thus, the household of the Prophet will never disappear, even for a short period of time.The other hadith is the hadith of Safinah (ship). All Muslims have narrated that the Prophet said:“Be aware that surely the example of my household among you is like the example of the ship of Noah. Whoever boarded the ship of Noah was saved and whoever refused to enter the ship of Noah was drowned.”The hadith of Safinah in its different versions emphasises the same fact and can be found in different Sunni books. For example, it can be found in Mustadrak by Hakim Nishaburi, Vol. 3, pp. 149&151, Arba’in Hadith by Nabahani, al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah by Ibn Hajar amongst other sources.Thus, according to these sets of traditions the appeal to the guidance of the household of the Prophet is of the utmost necessity.Note: The tradition of thaqalayn is mentioned in both Sunni and Shi’a sources so it is a matter of agreement among all Muslims. However, there is a version of the hadith in which the Prophet is quoted as saying ‘my Sunnah’ instead of ‘my household’. Although this version can only be found in some Sunni sources, there is no difficulty in understanding what this tradition means, provided that this version too can be authenticated.The Prophet in many traditions narrated by all Muslims has said: “I am leaving two precious things and those are the glorious Qur’an and my household” and in a few traditions narrated only by a particular group of Muslims has said: “the glorious Qur’an and my Sunnah.” Obviously the result would be that as one side of the comparison is the same, i.e. The Qur’an, the other side too must be identical.Therefore, ‘my Sunnah’ and ‘my household’ also must be identical; otherwise one has to say that there is no harmony in what the Prophet said. Thus, the very act of resorting to the teachings and advice of the household of the Prophet is the very act of resorting to the Sunnah of the Prophet. Thus, the only way to reach the Sunnah of the Prophet and to understand exactly what his Sunnah was, is to refer to these people who have had the closest relationship with him and who knew better than anyone else what he said or did or approved.Who constitute the house hold of the Prophet?
The other question concerns the exact meaning of “the household”. According to many traditions, we are told to refer to the household of the Prophet: “Ahlul Bayt” or “’Itrah”. What do these terms refer to? There is no doubt about the status of the household of the Prophet in Islam, but there may be a need to investigate the referent of the term to see whether it includes anyone who was a relative of the Prophet or not.Of course, there is no doubt among Muslims that certainly Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet, Imam Ali, and their sons: Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn are members of his household. The only concern is whether other relatives of the Prophet are included or not, and if so, to what extent.Sunni Muslims believe that all relatives of the Prophet are included. Of course, they exclude those who did not embrace Islam, such as Abu Lahab, one of the uncles of the Prophet and at the same time one of his most hostile enemies who has been cursed in the Qur’an. Shi’a Muslims believe that the Ahlul Bayt are those who have appropriate levels of faith and knowledge that make it possible for them to be mentioned along with the Qur’an in the tradition of the Thaqalayn and others. Moreover, they believe that the Prophet himself has clearly defined them.In what follows, I will mention some hadiths narrated in major Sunni sources:(1) Muslim narrates from ‘Ayishah, Umm al-Mu’minin:The Prophet went out wearing a black woollen cloak, when Hasan the son of Ali came to him, so the Prophet let Hasan come in with him under the cloak. Then Husayn came and he too entered. Then Fatimah came. She entered as well. Then Ali came. He also went under the cloak, such that the cloak covered the Prophet, Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn. Then the Prophet recited:‘God only desires to keep away impurity from you, O People of the House! And to purify yo u a (thorough) purifying’
