Imamah in the Qur’an p4: The Medium Ummah

September 22, 2008


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.


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.’


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)


Respect for Mother turns one into a Friend of Allāh

September 12, 2008

Ayatollah Tehrānī narrates that once in Tehran he had gone to the Islamiyya bookshop situated on Buzarjumharī Street to purchase books. He was a friend of one of the partners of the organization, Hāj Sayyid Muhammad Kitābchī, who was responsible for the store of the bookshop. He went to the bookshop to meet him and purchase some books as well. It was in the morning and approximately four hours remained to midday. A man had also come to the store to purchase books. Having purchased the books that he required, he started to leave, when suddenly he began saying: My beloved Allāh, my physician Allāh, my helper, my helper, my soul, my soul. The Āyatullāh narrates:

On looking at him, I saw that his face had turned red and he was sweating; he was plunged in happiness and ecstasy beyond limit. Addressing him, I said: ‘Dear Sir! Dear Dervish, do not eat all alone; this is not the custom of etiquette’; He took a turn around himself and began chanting some poems of Bābā Tāhir ‘Uryān [a well-known mystic buried in Hamadān]. Thereafter he kept silent and wept a lot. Then he became happy and laughed. I said: ‘Ahsant!

Thereafter a conversation followed. During the conversation, Āyatullāh Muhammad Husayn Tehrani asks the saint to inform him how he could attain such an exalted station, and the saint narrates his anecdote as follows:


I had an old mother who was sick and disabled. She was bed-ridden for many years. I alone was at her service, and would attend to her needs: I would cook food for her, bring water to her for ablution, and was at her service for her different needs. However, she was very ill-mannered and would sometimes abuse me, but I would bear that and respond to her with a smile. Due to this very attitude of hers I did not get married, although my age exceeded forty years. This was because maintaining a family with the kind of character that my mother had was impossible for me. I knew that if I would marry, either she would cause our separation, or I would be forced to leave her. Abandoning my mother, however, was not acceptable to my conscience. Hence, I observed patience in remaining a bachelor, and resigned myself to the situation.

Sometimes, due to great patience in front of her ill manners, I would experience a spark of light in my heart, a state of happiness and joy. However this would only be temporary. This situation continued until one cold winter night. I had placed my bed near hers so that she wouldl not be alone and would not need to raise her voice to call me for her necessities. On that night I had filled a jug with water, and placed it near my bedside all the time, so that if my mother required some water I would immediately give it to her. In the middle of that night she asked for water. I stood up immediately and filled a small vessel with water and gave it to her saying: ‘Take, dear mother.’ She, being in the state of drowsiness did not realize that I attended to her request immediately; she thought that I had brought her the water late. Upon this, she abused me in odd, abusive language and hit me on my head with the vessel of water.

I immediately filled the vessel with water once again and addressing her said: ‘Dear mother, take, and forgive me; I am sorry! Saying this, I was overcome, and didn’t know what happened next. In short, I attained my aspiration: those sparks had tuned into a world of light resembling the radiant sun; and my beloved, my friend, my helper, and my doctor, spoke to me. Thereafter this state never stopped. And it is years now that this state has remained…

Manifestations of the All-Merciful : Section 7

How great Ayatollahs treat their Wives

September 8, 2008

The title ‘Ayatollah’ holds negative connotations in minds of most non-muslims. When the word is mentioned, first thoughts will be of violence, female oppression and hatred. We have the media to thank for this. The truth is that our greatest Ayatollahs (learned scholars) were paragons of kindness, love and devotion to God. Their stances against oppressors and immorality came from a deep love of God, which imbued within them a strong determination to oppose all forms of corruption. Intense love of God was their principle driving factor, not hatred. The following short stories will give you an insight into how these personalities lived their lives, in particular how they acted towards women.

Allamah Tabataba’i

A philosopher, mystic and one of the greatest exegetes of the Holy Qur’an in Shia Islam.

