Imamah in the Qur’an p5: Ibrahim’s [a] prayer

September 18, 2010

In part 4 I showed that the medium Ummah was not the whole Muslims Ummah, but a select few that will bear witness on mankind on the Day of Judgement.  I quoted the following verses about this group of people and noted two  things – that this group was chosen, that it was named by Ibrahim [a] ‘Muslim’.  These are the two verses in question:

[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!

To learn more about who these people were, we should turn our attention to the following verses from Surah Baqarah which mention Ibrahim’s prayer for this group of people in more detail:

[2:128] Our Lord! and make us both submissive to Thee and from our offspring a group submitting to Thee, and show us our ways of devotion and turn to us, surely Thou art the Oft-returning, the Merciful.

[2:129] Our Lord! and raise up in them a Messenger from among them who shall recite to them Thy communications and teach them the Book and the wisdom, and purify them; surely Thou art the Mighty, the Wise.

For the purposes of brevity I will keep it simple.  Ibrahim [a] has just finished building the Ka’aba; he has carried out a great deed, and is in the presence of one of the most Holy structures on Earth.  So, when he prays for submission (Islam), is he praying for the elementary grade of Islam that we all profess, or something special?  Clearly, he is praying for the highest degrees of submission, as he already possessed the elementary grade of submission anyway.  This is further proved by his words ‘submissive TO THEE’; he doesn’t just say ‘make us submissive’, but supplicates ‘make us submissive to thee’, emphasising that the submission asked for is not the ordinary one of everyday muslims (i.e. professing shahadatayn) but complete submission.

The important point is this: Ibrahim [a] then repeats this supplication for a group from his offspring.  The two verses at the top of this page show that his dua was answered – that these Muslims he prayed for exist.  The verses from surah Baqarah show that the submission of these Muslims was not elementary grade submission, but a lofty grade of submission, that Ibrahim [a] supplicated for himself and for Isma’eel [a].  It follows, then, that this group of Muslims – the medium nation according to the verses in part 4 – is a select group of people, and not the whole Muslim Ummah.

More can be said about these verses, but for the purposes of discussion the above suffices.  For a more detailed exposition I refer the reader to AlMizan.

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Hadith Ghadeer p1 – Introduction

January 17, 2009

On the 18th of Dhil-Hijjah in the middle of the hot Arabian desert, whilst returning from his final Hajj, the Prophet was ordered to declare Imam Ali his successor to the Muslim masses.  After informing them of his coming death, and the importance of following the Qur’an and Ahlul Bayt, he raised Imam Ali’s hand and said:

من كنت مولاه فهذا علي مولاه

”Whoever’s master (mawla) I am, Ali is also his master”.

This took place in an area known as Ghadir Khumm, half way between Mecca and Medinah and near present day al-Juhfa.

The occurrence of this event is universally accepted by all Muslims, but there has been much controversy over its significance.  Whilst Shia Muslims take it to be  a decisive proof of Imam Ali’s successorship, Sunnis interpret it to mean Imam Ali’s friendship with the believers – ”Whoever I am his friend, Ali is his friend”.

In a series of short posts I will demonstrate the baselessness of the Sunni interpretation, which is nothing more than a futile attempt at rejecting the Prophet’s [s] decisive declaration.  I will prove that the Shia interpretation is the correct one by using 2 lines of evidence:

1. The context of the Hadith

2. The understanding of the Sahaba

I will then address common objections, and will show that many of the points brought up by Sunnis actually count against them, and further prove the correctness of the Shia interpretation.


Raj’ah – The Return before the Day of Judgement

September 28, 2008

Al-Raj’ah literally means ‘the return’, and refers to the Shia doctrine that certain people will return back to life before the Day of Judgement. Narrations from Ahlul Bayt [as] have identified these people as the best of humanity and the worst of humanity.

الإمام الصادق عليه السلام قال: وإن الرجعة ليست بعامة وهي خاصة ، لايرجع إلا من محض الايمان محضاً ، أو محض الشرك محضاً . البحار:53/ 36

Imam ASadiq [as]: The Raj’ah isn’t general, rather it is specific. Only those that were absolute believers will return, or those that were absolute Mushriks (polythiests). Bihar AlAnwar 53/36

The exceptionally evil will be brought back to life and will recieve their just punishments in this life before the hereafter. Some narrations have mentioned that martyred Imams of Ahlul Bayt [as] will be brought back to rule after the death of Imam Mehdi [aj]. These details have all been mentioned in the hadith, but the purpose of this article is to prove the concept of Raj’ah from the Qur’an, so has the Qur’an mentioned that certain people will be resurrected before Qiyamah? In Surah Naml we read:

وَيَوْمَ نَحْشُرُ مِن كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ فَوْجًا مِّمَّن يُكَذِّبُ بِآيَاتِنَا فَهُمْ يُوزَعُونَ {83

[27:83] And on the day when We will gather from every nation a group from among those who rejected Our communications, then they shall be kept in ranks.

