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The Authenticity of Najhul Balagha

Ayatullah Milani

by Ayatullah Milani

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Published on 29th May, 2002

 Traditions in Islam

By Nafeez Ahmed

The Holy Five (AS)

Shias do not accept that any of their hadith books are 100 per cent sahih (authentic). On the contrary, we believe that only the Noble Qur'an is 100 per cent sahih, and that all other books produced by fallible human beings may not be completely sahih. The primary criteria, which Shias use to classify the authenticity of a hadith, are not which book it is from, but its chain of narrations.

Nahjul Balagha

Many Shias treat Nahjul Balagha as if it is absolutely unimpeachable with all of it being supposedly totally and undoubtedly authentic. That is basically false and has no scholarly basis. In fact, Shia scholars do not espouse to such a view. Nahjul Balagha is regarded as largely authentic, but it is known that some fabricated hadith have crept in. This has been apparently been proven extensively by various Sunni and Shia scholars, but no one has ever shown that Nahjul Balagha is completely authentic.

The two Washington-based scholars on Islam, Sachiko Murata and William C. Chittick, who are reverts to Islam, write in a book:

"It is possible that some spurious sayings crept in, but the relatively uniform style and the high intellectual and spiritual level of the text makes it highly unlikely that it could have been, as some modern scholars have suggested, a fabrication. Moreover, there are earlier sources in which many of the same sayings are found." (Sachiko Murata & William C. Chittick, 'The Vision of Islam' I. B. Taurus, p. 241)

Al-Kulayni, 'Furu` al-Kafi', V

In fact, all the material in this compilation can be traced to other Shia ahadith compilations, where the chains of narration can be found and inspected. One alternative source of this hadith is al-Kulayni, 'Furu` al-Kafi', V. But although Al-Kafi is generally one of the most reliable Shia hadith collections, it is well known that its compiler al-Kulayni included all kinds of traditions in his collection, sound, weak, authentic, parallel, etc. Al Kafi, in fact, has many fabricated hadith. Shia scholars know these are fabricated because their chains of narration are weak; they contradict the Qur'an and other authenticated hadith. So Shias do not accept a hadith just because it is in Al-Kafi. Similarly, Shias do not accept blatantly corrupt "hadith" in Nahjul Balagha.

Kulayni himself, the famous compiler of Usul al-Kafi, states without ambiguity: "Behold O' my brethren! May Allah guide you that none among the scholars can distinguish the true and false ones of the conflicting traditions except in the way shown by the Holy Imams who said, 'Refer them to the Book of Allah and then the one which agrees with the Book of Allah, take it, and the one which disagrees with the Book of Allah, reject it." (Kulayni, Introduction to Al-Kafi, Vol. 1)

There are very few spurious traditions in Nahjul Balagha, which is why most of it can be accepted off-hand, but as Murata and Chittick note it is "possible that some spurious sayings crept in". So we should also be on our guard when we read something that is blatantly in contravention to a clear firmly established Islamic fact - such as the pure fitrah of the human being, regardless of their gender. Indeed, it is a fact that some spurious sayings did creep in, because these very few sayings contradict the Noble Qur'an and also contradict undeniably authentic traditions of both the Prophet ('s) and the Imams ('a).

Ayatullah al-Uzma Sayyid Abul-Qasim al-Khoei

The Late Ayatullah al-Uzma Sayyid Abul-Qasim al-KhoeiOne of the most famous Shia scholars, Ayatullah al-Khoei, a renowned leading expert in the science of hadith, writes:

"Any tradition which is contradictory to the Qur'an, the acknowledged sunnah and the ijma', must be discarded if it has no room for re-interpretation or justifiable explanation." (Ayatullah As-Sayid al-Khoei, 'Tafsir al-Bayan', Kuwait, 1399/1979, p. 253)

Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Hussain Tabatabai

Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Hussain TabatabaiOne of our greatest and most authoritative Shia scholars, the late Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Hussain Tabatabai, explains in his book 'Shia': "The Method of Shi'ism in Authenticating the Hadith Shi'ism, in addition to seeking to authenticate the chain of transmission of hadith, considers the correlation of the text of the hadith with the Quran as a necessary condition for its validity. In Shi'ite sources there are many hadiths of the Prophet and the Imams with authentic chains of transmission, which they themselves assert that a hadith contrary to the Quran has no value. Only that hadith can be considered valid which is in agreement with the Quran.

