Who are Ulu'l-Amr(Those Vested With Authority)?
you who believe! obey allah and the messenger and those vested with authority from among you; then if you quarrel about anything, refer it to allah and the messenger if you believe in allah and the last day; this is better and very good in the end. (4:59)
ibn babawayh has narrated through his chain from jabir ibn abdillah al-ansari that he said: "when allah, the mighty, the great, sent to his prophet, muhammad (s.a.w.a.), the verse, o you who believe! obey allah and the messenger and those vested with authority from among you, i said, 'o messenger of allah! we know allah and his messenger, but who are those vested with authority whose obedience allah has conjoined to your obedience? (the prophet) said: 'they are my caliphs, o jabir! and the imams of the muslims after me. the first of them is 'ali son of abutalib, then al-hasan, then al-husayn, then 'ali son of al-husayn, then muhammad son of 'ali who is mentioned as al-baqir in the torah; you will surely meet him, o jabir! when you see him convey my salam (greetings) to him. then as-sadiq ja'far son of muhammad; then musa son of ja'far; then 'ali son of musa; then muhammad son of 'ali; then 'ali son of muhammad; then al-hasan son of 'ali; then muhammad (whose name and patronym will be the same as mine) son of al-hasan, the proof of allah on his earth and baqiyyatullah (= the one kept safe by allah) among his servants; he is the one by whose hands allah, sublime is his remembrance, will conquer the whole world from the east to the west; he it is who will remain hidden from his followers and friends for a such a long period that no one will remain firm on the belief of his imamah except he whose heart has been tested by allah for faith.' jabir says:
"i said: 'o messenger of allah! will his followers get any benefit from him during his occultation?' (the prophet, s.a.w.a.) said: 'certainly, by him who has sent me with prophethood! they will be guided by his light and benefit from his wilayah (= love, mastership) during his occultation as people benefit from the sun when it is hidden in cloud. o jabir! this is part of the hidden secrets of allah. so keep it hidden except from the people who deserve to know.' " (tafsir al-burhan)
the author says: an-nu'mani has narrated through his chain from sulaym ibn qays al-hilali from 'ali (a.s.) a tradition of the same meaning as above. also 'ali ibn ibrahim has narrated it through his chain from sulaym from 'ali (a.s.). there are other traditions narrated through shi'i and sunni chains, describing the imamah of the above imams together with their names; which may be seen in yanabi'u 'l-mawaddah, and al-bahrani's ghayatu 'l-maram and other books.
jabir al-ju'fi has said: "i asked abu ja'far (a.s.) about the verse, obey allah and obey the messenger and those vested with authority from among you. he said: 'the imams.' " (at-tafsir al-ayyashi)
the author says: al-ayyashi has narrated in his tafsir another similar tradition through 'umar ibn sa'id from abu 'l-hasan (a.s.), in which the following reply is given: " 'ali ibn abi talib and the imams after him."
ibn shahrashub narrates: " al-hasan ibn salih asked as-sadiq (a.s.) about it and the imam replied: 'the imams from ahlu 'l-bayt of the messenger of allah (s.a.w.a.).' "
the author says: a similar tradition has been narrated by as-saduq through abu basir from al-baqir (a.s.) in which it is said: "the imams from the children of 'ali and fatimah until the hour (of resurrection) comes."
abu masruq has narrated a tradition from abu 'abdillah (a.s.); he says: "i told him: 'we have a discussion with the theologians and we argue against them with the words of allah, the mighty, the great, obey allah and obey the messenger and those vested with authority from among you; but they say:
"it was revealed about the believers." and we argue against them with the words of allah, the mighty, the great, say: i do not ask of you any recompense for it except the love for near relatives; and they say "it was revealed about the near relatives of the believers." thus i did not leave anything like this which came to my mind but i mentioned it (to him).' thereupon he said to me: 'in that case, call them to al-mubahalah (= imprecation).' i said: 'and how should i do it?' he said: 'keep yourself good and happy for three days; keep fast; take bath; and go forth you and he to the mountains; then entwine your right hand's fingers in his fingers; then show justice to him and begin with yourself and say: "o allah, the lord of the seven heavens and the lord of the seven earths, the knower of the unseen and the seen, the beneficent, the merciful! if abu masruq has rejected truth and claimed wrong, then send on him reckoning from the heaven and a painful chastisement." then turn the same imprecation on him and say: "and if he (your adversary) has rejected truth and claimed wrong, then send on him reckoning from the heaven and a painful chastisement." ' "then (the imam, a.s.) said to me: 'thus it will not be long that you will see it (chastisement) in him.' but, by allah, i did not find anyone who would answer to this call." (al-kafi)
'abdullah ibn 'ajlan has narrated from abu ja'far (a.s.) that he said abou this verse of obedience: "it is about 'ali and the imams; allah has put them in places of prophets except that they do not make anything lawful or unlawful." (at-tafsir, al-'ayyashi)
the author says: the exception in this tradition confirms what was written in the commentary that according to this verse legislating a law was reserved for allah and his messenger.
