Posted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 10:56 am Post subject: Ghadir Khum and Qu'ran
As Ismailis we believe that in Ghadir Khum the Prophet (pbuh) declared that Ali would be his spiritual successor and the first in the line of Imams. My understanding is that the Qu'ranic reference to this event occurs in Surah 5 Ayat 67: "O Apostle, deliver (to the people), what has been revealed to thee from thy Lord; and if thou did not do so, then thou hast not delivered His Message, and Allah will protect thee from the people."
According to what I have been taught, the message in question was to announce that Hazrat Ali would be the first Imam. However, as far as I know the actual message/revelation to appoint Ali is itself not in the Qu'ran (the only thing is 5:67 which to me seems like a vague reference to this message).
I have a few questions:
1) Does the Qu'ran contain any explicit messages specifying Ali as the Prophet's successor (or clear messages about the rope of Imamate)? It seems that there are references to the notion of Imamate, but they are vague and easy to misinterpret.
2) If not, is there any commentary on why this revelation is not officially part of the Qu'ran or why the concept of Imamate is not more clearly spelled out in the Qu'ran itself rather than in Hadith (especially considering that the resulting disagreement about these events led to a major schism)?
The Qur'an was revealed for the whole Ummah and not specifically for Shia Islam. The notion of Walaya (devotion to a living guide) is not an easy concept to understand generally. We Ismailis take it for granted because we are born and brought up in a tradition of a living guide. It is only attained by deep search and reflection and hence it is elitist by nature.Since Islam was meant for all interpretations, it follows that the message has to be in a form that would not create conflict in the Umma.
Hence the concept of Imamat is given in symbolic manner so that those who are inclined or have the necessary background can interpret the verses to suite their background and intellectual capacity. It also leaves the door open to those who do not have that capacity.
There has been a lot of discussion on this subject in this forum. In particular, I would like to highlight the following threads.
There is an interesting article below written by an anonymous person who was not born an Ismaili but became one through the hard way of personal search...
DID THE PROPHET
"Muhammad never appointed a successor, and when he died in 632 A.D., there was a power struggle. This resulted in the most important division within the Muslim world"
excerpt from ISLAM & THE WORLD
A few years ago when I read Maurice Bucaille's two compelling books, "THE BIBLE, THE QURAN, AND SCIENCE" and "THE ORIGIN OF MAN", I thought I had reached the end of my search. I thought I had finally seen the light. Thanks to his books, I embraced Islam. Dr. Bucaille is a French scientist and doctor of medicine. I am a Science graduate from the University of Oxford, England. Like me, he was a Christian who converted to Islam impacted by the writings of the Quran. I also read the Quran, and I was convinced that the Quran could not be anything but the word of God and God's final message. I had my mind made up: Suni Islam was the faith I wanted to embrace. Shia Islam was nowhere near my mind, for I had lived through the U.S./Iran hostage crisis in the eighties. Besides, I gauged the authenticity of Suni Islam by its size. "All those 7O% of the total Muslim population cannot be misled or dumb," I pondered. I went by the criterion: the bigger the better. If only I had remembered that according to statistics those who do not use 8O% of their brains are also in majority, then I would not have fallen into the pitfall as I did. Based on this study the bigger cannot necessarily be better.
I shall also admit that I was guilty of stereotyping all Shia sects as similar in their beliefs. I did no research on them and, therefore, made no distinction among them. A little knowledge is certainly a dangerous thing.
Although I faithfully practiced Suni Islam, deep down within me would rise and fall waves of discontent. I felt as though I was groping in the dark. Such a feeling left me frustrated for days. I felt as though there was some kind of a conflict between faith and intellect. I positively knew Islam was the answer to my questions, and yet I could not explain the turmoil inside me. This, eventually, drove me to examine other Islamic sects and by the process of elimination, I finally landed at the Shia Imami Ismaili sect. "Imami" means "with the Imam present". There are several different meanings of the word "Imam." I am using the one, which means "a divinely appointed leader or Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslim sect." After months of intensive soul-searching and extensive research, I renounced the Suni sect and embraced the Shia Imami Ismaili sect. The very first striking characteristic I found was the fact that this sect was so fluid. Before long, all the puzzle pieces fell in places and a clear picture of what I was searching for emerged. Not only rationalism and the Ismaili doctrine were in perfect harmony, but Science and Islam, also, came together, completely conflict-free. The conflict between faith and intellect was happily resolved, and no longer was I beset by any doubts. I repeatedly thanked the Merciful Lord for the inspiration, for Hazrat Bilal did once paraphrase Allah’s words and say:
"It is God, not man, who decides who will believe in Him."
When I read in the above article that the Holy Prophet named no successor, I was just appalled and felt that I had to respond. Please note that the views expressed in this response are strictly my own, and I am responding for the benefit of Ismaili readers, particularly children, to whom I wish to say that they must have done something right to be born in this faith. If only they could imagine the heartache, frustrations, and obstacles that I had to reckon with and overcome before I found this Siratal-Mustaqeem. One regular prayer that every Ismaili Muslim should always remember to offer is: "Ya, Ali, thank You for giving me birth in the Ismaili faith." Ali, by the way, is one of Allah's attributes.
First, it is true Muhammad (S.A.W.) did not appoint his successor. He merely declared his Divinely appointed successor, formally, in front of a massive gathering of pilgrims returning home from the last pilgrimage from Mecca. There is a plethora of evidence, both Shia and Suni, to support this.
Second, there was no power struggle. The designated successor, Ali Abu Talib, quietly waived his own right to Caliphate to keep the nation united.
Third, the word "division" is not quite so accurate a term. Immediately, upon the Prophet's demise, there arose a splinter group that chose to break away from the mainstream which I call Shia Islam, and called itself "Suni"- a term to identify themselves with.
How did this come about in the united Islam after the Prophet's demise? The answer is best explained in the judgment delivered by Mr. Justice Arnold in the High Court of Bombay, on 12th November 1866, in the great lawsuit brought against the 46th Shia Ismaili Imam, Aga Hassanali Shah, and I quote:
The influence of Ayesha, the young and favorite wife of Mohammed, a rancorous enemy of Fatima and Ali, procured the election of her own father Abu Bakr; to Abu Bakr succeeded Omar, and to him Osman, upon whose death, in the year 655 of the Christian era, Ali was at last raised to the Caliphate. He was not even then unopposed; aided by Ayesha, Moawiyah of the family of the Ummayads contested the Caliphate with him, and while the strife was still doubtful, in the year A.D. 66O, Ali was slain by a Kharegite or Muslim fanatic, in the mosque of Cufa, at that time the principal Muslim city on the right or west bank of the Euphrates-- itself long since a ruin, at no great distance from the ruins of Babylon.
Mr. Justice Arnold's judgment further elaborates and explains the tragic murders that followed Hazrat Ali's assassination. His eldest son, Hazrat Hassan was poisoned after nine years of Ali's murder, and his son, Hazrat Hussain, was slain twenty years after his father in Kerbala. Both were the Prophet's beloved grandchildren whom he himself had publicly hailed as "the foremost among the youths of Paradise." How ironical, indeed, that the blood of these two members of "Panj-tan-Paak" was shed not by Jews or Christians or by Serbian Christians the whole Muslim world in the recent past raised an outcry against, but by Muslims, themselves. There was, alas, no outcry, then.
The following are some of the numerous predictions the Prophet is reported to have made regarding "divisions" in Islam in the wake of his death:
-"You will, after my death, revert to the habits of your precursors." (Mishkat)
-"There will be rulers (among you) who will not follow my ways of teaching. (Mishkat)
-"Calamities will fall on your houses, after me, like rain falls." (Mishkat, Muslim, Bukhari)
-"Prejudice and killing will increase in my Umma, after me." (Mishkat, Bukhari, Muslim)
-"Your leaders will lead you astray, and the sword will be drawn and the bloodshed will not stop in my Umma, till the Last Day." (Mishkat, Daood, Tirmidhi)
-"Intrigue will start from my mosque (in Medina)." (Al-Belaghul Mobin)
-"Immediately after me, there will be rulers who will lead you to kufr and if you will refuse to follow them, they will kill you." (Al-Belaghul Mobin, p. 43)
-"Monkeys will jump on my mimber (pulpit) in the mosque." The Holy Prophet was shown a vision about this. (See Quran Ch. 17 v. 6O). The Omayyad rulers are referred to as monkeys by the Prophet and as the "Accursed Tree" in the Holy Quran.
-"In the near future, you will see that ignorance will spread, spiritual knowledge will disappear and "haraj" will prevail." When asked, what "haraj" was, the Prophet said: "killing." (Al-Belaghul Mobin, p. 43)
-"At the Kauther, some persons will come to see me but they will be repulsed. I will say, "O Allah, they are my companions. Allah will reply: "You do not know how they had made mockery of the religion (Islam) after you." I will then shout, "Go away." (Al-belaghul Mobin, p. 46)
-"There will be a jamat in my Umma who will always remain on Siratal-Mustaqeem. Many will try to destroy this jamat in vain. At last Islam will spread all over the world." (Mishkat No. 5145; also Abu Daood).
Reader is advised to read "Tarikhe Tabari" Volume 4, in the chapter "Events from 4O to 132 A.H." This is an account of the way the Omayyad rulers bought the iman of the Muslim subjects. Tabari, by the way, is a well-known Suni hadith reporter.
The Prophet's Islam was Shia Islam as was Abraham's Islam, Moses’ Islam, and Jesus’ Islam. Abraham has been called a Shia -a friend of God - in the Quran. So Shia Islam is not just 14OO years old. The need to publicly use this label of "Shia" arose only when the self-seeking group decided to break away from the Shia main stream. Consequently, there arose a need to distinguish the Islam of the Prophet from that of the dissidents. Hence, the use of the labels "Shia" and "Suni". We can conclude that the application of the word "Shia" is at least as old as Abraham himself -about 5OOO years - while that of "Suni" is only about 14OO years old. And, since we accept all the prophets before Abraham as Allah's friends, they can all be called "Shias". Besides, the word "Shia" has its origin in the Quran, so it is part of divine revelation while the word "Suni" is not.
14OO years ago, the Quran enjoined on the believers to make their will and testament during their lifetime. And yet, here it is alleged that the Prophet himself was guilty of failing to abide by the Quranic injunction. It would baffle any sane mind to think that the Prophet, who had toiled to transform the Arab nation from its barbaric state to a civilized one, would leave it unattended and uncared-for upon his demise. While even the head of an average household does worry about his loved ones and takes care to make known how he wants his affairs to be managed in his absence should he become deceased, this great Prophet of Allah, who preached making of a will mandatory, allegedly did not worry about the future of his beloved Muslim Umma (community) and gravely neglected to practice what he himself preached: He himself allegedly omitted to make a will. How absurd, indeed! He is, indirectly, accused of having failed to provide the nation with a successor, thus leaving behind his vast, well-governed, well-organized empire without leadership although it had taken him years of hard work to build it. How inconceivable and unIslamic!
