The World Seen from the Point of View of Being and Reality ; The Necessity of God

Consciousness and perception, which are intertwined with man’s very being, make evident by their very nature the existence of God as well as the world. For, contrary to those who express doubt about their own existence and everything else and consider the world as illusion and fantasy, we know that a human being at the moment of his coming into existence, when he is already conscious and possesses perception, discovers himself and the world. That is to say, he has no doubt that “He exists and things other than he exist.” As long as man is man this comprehension and knowledge exist in him and cannot be doubted, nor do they undergo any change.

The perception of this reality and existence which man affirms through his intelligence, in opposition to the views of the sophist and skeptic, is immutable and can never be proven false. That is to say, the claim of the sophist and the skeptic which negates reality can never be true, because of man’s very existence. There is within the immense world of existence a permanent and abiding reality which pervades it and which reveals itself to the intelligence.

Yet each of the phenomena of this world which possesses the reality that we discover as conscious and perceiving human beings loses its reality sooner or later and becomes nonexistent. From this fact itself it is evident that the visible world and its parts are not the essence of reality (which can never be obliterated or destroyed). Rather, they rely upon a permanent Reality through which they gain reality and by means of which they enter into existence. As long as they are connected and attached to it they possess existence and as soon as they are cut off from it they become nonexistent. We call this Immutable Reality, which is imperishable (that is, the Necessary Being), God.

Another Point of View Concerning the Relation Between Man and the Universe

The path chosen in the previous section to prove the existence of God is a very simple and evident one which man treads with his God-given nature and intelligence without any complication. Yet, for the majority of people, because of their continuous preoccupation with material things and their being drowned in the pleasures of the senses, it has become very difficult to return to their God-given, simple, primordial, and untainted nature. That is why Islam, which describes itself as universal, and which believes all people to be equal in religion, has made it possible for such people to find another way to prove the existence of God. It seeks to speak to them and to make God known to them by means of the very path through which they have turned away from their simple, primordial nature.

The Holy Quran instructs the multitude of men in the knowledge of God through different ways. Most of all, it draws their attention to the creation of the world and the order which reigns over it. It invites men to contemplate the “horizons” and “their own souls,” for man in his few days of earthly life, no matter what path he chooses or what state he loses himself in, will never step outside the world of creation and the order which reigns over it. His intelligence and power of comprehension cannot overlook the marvelous scenes of heaven and earth which he observes.

This vast world of existence which stretches before our eyes is, as we know, in its parts and as a whole continuously in the process of change and transformation. At each moment it manifests itself in a new and unprecedented form. It becomes actualized under the influences of laws which know no exception. From the farthest galaxies to the smallest particles which form the parts of this world, each part of creation possesses an inward order and runs its course in a most amazing manner under laws which do not admit any exceptions. The world extends its domain of activity from the lowest to the most perfect state and reaches its own goal of perfection.

Above these particular orders stand more universal orders and finally the total cosmic order which brings together the countless parts of the universe and relates the more particular orders with each other, and which in its continuous course accepts no exceptions and permits no breaches.

The order of creation is such that if, for example, it places a man upon the earth, it constitutes him in such a way that he can live in harmony with his environment. It arranges the environment in such a way that it raises him like a loving nurse. The sun, the moon, the stars, water and earth, the night and the day, the seasons of the year, the clouds, wind and rain, the treasures beneath the earth and on its surface, in other words all the forces of nature, use their energy and resources in providing well-being and peace of mind for him. Such a relation and harmony can be discovered among all phenomena and also between man and his neighbors near and far, as well as within man’s own habitat.

Such a continuity and harmony can also be observed within the internal structure of every phenomenon in the world. If creation has given man bread, it has also given him feet to seek it, hands to grasp it, a mouth to eat it, and teeth to chew it. It has related man through a series of means, which are connected with each other like the links of a chain, to the final goal envisaged for this creature, which is subsistence and perfection.

Many men of science have no doubt that the countless relations among things which they have discovered as a result of several thousand years of effort are but humble samples and a foretaste of the secrets of creation and their myriad ramifications. Each new discovery declares to man the existence of an endless number of unknown elements. Could anyone say that this vast world of existence, all of the parts of which either separately or in unity and interconnection bear witness to an infinite knowledge and power, need not have a creator and cold have come into being without reason and cause? Or could it be said of these particular and universal domains or order and equilibrium, and finally of this total cosmic order which through innumerable interrelations has made the world a single unit running its course according to laws which know no exceptions, that all this has occurred without plan and only through accident and chance? Or could anyone say that each of the phenomena and domains in the cosmos has chosen for itself, before coming into being? Or could anyone claim that this world, which is a single unit and which possesses complete unity, harmony and the interconnection of parts, could be the result of multiple and different commands issuing from different sources?

Obviously, an intelligent man, who relates every event and phenomenon to a cause, and who sometimes spends long periods in investigation and efforts to gain knowledge of a cause that is unknown to him, will never accept the possibility of a world existing without a Being as its cause. Such a person, who by observing a few bricks placed upon one another in an orderly manner considers them to be the effect of an agent possessing knowledge and power and who denies the possibility of chance and accident in the putting of the bricks together and therefore concludes that a plan and purpose must have existed beforehand, will not regard the cosmic order as being the result of an accident or the play of chance.

A deeper awareness of the order reigning in the world is enough to show that the world, along with the order reigning over it, is the creation of an omnipotent Creator who has brought it into being through His limitless knowledge and power and who directs it toward an end. All the partial causes which bring about individual events in the world ultimately end in Him. They are in every way under His dominance and are guided by His wisdom. Everything that exists is in need of Him, while He has need of nothing and does not depend on any causes or conditions.

God, the Exalted, says, “Lo! in the heavens and the earth are portents for believers. And in your creation, and all the beasts that He scattereth in the earth, are portents for a folk whose faith is sure. And the difference of night and day and the provision that Allah sendeth down from the sky and thereby quickeneth the earth after her death, and the ordering of the winds, are portents for a people who have sense. These are portents of Allah which we recite unto thee (Muhammad) with truth. Then in what fact, after Allah and His portents, will they believe?” (Quran, XLV, 3-6).

Every reality in this world which we can possibly imagine is a limited reality, that is, one whose actualization depends upon certain necessary causes and conditions. If these do not exist that reality cannot exist in the world. Every reality has a boundary beyond which it cannot extend its existence. Only God is such that He has no limit or boundary, for His reality is absolute and He exists in His Infinity no matter how we try to conceive of Him. His Being does not depend upon and is not in need of any causes or conditions. It is clear that in the case of something limitless we cannot conceive of multiplicity, for any supposedly second reality will be other than the first, as a result of which each would be limited and bound and would set a boundary to the reality of the other. For example, if we consider a limitless volume we cannot conceive another limitless volume alongside it. And if we do suppose another, it will be the same as the first. Therefore, God is one and has no partner.

We have already mentioned the Bedouin who approached Ali in the middle of the fighting during the Battle of the Camel and asked if he asserted that God was one. In answer Ali said, “To say that God is one has four meanings: Two of those meanings are false and two correct. As for the two incorrect meanings, one is that one should say ‘God is one’ and be thinking of number and counting. This meaning is false because that which has no second cannot enter into the category of number. Do you not see that those who said that God is the third of a trinity [i.e., the Christians] fell into infidelity? Another meaning is to say that so and so is one of this people, namely a species of this genus or a member of this species. This meaning is also not correct when applied to God, for it implies likening something to God and God is above all likeness.

“As for the two meanings which are correct when applied to God, one is that it should be said that God is one in the sense that there is no likeness unto Him among things. God possesses such uniqueness. And one is to say that God is one in the sense that there is no multiplicity or division conceivable in Him, neither outwardly nor in the mind nor in the imagination. God possesses such a unity.” (Bihar al-anwar, vol. II, p. 65)

Ali has also said, “To know God is to know His Oneness.” (Bihar al-anwar, vol. II, p. 186) This means that the Being of God is unlimited and infinite suffices to prove His Oneness, for to conceive a second for the Infinite is impossible. There is therefore no need of any other proofs, although there exist many others.

The Divine Essence and Qualities

If we analyze the nature of a human being, we see that he has an essence which is his individual humanity and also qualities through which his essence is known, such as the quality of being born in such a land, or being the son of such a person, or being learned and capable, or tall and handsome; or he possesses the contrary of these qualities. Some of these qualities, like the first and second, can never be separated from the essence, and others, like being learned or capable, have the possibility or separation and alternation. Yet all are different from the essence and at the same time different from each other.

This point, namely the difference between the essence and qualities and between the qualities themselves, is the best proof that an essence that has qualities, and a quality that makes known an essence, are both limited and finite. For if the essence were limitless and infinite it would encompass the qualities as well, and also the qualities would include each other, and as a result all would become one. For example, the essence of man would be the same as capability and also capability the same as knowledge; height and beauty would be the same; and all of these would possess the same meaning.

From this example it is clear that the Divine Essence cannot be conceived to have qualities in the sense that human beings have qualities. A quality can come about only through setting limits and the Divine Essence transcends all limitations (even the limitation of this transcendence which in reality is a quality).

The Meaning of the Divine Qualities

In the world of creation we are aware of many perfections which appear in the form of qualities. These are positive qualities which, wherever they appear, make the object of which they are the quality more perfect and increase its ontological value, as can be seen clearly in the comparison between the live being such as man and a lifeless one such as a stone. Doubtless God has created and bestowed these perfections upon creatures; if He had not possessed them in their fullness Himself He could not have bestowed them upon others and perfected others through them. Therefore, if we follow the judgment of sound reasoning we must conclude that God, the Creator, has knowledge, power, and every other real perfection. Furthermore, as has already been mentioned, the marks of His knowledge and power and, as a result, the marks of life are seen in the order of the cosmos.

But because the Divine Essence is limitless and infinite these perfections which are shown to be His Qualities are in reality the same His Essence and one with each other. The difference observed between the Essence and the Qualities and at the same time between the Qualities themselves is only on the plane of concepts. Essentially there is but one Reality involved which is one and indivisible.

In order to avoid the inadmissible error of limiting the Essence through attributing qualities to it or denying the principle of perfection in it, Islam has commanded its followers to preserve a just balance between affirmation and negation. It has ordered them to believe that God has knowledge but not like the knowledge of others. He has power but not like the power of others. He hears but not with ears. He sees but not with eyes like those of men, and so on.

Further Explanation Concerning Qualities

Qualities in general are of two types : qualities of perfection, and qualities of imperfection. Qualities of perfection, as mentioned above, are of a positive nature and give higher ontological value and greater ontological effect to the object that they qualify. This is clear from the comparison between a live, knowing and capable being and a dead being which lacks knowledge and capability. Qualities of imperfection are the reverse of such qualities. When we analyze these imperfect qualities we see that they are negative and show a lack of perfection, such as ignorance, impatience, ugliness, illness, and the like. Therefore, it can be said that the negation of the quality of imperfection is the quality of perfection. For example, the negation of ignorance is knowledge and the negation of impotence is power and capability.

For this reason the Holy Quran has related each positive quality directly to God and negated every quality of imperfection from Him, attributing the negation of such imperfections to Him, as He says: “He is the knower, the Omnipotent,” or He says, “He is the Alive” or “Neither slumber nor sleep overtaketh Him,” or “Know that ye cannot frustrate Allah.”