Love of Wife

‘Allāma’s family life was extremely warm and pleasant. When his wife passed away he shed so many tears and was so saddened and moved that one day we asked him, “we should be learning patience and endurance from you – why are you affected such?

He replied:

Death is inevitable. Everyone must die. I am not crying for the death of my wife. My tears are for the kindness, housekeeping abilities, and the love my wife had. I have had a life full of ups and downs. In the holy city of Najaf when we were faced with many difficulties, I was not even aware of the needs and the administration of our life [because she took care of them so well]. Managing our life was in the hands of my wife, and throughout our life not once did my wife do something that I said I wish she hadn’t done that, even just to myself. Nor did she ever not do something that I said I wish she had carried that out!

Throughout our life together never once did she say to me why did you carry out that particular act, or why didn’t you do something! For example, you know that I work at home and am continually occupied with writing and studying. As a result I get tired and occasionally I need to rest and to renew my energy. My wife was aware of this. She would always have the kettle on and tea ready. Although she was busy with housework, she would pour me one cup of tea every hour. She would place it in my study and would return to her work until the following hour…how can I ever forget such love and kindness?!

Ayatullah Ibrāhīm Amīnī (author of self building)

Like two friends

His [‘Allāma’s] behavior with my mother was incredibly respectful and friendly. Through his actions it seemed as if he was always eager to see my mother. We never saw them order each other to do or not do anything, nor did we see any discord between the two of them. They were loving, loyal and forgiving to each other to such an extent that we thought they never disagreed. The two of them were truly like two friends with each other.

Prior to her death, my mother was ill and confined to bed for 27 days. During this period my father did not leave her bedside for a single moment. He left all his work to take care of her.

At the same time my mother was an exceptional woman. She was patient when faced with difficulties and a meager lifestyle. She managed all our household affairs. She took care of our academic and social life and handled all our concerns. She worked with such efficiency and wisdom that my father was able to pursue his academic work with complete ease of mind.

‘Allāma’s daughter

My partner in all that was good

“It was this woman who allowed me to reach this position. She has been my partner and whatever books I have written, half [of the credit] belongs to her.”

This one sentence from ‘Allāma Tabātabā’ī is sufficient as an indication of his enlightened view of women. At another time he said:

If a woman did not have importance, God would not have placed the lineage of the 12 Imāms in the progeny of Hazrat Zahra (a). Truly if a woman is noble and good she can make the entire world a rose-garden, and if she is bad she can make the world a hell…Women and men are partners, and after looking after the raising of her children, a woman must become aware and familiar with the affairs of her society.

‘Allāma Tabātabā’ī


Imam Khomeini

Most know Imam Khomeini as the leader of the Islamic revolution in Iran, but there was much more to him than this. He has authored many books on ethics and spirituality, and is recognised as a great mystic and philosopher. His two most famous works are Forty Hadith and Etiquettes of Prayer

Observance of the rights of a wife:

Imam always offered me the better place in the room. He would not start eating until I came to the dinner table. He would also tell the children: ‘Wait until Khanom comes.’ He maintained respect for me and was not even willing that I should work in the house. He would always tell me: ‘Don’t sweep.’ If I wanted to wash the children’s clothes at the pond[1], he would come and say: “Get up, you shouldn’t be washing.”

On the whole, I have to say that Imam did not consider sweeping, washing dishes and even washing my children’s clothes as part of my responsibilities. If out of necessity I sometimes did these, he would get upset considering them as a type of unjust dealing towards me.

Even when I entered the room, he would never say: ‘Close the door behind you,’ but waited till I sat down and then would himself get up and shut the door.[2]

The Imam’s Wife

60 years of living together and not one request for a glass of water:

Imam had extraordinary respect for his wife. For example, I am not lying if I say that in the period of 60 years of living together, he did not even reach for food (on the dinner table) before his wife, nor did he have even the smallest expectation from her. I can even say that in the period of 60 years of living together, at no time did he even ask for a glass of water, but would always get it himself. If he was in such a position that he could not, he would say: ‘Is the water not here?’ He would never say: ‘Get up and bring me water.’ He behaved this way not only with his wife but also with all of us who were his daughters. If he ever wanted water we would all enthusiastically run to get it, but he never wanted us to bring and give him a glass of water in his hand.