"Basing itself on these hadiths, Shi'ism does not act upon those hadiths, which are contrary to the text of the Quran. As for the hadiths whose agreement or disagreement cannot be established, according to instructions received from Imams they are passed by in silence without being accepted or rejected. Needless to say there are also within Shi'ism those who, like a group among the Sunnis, act on any hadith whatsoever which they happen to find in different traditional sources." This misguided group of people within Shi’ism, of course, is basically acting only on their ignorance.

Shaykh Sayyid Akhtar Rizvi

The late Allamah Sayyid Saeed Akhter RizviAnother active Shia scholar Shaykh Sayyid Akhtar Rizvi, in his analysis of Wahabi accusations against certain fabricated traditions in Shia books of hadith:

"Although these books are held in great esteem, the Shias never called them (completely) Sahih. Consequently, Shias are not fettered by any ahadith written there. Instead, they subject all ahadith in all these books to tests, as to their asnad (narrators) and dirayah, and examine whether a given hadith conforms with the Qur'an, the accepted sayings of the Ma'sumeen and the known facts. If a hadith passes these tough tests, then it is accepted. If not, then it is re-interpreted in an acceptable way, failing which it is rejected outright." (Shaykh Sayyid Akhtar Rizvi, 'Wahabi's Fitnah Exposed', Ansariyan Publications, Qum, 1996, emphasis added)

The Infallibility of the Ahlul Bayt ('a)

The infallibility of the Ahlul Bayt ('a), including Sayyeda Fatima ('a), meaning, their inability to commit sin or go astray from the Straight Path in all aspects of their lives without qualification is a basic fact proven by mutawatir traditions, many in commentary on the Qur'an. In fact it is entirely because of the fact of the perfect purification of the Ahlul Bayt ('a) that we know that this so-called sermon of Imam Ali ('a) is actually a fabrication.

Sayyeda Fatima ('a) who according to the Qur'an is one of those upon whom Allah has intended complete and unqualified purification of all inward and outward impurity, filth and abomination. I am reminded of the incident recorded by the grand Sunni historian Ibn Abil Hadid concerning Abu Bakr's refusal to return Sayyeda Fatima ('a) Fadak. Imam Ali asked Abu Bakr about what he would do if two some people testified against Sayyeda Fatima ('a) on some issue, and the deviant tyrant replied that he would punish her harshly the way he would punish anyone else. Imam Ali ('a) angrily replied that if Abu Bakr did that, he would become an outright kafir by way of having rejected the very testimony of Allah himself in the Verse of Purity (33:33) concerning the purity of Sayyeda Fatima ('a). Ibn Abi Hadid regards this sermon as authentic.


The point is, Imam Ali himself here observes that one who implies that Fatima is evil, is actually a kafir because they reject the testimony of Allah in the Qur'an concerning Sayyeda Fatima ('a) purity from all evil as a member of the Ahlul Bayt! Yet the offending letter 235 alleged to be from the mouth of the same Imam Ali, states quite amazingly "Woman (as such) is evil, all in all. So beware of the evils of women (in general)." The real implication of this is that Imam Ali ('a), may Allah forgive me for even typing such a thing, is that Ali ('a) became a kafir for saying this general statement about all women by thereby denying the purification of the Leader of the World's Women who was also an example to follow for all women, as well as men! But the fact is that Ali ('a), like the rest of the Ahlul Bayt ('a), was the foremost in iman after the Prophet ('s) himself . Sermon 78 is similarly joke worthy.

This same hadith is narrated in a Sunni source and is only a single narration, and furthermore its chain of narration is da'if, i.e. weak. I read this in a Sunni book concerning the role of women in Islam, unfortunately I cannot recall the name or publication date. Anyhow, sticking within the idea of the Ahlul  Bayt, it contradicts authentic hadith and the Qur'an once more by effectively impuning Sayyeda Fatima ('a), Sayyeda Zaynab ('a), Sayyeda Maryam ('a), etc., whose intellect, deen, etc. certainly cannot be denigrated in this way.

