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Inception of the deviation from the path of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A.)

By: Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn at-Tabataba'i
By delving into the situation of Islam after the passing of the Prophet (S), we see a similar and even symmetrical situation to the Christian clergy and the powerful Church. The same signs can be seen among the sahābah just as in the first days of the appearance of the Church and the Christian clergy.
The belief of incarnation that the Church promoted regarding Jesus Christ (‘a) was not duplicated by the important men of the advent of Islam regarding Prophet Muhammad (S), except in one or two cases (the Uhud battle and the day the Prophet passed away) in which some drew their swords and shouted: “Muhammad has not died and will never die!”
Even so, because conditions were not favorable and because the Holy Qur’an had annihilated this fallacy at the roots with overt statements and had made it clear that the Noble Prophet (S) is a human like all others and is similar to others in life and death, this susurration easily died away and had no effect on the Islamic society.
A similar situation to the Church after Christ, which was referred to as incarnation of divinity in the Church—meaning absolute sovereignty and unquestionable rule—in previous pages and which gives control of both spiritual and material aspects of the people to the Church (dictatorship in its absolute form

, also manifested in the Muslim World in the first days after the Holy Prophet (S) passed away, first in the form of the caliphate and later extending to the sahābah.
This issue emerged with a very simple, relatively understandable, logical statement. At its inception, in declaration of its general program, the Caliphate stated, “The Holy Prophet (S) was assisted by divine revelation [wahy] in decision-making and general administration; however, with the passing of the Prophet (S) divine revelation has been cut off so that we have no choice but to make necessary decisions through ijtihād24.”
They also declared, “Like you, we sometimes have correct judgment and sometimes we make mistakes. If we make a mistake in something advise and correct us.” Of course, this statement seems very simple and reasonable.
At the time the people regarded its apparent and simple meaning and were naturally thankful. However, observation of subsequent events and acquaintance with a series of happenings has cast us into doubt about the meaning of this statement and this compels us to delve deeper.
Incidentally, what is the meaning of the idea, “The Holy Prophet (S) was assisted by divine revelation in his works; however, now that we do not have divine revelation we must perform ijtihād.” Also, what are the areas in which the Prophet (S) only relied upon divine revelation and did not interpolate his own judgment and those regarding which a contemporary Caliph might use his own discernment?
Do the Caliphs mean the divine precepts, which according to the explication of the Qur’an are perennially immutable and unchangeable? Or is their intent execution of these commandments, which according the specific wording of the Qur’an brooks no negligence?
“And most assuredly it is a sublime book. Falsehood approaches it not from before it nor from behind it…”25
“And whosoever judges not by that which Allah has revealed, verily they are the evildoers.”26
Or are the judicial codes of the Prophet of God (S) which were issued regarding litigations intended? Clearly by explicit testimony of the Qur’an in these cases, the verdict of the Prophet of God (S) was law.
He would judge according to material evidence and the verdict was not based on divine inspiration. Perhaps the intent was the commands that the Prophet of God (S) issued in general affairs, in war and peace, after consulting with his followers? It is evident that these affairs were based upon consultation and the decision of the Prophet (S), thus they were unrelated to divine revelation.
Or was it meant that the Prophet of God (S) apprehended the Islamic jurisprudential commandments and rules directly through revelation, without thought, and that we must deduce our course of action by subjecting the Book (Qur’an) and Tradition [sunnah] to scrutiny and ijtihād?
There is no doubt that the Prophet (S) was inspired with the divine commandments through revelation and others must comprehend them through ijtihād.
However, this is not limited to the Caliph—any person in the Islamic society [ummah] capable of religious deduction [istinbāt] must grasp jurisprudential precepts themselves through ijtihād. Furthermore, this topic is irrelevant to the responsibilities and practical agenda of the office of Caliph.

Expedience in the place of truth
Indeed, the intent of the Caliphate by this utterance was intricate.
Even so, subsequent events clarified its meaning. It soon became clear that the Caliphate meant to tell the people that it shall exercise its opinion and ijtihād everywhere and in all things even execution of divine commandments and religious precepts and that its policy is expedience [maslihat] regarding the ummah, adaptation of prevalent precepts with current interests, and ultimately, guidance of the Islamic society through leadership driven by expediency.
Thus, this declaration means, ‘These religious laws and precepts are for achieving and retaining your interests. Hence, religious precepts are subject to contemporary expedience and interests. Basically, at the time of the Prophet of God (S) discernment of current interests was committed to divine revelation.
