Knowledge Of Ahl ul-Bayt (A.S.)
By: Maulana Sayyid Zafar Hasan Amrohi
Knowledge is of two types, one is natural and the other acquired. The former is bestowed by the Almighty to His exalted servants by revelation. There is no chance of error in this because the Teacher here has knowledge in His essence. There is no scope of loss because the recipient is infallible. He is free from error and forgetfulness. In the worldly life the knowledge of the teachers is itself incomplete. Therefore such an education is not reliable. Human views keep on changing everyday. Conclusions based on conjectures, which prove wrong, create a lot of mistakes.
The knowledge of all our Imams was naturally gifted. They had not received instructions at any of the schools in this world because their nature was perfect, that is why the rays of divine endowments had begun to fall on them right from the time they were in the wombs. They had come from the Almighty with the radiance of belief and divine recognition in their hearts. And whatever they had brought with them it was from those sources of perfection whose bodies were shaded by infallibility, whose wombs were truth personified. Thus their knowledge had no scope of satanic instigations. Neither was there any use of philosophy nor analogy. They were having the sea of truths and divine recognition raging in their hearts. There were many divine sciences that passed on from one breast to another. The real interpretation of the Holy Quran was present in those very illuminated hearts.
In this connection it is necessary to mention that in Islam the knowledge whose acquisition is given top priority is the knowledge of religion. That is the knowledge of all those laws that the Holy Prophet (S) related upon revelation from Allah or in the form of traditions. This includes the roots of religion, branches of religion (practical laws), laws of transactions and Hereafter. After this is the acquisition of other sciences depending upon the need, but it is not obligatory. It is permissible, those who require may obtain it and if there is no need, one does not have to acquire it. But it is compulsory to acquire religious knowledge.
In the science of religion the most important is the awareness of the secrets of divinity and heavenly sciences so that one gains divine recognition, otherwise without having divine recognition all the worship acts and deeds are useless. That is why Ali (a.s) said, “The first thing in religion is divine recognition.” It is the reason why our Imams have emphasized on sciences related to religion though they knew all the sciences better than even the prophets through direct revelation from the Lord. However they did not consider it necessary to teach them to the people while they considered the imparting of religious training obligatory upon themselves in all circumstances. After the passing away of the Holy Prophet (S) Muslims were caught in the quagmire of materialism and day by day they began to become ignorant of religious knowledge.
Firstly, these teachings had not become fully rooted in their hearts, and then military conquests had taken away their remaining attention. Thus they remained completely blank. The result was that scholars of other religions created tremors in their Islamic beliefs through their philosophical discourses. It was necessary to prevent this. Therefore our Imams spent a great deal of their time in the corrections of the distorted beliefs and presented the philosophy of Islam in the true form. That is why their sermons, supplications and advices are replete with the problems of divine sciences so as to halt the penetration of false ideas in the beliefs of Muslim people. It is a pity that the narrow-minded view of the people ignored their teachings and no one was given a chance to give an ear to what they said.
Severe opposition of the ruling powers, enmity of the contemporary rulers and bigotry of the general public continued to hinder the dispersal of their teachings. Even then they fulfilled each duty in every age, whenever and wherever they got the opportunity to do so.
Ahl ul-Bayt , True Bearers Of Wisdom
In fact, wisdom is another name of knowledge. If the knowledge is not right or it has not reached its perfection, the theoretical and practical wisdom becomes meaningless. The thoughts of man are expressed in the form of knowledge and action. A person without knowledge cannot be wise and a wise person cannot be without knowledge.
Wisdom is having the highest status in morals. That is why it comes first in the form of good qualities. The Holy Prophet (S) was the city of knowledge and the abode of wisdom, and he had named Ali to be the door of this city or house. Just as a magnificent door or gate gives respect to a house or city, the sciences of the Holy Prophet (S) have got enduring honor in the world due to Ali (a.s). One who did not obtain knowledge from this door remained ignorant of authentic knowledge, and the true facts of Islam remained veiled for him.
Because wisdom is the first pillar of morals, as soon as false sciences gained currency in Islam, there was an earthquake in the pillars of morals and the right path or the straight line, that has been explained before, went away from below the feet of the people and they began to run helter-skelter in the thorny deserts of extremism and conservativeness. In comparison to extremism there was more conservatism and this ignorance then proved to be so powerful that the face of true Islam underwent a drastic transformation.
The morals of Muslims changed completely. There were numerous rulers but not a single Islamic thinker available. This was the first calamity that befell the Muslims.
Knowledge and Wisdom of Amir’ul-Mu’minin (a.s)
Ali (a.s) was having a naturally purified nature. That is why he was blessed by the Creator of the universe with supreme knowledge and wisdom. In addition to that he was bestowed by the training of the Holy Prophet (S) from the day he was born. In fact we should consider Ali (a.s) a miracle of the Holy Prophet (S) with regard to knowledge, superiority, morals and good qualities.
That in whichever field one looks; Ali (a.s) is found to excel in it. None of the Prophet's companions got this superiority. It was due to the fact that the majority of them entered the company of Prophet after spending a better part of their life while Ali was with the Prophet every moment. They only got a chance now and then. On the other hand Ali (a.s) used to remain with the Prophet whether he was alone or in company. This was so because the Prophet had said that he was the city of knowledge and Ali, its gate and also said that one who desires knowledge should enter from that gate. Salman Farsi relates that the Holy Prophet (S) said, “In my community Ali (a.s) is the most knowledgeable after me.”
A saying of Ibne Abbas is recorded in the book of Istiab according to which Ali is given nine out of ten parts of knowledge and others are made to share the remaining tenth portion. At another place it is mentioned that total knowledge was divided into five parts, four of which were given to Ali and the fifth was shared by all the people and this part also is shared by Ali (a.s) and in this Ali is having the larger portion.
Ibne Abbas reportedly said that his knowledge was obtained from the knowledge of Ali (a.s) and the knowledge of Ali (a.s) was derived from the knowledge of the Prophet and the knowledge of the Prophet was derived from the knowledge of Allah. Ibne Abbas adds that his knowledge and that of all the companions of the Holy Prophet (S) together is like a drop in relation to the seven seas.