burayd ibn mu'awiyah has narrated that abu ja'far (a.s.) recited: "obey allah and obey the messenger and those vested with authority from among you; then if you fear a dispute about anything, refer it back to allah and the messenger and those vested with authority from among you." then he said: "how can it be that he orders their obedience and then allows disputing with them? he (allah) has said it to the rebellious ones who were told, obey allah and obey the messenger." (al-kafi)
the author says: all that this tradition shows is that the imam (a.s.) was explaining the verse and elaborating on it; as we have described in the commentary. it does not mean that the imam (a.s.) was giving a separate version of the verse, as might be misunderstood by the word, 'recited'. a proof of what we have said may be found in the fact that different wordings have been used in other traditions [giving the same meaning, and even in the same tradition recorded in another book]. for example:
hariz has narrated from abu 'abdillah (a.s.) that he said: "it was revealed, then if you quarrel about anything, refer it to allah and to the messenger and to those vested with authority from you." (at-tafsir, al-qummi). also al-'ayyashi has narrated from burayd ibn mu'awiyah from abu ja'far (a.s.) (and it is the same tradition which has been quoted above from al-kafi , and this narration says, inter alia: "then (allah) said to the people, 'o you who believe!', and he has gathered [in this address] all the believers upto the day of resurrection; obey allah and obey the messenger and those vested with authority from among you. he has meant us particularly. then if you fear a dispute about anything, refer it back to allah and the messenger and those vested with authority from among you. it was revealed in this way. and how would he order them to obey those vested with authority and then allow them to quarrel with them? it was said to those who were ordered [to obey and] who were told: obey allah and obey the messenger and those vested with authority from among you." (at-tafsir,al-'ayyashi)
abu basir has narrated from abu ja'far (a.s.) that he said: "it (i.e., the verse of obedience) was revealed about 'ali ibn abi talib (a.s.)." "i said to him: 'people say to us, "what was to prevent him from naming 'all and his ahlu 'i-bayt in his book?"' abu ja'far (a.s.) said: 'tell them, "verily allah revealed (the order of) prayer to ms messenger; but he did not name three (rakah) or four, until it was the messenger of allah who explained it; and he revealed (the order of) hajj and did not reveal, 'circumambulate seven times', until the messenger of allah (s.a.w.a.) explained it. [likewise] allah revealed: 'obey allah and obey the messenger and those vested with authority from among you'; and it was revealed about 'ali and al-hasan and al-husayn (peace be on them); and he (the messenger of allah, s.a.w.a.) said about 'ali: 'whoever's master am 1, 'ali is his master.' also the messenger of allah (s.a.w.a.) said: 'i admonish you concerning the book of allah and my ahlu 'i-bayt; verily i have asked allah not to let them be separated from each other until he brings them to the hawd (reservoir [of al-kawthar] ), and he has granted it to me.' and he said: 'do not teach them because they are more knowledgeable than you; verily they shall never take you away from the gate of guidance and shall never let you enter the gate of misguidance.' if the messenger of allah had remained silent and not identified the people (of his ahlu 'l-bayt), surely the progeny of 'abbas, and the progeny of 'aqil and someone else's progeny would have claimed (to be among them); but allah revealed in his book: allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, 0 people of the house! and to purify you a (thorough) purification [33:331 ; and 'ali and al-hasan and al-husayn and fatimah (peace be on them) were the interpretation of this verse; so the messenger of allah (s.a.w.a.) took the hands of 'ali and fatimah and al-hasan and al-husayn (blessings from allah be upon them) and entered them under the mantle in the house of umm salamah and said: 'o allah! every prophet had had his precious things and his people; and these are my precious things and my people' umm salamah said: 'am i not from your people?' he said: 'verily you are (preceding) to good but these are my precious things and people of my (house).' . . . . . . .(at-tafsir, al-'ayyashi)
the author says: al-kulayni has narrated in al-kafi-, through his chain of narrators from abu basir from the same lmam (a.s.) a similar tradition with minor differences in wordings.