During the difficult last days of his life, each time he would open his eyes, if he was capable of speaking, he would ask: ‘How is Khanom?’ We would reply: ‘She is good. Shall we tell her to come to you?’ He would answer: ‘No, her back is hurting. Let her rest.’[3]

Siddiqa Mustafavi (Imam’s daughter)

Blessed am I that I have such a wife:

Imam was very attached to his wife and had special respect for her, so much so that he placed his wife on one side, and his children on the other.

I remember that once Imam’s wife had gone on a journey, and Imam was missing her very much. When he would frown, we would jokingly say to him: ‘When Khanom is here, Imam laughs, and when she is not here, Imam is upset and frowns.’

In short, however much we teased Imam, he would not stop frowning. Finally I said: ‘Blessed is Khanom that you like her so much.’ He said: ‘Blessed am I that I have such a wife. No one else has sacrificed as much in life as she has. If you too would be like Khanom, your husband would also like you this much.’[4]

Siddiqa Mustafavi (Imam’s daughter)

I have come to wash the dishes:

One day, as it so happened, there were many guests at Imam’s house. After the meal, I collected the dishes and took them to the kitchen. Along with Zahra, the daughter of Agha Ishraqi, we prepared to wash the dishes. However we saw that Imam himself had immediately come to the kitchen.

I asked Zahra: “Why has Haaj Agha come to the kitchen?” I had a right to be surprised because it wasn’t time to perform wudu. Imam rolled up his sleeves and said: “Because there are many dishes today, I have come to help you.” My body started to tremble. My Lord! What am I seeing! I said to Zahra: “I swear by you to Allah, please request Imam to leave. We will wash the dishes ourselves.” This was really unexpected for me.[10]

Marzieh Hadide Chi (Dabagh)


Imamah in the Qur’an p3: Role of Witnesses

September 7, 2008

Asalamu alaykum,

In part 2 it was established that the Earth cannot be devoid of a witness.  These witnesses will bear witness against us on the Day of Judgement, and then the Prophet [sawa] will bear witness on them:

[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.

This is part of Allah completing his proof on the people in Qiyamah.  There will be absolutely no doubt concerning what they did.  Not only will their book of deeds be shown, and their limbs testify against them, and those that they oppressed complain against them, but the witnesses will also come forth and bear witness on what they did.

If these witnesses will be bearing witness on the people, it follows that they know what the people did.  If the witnesses do not know what the people did, then how will they bear witness?  Therefore the witnesses see our deeds, by Allahs will.  Let us read what the Qur’an says about this:

وَقُلِ ٱعْمَلُوا۟ فَسَيَرَى ٱللَّهُ عَمَلَكُمْ وَرَسُولُهُۥ وَٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ ۖ وَسَتُرَدُّونَ إِلَىٰ عَٰلِمِ ٱلْغَيْبِ وَٱلشَّهَٰدَةِ فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