Regarding the infallibility of the Ahlul Bayt ('a), including Sayyeda Fatima ('a), it is clear that this idea was introduced by the Prophet himself: Take, for example, the statements of the Prophet ('s), as quoted by al­Tirmithi and al­Nisa'i from Jabir and they, in turn, are quoted by al­Muttaqi al­Hindi at the beginning of his chapter on those who uphold the Book and the Sunnah in his work Kanzul­ `Ummal, Vol. 1, page 44, saying:

"O people! I am leaving with you the Book of Allah and my household (`itra), my family (my Ahl al­Bayt). As long as you uphold them, you shall never go astray."

He has also said:

"I have left with you that which, as long as you uphold, you shall never let you stray after me:  Allah's Book, a Rope extending from heavens to earth, and my `itra, my Ahl al­Bayt. These wain shall never separate from one another till they reach me by the Pool; therefore, see how you succeed me in faring with them."

Sunni reference:

Al-Tirmidi quotes it from Zayd ibn Arqam. It is also hadith 874 of the ahadith quoted in, on p. 44, Vol. 1, of Kanz al-`Ummal

The Qur'an and the Ahlul Bayt shall never separate from each other. Hadith-e-Thaqalain thereby testifies to the sinlessness of the Ahlul Bayt, since it shows that the Ahlul Bayt will never separate from the Qur'an; since every sin is a deviation from the Qur'an, it follows that the inability of the Ahlul Bayt to deviate from the Qur'an is evidence of their sinlessness, since every sin is a separation and deviation from the Qur'an. Since the Ahlul Bayt cannot ever deviate or separate from the Qur'an, this clearly signifies that they always exemplify Islam and consequently never go astray, and are thus error-free. (some of the traditions cited here can be found in the online Shi'ite Encyclopaedia)

The Prophet ('s) has also said:

"I am leaving among you two successors: the Book of Allah, a rope extending from heavens to earth - or between heavens and earth - and my household (`itra) from my family (Ahl al­Bayt); they shall never separate from each other until they reach me by the Pool."

Sunni reference:

Imam Ahmad includes it in his Musnad among the ahadith narrated by Zayd ibn Thabit from two sources one of which is stated at the beginning of page 182, and the other at the conclusion of page 189, Vol. 5, and also by Ibn Abu Shaybah, Abu Ya`li, and Ibn Sa`d, from Abu Sa`id. It is hadith 945 on p. 47, Vol. 1, of Kanz al-`Ummal. He, peace be upon him and his progeny, also said:

"I am leaving among you the Two Weighty Things: the Book of Allah and my Ahl al­Bayt; they shall never separate from each other till they reach me at the Pool."

Sunni references:

-         It is included by al-Hakim on page 148, Vol. 3, of Al-Mustadrak. The author comments thus: "This is one hadith the narrators of which are trustworthy according to both Shaykhs (i.e. Bukhari and Muslim)." The grand Sunni scholar Al-Thahbi includes it in his abridged volume of Al-Mustadrak, admitting its authenticity due to the endorsement of both Shaykhs, Bukhari and Muslim.

The Messenger, peace be upon him and his Ahlul Bayt, has said:

"Methinks I am going to be called upon and shall answer the call, and I am leaving among you the Two Weighty Things, the Book of Allah Almighty and my offspring, my Ahl al­Bayt. The Sublime and omniscient has informed me that they shall never part from each other till they reach me by the Pool; so, see how you succeed me in faring with them."

Sunni reference:

Included by Imam Ahmad in the hadith narrated by Abu Sa`id al-Khudri from two sources one of which is mentioned on page 17, and the other at the end of page 26, Vol. 3, of Al-Musnad. It is also quoted by Ibn Abu Shaybah, Abu Ya`li, and Ibn Sa`d from Abu Sa`id. It is hadith 945 as listed in page 47, Vol. 1, of Kanz al-`Ummal.