(2) Muslim narrates from Sa’d b. Abi Waqqas that he was asked by Mu’awiyah why he refused to verbally abuse Ali. Sa’d replied:“I remember three sayings of the Prophet about Ali which caused me not to say anything bad about him. If I possessed even one of these qualities it would be better for me than red camels.6
The first was that when the Prophet wanted to go to the war of Tabuk, he left Ali in Medina. Ali was very sad at not having the good fortune to join the army and fight for the sake of God. He went to the Prophet, saying: ‘Do you leave me with the children and women?’ The Prophet replied: ‘Are you not happy to be to me, as Aaron was to Moses, except that there will be no prophet after me?’Second I heard from the Prophet on the day of conquest of Khaybar: ‘Certainly I will give the flag [of Islam] to a man that loves God and His Messenger and is loved b y God and His Messenger’. We hoped to be given the flag, but the Prophet said: ‘Call Ali for me!’ Ali came while suffering from pain in his eyes. The Prophet gave him the flag and at his hands God granted us victory.Third when the verse of Mubahalah was revealed the Prophet called Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn and said: ‘My Lord! These are my household’.”7
(3) Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal narrates from Anas b. Malik that when the verse of tathir (33:33) was revealed, for six months the Prophet used to call at the house of Ali and Fatimah every morning on his way to the mosque for the Dawn Prayer and say: “Prayer, O People of the House!”8
There are also traditions about the meaning of Qurb‚ (near ones) which has been mentioned several times in the Qur’an. For example, according to the Qur’an, the Prophet did not ask any payment in return for his teachings from the people. He just wanted the people to love his Qurb‚ for their own benefit.So who are the Qurb? Zamakhshari, a great Sunni scholar and exegete of the Qur’an, says that when this verse was revealed the Prophet was asked who are meant by this verse, and to whom all have to be respectful. The Prophet replied: “Ali, Fatimah and their two sons”.9The reason
The Shi’a believe that the reason is a reliable source of knowledge and in complete harmony with revelation. According to some hadiths, God has two proofs (hujjah), through which humans can understand His will: the internal one which is the reason (al-’aql) and the external one, which are the prophets. Sometimes the 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 the reason is the same as that made by the religion (shar’) and vice versa. It is also unanimously accepted that one of the conditions of moral or legal responsibility is to have a sound reason. If someone is insane, he is not considered as responsible upon what he acts.What is expected of the people in religion also varies according to their mental and rational capacity. Those who are very clever and intelligent are expected to be more prepared, to be more pious and obedient than those who are lay or ignorant.According to the Qur’an, 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 with rhetorical questions, calling for people to think like:“Do not they think?!” (36:68), “Do not they ponder on the Qur’an?!” (4:82; 47:24)
and“In these, there are signs for those who are thoughtful” (13:4; 16:67; 30:28)
In general, the reason contributes to religious studies in three major areas: One is to understand the realities of the world, such as the existence of God, the truth of religion and scientific facts. The second is to introduce principles of moral values and legal norms, such as the wrongness of oppression and the rightness of justice. The third is to set up standards and logical processes of reasoning and inference. All these three roles of the reason are recognised and, indeed, urged by Islam.In contrast, the role of revelation or the Scriptures in religious studies can be summed up as follows:• confirmation of the facts that are already known by the reason;• introducing new subject that are not known by the reason, such as details of resurrection and detailed accounts of moral and legal systems;• Providing sanctions through the religious