The truth of the matter is that the Prophet did designate his successor - his own flesh and blood and his own cousin who was also his son-in-law: Ali. My assertion here is borne out by the "CONCISE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ISLAM" by Huston Smith. It states:
Ghadir al-Khuum (lit. "the pool of Khuum")An oasis between Mecca and Medina. Returning from the final, "Farewell Pilgrimage" shortly before his death, the Prophet stopped here with his followers. During the afternoon he called an assembly, took Ali's hands, raised them up, and said, "Whoever has me as his master, has Ali as his master." Then he prayed:
"Be a friend to his friends, O Lord, and be an enemy to his enemies; help those who assist him and frustrate those who oppose him."
That was the formal declaration that the Prophet made in such strong words in front of a mammoth crowd of about 14O thousand pilgrims who were also the eyewitnesses of the Prophet's final will.
When on his death bed, the Prophet wished to have his designation of Ali as his successor to be committed to writing and for this reason he asked for paper and pen several times, but those such as Omar and Abu-Bakkar kept ignoring him for they very well knew why the Prophet was repeatedly asking for pen and paper. The two also asked others who were present to ignore the Prophet who, they said, was delirious and not of sound mind anymore. Omar never wanted Hazrat Ali to succeed the Prophet, Divine will or not. In his statement to Abdulla ibn Abbass, Omar said:
"Indeed, the holy Prophet was never clear about the succession of Ali; but, at times, he exaggerated in praising Ali publicly so much so that we felt that the Holy Prophet was going away from truth. It is also true that I prevented the Holy Prophet before his death from writing a will in favor of Ali. I did it for the sake of Islam. By God of Kaba the Quraish would have never accepted Ali as their ruler. Had Ali become the Caliph, the people of Arabia would have revolted against him. The Holy Prophet understood my intention and therefore he kept quiet."
Omar would openly disobey the Prophet. A year before the conquest of Mecca, Omar was asked by the Prophet to go on a mission to Mecca. Omar refused to go amid enemies without security. Islam is submission to the will of Allah. Allah received our submission through the Prophet. And here, we see the Prophet's companion and future Caliph disobeying Allah and his Prophet. There are several examples of Omar's disobedience, and also of Othman’s.
History records that every single pilgrim, at Ghadir-al-Khum, pledged fealty and allegiance to Ali upon his declaration as Prophet's successor. Even those, who were inwardly hostile to Ali for his great attributes and his exalted position with the Prophet, hypocritically, came forward to congratulate him on his appointment and to take an oath of allegiance to him. The first and foremost to take the oath were Omar and Abu-bakkar, the first two Khalifs. Al-Ghazali, a Suni Muslim, widely known and highly respected for his writings, has testified as true the event of Gadir-al-Khum.
To those, who want to obstinately argue that the Prophet named no successor, I suggest they read the work of Qadi Noman, a learned Ismaili theologian, jurist and philosopher of the tenth century A.D. He quashes the above contention with a cogent argument:
"One who denies a fact is not a witness to the fact. Verily, a witness is one who testifies to a positive fact as true. Thus, when Sunis merely deny that the Prophet named anyone as his successor, they do not testify to anything positive. They merely traverse(oppose) something they disapprove. Their denial does not refute the positive testimony of those eyewitnesses who have themselves heard or seen something. Verily, the eyewitness, or one who has heard the statement himself, is a trustworthy witness, and he who merely says "I have not seen" or "I have not heard" is not a reliable witness."
Soon after the above event, the Prophet passed away. While Ali was occupied with the Prophet's funeral rites, the Prophet's youngest wife Ayesha procured the election of her own father, Abu Bakr as explained by Justice Arnold. Thus came into temporal power a faction that came to be known as "Sunis". Those true to their pledge to Ali stayed steadfast and came to be publicly known as "Shias".
Funeral rites over, Ali became abreast of the new developments. In the interest of national unity, Ali chose to refrain from pressing his claim to temporal authority although he had inherited both, the temporal and spiritual authority. In his wisdom, pressing his claim would mean a national disaster, civil strife, and reversion to the anarchy of the pre-Islamic period. It would mean hardship, destitution and disease for his now prosperous nation. It would mean working against the cause of Islam rather than for it. It would mean undoing all that the Prophet had done and lived for.
Let us recall the glowing tribute Edward Gibbon, a Christian historian has paid the Prophet for what he had accomplished during his lifetime:
"Through Islam, Muhammad banished from the Arabs within ten years, their hard heartedness, spirit of revenge, anarchy, female degradation, rivalry, lawlessness, usury, drunkenness, infanticide murderous quarrel, and human sacrifice as well as all stupid superstitions and fetishes. Through that religion, he brought down upon this very earth "The Kingdom of Heaven" so fondly coveted by Jesus."
The thoughts of temporal power and a desire for self-aggrandizement were far from Ali's mind. On the contrary, this noble and magnanimous man not only forewent his right to temporal authority but also co-operated and worked hand in hand with the Suni Caliphs for the advancement of the nation for many years. History records countless instances where Ali's wisdom intervened to avert a miscarriage of justice in the reign of the first three caliphs every time a case was tried based on their (caliphs') interpretation of the Quran, so much so that one day Omar publicly regretted his role in bringing Abu-Bakkar to power.
In the absence of power struggle and civil strife, the country progressed by leaps and bounds and Suni Islam spread far and wide with Ali's collaboration under Suni Caliphs. I have yet to hear of an example of self-sacrifice of such magnitude! Ali, the legitimate heir who was the head of the Shia sect himself, allowed all this to happen in order that the countrymen might enjoy economic prosperity, cultural advancement and law and order instead of civil war, suffering and bloodshed. For this and other reasons, 7O% of the world's Muslim population, today, is Suni.
Thus, stripped of his inherited temporal power which was of little consequence to him, Ali retained his inalienable spiritual authority, divinely vested in him, over those who kept their allegiance to him, and interpreted the faith, esoterically, for them. In the Shia tradition, the interpretation of the faith has always been the sole prerogative of a hereditary Imam. Hence, in the Shia Ismaili sect of Islam, no believer, no matter how well-versed in the matters of faith, would ever offer interpretation on the faith. The hereditary Imam does it for his followers and has been doing it for the last 14OO years. The hereditary Imam is the pivot around which his followers revolve. Consequently, on the matters of faith there are no divisions or disagreements among Ismaili believers.
Now let us examine what kind of a man Ali (A.S.) was! Out of innumerable tributes paid to Ali (A.S.) by great historians, I am quoting just a few.
Gibbon, in "THE HISTORY OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE(VOL.V)" writes:
"The zeal and virtues of Ali were never outstripped by any recent proselyte. He united the qualifications of a poet, a soldier, and a saint. His wisdom still breathes in a collection of moral and religious sayings; and every antagonist in the combats of tongue or sword was subdued by his eloquence and valor. From the first hour of mission to the last rites of his funeral, the Apostle was never forsaken by this generous friend whom he delighted to name his brother, his vicegerent and the faithful Aaron of second Moses."
Another philosopher and historian Kamil Hatha writes:
"Ali's personality is very prominent on account of his transcending and high qualities. Each aspect of his life is so lofty and glorious that a study of one phase would make you feel that it was the best phase of his character and the most beautiful picture of his personality, while contemplation of any other phase will enchant you more and you will come to the conclusion that no human being can attain that height, and a third aspect will fascinate you equally and you will realize that before you is a personality of such great eminence that you cannot fully appreciate its greatness and you will feel that Ali was an Imam(leader) in religion, and also an Imam (leader) in ethics, philosophy, literature, learning and wisdom."
Historian John J. Poole (author of "The Life of H.M. Queen Victoria), writes in his book "STUDIES IN MOHAMMADISM":
"This prince was a mild and forbearing character, wise in counsel and bold in war. Mohammad had given him the surname of the "Lion of God."
George Gordon, a famous Christian historian, linguist, philosopher and poet, well-versed in English, German, Latin, French and Persian writes:
"One cannot praise Ali to the extent that he deserves. Many instances of his piety and fear of God are cited that one starts loving and venerating him. He was a true, strict and scrupulous follower of Islam. His words and deeds bore stamps of nobility, sagacity, and courage of conviction. He was a great man, having his own independent views about life and its problems. He never deceived, misled, or betrayed anybody. In various phases and periods of his life, he exhibited marvelous strength of body and mind which were due to his true faith in religion and his sincere belief in truth and justice."
Abdullah Yusufali Ali, a Suni commentator writes in his translation of the Holy Quran, page 1O.
"Khadija believed, exalted in faith above all women. Ali, the well beloved, then a child of ten, but lion-hearted, plighted his faith, and became from that moment the right hand of Islam."
In spite of having, in his own household, a man of such distinction and stature as Ali (A.S.), whom he delighted to call his alter ego, his "brother", his "vicegerent", "Aaron", and also the "gate to the city of knowledge", the Prophet, allegedly, chose to name no successor. We are asked to believe that the Prophet would much rather have his beloved country go to rack and ruin than designate a guardian to safeguard it! How absurd! It is hard for a rational mind to accept such a preposterous argument! In fact, he had declared Ali as his successor at every opportune moment, informally, and at the last pilgrimage, formally. The very first time Ali was declared the Prophet's successor by the Prophet was when Ali was only thirteen. This was at a feast held at the Prophet's house where only the Prophet's close relatives were invited at Allah’s behest. The main purpose of the gathering was to invite them to Islam. When the Prophet advised the gathering to listen to Ali, quite a few scoffed and left, including the Prophet's uncles.
The Prophet had won nearly all his battles thanks to the valor of Ali. At the time when the battle of Khyber was being fought, Ali was ill and in bed. When the Prophet found himself quickly losing ground against the enemy, he assigned the command to Abu-bakkar who returned, ineffective; then he sent Omar to lead the army and he, also, returned, ineffective. The Prophet got worried because the very existence of Islam depended on the outcome of this battle. Victory was nowhere in sight. As a last resort, the Prophet became constrained to summon Ali from his home. The sick Ali appeared forthwith, led the army, took the fort by storm, and he, himself, single-handedly slew his redoubtable adversaries. He broke down the gate of the fort, held it while his army passed over it, and within four hours inflicted a crushing defeat on the enemy and had the Prophet's flag flying. Islam was saved.
Upon this victory, a jubilant Prophet, dashed to greet the victor, embraced him and said:
"O, Ali! It will suffice to say that you are from me and I am from you; you will inherit me and I will inherit you; you are unto me what Aaron was unto Moses; you will fight for my cause; you will be nearest to me on the Day of Judgment; you will be next to me at the fountain of Kauthar; enmity against you is enmity against me; a war against you is a war against me; your friendship is my friendship; to be at peace with you is to be at peace with me; your flesh is my flesh; your blood is my blood; obedience to you is obedience to me. Truth is on your tongue, in your heart and in your mind. You have as much faith in God as I have. I am the city of knowledge and you are the gate to that city. As per orders of God, I give you these tidings that your friends will be rewarded in Heaven and your enemies will be punished in Hell."
(from Nahjul Balagaha)
After reading the above exuberant outpouring of the Prophet, not even the most credulous from amongst us would believe that the Holy Prophet named no successor after him.