[9:105] And say: Work; so Allah will see your work and (so will) His Messenger and the believers; and you shall be brought back to the Knower of the unseen and the seen, then He will inform you of what you did.
In order to encourage the believers to do good deeds, Allah swt tells them that He will see what they do, and so will the Messenger and the ‘believers’.  Then they will be brought on the Day of Judgement and shown the unseen and seen of what they did, ie the reality.
The first point that we should bear in mind is that Allah, His Prophet and the ‘believers’ will see  the people’s deeds in this life.  We know this because the verse continues and says ‘…and you shall be brought back’
Now that we know that it will be in this life, we need to establish what is meant by the Prophet and believers seeing the people’s deeds.  Pondering on the verse, you will conclude that it is the reality of the deeds that the Prophet and the believers will see.  This is because Allah is telling the people to ‘work’, and work is made up of the physical act + the intention.  If it were merely the physical act then a hypocrites deeds would equal that of the believers.  So this work which is made up of an interior and exterior dimension will be seen by Allah, His Prophet and the ‘believers’.
This exterior and interior dimension of the deeds is hinted at in the second part of the verse where Allah swt says ‘…brought back to the Knower of the unseen and the seen, then He will inform you of what you did’. The knowledge of the unseen is referring to the intention and interior of the deed, and the knowledge of the seen is referring to the exterior physical form of the deed.  Allah tells the people that He will give them this knowledge of the seen and unseen of their deeds on the Day of Judgement.  Therefore the context of the verse is further proof that it is not merely the exterior of the deed that is seen by the Prophet and ‘believers’, it is also the unseen hidden dimension of it.
From the above it’s obvious that the word ‘believers’ does not refer to every Mu’min, but to a select group from amongst them.  If we take this verse with those that were mentioned in part 2, we see that they go together perfectly.  As Imam Ali [as] says, ”Parts of the Qur’an interpret other parts”.
Finally let us look at what has been transmitted from the Ahlul Bayt [as] regarding these verses.
Ya’qub Ibn Shu’ayb narrated: I asked Abu Abdillah [as] on the words of Allah swt ‘Work for Allah will see your work and the Prophet and the Believers’.  He said: ”They are the Imams”.
Sama’ah narrated from Abu Abdillah [as]:  ”What is wrong with you!  Why do you disappoint the Messenger of Allah?” A Man asked: ”How do we disappoint him?”.  The Imam said: ”Do you not know that your deeds are presented before Him?  When he finds sins in them it disappoints him.  Do not disappoint the Messenger of Allah.  Do things that will make him happy”
Ibn Aban AlZayat said: Once I asked ARidha [as] to pray for me and my family. The Imam said: ”Am I not praying for them?  I swear that by Allah your deeds are presented before me every day and night.”  He (AlZayat) has said that the statement of the Imam seemed to me extremely great.  The Imam said to me: ”Do you not read the words of Allah: Work for Allah will see your work and so will His Messenger and the Believers.”  The Imam said:  ”I swear by Allah that he (the believers) is Ali ibn Abi Talib [as]”.
May Allah swt give us the tawfiq to please Him, His Messenger and His Awliya’ always.

Imamah in the Qur’an p2: A Witness for every people

September 7, 2008

Asalamu alaykum,

Allah swt has informed us in the Qur’an that every group of people has a witness, and on the Day of Judgement this person will bear witness on what they did.   This topic has been addressed a great deal throughout the Qur’an.

[4.41] How will it be, then, when We bring from every people a witness and bring you as a witness against these?
[16.84] And on the day when We will raise up a witness out of every people, then shall no permission be given to those who disbelieve, nor shall they be made to solicit favor

[40:51] Most surely We help Our messengers, and those who believe, in this world’s life and on the day when the witnesses shall stand

These witnesses are both Prophets and non-Prophets.  During the time of Nabi Isa [as] the witness was Isa [as] himself.  Similarly, during the time of Prophet Muhammad [sawa], it was he who was the witness.  But what happened when Isa [as] died?  And when our Prophet [sawa] died?  Did they continue being the witnesses or not?

The Qur’an is clear that they didn’t, and someone else took their place. 

[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.

Notice in the above verse Allah swt says that these witnesses are ‘from among’ their people.  This means that the witness has to be alive amongst his people to be their witness; he can’t be dead.  This is further proven by the following verse:

Jesus [as] will say: [5:117] And I was a witness over them while I lived among them

Isa [as] makes it clear that a witness has to be living among the people, and when the witness stops being amongst them, he stops being their witness.

So now we come to the conclusion that after Nabi Isa [as] their was a witness who succeeded him, and after that witness there was another… and so on until the time of our Prophet [sawa], where he was the witness.  After the Prophet [sawa] there had to have been another witness who took his place, as the earth cannot be without a witness because the Qur’an says that every people have one. 