ibn shahrashub has quoted from at-tafsir of mujahid that this verse [of obedience] was revealed about the leader of the faithful ['ali, a.s.] when the messenger of allah (s.a.w.a.) left him in medina as his deputy. (ali) said: "o messenger of allah! are you leaving me to look after the women and the children?" he [the messenger of allah] said: "o leader of the faithful! are you not pleased that you should have the same position with me as harun had with musa, when (musa) said to him: 'take my place among my people, and act well'? then allah said: 'and those vested with authority from among you'." (the lmam then) said: "'ali ibn abi talib, allah appointed him as the master of the ummah's affairs after muhammad and when the messenger of allah (s.a.w.a.) made him take his place at medina. thus allah ordered the servants to obey him ('ali) and not to go against him."(tafsir al-burhan ).
mujahid has also narrated from lbanah al-falaki that it was revealed when abu buraydah complained against 'ali (a.s.) (ibid.)
a tradition has been quoted in abaqatu 'l-anwar from yanibi'u 'i-mawaddah of ash-shaykh sulayman ibn lbrahim al-balkhi who quotes from al-manaqib, from sulaym ibn qays al-hilali from 'ali (a.s.) which, inter alia, says: ['ali, a.s.] said, "the least by which a servant goes astray is that he does not know the proof of allah, the blessed, the sublime, and his witness over his servants, whose obedience allah has ordered and whose love and obedience made obligatory." sulaym says, "i said, 'o leader of the faithful! describe them to me.' he said, '(they are) those whom allah has joined with himself and his messenger, and said: 0 you who believe! obey allah and obey the messenger and those vested with authority from among you.' i said to him, 'may allah make me your ransom! explain (it) to me.' he said, 'those (about whom) the messenger of allah (s.a.w.a.) had said in several places and his last sermon on the day when allah, the mighty, the great, took him to himself: "surely i am leaving among you two things, you shall never go astray after me if you hold fast to them: the book of allah, the mighty, the great, and my progeny who are my ahlu 'l-bayt; because [allah,] the kind, the knower, has promised me that they shall never be separated (from each other) until they come to me at the reservoir - like these two (saying this ' the prophet joined his index fingers together) and i do not say 'like these two' (saying which he joined his index and middle fingers together); so hold fast to them both and don't go ahead of them, otherwise you would go astray." ' "
the author says: traditions narrated from the lmams of ahlu 'i-bayt, giving similar meanings as above are very numerous. what we have presented here gives examples of all types of meanings described in traditions. anyone wanting more details should consult collections of ahadith..
as for ancient exegetes, they are divided about the meaning of the phrase, ulu 'l-amr. some say, it means the rightly guided caliphs; others say, commanders of expeditions; a third group says, the scholars. ad-dahhak has reportedly said that it refers to the companions of the prophet (s.a.w.a.); but it boils down to the third interpretation, because reportedly he has said:
"they are companions of the messenger of allah (s.a.w.a.) as they were the callers (to islam) and narrators of traditions." obviously, this reasoning is based on their knowledge, and this interpretation would ultimately mean the scholars.
it should be noted that many things and various stories have been reported concerning the reason of revelation of this verse; but if one ponders on them one would be in no doubt that all of them are mere attempts by the narrators to apply the verse on one or the other view or situation. we therefore have not quoted any of them as it was of no value. you may look into ad-durru 'l-manthur and at-tafsir of at-tabari and other books like them for verification of this observation.
al-barqi has narrated through his chain from abu 'i-jarud that abu ja' far (a.s.) said about the verse, but no! by your lord! they do not believe until they. . . submit with total submission: "submission is pleasure and satisfaction with his decree." (al-mahasin)
'abdullah al-kalili has said that abu 'abdillah (a.s.) said: "if a people worshipped allah alone who has no partner, and established prayer, and gave zakat, and performed hajj of the house, and fasted in the month of ramadan, and then said about a thing done by allah or by his messenger (s.a.w.a.), 'why did he do this? 'or, 'if he had done it in another way [it would have been better] ' or felt [annoyance] in their hearts, they would become polytheists because of it." then he recited this verse, but no! by your lord! they do not believe until they make you a judge ofthat which has become a matter of disagreement among them, and then do not find any straitness in their hearts as to what you have decided and submit with total submission. then abu 'abdillah (a.s.) said: "it is incumbent upon you to submit." (al-kafi)
abdullah ibn yahya al-kalili has narrated that he heard abu 'abdillah (a.s.) saying: "by allah, if a people worshipped allah alone who has no partner, and established prayer, and gave zakat,and performed hajj of the house, and fasted in the month of ramadan, and then said about a thing done of the messenger of allah (s.a.w.a.), "why did he do this or that? or felt [annoyance in their hearts, they would become polytheists because of it." then he recited, but no! by your lord! they do not believe until they make you a judge of that which has become a matter of disagreement among them, and then do not find any straitness in their hearts as to what - muhammad and the progeny of muhammad - have decided and submit with total submission. (at-tafsir,al-'ayyashi).