system of reward and punishment.At the end, I should mention that there is nothing irrational in Islam. Of course, one has to distinguish between certain and decisive rational judgements, and one’s guessing or personal opinions. If there is a case in which it seems that the rational judgement is in conflict with certain religious positions, one has to verify that there must be a mistake in at least one side: either it was not a real judgement of the reason or it was not a religious law.God never misleads people by telling them to do something through the prophets, and the opposite thing through our God-given reason. There have always been some judgements attributed to reason and taken as contradicting religious positions, that after close consideration have proven to be contrary to decisive rational premises.Consensus
Traditionally one of the sources of understanding Islam is considered to be consensus (ijm‚’). According to Shi’a methodology of thought, the consensus of all people or a group of them, such as the scholars by itself is not sufficient as a proof (hujjah); As one person may make mistake, two or three, or thousands or even all of them may do so.However, whenever there exists an agreement among all Muslims or Muslim scholars in a way whereby it unveils the Sunnah, it can serve as a proof, as an instrument to uncover the will of God. For example, when we find that every Muslim in the time of the Prophet said his prayer in a certain way we realize that the Prophet had instructed them to do so; otherwise there would be no factor to unify their action. It is not possible to imagine that they had all acted blindly and without instruction or that they all made mistakes and the Prophet did not correct them.Thus, for the Shi’a consensus in itself is not a proof. It only works when it leads to the discovery of Sunnah. Accordingly, if Muslims today agree on a given subject, while a scholar has doubt about the Islamic judgement on that subject, he methodologically cannot say that because everybody says so, I also say the same.There have been many cases in the history where all human beings believed in the same way and later they found out that they were wrong, e.g. the earth being flat. It is only the Qur’an and the Sunnah that are unquestionably true and immune from any error or mistake.This approach grants a type of dynamism to Shi’i thought, so that every generation of scholars and even any single scholar is able and indeed is required to refer directly to the Qur’an and Sunnah and conduct his own original ijtih‚d, that is his investigation and independent judgement. Ijtih‰d has never been banned or closed in the Shi’a world. The Shi’a believe that the view of no jurist, however high his position, is immune from scientific questioning or challenge. Of course, as in any other discipline, every religious scholar needs to consult and examine carefully the works of his predecessors.
- 1. Muzaffar, p. 26
- 2. It has to be noted that the c har ge with belief in alteration is limited to deletion of s ome alleged verses; otherwise neither Shi’ites nor Sunnites have ever been char ged with belief in addition to the Qur ‘an. Therefore, one can argue from any verses of the Qur ‘and to refute the idea of alteration.
- 3. Sunni Muslims hold that whoever met the Prophet while believing in him is considered as a companion of the Prophet and can be relied on in acquir ing knowledge about Islam. Accordingly, members of the household of the Prophet such as Imam Ali and Fatimah who have always been with the Prophet and had the closest relation to the Prophet can unquestionably be relied on.
- 4. Al-Ta wassul wa al-Wasila h, p. 52, firs t edition.
- 5. Sahih by Muslim, Vol. 4, p.1883, No.2424 (Kitab Fada’il al- Sahabah, Bab Fada’il Ahlul Bayt, Sakhr ser ial no. 4450)
- 6. Red camels were cons idered very valuable in those days.
- 7. Sahih by Muslim, Vol.4, p.1871, no.2408. (Kitab Fada’il al- Sahabah, Sakhr serial No. 4420).
- 8. Musna d by Im am Ahmad b. Hanbal, inter national serial no. 13231. See also Suna n by al-T irm idhi, inter national serial no. 3130.
- 9. Al-Kashs haf by Zam akhshari, Comm entary of the verse 42:23, Vol.4, p. 220.