Before we continue lets read what the famous sunni exegete Fakhr ARazi has said about this under [16:89]:

وثبت أيضاً أنه لا بد في كل زمان بعد زمان الرسول من الشهيد فحصل من هذا أن عصراً من الإعصار لا يخلو من شهيد على الناس وذلك الشهيد لا بد وأن يكون غير جائز الخطأ، وإلا لافتقر إلى شهيد آخر ويمتد ذلك إلى غير النهاية وذلك باطل، فثبت أنه لا بد في كل عصر من أقوام تقوم الحجة بقولهم وذلك يقتضي أن يكون إجماع الأمة حجة

He says that the verse proves ‘that there has to be in every time period after the period of the Prophet [sawa] a witness, and the conclusion of this is that there will never be a time during which there is no witness on the people’

If this isn’t proof for Imamah then I don’t know what is!

Unfortunately ARazi then goes on to say that this witness is the consensus of the Ummah!  This is despite the Qur’an making it clear that theses witnesses are individuals that will bear witness against their own people.

So we have established that the Earth can never be devoid of Witnesses, and that these witnesses are sometimes Prophets, and sometimes not.  This is because there isn’t always a Prophet alive amongst the people.  The following verses serve as more proof for this:

[39:69] And the earth shineth with the light of her Lord, and the Book is set up, and the prophets and the witnesses are brought, and it is judged between them with truth, and they are not wronged.

[4:69] And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, these are with those upon whom Allah has bestowed favors from among the prophets and the truthful and the witnesses and the good, and a goodly company are they!

These verses mention Prophets and witnesses as different groups.  This means that there has to be at least some witnesses who are not Prophets, or some Prophets who are not witnesses.

What is especially noteworthy about the last verse [4:69] is that the witnesses are described as being ‘those whom Allah has bestowed favors on’.  This particular phrase has been mentioned elsewhere in the Qur’an, in a Surah that every Muslim is familiar with:

[1:6] Keep us on the Straight path (Siratul Mustaqeem]
[1:7] The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors

These witnesses are therefore the people of the Siratul Mustaqeem.  Actually its more than that; Allah swt defines the Siratul Mustaqeem through them in verse 1:7.  There is no deviation in the Siratul Mustaqeem.  There is therefore no deviation in the path of the Witnesses; they are infallible.

Going back to verse [4:69] above, Allah swt says that by obeying Him and the Prophet [sawa], we can become ‘with’ those on whom He has bestowed His favours.  He doesnt say we become ‘one of them’, He says we become with them.  And as Allamah Tabataba’i [r] mentions in AlMizan, being with them is different than being one of them.  This shows the greatness of their status, and is not something that can be reached by us even if we follow the Prophet, and just like Prophethood it is something special.

In conclusion:

(i) The Earth is never devoid of a witness therefore there is one alive amongst us today

(ii) The witness can be a Prophet or a non Prophet.

(iii) The witness has a very high status in Allah’s eyes.

(iv) The witness is infallible.

In the next section I will explain further the role of the witnesses as expounded in the Qur’an.

Imamah in the Qur’an p1: Introduction

September 6, 2008

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Asalamu alaykum,

Over the next few weeks I will inshaAllah be posting a series of short articles on the doctrine of Imamah in the Qur’an.  My intention will not be to cover all the verses that discuss the topic, but only provide the reader with enough proof to show that the doctrine has an undeniable basis in our Holy Book.

There is no single verse that explains all of the dimensions of Imamah in one go, but these different dimensions are explained in many different verses throughout the Qur’an.  When all of these verses are taken together, we get a good understanding of what the doctrine means.  Many details of the doctrine are not explicitly found in the Qur’an, for example that there are 12 Imams after the Prophet, or that the last Imam is called Imam Mehdi [aj], but this is to be expected.  All of our doctrines are explained in more detail in hadith.