Having returned from the Farewell Pilgrimage, he ('s), camped at Ghadir Khumm and ordered the area underneath a few huge trees to be swept clean then said in his sermon:

"It seems as if I am going to be called upon and shall answer the call, and I am leaving with you the Two Weighty Things, one of which is greater than the other: the Book of Allah Almighty, and my Household; so, see how you succeed me in faring with them, for they shall never separate from each other until they reach me at the Pool." Then he (pbuh) added:

"Allah, the Exalted and the Sublime, is my Master, and I am the master of every believer." Having said so, he took `Ali's hand and said: "To whomsoever I have been a master, this `Ali is his master. O Allah! Befriend whosoever befriends `Ali, and be the enemy of whosoever opposes him”.

Sunni references:

It is sequentially quoted by al-Hakim from Zayd ibn Arqam on page 109, Vol. 3, of Al-Mustadrak. The author adds:

"This hadith is authentic according to both Shaykhs who did not narrate it in its entirety". He quotes it from another source from Zayd ibn Arqam on page 533, Vol. 3, of his Al-Mustadrak, adding:

"This hadith is narrated by reliable narrators, yet they (both Shaykhs) did not publish it themselves." Al-Thahbi has included it in his Talkhis, admitting its authenticity. But the most widely narrated version of Hadith al-Thaqalain is as follows:

The messenger of Allah said:

"I am leaving for you two precious and weighty Symbols that if you adhere to both of them you shall not go astray after me. They are, the Book of Allah, and my progeny, that is my Ahlul-Bayt. The Merciful has informed me that These two shall not separate from each other till they come to me by the Pool (of Paradise)."

Sunni references:

  1. Sahih al-Tirmidhi, v5, pp 662-663,328, report of 30+ companions, with reference to several chains of transmitters.

  2. al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, Chapter of "Understanding (the virtues) of Companions, v3, pp 109,110,148,533 who wrote this tradition is authentic (Sahih) based on the criteria of the two Shaikhs (al-Bukhari and Muslim).

  3. Sunan, by Daarami, v2, p432.

  4. Musnad, by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v3, pp 14,17,26,59, v4, pp 366,370-372,v5, pp 182,189,350,366,419

  5. Fadha'il al-Sahaba, by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v2, p585, Tradition #990.

  6. al-Khasa'is, by al-Nisa'i, pp 21,30.

  7. al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar Haythami, Ch. 11, section 1, p230.

  8. al-Kabir, by al-Tabarani, v3, pp 62-63,137

  9. Kanz al-Ummal, by al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Chapter al-Iti'sam bi Habl Allah, v1, p44.

  10. Tafsir Ibn Kathir (complete version), v4, p113, under commentary of verse 42:23 of Quran four traditions.

  11. al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, by Ibn Sa'd, v2, p194, Pub. by Dar Isadder, Lebanon.

  12. al-Jami' al-Saghir, by al-Suyuti, v1, p353, and also in v2

  13. Majma' al-Zawa'id, al-Haythami, v9, p163

  14. al-Fateh al-Kabir, al-Binhani, v1, p451

  15. Usul Ghabah fi Ma'rifat al-Sahaba, Ibn al-Athir, v2, p12

  16. Jami' al-Usul, Ibn al-Athir, v1, p187

  17. History of Ibn Asakir, v5, p436

  18. al-Taj al-Jami' Lil Usul, v3, p308

  19. al-Durr al-Manthoor, al-Hafidh al-Suyuti, v2, p60

  20. Yanabi al-Mawaddah, al-Qundoozi al-Hanafi, pp 38,183

  21. Abaqat al-Anwar, v1, p16

The grand Sunni scholar, who himself was severely anti-Shia, Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, wrote:

Ibn Hajar al-Haythami

"The Traditions of Adherence has been handed down through a large number of sources and more than twenty of the disciples have related it. Here a doubt arises, and it is that while the tradition has come down through various sources, some say that the words were spoken during the last pilgrimage, others that they were spoken at Medina when he lay on his deathbed and the room was packed with his disciples, yet another saying that he spoke these words at Ghadir Khum, or in another Hadith, on the return from Ta'if. But there is NO inconsistency in these, since having regards to the importance and greatness of the Quran and the pure Ahlul-Bayt, and with a view of emphasizing the point before the people, the Holy Prophet might have repeated these words on all these occasions so that any one who had not heard them before might hear them now."