While I practiced Suni Islam, I was programmed to believe that among the Prophet’s companions, Hazrat Abu-Bakkar, Omar, and Othman were the greatest of Muslims. But, history revealed Ali (A.S.) to be the only invincible champion of Islam. His piety and his service for the cause of Islam have not been surpassed by any Muslim to this day. And yet, one day, I heard an irrational statement made on the Vision TV channel where it was said Hazrat Abu-Bakkar was second to Prophet Muhammad. It was also said that he alone accompanied the Prophet to escape to Medina when the Prophet fled from his deadly enemies in Mecca. The TV preacher also paid a glowing tribute to Abu-Bakkar for his courage in accompanying the prophet in this flight. The TV preacher omitted to disclose that Abu-Bakkar had accidentally run into the fleeing Prophet in the street and felt constrained to accompany him. After they hid in a cave, Abu-Bakkar kept trembling with fear lest they be tracked down and killed. But, the Prophet kept comforting him and assuring him that the Almighty Allah would protect them and that he should not worry. Abu-Bakkar's this act of accompanying the Prophet on this flight was considered a great feat.
Now, compare Abu-Bakkar's feat with that of Ali's! Ali (A.S.), at age 25, actually, posed as the Prophet and risked his own life when he slept in the Prophet's bed on the night of the planned assassination of the Prophet. Ali knew death was certain and yet he arranged for the Prophet's flight to Medina and willingly and courageously offered to sleep in his bed. When the Meccan enemies invaded the Prophet's residence and pulled the blanket off the figure that was lying in the bed, they found Ali instead of the Prophet. Disappointed, they left. Now, who performed a greater feat? Compare the mettle of the two: Ali's with that of Abu-Bakkar's! Ali, who was still in his twenties, lay in bed, undaunted. While, Abu-Bakkar, who was a middle-aged man, sheltered in a cave with Allah's Prophet, was scared for his life and needed to be comforted by the Prophet. Ali was in imminent danger of death, while Abu-Bakkar was far removed from it. What bothers me is denying credit where it is really due. Now, you will understand why I found Shia Ismaili Islam appealing to the intellect.
Just imagine what might have happened to the budding Islam if Ali (A.S.) had not occupied the Prophet's bed that night! And, isn't that day the beginning of the Islamic Calendar?
The battle of Badar and Ohad were won by Ali and his uncle Hamza. Omar and Othman did not participate in the battle of Badar.
And, also, imagine what might have happened to the budding Islam if Ali (A.S.) had not saved it in the nick of time during the Khayber war in which Abu-Bakkar and Omar proved, themselves, totally, ineffective generals. Ali (A.S.) had to be urgently summoned to assume the generalship. Yet, unIslamic (irrational) statements of praise are made in favor of Abu-Bakkar. I'm sure, lots of new converts to Suni Islam, if they are intellectuals, will grow dissatisfied and frustrated, till they eventually find Ismailism.
While we are on the subject of Ali's unsurpassed all-round superiority, I would now like to demonstrate to the reader a perspective why Ali (A.S.) was not only superior to all the Prophet's companions but also to Allah's major prophets, such as Adam (A.S.), Noah (A.S.), Abraham (A.S.), Moses (A.S.), Jesus (A.S.), and even Muhammad (A.S.). Courtesy of Bahadur Rajani’s lecture translated for me in English by an Ismaili brother.
1. Hazrat Adam and Hava (Eve) were placed in heaven with everything at their disposal. Adam was appointed Allah's first prophet and had the honor to receive prostration from the angels. He had to be a role model but instead he ate a grain of wheat forbidden to him and thus committed a transgression of Allah's command. Allah had placed him in Paradise and yet he disobeyed and ate the wheat.
While, Ali (A.S.), who was not prophet, who was not forbidden wheat, and who had no paradise to live in, did of his own free will deny himself the joy of eating any product made from wheat. History records that Ali would eat bread made from barley but not wheat. Even the Prophet is known to have consumed only about 6.5 Kg. of wheat during his lifetime. He feared his total abstinence would send the Umma a wrong message and the Umma would, consequently, abstain from wheat, too. But, Ali (A.S.) consumed no wheat, at all, during his life-time. Although there was no divine ban on wheat for Ali, he controlled his urge to consume it; while Hazrat Adam, in spite of the divine ban on wheat, could not control his urge to consume it. Therefore, Ali (A.S.) is superior to Hazrat Adam.
2. Hazrat Noah got sick and tired of people during his mission. People tormented him and tried to frustrate his mission. He lost his patience and prayed for Allah's curse on those people, and consequently, Allah had to send the big flood as punishment and wipe out a large population of mankind.
While, Ali (A.S.) invoked no curse on any of the first three Caliphs who usurped his rights. On the contrary, he helped every Caliph in the affairs of the state. Eventually, upon Othman's death, he accepted the caliphate at the instance of people. Those, hostile to him, joined with Ayesha, the Prophet's youngest wife, in the battle of Jamal to fight against him. Yet, Ali invoked no curse on them. When Ali was slain in the mosque, he took compassion on his assailant when he was caught and brought before him. Ali offered him his own drink when he found his assailant out of breath. Ali (A.S.) showed more compassion and forbearance to his enemies than Hazrat Noah, and so he was superior to Hazrat Noah.
3. Abraham (AS)
When told Allah could bring back to life any life He has once destroyed, Abraham found it hard to believe, and questioned Allah how He could possibly do that! In the Quran, Allah demonstrates His power by the example of resurrecting the birds that Abraham was first asked to annihilate. Only after this demonstration was Abraham satisfied and convinced of Allah's omnipotence.
While, on the other hand, when Ali (A.S.) and others in the Umma were informed by the Prophet that he (Prophet) had meraj and that he visited seven heavens and all this in a matter of minutes, all but Ali reacted with total disbelief. Ali not only readily believed but also convinced others to believe in the 'meraj' of the Prophet.
Ali was not Allah's prophet and hence free to disbelieve the Prophet and even Allah. Abraham was Allah's prophet and not free to disbelieve. Ali believed in the meraj account readily though it came from not Allah but Allah's prophet, while Abraham refused to believe what came to him straight from Allah Himself, let alone His prophet. Consequently, Allah had to demonstrate His omnipotence to the disbelieving Abraham. Hence Ali (A.S.) was superior to Abraham (A.S.)
4. Moses (AS)
When Moses was asked by Allah to go free his people, he expressed hesitation and argued he might be killed by the Pharaoh for having killed an Egyptian when in Egypt. Rather than go alone into an enemy country, a scared Moses asked Allah to let his brother Haroon join him for help and support, to which Allah agreed.
While Ali, though not Allah's prophet, readily and without hesitation or argument accepted from the Prophet the order to go amid the hostile people of Mecca and read to them Suratul Tobbah from the roof-top of Kabbah. Ali could have easily refused to go because, unlike Moses', his order was not from Allah. And yet, like Moses, Ali expressed no fear of personal safety. He had killed lots of Meccans during the wars not just one enemy as Moses had. Yet, no fear of enemy reprisal kept Ali from carrying out the Prophet's command. He was so young and yet, like Moses, he asked for no companion for help, support, or protection on this dangerous mission as had Moses. Moses had Allah as his guardian since he was under Allah's command while Ali had no Allah as his guardian for he was not under Allah's command. And yet, we see that Ali (A.S.) surpasses Moses in his readiness and courage to undertake the daring, life-threatening mission just to please Allah's Prophet! Can Abu-Bakkar or his likes ever rank with Ali? Can they ever, when Allah's prophets, themselves, have faded beside him?
5. Jesus (AS)
When Jesus was due to be born, Mary went from house to house for shelter, but all doors were shut against her by the residents who thought she would be a bad example to their children. Poor Mary, in pain and distress, desolate and forsaken, had to take refuge in a stable, according to the Bible, where she gave birth to Jesus among animals in unclean surroundings. According to the Quran, Mary retired to a “remote place” under a date palm where she gave birth to Jesus.
Contrary to this, Fatima-binte-Asad, the pregnant wife of Hazrat Abu-Talib was invited by Allah to take shelter in Kabba-Tullah when Ali was about to be born. Fatima-binte-Asad was right by Kaba-Tullah when her labor pains started. She did not know what to do. Kaba-Tullah stayed locked during this season. But, soon she heard a voice asking her to take shelter inside. How could she go in? The door was locked! History records that one of the walls split open to afford her entry. Once she was inside, the wall closed, and soon Ali (A.S.) was born.
On one hand the mother of Allah's mighty prophet, Jesus, was abandoned and left forlorn, so much so that she had to bear her child under a date palm. While on the other hand, Allah was pleased to see Ali (A.S.) born in a holy place such as Kaba-Tullah, and decades later also die a martyr after being slain while praying in a mosque.
• Ali (A.S.) was not Allah's prophet or messenger but Jesus was!
• Ali (A.S.) was not born of Immaculate Conception, but Jesus was!
• Allah sent no scriptures upon Ali (A.S.) but He did on Jesus.
And yet, the above incident clearly indicates that Allah made no divine intervention to alleviate Mary's plight but was pleased to shelter Ali's mother in His own house, and was also pleased to see Ali born there. Why was there such a preferential treatment for Ali's mother and not Jesus' mother? It was Mary who, according to the Quran, was "chosen above women of all nations". How does a stable or a date palm compare with Kaba-Tullaha for a birthplace? Is it then worth our while to read idle, baseless comparisons between Ali (A.S.) and his three preceding Caliphs when the divinely appointed prophets, themselves, have fallen short of the exalted status that only Ali (AS) was blessed to enjoy?
6. Muhammad (AS)
In Hadise-Qudsi, Allah says:
O Muhammad, if it were not for you, I would not have created the world. And, if it were not for Ali, I would not have created you.
In this ayat Allah places Ali (A.S.) above Muhammad (A.S.). Yet, we are told by Mullahs that the three Caliphs were superior to Ali. Who am I going to listen to? Allah or Mullah? How would you reconcile the following?
• When a child, Ali slept with Muhammad for several years in his bed and was the Prophet's flesh and blood and his adopted son. And yet, we are told Abu-Bakkar was dearer and closer to Muhammad and fit to succeed him
• Although only thirteen, Ali was the first one to offer his services to Islam in answer to the Prophet's call during a family feast. And yet, we are told Abu-Bakkar was dearer and closer to Muhammad.
• Ali was the second formal convert but a born Muslim, like the Prophet himself, while Abu-Bakkar was 51st on the list of converts and a pagan by birth. And yet, we are told Abu-Bakkar was dearer and closer to the Prophet.
• According to a number of well known hadiths, the Prophet had proclaimed that “Ali and I are from the same light (Noor)”
• Almost all the wars of Islam were won through the valor of Ali (A.S.). In fact, Islam survived thanks to Ali, and yet we are told Abu-Bakkar was dearer and closer to Muhammad.
• Among many suitors for the hand of Fatimah, Abu-Bakkar was one, too. They were all turned down with the answer from the Prophet: "Fatimah is still young."When Ali (A.S.) proposed, the Prophet, joyfully, gathered the people and said: "Allah has chosen Ali for Fatimah's husband." Strangely enough, Fatimah was no longer "still young." Abu-Bakkar was turned down. And yet, we are told Abu-Bakkar was dearer and closer to Muhammad.