Dailami has related from Ibne Masood in Firdausul Akhbar that the Holy Prophet (S) said, “Wisdom is divided into ten parts, out of which nine are given to Ali (a.s) and the tenth is given to other people. Imam Razi has written in Arbaeen that Ali (a.s) said, “The Messenger of Allah (S) taught me a thousand chapters (doors) of knowledge and each door opened upon me a million doors.”
Ahmad Ibne Hanbal quotes Musayyab that from the companions of the Holy Prophet (S) there was none who could challenge: Ask me whatever you want. None of the companions was having the knowledge of Quran like Ali (a.s). Tibrani has quoted Umme Salma in Awsat that the Holy Prophet (S) said, “Ali is with the Quran and the Quran is with Ali. And the two shall not separate till they come to me at the Pool of Kauthar.” Ahmad Ibne Hanbal has related from Umar that the Holy Prophet (S) used to say to Ali (a.s), “You have the most knowledge of Quranic verses among them.”
Ali (a.s) was a great scholar of Taurat, Injeel and Zabur. Imam Fakhruddin Razi has quoted the following saying of Ali (a.s) in his book, Arbaeen: If I am given rulership I will judge the people of Taurat by Taurat, the people of Injeel by Injeel, the people of Zabur by Zabur and the people of Quran by Quran so perfectly that each book would say: Ali has commanded regarding us, the same as is the command of Allah.” In the science of Quranic exegesis also none could equal Ali (a.s).
Allamah Ibne Abde Barr has quoted Abdullah Ibne Abbas in his book, Al-Istiab that when we were proved something regarding the exegesis of Quran from Ali (a.s) there remained no need for us to ask anyone else. With regard to the knowledge of Quran also the status of Ali (a.s) is the highest. Most of the biographers are unanimous that Ali (a.s) had memorized the whole of Quran and recited it to the Holy Prophet (S) in his lifetime.
Ali was most knowledgeable in the science of traditions also, due to the fact that he had the most opportunity of the Prophet's company. Thus it is mentioned in Sawaiqul Mohreqa that when he was asked why he was the one to relate the traditions of the Holy Prophet (S) the most, he replied, “When I asked something from the Holy Prophet (S) he informed me of it and when I was silent he used to inform me himself.” In the same way Ali was most proficient of all in Islamic jurisprudence, legal code, scholastic theology, mysticism, astronomy, literature and eloquence, poetry, wit, science of the book, interpretation of dreams, knowledge of the 'Jafr' and 'Jame' (scrolls of knowledge) and mathematics etc. There are traditions with regard to all of the above in the book of Arjahul Matalib.
Please note, who can be wiser than the one who has proficiency in all the sciences? And how there be any error in his judgment or views. Error is possible when one is having deficient knowledge about a particular thing. There are many well-known thinkers and philosophers who presented theories regarding sciences and arts, against which people have raised thousands of objections. Why is it that theories are modified or disproved everyday? The main reason is that they do not have the correct knowledge of the facts of the universe. They prop up theories based on conjecture and create a farce. On the other hand consider one who has authentic knowledge of the truths of divine recognition, who has received training from the Holy Prophet (S)? Can he ever commit a mistake in deriving conclusions? Also, his thoughts and judgments cannot move away from the correct center.
The fact is that the world has taken few benefits and guidance. After the Holy Prophet (S) there was such a powerful flood of materialism in the Islamic world that it completely turned away from religious instruction. And they dissociated from those who could have bestowed this treasure to them. In such circumstances, how could Ali have spread his sciences while for the ruling powers the aim of Islamic life was something else?
It is only to the credit of this divine thinker that even in such sorrowful period whenever he got an opportunity he provided guidance. His tenure of worldly rule was such that the enemies did not allow him to rule peacefully a single day. Even then he did not forget his duty in such severe times. The sermons he delivered everyday after the noon prayers were limitless treasures of sciences and arts.
He was always concerned for correcting the beliefs of the people and acting correctly on the religious commandments. He wanted to remove the defects in the knowledge and deeds of the people that had come into being during the tenure of the previous caliphs. It was a pity however that people were not ready to follow in the footsteps of Ali (a.s).
The wise sayings, wise thoughts and knowledgeable discussions of Ali (a.s) are still available. Which thinker has the audacity to refute them? No thinker, philosopher or reformer can dare to refute the views of Ali with regard to divine sciences, jurisprudence, secrets of nature and politics and administration, and replace them with his or her own theories.
The principles of governance keep changing everyday, but the system of Ali's rulership is such that there is no scope of changes and alteration as it is something that can never change. When the world realizes the truth and ponders upon them, it would certainly try to accept him.
In any case our aim for the above discussion was to prove that Ali is the wisest one in Islam and he was having perfect wisdom, which is the foremost among the four greatest moral qualities.
In this field the step of Ali is neither found towards extremism nor towards conservatism, it is on that middle or the medium line, which is known as the straight path. If he had moved away from this line even a little bit, Ali would not have been what he actually was. When people saw the cunning and intrigue of Muawiyah they mentioned it to Ali (a.s) and he said, “Muawiyah is not more cunning than I am but these things do not befit me.” Cunning is included among the low qualities and cannot be considered a virtue.
After this brief explanation we would now invite the attention of our esteemed readers to the intellectual accomplishments of our other Imams (Peace be upon them all).
Intellectual Accomplishments Of Imam Hasan (a.s)
Imam Hasan (a.s) was also a blooming and fragrant flower of this garden of virtue and perfection, which was irrigated by the Almighty with the water of knowledge and wisdom. And which used to bloom in the illuminated atmosphere of mercy and bounty. Which was guarded by infallibility and cared by prophethood. This prince of the two worlds had sucked the tongue of prophethood and was bred in the lap of Imamate. Like that of his father the breast of Imam Hasan (a.s) was also illuminated by the radiance of divine wisdom. His step also did not deviate from the straight path. He never paid any attention to the wisdom of extremism or conservatism. He continued to propagate divine religion all his life.
He had the natural gift of deriving correct conclusions by arranging the basic facts. That is why he was safe from the error of judgment or practical mistakes in all aspects of life. Ali (a.s) usually entrusted to Imam Hasan (a.s) the legal problems that were sent to him by the ruling caliphs. Not once is Imam Hasan (a.s) said to have given a wrong judgment. Let us read some incidents in this regard.
