Prohibition of Recording of Traditions

The Sunnis themselves have created a situation which has weakened their case. Umar disallowed the writing of traditions (Ahadith). This is a historical fact, not a story invented by any hostile Shi'ah. It is admitted by the European Orientalists also who are neither the Shi'ah nor the Sunnis. Even the most sympathetic Orientalists say that Umar disallowed the writing of traditions because of his fear that tradition would divert the attention of the people from the Qur'an, which he wanted to be the sole source of law. This is definitely a historical fact and not an allegation of the Shi'ites.

During the days of Umar nobody could venture to write a Prophetic tradition and show his writing to others. Oral transmission of traditions was of course allowed. This situation continued till the time of Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz, who became Caliph in 99 A.H. and died in 101 A.H. He issued instructions that Prophetic traditions should be collected and put down in writing.

Thus he changed Umar's policy. It is to be noted that immediately following Umar ibn Abdul Aziz's instructions those who were so far transmitting Prophetic traditions orally, undertook the work of writing them, but in the meanwhile a part of them had already been lost.

We know that the rules of Islamic law mentioned in the Qur'an are very brief. The Qur'an mostly mentions general rules only. For example, the Qur'an lays great stress on prayers. But still all that it says about them does not go beyond saying:

"Establish prayers, prostrate and bow down."

Even it has not been explained how prayers are to be offered. Similarly there are so many rites connected with pilgrimage. The Holy Prophet personally observed them. Had not the Prophetic traditions assumed the present practical form, the Muslims could not know anything about them. But the question is what opportunities the Holy Prophet had to enunciate all the Islamic injunctions. During his 13 years' stay in Makkah because of stern opposition and very tight situation there, the number of those who were converted to Islam could not probably exceed 400. People used to meet the Holy Prophet only secretly. Some 70 families which constituted half or even more than half of the total population of the Muslims, had to migrate to Ethiopia.

From this point of view Medina was a better place, but there the Holy Prophet had so many other commitments. Even if he worked like a whole-time teacher, during all these 23 years he did not have enough time at his disposal to impart all the teachings of Islam, especially in view of the fact that Islam is a complete code of human life particularly in our present age.

Use of Analogy

As a result of what they hold in this connection, the Sunnis had to face many practical difficulties in regard to the rules of Islamic law. They came across questions about which nothing was mentioned in the Qur'an. They checked the collections of traditions which they had, but there also they did not find the answer. What to do then? To solve the problem they resorted to analogy which means to extend on the basis of some existing similarity the rule of a text to a case not provided for in the Quran and the Sunnah.

For example we say that the law says so in that case. As this case is somewhat similar to that, the same rule should apply to this case also. Possibly, in that case the Holy Prophet gave that particular order for such and such reason and as that reason exists in this case also, the same order should apply to it also.

As may be seen, the analogical deduction is based on possibilities only. The cases where Prophetic traditions were not available were too many. The world of Islam greatly extended during the Abbasid period. Many countries were conquered. Consequently new problems arose everyday; the solution of which was not found in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. The result was that analogical deduction became a regular practice. The Sunnis were divided into two groups. The first group which included Ahmad ibn Hambal and Malik ibn Anas, looked at analogical deduction with suspicion.

It is said that Malik ibn Anas resorted to this process only in two cases. The other group which included Abu Hanifah made use of analogy on a too wide scale. Abu Hanifah used to say that the sayings attributed to the Holy Prophet were not reliable. He declared that he found only fifteen Prophetic traditions trustworthy. In all other cases he resorted to analogical deduction. Shafi'i had a midway position. In some cases he relied on Prophetic traditions and in others he applied analogy, with the result that he produced a sort of hotchpotch code of law. It is said that Abu Hanifah made so much use of analogy because he was of Irani origin and the Iranians by nature tend to take much interest in mental exercises, and because he lived in Iraq which was far away from Medina, the centre of the traditionalists. Anyhow, he indulged too much in analogy.

A Sunni writer says that one day Abu Hanifah went to a barber.

His beard had a mixture of black and grey hair but the number of the grey hair was not very large. He asked the barber to pull out the grey hair. The barber said: "If grey hair is pulled out, it tends to grow more copiously." Abu Hanifah said: "Then pull out the black hair, for my analogy says that in case grey hair grows copiously if it is pulled out, the same thing should happen in the case of black hair also." But the fact is that if there is any such rule, it applies to grey hair only, not to black hair. Anyhow, Abu Hanifah made similar deductions in the case of jurisprudence also.