• Ali slept in the Prophet's bed on the night of the planned assassination of the prophet, and thus had him sent to safety. The young Ali neither hesitated, trembled, or faltered. And yet, we are told Abu-Bakkar was dearer and closer to Muhammad and fit to succeed him.
• The day of the Prophet's escape is the beginning of our Islamic calendar (Hijra). Who should we thank for making our Islamic calendar possible? Ali (A.S.), who made the Prophet's escape possible and successful? Or, Abu-Bakkar, who merely joined in the escape only to exacerbate the tension of the fleeing prophet by his nervous timidity in the cave where the Prophet had to try to comfort him and calm him down?
• At the time of establishing “Second Brotherhood” in Medina, the Prophet picked for every refugee Muhajir a brother from amongst the host Ansars of Medina. When every single refugee Muhajir was matched with every single Ansar, Ali (A.S.) lamented that he was the only one left out. Where upon the Prophet, 30 years his senior, turned to Ali (A.S.), placed his hand on his shoulder and declared, “O Ali, you are MY brother in this world and the next.” Yet, we are told Abu Bakkr was fit to succeed the Prophet and that he was dearer and closer to Muhammad. If it really is true, then I must exercise my freedom of expression and say the Prophet's sense of fairness and gratitude was twisted. The Prophet's alleged misplaced partiality for Abu-Bakkar doesn't make any sense to me and hence it is unIslamic! But, then, can the Prophet of Islam ever be unIslamic?
• At the time of confrontation with the Christians of Nazareth, it was Ali's family -the Prophet, Ali, Fatimah, Hassan, and Hussain- that went for the showdown. The Quran confirms this incident. The Christian adversaries took flight upon seeing the Prophet and his Ahlal-Bayt. Abu-Bakkar was not part of this group nor was Ayesha, his daughter, and yet we are told he was closer and dearer to the Prophet.
• Quite a few close companions of the Prophet enjoyed the privilege of having one door of their residence opening directly into the adjoining masjid to gain direct access to the masjid. One day the Prophet told all of them to seal up their connecting entrances and access the masjid like all other Muslims in town. He said that it was Allah’s decision to withdraw this privilege and ban them the direct access to the mosque except for Ali (A.S.). Yet we are told Abu-Bakkr was dearer and closer to the Prophet.
• Abu-Bakkar made no positive contribution in the victory of Kayber, which was to decide the ultimate fate of Islam. After he and Omar failed and returned ineffective as generals, poor Ali who was not participating in this war had to be summoned by the Prophet as Islam's last hope. Although ill, Ali hurried to the battlefield and in a matter of few hours inflicted a crushing defeat on the enemy and had the Prophet's flag flying. Islam was saved, again, by Ali. And yet, we are told Abu-Bakkar was dearer and closer to Muhammad.
• The Prophet, who sent Abu-Bakkar on a vital mission to deliver ayats of Suratul - Tobbah to hostile kafirs of Mecca, was ordered by Allah to recall him (Abu-Bakkar) and retrieve from him the ayats because Allah wanted the Prophet to assign this important task only to one who was "from the Prophet and Allah" simultaneously. So, the Prophet asked Ali (A.S.) to go on the mission, instead. And yet, we are told that Ali (A.S.), though “from Allah,” was not fit to succeed the Prophet.
• The Prophet's appellation was "Maheboob-e-Khuda- "the beloved of Allah." And yet Allah dealt sternly and threateningly with His beloved when he delayed Ali's proclamation as his successor. He was warned and threatened in strong terms (Quran 5:7O) by an angry Allah Who would not name or perfect his (Muhammad’s) religion until Ali’s proclamation was carried out. And yet, astonishingly enough, when Ali (A.S.) omitted to utter "Bismillah-hir-Rahemanir-Rahim" before delivering Suratul-Tobbah to Meccan kafirs, it caused Allah no anger for this major omission, and Allah accepted the ayat in the Holy Quran just as Ali (A.S.) chose to deliver it to the kafirs of Mecca. This incident proves that if the Prophet was "Maheboob-e-Khuda," then Ali was many times more so. And yet, we are, irrationally, asked to believe Abu-Bakkar was dearer and closer to the Prophet.
• Among Ali's many appellations were:
1. "Vaj-hu-Allah" which means the face of Allah
2. "Amirul-Muominin" - Leader of the faithful
3. "Shere-Khuda" - Allah's Lion
4. "Saqi-e-Quasar or Kauthar"
And yet, we are told Abu-Bakkar was dearer and closer to the Prophet and hence worthy to succeed him.
• Ali's wife was Khatune-Jannat - Lady of Paradise; his two sons were "youths of paradise". And yet we are told it was not Ali but Abu-Bakkar that was closer and dearer to the Prophet and fit to succeed him.
Some Sunis say, Abu-Bakkar was closer and dearer to the Prophet because Abu-Bakkar was the Prophet's father-in-law. But, the Prophet had several other fathers-in-law. Omar, also, was the Prophet's father-in-law. What made Abu-Bakkar so special? And how many of us, sons-in-law hold our own fathers-in-law so dear and close to our hearts in defiance to the love for our own children? Do you? I don't! From time immemorial in-laws, generally, on either side have been considered a nuisance and yet we are told that Abu-Bakkar was closer and dearer to the Prophet than the Prophet's own flesh and blood, Ali (A.S.) who was his dear cousin, whom he had raised, and his only daughter's husband, who was chosen by Allah for his daughter, who was Aaron (Haroon) to him and who was declaredly his inheritor. And yet we are told Abu-Bakkr was fit to succeed him. It does not make any sense to me. And, anything that doesn't make sense to me is unIslamic to me. Now you know why Ismaili Islam was the only answer to all my questions.
The Zaboor, Tora, Bible, and Quran contain references pertaining to Ali (A.S.), and yet, we are told Abu-Bakkar was dearer and closer to the Prophet and so entitled to succeed him.
On various occasions, during his lifetime, the Holy Prophet addressed Ali (A.S) by different appellations, a few of which were:
My Deputy; my Vicegerent; my brother; Aaron; my heir; God's Lion; Murtaza (the chosen one); Amir-ul-Momineen (the Commander of the faithful) etc.
With all this very strong evidence at our disposal, it is unlikely for any rational mind to be convinced that the Holy Prophet named no successor to tend his sheep. In fact, Ali's appointment was divine. On his way home from the Farewell Pilgrimage, the Holy Prophet received a very important revelation:
"Oh Apostle! Proclaim the message which hath been sent unto thee from thy Lord. If thou didst not, thou wouldst not have fulfilled and proclaimed His mission (Quran: 5:7O)
Allah admonished the Prophet for having delayed the formal proclamation of Ali as his successor. The divine revelation threatened to erase his total mission of twenty plus years if he delayed the declaration any longer. Where upon, the Prophet had the homebound pilgrims halted in their tracks. Those who had preceded were called back. He gathered them together, had a make-shift stage of camel saddles built. He climbed up on it, with Ali by his side. He held Ali's hands high and formally declared him as their master and his own successor. The Muslim community was ordered to obey and serve Ali as their master, and his descendants after him. Numerous historians, both Shia and Suni, have recorded this event in great detail, but it is beyond the scope of this essay to include them here. Thus, the Holy Prophet conveyed to the audience the Divine revelation. As aforementioned, this is attested by Huston Smith in "The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam." Therefore, technically, it is even wrong to say Ali was appointed by the Prophet. The Prophet merely proclaimed Ali's Divine appointment.
As soon as this declaration was made, the last and final revelation came to the Prophet:
"Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam for your religion."(Quran: 5:4)
Strangely enough, for over 2O years, the Holy Prophet taught an imperfect religion.
Strangely enough, for over twenty years the Holy Prophet and his Umma (followers) enjoyed Allah's incomplete blessing.
Strangely enough, for over 2O years, the Holy Prophet taught a nameless religion.
The Prophet’s religion became complete and perfect only upon Ali's declaration as the Prophet's successor. It became christened (named) only upon becoming perfect.
Long before the arrival of the above revelation, the "Five Pillars" of Islam- Shahada, Namaz, Zakat, Fasting during Ramadhan, Pilgrimage to Mecca- had already been prescribed through revelation. Devout Muslims observed them religiously, and yet never did they know they were practicing a nameless religion that was not yet perfect and needed Allah's blessing. The "Five Pillars" could not crown this great religion with perfection. Then what did? Only Ali's proclamation by the Prophet as his successor!
Based on the above last and final and very crucial revelation, we can now positively conclude that Ali (A.S.) is at the center or core of Islam; Islam is no Islam without Ali; Islam without Ali is like a body (corpse) without a soul (spirit); Islam without Ali is like a body without a brain. Let us see what Ali himself has to say about the Ahl al- Bayat (the descendants of the Prophet and Ali), in one of his own sermons in "Nahjul-Balagha.":
"Remember that the descendants of the Holy Prophet (A.S.) are the stars in the heaven; if one sets, the other will rise to illumine your path; the merciful Lord has thus completed His blessings amongst you. And I have now explained to you the things that you wanted to understand."
How wonderfully consistent is the above statement by Ali with God's final revelation!
Here is more from Ali:
"Remember, that we are the Ahl al-Bayt of the Holy Prophet. We are his true companions; we are trustees and treasurers of the knowledge granted to him and we are the doors through which one can reach this store house of wisdom and learning. It is unlawful to enter a house but through its door, and he who disregards this principle is a trespasser or a thief.
The Ahl al-Bayt own and possess in their deeds and words the excellence and nobleness which the Holy Quran preaches. They are the treasure-houses of Mercy and Benevolence of God, and they are the sources from which real wisdom and true knowledge, destined by Him for man could be obtained.
Their (successors of Muhammad) speeches contain nothing but truth. If they do not speak about any subject, it is not because they do not know anything about it or anyone else could speak better but simply because it is advisable not to speak then. It is imperative on the man, who has been destined by God, to guide the humanity, to explain things correctly and truly to his followers, should utilize his wisdom for their well-being, should think more of the next world and teach people to attach more importance to it, because they have come from there and have got to go back there."
In another sermon Ali said:
"Learn and remember that Imams are the Caliphs appointed and designated by God to lead and rule human beings. They and only they can guide humanity to Heaven (Heaven - in Shia Ismaili concept, ultimate union with Creator). Only those who recognize the leadership of these Imams and in turn are accepted as true followers will enter Heaven; and those who renounce allegiance to them or are disowned by them will go to Hell (Hell - this could be a life of suffering on earth in addition to the denial of spiritual salvation after death, resulting in the continuation of the birth cycle).