The point that must never be forgotten is that God, the Most Exalted, is Absolute Reality without any limit or boundary. Therefore, a positive quality attributed to Him will not possess any limitation. He is not material and corporeal or limited to space and time. While possessing all positive qualities He is beyond every quality and state which belongs to creatures. Every quality which in reality belongs to Him is purified from the notion of limitedness, as He says, “Nought is as His likeness.” (Quran, XLII, 11)

Qualities of Action

In addition, qualities are also divided into qualities of essence and qualities of action. A quality sometimes depends only on the qualified itself, such as life, knowledge and power, which depend on the person of a living, knowing and capable human being. We can conceive of man in himself possessing these qualities without taking into consideration any other factor.

At other times a quality does not depend only on the qualified in itself, but, in order to qualify, it also requires the existence of something external as in the case of writing, conservation, desire, and the like. A person can be a writer if he possesses ink, pen, and paper, and he can converse when there is someone with whom to speak. In the same way he can desire when there is an object of desire. The sole existence of man is not sufficient to bring these qualities into existence.

From this analysis it becomes clear that the Divine Qualities which are the same as God’s Essence, as already pointed out, are only of the first kind. As for the second kind, whose actualization depends upon an external factor, they cannot be considered as Qualities of the Essence and the same as the Essence, for all that is other than God is created by Him and so, being situated in the created order, comes after Him.

Qualities that pertain to God after the act of creation such as creator, omnipotent, giver of life, giver of death, sustainer, etc., are not the same as His Essence but are additional to it; they are Qualities of Action. By Quality of Action is meant that after the actualization of an act the meaning of a quality is understood from that act, not from the Essence (that performs the act), such as “Creator”, which is conceived after the act of creation has taken place. From the creation is understood the quality of God as Creator. That quality depends upon creation, not upon the sacred Essence of God, the Most Exalted, Himself, so that the Essence does not change from one state to another with the appearance of that quality. Shi’ism considers the two qualities of will (iradah) and speech (kalam) in their literal meaning as Qualities of Action (will meaning wanting something and speech meaning conveying a meaning through an expression). Most of the Sunni theologians consider them as implying knowledge and thereby take them to be Qualities of Essence.

Destiny and Providence

The law of causality reigns throughout the world of existence without any breach or exception. According to this law each phenomenon in this world depends for its coming into being upon causes and conditions which make its actualization possible. If all of these causes, which are called the complete cause (the sufficient and necessary cause), are actualized, the coming into being of that phenomenon, or the assumed effect, becomes determined and necessary. And assuming the lack of all or some of these causes, the actualization of the phenomenon is impossible. Investigation and analysis of this thesis will clarify this point for us.

(1) If we compare a phenomenon (or effect) with the whole, complete (or sufficient) cause, and also with the parts of the complete cause, its relation to the complete cause is based on necessity and relation to each of the parts of the complete cause (which are called incomplete or partial causes) is one of possibility and lack of complete determinism. These causes provide the effect only with the possibility of existence, not with its necessity.

The world of existence, in its totality, therefore, is governed throughout by necessity because each of its parts has a necessary connection with its complete cause by the very fact of coming into being. Its structure is composed of a series of necessary and certain events. Yet, the character of possibility is preserved in its parts if we consider each part separately and in itself in the phenomena which are related and connected to partial causes which are other than their complete cause.

The Holy Quran in its teachings has called this reign of necessity Divine Destiny (qada’), for this necessity issues from that Source that gives existence to the world and is therefore a command (hukm) and “Divine Decree” that is certain and is impossible to breach or disobey. It is based on justice and accepts no exception or discrimination. God Almighty says, “His verily is all creation and commandment” (Quran, VII, 54), and “When He decreeth [qada] a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is” (Quran, II, 117), and also “(When) Allah doometh there is none that can postpone His doom [hukm]” (Quran, XIII, 41).

(2) Each part of the cause provides the appropriate measure and “model” for the effect, and the coming into being of the effect is in accordance with the totality of the measures determined for it by the complete cause. For example, the causes that make respiration possible for man do not cause respiration in the absolute and unconditioned sense ; rather they send a determined amount of the air around the mouth and nose through the respiratory channel to the area of the lungs in a determined time and with a determined shape. Likewise, the causes of man’s vision (including man himself) do not bring into being vision as such without limits or conditions, but rather a vision which, through the means and organs provided, is limited and measured for men in every respect. This truth is to be found without exception in all the phenomena of the world and all the events that occur in it.

The Holy Quran has called this aspect the truth “Providence” (qadar) and has related it to God Almighty who is the origin of creation, as has been said, “And there is not a thing but with Us are the stores thereof. And we send it not down save in appointed measure [qadar]” (Quran, XV, 21).

In the same way that according to Divine Destiny the existence of each phenomenon and even which occurs in the cosmic order is necessary and cannot be avoided, so also according to Providence each phenomenon and event that occurs will never trespass or disobey in the least degree the measure which God has provided for it.

Man and Free Will

The action which man performs is one of the phenomena of the world of creation and its appearance depends, completely, like other phenomena in the world, upon its cause. And since man in a part of the world of creation and has an ontological relation with other parts of the cosmos, we cannot accept the premise that other parts should not have an effect upon his actions.

For example, when a man takes a bite of bread he needs not only the instruments of his hands, feet, mouth as well as knowledge, power and will, but also the existence of the bread in the external world, its availability, the lack of obstacles and other temporal and spatial conditions. If any of these causes were not actualized, the action would not be possible. Conversely, with the actualization of all of them (the complete cause) the occurrence of the action becomes completely necessary. The necessity of the action in relation to all of the parts of the complete cause is not contradictory to the possibility of the relation of the action with respect to man, who is one of the parts of the complete cause. Man has the possibility or free will (ikhtiyar) to perform the act. The necessity existing in the relation between the action and all of the parts of the cause does not mean that the relation of the action to some of the parts of the cause, of which man is one, should also be that of necessity and determination.

Man’s simple and untainted comprehension also confirms this point of view, for we see that people through their God-given nature and intelligence distinguish between such things as eating, drinking, coming and going on the one hand, and on the other, such things as health and illness, age and youth or the height of the body. The first group, which is directly related to man’s will, is considered to be performed according to the free choice of the individual so that people command and prohibit them and blame or condemn them. But concerning the second group man has no duty and is not under any Divine command because he cannot exercise a free choice over them.

At the beginning of Islam among the Sunnis there were two schools that were concerned with the theological aspects of human action. One group, holding the view that human action is the result of the unbreakable will of God, considered man to be determined in his actions and held human free will to be devoid of any value and sense. The other group believed man to be independent in his actions, which did not depend upon the Divine will and were outside of the command of Providence (qadar).

But according to the instruction of the Household of the Prophet, which is also in conformity with the literal instructions of the Quran, man is free (mukhtar) in his actions but not independent (mustaqill). Rather, God the Almighty through free will has willed the act. According to our previous analysis, God the Exalted has willed and made necessary the act through all of the parts of the complete cause, of which one is the will and free choice of man. As a result of this kind of Divine will, the action is necessary but in it man has also free will, that is, the action is necessary with respect to all the parts of its cause, and possible and free in choice with respect to one of those parts which is man. The sixth Imam – upon whom be peace – has said, “It is neither determination nor free will but something between the two.”
The fifth and sixth Imams said that “God loves His creation so much that He will not force it to commit sin and then punish it. And God is so powerful that whatever He commands comes to be.” Also the sixth Imam has said, “God is so generous that He does not make it a duty for men to do what is not in their power. He is so powerful that nothing comes into being in His kingdom which He does not will.” (This is an allusion to the two schools of predestination and free will.) (Bihar al-anwar, vol. III, pp. 5, 6, 15)

ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE PROPHET

Toward the Goal : General Guidance

A grain of wheat that is placed within the bosom of the earth under appropriate conditions begins to grow and enters upon a path of development in which at every moment it takes on a new form and state. Following a particular order and sequence it treads this path until it becomes a grown plant with spikes of wheat ; if once again one of the seeds were to fall upon the ground it would begin the previous cycle all over again until it reached the final goal. Likewise if the seed is that of a fruit placed within the bosom of the soil it begins its transformation, breaking its shell, from which a green stem shoots out. It follows an orderly and distinct path of transformation until finally it becomes a fully grown tree, green and full of fruit. Or if it is the sperm of an animal it begins to develop within the egg or in the womb of the mother, following the line of development peculiar to that animal until it becomes a perfected individual of that animal species.

This distinct path and orderly development is to be development is to be observed in each species of creatures in this world and is determined by the inner nature of that species. The green wheat plant which has sprung up from the grain will never bear oats or become a sheep, a goat, or an elephant, and an animal that has become pregnant from its male will never bear spikes of wheat or a plane tree. Even if an imperfection were to occur in the organs or the natural functions of the newly born, or if a lamp were to be born without an eye, or a wheat plant develop without spikes of wheat, we would have no doubt that such an occurrence was due to some pest or to unnatural causes. Continuous order and regularity in the development and generation of things, and the belonging of each species of creatures in its generation and development to a particular order and rule, is an undeniable fact.

From this evident thesis two conclusions can be drawn. (1) Between the various stages that each species of creatures traverses from the beginning to the end of its existence there is continuity and interconnection, as if that species in each stage of its development were pushed from behind and attracted by what is to come. (2) Due to the above-mentioned continuity and interconnection, the last stage in the development of each species is from the beginning of its generation the goal and point of “existential attention” of that species. For example, the “attention” of the walnut that sends out a green shoot from below the earth is centered from that very moment on a fully grown walnut tree. And a sperm in the egg or the womb is from the moment of its generation moving toward the state of the perfected animal.

The Holy Quran, which teaches that the creation and the preservation of things belong absolutely to God, considers this movement and attraction, which each species in creation possesses in trading its path of development, to be derived from Divine guidance. As He says, “Our Lord is He Who gave unto everything its nature, then guided it aright” (Quran, XX, 50). And also, “Who createth, then disposeth ; who measureth then guideth” (Quran, LXXXVII, 2-3). And He refers to the result of these sayings in these words: “And each one hath a goal toward which he turneth” (Quran, II, 148). And also: “And We created not the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them in play. We created them not save with truth, but most of them know not” (Quran, XLIV, 38-39).

Special Guidance

Obviously the human species is not an exception to this general rule. The same guidance which rules over all species of creature governs man as well. In the same way that each species through its particular nature follows its path of perfection and is guided to it, so must man with the help of this guidance be guided toward that which is his real perfection.

Although man shares many elements with other species of animals and with plants, the one special characteristic which distinguishes him is intellect. It is with the help of his intellect and reason that man is able to think and to make use of every means possible for his own benefit, to fly into the endless spaces of the sky or swim in the depth of the sea, or to bring under his service and command all kinds of created things, whether they be minerals, plants or animals on the surface of the earth, and to benefit even from members of his own species to the greatest extent possible.

Owing to his primordial nature, man sees his happiness and perfection in gaining complete freedom. Yet, he must of necessity sacrifice some of his freedom because he is created as a social being and has endless demands which by himself he can never satisfy, and also because he is in cooperation and social intercourse with other members of his species who themselves have the same instinct of self-centeredness and love of freedom that he has. For the sake of the benefit he gains from others he must in turn be of benefit to them. Equivalent to what he reaps from the toil of others he must give of his own work. Or, in summary, he must of necessity accept a society based upon mutual cooperation.

This point is clear in the case of newborn babies and children. At the beginning, when desiring anything, they make use of no other means but force and crying and refuse to accept any constraint or discipline. But gradually, as a result of mental development, they realize that one cannot succeed in the problems of life only through rebellion and force ; therefore, slowly they approach the condition of social beings. Finally they reach the age when they become social individuals with developed mental powers and are ready to obey the social regulations of their environment.