1. Imam Reza (a.s) has narrated that once a man holding a bloodstained knife was brought to Umar. Those who had arrested him reported that a severed head was found in such and such desolate spot, and that they found this man standing near it. Umar asked the accused if he had committed the murder of the victim. He confessed to it. Umar ordered his execution. In a short while another person appeared and said, “Release him, because I am the actual murderer.” Umar was confused and could not decide what to do, so he sent the matter to Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s). Ali (a.s) asked the first accused, “Did you kill that man?” He replied, “O Amir'ul-Mu'minin! The fact is that I am a butcher and I was slaughtering a goat at a place when I had the urge urinate. Holding the blood-smeared knife I went to answer nature's call in that ruin where I saw that murdered man. I was staring at the corpse when these people came and arrested me. When I was brought to the caliph I confessed to the murder because all the circumstantial evidence was against me and my denial would not have made any impact. But the truth is that I have not murdered anyone.” Now Ali (a.s) turned to the second man and asked if he was the murderer. He said, “Yes, I wanted to run away where no one would learn about it but when I saw that an innocent man was falsely accused, my conscience could not bear it that I should be saved and an innocent is executed instead. So I came here myself and confessed to the murder. Ali (a.s) asked Imam Hasan (a.s) what judgment he would give in this case. He replied at once, “Both the men should be released and the blood money of the victim should be paid from the public treasury.” When Ali (a.s) asked him to justify his decision he said, “One of them is innocent and the other one deserves release because he has saved the life of an innocent person. Almighty Allah says: One who saved the life of one person, it is as if he has saved humanity.”
The above incident proves that judgment in material matters should not be based on conjecture; it should rely on hard facts. Also each of the judgment was supported by Quranic verses. If Quran had not been treasured in their hearts they would also have given judgments like those ignorant about Quran. Another important point is that how many lives were saved by their judgments and how many innocent people were saved from wrongful punishments.
If divine wisdom had been related to other people, they would never have expressed their inability and helplessness in giving legal decisions and solving intellectual problems. Because it is a matter of great shame that the ruler could not properly judge the affairs of his subjects. That is why the Creator of the universe has never entrusted rulership to the ignorant. When Bani Israel objected to the rulership of Talut, saying that he didn't have enough wealth, their prophet said that Allah has selected him because he was the most knowledgeable and strong among them all. This shows that a ruler can only be one who has knowledge and virtues so that he can rule his subjects according to divine will. Cunning, intrigue and deception cannot be called wisdom or knowledge.
2. A Syrian instigated by Muawiyah asked Imam Hasan (a.s) amidst a crowd, “What is the difference between faith and certainty.” Actually he wanted to pose a difficult question that required lengthy explanation going into complex debatable points which the Imam would take time to explain and hence people would think the Imam is deficient in knowledge, while the Syrian would get an opportunity to extol the virtues of Muawiyah. Imam Hasan (a.s) replied, “There is a distance of four fingers between faith and certainty.” “How is it so?” asked the Syrian. Imam (a.s) explained, “What you hear (by your ears) is faith and what you see (by your eyes) is certainty. Then the Syrian asked, “What is the distance between the sky and the earth?” Imam (a.s) said, “The length of ones eyesight.” He asked, “What is the distance between east and west?” Imam (a.s) said, “The distance the sun travels in a day.”
Now consider the depth of these replies. The questioner is a deadly enemy of Ahl ul-Bayt. He did not aim to gain any knowledge from Imam (a.s). It was rather to dishonor him. Think deeply on the replies of Imam (a.s). All the replies were short and to the point without any scope of further questions. This is the way a wise man speaks. Another thing worth attention is that these questions were posed to Imam (a.s) suddenly. Anyone else in place of Imam (a.s) would have become confused and offered incorrect explanations. However, even the most difficult questions are easy for those whose hearts contain the treasures of divine sciences and who are brought up in the lap of one who challenged: “Ask me”, from the pulpit. In such difficult circumstances he gave such replies that the opponent had no chance to move. This was the intellectual perfection of the Household of the Prophet.
3. Once Muawiyah came to Medina, met Imam Hasan (a.s) and asked, “You Bani Hashim claim that every dry and wet thing is mentioned in the Quran and you have the knowledge of all of them.” “Indeed,” said the Imam. Muawiyah said, “If it is so, tell me where is the mention of our beards in the Quran?” Now Imam Hasan (a.s) had a luxurious and thick facial growth while the beard of Muawiyah was scanty. “Why not!” said Imam (a.s), “Have you not read the verse of Quran:
And as for the good land, its vegetation springs forth (abundantly) by the permission of its Lord, and (as for) that which is inferior (its herbage) comes forth but scantily… (Surah Araaf 7:58).
There are subtle points in this and only those with a literary taste can appreciate them. It is sufficient if we can just realize how great was the Quranic knowledge of Imam Hasan (a.s).
4. The King of Rome sent two queries to Muawiyah. (1) Which house is in the middle of the heavens? (2) What is that place where the sun shines only once? Now how could Muawiyah reply these queries? He in turn asked Imam Hasan (a.s) who said, “The house in the middle of the heavens is the back of the Holy Ka'ba and the place where the sun shines only once is the spot in the Nile river where Prophet Moses (a.s) hit the staff and it opened (to make a path).
5. A bedouin asked Abu Bakr, “During the Hajj, I roasted and ate 70 eggs in the condition of Ehram (ritual dress), what penalty (Kaffarah) do I have to pay?” Abu Bakr said, “O Arab! You have posed a very difficult question. Go to Umar and seek the reply.” So the man went to Umar who instructed him to approach Abdul Rahman Ibne Auf. When he too could not reply he directed him to Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s), who told Imam Hasan (a.s) to answer the question. Imam Hasan (a.s) said, “O Bedouin, get as many female camels and have them impregnated, then after the calves are born, give them as offering to the House of Allah.” Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) asked, “But, son Hasan, sometimes the she-camels have miscarriages?” Hasan replied, “Father, eggs too go bad sometimes.”
Once in a gathering of Muawiyah, Amr Aas asked Imam Hasan (a.s) by way of testing him, “What is the difference between kindness, support and chivalry?” He replied, “The true meaning of kindness is to give something without expecting any recompense before the needy one asks for it; support means to dispel ones enemy by ones good behavior and chivalry denotes the condition whereby man should keep an eye on his religion and protect his self from dirt and sins and should fulfill the rights of Allah and the creatures.