Imam Sadiq [as] asked one of his companions what the people say regarding the above quoted verse. His companion replied: They say it’s about the Day of Judgement. The Imam replied: Would Allah gather [yahshur] (only) a group of every people and leave the rest?! Rather the verse is referring to Raj’ah, and the verse of Qiyamah is this : and We will gather them and leave not any one of them behind [18:47]. Bihar AlAnwar 53/40

عن الإمام الصادق عليه السلام أنه سئل عن قوله تعالى: وَيَوْمَ نَحْشُرُ مِنْ كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ فَوْجاً مِمَّنْ يُكَذِّبُ بِآياتِنَا فَهُمْ يُوزَعُونَ ؟ فقال: ما يقول الناس فيها ؟ قلت يقولون إنها في القيامة . فقال: يحشر الله في القيامة من كل أمة فوجاً ويترك الباقين ؟! إنما ذلك في الرجعة ، فأماآية القيامة فهذه:وَحَشَرْنَاهُمْ فَلَمْ نُغَادِرْ مِنْهُمْ أَحَداً.. الى قوله: موعداً. البحار:53/40

The Imam’s argument is clear. The verse is saying that the hashr (gathering after resurrection) will be limited to a group of people and will not be for everyone, whilst in Qiyamah everyone will be resurrected and gathered, not just a group from amongst the people. As 18:47 says: ‘Hasharnahum fa lam nughadir minhum Ahada’ . This proves that the verse is not referring to the resurrection of the Day of Judgement, but is referring to an event that will occur before it.

Allamah Tabataba’i [r] in his tafsir of this verse offers another proof. He says that if we read the verses that follow 27:83, we will see that they go on to talk about the blowing of the trumpet and other events that will be in Qiyamah.

[27:87] And on the day when the trumpet shall be blown, then those who are in the heavens and those who are in the earth shall be terrified except such as Allah please, and all shall come to him abased.
[27:88] And you see the mountains, you think them to be solid, and they shall pass away as the passing away of the cloud– the handiwork of Allah Who has made every thing thoroughly; surely He is Aware of what you do.

The famous Sunni exegete Ibn Kathir says the following about the blowing of the Trumpet:

The Sur (trumpet), as described in the Hadith, is, «قَرْنٌ يُنْفَخُ فِيه» (a horn which is blown into.) According to the Hadith about the Sur (Trumpet), it is (the angel) Israfil who will blow into it by the command of Allah, may He be exalted. He will blow into it for the first time, for a long time. This will signal the end of the life of this world. (see Tafsir ibn Kathir, verse 27:87)

So if the blowing of the trumpet will cause the end of all life, this means that whatever occurs before the blowing will be in this life, not the hereafter. The context therefore shows that the resurrection of certain groups of people will occur during this life and not the hereafter, as it will be before the blowing of the Trumpet according to the sequence of events that are described by the verses. This leaves no doubt that the verse is referring to Raj’ah before the Day of Judgement.

The doctrine of Raj’ah is clearly in the Qur’an, but like every other belief, we must refer to the hadith for the specific details. It is only the hadith of Ahlul Bayt [as] that have been narrated in the books of Shia Muslims that have mentioned these details. Everyone else has overlooked them, and denied this reality in its entirety. We thank Allah swt for blessing us with the Wilayah of Ahlul Bayt [as]. May we live long enough to see their return.


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.

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)


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.
[354]

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.


Akhbaris and the Qur’an

September 5, 2008

Asalamu alaykum,

There used to exist a strong trend amongst Shia scholars that nothing of the Qur’an could be understood without recourse to hadith. Interpreting Qur’an without hadith would be regarded as Tafsir BilRa’y, an exegesis based on personal whims that has been condemned by the Imams. Those that propounded this view made the Qur’an into a kind of mysterious cryptic book, that noone could understand apart from the Ahlul Bayt [a]. Today, virtually all Shia Ulema reject this notion, and believe in the authoritativeness of the apparent meaning of the Qur’an. This doesn’t mean that we don’t need the hadith of Ahlul Bayt [a] when doing Tafsir; they have the complete knowledge of the Qur’an and know it better than anyone else. What it does means is that Qur’an speaks a language that we can understand, and we are able to extract some of these meanings even if there are no narrations about the verses. The Usuli Ulema’ have given many evidences against the Akhbari position that only Ahlul Bayt can interpret the Qur’an. I will mention 2 of these. If anyone would like to research this further then I recommend the book اصول التفسير والتاويل by Sayed Kamal AlHaidary which can be downloaded here , and Zawahir AlQur’an [in english] by Sayyid Khoi which can be read here.