When man comes to accept the necessity for mutual cooperation among members of society he also recognizes the necessity for laws which rule over society, clarifying the duty of each individual and specifying the punishment for each offender. He accepts laws through whose application each individual can realize real happiness and find felicity in proportion to the social value of his efforts. These laws are the same universal and applicable laws which man, from the first day of his existence until today, has been continuously seeking and to which he has always been attracted as the foremost among all his desires. If the attainment of such a thing were not possible and were not written upon the tablet of human destiny, it would not have been the perennial yearning of man.

God, the Exalted, has referred to this reality of human society, saying, “We have apportioned among their livelihood in the life of the world, and raised some of them above others in rank that some of them may take labor from others” (Quran, LXIII, 32). Concerning man’s selfishness and desire to monopolize things to himself He says, “Lo! man was created anxious, fretful when evil befalleth him, and, when good befalleth him, grudging” (Quran, LXX, 19-21).

Reason and Law

If we delve into the matter carefully we will discover that man seeks continuously those laws which can bring happiness in the world ; that people as individuals and in groups recognize, in accordance with their God-given nature, the necessity for laws which provide felicity for them without discrimination or exception, laws which establish a general norm of perfection among mankind. Obviously, up to now, during the different periods of human history, there have not come into being any such laws which are devised by human reason. If the laws of existence had placed the burden of creating such human laws upon the shoulders of human reason, then during the long period of history such laws would have been established. In that case, each individual who possesses the power of reasoning would comprehend this human law in detail in the same way that everyone realizes the necessity for such laws in society.

In other words, if it had been in the very nature of things that it be the duty of human reason to create a perfect common law which must provide happiness for human society, and that man should be guided to that perfect law through the process of creation and the generation of the world itself, then such laws would have been apprehended by each human being through his reason in the same way that man knows what is of benefit or detriment to him throughout the determined course of daily life. There is, however, as yet no sign of the presence of such laws. Laws which have come about by themselves, or have been devised by a single ruler, or individuals, or nations, and have become prevalent in different societies are considered by some as certain, and by others as doubtful. Some are aware of these laws and others are ignorant of them. Never has it come to pass that all people, who in their basic structure are the same in that they are endowed by God with reason, should have a common awareness of the details of the laws which can bring about happiness in the world of man.

That Mysterious Wisdom and Consciousness Called Revelation

Thus, in the light of the discussion above, it becomes clear that the laws which can guarantee the happiness of human society cannot be perceived by reason. Since according to the thesis of general guidance running throughout creation the existence of an awareness of these laws in the human species is necessary, there must be another power of apprehension within the human species which enables man to understand the real duties of life and which places this knowledge within the reach of everyone. This consciousness and power of perception, which is other than reason and sense, is called the prophetic consciousness, or the consciousness of revelation.

Of course the presence of such a power in mankind does not mean that it should necessarily appear in all individuals, in the same way that although the power of procreation has been placed in all human beings, the awareness of the enjoyment of marriage and being prepared for this enjoyment is possible only for those who have reached the age of puberty. In the same way that the consciousness of revelation is a mysterious and unknown form of consciousness for those who do not possess it, the apprehension of the joy of sexual union is a mysterious and unknown feeling for those who have not reached the age of puberty.

God, the Exalted, makes reference in His Word to the revelation of His Divine Law (Shari’ah) and the inability of human reason to comprehend this matter in the verses: “Lo! We inspire thee as We inspired Noah and the prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and We imparted unto David the Psalms; and messengers We have mentioned unto thee before and messengers We have not mentioned unto thee ; and Allah spoke directly unto Moses ; Messengers of good cheer and of warning, in order that mankind might have no argument against Allah after the messengers” (Quran, IV, 163-165).

The Prophets – Inerrancy of Prophecy

The appearance of prophets affirms that conception of revelation outlined above. The prophets of God were men who propagated the call of revelation and prophecy and brought definitive proofs for their call. They propagated among people the elements of the religion of God (which is the same divine law that guarantees happiness) and made it available to all men.

Since in all periods of history the number of people endowed with the power of prophecy and revelation has been limited to a few individuals, God – the Most Exalted – has completed and perfected the guidance of the rest of mankind by placing the mission of the propagation of religion upon the shoulders of His prophets. That is why a prophet of God must possess the quality of inerrancy (‘ismah). In receiving the revelation from God, in guarding it and in making possible its reaching the people, he must be free from error. He must not commit sin (ma’siyah). The reception of revelation, its preservation and its propagation are three principles of ontological guidance ; and error in existence itself is meaningless. Furthermore, sin and opposition to the claims of the religious call and its propagation are impossible in a prophet for they would be a call against the original religious mission ; they would destroy the confidence of the people, their reliance upon the truth and the validity of the call. As a result they would destroy the purpose of the religious call itself.

God, the Exalted, refers in His word to the inerrancy of the prophets, saying, “And We chose them and guided them unto a straight path” (Quran, VI, 88). And also, “(He is) the Knower of the Unseen, and He revealeth unto none His secret, save unto every messenger whom He hath chosen, and then He maketh a guard to go before him and a guard behind him, that He may know that they have indeed conveyed the messages of their Lord” (Quran, LXXII, 26-28).

The Prophets and Revealed Religion

What the prophets of God receive through revelation and as a message from God and conveyed to mankind was religion (din), that is, a way of life and human duties which guarantee the real happiness of man.

Revealed religion in general consists of two parts : doctrine and practice or method. The doctrinal part of revealed religion consists of a series of fundamental principles and views concerning the real nature of things upon which man must establish the foundations of his life. It is comprised of the three universal principles of unity (tawhid), prophecy (nubuwwat), and eschatology (ma’ad). If there is any confusion or disorder in one of these principles the religion will not be able to gain any following.

The practical part of revealed religion consists of a series of moral and practical injunctions covering the duties man has before God and human society. That is why the secondary duties which have been ordered for man in different Divine laws are of two kinds : morals (akhlaq), and actions (a’mal). The morals and actions related to the Divine are of two kinds, such as: first, the quality of faith, sincerity, surrender to God, contentment and humility ; and second, the daily prayers, fasting, and sacrifice (called acts of worship and symbolizing the humility and servitude of man before the Divine Throne). The morals and actions related to human society are also of two kinds, such as: first, the quality of love for other men, wishing well for others, justice and generosity ; and second, the duty to carry out social intercourse, trade and exchange, etc. (called transactions).

Another point that must be considered is that since the human species is directed toward the gradual attainment of perfection, and human society through the passage of time becomes more complete, the appearance of a parallel development must also be seen in revealed laws. The Holy Quran affirms this gradual development, which reason has also discovered. It can be concluded from its verses that each Divine Law (Shari’ah) is in reality more complete than the Shari’ah before ; for instance, in this verse where He says, “And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it.” (Quran, V, 48)
Of course, as scientific knowledge also confirms and the Quran states, the life of human society in this world is not eternal and the development of man is not endless. As a result, the general principles governing the duties of man from the point of view of doctrine and practice must of necessity stop at a particular stage. Therefore, prophecy and the Shari’ah will also one day come to an end when in the perfection of doctrine and expansion of practical regulations they have reached the final stage of their development. That is why the Holy Quran, in order to make clear that Islam (the religion of Muhammad) is the last and most complete of the revealed religions, introduces itself as a sacred book that cannot be abrogated (naskh), calls the Prophet the “Seal of the Prophets” (khatam al-anbiya’), and sees the Islamic religion as embracing all religious duties. As He says, “And lo! it is an unassailable Scripture. Falsehood cannot come at it from before it or behind it” (Quran, XLI, 41-42). And also, “Muhammad is not the father of any man among you but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the prophets” (Quran, XXXIII, 40). And, “We reveal the scripture unto thee as an exposition of all things” (Quran, XVI, 89).

The Prophets and Proof of Revelation and Prophecy

Many modern scholars who have investigated the problem of revelation and prophecy have tried to explain revelation, prophecy and questions connected with them by using the principles of social psychology. They say that the prophets of God were men of a pure nature and strong will who had great love for humanity. In order to enable mankind to advance spiritually and materially and in order to reform decadent societies, they devised laws and regulations and invited mankind to accept them. Since people in those days would not accept the logic of human reason, in order to make them obey their teachings the prophets, according to such modern scholars, claimed that they and their thoughts came from the transcendent world. Each prophet called his own pure soul the Holy Spirit ; the teachings which he claimed came from the transcendent world were called “revelation and prophecy” ; the duties which resulted from the teachings were called “revealed Shari’ah” ; and the written record of these teachings and duties were called a “revealed book.”

Anyone who views with depth and impartiality the revealed books and especially the Holy Quran, and also the lives of the prophets, will have no doubt that this view is not correct. The prophets of God were not political men. Rather they were “men of God,” full of truthfulness and purity. What they perceived they proclaimed without addition or diminution. And what they uttered they acted upon. What they claimed to possess was a mysterious consciousness which the invisible world had bestowed upon them. In this way they came to know from God Himself what welfare of men was in this world and the next, and propagated this knowledge among mankind.

It is quite clear that in order to confirm and ascertain the call of prophecy there is need of proof and demonstration. The sole fact that the Shari’ah brought by a prophet conforms to reason is not sufficient in determining the truthfulness of the prophetic call. A man who claims to be a prophet, in addition to the claim of the truth of his Shari’ah, claims a connection through revelation and prophecy with the transcendent world, and therefore claims he has been given by God the mission to propagate the faith. This claim in itself is in need of proof. That is why (as the Holy Quran informs us) the common people with their simple mentality always sought miracles from the prophets of God in order that the truthfulness of their call might be confirmed.

The meaning of this simple and correct logic is that the revelation which the prophet claims is his cannot be found among others who are human beings like him. It is of necessity an invisible power which God miraculously bestows upon His prophets, through which they hear His word and are given the mission to convey this word to mankind. If this be true, then the prophet should ask God for another miracle so that people would believe the truth of his prophetic call.

It is thus clear that the request for miracles from prophets is according to correct logic and it is incumbent upon the prophet of God to provide miracle at the beginning of his call, or according to the demand of the people, in order to prove his prophecy. The Holy Quran has affirmed this logic, relating miracles about many prophets at the beginning of their mission or after their followers requested them.

Of course many modern investigators and scientists have denied miracles, but their opinions are not based upon any satisfactory reasons. There is no reason to believe that the causes which until now have been discovered for events through investigation and experiment are permanent and unchanging, or that no event ever occurs for reasons other than those which usually bring it about. The miracles related about the prophets of God are not impossible or against reason (as is, for example, the claim that the number three is even). Rather they are a “break in what is habitual” (kharq-i ‘adat), an occurrence which, incidentally, has often been observed in a lower degree among people following ascetic practices.

The Number of the Prophets of God

It is known through tradition that in the past many prophets appeared, and the Holy Quran affirms their multitude. It has mentioned some of them by name or by their characteristics, but has not given their exact number. Through definitive traditions also it has not been possible to determine their number except in the well known saying which Abu Dharr Ghifari has recited from the Holy Prophet, according to which their number has been set at 124,000.

The Prophets Who are Bringers of Divine Law

From what can be deduced from the Quran, it can be concluded that all the prophets of God did not bring a Shari’ah. Rather, five of them – Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and the Prophet Muhammad – are “possessors of determination” (ulu’l-‘azim), those who have brought a Shari’ah. Other prophets follow the Shari’ah of those who “possess determination.” God has said in the Quran, “He hath ordained for you that religion which He commended unto Noah, and that which We inspire in thee (Muhammad), and that which We commended unto Abraham and Moses and Jesus” (Quran, XLII, 13). He has also said, “And when We exacted a covenant from the Prophets, and from thee (O Muhammad) and from Noah and Abraham and Moses and Jesus son of Mary, We took from them a solemn covenant” (Quran, XXXIII,7 ).