Analogy from the Shi'ah Point of View

When we refer to the Shi'ah traditions we find that according to them the need of analogy is felt only because of the wrong notion that the Qur'an and the Sunnah are not enough to provide all the necessary rules of law. The fact is that this notion is totally wrong. We have received such a quantity of Prophetic traditions either directly or through the chosen descendants of the Holy Prophet, that if we refer to the principles laid down therein, we need not resort to analogical deduction at all.

That is the spirit of Imamat from religious point of view.

Islam is not merely a creed or a doctrine. It cannot be said that after its ideology has been enunciated by its founder it only requires a government to implement that ideology. It is a complete code and that position of it must be kept in mind.

No Question of Election in the Presence of an Infallible Imam

From the viewpoint of leadership and rulership the position is that Imam Ali the Holy Prophet's successor who is as infallible as the Prophet himself and who has been designated by him to be his successor, cannot be placed at par with other people. His position is exceptional like that of the Prophet himself.

Therefore in his case there is no room for any election, consultation or any other such thing. In the case of the Prophet nobody ever said that he was only the Messenger of Allah and the people were at liberty to choose him or anybody else to be their ruler. Everybody knew that as he was superhuman and had contact with the Divine world, in his presence there could be no question of any election or selection. After the Holy Prophet also there was no room for any such thing.

He had designated twelve successors to strengthen Islam during the next two or three centuries and to expound it in a way free from every error. In the presence of such persons capable of explaining all the injunctions of Islam, there could be no question of any election etc. Is it reasonable to choose someone else in the presence of a person absolutely infallible and extremely competent and learned in every sense of the word?

Furthermore, when Imam Ali had been appointed an Imam in the sense mentioned by us, worldly leadership was also naturally due to him. In fact the Holy Prophet designated Imam Ali to this assignment because Imam Ali was an Imam and infallible. Anyhow, the case is different during the occultation of the present Imam, for there exists no infallible Imam free to exercise his worldly authority. Similarly the case would have been different if the events of the early period of Islam had not taken place and.

Imam Ali had become Caliph immediately after the Holy Prophet and had been succeeded by Imam Hasan, then by Imam Husayn and so on till the times of the last Imam. In this case there would have been no reason for occultation. After the demise of the last infallible Imam the question of rulership would have assumed a different shape. Then it could be asked how this question is to be solved. Is it or is it not necessary that a jurist fulfilling all the prerequisite conditions should be the ruler? Can people elect their ruler?

As such from the very beginning we should not regard the question of Imamat as a simple question of worldly government. It would be wrong to ask at this stage whether Islam wants a government based on nomination or a government based on election, and then to ask why the Shi'ah advocate a particular form of government. The question is not so simple.

It must be admitted that in the presence of an infallible Imam, nobody else can have a claim to the rulership in the same way as in the presence of the Holy Prophet nobody else could be the ruler. The Holy Prophet had appointed Imam Ali the Imam and as such it was his privilege to be the ruler also. Besides, on several occasion the Holy Prophet made it clear that Imam Ali was to succeed him as the ruler of the Muslims. Anyhow, it is to be remembered that he made this nomination on the basis that Imam Ali was the Imam after him.

Question of Spiritual Wilayat:

Earlier I mentioned a point in which I believe persona and consider it to be a basic doctrine, though it might not be a cardinal principle of Shi'ism. The question is what the special characteristics of the Holy Prophet's position were? What was revealed to him, did it only confine to Divine injunctions; and the fundamental principles and collateral teachings of Islam? Was his knowledge confined to the realities of Islam, or was any other information also communicated to him by Allah?

Is his excellence in regard to piety confined to his being infallible and immune from all errors? Almost the same questions arise in respect of the Imams also. Though they received no revelation from Allah, yet they received thorough knowledge of Islam, through the Holy Prophet and their knowledge was as free from the possibility of any error as that of the Holy Prophet himself. As regards piety, the Imams are also infallible.

Now the question is whether a Prophet or an Imam has besides these features some other. special features or qualities also reposed in his person. Besides religious knowledge what are the other branches of knowledge with which he is endowed? Is it true that the reports about the deeds performed by his Ummah (followers) are presented to the Holy Prophet, and similar reports are also presented to each Imam during his lifetime? Now the present Imam knows, hears and sees everything that happens in the world.

He watches the deeds not of the Shi'ites only but of all people. In this respect there is no difference between a living and a dead Imam. As stated earlier, when you visit the grave of Imam Riza, and greet him, this action takes place as if you are calling on a person living in this world. When you greet the Imam, he hears you and looks at you. That is a manifestation of spiritual Wilayat.