Sunni reference: al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Ch. 11, section 1, p230

Consider the following:

The Messenger of Allah said:

"Ali is with Quran, and Quran is with Ali. They shall not separate from each other till they both return to me by the Pool (of Paradise)."

Sunni references:

-         al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, v3, p124 on the authority of Umm Salama- al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar, Ch. 9, section 2, pp 191,194- al-Awsat, by al-Tabarani; also in al-Saghir

-         Tarikh al-Khulafaa, by Jalaluddin al-Suyuti, p173 The above tradition gives evidence to the fact that Imam Ali and Quran are non-separable. Similarly, it is clear that the Qur'an and the Ahlul Bayt are non-separable. The Prophet says that they will not separate from each other; consequently, the Ahlul Bayt, of whom Ali is the first Imam, will never deviate from the Qur'an. Since the hadith you have pointed out contradict the Qur'an, and effectively impune the piety, intellect, etc. of women who have been elevated to superior status by the Qur'an itself as examples for all people, they are evidently fabricated and should be rejected.

-         "Behold! My Ahlul-Bayt are like the Ark of Noah. Whoever embarked in it was saved, and whoever turned away from it was perished."

Sunni references:

  1. al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, v2, p343, v3, pp 150-151 on the authority of Abu Dhar. al-akim said this tradition is authentic (Sahih) on the criteria of the two Shaykhs, Bukhari and Muslim.

  2. Fadha'il al-Sahaba, by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v2, p786

  3. Tafsir al-Kabir, by Fakhr al-Razi, under the commentary of verse 42:23, Part 27, p167

  4. al-Bazzar, on the authority of Ibn Abbas and Ibn Zubair with the wording "drowned" instead of "perished".

  5. al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar Haythami, Ch. 11, section 1, p234 under Verse 8:33. Also in section 2, p282. He said this Hadith has been transmitted via numerous authorities.

  6. Tarikh al-Khulafaa and Jami' al-Saghir, by al-Suyuti

  7. al-Kabir, by al-Tabarani, v3, pp 37,38

  8. al-Saghir, by al-Tabarani, v2, p22

  9. Hilyatul Awliyaa, by Abu Nu'aym, v4, p306

  10. al-Kuna wal Asmaa, by al-Dulabi, v1, p76

  11. Yanabi al-Mawaddah, by al-Qundoozi al-Hanafi, pp 30,370

  12. Is'af al-Raghibeen, by al-Saban

The above tradition gives evidence to the fact that those who adopt the school of Ahlul-Bayt and follow them fully, shall be saved from the punishment of Hell, while those who run away from them and do not follow them shall meet with the fate of the one who tried to save his life by climbing up the mountain, with the only difference that whereas he (Noah's renegade son) was drowned in water, but these people will be drowned in the fire of Hell. The hadith is also narrated by Ibn Abbas, Anas ibn Malik, Abu Said al Khudri, Abdullah bin Zubair. The following tradition also confirms it:

The Prophet ('s) said about Ahlul-Bayt ('a):

"Do not be ahead of them for you will perish, do not turn away from them for you will perish, and do not try to teach them since they know more than you do! "

This speech, which the Prophet proclaimed to his companions, proves that the Ahlul Bayt was more knowledgeable than them all.

Sunni references:

  1. al-Durr al-Manthoor, by al-Suyuti, v2, p60

  2. al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Ch. 11, section 1, (3)

  3.   p230, quoted from al-Tabarani, also in section 2, p342

  4. Usuul Ghabah, by Ibn al-Athir, v3, p137

  5. Yanabi' al-Mawaddah, by al-Qundoozi al-Hanafi, p41, and P335

  6. Kanz al-Ummal, by al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, v1, p168

  7. Majma' al-Zawa'id, by al-Haythami, v9, p163

  8. Aqabat al-Anwar, v1, p184

  9. A'alam al-Wara, pp 132-133

  10. Tadhkirat al-Khawas al-Ummah, Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi al-Hanafi, pp 28-33

  11. al-Sirah al-Halabiyyah, by Noor al-Din al-Halabi, v3, p273

Consider the Prophet's profound statement about the Ahlul Bayt ('a).