Proof 1: Compare the Hadith to the Qur’an

We have many authentic narrations from many of the Imams that tell us to compare the transimitted narrations to the book of Allah, and to reject those that contradict it and accept those that are supported by it. For example,

راشد عن ابي عبد الله عليه السلام قال: ما لم يوافق من الحديث القران فهو زخرف

Rashid from Abi Abdillah [a]: Any narration that isn’t inline with the Qur’an is vanity.
Wasa’il Shia 27/110

عن ابي عبد الله الصاعق عليه السلام : خطب النبي ص فقال : ايها الناس ما جائكم عني يوافق كتاب الله فانا قلته, وما جاءكم يخالف كتاب الله فلم اقله

Imam Sadiq [a]: The Prophet [sawa] addressed the people and said: O people, whatever is narrated to you from me that is inline with the Book of Allah then I have said it. And whatever is narrated to you that goes against the Book of Allah then I never said it.
Wasa’il Shia 27/111

عن ابن ابي يعفور قال سالت ابا عبد الله ع عن اختلاف الحديث يرويه من نثق ومنهم من لم نثق به؟ قال: اذا ورد عليكم حديث فوجدتم له شاهداً من كتاب الله او من قول رسول الله ص والا فالذي جاءكم به اولى به

Narrated from Ibn Abi Ya’foor: I asked Abi Abdillah [a] about the differences in narrations that are narrated by those whom we trust and those we don’t. He said: If a narration reaches you that is supported by evidence in the Book of Allah or from the sayings of the Messenger of God [sawa] (then accept it).
Wasa’il Shia 27/110

جميل بن دراج عن ابي عيد الله الصادق ع : …فما وافق كتاب الله فخذوه وما خالف كتاب الله فدعوه

Jameel ibn Draj narrated from Abi Abdillah Sadiq [a]: … whatever agrees with the Book of Allah then take it, and whatever disagrees with it then reject it.
Wasa’il Shia 27/109

These hadith and many like them clearly show that we are able to understand the Qur’an independently. If this were not the case then we would not be able to compare the hadith to the Qur’an, as understanding the Qur’an would be dependent on the hadith.

Let me make it clear that noone denies that the Ahlul Bayt [as] are needed for the most complete and correct understanding of the Qur’an, they are afterall the second of the Thaqalayn. But in same way that we can understand much of their sayings without recourse to the Qur’an, we can also understand much of the Qur’an without recourse to Ahlul Bayt.

Proof 2: The Everlasting Miracle

The miraculousness of the Qur’an is something that no Muslim denies. The Qur’an itself challenges the people many times to produce something like it:

وَإِن كُنتُمْ فِي رَيْبٍ مِّمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَى عَبْدِنَا فَأْتُواْ بِسُورَةٍ مِّن مِّثْلِهِ وَادْعُواْ شُهَدَاءكُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِين

[2:23] And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call on your witnesses besides Allah if you are truthful.

أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ قُلْ فَأْتُواْ بِسُورَةٍ مِّثْلِهِ وَادْعُواْ مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

[10:38] Or do they say: He has forged it? Say: Then bring a chapter like this and invite whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful.

أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ قُلْ فَأْتُواْ بِعَشْرِ سُوَرٍ مِّثْلِهِ مُفْتَرَيَاتٍ وَادْعُواْ مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

[11:13] Or, do they say: He has forged it. Say: Then bring ten forged chapters like it and call upon whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful

أَمْ يَقُولُونَ تَقَوَّلَهُ بَل لَّا يُؤْمِنُونَ فَلْيَأْتُوا بِحَدِيثٍ مِّثْلِهِ إِن كَانُوا صَادِقِينَ

[52:33-34] Or do they say: He has forged it. Nay! they do not believe. Then let them bring an announcement like it if they are truthful.

The question is, if only the Ahlul Bayt could understand the Qur’an, how could it be a miracle? How could it challenge people to produce something like it? For the Arabs to take this claim seriously they would have to understand the Qur’an themselves, realise its beauty and depth, but this would not be possible if its understanding was limited to a select few.

Conclusion

The above two proofs show that the Qur’an can be understood by normal people. If it could not then it wouldn’t be able to claim that it was a miracle. If it could not then the Ahlul Bayt [as] wouldn’t have instructed us to compare their sayings to the Qur’an.

Having said this, if we want to gain the greatest knowledge of the Qur’an, we need the best teachers, and these are the Ahlul Bayt. When doing tafsir of a particular verse we should read what has been transmitted from them about that verse, and look at all the verses in the Qur’an that discuss that particular subject, and then use our God given Aql to come to a conclusion.

May Allah swt grant us knowledge of His Holy Book. Ameen.