Once a person asked Imam Hasan (a.s), what was the distinguishing feature of a eunuch. He said, “Regarding whom it is not known whether it is a man or a woman, but he is having both the sex organs. Then one should wait till his maturity. If he has ejaculation of semen, he is a man and if has menses and the breasts become prominent, it is a woman. And if this also does not establish the sex, then while urinating if the urine spouts in a straight line it is a man and if it drops like urine of she-camels it is a woman.”
This man further asked, “What are those ten things, that are harder than each other?” Imam (a.s) said, “Allah has made stone hard and made iron harder than it; because it breaks the stone and fire is stronger than iron because it melts the iron and water is more powerful than fire because it extinguishes the fire and the cloud is more powerful because it has control over water; and wind is more powerful than the cloud because it moves the cloud and more powerful than wind is the angel who controls it and more powerful than this angel is the angel of death who would capture his soul. And death is more powerful than the angel of death that he himself would be subjected to death. More powerful than death is the command of God Almighty, as by this death arrives and is warded off.”
Once Muawiyah heard about the generosity and kindness of Imam (a.s) and wrote to him, “There is no goodness in overspending.” The Imam wrote in reply, “There is no over-spending in goodness.”
Intellectual Accomplishments Of Imam Husain (a.s)
Once when Muawiyah had come to Medina he requested Imam Husain (a.s) to go on the pulpit and give some admonitions. He thought the Imam would say something in praise of Muawiyah. Thus he went to the pulpit and after praise of Allah and blessings on the Prophet, he said, “People, know that we are that divine group which is going to be victorious over the deviated people. We are the progeny of the Prophet and his closest relatives. We are his purified and clean Ahl ul-Bayt and one of the two weighty things. The Messenger of Allah (S) has referred to us as the second book of Allah; it is the book having details about everything. Neither falsehood is before it or after it. We are the ones who know its interpretation and explanation. Its realities are hidden in our hearts. Our obedience is obligatory. Our obedience is connected to the obedience of Allah. Ask us whatever you want to ask about the Holy Quran. We are the shoreless oceans of sciences.”
The sermons and sayings of Imam Husain (a.s) regarding divine sciences quoted in books like Biharul Anwar, Nurul Absar and Irshadul Quloob show eloquence and how beautifully he has solved the problems of religious sciences.
It is related from Jabir Ibne Abdullah Ansari that Imam Husain (a.s) was an unsurpassed scholar of Quran, exegesis and traditions. When Muawiyah came to Medina in connection with the allegiance of Yazid, many companions of the Holy Prophet (S) went to meet him. The conversation turned to the topic of the most superior personality of the day in knowledge and virtues. Muawiyah wanted them to mention the name of Abdullah Ibne Umar but no one expressed this opinion. All of them unanimously said that, “We cannot find anyone better than Imam Husain (a.s).” And why it shouldn't be so? He was brought up by sucking the Prophet's tongue. His chest is joined to the chest of the Prophet. He rode upon the shoulders of the Messenger of Allah (S).
Intellectual Accomplishments Of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s)
Various testimonies are available with regard to the intellectual accomplishments of Imam (a.s) in form of statements of Moayyad, Imam Zuhri, Saeed bin Musayyab, Ibn Jazm, Sufyan bin Uyanna and Abu Hamzah Thumali etc. who are called the best of Tabeins (companions of companions) and who were great scholars of their time. They used to express pride on their discipleship of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s). They used to say, “When the springs of knowledge burst from the tongue of Imam (a.s) it seemed as if waves of precious stones were gushing out. Our mental capacities proved ineffective in preserving the sayings of Imam (a.s).”
Whatever benefits Muslims received from these gentlemen, it was due to the training of Imam (a.s). Imam Zuhri used to say, “We have not seen anyone more expert in knowledge and jurisprudence than Ali Ibne Husain.” Imam Malik said, “Ali Ibne Husain is among those virtuous personages praising whom is beyond my capacity. He is highly trustworthy and reliable. He is the narrator of a large number of traditions. He is having a very exalted status. He is very religious, pious and God-fearing.”
Ibne Abbas use to say to him, “Welcome O beloved of the beloved!” Saeed bin Musayyab used to say, “I have not found anyone more knowledgeable, pious and God-fearing than Ali Ibne Husain.” Hammad bin Zaid used to say, “I have not found anyone among the Bani Hashim more knowledgeable and virtuous.”
Sahifa Kamila, also known as Sahifa Sajjadiya is the perfect example of his intellectual attainments and his inner virtues. One should reflect on its writings, the beauty of its discussions, supplications and effective sentences to fully realize the sciences of divine recognition of Imam (a.s) and his abstemiousness, purity of soul, enlightened heart, piety and religiosity etc. The scholars of both the sects have given it the title of “The Psalms of Aale Muhammad,” due to its greatness and exalted position.
Intellectual Accomplishments Of Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s)
All historians and traditionists of Islam are unanimous that among the descendants of Imam Hasan and Imam Husain (a.s) maximum religious sciences were expounded by Imam Baqir (a.s). That is why the title of 'al-Baqir' was given to Imam (a.s), which denotes one who splits knowledge. He contributed greatly to the science of Quranic exegesis, scholastic theology, religious law and Islamic jurisprudence etc.
Muhammad bin Muslim says, “I learnt 30000 traditions from Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s).” Jabir Ibne Abdullah, one of the distinguished companions of the Holy Prophet (S) used to visit Imam Baqir (a.s) regularly and inquire about religious problems. Let us read some of the incidents of Imam Baqir (a.s) with regard to his teachings.
One day, Umar bin Ubaid, who was considered the leader of Mutazila sect asked Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s), “What is the meaning of the verse: Do not those who disbelieve see that the heavens and the earth were closed up, but We have opened them. (Surah Anbiya 21:30)
Imam replied, “The sky was closed, means not a drop fell from the sky to the earth and the earth was closed means, no vegetation grew up from it. When Allah accepted the prayers of Adam (a.s) the earth burst forth and streams began to flow, trees grew and began to fructify. Rain fell from the sky. Thus this is the meaning of “closed up” and “We opened them”.