"The stars protect the inhabitants of earth against drowning, and my Ahl al­Bayt protect my nation against dissension (in religious matters). If a tribe among the Arabs differs (regarding the commandments of Allah, the High, the Mighty) from them, they will all then differ and become the party of Satan."

Sunni reference:

-         This is quoted by al-Hakim on page 149, Vol. 3, of Al-Mustadrak from Ibn `Abbas. Al-Hakim adds based on inspection of its chain of narrators: "This is an authentic hadith though they (both Shaykhs, i.e. Bukhari and Muslim) did not include it (in their own books)."

"Whoever wishes to live and die like me, and to abide in the Garden of Eden after death, should acknowledge Ali as Wali after me, and take his Wali (i.e., Imams after him) as Wali, and should follow the Imams after me, for they are my Ahlul-Bayt and were created from my clay and are gifted with the same knowledge and understanding as myself.

“Woe unto Those who deny their virtues and those who disregard their relationship and affinity with me, for my intercession shall never reach them."

Sunni references:

  1. Hilyatul Awliyaa, by Abu Nu'aym, v1, pp 84,86

  2. al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, v3, p128

  3. al-Jami' al-Kabir, by al-Tabarani

  4. al-Isabah, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani

  5. Kanz al-Ummal, v6, p155

  6. al-Manaqib, by al-Kharazmi, p34

  7. Yanabi' al-Mawaddah, by al-Qundoozi al-Hanafi, p149

  8. History of Ibn Asakir, v2, p95

To quote Shi'ite Encyclopedia:

"Concluding the above traditions, the Quran and Ahlul-Bayt are the only two precious things that the Prophet left for Muslims, and stated that if Muslims follow both of them, they will not go astray after him, and they will be led to Paradise, and that those who forsake Ahlul-Bayt will not survive. The above traditions have been designed by Prophet ('s) to answer which "Sunnah" is genuine and which group carries the true "Sunnah" of the Prophet. It is aimed at not leaving Muslims at a loss as to which way to go after the departure of the Prophet ('s). On the other hand, if we use the word "Sunnah" alone, it does not give us any specific answer for this question since all the groups among the Muslim nation follow their own version of Sunnah as well as their own interpretation of the Quran and Sunnah." Thus the prophetic instructions were clear in urging Muslims to follow the interpretation of Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet transmitted through the channel of Ahlul-Bayt whose sinlessness, purity, and righteousness is also confirmed by the Holy Quran (the last sentence of verse 33:33).

Mawlana Wahidu'z-Zaman

Mawlana Wahidu'z-Zaman, the famous Sunni scholar, whose translation and commentary of the Qur'an as well as his book 'Anwaru'l-lughah'(a dictionary of the Qur'an and ahadith) are among the recognized authoritative references. He writes in his commentary of the Qur'an about the above verse:

"Some people think that it is especially for those family members who had b1ood relation with the Prophet, i.e., 'Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn. The present translator says that the traditions, which are correct (sahih) and well-connected up to the Prophet, support the same view, because when the Prophet himself has declared that his family members are only these, then to accept it and believe in it becomes obligatory. And one more sign of correctness of this view is that the pronouns used before and after this verse are those for females, while in this verse are those for males."

Sunni reference:

Maulana Wahidu 'z-Zaman, Tafsir Wahidi (on the margin of the Qur'an's translation by the same author), para. 22 fn. 7, p. 549 He thus concludes in his 'Anwaru 'l-lughah' that due to the grammatical change within the verse as well as the authentic traditions of the Messenger ('s): " The correct view is that in this verse of purity only these five persons are included (i.e., the Prophet, 'Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn), although in Arabic usage, the word ahlu 'l-bayt is used for wives also. Some people prove by this verse that these five persons were sinless and ma'sum (infallible). But if not ma'sum, then of course they were surely mahfuz (protected from committing any sin or error)."

Sunni reference:

Maulana Wahidu'z-Zaman, Anwaru 'l-lughah, para.22,P.51 Similarly, in his exegisis the grand Sunni scholar Ibn Jarir Tabari quotes Qatadah who interpreted the Verse of Purity that the Ahlul Bayt are those whom Almighty has purified from every sin and showered special blessings on them. Tabari also stated in his explanation of the verse:

"It is this and nothing else that Allah willed to ward off every badness and indecency from the people of the family of Muhammad and to keep them clear from  every contamination and sin."