However, after the passing of the Prophet (S) and the loss of current revelation, discernment of interests has been relegated to ijtihād and we shall distinguish good from evil through deduction and execute what is perceived as expedient!’
There is considerable evidence confirming this in the actions of the first Caliph in the short period of his incumbency.
After the second Caliph assumed his office, many changes were made in religious precepts which had no reason other than current expedience in the opinion of the Caliph. At the time of the Third Caliph, there was no longer any obscurity regarding the issue of modifying precepts in favor of current expedience.
After this period, with the start of the rule of the Umayyad dynasty and the domination of Mu‘āwiyah over the Islamic society this issue is so clear that it can in no way be obscured.
This elevated the caliphate to a status equal to that of prophethood. In consequence, just as the Holy Prophet (S) was the issuer of Islamic precepts and administrator of the Islamic society, the Muslim Caliph also had the same status in issuance of precepts and administration of Muslim affairs.
One difference was that although the Holy Prophet (S) had the authority to make necessary expedient decisions in administration of the affairs of Muslims, he did not have the right to make the smallest change in divine precepts and commandments whereas the Caliphate had plenary authority and free reign in both Islamic precepts and administration of Muslim affairs, and they could make any change they thought was in the interests of the Islamic society!
At first, this was how the state of affairs progressed, i.e. the interests of Islam and Muslims were implied. However, later on, the interests of the Caliphate replaced the interests of Islam and Muslims! As a result, the Islamic policy of the Holy Prophet (S) was lost and execution of Islamic precepts and commandments became completely dependent on the discernment and judgment of the Caliph.
In reply to a protest regarding prohibition of the grater pilgrimage [hajj-e tamattu‘], temporary marriage [nikāh-e mut‘ah], and other issues, the Second Caliph first said: “I am the friend and associate of Muhammad.”
And then he explained the current expedience that caused the alteration and interdiction of these precepts.
In the six-person council that was assembled by the instruction of the second Caliph to appoint the Third Caliph, after much dispute, which brought down the candidates to two from the original six (‘Alī (‘a) and ‘Uthmān), “‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn ‘Awf”, who had an extra vote in case of a tie in accordance with the decree of the Second Caliph, extended his hand towards ‘Alī (‘a) and said, “I shall pledge allegiance to you on the condition that you deal with us in the same manner as the Shaykhayn (the first two caliphs).”
‘Alī (‘a) answered, “I shall only act in the manner of the Prophet of Allah (S).” ‘Abd al-Rahmān did not accept and extended his hand toward ‘Uthmān and presented him with his pledge with the condition of following the policy of the Shaykhayn. He accepted and thus the matter of allegiance was ended and ‘Uthmān took the caliphate.
Obviously, there is no difference between the policy of the Prophet of Allah (S) and that of the Shaykhayn save that the Shaykhayn brought about changes in the execution of God’s precepts and the method of the Prophet of Allah (S) according to their understanding of current interests.
Moreover, it is obvious that these changes were not limited to the practical and administrative method of the Prophet (S); rather, it had also spread to religious precepts. The following examples have been chosen from hundreds of similar cases: In order to resolve the problem of the apostates after the passing of the Prophet (S) the First Caliph sent Khālid ibn Walīd, a Companion [sahābah], with a group of others to war against “Mālik ibn Nuwayrah”.
After arriving at Mālik’s place of residence, Khālid proposed peace and became his guest. On the same day, he took Mālik by surprise, severed his head, and slept with his wife that night! After hearing about this shameful incident the Caliph did not punish Khālid at all and after ‘Umar ibn Khattāb insisted that he be punished, the Caliph told the latter, “I cannot sheathe an unsheathed sword of Allah!”
After banning temporary marriage, the Second Caliph decreed the punishment for infraction be lapidation (stoning to death). Also, regarding the six-person council, he decreed that if they do not vote their heads should be cut off.
After Mu‘āwiyah seized the office of caliphate, due to the fact that his father Abū Sufiyān had committed adultery with Ziyād ibn ‘Ubayd’s mother, he publicly summoned Ziyād to Shām (Damascus) and ‘related’ him to his father Abū Sufiyān! Even though this is against the explicit wording of the Holy Qur’an, he officially pronounced Ziyād his brother.