Ali's above statement is supported by a verse in the Holy Quran where Allah says:
"(Oh Prophet) Verily, those who give their allegiance, they give it but to Allah (Himself). Allah's hand is upon their hands. Then he who breaks it, he certainly breaks it against himself. And he who fulfils what he has pledged with Allah, He shall in return reward him in plenty." (Quran: 48:1O)
Like all other preceding prophets, Prophet Muhammad, also, was mortal and had to die some day. Allegiance to Allah had to be continued to be paid. Or else, it would seem Allah favored only the contemporaries of the Prophet but neglected to provide the future generations with an entity to receive allegiance on His behalf. Ali's succession to the Prophet resolved this concern forever. After the Prophet's demise allegiance paid by believers to his designated successors, including Ali, was as good as allegiance paid to Allah, Himself. And this argument is strongly supported by the Quran:
"O ye, who believe, obey God and the messenger and those in authority amongst you." (Quran 4:59)
It is very crucial to understand that "those in authority" or "ulil-amra" are only those "Divinely authorized," in this case the hereditary Imams from the Ahl al-Bayt, and not any Shaykhs or Mullahs, no matter how learned. Allah has never assigned the task of appointing his prophets and Imams (eg. Abraham was both prophet and Imam) to people whose judgment is far from perfect. I was appalled to watch the famous and learned Dr. Qadri on a TV channel exhorting Muslim viewers to appoint "ulil-amra" to lead the Umma of Islam. How would the learned doctor interpret the following verse in which Allah insists on the Imam of the time. The verse is so simple and straightforward. No shaykh is needed to explain it to us.
"On the day (Day of Judgment) when We shall call all groups of people with their Imam."
(Quran: 17; 71)
To persist in trying to confuse the word Imam with such words as scriptures, prophet, law, book of deeds, shaykh, or mullah, etc, by some interpreters or Quran commentators is sheer folly, and I look upon it as a deliberate attempt to mislead those who cannot think for themselves. Because the interpreters (including ulemmas) were not Divinely authorized, different meanings cropped up for the single word Imam. In this way, copies of the Quran are packed with varied interpretations offered by so-called learned scholars who presume to claim authority on the Quran. If I had the grave misfortune to follow such unauthorized scholars instead of my own hereditary Imam from the Prophet's progeny, I would spend the rest of my life in confusion as to which of the items listed above (scriptures, prophet, law, or book of deeds, shaykh, or mullah) I would have to have accompany me to Allah on the Day of Judgment for my redemption! Thus, if the Quran becomes the cause of my grief, instead of comfort and joy, then I want no part of it. The Quran should bring no grief to anyone because Allah assures us Islam is very easy to practice.
Allah, Himself, in His Mercy, undertook to appoint Ali and then had him declared through His mouthpiece that was Muhammad (A.S.). Allah left nothing to chance. History records that at the time of Ali's proclamation at Gadir-al-Khum, the Prophet exhorted the assembled to serve Ali and his descendants with love and loyalty. He said that the Holy Quran and Ali would never separate but would stay together till the Day of Judgment. What is, esoterically, meant by the word Quran here is not the Holy Book, which can easily be interpolated, curtailed, destroyed or distorted as Torah and Injeel were. What is meant is the knowledge of the Quran, which was part and parcel of Ali who was "the gate to the city of knowledge." What the Prophet, esoterically, meant was that Ali and the substance of the Quran were inseparable. This is further supported by the Prophet's hadith (saying): "Ali is with the Quran and the Quran is with Ali." This does not mean that Ali literally went around everywhere with the Holy Book under his arm, but, esoterically, he certainly went around as the embodiment of the Quranic knowledge that had been divinely revealed to the Prophet, whether all of it came to be compiled in the book form in the time of the third Caliph, Othman, is immaterial. At one point Ali, himself, is known to have said that there was not a single Quranic verse that he did not know about or where and when it was revealed.
Ali (A.S.) called himself Quran-e-Natik (speaking Quran) in the battle of Siffin waged against Muawiya. Could Ali be the author of the Quran? There is a tradition among the Suni Muslims that when asked if she ever saw any sign or vision of angel Gabriel bringing messages to the Prophet, Ayesha replied that on several occasions, she had seen bare-footed Salman Farsi come running, and then whisper to the Prophet, and then, a little later the Prophet would gather people and announce that Gabriel had descended with divine messages. Ayesha's statement indicates that Salman was that Gabriel. If this was the case, then who was Salman bringing the messages from? Was he bringing them from Ali? For, Ali, Salman, and the Prophet were all closely attached! Ali (A.S.) has also been called the "gate to the city of knowledge" by the Prophet. Besides, the Prophet used to say, "Salman is from us," that is, from Ahl-alBayat. Such an exalted status was not conferred on any outsiders, not even on any of his own wives. What made Salman so special to be included in the Ahl-alBayat? Ayesha has answered this question for us. Now, it is quite easy to understand why Ali (A.S.) called himself Qurane-Natik in the battle of Siffin.
The Muslims were to hold tightly to the "rope of Allah" as per a Quranic injunction so that they might stay united. Here, the rope, esoterically, denotes the unbroken line of Ali's descendants (legitimate successors only). What a beautiful metaphor! Non-Ismaili Muslims interpret this verse differently.
In one Quranic verse Allah says:
"Allah did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of Imran above all people- a line of descendants, one succeeding the other; and Allah heareth and knoweth all things." (Quran 3:33,34)
The Imran in the above verse is Hazrat Ali's father, Hazrat Abu-Talib. Hazrat Abu-Talib's given name was Imran but he was popularly known as Abu-Talib which means "the father of Talib." Talib was the eldest son of Imran and Ali was the youngest. In the Arabic culture it is quite common to address a person by his son's name or a suitable appellation rather than his given name. Ali himself was known by various appellations.
One day, just before I converted to Ismailism, I asked two of my very learned Suni friends:
"Who is this Imran that Allah has mentioned in the ayat 3:33,34?"
"It is the father of Moses," one replied.
"No! It is the father of Mariam (Mary, the mother of Jesus)," said the other.
"So, should I assume that you have lived 4O years of your life with a misunderstood message? One of you believed it was Moses' father while the other believed it was Jesus' maternal grandfather," I argued.
"I think it was necessary for Allah to clarify which Imran was meant here," said one.
"So, you imply that Allah is in error and guilty of this confusion, don't you? But for me, I don't see any confusion, and hence there is no need for any clarification," I said.
"What do you mean? Can you explain?" said one.
"It is neither Moses' father nor Mary's father that the ayat refers to, here. It is Hazrat Ali's father whose name also was Imran but was popularly known as Hazrat Abu-Talib," I said.
"What is the rationale to conclude that it is Ali's father, Imran, and not Mary's father, Imran, or Moses' father, Imran? one asked.
"Well, examine the above verse," I said, "and we find Adam's family ends where Noah's starts. Noah's family ends where Abraham's starts. Abraham's family ends where Imran's starts. No new family starts after Imran's. Imran's is the only family which has no dead-end, which makes it clear that Imran's family has to continue till the Last Day, and this had to happen through the institution of the Imamat of Ali, the youngest son of Imran."
"But that does not conclusively prove that the Imran in the above verse is Hazrat Ali's father, Abu Talib. It could very well be Moses' or Mary's father," argued the other.
"Let me explain further," I said. "You will notice that Allah has named the chosen families in the ayat in a chronological order. The two Imrans (Moses' father and Mary's father from Abraham's family) are dealt and done with as the predecessors of Muhammad who is also from Abraham's family through Ishmael and with whom Abraham's family ends. So, the Imran mentioned in the above verse has to be one that has to pick up from where Muhammad (A.S.) left off. And, that is what exactly has happened here. Ali, the son of Imran (Abu-Talib) picked up as per the divine will when the Prophet declared him at a location called Ghadir al-Khum, an oasis between Mecca and Medina, and there is no dead-end to his family, so his family will continue till the day of judgment. The above ayat is so crystal clear that there is no need for clarification."
To prove my point further, I said:
"Islam is rational and not irrational. After Abraham's family ended with Muhammad, it would be irrational to turn around and return to either of the other two Imrans from Abraham's family. We have to look for an Imran who was Muhammad’s contemporary. So, Ali's father Imran (Abu-Talib) is the only inevitable answer."
Having considered all the weighty evidence in favor of Ali, it should now become very easy for us to accept as authentic one of the most important hadiths (sayings) of the Holy Prophet where he says:
If love for Ali is not present, the believer's total piety will be reduced to naught as dry sticks of wood are reduced to ashes by fire.
Conversely, if love for Ali is present, the believer's total sins will be reduced to naught as dry sticks of wood are reduced to ashes by fire.
When asked by the Umma what they (Umma) could do in order to show their gratitude for all that the Prophet had done for them, the Prophet received the following revelation to be conveyed to them:
"No reward do I ask of you for this except the love of those near of kin." (Quran 42:23)
The Prophet's "near of kin" were his Ahl al-Bayt: Ali, Fatima, his grandchildren Hassan and Hussein; and all the legitimate hereditary Imams that were to follow till the Day of Judgment.
How amazing! Allah asked for no Namaz (prayers), no Zakat, no Shahada, no Fasting, or no Hajj (pilgrimage) in return for the meritorious services rendered by the Prophet to his Umma! None of the "Five Pillars" of Islam! Only love for the Ahl al-Bayt (the household of Muhammad, which did not include his wives or companions) was asked for! It seems the "Five Pillars", themselves, drew their strength to hold the edifice of Islam in place from the Umma's nurturing love for the Ahl al-Bayt. In the absence of such love, the pillars would simply become negated, feeble, ineffective, and even dangerous. Yes, dangerous! Was it not the absence of love for the Ahl al-Bayt that led Muslims (I dare not say believers) to poison and behead "the youths of Paradise," Hazrat Hassan and Hussain, respectively? Was this the way Allah advised the Umma to repay their Prophet for his meritorious services? And what, may I ask, should be the consequences to the Muslim Umma for such ingratitude!
From among the numerous hadiths related to Ali's position with Allah and the Prophet, I am quoting a few here:
One day, when talking to Umm Salim, an early convert to Islam, the Prophet said, "O 'Umm Salim! The flesh of Ali is from my flesh and his blood is from my blood, and he holds the same position in relation to me as Haroon (Aaron) held in relation to Musa (Moses). (Recorded in Musnad Ahmad, volume 5, p.31)
At the time when the "Second Brotherhood" was being established in Medina after the migration (Hijarat) from Mecca, the Prophet, publicly, adopted Ali as his brother and said:
You hold in relation to me the same position as Haroon (Aaron) held in relation to Musa (Moses) but certainly there will be no prophet after me. (Please refer to Sirat al-Habibiyah, vol. 2. pp 26 & 12O respectively)
There were suitors for Fatimah's hand, including Abu Bakkr. The Prophet would always turn them down by saying, "Fatimah is still very young."
One day the Prophet came out beaming with joy. When inquired by the companions as to the cause of his joy, he replied:
I have received good tidings from my Lord about my brother and son of my uncle, that Allah hath given my daughter Fatimah (A.S.) in marriage to Ali.
Indeed, this one marriage was made in Heaven, wasn't it?
Tabrani has recorded that one day the Prophet said:
O you Ansars-residents of Madina! Let me tell you one thing. If you will rigidly follow it, you will never go astray. Here is Ali! Love him as you love me and be respectful to him as you are respectful to me. What I have told you is certainly the commandment of Allah, the Mighty and Glorious, which Gabriel has conveyed to me.