Sunni reference:

Tafsir al-Tabari, v22, p. 5 under commentary of verse 33:33 Although these traditions in tandem with the Qur'anic verse are absolutely clear in delineating that the Ahlul Bayt have been purified completely off all inward source of filth, thus rendering them sinless, there are other verses indicating that the Ahlul Bayt are sinless. Let us consider the following verse: "O you who believe, obey Allah, the Messenger, and the holders of authority (Ulil-'Amr)." (Qur'an 4:59)

Who are the holders of authority, obedience to whom has been made unconditionally obligatory upon us according to this verse? In this holy verse the word ati'u (obey) has been used twice: Allah says, "Obey Allah and obey the Apostle." When He speaks of 'uli'l-amr,' He does not use the word 'ati'u' again but uses the conjunction 'and' with 'uli'l-amr.' Linking the words in this way it means that 'uli'l-amr' possess the same merit as the Holy Prophet possesses, except those which are peculiar to the Prophet alone, e.g. 'Wahi' (revelation), prophet hood, etc. In short, according to the structure of this verse, the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet is possessed authentically by the 'uli'l-amr' except of course the rank of prophethood.

We have already seen mutawatir traditions in which the Messenger ('s) grants authority to the Ahlul Bayt, beginning with Imam Ali ('a). Obedience to the Ahlul Bayt (AS) in general has been made obligatory on those who believe, in light of these traditions. Thus, the Ulil Amr are the Ahlul Bayt In fact, the Qur'an makes explicitly clear that those to whom obedience is obligatory according to the command of Allah (as in the above verse) cannot be just any temporal ruler, but must have certain qualifications. For example, speaking of one of the Prophets, the Qur'an says:

"He is more fitted to rule because Allah has chosen him and bestowed on him a surfeit of knowledge and power."  

In other words, one is more deserving of obedience if one has been appointed by Allah, and has been bestowed knowledge and power by Allah. Similarly:

"Is he who guides to the Truth more fitting to be followed, or he who himself needs guidance?"  

This clearly shows that the one who is most deserving to be followed and obeyed is one who is rightly guided and who guides to the Truth. Moreover, Allah said to Prophet Ibrahim ('a):

"Surely I am going to make you an Imam for men." (Ibrahim) said: "And of my offspring?" 

He said:

"My covenant will not reach the unjust."  

In other words, the Imams appointed with authority by Allah will not include the unjust, and therefore the Ulil Amr cannot include merely any unjust individual - rather, the covenant of Imamate and the authority that comes with Imamate can only pertain to those who are just. If Allah himself acknowledges such conditions, then no doubt when he commands us to obey someone thus granting them authority over us, they must possess these conditions.

Finally, consider the verse again:

"O you who believe, obey Allah, the Messenger, and the holders of authority (Ulil-'Amr)."  
(Qur'an 4:59) 

Now note the following verse:

".... and obey not from among them a sinner or an ungrateful one."
(Quran 76:24)

The picture is very clear. The "holders of authority" are to be obeyed and "the sinners are not to be obeyed." The only conclusion is that the ulil-'amr, the holders of authority, were/are not sinners or wrong-doers. In other words, they are sinless.

Imam Fakhru 'd-Din ar-Razi

The famous Sunni commentator, Imam Fakhru 'd-Din ar-Razi, concluded in his Tafsiru 'l kabir that this verse proves that ulu 'l-amr must be ma'sum. He argues that Allah has commanded the people to obey ulu 'l-amr unconditionally; therefore, it is essential for the ulu 'l-amr to be ma'sum. Because if there is any possibility of their committing sin (and sin is forbidden), it will mean that one has to obey them and also disobey them in that very action. And this is contradictory and therefore impossible! Accordingly, ar-Razi concludes that the ulil amr must be sinless.