The Prophecy of Muhammad

The last prophet of God is Hadrat-i Muhammad – upon whom be blessings and peace – who possesses a book and a Shari’ah and in whom Muslims have placed their faith. The Prophet was born fifty three years before the beginning if the hegira calendar in Mecca in the Hijaz amidst the family of Bany Hashim of the Tribe of Quraysh, who were considered the most honored of the Arab families.

His father was called ‘Abdallah and his mother, Aminah. He lost both parents at the beginning of childhood and was placed under the care of his paternal grandfather, ‘Abd al-Muttalib, who also soon passed away. At this time the Prophet’s uncle, Abu Talib, took charge of him and became his guardian, taking him into his own house. The Prophet grew up in his uncle’s house and even before reaching the age of adolescence used to accompany his uncle on journeys by caravan.

The Prophet had not received any schooling and therefore did not know how to read and write. Yet, after reaching the age of maturity he became famous for his wisdom, courtesy, and trustworthiness. As a result of his sagacity and trustworthiness, one of the women of the tribe of Quraysh, well-known for her wealth, appointed him as the custodian of her possessions and left in his hands the task of conducting her commercial affairs.

The Prophet once journeyed to Damascus with her merchandise and as a result of the ability he displayed was able to make an outstanding profit. Before long she asked to become his wife and the Prophet accepted her proposal. After the marriage, which occurred when he was twenty-five years old, the Prophet began the life of a manager of his wife’s fortunes, until the age of forty, gaining meanwhile a widespread reputation for wisdom and trustworthiness. He refused, however, to worship idols, as was the common religious practice of the Arabs of the Hijaz. And occasionally he would make spiritual retreats (khalwah) in which he prayed and discoursed secretly with God.

At the age of forty, in the cave of Hira’, in the mountains of the Tihamah region near Mecca, when he was in spiritual retreat, he was chosen by God to become a prophet and was given the mission of propagating the new religion. At that moment the first chapter of the Quran (“The Blood-Clot” [Surah-i ‘alaq] ) was revealed to him. That very day he returned to his house and on the way met his cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib, who after hearing the account of what had occurred declared his acceptance of the faith. After the Prophet entered the house and told his wife of the revelation, she likewise accepted Islam.

The first time the Prophet invited people to accept his message he was faced with a distressing and painful reaction. Of necessity he was forced henceforth to propagate his message in secret for some time until he was ordered again by God to invite his very close relatives to accept his message. But this call was also fruitless and no one heeded it except Ali ibn Abi Talib, who in any case had already accepted the faith. (But in accordance with documents transmitted from the Household of the Prophet and extant poems composed by Abu Talib, Shi’ites believe that Abu Talib had also embraced Islam ; however, because he was the sole protector of the Prophet, he hid his faith from the people in order to preserve the outward power he had with the Quraysh.)

After this period, according to Divine instruction, the Prophet began to propagate his mission openly. With the beginning of open propagation the people of Mecca reacted most severely and inflicted the most painful afflictions and tortures upon the Prophet and the people who had become newly converted to Islam. The severe treatment dealt out by the Quraysh reached such a degree that a group of Muslims left their homes and belongings and migrated to Abyssinia. The Prophet and his uncle, Abu Talib, along with their relatives from the Banu Hashim, took refuge for three years in the “mountain pass of Abu Talib,” a fort in one of the valleys of Mecca. No one had any dealings or transactions with them and they did not dare to leave their place of refuge.

The idol-worshippers of Mecca, although at the beginning they considered inflicting all kinds of pressures and tortures such as striking and beating, insult, ridicule and defamation on the Prophet, occasionally would also show kindness and courtesy toward him in order to have him turn away from his mission. They would promise him great sums of money or leadership and the rule of the tribe. But for the Prophet their promises and their threats only resulted in the intensification of his will and determination to carry out his mission. Once, when they came to the Prophet promising him wealth and power, the Prophet told them, using metaphorical language, that if they were to put the sun in the palm of his right hand and the moon in the palm of his left hand he would not turn away from obeying the unique God or refrain from performing his mission.

About the tenth year of his prophecy, when the Prophet left the “mountain pass of Abu Talib,” his uncle Abu Talib, who was also his sole protector, died as did also his devoted wife. Henceforth there was no protection for his life nor any place of refuge. Finally the idol-worshippers of Mecca devised a secret plan to kill him. At night they surrounded his house from all sides with the aim of forcing themselves in at the end of the night and cutting him to pieces while he was in bed. But God, the Exalted, informed him of the plan and commanded him to leave for Yathrib. The Prophet placed Ali in place of himself in his bed and at night left the house under the Divine protection, passing amidst his enemies, and taking refuge in a cave near Mecca. After three days when his enemies, having looked everywhere, gave up hope of capturing him and returned to Mecca, he left the cave and set out for Yathrib.

The people of Yathrib, whose leaders had already accepted the message of the Prophet and sworn allegiance to him, accepted him with open arms and placed their lives and property at his disposal. In Yathrib for the first time the Prophet formed a small Islamic community and signed treaties with the Jewish tribes in and around the city as well as with the powerful Arab tribes of the region. He undertook the task of propagating the Islamic message and Yathrib became famous as “Madinat al-rasul” (the city of the Prophet).

Islam began to grow and expand from day to day. The Muslims, who in Mecca were caught in the mesh of the injustice and inequity of the Quraysh, gradually left their homes and property and migrated to Medina, revolving around the Prophet like moths around a candle. This group became known as the “immigrants” (muhajirun) in the same way that those who aided the Prophet in Yathrib gained the name of “helpers” (ansar).

Islam was advancing rapidly but at the same time the idol-worshippers of Quraysh, as well as the Jewish tribes of the Hejaz, were unrestrained in their harassment of the Muslims. With the help of the “hypocrites” (munafiqun) of Medina who were amidst the community of Muslims and who were not known for their holding any particular positions, they created new misfortunes for the Muslims every day until finally the matter led to war. Many battles took place between the Muslims and the Arab polytheists and Jews, in most of which the Muslims were victorious. There were altogether over eighty major and minor battles. In all the major conflicts such as the battles of Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, Khaybar, Hunayn, etc., the Prophet was personally present on the battle scene. Also in all the major battles and many minor ones, victory was gained especially through the efforts of Ali. He was the only person who never turned away from any of these battles. In all the wars that occurred during the ten years after the migration from Mecca to Medina less than two hundred Muslims and less than a thousand infidels were killed.

As a result of the activity of the Prophet and the selfless effort of the muhajirun and ansar during this ten-year period, Islam spread through the Arabian peninsula. There were also letters written to kings of other countries such as Persia, Byzantinum and Abyssinia inviting them to accept Islam. During this time the Prophet lived in poverty and was proud of it. He never spent a moment of his time in vain. Rather, his time was divided into three parts: one spent for God, in worshipping and remembering Him ; a part of himself and his household and domestic needs ; and a part for the people. During this part of his time he was engaged in spreading and teaching Islam and its sciences, administrating to the needs of Islamic society and removing whatever evils existed, providing for the needs of the Muslims, strengthening domestic and foreign bonds, and similar matters.

After ten years of stay in Medina the Prophet fell ill and died after a few days of illness. According to existing traditions the last words on his lips were advice concerning slaves and women.

The Prophet and the Quran

It was demanded of the Prophet, as it had been of other prophets, that he produce a miracle. The Prophet himself also confirmed the power of prophets to produce miracles as has been asserted clearly by the Quran. Many miracles by the Prophet have been recounted, the transmission of some of which is certain and can be accepted with confidence. But the enduring miracle of the Prophet, which is still alive, is the sacred book of Islam, the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran is a sacred text consisting of six thousand and several hundred verses (ayah) divided into one hundred and fourteen large and small chapters (surah). The verses of the Holy Quran were revealed gradually during the twenty-three year period of prophecy and mission of the Prophet. From less than one verse to a whole and complete chapter were revealed under different circumstances, both at day and night, on journeys or at home, in war or peace, during days of hardship or moments of rest.

The Holy Quran in many of its verses introduces itself in unambiguous language as a miracle. It invited the Arabs of that day to rivalry and competition in composing writings of comparable truth and beauty. The Arabs, according to the testimony of history, had reached the highest stages of eloquence and elegance of language, and in the sweetness of language and flow of speech they ranked foremost among all people. The Holy Quran claims that if it be thought of as human speech, created by the Prophet himself or learned through instruction from someone else, then the Arabs should be able to produce its like or ten chapters like it, or a single one of its verses, making use of whatever means were at their disposal to achieve this end. The celebrated Aram men of eloquence claimed that in answer to this request that the Quran was magic and it was thus impossible for them to produce its like.

Not only does the Quran challenge and invite people to compete with its eloquence and elegant language, but also it occasionally invites rivalry from the point of view of its meaning and thus challenges all the mental powers of men and jinn, for the Quran is a book containing the total program for human life. If we investigate the matter carefully we will discover that God has made this vast and extensive program which embraces every aspect of the countless beliefs, ethical forms and actions of mankind and takes into account all of their details and particularities to by the “Truth” (haqq) and to be called the religion of the truth (din-i haqq). Islam is a religion whose injunctions are based on the truth and the real welfare of mankind, not the desires and inclinations of the majority of men or the whims of a single, powerful ruler.

At the foundation of this vast program is placed the most cherished word of God which is belief in His Unity. All the principles of the sciences are deduced from the principle of Unity (tawhid). After that, the most praiseworthy human ethical and moral virtues are deduced from the principles of the religious sciences and included in the program. Then, the countless principles and details of human action and individual and social conditions of man are investigated, and the duties pertaining to them which originate from the worship of the One are elaborated and organized. In Islam the relation and continuity between the principles (usul) and their applications (furu’) are such that each particular application in whatever subject it may be, if it is brought back to its source, returns to the principle of Unity or tawhid, and Unity if applied and analyzed becomes the basis for the particular injunction and rule in question.

Of course, the final elaboration of such an extensive religion with such unity and interconnection, or even the preparation of an elementary index for it, is beyond the normal powers of the best authorities on law in the world. But here we speak of a man who in a short span of time was placed amidst a thousand difficulties concerning life and property, caught in bloody battles and faced with internal and external obstacles and furthermore placed alone before the whole world. Moreover, the Prophet had never received instruction nor learned how to read and write. He had spent two-thirds of his life before becoming a prophet among a people who possessed no learning and had had no taste of civilization. He passed his life in a land without water or vegetation and with burning air, among a people who lived in the lowest social conditions and were dominated by neighboring political powers.

Besides the above, the Holy Quran challenges men in another way. This book was revealed gradually, during a period of twenty-three years, under totally different conditions in periods of difficulty or comfort, war or peace, power or weakness, and the like. If it had not come from God but had been composed and expounded by man, many contradictions and contrasts would be observed in it. Its ending would of necessity be more perfect than its beginning, as is necessary in the gradual perfection of the human individual. Instead, the first Meccan verses are of the same quality as the Medinan verses and there is no difference between the beginning and the end of the Quran. The Quran is a book whose parts resemble each other and whose awe-inspiring power of expression is of the same style and quality throughout.

ESCHATOLOGY

Man is Composed of Spirit and Body

Those who are acquainted to a certain extent with the Islamic sciences know that within the teachings of the Holy Book and the traditions of the Prophet there are many references to spirit and corpus, or soul and body. Although it is relatively easy to conceive of the body and what is corporeal, or that which can be known through the senses, to conceive of spirit and soul is difficult and complicated.