Ahmad ibn Hanbal, one of the four Suni jurists, has recorded in his Musnad, and Bayhaki in his Sahih that the Prophet said:
He who wants to see Noah in his determination, Adam in his knowledge, Ibrahim in his clemency, Musa in his intelligence, and Jesus in his religious devotion should look at Ali ibn Abu Talib.
The following hadith that pertains to Ahl al-Bayt has been recorded by the Suni imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal on page 94 of his Musnad. It is also found in Kanz al-Ummal on page 217:
Whoever wishes to live and die like me, and to abide in the garden of Eden after death should acknowledge Ali as his patron and follow the Ahl al-Bayt after me, for they are my Ahl al-Bayt and they have been created out of the same substance as myself and endowed with the same knowledge and understanding as myself. Woe unto those followers of mine who will deny the Ahl al-Bayt their distinctions and who will disregard their relationship and affinity with me. May Allah never let them benefit from my intercession.
There is overwhelming evidence available from Suni and Shia sources of Ali's exalted position with Allah as described by the Prophet himself. Let me cite just two, here.
The residences of the Prophet, Ali, and some companions were attached to the mosque, and each residence had a door opening into the mosque. This made it easy for each household members to enter the mosque directly at prayer time. This, also, made the companions look privileged. One day the Prophet grasped Ali's hand and said:
“Moses begged the permission of my Lord for the assistance of Haroon in purifying his mosque, and I have begged the permission of my Lord for your assistance in purifying my mosque.”
Then, the Prophet sent word to Abu Bakkr, asking him to seal up his connecting door. Then to Omar, Othman, and Abbas, and so on. Ali (A.S.) alone was allowed to keep his connecting entrance. Then the Prophet explained to the affected individuals:
“It is Allah's decision that your doors be sealed up and direct access to the mosque barred. Ali, alone, is allowed direct access. This is Allah's decision, not mine.”
The following hadith has been recorded by Hakim in his Sahih al-Mustadrak vol.3, p. 129, and many other traditionists have reported it as genuine. One day the Prophet said to Fatimah:
O Fatimah! Are you not pleased with this, that Allah, the Mighty and Glorious, cast a glance on the dwellers of the earth and selected from them two men, one of them your father and the other your husband.
After these two powerful hadiths I have to be too dumb to be convinced that the Prophet named no successor and therefore Abu Bakkr was fit to succeed him.
It seems Allah never wanted to leave mankind without a living guide as it was not His custom, and so He had the guidance continue in the persons of hereditary Imams who were the descendants of the Holy Prophet.
It, also, seems that Allah was determined, this time, to ensure the sanctity and integrity of His Divine message from interpolation by providing a living Imam, side by side, with the Quran. No incidents of the past interpolations that the Bible and the Torah had gone through were likely in the case of the Quran. Even if it came to the book of the Quran being completely interpolated or destroyed, its message would still endure, intact, in the person of the living Imam from the lineage of the
It, also, seems that Allah was determined, this time, to ensure the sanctity and integrity of His Divine message from interpolation by providing a living Imam, side by side, with the Quran. No incidents of the past interpolations that the Bible and the Torah had gone through were likely in the case of the Quran. Even if it came to the book of the Quran being completely interpolated or destroyed, its message would still endure, intact, in the person of the living Imam from the lineage of the Prophet and his Ahl al-Bayt. Let's recall, again, the Prophet's words:
"Ali and the Quran will never separate. They'll both meet me at the pond of Kauthar"
All the pieces fall in places and the Shia Imami Ismaili faith emerges unshakably strong on the premise: No Ali, No Islam. No Ahl aI-Bayt, No Islam! In this context it is quite appropriate to quote M.D. Donalson, a renowned, unbiased, non-Muslim historian who said:
Islam is almost alone among the religions of the world in addressing itself to man's reason and demanding that he should accept religious belief only upon the grounds of convincing argument and not mere claim and supposition.
This clearly indicates that anything that clashes with man's intellect is unIslamic. It is unreasonable, and hence unIslamic to suppose that the divine guidance should have ended with the demise of the Prophet. The most merciful and beneficent God who is loving, caring, considerate, reasonable, and rational, could not deny divine guidance to the succeeding generations. Prophethood culminated in Prophet Muhammad (A.S.) and divine revelations came to an end. The Quran had to be Allah's final message. All that was now required was a divinely appointed interpreter of this message so that mankind might be guided to live within the realm of this message.
Because the Quran contains parables and speaks in allegorical language, its verses need elaboration, clarification and interpretation by not any Tom, Dick and Harry or any Shaykhs or Mullahs who may all differ with one another till eternity, but only by a divinely appointed interpreter who, in this case, were Ali and his descendants after him. If you pick three volumes of the Quran translated by three different shaykhs, you will notice disagreements in the interpretations. As I said earlier, the messenger, who was mortal, had to die one day, but his message had to endure. Allah's idea of a divinely appointed interpreter of this message leaves no room, whatsoever, for ambiguity or confusion among Shia Imami Ismaili believers.
The Prophet said: "Every Quranic verse has an apparent (exoteric) meaning as well as an inner (esoteric) one."
Abu-l-Fawaris Ahmad Ibn Yaqub in his 11th century A.D. treatise explains beautifully the function of the prophet as distinct from that of the Imam. He writes:
"If Prophethood is concerned with the conveyance of God's message, then Imamat is concerned with interpreting this Message according to the needs of the time. The Imam thus conveys to the Community of the Faithful the esoteric meaning of the divine Message.
Therefore, an "Imam of the time" (Imam-e-Zaman), according to the Ismaili doctrine, must always be present, in order to guide the believers to reality and teach them the inner meaning of the divine Message which was revealed in stages to the Proclaimers (prophets).
The function of the Proclaimer is, therefore, to proclaim the plain revelation, while that of the Imam is the esoteric interpretation of this plain revelation, and the guidance of the believers along the right path, according to the needs of the time.”
As promised in the Quran, for the Shia Ismaili Muslim sect, the successors of the Holy Prophet and Ali have come down in an unbroken line. The present His Highness Prince Karim Agakhan IV is the 49th successor and Imam. Mr. Justice Russel, the presiding British judge in a Bombay High Court, upheld the direct descent claim of His Highness the Agakhan III, and endorsed his claim as the 48th successor to the Prophet as legitimate.
Both, the Shia and the Suni sects admit that the Prophet had predicted that after his death Islam would divide into 73 sects out of which only one sect would remain on the right path (Siratal-Mustaqeem). Presently, there are several Suni and Shia sects with their own distinct schools of thought. Each sect believes that it is the one that is on the right path. The Ismaili sect has been commanded by its Imams, for centuries, to respect the beliefs of the remaining 72 sects. The sect has, also, been commanded to respect the beliefs of all non-Muslim faiths. This is, in fact, one of the fundamental principles of the Ismaili school of thought barring which one risks spiritual salvation.
The major among the Shia sects are the Twelvers of Iran, the Dhruzes, the Bohoras of the Indian-subcontinent and the Ismailis- followers of His Highness Prince Karim Agakhan IV, settled in at least twenty five different countries.
Since the Sunis disowned Ali and dispensed with the need for a living guide (Imam) upon the Prophet's demise, all they were left with for spiritual guidance was the Holy Book and the Prophet's Hadiths (sayings). Unfortunately, numerous spurious hadiths coined by self-seeking people came into circulation in the wake of the Prophet's death. Actually, a racket of hadith coining had started and it assumed such proportions that it became well-nigh impossible to tell a genuine one from a spurious one. This racket issue can be a volume in itself. Mohamed Azizullah writes in his GLIMPSES OF THE HADITH that Bukhari, a well-known Suni analyst of hadiths selected only 4OOO hadiths as genuine out of 6OO,OOO.
The Shia sect carried out the Prophet's command and accepted Ali's divine appointment. But, as the divine will would have it, after every few generations of Imams, there would be a split because of a few self-seeking dissidents. Thus, there came to be quite a few Shia sub-sects.
None of the present Shia sects except Ismailis have a living spiritual leader (Imam). None of the other sects have a hereditary, designated Imam who can trace his ancestry back to the Holy Prophet in an unbroken line except the Ismaili sect. The Ismaili sect can trace their present Imam's ancestry back not only to Prophet Muhammad and Ali, but also to Abraham from whose first son, Ishmael, they have descended while the prophets of Israel such as Moses, John and Jesus have descended from the second son, Isaac.
When I announced to two of my Suni Muslim brethren that I was preparing to switch to Ismailism because I wanted to be guided by the Imam-e-zamaan (Imam of the time) who was the direct descendant of the Prophet, I was asked:
"How do you know the Agakhan is the direct or even the descendant of the Prophet? It could be a bogus claim?" said one of them.
It was a legitimate question. Ismailism, also, encourages such questions.
I said, "His claim has been twice endorsed in the Bombay High Court by two different British judges in the time of his grandfather and great grandfather. But, let us put aside the court judgment and pursue another line of reasoning.
If the Agakhan is bogus then there is a genuine one somewhere out there in the world who has not come forward yet, or is not willing to come forward. There has to be one, because the Quran talks of "Ale-Imran" that has no dead-end; the Quran talks of "every group will be called with their Imam"; it talks of "Imam-e-Mubin" (manifest imam) which some commentators, unreasonably, choose to confuse with the book -Quran; it talks of "ulil-amra", etc, etc. So, wouldn't you agree the Quran is right and there is such an individual out there?"
"Yes", both agreed.
I said, "Then why hasn't he, the genuine one, come forward in the last 14OO years to press his claim?"
"Maybe, the genuine one doesn't know the Agakhan has wrongfully usurped his place!" argued one of them.
I countered, "Such an argument might stick in days when technology was not so advanced but not in this age of cyberspace where news travels in a flash across the globe at a click of a computer mouse. In this age when global communication has been made so easy through Internet and T.V., the genuine one out there cannot claim he has not heard the Agakhan's world-wide claim! Even the western institutes of higher learning such as the MIT, Brown University, McGill University, MacMaster University and national leaders of both, industrialized and developing nations refer to him as the direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad, including the BBC. When the Agakhan was conferred upon honorary doctorate by the McMaster and Brown University, verses from the Quran reverberated in the huge auditorium during the convocation ceremony where the staff and graduating students, including the audience were predominantly non-Muslim. This kind of honor and recognition accorded to a Muslim religious leader who is not a head of any state is unheard of in the history of western culture and society. I am wondering why, after all this publicity, the legitimate descendant, if out there, has not come forward to unseat the Agakhan until now!
Suppose, you and your family were having a good time in a Florida resort away from home. All of a sudden, in the middle of your fun and merrymaking, you get the news there is an intruder in your house. What would be your immediate reaction? Your immediate reaction would be to abandon the fun, pack up and take the first flight home, in a mood far from happy, far from relaxed. Your flight back would be full of disturbing thoughts because an intruder has got into your house. Shouldn't the legitimate successor to the Prophet, if really out there in the world, react in the same way to get home fast to eject the intruder? It's only logical that he should." The two friends fully agreed with me.