Many similar incidents have been recorded in history in which the caliphs put current interests before execution of incontrovertible Islamic precepts. Bygone dialectic theologians exerted themselves to attempt to match these actions to religious precepts using incomplete justifications. However, some recent Sunnī experts concede and explicate the fact that the first caliphs [khulafā’ al-rāshidīn] sometimes put the interests of the ummah before execution of indisputable religious precepts.

Consummation of caliph immunity and autonomy, and ramifications thereof
As can be seen from our previous discussions, the caliphate had absolute authority in ‘issuance of precepts’. In modern terms, they had the jurisdiction to legislate or alter articles of the Constitution and they also had the authority to legislate and execute statutes.
A shortcoming of this independency which required amendment was the immunity of administrators and executives, i.e. the caliphate, vassals, and officials, which consisted of many of the Prophet’s Companions [sahābah]. An obligatory irrefutable religious dictum was necessary to bring about religious immunity for officials and divest the people of the right to protest against their words and deeds. In this way, the sahābah would become completely autonomous.
This shortcoming was remedied with a narration the sahābah referred to the Holy Prophet (S). In accordance with this narration, the sahābah of the Prophet of Allah (S) were introduced as jurisprudents [mujtahid] such that if their judgment was correct in a certain matter, they would be rewarded by God and even if their judgment was incorrect, they were rewarded and pardoned.
Again, they related another narration regarding the virtuousness of the sahābah, according to which the sahābah of the Prophet of Allah (S) are automatically forgiven and exempt from punishment and God is pleased with them and whatever they do—good or bad, servitude to or offence against God—entails no divine call to account!
This narration reinforced the previous narration (that the sahābah were mujtahids or jurists and thus rewarded regardless), presented an official authorization to the sahābah, and absolutely guaranteed the unrestrained freedom of judgment and action of the sahābah of the Prophet (S).
The direct consequence of the autonomy of the caliphate and the religious immunity of the sahābah—who were the officials of the caliphate—was that the religious and worldly affairs of the Islamic society were completely entrusted to the caliphate. The result of this situation was that the valence of religious precepts, both worship-related and conduct-related, was restricted to “intuitive deduction-social thought”.
Moreover, it introduced the practical laws and even theoretical teachings of Islam as phenomena based upon the material life of people which all people can understand.
As a consequence, the spiritual life of Islam fell from its lofty and true status to the social level and became restricted to materiality. According to the respected scholar, Professor Corbin, contrary to the soul of Islam, divinity was incarnated into the Islamic society or in the seat of caliphate and its vicinity.
As might be expected, the effulgence of Islam that had originated at the time of the Prophet (S)—from his appointment to his passing—became ancient history (consider this point carefully).
This eventuality was the fatalistic, natural, and inevitable effect of the meddling of ijtihād in divine precepts. It had nothing to do with the knowledge or ignorance of the original agents and founders and the supporters of the electoral caliphate.
In truth, it must be said that many of the people of that day and even subsequent periods did not understand the nature of this issue as they should have and they were ignorant of its evil repercussions.
As we can see, the challengers of this electoral caliphate, who in objection broke off from the majority on the first day, became widely known as Shī‘ah. They were very few at first but at the eventide of the era of the four first caliphs, they had become a significant party.
It is also evident that the majority of Sunnī scholars do not consider ijtihād that is against the wording of the Book and Tradition permissible even though the actions of the first caliphs can never be vindicated without it.

Repercussions of the autonomy of the judgment and rulings of the caliphs
As previously discussed, the general practical method of the caliphate was execution of Islamic precepts by means of ijtihād and judgment. In other words, their policy was to preserve the interests of the Islamic society conforming to the Book [kitāb] and Tradition [sunnah] where possible and putting current interests before the Book and Tradition if not.
Furthermore, as mentioned, this changed the authentic and immaterial spirituality of Islam into a socio-materialist regime which, like all other material phenomena, must naturally retain the general aspects of material beings such as childhood, adolescence, maturity, and old age. For instance, the Second Caliph compared Islam to a camel that passes through various periods and states such as infirmity, strength, and subsequent infirmity.
This method was not the invariable method of the time of the Holy Prophet (S). It was, rather, similar to democratic rule (where democratic rule is incomplete because obviously it cannot conform to all the incontrovertible principles of democracy).
Thus, it embodies an inner turmoil that is contrary to the stability and consistency of an established social convention. Undeniably, each of the four first caliphs came into office in a different manner. The first two caliphs had relatively similar policies and the third and fourth caliphs each had unique methods of office.