A common argument made by non-Shias is that if Imamah is one of the Usul Din (tenets of faith) then we would expect many decisive verses explaining the concept.  They argue that these verses should be so clear that no hadith would be required, just like we do not require hadith to prove the other tenets of faith from the Qur’an, e.g. Prophethood.  In answer to this,

(i) There are such verses that are clear and do not require hadith, and these will be provided in due course.

(ii) If a particular hadith is accepted by all Muslims, then it is a hujja (proof) for all Muslims and so cannot be rejected.  So even if Imamah could not be proven without recourse to hadith, it doesn’t mean that it is not true.  It also does not mean that it’s not an important doctrine.  If we study Muslim history we find that after the death of the Prophet [sawa] the Ahlul Bayt [a] were cursed, fought and killed.  Their enemies tried their utmost to eradicate them completely, but this didn’t happen to the Qur’an.  No matter what hardship the Ahlul Bayt [a] were facing, the Muslims always had the Qur’an in their hands.  It can be argued that had Allah swt made the successorship of the Ahlul Bayt [a] explicit in the Qur’an, then the enemies would have tried to destroy the Qur’an in the same way they tried to destroy the Ahlul Bayt.  This ambiguity would therefore serve as a protection for the Qur’an, and ensure the Muslims always had access to it.  Those that read it carefully and understood the contexts and reasons for revelation would see Imamah in the Qur’an, but those that didn’t, wouldn’t.  Imam Ali [as] says ”There is enough light for one who wants to see”

The Worship of the Free

September 5, 2008

Asalamu alaykum,

Imam As-Sadiq [as] said about the meaning of worship: “Worship is of three kinds: some people worship Allah, because they fear Him – so it is the worship of slaves; and a group worships Allah, Blessed and High is He, to seek reward – so it is the worship of hirelings; and a group worships Allah, Mighty and Great is He, because of (His) love – and this is the worship of the free, and it is the most excellent worship.” (al-Kafi)

Imam Ali [as] said: Verily, some people worshipped Allah being desirous (Of His reward) – so this is the worship of traders; and some people worshipped Allah fearing (His punishment) – so it is the worship of slaves, and a group worshipped Allah in gratitude (to Him) so this is the worship of the free. (Nahju ‘I-balaghah)

Imam as-Sadiq [as] said: ‘Verily people worship Allah in three ways: One group worships Him in desire of His reward, and it is the worship of covetous ones, and it is greed; and others Worship Him in dread of the Fire, and it is the worship of slaves, and it is fear; but I worship Him in His love – Mighty and Great is He and this is the worship of noble ones. (It is) because Allah has said: and they shall be secure from terror on that days (27: 89); and He has said, Say: ‘If You love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you. . .’ (3:31). Therefore, whosoever is loved by Allah, he shall be among the secure ones; and it is a hidden position, cannot touch it save the purified ones.” (al-Ilal, al-Majalis and al-Khisal)

The above quoted traditions show that the highest form of worship is not done out of fear of hell, nor for the sake of Heaven, rather it is done out of sheer love and gratitude to Allah swt.

Our worship, which is the worship of slaves and business men, makes Allah swt a means to an end. He is not our final goal; He is only an intermediary to a final goal which is Heaven. We worship God because we want the material pleasures of Heaven, and this is different from wanting Allah swt.

On the otherhand the Ahlul Bayt and Awliya’ of Allah worshipped God out of love for Him, and recognising that He is worthy of their worship. To them Allah swt was the ultimate goal, and greatest prize. It wasn’t the rivers of honey or the mansions of paradise.

A few questions arise here:

(1) If the above is true, why did the Ahlul Bayt in many supplications seek Heaven, and ask to be saved from Hell?

(2) Why did they supplicate for Houris and palaces?

This is discussed below.

(1) Heaven and Hell

When we seek heaven we do so for its material rewards. This is the worship of the traders that is mentioned in the hadith. When the Awliya’ seek Heaven their minds are on something else. They want heaven because it is a place of nearness to Allah swt, not because of its material pleasures. Similarly, they fear hell because it is a place of distance from Allah swt. They cannot stand the thought of distance, and want only greater proximity.