Once Tawus Yemeni asked Imam (a.s), “When did one-third of Adam die?” Imam replied, “It never happened so. Rather you should ask when did one-fourth of human population die? It was when Habeel killed Qabeel. At that time there were four human beings, Adam, Hawwa, Habeel and Qabeel. Thus by the slaying of Qabeel, one-fourth of the population decreased.”
Tawus Yemeni asked, “What is that, which is permitted in small quantity but prohibited in large measure. Imam (a.s) replied, “It was the stream of Talut, drinking more water from it was not allowed, only a handful was permitted.”
Then he asked, “Which fast was it, when it was allowed to eat and drink?” “It was the vow of silence that Maryam (a.s) had observed,” replied the Imam (a.s). That is she did not speak to anyone in this fast.
Tawus asked, “What is that goes on decreasing and never increases?”
“Life,” replied Imam (a.s).
“What is that which goes on increasing and never decreased?”
“The sea,” replied the Imam (a.s).
Then he asked, “What is that, which became airborne only once?”
“Mt. Tur, which rose up and hovered on the heads of Bani Israel,” said the Imam (a.s).
He asked, “Who are those people who gave a true testimony that Allah considered false?”
“It was the testimony of the hypocrites regarding the prophethood of Allah's Messenger, but Allah considered it false.”
It means that what they had stated was correct but their statements were considered false because they did not testify with sincerity, they only claimed so verbally.
A dying person willed that a thousand dirhams from his property be donated to the Holy Ka'ba. After the person died, the executor of the will took the amount and proceeded to Mecca but upon reaching there he was confused how to spend the same. People brought him to Ibne Shayba who told him to hand over the money to him discharge his duty. But he did not agree and went to Imam Baqir (a.s) to know the right solution. Imam (a.s) told him, “The Holy Ka'ba is not needful of this money, rather you should find those Hajj pilgrims who do not have the means to return home, and this money should be given to them.”
Once Abu Khalid Kabuli asked Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) about the meaning of “Light” in the verse: Therefore believe in Allah and His Apostle and the Light, which We have revealed. (Surah Taghabun 64:8)
Imam (a.s) replied, “It denotes us, the Imams. By Allah, only we are the light of Allah that have descended from Him and only we are the light of Allah in the heavens and the earth as mentioned in the verse: Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth. (Surah Nur 24:35)
Imam (a.s) further said: When the verse: (Remember) the day when We will call every people with their Imam… (Surah Bani Israel 17:71)
was revealed, people asked the Messenger of Allah (S), “Are you not the Imam of all the people?” The Prophet replied, “I am the Prophet for all the people till Qiyamat, but there would be Imams from my progeny, who would be appointed by Allah like I am. But the misguided people would consider them liars. They would oppress them and their followers. Only these people (Imams) are from me and only they would be with me in Paradise on the Day of Judgment. And those who have oppressed them and their followers would remain away from me.”
A person named Abdul Ghaffar Nasrani once posed the following questions to Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s):
1. Who is a true Muslim?
Imam replied, “One from whose tongue the Muslims are safe.”
2. Which is the best worship?
3. Who is a better believer?
“One who has the best behavior.”
4. Which is the best Jihad?
“One in which the legs of the warrior's horse are cut off and in which his blood is spilled.”
5. Which is the best prayer?
“That which has a prolonged 'Qunut'”
6. Which is the better Sadaqah?
“Remaining away from prohibited things.”
7. What do you say about visiting the rulers?
“It is not good for you.”
8. I intend to visit Ibrahim bin Walid, the ruler of Syria, in Damascus. Is there anything wrong in that?
Imam replied, “Paying a visit to rulers attracts one towards three things, love of the world, forgetfulness of death and less contentment on divine will.”
He said, “Since I have to maintain a family, I aim to gain monetary benefits from there.”
Imam said, “I am not asking you to forsake the world, I am only asking you to abandon sins.”
Intellectual Accomplishments Of Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (a.s)
The knowledgeable status of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) had earned such fame that people used to visit him from far-off places. He had many discussions and debates with unbelievers, polytheists, apostates and heretics. If all these were to be collected they would constitute a voluminous book. We shall mention some of them in the following pages.
Debate With An Atheist
Juad Ibne Dirham, a leader of atheist sect had kept some mud and water in a glass bottle. After some days worms grew in it and he claimed to be their creator. One day he came to Imam (a.s) and also claimed thus. Imam (a.s) said, “If you are their creator, tell us how many of them are male and how many female?” He said, “I don't know.” Imam said, “If you can't do that, command the worms going one way to crawl in the opposite direction.” He said, “I cannot do it.” Imam said, “All right, then tell us what is the weight of each of them?” He replied, “I do not know.” Imam said, “When neither you have any knowledge about them, nor any control over them, then how can you be their creator?”
Question Of Abu Shakir Disani
Abu Shakir Disani who denied the existence of God told Hisham, a companion of the Imam, “There is a verse in Quran that is according to our belief and which goes against your faith.” Hisham asked, “Which verse is that?” He replied,
And He it is Who is God in the heavens and God in the earth…( Surah Zukhruf 43:84)
This according to him clearly showed that there are different gods for the earth and the heavens. Since Hisham had not pondered on this verse, he remained silent. When he came to Medina, he mentioned it to Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) who said, “If he says to you now, you ask him what his name is. He would tell you. Then ask him what his name is in Basra? He would mention the same name. At that time you tell him: Our God is also like that. He is God in the heavens and also God on the earth. He is God in the sea and on the land, in the plains and on the hill.” Hisham did as bidden. Abu Shakir said, “It is not your reply, it has come loaded on the camels from Hijaz.”
Another Debate With Abu Shakir
One day Abu Shakir came to the Imam and said, “Prove to me the existence of God.” Imam (a.s) told him to be seated. At that time a boy passed by holding a hen's egg. Imam (a.s) called him, and taking the egg from him kept it on his palm. Then he told Abu Shakir, “See, it is such a strong fort that has no doors. On its outside is a hard skin and below it is a thin membrane, inside which flow two seas of gold and silver. But neither can the yellow mix with the white nor the white can merge with the yellow. Neither can a repairer enter it nor a destroyer comes out of it. No one can even know whether the newborn would be a male or a female. Then all of a sudden it cracks and a beautiful chick emerges from it. Can your reason agree that all this happened without a designer or a maker?” Hearing this Abu Shakir bowed down his head and said, “I repent for my beliefs today and accept the religion of Islam.”