Additionally, Mu‘āwiyah took the Islamic caliphate in a dissimilar manner to these four caliphs. He then made the caliphate “hereditary” and publicly turned it into “despotic rule”.
In this way, the newly-established Islamic government became like its contemporaneous empires, such as the Roman and Persian empires, first in that it put an end to the convergence of social strata, which Islam greatly struggled to establish.
As a result, social division—such as superior and subordinate, master and servant, man and woman, Arab and non-Arab, Companion [sahābah] and non-Companion, Immigrants [muhājirīn] and Helpers [ansār]—quickly caused great rifts among the people. Second in that it used all its power for world conquest and expansion of its control.
In order to incite the people to Holy War [jihād], the Second Caliph even directed that the words “Hasten towards the best of deeds”27 be dropped from adhān28 so that people would not prefer ritual prayer [salāt] to jihād.
As a result of this intemperance, all of the exalted aims of Islam in refining and perfecting the people were overshadowed. As a matter of course, it cannot be denied that one of the important dictates of Islam is jihād, which is the instrument of struggle against polytheism and expansion of the monotheistic [tawhīd] maxim. Even so, it is evident that the method of Islam is not the method of Alexander or Genghis Khān.
If Islam has given Muslims the mandate of world domination, with it, it has also given the mandate of statesmanship. It is evident in holy Qur’anic verses that the meaning of expanding the sphere of influence is vivification of the word of righteousness, development of social justice, and spiritual edification of the people; not establishment of a Kaiserist dictatorship, world exploitation, extensive slave traffic, taking of immeasurable spoils of war, and amassment of extraordinary treasures.
Accumulation of treasure became so rampant at the time of the Third Caliph that Abū Dharr, the truthful and cherished Companion of the Prophet (S), campaigned against amassing wealth and obtaining treasure and finally was martyred in this struggle.
When the Third Caliph wanted to resolve a problem of differing written versions of the Qur’an and establish a uniform version, he insisted that a “wāw” [æ] be taken out of the “Verse of Wealth” [āyat ul-kanz] such that he even threatened Abī ibn Ka‘b the great Qur’anic scribe with his sword: “O you who believe! Most surely many of the rabbis and monks consume the wealth of the people unjustly and turn them from the way of Allah; and those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in the way of Allah, give them tidings of a painful chastisement”29
Moreover, to the very end, Mu‘āwiyah insisted that the Verse of Wealth proscription regarding amassing wealth was about the followers of other divine books not Muslims.
This is understandable because history bears witness that everything he and his collaborators did and every conspiracy and corruption that they were involved in was effectuated through the force of wealth and the blessing of ijtihād!
In any event, by stating these facts the intention was not to analyze this segment of history at the advent of Islam; rather, the discussion brought us here. Hence, we shall again return to the main aim of this article, which is discussion of “Islamic eschatology according to the Shī‘ahs”.
The autonomy of the caliphate in issuance of precepts and the privilege of ijtihād—that the sahābah had gained in those days—had substantial effects on the manifestation of Islamic teachings and precepts.
These directly affected the three methods of “transcendent revelation”, “logical thought and reasoning”, and “guardianship and eschatology”, which we discussed at the start of this article. As would be expected, these three methods were altered to match the prevailing situation.

Alteration of teachings and precepts
It can be understood from the words of the Qur’an that the theoretical teachings and practical precepts in it have been canonized for everyone and all times and they can never be changed, because the instructional contents of the Qur’an are a series of general principles.
Furthermore, according to the explicit wording of the Glorious Qur’an, the declarations of the Holy Prophet (S) are canonically binding and his explications of precepts are statutory and are the same as revealed verses. It is a clear historic fact that every word uttered by the Holy Prophet (S) was retained by the sahābah and other hearers, word by word.
They would then relate these utterances to each other and publicize them. Also, the Noble Prophet (S) regarded the words of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) as having this same credibility and canonicalness and has upheld their explication and elucidation of general Islamic teachings and precepts as his own.
Hence, general Qur’anic laws and the Noble Prophet’s (S) explanations of religious canons [sharī‘ah] (which consist of the prophetic traditions) hold the status of an immutable Constitution.
Only a temporary set of decisions that a Muslim viceroy is authorized to make in accordance with prevailing interests and necessities in the area of observing religious precepts may be altered or replaced. These precepts are temporary and subsidiary rules and are concerned with the short-term interests of the Islamic society. In the span of his lifetime, this authority was held by the Prophet (S).