People given to intellectual discussions, such as the theologians and philosophers, Shi’ite and Sunni alike, have presented different views concerning the reality of the spirit (ruh). Yet, what is to some extent certain is that Islam considers spirit and body to be two realities opposed to each other. The body through death loses the characteristics of life and gradually disintegrates, but it is not so with the spirit. When the spirit is joined to the body, the body also derives life from it, and when the spirit separates from the body and cuts its bond to the body – the event that is called death – the body ceases to function while the spirit continues to live.

From what can be learned through deliberation upon the verses of the Holy Quran and the sayings of the Imams of the Household of the Prophet, the spirit of man is something immaterial which has some kind of relation and connection with the material body. God the Almighty in His Book says, “Verily We created man from a product of wet earth ; Then placed him as a drop (of seed) in a safe lodging ; Then fashioned We the drop a clot, then fashioned We the clot a little lump, then fashioned We the little lump bones, Then clothed the bones with flesh, and then produced it as another creation” (Quran, XXIII, 12-14). From the order of these verses it is clear that at the beginning the gradual creation of matter is described and then, when reference is made to the appearance of the spirit, consciousness, and will, another kind of creation is mentioned which is different from the previous form of creation.

In another place it is said, in answer to skeptics who ask how it is possible for the body of man, which after death becomes disintegrated and whose elements become dispersed and lost, to have a new creation and become the original man, “Say : The angel of death, who hath charge concerning you, will gather you, and afterwards unto your Lord ye will be returned” (Quran, XXXII, 11). This means that your bodies disintegrate after death and are lost amidst the particles of the earth, but you yourselves, namely your spirits, have been taken from your bodies by the angel of death and remain protected with Us.

Besides such verses the Holy Quran in a comprehensive explanation expresses the immateriality of the spirit in itself when it asserts, “They will ask thee concerning the Spirit. Say : The Spirit is by command of my Lord” (Quran, XVII, 85).

In another place in explaining His command (amr) He says, “But His command, when He intendeth a thing, is only that He saith unto it : Be! and it is. Therefore glory be to Him in Whose hand is the dominion over all things!” (Quran, XXXVI, 81-82). The meaning of these verses is that the command of God in the creation of things is not gradual nor is it bound to the conditions of time and space. Therefore, the spirit which has no reality other than the command of God is not material and in its being does not have material characteristics ; that is, it does not have the characteristics of divisibility, change, and situation in time and space.

A Discussion of Spirit from Another Perspective

Intellectual investigation confirms the view of the Holy Quran about the spirit. Each of us is aware of a reality within himself which he interprets as “I” and this awareness exists continuously within man. Sometimes man even forgets his head, hands, feet and other members or the whole body. But as long as his self exists, the consciousness of “I” does not leave his awareness. This perception cannot be divided or analyzed. Although the body of man is continuously undergoing change and transformation and chooses different locations in space for itself and passes through different moments of time, the reality of “I” remains fixed. It does not undergo any change or transformation. It is clear that if the “I” were material it would accept the characteristics of matter which are divisibility, change, and situation in time and space.

The body accepts all the characteristics of matter and, because of the relation of the spirit and the body, these characteristics are also considered to belong to the spirit. But if we pay the least attention, it becomes evident to man that this moment in time and the next, this point in space or another, this shape or another shape, this direction of motion or any other, are all characteristics of the body. The spirit is free from them; rather each of these determinations reaches the spirit through the body. This same reasoning can be applied in reverse to the power of consciousness and apprehension or knowledge which is one of the characteristics of the spirit. Obviously if knowledge were a material quality, according to the conditions of matter it would accept divisibility and analysis, and be determined by time and space.

Needless to say, this intellectual discussion could go on at length and there are many questions and answers related to it which cannot be considered in the present context. The brief discussion presented here is only an indication of the Islamic belief concerning body and spirit. A complete discussion will be found in works of Islamic philosophy.

Death from the Islamic Point of View

Although a superficial view would regard death as the annihilation of man and see human life as consisting of only the few days that stand between birth and death, Islam interprets death as the transfer of man from one stage of life to another. According to Islam man possesses eternal life which knows no end. Death, which is the separation of the spirit from the body, introduces man to another stage of life in which felicity or disappointment depends upon good or evil deeds in the stage of life before death. The Holy Prophet has said: “You have been created for subsistence, not annihilation. What happens is that you will be transferred from one house to another.”

Purgatory

From what can be deduced from the Holy Book and prophetic traditions, it can be concluded that between death and general resurrection man possesses a limited and temporary life which is the intermediate stage (barzakh) and link between the life of this world and eternal life. After death man is interrogated concerning the beliefs he has held and the good and evil deeds he has performed in this life. After a summary account and judgment he is subjected to either a pleasant and felicitous life, or an unpleasant and wretched one, depending on the results of the account and judgment. With this newly acquired life he continues in expectation until the day of general resurrection. The condition of man in the life of the intermediate state (purgatory) is very similar to the condition of a person who has been called before a judicial organization in order to have the acts he has committed investigated. He is questioned and investigated until his file is completed. Then he awaits trial.

The soul of man in the intermediate state possesses the same form as in his life in this world. If he be a man of virtue, he lives in happiness and bounty in the proximity of those who are pure and close to the Divine Presence. If he be a man of evil, he lives in affliction and pain and in the company of daemonic forces and “leaders of those who have gone astray.”

God, the Most Exalted, has said concerning the condition of a group of those in the state of felicity, “Think not of those who are slain in the way of Allah, as dead. Nay, they are living. With their Lord they have provision. Jubilant (are they) because of that which Allah hath bestowed upon them of His bounty, rejoicing for the sake of those who have not joined them but are left behind: that there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. They rejoice because of favor from Allah and kindness, and that Allah wasteth not the wage of the believers” (Quran, III, 169-171). And in describing the condition of another group who in the life of this world do not make legitimate use of their wealth and possessions, He says, “Until, when death cometh unto one of the, he saith : My Lord! Send me back, that I may do right in that which I have left behind! But nay! It is but a word that he speaketh ; and behind them is a barrier [barzakh] until the day when they are raised” (Quran, XXIII, 99-100).

The Day of Judgment – Resurrection

Among sacred texts the Quran is the only one to have spoken in detail about the Day of Judgment. Although the Torah has not mentioned this Day and the Gospels have only alluded to it, the Quran has mentioned the Day of Judgment in hundreds of places, using different names. It has described the fate awaiting mankind on this Day sometimes briefly and on other occasions in detail. It has reminded mankind many times that faith in the Day of Recompense (Day of Judgment) is on the same scale in its importance as faith in God and is one of the three principles of Islam. It has mentioned that he who lacks this faith, that is, who denies resurrection, is outside the pale of Islam and has no destiny other than eternal perdition.

And this is the truth of the matter because if there were to be no reckoning in God’s actions and no reward or punishment, the religious message, which consists of an assemblage of God’s decrees and what He has commanded and forbidden, would not have the least effect. Thus the existence or nonexistence of prophecy and the religious mission would be the same. In fact, its nonexistence would be preferable to its existence, for to accept a religion and follow the regulations of a Divine Law is not possible without the acceptance of restrictions and loss of what appears as “freedom.” If to submit to it were to have no effect, people would never accept it and would not give up their natural freedom of action for it. From this argument it becomes clear that the importance of mentioning and recalling the Day of Judgment is equivalent to that of the principle of the religious call itself.

From this conclusion it also becomes evident that faith in the Day of Recompense is the most effective factor which induces man to accept the necessity of virtue and abstention from unbecoming qualities and great sins, in the same way that to forget or lack faith in the Day of Judgment is the essential root of every evil act and sin. God the Almighty has said in His Book, “Lo! those who wander from the way of Allah have an awful doom, for as much as they forgot the Day of Reckoning” (Quran, XXXVIII, 27). As can be seen in this sacred verse, the forgetting of the Day of Judgment is considered to be the root of every deviation. Meditation on the purpose of the creation of man and the Universe, or on the purpose and end of Divine Laws, makes it evident that there will be a Day of Judgment.

When we meditate on creation, we see that there is no action (which of necessity is also a kind of motion) without an immutable end and purpose. Never is the action, considered independently and in itself, the end. Rather, action is always the prelude to an end and exists by virtue of that end. Even in actions which superficially appear to be without purpose such as instinctive actions or will discover purposes in conformity with the kind of action in question. In instinctive actions, which are usually a form of motion, the end toward which the motion takes place is the purpose and aim of the action. And in the play of children there is an imaginary end, the attainment of which is the purpose of playing. The creation of man and the world is the action of God and God is above the possibility of performing a senseless and purposeless act such as creating, nourishing, taking away life and then again creating, nourishing, and taking away life, that is, of making and destroying, without there being an immutable end and a permanent purpose which He pursues in these acts. There must of necessity be a permanent aim and purpose in the creation of the world and of man. Of course, its benefit does not accrue to God, who is above every need, but rather to the creatures themselves. Thus it must be said that the world and man are directed toward a permanent reality and a more perfect state of being which knows no annihilation and corruption.

Also, when we study with care the condition of men from the point of view of religious education and training, we see that as a result of Divine guidance and religious training people become divided into the two categories of the virtuous and the evil. Yet in this life there is no distinction made between them. Rather, on the contrary, success usually belongs to those who are evil and unjust. To do good is combined with difficulty and hardship and every kind of privation and endurance of oppression. Since this is so, Divine Justice requires the existence of another world in which each individual receives the just reward ho actions deserve, and lives a life in conformity with his merits.

Thus it is seen that careful consideration of the purpose of creation and of the Divine Laws leads to the conclusion that the Day of Judgment will come for every person. God, the Exalted, makes this clear in His Book, saying, “And We created not the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, in play. We created them not save with truth ; but most of them in vain. That is the opinion of those who disbelieve. And woe unto those who disbelieve, from the fire! Shall We treat those who believe and do good works as those who spread corruption in the earth ; or shall We treat the pious as the wicked?” (Quran, XXXVIII, 28-29). In another place He says, “Or do those who commit ill-deeds suppose that We shall make them as those who believe and do good works, the same in life and death? Bad is their judgment! And Allah hath created the heavens and the earth with truth, and that every soul may be repaid what it hath earned. And they will not be wronged” (Quran, XLV, 21-22).

Another Explanation

In discussing the outward and inward meaning of the Quran we pointed out that the Islamic sciences are explained in the Quran through different means and that these are in general divided into the two dimensions of the exoteric and the esoteric. The exoteric explanation is the one that conforms to the level of the simple thought patterns and understanding of the majority, in contrast to the esoteric, which belongs to the elite alone which can be comprehended only with the aid of the vision which comes through the practices of the spiritual life.

The explanation from the exoteric view presents God as the absolute ruler of the world of creation, all of which is His dominion. God has created many angels, whose number is legion, to carry out and execute the commands He issues for every aspect of creation. Each part of creation and its order is connected to a special group of angels who are the protectors of that domain. The human species is His creation and human beings are His servants who must obey His commands and prohibitions ; and the prophets are the bearers of His messages, the conveyors of the laws and regulations which He has sent to mankind and has demanded that mankind obey. God has promised reward and recompense for faith and obedience, and punishment and painful retribution for infidelity and sin, and will not break His promise. Also since He is just, His justice demands that in another state of being the two groups of virtuous and evil men, who in this world do not have a mode of life in accordance with their good and evil nature, becomes separated, the virtuous to possess a good and happy life and the evil a bad and wretched existence.

Thus God, according to His Justice and the promises He has made, will resurrect all men who live in this world after their death, without exception, and will investigate in detail their beliefs and works. He will judge them according to the truth and give everyone who has a right his due. He will carry out justice on behalf of all who have been oppressed. He will render to each person the reward for his own actions. One group will be assigned to eternal heaven and the other group to eternal hell.