Chapter 3: Doctrines Throughout the history of Islam, Muslims in spite of their differences, have had great agreement, not only in many principles of Islam, but also in many of its practices. The Qur’an and the great personality of the Prophet on the one hand, and the sincere love and devotion of all Muslims towards them, have unified Muslims and made out of them a real nation that has its own identity, heritage, aims, objectives and destiny.The hostility of the enemies of Islam, who have always been trying to uproot Islam as a whole, along with challenges of the age, have also helped to awaken and strengthen the sense of unity and brotherhood among Muslims. The Qur’anic and prophetic call for unity and brotherhood has always been echoed by great leading Islamic personalities of different schools of Islam.With respect to beliefs, all Muslims share the belief in God and His unity, in the prophets in general and the mission of the Prophet Muhammad in particular which is to deliver the final message of God for human beings, along with the Resurrection, and the just and equal treatment of everybody on the Day of Judgement. These are the most fundamental principles of Islam which are agreed upon by all Muslims. An outside view about the extent of the agreement between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims is expressed in the following passage:Since the Iranian Revolution everyone knows that Shi’ites are Muslims, like the Sunnis respecting the central dogma of the oneness of God, the same sacred writing (the Koran), the same Prophet Mohammad, the same belief in the resurrection followed by the last Judgement and the same fundamental obligations, prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, almsgiving, and jihad (holy war).These common points are more important than the differences: there is no longer any theoretical objection to a Shi’ite performing his prayers with a Sunni, or vice versa although many difficulties have existed in the past and in practice still remain. (Richard, p. 5; with abbreviation)In what follows, we will proceed by outlining principles of religion or articles of faith. Some of the characteristic beliefs of the Shi’a will be examined thereafter.1Principles of religion(1) Unity of God
The Islamic faith is formulated by the declaration of two facts, i.e., that there is no god (i.e., no one worthy of worship) but God (Allah) and that Muhammad is His messenger. (La Ilaha Illallah Muhammadur-Rasululla h). Muslims believe that Allah is one. He has no partner or children. He is the beginning and he is the end. He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. The qur’an says that he is closer to man than his jugular vein, but he cannot be seen by eyes or encompassed by human intellect. In a supplication, Imam Ali says:\"Oh God, verily I ask Thee by Thy Name, in the name of Allah, the All-merciful, the All-compassionate, O the Possessor of Majesty and Splendour, the Living, the Self-subsistent, the Eternal, there is no God other than Thee. \"Divine justice:
Among Divine attributes the Shi’a put a great emphasis on His justice. Of course, all Muslims believe that God is just (adil), in that God never commits any injustice towards His servants, and He never oppresses any one. This fact is clearly expressed by the Qur’an:God is not in the least unjust to the servants. (3:182 & 8:51 & 22:10)Your Lord is not in the least unjust to the servants. (41:46)I am not in the least unjust to the servants. (50:29)Surely God does not do injustice to the weight of an atom. (4:40)Surely God does not do any injustice to men, but men are unjust to themselves. (10:44)2
In addition to the importance of Divine justice in itself, the other reason for the emphasis on this doctrine by the Shi’a, is that the Ash’arites, a group of Sunni theologians, believe that there is no objective criteria for morally right or wrong acts. Good is what God acts or whatever is commanded by God. Therefore, whatever God acts or commands is good and just by definition.They believe that if God had asked us to tell lies telling lies would have become good and if God were to send the pious people to hell that would be just. Of course, they believe that God never does such acts, not because they are wrong in themselves, but because in practice He has said that those acts are wrong. Ash’arites also believe that human beings do not have free-will and it is God who creates their acts without them having any role therein. They are only receptacles of Divine acts.The Shi’a and some other Sunni theologians, such as the Mu’tazilites, believe that good and bad, or right and wrong are objective, and that there are rational criteria for moral judgements. In other words, they believe in intrinsic goodness and badness. They believe that in reality there is a difference between, say, justice and oppression and it is not arbitrary that God has commanded us to be just and not to oppress anyone even our enemies.They also believe that human beings are free and responsible for their acts. Of course, the Mu’tazilites believe in tafwid, i.e. that God has handed over His authority over human voluntary acts to them and they have complete control over their acts. But the Shi’a believe that although determinism (jabr) is wrong and against Divine justice, and that human beings are free, their freedom and power is limited, and God has an overall authority upon their acts. This fact is expressed in the well-known formulation of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq:“There is no compulsion (jabr), nor is there absolute delegation of power (tafwid), but the real position is between the two extremes.”Due to the ultimate importance of this subject for any value system, the Shi’a have always stressed on the issue of Divine justice and have frequently introduced it along with tawhid (Divine unity), prophethood, Imamate (Divine leadership) and Resurrection as one of the five Principles of the Faith (Usul al-Madhhab) in contrast to tawhid, prophethood and resurrection which count as the three Principles of the Religion (Usul al-Din), which are shared by all Muslims.This emphasis on the issue of Divine justice has not j