Debate With An Egyptian Atheist
One day an atheist from Egypt came to Imam (a.s) who asked his name. “Abdul Malik,” replied he. Imam (a.s) asked what his agnomen was. “Abu Abdullah,” he replied.
Imam: The kingdom whose slave you are, is it from the kingdom of the heavens or from the kingdoms of the earth?
Atheist: I have never reflected on it.
Imam: Have you ever gone below the earth's surface?
Imam: Do you know what is below it?
Atheist: I have no knowledge of it.
Imam: Have you ever ascended to the sky?
Imam: Do you know what exists there?
Imam: Have you visited east and west? Do you know what lies beyond the limits?
Imam: It is surprising that when you do not have any knowledge about the earth or the sky, the east or west, how can you deny the existence of God? How can an ignorant man make such a great claim? Just ponder upon it; the moon, the sun, the night and the day, which all move in a particular way, are they not helpless and captive in their orbits? If they had not been so, they would not have returned after passing away once. If they are not helpless, why is it not that sometimes there is night instead of day? Don't you ever reflect on the earth and the sky that why the sky does not crash on the earth? Why the earth does not sink below itself? Who has made them stable? One who has done this is our and their absolute powerful God.” Hearing these words, he was astonished and at that very moment recited the dual testimony of Islamic faith and became a Muslim.
Debate With Christian Scholars
Once some Christians came to Imam (a.s) and said, “Prophet Musa, Isa and Muhammad are equal in rank, because each of them got one book and one Shariat (Divine Law). Imam (a.s) said, Prophet Muhammad was higher to them in rank due to the knowledge and superiority Allah had given him exclusively. The Christians asked this to be proved by a verse of Quran. Imam (a.s) said, “It is mentioned regarding Prophet Musa:
And We ordained for him in the tablets admonition of every kind and clear explanation of all things; (Surah Araaf 7:145)
And regarding Isa (a.s) He says,
I have come to you indeed with wisdom, and that I may make clear to you part of what you differ in; (Surah Zukhruf 43:63)
Regarding the Messenger of Allah (S), it says,
…and We have revealed the Book to you explaining clearly everything… (Surah Nahl 16:89)
Queries Of A Mutazalite And The Imam’s Replies
Umar bin Ubaid Mutazali, who was then the Imam of Mutazalite sect came to Imam (a.s) one day and recited the following verse of the Quran: And those who shun the great sins and indecencies… (Surah Shuara 42:37)
Then he (Amr Ibne Ubaid) paused.
“Why have you become silent?” asked the Imam (a.s),
“I would like you to derive the Greater Sins from the Holy Quran.” he replied.
The Imam said, “O Amr, the Greatest of the Greater Sins is Shirk (to attribute partners) with Allah. The Almighty Allah says,
Certainly whoever associates (others) with Allah, then Allah has forbidden to him the Garden (Paradise)… (Surah Maidah 5:72)
2) After this, is “to despair from the Mercy of Allah.” As the Almighty Allah says,
Surely none despairs of Allah's mercy except the unbelieving people... (Surah Yusuf 12:87)
3) Then, “not fearing the retribution of Allah.” The High and the Mighty Allah remarks,
But none feels secure from Allah's plan except the people who shall perish. (Surah Araaf 7:99)
4) One of the Greater Sins is to disobey ones parents because the Glorified Allah has said,
And dutiful to his parents, and he was not insolent, disobedient. (Surah Maryam 19:14)
Here the disobedience of the parents is considered a form of insolence or transgression.
5) To kill a believer is prohibited by Allah. Because Allah (A.J.) has informed,
And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his punishment is Hell; he shall abide in it, and Allah will send His Wrath on him and curse him and prepare for him a painful chastisement. (Surah Nisa 4:93)
6) To slander a believing man or a woman of adultery (or sodomy) is a Greater sin as proved by this statement of Allah:
Surely those who accuse chaste believing women, unaware (of the evil), are cursed in this world and the hereafter, and they shall have a grievous chastisement. (Surah Nur 24:23)
7) The usurpation of an orphan's property is a Greater sin, as is clear from the following verse:
(As for) those who swallow the property of the orphans unjustly, surely they only swallow fire into their bellies and they shall enter burning fire. (Surah Nisa 4:10)
8) It is a Greater sin to retreat from Jihad (Holy war) as the Divine verse says:
And whoever shall turn his back to them on that day- unless he turn aside for the sake of fighting or withdraws to a company- then he, indeed becomes deserving of Allah's wrath, and his abode is Hell; and an evil destination shall it be. (Surah Anfal 8:16)
9) One of the Greater Sins is to take usury. Allah, the Almighty informs:
One who swallows down usury cannot arise except as one whom Shaitan has prostrated by (his) touch does rise. This is because they say, trading is only like usury; and Allah has allowed trading and forbidden usury. (Surah Baqarah 2:275)
10) And magic is a Greater sin. Thus Allah (A.J.) says,
And certainly they know that he who bought it (the magic) should have no share of good in the hereafter and evil was the price for which they sold their souls; had they but known this. (Surah Baqarah 2:102)
11) Among the Greater Sins is Adultery (fornication). Allah says in the Holy Quran,
And they who do not call upon another god with Allah and do not slay a soul which Allah has forbidden except in the requirements of justice, and (who) do not commit fornication. And he who does this shall find a requital of sin. The punishment shall be doubled to him on the Day of Resurrection, and he shall abide therein in abasement. (Surah Furqan 25:68-69)
12) One of the Greater Sins is taking a false oath. Allah says regarding it:
(As for) those who take a small price for the covenant of Allah and their own oaths-Surely they shall have no portion in the hereafter, and Allah will not speak to them, nor will He look upon them on the day of resurrection nor will He purify them, and they shall have a painful chastisement. (Surah Aale Imran 3:76)
13) Among the sins, which are specifically graded, as Greater is a sin of “betrayal of trust”, or to act unfaithfully. Allah the Greatest has informed thus:
And it is not attributable that he should act unfaithfully; and he who acts unfaithfully shall bring that in respect of which he has acted unfaithfully on the day of resurrection; then shall every soul be paid back fully what it has earned, and they shall not be dealt unjustly. Is then he who follows the pleasure of Allah like him who has made himself deserving of displeasure from Allah, and his abode is Hell; and it is an evil destination. (Surah Aale Imran 3:161-162)
14) Failure to pay the Zakat is a Greater sin. Allah says regarding it:
And (as for) those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah's ways, announce to them a painful chastisement. ( Surah Tawbah 9:34)
15) To bear a false witness is also a Greater sin. Allah says,
…and avoid false words. (Surah Hajj 22:30)
16) Do not conceal evidence, as it is a Greater sin. Allah says:
…and do not conceal testimony and whoever conceals it, his heart is surely sinful; and Allah knows what you do. (Surah Baqarah 2:283)
17) Drinking of wine is a Greater sin. As it is prohibited by Allah in the following verse of the Holy Quran:
They ask you about intoxicants and games of chance. Say: In both of them there is great sin and means of profit for men, and their sin is greater than their profit. (Surah Baqarah 2:219)
18) To willfully avoid the prayers is a Greater sin.