the author says: there are other traditions similar to these two. the meaning given by the lmam (a.s.) extends the theme of the verse on two counts: first, that the verse covers all decisions and decrees, be they legislative or creative; second, it makes no difference whether the decision or decree was issued by allah or by his messenger.
it should be mentioned here that there are other traditions which apply the verse, but no! by your lord! they . . . submit with total submission, to the wilayah of 'ali (a.s.) or the wilayah of the lmams of ahlu 'i-bayt (a.s.); they provide examples of applying a verse to one or the other of its prominent models. certainly the verse is applicable to allah, his messenger and the lmams of ahlu 'l-bayt, and it continues in them.
ash-shaykh has narrated through his chain from 'ali (a.s.) that he said: "a man from the helpers (ansar) came to the prophet (s.a.w.a.) and said: 'o messenger of allah! i cannot bear separation from you; so much so that if i enter my home and remember you, i leave my property and come (here) for looking at you, in your love. then i remembered that when the day of resurrection would come, you would be made to enter the garden and raised to the highest level of 'illiyyin (highest place). then how could i see you? o messenger of allah!' then the verse was revealed: and whoever obeys allah and the messenger, these are with those upon whom allah has bestowed favors from among the prophets, and the truthful, and the witnesses, and the good ones; and excellent are these as companion! thereupon the prophet (s.a.w.a.) sent for the man and recited it to him and gave him the good news." (al-amali, ash-shaykh)
the author says: this theme is also narrated through sunni chains in ad-durru 'l-manthur quoting from at-tabarani, ibn marduwayh, abu nu'aym (in hilyatu 'l-awliya) and ad-diya'al-maqdisf (in mifatu 'l-jannah, saying that this tradition was 'good'), all narrating from ',k'ishah; also quoting from at-tabarani and ibn marduwayh both through ash-sha'bi from ibnabbas; and through sa'id ibn mansfir and ibnu 'i-mundhir from ash-sha'bi; and through ibn jarir from sa'id ibn jubayr.
ibn shahrashub has narrated from anas ibn malik from someone he had named from abu salih from ibn 'abbas that he said about this verse: "and whoever obeys allah and the messenger,these are with those upon whom allah has bestowed favors from amongthe prophets - i.e., muhammad (s.a.w.a.) - and the truthful - i.e., 'ali, and he was the first to verify - and the witnesses i.e., 'all, ja'far, hamzah, al-hasan and al-husayn, peace be on them."* (tafsir 'al-burhan)
the author says: there are other traditions giving the same meaning. al-baqir (a.s.) said: "help us with piety, because whoever met allah with piety, would get happiness near allah, as allah, the mighty, the great, says: and whoever obeys allah and the messenger . . . " after reciting the verse, he said: "so from us is the prophet, and from us is the truthful, and from us are the witnesses and the good ones." (al-kafi)
as-sadiq (a.s.) has said: "the believers are of two kinds: (one is) a believer who fulfils the conditions allah had imposed on him; he will be with the prophets, and the truthful, and the witnesses, and the good ones,- and excellent are these as companions! and he is among those who will intercede and will not need intercession (by others); and he is among those who are not inflicted with terror of this world, nor of the hereafter. (another is) a believer who has made mistakes. he is like a green stalk, which inclines to whichever direction the wind pushes it and then returns to its position. he is among those who are inflicted with terrors of this world and that of the hereafter, and he would be interceded for; and he is on good." (ibid.)
the author says: as-sihih says: "al-khamah is a green soft plant." the imam (a.s.) in this hadith points to what was described in the commentary of the verse, the path of those upon whom thou hast bestowed favors (1:7), that 'favor' means al-wilayah (love, mastership, friendship). this explanation thus corresponds with the verses, now surely the friends of allah, they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve. those who believed and were pious (10:62-63). thereof mishaps cannot reach the friends of allah who rely on none other than allah.
* this tradition obviously interprets the word ash-shuhada (as martyrs, not witnesses.) (tr.)
(al-mizan - volume 8)