After the passing of the Prophet (S), the majority of the sahābah and the people held this same opinion in regard with Islamic precepts. However, as we discussed, the caliphate had a different notion. The caliphate believed that the Islamic laws that must be observed in an Islamic monotheistic atmosphere are divine precepts that have been revealed in accordance with current interests and must naturally change with the variation of the interests and needs of the ummah.
In modern terms, we can interpret this by saying that they believed that the Islamic religion has a Constitution which is a set of divine rules and regulations that were revealed upon the Noble Prophet (S).
These rules, which are in harmony with the interests of the Islamic society, are immutable and mandatory unless the viceroy of the society perceives the interests of the society in something else. The tasks of administrating the Islamic society and propagating Islam after the passing of the Prophet (S) were believed to fall to the ummah itself.
Keeping to the interests of Muslims, the society can appoint whoever it wants to administrate its affairs and to hold the caliphate. Naturally, any goodness or perversion that the caliph discerns is authoritative and is equivalent to the discernment of the society. Any alteration in the standing regulations of Islam by the judgment of the caliph is considered acceptable and binding.
Obviously, this ideology is only attentive to divine rules and precepts in the Holy Qur’an which it considers relatively immutable (similar to the articles of the Constitution in democratic rule).
However, rules and precepts uttered by the Holy Prophet (S), especially precepts not linked directly to the Qur’an, are considered temporary and subsidiary regulations such as the practical method of the Prophet of God (S) and the minor, temporary, and local commands he issued. Or at least, the precepts in the Prophet’s (S) Tradition [sunnah] are not considered to possess the constancy and solidity of Qur’anic precepts and may easily be defined as current interests of the Prophet’s (S) era!
According to a notable hadīth among the Sunnīs and Shī‘ahs (the Hadīth of Paper [hadīth-e qirtās]), when the Prophet (S) asked for paper and ink at the last moments of his life to write a comprehensive directive to be followed after him, the Second Caliph declared, “Surely this man is delirious”30 and later he said, “The Book of Allah suffices us”31.
There is no doubt that the second statement means that with the existence of the Book of Allah we do not need the directive of the Prophet (S) and this cannot be justified other than through the theory we previously stated.
Also, in one of his speeches regarding the ban of “the greater pilgrimage” [hajj-e tamattu‘], the Second Caliph said, “God would make things permissible and prohibited for his Messenger. You must consider only the beginning of the Verse of the Greater Pilgrimage [āyat al-hajj-e al-tamattu‘] and disregard the end of the verse and the implementation of the Prophet (S)!” (Contemplate this carefully.)
At the time of the first caliphs, great importance was placed upon memorizing and reciting the Holy Qur’an whereas relating narrations regarding the prophetic traditions and memorizing the Prophet’s (S) statements regarding the details of Islamic jurisprudence were brushed aside.
Even though at the time of the Prophet (S), the sahābah expended considerable effort in memorizing and writing prophetic hadīths and jurisprudential precepts, after the Prophet (S) inscription of hadīth was strictly prohibited.
This prohibition lasted until the end of the rule of the Umayyad dynasty. The First Caliph even collected a great many of the hadīths he himself had written and burned them! The Second Caliph even forbade the sahābah from relating hadīth.
The only incident that attracts attention in the issue of hadīth propagation is that after coming into his office and ascendancy over Islamic governance, Mu‘āwiyah made a public declaration that whoever relates a narration [riwāyah or hadīth] regarding the virtues of the first three caliphs shall receive a reward and whoever relates a narration regarding the virtues of ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib32 shall have no immunity whatsoever and will be held in contempt by the caliphate.
He commanded his functionaries and governors to write down the names of those who related hadīth on the virtues of the Triad Caliphs and give them rewards from the public treasury [bayt al-māl]33. Subsequently, a pandemonium of hadīths related to virtues of the Triad Caliphs was released!
A result of this policy was that relation of hadīth in non-jurisprudential areas, especially hadīths that were in some way linked to the virtuosity of the Triad Caliphs and other sahābah, developed extensively. However, no interest was expressed in regard to religious laws and Islamic jurisprudential precepts and they largely fell from grace.
Traditionist experts34 [‘ulamā’ al-rijāl] and historians have recorded the names and backgrounds of approximately twelve thousand sahābahs of the Holy Prophet (S) and have stated that this great group of people lived for close to one century after the hijrah with absolute respect from contemporary Caliphs and Muslims and that their ‘goods’, which were prophetic hadīths, had great worth in the Bazaar of Islam.