"There is no other claimant out there," I emphasized, "besides, the Ismailis have been reciting the genealogy of their Imams in their "Dua" (prayer) since the time of Hazrat Ali, and this makes his claim to direct descent, doubt-proof.
And let me add," I said, "if any belated claimant ventures to come forward now, after 14OO years, he will have to not only match but, also, surpass the credentials of the Agakhan and his ancestors with respect to their service to mankind in general and Islam in particular. Such a claimant should have a history of service in the areas most emphasized by the Quran: Learning and education, charity, universal brotherhood, health, promotion of economic independence in poor, non-industrialized countries, etc, etc, before he could have my vote. One of the most invaluable services the Agakhan has rendered to Islam is his setting up an award for Islamic architecture which has seen revival over the last two decades. Such a revival has generated interest in the study of Islamic architecture, globally. Western experts in the field have openly acknowledged that the West has a lot to learn from Islam. "
One of the two said, "ya,ya, but still..."
He had nothing of substance to counter me with, so I said, "My friend, I can understand your difficulty. We have all been programmed since our childhood in the matter of faith, and, over years, we have become so fossilized in our beliefs that reason fails to prevail. Unfortunately, we choose to stay obstinate in the face of glaring reason, and yet we are quick to criticize others when they refuse to concede to reason, for example Christians. In other cases, when reason has prevailed, there is fear of alienating our loved ones if we decide to embrace the new-found faith. I, myself, had a tidal wave of opposition to contend with when I announced to my folks and friends that I was preparing to convert to Islam." When we parted, their heads were still shaking in disapproval.
Reverting to ayat 5:49:
"O ye who believe, obey God and His messenger and those in authority amongst you."
As I said earlier that I was shocked to hear Dr. Qadri misinterpreting the ayat on a TV channel when he said it was our obligation to appoint "ulil-amra" to lead the Muslim "umma". In other words, Dr. Qadri wants us to complete the task that the Prophet allegedly either forgot or neglected to complete. Since when did the Lord Almighty assigned us, the imperfect humans, the task to appoint His vicegerents? None of Allah's 124,OOO prophets were man-appointed! We are so limited in knowledge and wisdom that we can't even elect right and suitable politicians to run our simple worldly governments! And yet, according to this learned doctor the Lord wants us to appoint our own leader to govern for us far more complex matters of spiritual and eternal life! Does it make sense? Nowhere does the ayat say we have to appoint our leader. The ayat merely says "obey ulil-amra" who already existed amongst us, then. And the “Ulil-Amra” that existed was Hazrat Ali (Ale-Imran) who was declared by the Prophet as his vicegerent, time and time again, at every opportune moment. I am amazed when experts do not tire of attempting to mislead the "umma" even in this age of free intellectual inquiry. To assume that every viewer or listener is dumb is an outrage against human dignity. How would any expert stand up to the challenge in the following ayat?:
"And nobody knows its taweel (esoteric interpretation) except God and those who are well grounded in knowledge." (3:7)
Can the doctor and his likes claim to know the taweel of every Quranic verse?
"O believers, fear God and search for a medium to reach Him and follow His path so as to achieve salvation." (5:35)
Here, medium does not mean the Quran. The Quran was already with the Umma and hence no searching for it was necessary. The Quran in the present day is also in every Muslim home and no searching for it is necessary. Then what is this medium that is incumbent on every generation to search for to find Siratal-Mustaqeem to achieve salvation? Medium here means mazhar.
To find salvation, Allah wants us to find Siratal-Mustaqeem. To find Siratal-Mustaqeem, Allah enjoins upon us to search for the medium. The medium already existed and only needed to be searched for and not appointed by us. The inevitable answer was the divinely authorized Imam from the progeny of the Prophet and Imran (Abu-Talib). That was the medium. That was the mazhar.
Dr. Qadri shocked me and his audience further when he was asked during "Question/Answer" time:
"On a TV broadcast, you proposed the Muslim Umma should appoint their own Ulil-amra. Can you suggest how this can be achieved?"
Dr. Quadri replied that there were two kinds of Ulil-Amras: temporal and spiritual. Then he listed some unfit heads of Islamic nations that needed to be replaced. For a spiritual Ulil-Amra, he referred us to the four Suni jurists, and a few others who died roughly 13OO years ago. So, we are back to square one! If I have to turn to dead experts, then I would much rather turn to the Prophet and no one else. What's worse, the four Suni jurists -Hanfi, Shaafi, Hambly, and Hanifa- disagree among themselves on several points. Consequently, the Suni sect itself is divided into four sub-sects. And yet, Dr. Qadri advises us to seek guidance from their work. How absurd! What's more absurd is Suni Imam Shaafi himself was a student of Ismaili Imam Muhammad Baakir.
One very interesting question Dr. Qadri was asked:
"One of my Christian friends who has studied the Quran is convinced that Islam is Allah's final message. But he is confused whether he should embrace Suni Islam or Shia Islam. What's your advice?"
Dr. Qadri shocked the audience with his answer. When the audience mingled outside, while partaking of refreshments, there was disbelief and shock expressed from several quarters over his answer. Here's his advice to the Christian would-be convert to Islam:
Tell him to be a Suni Muslim because Suni Muslims are in a majority.
Then he became cautious, and added:
If he is living in an area where Suni Muslims are in a majority, then he should embrace Suni Islam. But if he is living in Iran, then he should embrace Shia Islam.
Should the above be the criterion to choose a faith? Should convenience supersede conviction? Faith has everything to do with "Iman". Dr. Qadri made faith a matter of convenience and not conviction. While the hereditary Imam of the Ismailis has told us that "our faith should be a matter of conviction and not convenience." Quite the opposite and so full of wisdom! This is the difference between a divinely authorized Imam from the Ahl al-Bayt and a shaykh. One includes Ali in one's iman and one is Shia. One excludes Ali from one's iman and one is Suni. I never go to listen to such speakers anymore, no matter how renowned they may be. In fact, Dr. Qadri used to be my most favorite and highly respected speaker before I found the Ismaili faith, and I still respect him because he is very sincere. I came home in shock but more strongly convinced that one must be guided by no one but the hereditary Imam who should be both, Ale-Rasool and Ale-Imran. How very much right Hazrat Ali was when he said:
"Learn and remember that Imams are the Caliphs appointed and designated by God to lead and rule human beings. They and only they can guide humanity to Heaven...." (Nahjul-Balagha)
How clear it is, now, that Abu-Bakkar, Omar, or Othman were not meant to lead and rule human beings. They were not appointed or designated by God.
The legitimate Caliph after the Prophet was Hazrat Ali, appointed and designated by God. It was a disastrous mistake on the part of Ayesha to help her father, Abu-Bakkar, acquire caliphate. And it was far worse for Abu-Bakkar to go along with her plan. Their unilateral pursuit for power caused Islam to go into a disarray that has stayed uncorrected for all these centuries. This disaster would not have occurred if the Prophet's caution had been heeded:
"Do not try to excel them (Ahl al-Bayt), nor leave them behind, for in either case it will be fatal for you. Do not try to teach them, for they know more than you."
Indeed, if they know more than any of us, then isn't it a waste of precious time to listen to any so called expert who is other than the hereditary Imam from the Ahl al-Bayt? And also, won't listening to such experts be a blatant disobedience to the Prophet's above-mentioned command? Have we forgotten what fate Azazil, the most learned Angel met for his disobedience to Allah when he declined to prostrate before Adam? Have we forgotten that Allah equated obedience to Muhammad with obedience to Him; Muhammad's hand with His hand; his forgiveness with His; and allegiance to him with allegiance to Him? In this context, I am reminded of Dr. Qadri's recent TV lecture in which he was cautioning the viewers against the error of separating "Risala" from "Tawheed". I agree with him on that score. He said the Umma can reach Allah only through the Prophet because he was our link with Allah. In short, all our devotion was accepted by Allah only if it was first offered to the Prophet. This clearly indicates to me that we had to prostrate before the Prophet, and after his death, before his designated successors to have our prostration conveyed to Allah. And yet, if I did that, some self-righteous or fanatic Muslim will call it "kufr" and "shirk." And yet it was not "shirk" or "kufr" when the angels prostrated before Adam or when Moses prostrated before a tree.
Allah, the most Beneficent and most Merciful, provided in Ali (A.S.), a living guide not for one time but for all times. Every succeeding Imam from Ali's progeny is, in essence, Ali and the bearer of Allah's Noor. Thus Allah has completed his blessing. Thus Allah has, also, fulfilled His promise to Abraham, and to Jesus, for Jesus has also said:
"And I will pray to the Father, and He shall give another Parakletos (comforter) that he may abide with you forever. (John 14:16)
Who on earth can abide forever? In this age of scientific advancement, no one will accept this statement at its face value. It would be ludicrous to do so. Jesus never meant it, literally. If he did, then he is already proved wrong. But, when forever is taken, figuratively, then the only viable interpretation is "father to son." The declaration of Ali as the Prophet's heir was the beginning towards the fulfillment of Hazrat Jesus’ prophecy and, also, the previously quoted Quranic verse (3:33,34) in which there is no dead-end to Ale-Imran. The Ismaili Imams have abided with us for the last 14OO years and will, Inshah-Allah, continue to do so till the Day of Judgment. Jesus’ prayer prevailed, and Allah had Muhammad's (Parakletos') progeny abide among those who chose to be guided only by the designated Imams from the progeny of the Prophet.
The following verse confirms that Imams are the bearers of Allah's light:
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.
The parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche
And within it a Lamp: the Lamp enclosed in Glass:
The Glass as it were a brilliant star: lit from a blessed Tree,
An Olive, neither of the East nor of the West,
Whose oil is well-nigh luminous though fire scarce touched it.
Light upon light, Allah doth guide whom He will to His light
Allah doth set forth Parables For men: and Allah
Doth know All things" (Quran: 24:35)
Let us analyze the parable in the above verse.
Allah's revelation comes at a time when electric light was not yet invented. All households used oil lamps or lanterns.
A niche is a small recess or hollow in a wall of a room in the house where a lamp is placed so the whole house receives light. By the same token, in this huge universe, our earth is a tiny place (niche) where the lamp of Immamate is placed to eliminate the darkness of ignorance and light the straight path (Siratal-Mustaqeem) for us to see and walk on.
The glass is symbolic of the physical body of the Imam. It is compared to a brilliant star. Just as a brilliant star shines more brightly than other stars, so also, a hereditary Imam is incomparably brilliant and superior in knowledge, insight, and wisdom, and so he outshines the rest of Allah's human creation in that respect.
The holy blood of the Prophet flowing through the veins of the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt is likened to olive oil (zaitoon) which is considered superior to all other oils because the light it generates is far more brilliant than that which is produced by other oils. Just as the supply of this precious olive oil keeps the flame of a lamp bright and luminous, so also the holy blood of the Prophet in the veins of the Imams of his progeny sustains them, physically, in order for them to enlighten our path through guidance. Simply put, the Imams live among us to guide us on Sirat-al-Mustaqeem. The comparison also seeks to distinguish that just as olive oil sustaining the flame is superior to all other oils, so also the parentage of the Imams of Ahl al-Bayt is far superior to that of the rest of mankind.