Sunni reference:
-         ar-Razi: at-Tafsiru 'l-kabir, vol.10, p.l44

However, to dissuade his readers from the Ahlu 'l-bayt, he invented the rather funny theory that the Muslim ummah as a whole is ma 'sum. This interpretation is unique, as no Muslim scholar ever subscribed to this theory and it is not based on any tradition. It is quite surprising that ar-Razi accepts that each individual of the Muslim nation is non-ma'sum, yet still claims that their sum-total is ma'sum. Even a primary school student knows that 200 cows plus 200 cows makes 400 cows and not one horse. But ar-Razi says that 70 million non ma'sum plus 70 million on-ma'sum will make one ma'sum! Obviously, with his great knowledge he was able to conclude that ulu 'l-amr must be ma'sum; but it was his prejudice which compelled him to say that the Islamic ummah as a whole is ma'sum. In fact, he did not pause to see that the verse contains the word "minkum" ("from among you") which shows that the said ulu 'l-amr shall be part of the Muslim ummah, not the whole Muslim nation. This unequivocally shows that the term ulil amr does not refer to the whole ummah, but only to a part of it, and that the sinless ulul amr are from among the Muslim ummah.

In fact, the Messenger ('s) elaborated on who exactly these infallible ones endowed with authority are, obedience to who is obligatory.

Al-Juwayni (Al-Dhahabi says in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz, vol. 4, p. 298, that Sadruddin Ibrahim bin Muhammad bin al-Hamawayh al-Juwayni al-Shafi'i was a great scholar of Hadith. Also see his biographical note in Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, al-Durar al-kaminah, vol. 1, p. 67) reports that Abdullah ibn Abbas remarked that the Messenger of Allah ('s) said, "I am the chief of the Prophets and Ali ibn Abi Talib is the chief of successors, and after me my successors shall be twelve, the first of them being Ali ibn Abi Talib and the last of them being Al Mahdi."

Al-Juwayni has also mentioned another tradition from Ibn 'Abbas (r.a.) that he narrates from the Messenger of Allah ('s):
"Certainly my Caliphs and my legatees and the Proofs of Allah upon his creatures after me are twelve. The first of them is my brother and the last of them is my (grand) son."
He was asked:
"O Messenger of Allah, who is your brother?"
He said:
"Ali ibn Abi Talib"
Then they asked:
"And who is your son?"
The Holy Prophet ('s) replied:
"Al Mahdi, the one who will fill the earth with justice and equity like it would be brimming with injustice and tyranny. And by the One Who has raised me as a Warner and a give of good tidings, even if a day remains for the life of this world, the Almighty Allah will prolong this day to an extent till he sends my son Mahdi, then he will make Ruhullah 'Isa ibn Maryam ('a) to descend and pray behind him (Mahdi). And the earth will be illuminated by his radiance. And his power will reach to the east and the west."

Al-Juwayni also narrates from his chain of narrators that the Messenger of Allah informed:

"I and Ali and Hasan and Husayn and nine of the descendants of Husayn are the purified ones and are infallible."

Sunni reference:

Al-Juwayni, Fara'id al-Simtayn, pg 160 There are many other similar traditions. The belief in the Ahlul Bayt being error free is absolutely proven by the Qur'an and Sunnah beyond any question.

Another saying in Nahjul Balagha, where it is alleged that Imam Ali ('a) explicitly forbids men from obeying all women, even their wives, even if those women are exhorting them to do good.

"The Noble Prophet ('s) has also reminded women: 'Invite your husbands to do good before they persuade you to commit wrong deeds'." (Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 103, p. 227) Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini has authenticated this tradition. As such the hadith in Nahjul Balagha without the citation of a chain of narration must be rejected on this count also.


Imam Sadiq ('a) once also quoted from his father, saying:

"Whoever marries, must respect his wife." (Ibid., Vol. 103, p. 224)

If women are, in contradiction to the Qur'an, inherently evil and inferior, I wonder how the Imam, all of whose narrations go back to the Prophet according to their own statements, could ask us also to respect such an allegedly evil and inferior being, may Allah forgive me even typing this ridiculous notion over here. The few statements in Nahjul Balagha to this effect, however, do encourage such a vast disrespect of women. Even on Islamic terms, respect is only due to those who deserve it as a result of some worthy quality intrinsic to the deserving. It is impossible to square this command with the notion of the evil inferiority of the entirety of the female gender, which like men are bearers of the innately good human fitrah.

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Last Updated Thursday, 11 December 2008