When they state that the hadīths regarding Islamic jurisprudence and religious precepts related by these esteemed individuals throughout this lengthy period is only around five hundred hadīths, which means that from every twenty-four sahābahs only one hadīth remains as memorial, a person becomes awestruck and dazed beyond description!
In addition, some of the religious issues in these hadīths are still obscure, ambiguous, or even contradictory and precepts that should have become necessary and axiomatic due to their myriad frequency have become unsolvable mysteries!
By way of illustration, we could describe the issue of the ritual ablution [wudū]. The Holy Prophet (S) prescribed wudū and made this ablution himself among the people several times a day for over twenty years.
According to the narrations and relations of the sahābah, it is not evident whether he washed his hands from top to bottom or bottom to top; whereas, according to historic records, when the Prophet (S) made wudū people would crowd around him and attempt to take the water of his wudū as tabarruk35 and would try not to let even a drop fall to the earth.
The issues of inheritance of aunts36 and wrongdoing in the duties of inheritance could also be cited.
In short, as a result of this ideology, Islamic jurisprudential precepts were lost and syllogism [qiyās] and istihsān37 were substituted in the place of religious stipulations.

Proscription of logical argumentation and debate
Through their God-given nature, humans intuitively understand that culture is the key to worldly bliss and happiness. Progress in life is linked to cultural progress. Cultural progress is not possible without logical argumentation and free debate.
Even though there was a time when this issue was not as clear as it should have been due to unenlightenment and other unnatural factors, today this issue is considered axiomatic and there is no longer the least dubiety in this regard.
It has become evident through both discourse and experience that if unnatural factors do not hinder them, due to their God-given natures, humans promote open debates and logical thought and advance in this manner. This is true especially in such as the Islamic society, where religion is based upon logical reasoning and the divine Book does not have even the least amount of reservation or negligence in regard with logical thought.
Even so, at the advent of Islam—particularly synchronous with the first and second caliphs when every day Islam was becoming more and more renowned and the Islamic society was progressively developing—there is no apparent trace of Islamic cultural development through discussion and inquisitiveness.
We must most regretfully confess that in this period of its history, the Islamic society manifested no substantial endeavors in this area and they did not even put into “cultural development” one hundredth of the effort that they put into “jihād”.
They placed Islamic principles, with all its subtle details and scientific truths, before the simple understanding of the commons even though various hadīths bear witness to the fact that at the time the sphere of education went no further than the level of corporality and the senses.
Among both the commons and the elite the belief reigned that the words of the Holy Qur’an, with its simple meanings understandable to the public, are sufficient for both thought and deed.
In line with this principle, all kinds of critical discussions and free inquiry in doctrine were forbidden and considered religious innovations or heresy [bid‘ah] and entailed heavy punishments. For example, a person who debated an issue with the Second Caliph was whipped by the Caliph until blood freely flowed from his body.
In another instance, the Second Caliph explained a Qur’anic verse in such a manner that it seemed to authenticate fatalism. An Arab made an objection and the Caliph verbally lashed out at him and threatened him such that it seemed he intended to kill him, until finally several of those present were able to quell his anger only with great difficulty!
Even so, a series of argumentations regarding religious doctrine could not be avoided because: First, as a result of Islamic conquests the Muslim society daily grew and scholars of other faiths and creeds came to Muslim gatherings and propounded various discussions regarding Islamic teachings. Thus Muslims were forced to take part in debates and offer answers.
Second, the Islamic society was entangled with a motley of hypocrites who propagated all kinds of doubts and perceived faults in Islam. Also, there were religious minorities who disagreed with the majority in many subsidiary beliefs. Hence, time and again, many scientific discussions and debates would break out.
As a matter of course, a series of discussions that later became known as “dialectic theology” [‘ilm al-kalām] were developed and circulated among the people in spite of the aversion and prohibition of officials. Finally, some individuals became experts in these debates and government officials and jurists of the time who strived with all their might to prevent dialectic discussions approved of the science of dialectic theology.