This is the exoteric explanation of the Holy Quran. Of course it is true and correct. But its language is composed of terms and images born of man’s social life and thought in order that its benefit might be more general and the radius of its action more widespread.

Those who have penetrated into the spiritual meaning of things and are to a certain extent familiar with the esoteric language of the Holy Quran, however, understand from these sayings meanings which lie above the level of simple and popular comprehension. The Holy Quran, amidst its simple and uncomplicated expositions, occasionally alludes to the esoteric aim and purpose of its message. Through many allusions the Holy Quran affirms that the world of creation with all its parts, of which man is one, is moving in its “existential becoming” which is always in the direction of perfection toward God. A day will come when this movement will come to an end and will lose completely its separate and independent existence before the Divine Majesty and Grandeur.

Man, who is a part of the world and whose special perfection is through consciousness and knowledge, is also moving with haste toward God. When he reaches the end of this becoming, he will observe plainly the Truth and Oneness of the Unique God. He will see that power, dominion and every other quality of perfection belong exclusively to the sacred Divine Essence ; the reality of each thing as it is will be revealed to him. This is the first stage in the world of eternity. If, through his faith and good works in this world, man is able to have communication, relation, familiarity, and friendship with God and the beings of his proximity, then with a felicity and joy that can never be described in human language he will live near God and in the company of the pure beings of the world above. But if, because of desire and attachment to the life of this world and its transient and baseless pleasures, he is cut off from the world above and has no familiarity with or love for God and the pure beings of His Presence, then he becomes afflicted with painful torment and eternal adversity. It is true that a man’s good and evil acts in this world are transient and disappear, but the forms of these good and evil acts become established in the soul of man and accompany him everywhere. They are the capital of his future life, be it sweet or bitter.

These affirmations can be drawn from the following verses: God says, “Lo! unto thy Lord is the (absolute) return” (Quran, XCVI, 8). And He says, “Beware all things reach Allah at last?” (Quran XLII, 53); and “The (absolute) command on that day is Allah’s” (Quran, LXXXII, 19). Also in the account of the address made to certain members of the human race on the Day of Judgment He says, “(And unto the evildoer it is said): Thou wast in heedlessness of this. Now We have removed from thee thy covering, and piercing is thy sight this day” (Quran, L, 22).

Concerning the hermeneutic interpretation (ta’wil) of the Holy Quran (the truth from which the Holy Quran originates) God says, “Await they aught save the fulfillment [ta’wil] thereof? On the day when the fulfillment thereof cometh, those who were before forgetful thereof will say: The messengers of our Lord did bring the Truth! Have we any intercessors, that they may intercede for wise than we used to act? They have lost their souls, and that which they devised hath failed them” (Quran, VII, 53). He says, “On that day Allah will pay them their due, and they will know that Allah, He is the Manifest Truth” (Quran, XXIV, 25). And, “Thou verily, O man, art working toward thy Lord a work which thou wilt meet (in His presence)” (Quran, LXXXIV, 6). Also, “Whoso looketh forward to the meeting with Allah (let him know that) Allah’s reckoning is surely nigh…” (Quran, XXIX, 5). And, “And whoever hopeth for the meeting with his Lord, let him do righteous work, and make none sharer of the worship due unto his Lord” (Quran, XVIII, 111). And, “But ah! thou soul at peace! Return unto thy Lord, content in His good pleasure! Enter thou among My bondmen! Enter thou My Garden!” (Quran, LXXXIX, 27-30). Also He says, “But when the great disaster cometh, The Day when man will call to mind his (whole) endeavor, And hell will stand forth visible to him who seeth, Then, as for him who rebelled, And chose the life of the world, Lo! hell will be his home. But as for him who feared to stand before his Lord and restrained his soul from lust, Lo! the Garden will be his home” (Quran, LXXIX, 34-41).

Concerning the identity of the reward of actions God says, “(Then it will be said): O ye who disbelieve! Make no excuses for yourselves this day. Ye are only being paid for what ye used to do” (Quran, LXVI, 7).

The Continuity and Succession of Creation

This world of creation which we observe does not possess an endless and perpetual life. A day will come when the life of this world and its inhabitants will come to an end as confirmed by the Holy Quran. God says, “We created not the heavens and the earth and all that is between them save with truth, and for a term appointed.” (Quran, XLVI, 3)

One could ask if before the creation of this world and present race of humanity there had been another world and another human race; or, if after the life of this world and its inhabitants terminates, as the Holy Quran declares that it will, another world and humanity will be created. The direct response to these questions cannot be found in the Holy Quran. There, one can only discover allusions to the continuity and succession of creation. But in the traditions (rewayat) of the Imams of the Household of the Prophet transmitted to us it is asserted that creation is not limited to this visible world. Many worlds have existed in the past and will exist in the future. The sixth Imam has said, “Perhaps you think God has not created humanity other than you. No! I swear to God that He has created thousands upon thousands of mankinds and you are the last among the.”

And the fifth Imam has said, “God, the Exalted, since creating the world has created seven kinds none of whom were of the race of Adam. He created them from the surface of the earth and set each being one after another with its kind upon the earth. Then He created Adam, the father of mankind, and brought his children into being from him.” And also the sixth Imam has said, “Do not think that after passing away of the affair of this world and the Day of Judgment and the placing of the virtuous in heaven and the evil in hell there will no longer be anyone to worship God. No, never! Rather, again God will create servants without the marriage of the male and the female to know His Oneness and to worship Him.”

ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE IMAM (IMAMOLOGY)

The Meaning of Imam

Imam or leader is the title given to a person who takes the lead in a community in a particular social movement or political ideology or scientific or religious form of thought. Naturally, because of his relation to the people he leads, he must conform his actions to their capabilities in both important and secondary matters.

As is clear from the preceding chapters, the sacred religion of Islam takes into consideration and gives directives concerning all aspects of the life of all men. It investigates human life from the spiritual point of view and guides man accordingly, and it intervenes on the plane of formal and material existence from the point of view of the life of the individual. In the same way it intervenes on the plane of social life and its regulation (i.e., on the plane of government).

Thus the imamate and religious leadership in Islam may be studied from three different perspectives: from the perspective of Islamic government, of Islamic sciences and injunctions, and of leadership and innovative guidance in the spiritual life. Shi’ism believes that since Islamic society is in dire need of guidance in each of these three aspects, the person who occupies the function of giving that guidance and is the leader of the community in these areas of religious concern must be appointed by God and the Prophet. Naturally, the Prophet himself was also appointed by Divine Command.

The Imamate and Succession

Man through his God-given nature realizes without any doubt that no organized society, such as a country or city or village or tribe or even a household consisting of a few human beings, can continue to subsist without a leader and ruler who puts the wheel of the society in motion and whose will govern each individual’s will and induces the members of that society to perform their social duty. Without such a ruler the parts of this society become dispersed in a short time and disorder and confusion reign. Therefore, he who is the ruler and governor of a society, whether it be great or small, if he is interested in his own position and the continued existence of his society, will appoint a successor for himself if he is to be absent from his function temporarily or permanently. He will never abandon the domain of his rule and be oblivious to its existence or annihilation. The head of a household who bids farewell to his house and household for a journey of a few days or months will appoint one of the members of the household or someone else as his successor and will leave the affairs of the house in his hands. The head of an institution, or the principle of a school, or the owner of a shop, if he is to be absent even for a few hours will select someone to represent him.

In the same way Islam is a religion which according to the text of the Holy Book and the Sunnah is established upon the basis of the primordial nature of things. It is a religion concerned with social life, as has been seen by every observer near and far. The special attention God and the Prophet have given to the social nature of this religion can never be denied or neglected. It is an incomparable feature of Islam. The Holy Prophet was never oblivious to the problem of the formation of social groupings wherever the influence of Islam penetrated. Whenever a city or village fell into Muslim hands he would, in the shortest time possible, appoint a governor or ruler in whose hands he would leave the affairs of the Muslims. In very important military expeditions ordered for the Holy War (jihad), he would appoint more than one leader and commander, in order of succession. In the war of Mu’tah he even appointed four leaders, so that if the first were to be killed the second would be recognized as the head and his command accepted and if the second were to be killed, then the third, and so on.

The Prophet also displayed great interest in the problem of succession and never failed to appoint a successor when necessary. Whenever he left Medina he would appoint a governor in his own place. Even when he migrated from Mecca to Medina and there was as yet no idea as to what would occur, in order to have his personal affairs managed in Mecca for those few days and to give back to people what had been entrusted to him, he appointed Ali – may peace be upon him – as his successor. In the same way, after his death Ali was his successor in matters concerning his debts and personal affairs. The Shi’ites claim that for this very reason it is not conceivable that the Prophet should have died without appointing someone as his successor, without having selected a guide and leader to direct the affairs of Muslims and to turn the wheels of Islamic society.

Man’s primordial nature does not doubt the importance and value of the fact that the creation of a society depends on a set of common regulations and customs which are accepted in practice by the majority of the groups in that society, and that the existence and continuation of that society depend upon a just government which agrees to carry out these regulations completely. Any one who possesses intelligence does not neglect of forget this fact. At the same time one can doubt neither the breadth and detailed nature of the Islamic Shari’ah, nor the importance and value the Prophet considered it to possess, so that he made many sacrifices for its application and preservation. Nor can one debate about the mental genius, perfection of intelligence, perspicacity of vision or power of deliberation of the Prophet (beside the fact that this is affirmed through revelation and prophecy).

According to established traditions in both Sunni and Shi’ite collections of hadith (in the chapter on temptations and seditions and others) transmitted from the Prophet, the Prophet foretold seditions and tribulations which would entangle Islamic society after his death, and the forms of corruption which would penetrate the body of Islam, and later worldly rulers who would sacrifice this pure religion for their own impure, unscrupulous ends. How is it possible that the Prophet should not neglect to speak of the details of events and trials of years or even thousands of years after him, and yet would neglect the condition that had to be brought into being most urgently after his death? Or that he should be negligent and consider as unimportant a duty that is on the one hand simple and evident and on the other significant to such a degree? How could he concern himself with the most natural and common acts such as eating, drinking and sleeping and give hundreds of commands concerning them, yet remain completely silent about this important problem and not appoint someone in his own place?

Even if we accepted the hypothesis (which Shi’ism does not accept) that the appointment of the ruler of Islamic society is given by the Shari’ah to the people themselves, still it would be necessary for the Prophet to give an explanation concerning this matter. He would have had to give the necessary instructions to the community so that they would be aware of the problem upon which the existence and growth of Islamic society and the life of religious symbols and observances depended and relied. Yet there is no trace of such a prophetic explanation or religious instruction. If there had been such a thing, those who succeeded the Prophet and held the reins of power in their hands would not have opposed it. Actually, the first caliph transferred the caliphate to the second caliph by bequest. The second caliph chose the third caliph through a six-man council of which he was himself determined and ordered. Mu’awiyah forced Imam Hasan to make peace and in this way carried away the caliphate. After this even the caliphate was converted into a hereditary monarchy. Gradually many religious observances identified with the early years of Islamic rule (such as holy war, commanding what is lawful and prohibiting what is forbidden, the establishment of boundaries for human action) were weakened or even disappeared from the political life of the community, nullifying in this domain the efforts of the Prophet of Islam.