19) The failure to perform any obligatory religious act is a Greater sin. The Holy Prophet (S) says:
One who willfully avoids the prayers is away from the protection of Allah and His Messenger.
20) Breaking an oath is also a Greater sin. Allah has stated:
Who break the covenant of Allah after its confirmation and cut as under what Allah has ordered to be joined, (that is mutual relationships) and make mischief in the land; these it is that are the losers. (Surah Baqarah 2:27)
21) To break ties with the relatives is one of the Greater Sins. In the Quranic verse quoted below, Allah says,
and cut asunder what Allah has ordained…(Surah Raad 13:25)
When Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) concluded his tradition the narrator, Amr Ibne Ubaid rose up and while going out stopped and said, “Certainly, one who does not follow the guidance of the Imams (a.s) and gives his own opinion is doomed.”
Debate With Abil Awja
Abil Awja first of all had a narrow-minded nature; secondly the company of Hasan Basri had further spoilt his belief, therefore doubts and conjectures used to fill his mind all the time. In addition to being an atheist, this fellow was also brash and foul-tongued. One day he came to Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) and said, “I don't understand how long the Hajj pilgrims would continue to trample the land of Mecca and how long would they continue to worship these stones and rocks? How long would they continue to run around it like runaway camels? Are these not actions of ignorant and stupid people? As you are the Imam of the Muslims and the son of the founder of Islam, give me a satisfactory reply.”
Imam (a.s) said, “O man! You have not reflected on the actual matter. The Ka'ba is the protected sanctuary through which the Almighty Allah tests His slaves, because this House is associated with Him. Therefore it is emphasized to respect and visit it. It is appointed as the place of worship for prophets and the direction of prayers of religious people. This house is the channel of His mercy and the medium of salvation. He created this house two thousand years before the creation of the world. The dignity of our slavehood is only that we follow each and every command of Allah and let the purpose for which the Ka'ba is created, be fulfilled.”
Awja said, “I am sorry to say that you have associated this house to such a personality whose existence, I refuse to believe. How can one believe in the existence of something, which is unseen? And till one does not believe, there is no question of obeying His commands.”
Imam (a.s) said, “You do not use your intellect. He is present and seeing everywhere and at every moment; and is nearer to you than your jugular vein. He listens to what we say and sees us and He knows the secrets of our hearts.”
He said, “First prove His existence. If he is on the earth, he went to the heavens and if he is on the heavens, how did he come to the earth?” Imam (a.s) said, “He is not confined in space, that another place should be empty of Him, or some place should surround Him. If He had been confined to a place what difference would have remained between Him and the creatures?
Awja asked, “But how does this prove that He is the Creator of all things?” Imam (a.s) replied, “Does such an obvious fact require a proof? I ask only you, who has created you?” “No one has created me,” replied he. Imam said, “Is it possible for a created thing to come into being without a maker?” When Awja heard this he became worried and changing tracks said, “Okay, let it be. Tell me what is the use of things like Day of Judgment, accounting, Paradise and Hell etc. of which you are a believer? After death, a man is mixed with the dust and all these things are mere assumptions. Imam (a.s) said, “Even if it is assumed that you are right, there is no fear for us after death and if your belief is wrong there is no scope for your salvation, while we are risk-free in both the cases. Now you tell me, which of us is better?”
Hearing this, he bowed down his head and after remaining silent for sometime said, “I accept your statement, but tell me, the Quran says, 'When the skins of the inmates of Hell are burnt down, they would be given fresh skins.' Can you explain that the skins that had committed the sins are burnt once, what is the fault of the new skins?” Imam (a.s) said, “They would be the same old skins, only their forms would be changed again. Like a brick is powdered and mixed with water and put in a die for making another brick. The same would be the case of the skins of the people of Hell.” He said, “Further, you tell me why different people die due to different diseases? What is the problem if all were to die due to the same disease?” Imam (a.s) said, “If it had been so, people would have remained fearless of death till the appearance of this disease and Allah does not like that anyone should be fearless of death.”
Although Sufyan Thawri had gained much knowledge from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s), he was against the Imam and he wanted to project his own image. One day Imam (a.s) was sitting in the Masjid, wearing a dress of thin white cotton. Seeing this dress Sufyan told his colleagues, “I will go and embarrass this Imam of the Rafidis.” Saying this he came to Imam (a.s) and said, “Was your exalted and respected grandfather, the Messenger of Allah (S) also wearing these kinds of expensive clothes?”
Imam (a.s) said, “There is no restriction on wearing these types of clothes. In the time of the Prophet the poorest of the Muslims were leading a very frugal life, therefore the Prophet never used to wear expensive clothes, lest they may feel disheartened. Since the situation is not the same now, there is no harm in wearing these clothes. I have worn this dress only for the thankfulness of Allah, otherwise below this, see, I am wearing thick woolen clothes.” After this Imam (a.s) raised the skirt of Sufyan's dress and said, “See, you have worn a coarse dress outside, to show off, while below you have donned soft and expensive apparels, so that your body remains in comfort. On the other hand these thick fibers prick into my body and it is painful to it. You have seen my exterior but did not inspect your interior.” Sufyan returned in embarrassment. His students said, “If he had embarrassed you, we would also not remain without taking revenge from him.” So they came to Imam (a.s) and said, “Are piety and asceticism worthless in your opinion?”