In previous discussions we talked to some extent about the method and style of dialectic theological discussions and there is no need to repeat these arguments. However, we must state the fact that even though the dialectic theology, which discusses the various theoretical teachings of Islam, is a noble science, due to the shortcomings in its original formation, it has been deprived of the true value of a rational technique and completely free argumentation for two reasons: As perfectly evident from Qur’anic verses, principles of Islamic doctrine are a series of truths and realities that are much beyond the understanding of the unlearned. Because the Islamic society and government functionaries were heedless of or even opposed to free logical debates, they subjected simple commoner beliefs to discussion and advocated a series of mundane social thoughts as the final true doctrines of Islam.
As a result, in their minds “divinity” [ulūhiyyah] and “the metaphysical world” [‘ālam-e māwarā’ al-tabī‘ah], which are pure and flawless, manifested in the form and identity of a material world similar to our universe. In addition, they believed that our tangible world is governed by the laws of “causality” [‘illiyyah] but the transcendent realm has no fixed system and is completely uncontrolled!
Also, they held that our material world is subject to the senses and that the incorporeal world, even though it is similar to this world, is imperceptible to the senses and a time will come when all constituents of the spiritual world even … [sic] will become tangible!
As a result of the prohibition of the practice of free debate, rationalization became a pretense or pastime and the only proof necessary for the thought being analyzed became imitation.
This is why the strongest reason and sharpest weapon among dialectics is consensus [ijmā‘]. In flailing to authenticate unanimity first they related this narration from the Holy Prophet (S), “My ummah shall not unite in error.”38 and therefore, they consider unanimity of the ummah to be sound reason.
Then, they substituted the ummah with the scholars [‘ulamā’] of the ummah. Later scholars of a group within the ummah such as the “Ashā‘irah” or “Mu‘tazilah” were substituted for scholars of the ummah. After that, they swapped scholars of a faction with dialectic theologians of that faction!
This ended here and as a result, obviously, the strongest reason of a dialectic theologian [mutikallim] such as Ash‘arī in proving an Ashā‘irah belief is the unanimity of the Ashā‘irah dialectic theologians. It was quite frequent that a claim was repudiated even though it was congruent with the Book [kitāb], Tradition [sunnah], or reason [‘aql] because of being contrary to the consensus of scholars and dialectics of the religious faction!
In line with these affairs, we see that: First, the opposition of adherents to one Islamic faction regarding an exclusive authorized unanimous view of a second faction is not considered problematic for Islam; according to each faction supporters of other factions are not part of the Muslim society!
Second, a person who accepts one exclusive principle of a faction must accept the rest of its exclusive principles without question, whether or not they have sufficient reason. It is clear that this method has completely annihilated the spirit of rational thought and has dried out the roots of free thought in the Islamic community. In this manner, it has given absolute reign to fanatical imitation in all beliefs!
This method went beyond dialectic theology and contaminated other Islamic sciences such as exegesis [tafsīr], jurisprudence [fiqh], methodology [usūl], etc. and even interloped and caused havoc in linguistic sciences such as morphology [sarf], grammar [nahw], semantics [ma‘ānī], and rhetoric [bayān].
With a look at any of these sciences we see strange classifications such as hanafiyyah, shāfi‘iyyah, etc. and kūfiyyīn, basriyyīn, etc. and the like. Every faction rationalizes its unique thoughts and allegorically reinterprets the reasons of others.
Third, as a result of the method of “reliance on tribal and factional unanimity”, authoritative proofs, i.e. the Book and Tradition, lost their true value and were demoted to formalities. For this reason, we see that to prove their beliefs proponents of each faction first refer to the consensus of its supporters and then they may turn to the Book and Tradition. Also, they expressly and recklessly allegorically reinterpret the proofs of other factions from the Book and Tradition and thus invalidate them.
This style has even spread among literary scholars and every party reinterprets the reasons and proofs of the opposition, which include Arabic verse or prose, definition, collation, and other devices!

Spiritual and eschatological development
With the passage of a century, ignorant darkness spread throughout the Islamic society. However, due to the inevitable contact of Muslims with the scientific and cultural societies of the world, they realized their desperate and increasing need for philosophical and logical sciences. On account of their illogical imitation they never thought that there could be authentic and logical wisdom in the content of the Book and Tradition.
Thus, in their reckless need they sought wisdom elsewhere. At the epilogue of the “Umayyad dynasty” and the prelude of the “‘Abbāsīd dynasty” many books of logic, philosophy, mathematics, etc. were translated from Greek, Syriac, and other languages into Arabic.
