Imamah in the Qur’an p4: The Medium Ummah

 

In parts 2 and 3 it was shown that the Earth cannot be devoid of a Witness who witnesses the deeds of the people.  These witnesses will bear witness on the people and the Prophet will bear witness on them. 

The Prophet > Witnesses > People

[16:89] And on the day when We will raise up in every people a witness against them from among themselves, and bring you as a witness against these

As the witnesses are in between the Prophet [sawa] and the People in their witnessing, they are known as the Ummatun Wasata – the intermediary or medium group.  They are in the middle, linked to the Prophet on one side and to the people on the other.  In the Qur’an we read:

[2:143] And thus We have made you a medium nation that you may be the witnesses on the people and (that) the Messenger may be a witness on you

The title of medium nation is usually misinterpreted to mean a nation between two extremes: between the extremes of polythiesm on one side and christianity on the other for example.  But being a medium nation in this sense doesn’t have any relation with being witnesses on the people, and the Prophet being a witness on them.  Allamah Tabataba’i [r] has said:

What this exegete has said is true in itself, but it does not explain the wordings of this verse. The ummah, by virtue of its position in the middle, may be called a criterion to judge the extremes, as well as a point to which the people of the two extremes should return. But it does not make it a “witness” for the two extremes, nor it gives the ummah ability to observe the said extremes. Apparently, there is no correlation between being a medium (in the above-mentioned sense) and being a witness. Also, there is no reason why the Messenger of Allah should be made a witness for them; there is no correlation between the two witnessing. But the verse clearly says that the Messenger of Allah shall be a witness for the ummah, because the ummah shall be a witness for the people, and it shall acquire that status because it is a medium ummah. 

Moreover, when the Qur’an has in so much detail discussed the reality of witnesses and witnessing (as shown in parts 2 and 3), there is no reason to interpret the verse otherwise.

This mediumship has been mentioned elsewhere in the Qur’an:

[22:77] O you who believe! bow down and prostrate yourselves and serve your Lord, and do good that you may succeed.
[22:78] And strive hard in (the way of) Allah, (such) a striving a is due to Him; He has chosen you and has not laid upon you an hardship in religion; the faith of your father Ibrahim; He named you Muslims before and in this, that the Messenger may be a bearer of witness to you, and you may be bearers of witness to the people; therefore keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and hold fast by Allah; He is your Guardian; how excellent the Guardian and how excellent the Helper!

Here Allah swt has introduced this group as:

1) Chosen

2) Named by Ibrahim [as] as ‘Muslims’

It will be proven in part 5 that the group that was named by Ibrahim [as] as Muslims was not the whole Muslim nation, but a select few from his offspring that had reached the peaks of submission.  This will be further proof that the Medium group is not the entirety of the Ummah.

Objections:

1) Allah swt says Medium Ummah, so how can you say it’s only a small group from the nation and not everyone?

Answer:  Apart from what has been mentioned about them being witnesses on the people, and the Prophet being a witness on them, the questioner should know that ‘…the original meaning of this word is “people”, “nation”, “group”, as Allah says: and blessing on, you and the people (umam = plural of ummah) from among those who are with you; and there shall be people (umam)… (11:48). This word is sometimes used even for one person; Surely Ibrahim was an Ummah obedient to Allah (16:120). Therefore, it is the context or the intention of the speaker which decides how big or small a circle this word describes in a sentence.’ (AlMizan)

2) Verse 22:77 starts with ‘O you who believe…’ so this is referring to all Muslims, not a select few.

Answer: This is not necessarily so; the context tells us who these believers are.  Secondly, there is no harm in saying the verse is addressed to all the believers.  Sometimes when a nation has people with certain positive traits, these traits are applied to the nation as a whole.  For example, it is correct to say that the Arabs were the fathers of Chemistry, eventhough in reality it was only one Arab – Jabir Ibn Hayyan – who was the father of Chemistry.  As Allamah Tabataba’i says, ‘A distinction enjoyed by a group is attributed to the whole nation, because the group is a part of the nation.’

Traditions:

We’ll end by looking at what the Ahlul Bayt [as] have said regarding the verses.

alBaqir (a.s.) that he said: “Only the Imams and the Messengers will be witnesses for the people. And as for the (general) ummah, it is unthinkable that Allah would call them as witnesses – and there are among them those whose testimony is not accepted for a bundle of vegetable.” (al-Manaqib)

aSadiq (a.s.) said about the verse, that you may be witnesses…: “(It is) then (wrong) if you think that Allah in this verse means all the monotheists, the people of qiblah (i.e., the Muslims). Do you think that a person whose evidence is not acceptable in this world about a as-sa’ (= a weight about 3 kilogram) of date, Allah will call him as a witness on the Day of Judgment and will accept his evidence in presence of all the previous nations? Certainly not. Allah does not mean (here) such of his creatures; He means only that ummah in which the prayer of Ibrahim was granted; you are the best ummah raised up for the (benefit of) men (3:110); and they are the medium ummah and they are the best ummah raised up for the men.” (al-`Ayyashi)

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