Imam: What do you mean by this?
Students: We mean to say that if you had valued piety you would not have worn such a good quality dress.
Imam: Is it prohibited?
Students: No, it is not so. But the Almighty Allah has praised those companions of the Messenger of Allah (S), who used to prefer others to their own selves.
…and prefer (them) before themselves though poverty may afflict them, (Surah Hashr 59:9)
And at another place He says: And they give food out of love for Him to the poor and the orphan and the captive. (Surah Dahr 76:8)
Imam: Both these verses were revealed in the honor of us, Ahl ul-Bayt, and they denote our condition. Since you people do not know the abrogating and the abrogated verses of Quran, you are wandering in misguidance. Remember, the people regarding whom these verses were revealed were allowed and permitted to do so and it was rewarding and recompensing; but after this the Almighty Allah had mercy on the condition of the believers and abrogated this command so that their families were not put to inconvenience. At that time even if one had a single loaf of bread, one gave it in the way of Allah and did not think of ones young child or aged parents. Since this command was fatal to such people it was abrogated. That is why the Messenger of Allah (S) said, “One who has five grains, or five dirhams or five loaves of bread and he intends to spend them, then it is necessary for him to give one to his parents, one to his family, one to his needy relatives, one to his poor neighbors and the last one in charity on the way of Allah. This fifth position is lower and less rewarding than the previous four.”
Thus an Ansar (Helper) had five slaves and slave girls. Besides these he did not own anything. At the time of his death he freed all of them and did not leave anything for his young children. When the Holy Prophet (S) heard of their condition, he said, “He has left them to solicit alms. He has done a bad thing. If I had known of this before I would not have allowed him to be buried in the Muslim cemetery.
The Almighty Allah has praised those who are not spendthrifts and who practice frugality. The Holy Prophet (S) said, “There are some people in my community whose supplications are not accepted. First of all, those who criticize and curse their parents. Secondly one who lends something without taking anything in writing, or keeping a witness; and when the lender does not repay he begins to curse him. Thirdly, one who criticizes and curses his wife, though Allah has given him the option to divorce her. Fourthly, one who sits at home and does not go out in search of livelihood and who asks Allah for lawful sustenance. So Allah asks this man, “have I not given you limbs to work and have I not opened channels of obtaining livelihood for you?” Fifthly, one who is bestowed a great wealth by Allah and he squanders it all and becomes a pauper. Then he prays to Allah for sustenance. Allah replies to him, “Did I not give you extensive wealth, then why did you squander it away?”
One day the Holy Prophet (S) received gold and he gave it away in charity before the next morning. After this a beggar came seeking alms. The Prophet had nothing to give him. Since he was extremely softhearted he could not bear to see a beggar going away dejected and he was very sorrowful about it. The Almighty Allah revealed the verse,
And do not make your hand to be shackled to your neck nor stretch it forth to the utmost (limit) of its stretching forth, lest you should (afterwards) sit down blamed, stripped off. (Surah Bani Israel 17:29)
Thus all these verses and traditions abrogate the actions that you have mentioned. Let alone this, even Abu Bakr, whom you call 'Siddiq', has proved by his actions that your opinion is wrong. Even though Allah ahs permitted making a will for a third of ones property, he willed a fourth of his property. If he had considered one-third better he would have made a bequest of that much amount. Rather if the donation of all of ones wealth had been better the Almighty would never have limited it to one-third.
Salman Farsi used to take out his yearly expenses from his share of war booty despite his ascetic nature and his contentment with little or nothing. The balance he used to give away in charity. Once someone objected to this that even though he were pious and God-fearing he did thus. “Are you certain of remaining alive for a year that you collect provision for this period?” He asked, “Even though you are my friend, why do you not hope I would live for a year? Why do you prefer the thought of my death to that of my survival? When a person has assured rations for a year he concentrates fully on the matters of the world and the Hereafter and a bankrupt man is always tense. He is not able to perform any worldly task or a deed for the Hereafter in the proper way.”
See the life of Hazrat Abu Zar Ghiffari; that inspite of his inclination towards frugality and seclusion, he never reconciled to destitution. He had reared some camels and goats and through them he maintained his family and served his guests. He helped the needy among his neighbors and acquaintances.
See these are the people regarding whose piety and fear of God there is no doubt, but they also lived in a way that they were never penniless by giving everything away in charity, as you people think. Mostly, this explanation of mine would have comforted you and if it is not so, I can explain further.” They said, “Please explain further.” Imam (a.s) said, “The Almighty Allah had made it obligatory for the believers to fight Jihad against people ten times their number, then He had mercy on them and reduced this number; that is Jihad is to be done against twice ones numbers. This command abrogated the previous one.
See, if a woman appeals to religious judge that her husband does not provide her bread and the Qazi compels him to provide her food and he says, “I am a pious person and I have no worldly possessions, how can I pay for it?” Now if the Qazi does not accept his excuse, then, whether in your opinion is this Qazi unjust or just?”
If you say he is unjust then he would not be qualified to remain a judge and if you say that he is just, then this command would be against your opinion.
If, as per your belief the entire world becomes ascetic and no one cares for any worldly thing, then who would accept charity, which is made so much rewarding by Allah? And how could the rich people produce the recipients of alms? The problem is that you have not understood the book of Allah and the practice (Sunnah) of the Prophet. You have neither understood its reality nor learnt about its abrogated and abrogating ones. Neither have you learnt about His commands and prohibitions. You don't even know that Sulaiman, being a prophet of Allah asked for a kingdom that no one had ever acquired. Allah accepted his prayer and bestowed him such a kingdom. No one objected to him. In the same way his respected father, Prophet Dawood (a.s) was also a King. Prophet Yusuf (a.s) was the Aziz of Egypt. Dhurqarnain was a beloved servant of God. Allah also gave him the rulership of east and west. Thus, O people! Fear Allah and follow His commands and prohibitions. Ask those who know about that which you don't know. The ignorant are always of lesser status than the people of knowledge.”