Even though introduction of these sciences into the Islamic society generated great fervor and enthusiasm and contemporary caliphs completely supported these “newly arrived guests”, contrary to expectation, due to the clash of divine philosophy and various dogmatic issues in Islam that were rationalized using the dialectic method, a dispute ignited between “dialectic theologians and jurisprudents” [mutikallimīn wa fuqahā]—who were backed by the admiration of the public—and “advocates of philosophy”.
Ultimately, “philosophy” [falsafah] was rejected or abandoned and “dialectics” [kalām] gained primacy owing to the merit that (in their opinion) its discussions were in line with religious law [shar‘].
Those with sufficient literacy regarding spiritual life and inner perfection that have grasped the true aims of this science, clearly understand that the method of “inner advancement” and “spiritual life” is based on the fact that human inner perfections and spiritual ranks are genuine truths that exist beyond the realities of nature and the material world.
In addition, they acknowledge that “the spiritual realm”, which is the abode of spiritual life, is a world much more authentic, real, and vast than “the world of corporality and the senses”.
Spiritual ranks are genuine truths and conditions of human existence. They have never been formal concepts or social conventions.
Wealth and poverty, prominence and insignificance, mastership and servitude, lords and subjects are a series of prescriptive or conventional concepts or titles that have been proscribed for various social aims and are given to persons through specific social rules.
Accordance of the title of lordship to a lord or vassalship to a vassal does not affect their external nature or change their essence. Wealth is not an essential part of a person who is wealthy and losing wealth does not diminish the human essence nor take anything away from it.
Also, the only relationship between social actions and their consequences (good or bad) is a prescriptive one. Thus, it happens much that actions which at one time have generous rewards entail punishment at later times or might not have any results at all.
Social ranks and titles are usually prescriptive and follow social conventions. Further, the relationships among these titles and the actions arising from them and between titles and their effects in the society are all prescriptive and conventional.
However, the relationship between human actions and mental states, between these states and the inner levels of human advancement, and between these levels and the realm that incorporates these levels are all genuine and real phenomena existing outside the authority and dominion of material and nature. In short, spiritual life and eschatology (in any form) are based on the authenticity of the spiritual realm.
The view we mentioned before—the foundation of “the electoral caliphate”—caused “the Islamic tradition” to become known as merely a “social tradition”. Its cornerstones were exclusively the corporal interests, which were discernible through social-based thoughts.
It is clear that this view has no connection with spiritual advancement and eschatology and that effecting reconciliation between this view and eschatology is impossible. This is because “pure materiality” and “pure spirituality” are situated at two opposite poles. Thus, proximity to one is remoteness from the other.
On this account, in the era of the Caliphs at the advent of Islam there is no trace of the method of spiritual evolution. Except for an assortment of religious worshipers and ascetics who were known only for their good deeds, no one demonstrated spiritual evolution in any other context. This continued until the preludes of the ‘Abbāsīd dynasty.
24. Ijtihād has been defined as the exertion of a jurisprudent to extract religious laws using specific methods from the Book, Tradition, reason, and consensus of religious authorities. This definition was derived from the “Dictionary of Dehkhodā”. [trans.]
25. Sūrat Fussilat 41:41-42. Other verses also demonstrate this issue and there is so much evidence pointing to this fact that it cannot be doubted.
26. Sūrat al-Mā’idah 5:47. According to similar verses, those who do not judge using what Allah has revealed are also oppressive [zālim] and infidels [kāfir].
27. Or “hayya ‘alā khayr al-‘amal” (Hasten to the best of acts.) which refers to ritual prayer. [trans.]
28. I.e., the call to ritual prayer. [trans.]
29. Sūrat al-Tawbah (or Barā’ah) 9:34.
30. Çöäøó ÇáÑÌáó áíåÌÑ.
31. ÍÓÈäÇ ˜ÊÇÈ Çááå.
32. Alī ibn Abī Tālib (‘a) was the first Imām of the Shī‘ahs and was elected the Fourth Caliph by the people. [trans.]
33. The bayt al-māl is the treasury of the Islamic government in which all Muslims have an equal right.
34. Traditionist experts are scholars that critically study the biography of relaters of traditions (traditionists) in order to ascertain the validity of traditions. [trans.]
35. A sacred token that increases blessings. [trans.]
36. I.e., sisters of one’s father and mother. [trans.]
37. According to “Kitāb al-Ta‘rīfāt” (The Book of Definitions) of Jurjānī as cited by the “Dictionary of Dehkhodā”, istihsān means abandoning deduction and propounding something that is easier for the people to accept. [trans.]

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