Imam Ali [as] in Dua Kumail says:

Therefore (my Lord!) If Thou wilt subject me to the penalties (of hell) in company of Thy enemies and cast me with those who merited Thy punishments and tear me apart from Thy friends and those who will be near to Thee, then my God, my Lord and my Master, though I may patiently bear Thy punishments, how can I calmly accept being kept away from Thee?

I reckon that though I may patiently endure the scorching fire of Thy hell, yet how can I resign myself to the denial of Thy pity and clemency?

According to Imam Ali [as] the torment of the fire of Hell is severe and unbearable, but even worse than this torment is being kept away from Allah. In Munajat Sha’baniyah he says:

الهي ان اخذتني بجرمي اخذتك بعفوك, وان اخذتني بذنوبي اخذتك بمغفرتك, وان ادخلتني النار اعلمت اهلها اني احبك

My Lord, if You condemn me for my crimes, I will cling to Your forgiveness, and if You hold me for my sins, I will cling to Your granting pardon. If You haul me into the hell, I will tell its inmates that I love You.

When Asiyah [r] the wife of Fir’own was being tortured, she asked Allah swt to build her a house in Jannah. But the most important thing in her eyes was that this house should be ‘near you’.

وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلاً لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اِمْرَأَةَ فِرْعَوْنَ إِذْ قَالَتْ رَبِّ ابْنِ لِي عِنْدَكَ بَيْتاً فِي الْجَنَّةِ وَنَجِّنِي مِنْ فِرْعَوْنَ وَعَمَلِهِ وَنَجِّنِي مِنْ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ

[66:11] And Allah sets forth, as an example to those who believe the wife of Pharaoh: Behold she said: “O my Lord! Build for me, in nearness to Thee, a mansion in the Garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his doings, and save me from those that do wrong”;

She didn’t say ”build for me a house in Jannah” or ”build for me a house in Jannah in nearness to you” rather she said ”Build for me, in nearness to Thee, a house in Jannah”

Being close to Allah swt was what she wanted.

(2) Supplicating for houris and palaces.

Imam Khumayni [r] in his book Adabu Salat addresses this issue whilst discussing the beliefs of those Muslims with a materialistic outlook:

There are among these people those who admit for the prophets and holy men [auliya] (AS) nothing other than corporeal states and bodily Paradise, i.e. satisfying the animal desire. They take the greatness of the states of the other world to be similar to the greatness of this world, with vast orchards, running rivers and a multitude of houris and youths and palaces. When there is a talk about love, affection and divine attraction, they assault the speaker with vulgar language and ugly words, as if they themselves have been insulted and they were retaliating. These people block the way of humanity and they are the thorns of the road to knowing Allah, and the Satans who deceive men, hindering groups upon groups of the servants of Allah from Allah, His names, His attributes, His remembrance and remembering, and directing their attentions to the animal stomach and sexual desires. They are Satanic agents who sit in ambush on the straight path of Allah according to the ayah: “I shall surely lurk in ambush for them on Your straight path,” [352] in order to prevent the servants of Allah from getting familiar with their Lord and from ridding themselves from the darkness of animal desires, including inclination towards houris and palaces. These people may resort to evidences from the invocations of the prophets and the infallible Ahlul Bayt (AS) in which they also demand houris and palaces. But this is due to the shortcomings of this group who recognize no difference between loving Allah’s grace, which is loved because it is the gift of the Beloved, in itself being a sign of affection and care, and merely loving the houris and palaces independently, which is within the nature of the animal desire. Loving Allah’s gifts is Loving Allah, which consequently covers the favours of Allah and His graces:
I love the whole world, for the whole world is of Him. [353]
The love of the abode did not infatuate me,
But the love of the one who resides therein.

Otherwise, what would, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS) do with houris and palaces? How could that great man be associated with the appetites of the self and the animal desires? The one whose worship is that of a free man, his reward cannot be that of traders.