We said earlier that the question of Wilayat is the point where mysticism and Shi'ism meet each other. Their ideas in this respect are very close. The mystics say that in every age there must exist a perfect man whom they call the qutb. The Shi'ah hold that in every age there must be an Imam and religious authority, who is a perfect man. As this question is not a matter of dispute between the Shi'ah and the Sunnis, we do not propose to dwell on it further at this stage. The disputed points are two, namely Imamat in the sense of expounding religion and Imamat in the sense of worldly leadership of the Muslims.

Importance of the Tradition of Thaqalayn

In regard to the question of Imamat, you should not ignore the importance of this tradition. If by chance you have to face a Sunni scholar or even a non-scholar, you should ask him whether the Holy Prophet did or did not utter such a sentence. If he says that he did not, you can put before him so many books of the Sunnis themselves. In fact the Sunni scholars cannot, and generally do not, deny the existence and veracity of such a tradition.29

Then say to him: "The Holy Prophet has designated the Qur'an as the authority No. 1 and his 'descendants' as the authority No. 2. Now tell us who these descendants are."

It may be noted that the Sunnis make no difference between the Holy Prophet's descendants and others. They narrate Prophetic traditions more often on the authority of other companions than on the authority of Imam Ali. Even when they quote Imam Ali, they quote him as a transmitter of a Prophet's tradition, not as an authority.

The Tradition of Ghadir

As we have said, he who is the authority for a religion must also be the leader of that religion. Further, as far as leadership is concerned, the Holy Prophet expressly designated Imam Ali to that. The tradition of Ghadir is an instance of such a declaration. The Ghadir declaration was made by the Holy Prophet on the occasion of the farewell pilgrimage at a place called Ghadir al-Khum.

This pilgrimage was the last Hajj performed by the Holy Prophet. In all probability he did not perform more than one Hajj after the conquest of Makkah, but he performed one 'Umrah before his farewell Pilgrimage. On the occasion of the farewell Pilgrimage he issued a general invitation to all the Muslims to attend that Hajj. When all of them assembled, he delivered sermons on different occasions in the Masjidul Haram, at Arafat, at Mina, outside Mina and at Ghadir al-Khum. After mentioning some other points at Ghadir al-Khum he finally mentioned a point which he greatly emphasized. In our opinion he made it the last point because of this verse which he recited there:

"0 Messenger! Make known that which has been revealed to you from your Lord, for if you do it not, you will not have conveyed His message." (Surah al Ma'idah, 5:67)

The Holy Prophet mentioned many principles of Islam and collateral matters in his sermons which he delivered at Arafat, Mina and Masjidul Haram. On all these occasions he dealt with important matters. But at Ghadir al-Khum he made an announcement about which he said that if he did not make it, all that he had said would become void. Then he said:

"Am I not closer to you than your own selves?"

He was referring to a Qur'anic verse which says:

"The Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves." (Surah al Ahzab 33:6 )

He continued to say

"Do I not have more authority over you than you yourselves have?"

All those who were present said:

"Yes, Messenger of Allah, you have."

Then the Holy Prophet announced:

"This Ali is the master (Maula) of him, whose master I am."

A comprehensive summary of the question of Ghadir was published a few years back at Mashhad in the form of a book by the Society for Publication of Islamic Truths. I have not yet read this book, but those friends of mine who have read it, say that it is a very good book, at least worth reading.

It will require too much space if we attempt to study all the sources of the tradition of Ghadir which we claim to be a mutawatir tradition or the tradition of Thaqalayn, the sources of which Mir Hamid Husayn, the author of the 'Abaqatul Anwar has traced in 400 pages of large size. While dealing with the crux of the problem of Imamat, we would like to make only a brief mention of the authorities on which the Shi'ah base their claim in this regard, although the question might need rather a more elaborate discussion.


  1. Some preachers have made a gross misuse of this tradition, for they invariably use it as a prelude to narrating the misfortunes of the Prophet's chosen descendants. One may think that when the Holy Prophet said that he was leaving two things behind him: the Qur'an and his descendants, what he meant was only that those two things were to be held in high respect and were not to be insulted at all. In fact what the Holy Prophet meant was that he was living behind two authorities to which all religious and social questions were to be referred.

In the concluding part of this tradition the Holy Prophet has said: "So long as you adhere to them, you will not go astray." So the question is that of adherence. The Holy Prophet has declared his descendants equal with the Quran. He himself has said that the Qur'an was the major 'thaqal' and his descendants the minor 'thaqal'.