Shi’ism has studied and investigated the primordial nature of man and the continuous tradition of wisdom that has survived among men. It has penetrated into the principal purpose of Islam which is to revivify man’s primordial nature, and has investigated such things as the methods used by the Prophet in guiding the community ; the troubles which entangled Islam and the Muslims and which led to division and separation ; and the short life of the Muslim governments of the early centuries, which were characterized by negligence and lack of strict religious principles. As a result of these studies Shi’ism has reached the conclusion that there are sufficient traditional texts left by the Prophet to indicate the procedure for determining the Imam and successor of the Prophet. This conclusion is supported by Quranic verses and hadiths of Ghadir, Safinah, Thaqalayn, Haqq, Manzilah, Da’wat-i ‘ashirah-i aqrabin and others. But of course these hadiths, most of which are also accepted by Sunnism, have not been understood in the same way by Shi’ism and Sunnism. Otherwise the whole question of succession would not have arisen. Whereas these hadiths appear to Shi’ites as a clear indication of the Prophet’s intention in the question of succession, they have been interpreted by Sunnis in quite another way so as to leave this question open and unanswered.

To prove the caliphate of Ali ibn Abi Talib, Shi’ites have had recourse to Quranic verses, including the following: “Your friend [wali] can be only Allah; and His messenger and those who believe, who establish worship and pay the poor-due, and bow down (in prayer) [or, and this reading is accepted by ‘Allamah Tabataba’i: “….pay the poor-due while bowing down (in prayer)”]” (Quran, V, 55). Shi’ite and Sunni commentators alike agree that this verse was revealed concerning Ali ibn Abi Talib, and many Shi’ite and Sunni traditions exist supporting this view. Abu Dharr Ghifari has said: “One day we prayed the noontime prayers with the Prophet. A person in need asked people to help but no one gave him anything, ‘Oh God! Be witness that in the mosque of the Prophet no one gave me anything.’ Ali ibn Abi Talib was in the position of genuflection in the prayers. He pointed with his finger to the person, who took his ring and left. The Prophet, who was observing the scene raised his head toward heaven and said: ‘Oh God! My brother Moses said to Thee, “Expand my breast and make easy my tasks and make my tongue eloquent so that they will comprehend my words, and make my brother, Harun, my help and vizier” [cf. Quran, XXVIII, 35]. Oh God! I am also Thy prophet ; expand my breast and make easy my tasks and make Ali my vizier and helper.'” Abu Dharr says, “The words of the Prophet had not as yet finished when the verse [cited above] was revealed.”

Another verse which the Shi’ites consider as proof of the caliphate of Ali is this: “This day are those who disbelieve in despair of (even harming) your religion ; so fear them not, fear Me! This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour unto you, and have chosen for you as religion AL-ISLAM” (Quran, V, 3). The obvious meaning of this verse is that before that particular day the infidels had hopes that a day would come when Islam would die out, but God through the actualization of a particular even made them lose forever the hope that Islam would be destroyed. This very event was the cause of the strength and perfection of Islam and of necessity could not be a minor occasion such as the promulgation of one of the injunctions of religion. Rather, it was a matter of such importance that the continuation of Islam depended upon it.

This verse seems to be related to another verse which comes toward the end of the same chapter: “O Messenger! Make known that which hath been revealed unto thee from thy Lord, for if thou do it not, thou will not have conveyed His message. Allah will protect thee from mankind.” (Quran, V, 67). This verse indicates that God commanded a mission of great concern and importance to the Prophet which if not accomplished would endanger the basis of Islam and prophecy. But the matter was so important that the Prophet feared opposition and interference and in awaiting suitable circumstances delayed it, until there came a definite and urgent order from God to execute this command without delay and not to fear anyone. This matter also was not just a particular religious injunction in the ordinary sense, for to preach one or several religious injunctions is not so vital that if a single one of them were not preached it would cause the destruction of Islam. Nor did the Prophet of Islam fear anyone in preaching the injunctions and laws of religion.

These indications and witnesses add weight to the Shi’ite traditions which assert that these verses were revealed at Ghadir Khumm and concern the spiritual investiture (walayat) of Ali ibn Abi Talib. Moreover, many Shi’ite and Sunni commentators have confirmed this point.

Abu Sa’id Khudari says: “The Prophet in Ghadir Khumm invited people toward Ali and took his arm and lifted it so high that the white spot in the armpit of the Prophet of God could be seen. Then this verse was revealed: ‘This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favor unto you, and have chosen for you as religion AL-ISLAM.’ Then the Prophet said, ‘God is great (Allahu akbar) that religion has become perfected and that God’s bounty has been completed, His satisfaction attained and the walayat of Ali achieved.’ Then he added, ‘For whomever I am the authority and guide Ali is also his guide and authority. Oh God! Be friendly with the friends of Ali and the enemy of his enemies. Whoever helps him, help him, and whoever leaves him, leave him.'”

In summary we can say that the enemies of Islam who did everything possible to destroy it, when they lost all hope of achieving this end, were left with only one hope. They thought that since the protector of Islam was the Prophet, after his death Islam would be left without a guide and leader and would thus definitely perish. But in Ghadir Khumm their wishes were brought to nought and the Prophet presented Ali as the guide and leader of Islam to the people. After Ali this heavy and necessary duty of guide and leader was left upon the shoulders of his family.

Some of the hadiths pertaining to Ghadir Khumm, the investiture of Ali, and the significance of the Household of the Prophet are cited here:

Hadith-i ghadir: The Prophet of Islam upon returning from the farewell pilgrimage stopped in Ghadir Khumm, assembled the Muslims and after delivering a sermon, chose Ali as the leader and guide of Muslims.

Bara’ says: “I was in the company of the Prophet during the farewell pilgrimage. When we reached Ghadir Khumm he ordered that place to be cleaned. Then he took Ali’s hand and placed him on his right side. Then he said, ‘Am I the authority whom you obey?’ They answered, ‘We obey your directions.’ Then he said, ‘For whomever I am his master (maula) and the authority whom he obeys, Ali will be his master. Oh God! Be friendly with the friends of Ali and enemy of the enemies of Ali.’ Then Umar ibn al-Khattab said to Ali, ‘May this position be pleasing to you, for now you are my master and the master of all the believers.'”

Hadith-i safinah: Ibn ‘Abbas says, “The Prophet said, ‘My household is like the ship of Noah ; whoever embarks upon it will be saved and whoever turns away from it will be drowned.'”

Hadith-i thaqalayn: Zayd ibn Arqam has recounted that the Prophet said, “It seems that God has called me unto Himself and I must obey His call. But I leave two great and precious things among you : the Book of God and My Household. Be careful as to how you behave toward them. These two will never be separated from each other until they encounter me at Kawthar (in paradise).” Hadith-i thaqalayn is one of the most strongly established hadiths, and has been transmitted through many chains of transmission and in different versions. Shi’ites and Sunnis agree concerning its authenticity. Several important points can be deduced from this hadith and its like: (1) In the same way that the Holy Quran will remain until the Day of Judgment, the progeny of the Holy Prophet will also remain. No period of time will be without the existence of the figure which Shi’ism calls the Imam, the real leader and guide of men. (2) Through these two great trusts (amanat), the Prophet has provided for all the religious and intellectual needs of the Muslims. He has introduced his Household to Muslims as authorities in knowledge and has pronounced their words and deeds to be worthy and authoritative. (3) One must not separate the Holy Quran from the Household of the Prophet. No Muslim has a right to reject the “sciences” of the members of the Household of the Prophet and remove himself from under their direction and guidance. (4) If people obey the members of the Household and follow their words they will never be led astray. God will always be with them. (5) The answers to the intellectual and religious needs of men are to be found in the hands of the members of the Household of the Prophet. Whoever follows them will not fall into error and will reach true felicity ; that is, the members of the Household are free from error and sin and are inerrant. From this it can be concluded that by “Members of the Household” and “progeny” is not meant all the descendants and relatives of the Prophet. Rather, specific individuals are meant who are perfect in the religious sciences and are protected against error and sin so that they are qualified to guide and lead men. For Shi’ism these individuals consist of Ali ibn Abi Talib and his eleven descendants who were chosen to the imamate one after another. This interpretation is also confirmed by the Shi’ite traditions. For example, Ibn ‘Abbas has said, “I said to the Prophet, ‘Who are your descendants whose love is obligatory [upon Muslims]?’ He said, ‘Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn.'” Jabir has transmitted that the Prophet has said, “God placed the children of all prophets in their ‘backbone’ but placed my children in the backbone of Ali.”

Hadith-i haqq : Umm Salmah has said, “I heard from the Prophet of God who said, ‘Ali is with the Truth (haqq) and the Quran, and the Truth and the Quran are also with Ali, and they will be inseparable until they come upon me at Kawthar.'”

Hadith-i manzilah : Sa’d ibn Waqqas has said, “The Prophet of God said to Ali, ‘Are you not satisfied to be to me what Harun was to Moses except that after me there will not be another prophet?'”

Hadith-i da’wat-i ‘ashirah : The Prophet invited his relatives for luncheon and after the meal told them, “I know of no one who has brought to his people better things than I have brought to you. God has commanded me to invite you to draw toward Him. Who is there who will assist me in this matter and be my brother and inheritor (wasi) and vicegerent (khalifah) among you?” All remained silent, but Ali, who was the youngest of all, exclaimed, “I shall be your deputy and aide.” Then the Prophet put his arms around him and said, “He is my brother, inheritor and vicegerent. You must obey him.” Then the group began to depart laughing and telling Abu Talib, “Muhammad has ordered you to obey your son.”

Hudhayfah has said, “The Prophet of God said, ‘If you make Ali my vicegerent and successor – which I do not think you will do – you will find him a perspicacious guide who will direct you toward the straight path !”

Ibn Marduyah has said that the Prophet said, “Whoever wishes that his life and death be like mine and that he enter paradise should after me love Ali and follow my household, for they are my descendants and have been created from my clay. My knowledge and understanding have been bestowed upon them. Therefore woe unto those who deny their virtues. My intercession [on the Day of Judgment] will never include them.”

Affirmation of the Previous Section

Much of the argument of Shi’ism concerning the succession to the Prophet rests on the belief that during the last days of his illness the Prophet in the presence of some of his companions asked for some paper and ink so that something could be written which, if obeyed by the Muslims, would prevent them from going astray. Some of those present considered the Prophet to be too ill to be able to dictate anything and said, “The Book of God is sufficient for us.” There was so much clamor raised over this matter that the Holy Prophet told those present to leave, for in the presence of a prophet there should not be any noise or clamor.

Considering what has been said above about hadiths concerning succession and the events that followed upon the death of the Prophet, especially the fact that Ali was not consulted in the question of selecting the Prophet’s successor, Shi’ites conclude that the Holy Prophet had wanted to dictate his definitive views about the person who was to succeed him but was not able to do so.

The purpose of the utterances of some of those present seems to have been to cause confusion and prevent this final decision from being clearly announced. Their interruption of the Holy Prophet’s discourse does not seem to be what it appears outwardly, that is concern with the possibility that the Prophet might utter incongruous words due to the intensity of his illness. For, first of all, throughout his illness the Holy Prophet was not heard to have uttered any meaningless or incongruous words and no such things has been transmitted concerning him. Moreover, according to the principles of Islam the Prophet is protected by God from uttering delirious or senseless words and is inerrant.

Secondly, if the words mentioned by some of those present on that occasion before the Prophet were meant to be of a serious nature there would have been no place for the next phrase, “The Book of God is sufficient for us.” In order to prove that the Prophet might utter incongruous words under unusual circumstances the reason of his serious illness would have been used rather than the claim that with the Quran there was no need of the Prophet’s words. For it could not be hidden from any Muslim that the very text of the Book of God considers the obedience to the Holy Prophet to be obligatory and his words to be in a sense like the Word of God. According to the text of the Holy Quran, Muslims must obey the injunctions of both God and the Prophet.

