Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) and the Straight Path
Allama Husayn Ansariyan
Based on clear verses of the Holy Quran, one who does not go to extremes in moral and mental situations is the executor of Allah’s decrees in all aspects of his life, not influenced by socio-political upheavals, not tempted by Satan, among the devoted servants of Allah, engaged in good deeds, helpful to people, and is propagating knowledge and faith is considered as Imam: He said: Surely I will make you an Imam of men. (2:124)
And we made them Imams who guided people by Our Command, and We revealed to them the doing of good and the keeping up of the prayer and the giving of the alms, and us (alone) did they serve. (21:73)
Based on the exegesis of the Quranic verses, ‘The straight Path’ is the path which exists between the Creator and the created and following that path makes man reach the station of nearness to Allah, to achieve a great victory, and to be saved from eternal. Commenting on the Straight Path, Imam Ali (a.s.) says: The straight path in this world is a path without extremes, it is right and firm; and in the Hereafter, it is the believers' path towards heaven.100
Imam Ali’s definition of the straight path overlaps the Ahl al-Bayt, for they were straight and moderate in all aspects of life and away from extremes. Their guidance will lead people to heaven on the Judgment Day.
One must note that there are certain words and expressions in the Holy Quran the meaning of which cannot be comprehended for people. Hence, we must learn about them from the Holy Prophet (S) and Ahl al-Bayt (a.s.) that are the teachers of the Holy Quran and its commentators.
What is inferred from Sirat is nothing but path but what this path is, how long it is, what its quality and quantity are, and how we can walk on that path cannot be understood from the words. For this reason, the Holy Prophet and Ahl al-Bayt are commissioned by Allah to express these facts. Without seeking help from their extensive knowledge on the Holy Qur'an, we will certainly go astray: He it is who raised among the illiterates an Apostle from among themselves, who recites to them His communications and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and the wisdom. (62:2)
Allah who has revealed the Holy Quran to the Household of the Prophet has manifested its meaning and interpretations in the purified hearts of those people endowed with learning so that other people will know about those words including the word Sirat through them.
Commenting on the holy verse: ‘Keep us on the right path (1:6)’
Imam al- Sadiq (a.s.) has said: The verse says, Guide us to the straight path - that is to say, guide us with your company on a path which will lead us to your love and heaven; the path which will prevent us from our caprices that ends in perdition.101
Can we really get to know Allah and His Love without the teachings of Ahl al-Bayt who are truly godly beings? Can we go to heaven without their guidance, teachings and intercession? Are we able to be safe from carnal desires without being in the fortress of their Imamate?
If we claim that we can be safe from losses and perdition by resorting to the Holy Quran alone and there is no need for the Imam of guidance, this will definitely be against the Holy Quran. Therefore, we should decisively say that the meaning of the straight path is the Holy Quran and its paragon, namely the Ahl al-Bayt; and these two are interdependent with no separation between them.
Without Ahl al-Bayt, there will be neither straight path in the meaning of the Holy Quran nor any understanding of its subtleties. In this relation, Imam al-Baqir (a.s.) has said: We (Ahl al-Bayt) are the Road and the Straight Path towards Allah.102
Ahl al-Bayt themselves are truly the straight path of Allah, for their knowledge of Him is comprehensive. Hence, we should believe in the Lord Who has been introduced to us by the Ahl al-Bayt in addition to through the verses of the Holy Qur'an - both the decisive and the allegorical. Although Allah’s decrees are comprehensible, it is only with their spiritual power and guidance that a man can win His pleasure and nearness. Without following Ahl al-Bayt, we will certainly go astray.
Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) was asked about the meaning of Sirat. He said: Sirat means a path taking towards recognition of Allah - the Exalted and Glorious.103
Is there in this universe any way of getting to know Allah save through the Ahl al-Bayt (a.s.)? If we cannot know Allah by Ahl al-Bayt, the godliest beings, then through whom can we get to know Him?
It is the Ahl al-Bayt who with their Divine knowledge have introduced to us the meanings of Allah, the Judgment Day, jurisprudence, morality and truth for people. Hence, people are required to refer to them in order to understand all truths. Elaborating the word Sirat, Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) has said: There are actually two Sirats: one in this world and another in the Hereafter. Sirat in this world is the Imam and to follow him is incumbent on all. One who recognizes and follows him will pass the bridge over Hell leading to Paradise; while one who does not recognize him will slip from the Sirat falling into Fire.104
Therefore, based on the Quranic verses and authentic narrations, the true path leading to real knowledge of what will result in salvation in this world and the Hereafter, are the Ahl al-Bayt.
Followers of the Right Path
Man, if he follows the life-giving teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt, will be endowed with the knowledge of Allah, be helped do his obligatory and recommended acts, avoid sins and stay away from pollutions.
Was Salman, the Persian, not a Zoroastrian first and then became a Christian? And, by following Ahl al-Bayt, he reached such a supreme station about which the Holy Prophet has said, Salman is from us, Ahl al-Bayt.105
Had Abu-Dharr not been a nomadic shepherd who, by resorting to Ahl al-Bayt, reached such a supreme station about which the Holy Prophet has said: No one under the sky or on the earth is as truthful as Abu-Dharr.106
Was Bilal not an Ethiopian black? By following Ahl al-Bayt, he reached such a station about which the Holy Quran says: Surely, the most honorable of you with Allah is the one among you the most careful of his duty. (49:13)
By getting to know Allah through Ahl al-Bayt, all the said people became Allah's true servants and reached a station becoming paragons of adherence to Ahl al-Bayt until the Judgment Day.
Prophet Joseph (a.s.) was Allah’s true servant who resisted against the temptations of the vizier’s wife for seven years at the prime of his life saying: I seek refuge with Allah in response to her request. While the Ahl al-Bayt (a.s) are the truth itself of the straight path. They are in essence a such a manifestation of the path to Allah were that they became one with truth itself. They only saw Allah; they only obeyed Allah; and they served only Allah. For this reason, with the permission of Allah, they became a source of Grace for the world’s nations.
100. Tafsir al-Safi: 54/1
101. Uyun Akhbar al-Ridha: 305/1, H. 65
102. Bashair al-Darajat: 62, H. 10
103. Ma’ani al-Akhbar: 32, H. 1
104. Ma’ani al-Akhbar: 32, H. 1
105. Bihar al-Anwar, 348/22, H. 64
106. Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah, 259/8