Thirdly, an incident involving illness occurred during the last days of the life of the first caliph, who in his last will and testament chose the second caliph as his successor. When Uthman was writing the will according to the order of the caliph, the caliph fainted. Yet the second caliph did not repeat the words that had been uttered in the case of the Prophet according to the hadith of “Pen and Paper.” This fact has been confirmed in a hadith related by Ibn Abbas. And it has been accounted of the second caliph that he said, “Ali deserved the caliphate but the Quraysh would not have been able to bear his caliphate, for had he become caliph he would have forced the people to accept the pure truth and follow the right path. Under his caliphate they would not have been able to transgress the boundaries of justice and thus would have sought to engage in war with him.”

Obviously according to religious principles one must force him who has deviated from the truth to follow the truth; one must not abandon the truth for the sake of one who has abandoned it. When the first caliph was informed that some of the Muslim tribes had refused to pay religious tax, he ordered war and said, “If they do not give me the tithes which they gave to the Prophet, I shall fight against them.” Eventually by this saying he meant most of all that truth and justice must be revived at all costs. Surely the problem of the legitimate caliphate was more important and significant than tithes, and Shi’ism believes that the same principle applied by the first caliph to this matter should have been applied by the whole early community to the problem of succession to the Holy Prophet.

The Imamate and Its Role in the Exposition of the Divine Sciences

In the discussion of prophecy it was mentioned that, according to the immutable and necessary law of general guidance, each created species is guided through the path of genesis and generation toward the perfection and felicity of its own kind. The human species is not an exception to this general law. Man must be guided through the very “instinct” of seeking reality and through thought concerning his life in society in such a way that this well-being in this world and the next is guaranteed. In other words, to attain human happiness and perfection, man must accept a series of doctrines and practical duties and base his life upon them.

It has, moreover, already been said that the way to understand that total program for life called religion is not through reason but through revelation and prophecy, which manifests itself in certain pure beings among mankind who are called prophets. It is the prophets who receive from God, through revelation, the knowledge of men’s duties and obligations as human beings and who make these known to men, so that by fulfilling them men may attain felicity.

It is evident that in the same way that this reasoning proves the necessity for knowledge to guide men to the attainment of happiness and perfection, it also proves the necessity for the existence of individuals who preserve intact the total body of that knowledge and who instruct the people when necessary. Just as the Divine Compassion necessitates the existence of persons who come to know the duties of mankind through revelation, so also it makes it necessary that these human duties and actions of celestial origin remain forever preserved in the world and as the need arises be presented and explained to mankind. In other words, there must always be individuals who preserve God’s religion and expound it when necessary.

The person who bears the duty of guarding and preserving the Divine message after it is revealed and is chosen by God for this function is called the Imam, in the same way that the person who bears the prophetic spirit and has the function of receiving Divine injunctions and laws from God is called the Prophet. It is possible for the imamate and prophecy (nubuwwat) either to be joined in one person or to be separate.

The proof given previously to demonstrate the inerrancy of prophets, also demonstrates the inerrancy of the Imams, for God must preserve His true religion intact and in such a state that it can be propagated among mankind at all times. And this is not possible without inerrancy, without Divine protection against error.

The Difference Between Prophet and Imam

The previous argument about the reception of Divine injunctions and laws by the prophets only proves the basis of prophecy, namely the receiving of Divine injunctions. The argument does not prove the persistence and continuity of prophecy, even though the very fact that these prophetic injunctions have been preserved naturally raises the idea of persistence and continuity. That is why it is not necessary for a prophet (nabi) always to be present among mankind, but the existence of the Imam, who is the guardian of Divine religion, is on the contrary a continuous necessity for human society. Human society can never be without the figure whom Shi’ism calls the Imam whether or not he is recognized and known. God, the Most Exalted, has said in His Book: “So if these disbelieve in it, We have already entrusted it to a people [i.e., the Imams] who do not disbelieve in it” (Quran, VI, 90).

As mentioned above, the functions of prophecy and imamate may be joined in one person who is then appointed to the functions of both prophet and Imam, or to both the reception of the Divine law and its preservation and explanation. And sometimes they can be separated, such as in periods during which there is no prophet living but when there is a true Imam living among men. It is obvious that the number of God’s prophets is limited and the prophets have not been present in every period and age.

It is also of significance to not that in God’s Book some of the prophets have been introduced as Imams such as the Prophet Abraham, about whom is said, “And (remember) when his Lord tried Abraham with (His) commands, and he fulfilled them, He said: Lo! I have appointed thee a leader [imam] for mankind. (Abraham) said: And of my offspring (will there be leaders)? He said: My covenant includeth not wrongdoers” (Quran, II, 124). And God has also said, “And We made them chiefs [imams] who guide by Our command…” (Quran, XXI, 73).

The Imamate and Its Role in the Esoteric Dimension of Religion

In the same way that the Imam is the guide and leader of men in their external actions so does he possess the function of inward and esoteric leadership and guidance. He is the guide of the caravan of humanity which is moving inwardly and esoterically toward God. In order to elucidate this truth it is necessary to turn to the following two introductory comments. First of all, without any doubt, according to Islam as well as other Divine religions the sole means of attaining real and eternal happiness or misery, felicity or wretchedness, is by means of good or evil actions which man comes to recognize through the instruction of Divine religion as well as through his own primordial and God-given nature and intelligence. Second, through the means of revelation and prophecy God has praised or condemned man’s actions according to the language of human beings and the society in which they live. He has promised those who do good and obey and accept the teachings of revelation a happy eternal life in which are fulfilled all desires that accord with human perfection. And to the evildoers and in iniquitous He has given warning of a bitter perpetual life in which is experienced every form of misery and disappointment.

Without any doubt God, who stands in every way above all that we can imagine, does not, as we do, possess “thought” moulded by a particular social structure. The relations of master and servant, ruler and ruled, command and prohibition, reward and punishment, do not exist outside our social life. The Divine Order is the system of creation itself, in which the existence and appearance of everything is related solely to its creation by God according to real relations and to that alone. Furthermore, as has been mentioned in the Holy Quran and prophetic hadith, religion contains truths and verities above the common comprehension of man, which God has revealed to us in a language we can comprehend on the level of our understanding.

It can thus be concluded that there is a real relationship between good and evil actions and the kind of life that is prepared for man in eternity, a relation that determines the happiness or misery of the future life according to the Divine Will. Or in simpler words it can be said that each good or evil action brings into being a real effect within the soul of man which determines the character of his future life. Whether he understands it or not, man is like a child who is being trained. From the instructions of the teacher, the child hears nothing but do’s and don’ts but does not understand the meaning of the actions he performs. Yet, when he grows up, as a result of virtuous mental and spiritual habits attained inwardly during the period of training, he is able to have a happy social life. If, however, he refuses to submit to the instructions of the teacher he will undergo nothing but misery and unhappiness. Or he is like a sick person who, when in the care of a physician, takes medicine, food and special exercises as directed by the physician and who has no other duty than to obey the instructions of his doctor. The result of this submission to his orders is the creation of harmony in his constitution which is the source of health as well as every form of physical enjoyment and pleasure. To summarize, we can say the within his outward life man possesses an inner life, a spiritual life, which is related to his deeds and actions and develops in relation to them, and that his happiness or misery in the hereafter is completely dependent upon this inner life.

The Holy Quran also confirms this explanation. In many verses it affirms the existence of another life and another spirit for the virtuous and the faithful, a life higher than this life and a spirit more illuminated than the spirit of man as we know it here and now. It asserts that man’s acts have inner effects upon his soul that remain always with him. In prophetic sayings there are also many references to this point. For example, in the Hadith-i mi’raj (hadith of the nocturnal ascension) God addresses the Prophet in these words: “He who wishes to act according to My satisfaction must possess three qualities : he must exhibit thankfulness that is not mixed with ignorance, a remembrance upon which the dust of forgetfulness will not settle, and a love in which he does not prefer the love of creatures rather than My love. If he loves Me, I love him ; I will open the eye of his heart with the sight of My majesty and will not hide from him the elites of My creatures. I will confide in him in the darkness of the night and the light of the day until conversation and intercourse with creatures terminates. I will make him hear My word and the word of My angels. I will reveal to him the secret which I have veiled from My creatures. I will dress him with the robe of modesty until the creatures feel ashamed before him. He will walk upon the earth having been forgiven. I will make his heart possess consciousness and vision and I will not hide from him anything in Paradise or in the Fire. I will make known to him whatever people experience on the Day of Judgment in the way of terror and calamity.”

Abu ‘Abdallah – may peace be upon him – has recounted that the Prophet of God – may peace and blessings be upon him – received Harithah ibn Malik ibn al-Nu’man and asked him, “How art thou, Oh Harithah?” He said, “Oh Prophet of God, I live as a true believer.” The Prophet of God said to him, “Each thing possesses its own truth. What is the truth of thy word?” He said, “Oh Prophet of God! My soul has turned away from the world. My nights are spent in a state of awakedness and my days in a state of thirst. It seems as if I am gazing at the Throne of my Lord and the account has been settled, and as if I am gazing at the people of paradise who are visiting each other in heaven, and as if I hear the cry of the people of hell in the fire.” Then the Prophet of God said, “This is a servant whose heart God has illuminated.”

It must also be remembered that often one of us guides another in a good or evil matter without himself carrying out his own words. In the case of the prophets and Imams, however, whose guidance and leadership is through Divine Command, such a situation never occurs. They themselves practice the religion whose leadership they have undertaken. The spiritual life toward which they guide mankind is their own spiritual life, for God will not place the guidance of others in someone’s hand unless He has guided him Himself. Special Divine guidance can never be violated or infringed upon.

The following conclusions can be reached from this discussion :

(1) In each religious community the prophets and Imams are the foremost in the perfection and realization of the spiritual and religious life they preach, for they must and do practice their own teachings and participate in the spiritual life they profess.

(2) Since they are first among men and the leaders and guides of the community, they are the most virtuous and perfect of men.

(3) The person upon whose shoulders lies the responsibility for the guidance of a community through Divine Command, in the same way that he is the guide of man’s external life and acts, is also the guide for the spiritual life, and the inner dimension of human life and religious practice depends upon his guidance.

The Imams and Leaders of Islam

The previous discussions lead us to the conclusion that in Islam, after the death of the Holy Prophet, there has continuously existed and will continue to exist within the Islamic community (ummah), an Imam (a leader chosen by God). Numerous prophetic hadiths have been transmitted in Shi’ism concerning the description of the Imams, their number, the fact that they are all of the Quraysh and of the Household of the Prophet, and the fact that the promised Mahdi is among them and the last of them. Also, there are definitive words of the Prophet concerning the imamate of Ali and his being the first Imam and also definitive utterances of the Prophet and Ali concerning the imamate of the Second Imam. In the same way the Imams before have left definitive statements concerning the imamate of those who were to come after them. According to these utterances contained in Twelve-Imam Shi’ite sources the Imams are twelve in number and their holy names are as follows: (1) ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib; (2) Hasan ibn ‘Ali; (3) Husayn ibn ‘Ali; (4) ‘Ali ibn Husayn; (5) Muhammad ibn ‘Ali; (6) Ja’far ibn Muhammad; (7) Musa ibn Ja’far; (8) ‘Ali ibn Musa; (9) Muhammad ibn ‘Ali; (10) ‘Ali ibn Muhammad; (11) Hasan ibn ‘Ali; and (12) the Mahdi.
Source: al-shia.org

 

 


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