Neither of the East nor the West purports to tell us that all of the prophets that preceded Muhammad did not come just from one area. They came from different corners of the globe. And, we all know that Allah sent 124,OOO prophets, but the Quran has listed only a handful of them - about 25.
We often talk about a family tree. The imagery of the blessed tree here is Muhammad's family tree which consists of his holy ancestry tracing back to Ishmael, prophet Abraham’s elder son, and all the prophets of Israel that descended from Isaac, the second son of Abraham. The holy tree also includes Abraham, Noah, and Adam. All the succeeding Ismaili Imams from the prophet Muhammad’s and Imran's (Abu Talib’s) progeny through Ali and Fatima including our present 49th Imam, Shah Karim, are part of this holy tree.
"Light upon light" esoterically means "Imam after Imam or Living Guide after Living Guide"-father to son- from the Ahl al-Bayt; "seed after seed" as Abraham was promised.
Just as in the presence of physical light one can avoid pitfalls in one's path and safely walk to one's destination, so also in the presence of a divinely authorized Imam, one can successfully walk the spiritual path and reach one's goal which is spiritual salvation. But this straight path is not everybody's blessing to enjoy, for Allah says, "Allah doth guide whom He will to His light."
When an Imam passes away, his mortal body which is symbolized, here, as the glass or outer covering of a lamp is discarded and buried while another glass, (successor) immediately, takes his place. Every time an Imam is murdered or slain, it is only the glass or the outer covering that is considered destroyed. The inextinguishable flame (Noor) continues to burn inside the succeeding glass (succeeding Imam's body). The light emanating from the designated Imam is, esoterically explained, the guidance from him which enables the believers to walk clear of any pitfalls in their secular or spiritual path. Ali (A.S.) echoed the same thoughts when he said in his sermon, quoted elsewhere in this write-up:
“Remember that the descendants of the holy Prophet (A.S.) are the stars in the heaven; if one sets, the other will rise to illumine your path; the merciful Lord has thus completed His blessings upon you.”
Thus, Allah has not only completed his blessing but has also kept his promise of "Light upon light, Allah doth guide, whom He will to His light." Just as soon as one glass (mortal body of Imam) broke or got destroyed, another took its place to house the light (Noor). This way, through all vicissitudes the Ismaili faith has not only survived but has, also, emerged triumphant, by the grace of Allah.
Speaking of the vicissitudes, quite a few Ismaili Imams have been slain over the last 14OO years. (Read Farhad Daftari's books listed on the last page). Couldn't Allah protect His prophets and the Imams? He certainly could, but it was part of Allah's plan to show to the world and the enemies of true Islam that Ale-Imran (Abu Talib) would never cease to exist and that His light would unfailingly continue to illumine the path of true believers through the designated Imams from the progeny of the Prophet and Ale-Imran in spite of the hostility against them. Let me quote a bit from a non-Ismaili Muslim writer, Farhad Daftari's The Assassin Legends:
"The Ismailis now began to be widely condemned by the majority of Muslim theologians, heresiographers and historians as heretics; and the Suni polemicists in particular began to fabricate evidence that would lend support to that condemnation on specific doctrinal grounds. This general anti-Ismaili campaign was encouraged and supported by most of the ruling dynasties of the Medieval Muslim world." On the same page, 12, Daftari writes: "The sunni polemists who wrote anti-Ismaili tracts and pamphlets had a particular goal in mind; they aimed to discredit the Ismaili movement from its origins." Daftari writes on page 35, "...the Saljuqs and their Suni judges adopted an auxiliary policy of their own: large-scale massacres of the Nizari Ismailis. It became an established practice in many urban localities to round up all those accused of being Ismaili and to consign them to fire or put them to the sword...... Large numbers of Nizaris were thus massacred, and their properties confiscated in great cities like Aleppo, Damascus, Qazwin, and Isfahan ......"
Fain would they put out the Noor of Allah with their mouth, but Allah will perfect His Noor, however much the disbelievers are averse.
(61: (see also 9:32,33; 611; 48:27-29)
What is literally meant by the above ayat is that no matter how hard the enemies of the divinely appointed prophets or Imams try to resist, discredit, vilify, or obliterate them (prophets or Imams), Allah will ensure that divine guidance continues through them and their designated successors.
What's amazing about Ismaili Muslims is their resilience that eventually helps them triumph after every period of suffering other Muslim sects subjected them to. What's more amazing is their capacity to forgive and work for the good of all Muslims once back in the saddle and bear no grudges against their tormentors.
In another verse where commentators and so-called experts deliberately confuse the word "light," which stands for "Imam," with the Holy Book is:
"O ye people, verily Proof has come to you from your Lord and we have sent you manifest Light." (4: 174,175)
The whole Sura Noor is so easy to understand as we have just seen. Yet, Al Ghazali, in his Mishkat-ul- Anwar (11th century, A.D.) has rendered it so complicated in his efforts to expound it that he has failed to do any justice to it. Such complex and mind-boggling explanations Allah did not intend for the Umma, so young in Islam. Gazali's "Mystic Interpretation" mystifies the verse further rather than simplify it. This could be frustrating for lay believers. Frustrations should have no room in the practice of the faith of Islam. Even so, his interpretation has been applauded and translated in English by W.H.T. Gairdner, published by the Royal Asiatic Society, London, 1924. The harder and more confusing the exposition, the higher it is rated in terms of its philosophical and spiritual depth and quality by those who wish to be distinguished as a group of the learned elite. Ghazali, unfortunately, failed to discern the simple interpretation of this beautiful verse! That is why a divinely authorized Imam is so vital and indispensable!
The Ismaili interpretation of the continued presence of Allah's mazhar (manifestation) or "light upon light," on this earth reminds us of Allah's initial decision to set up a Khalifa (vicegerent), for all time, when He told all the angels that He was going to create Adam.
Allah said to the Angels:
"I will create a vicegerent on earth." (2:3)
Allah said to the Angels:
"Bow down to Adam," and they (Angels) bowed down. (2: 34)
Once He created Adam and breathed His spirit into him, He asked the Angels to prostrate before him. It is worth noting that the command for prostration came not after the creation of Adam's physical body but after the spirit was breathed into it.
Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the prostration (sujda) was due not to the body but to the spirit (Noor) that was now using Adam's body as Allah's mazhar. Muslims say it is "kufr" in Islam to prostrate before anyone but Allah. It is also "kufr" to associate partners (shirk) to Allah. And yet, here, Allah, Himself, contrary to his own injunction, gets the Angels to commit the forbidden: He commands them to prostrate before Adam, a mortal. Were not the angels committing "shirk" here? There was another time when Allah manifested Himself in a much inferior form - one from vegetable kingdom - a tree. We all know and have seen it in the film, "THE TEN COMMANDMENTS." When on the mountain, Moses received his orders from God to go and free the Egyptian Jews. God talked to Moses through a tree or bush:
But when he (Moses) came to the fire, a voice was heard from the right bank of the valley, from a tree in hallowed ground:
"O Moses! Verily I am Allah, the Lord of the worlds....." (Quran 28: 3O)
Therefore, in this case the tree was Allah's mazhar - an object through which Allah chose to manifest Himself and communicate with Moses. Moses bowed down only in the direction of the mazhar (tree) and in no other direction though the omnipresent Allah was all around him. His forehead touched the rugged ground. After all, who can keep Allah from whatever mazhar He wants to manifest Himself through? It was His will to manifest Himself through a tree, so He did. Would it be sensible or Islamic to call Moses "kafir" for prostrating before a tree? What's worse, a tree is not Ashrafil-Maklukat! Adam was at least Ashrafil-Maklukat and hence much superior. So now, it is logical to conclude that a Muslim should prostrate before Allah's mazhar, Ashrafil-Maklukat or less. To my Ismaili broyhers, I say, do not ever feel less Muslim when any ignorant Muslim accuses you of "shirk" or "kufr" for prostrating before your Imam. Tell him you are following the tradition that Allah Himself laid down at the time of Creation.
One may wonder why Allah would not reveal Himself as He is instead of through a tree to Moses. In fact, Moses himself had pleaded with Allah to reveal Himself to him. And Allah asked Moses to look at a certain mountain that turned into powder when exposed to Allah's light. Thus, Moses was to understand that Allah could not be seen with naked human eyes. For Allah to communicate with Moses or us on this physical plane, He has to find a medium (mazhar) through which to manifest Himself. Allah says in the Quran that He is manifest (zahir) as in "Imam-e-mubin" and also hidden(batin). Allah can manifest Himself through numerous mediums (mazhars), simultaneously, if He so chooses.
When Allah made Adam His mazhar and Khalifa, He vested total power and authority in him. A Khalifa would be no Khalifa but just someone titular if devoid of any power or authority. Allah vested total authority in His Khalifa, Adam, and his designated successors the major among whom were Noah, Abraham, Abraham's progeny, which includes Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad and his progeny through Imran (Abu-Talib). All these entities were the mazhars and mouthpieces of Allah. They have been our links with Allah. Allah chose to talk to us through them. Allah never stopped talking to us after the death of Muhammad (A.S.). He has continued to talk to us through the hereditary Imams from the progeny of Muhammad and Imran (Abu-Talib). The Imam of the time is our Khalifa and Allah's mazhar. It is through His mazhar (Imam of the time) that Allah guides us on the right path - Siratal-Mustaqeem. Our total obedience is due to the Imam:
O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Apostle, and those charged with authority among you. (4: 59)
After the Prophet, obedience was due to "those charged with authority." Who were they? Any Tom, Dick, and Harry? Shaykhs or Mullahs? No way! They were those designated by the Prophet - Ali and his hereditary successors. Allah appointed Muhammad. Allah appointed Ali to succeed Muhammad. Muhammad declared Ali's appointment by Allah in Gadir-al-Khum. Ali was the next mazhar after Muhammad. A human is at least intellectually blessed and, therefore, it is reasonable to say that he is more qualified to be Allah's mazhar than a tree; he is more qualified to receive our prostration (sujda) than a tree. I would never hesitate to offer my sujda to my Imam. I would do it with the utmost devotion. Dare not anyone come to me and say it is "shirk." Isn't he, at least, superior to a tree?
Allah went as far as giving the Prophet his own name, "Raufur-Rahim" (9:117 to 9:128). He also declared his actions as His own; obedience to him as obedience to Himself; swearing of fealty to him as swearing it to Allah, Himself; and forgiveness by him as forgiveness by Allah, Himself. Allah vested in Muhammad (S.A.S.) total authority that His Khalifa should have. After Muhammad this authority became transferred to the hereditary Imams from his progeny. Thus, each hereditary Imam has been the mazhar and Khalifa of Allah and rightful successor to both, Immamate and caliphate, and also authorized to perform all the functions that the Prophet performed. And there should be no hesitation in prostrating before Allah's mazhar. Adam and Moses, both, have demonstrated this point to us.
It is quite annoying when people keep harping on a certain ayat to emphasize that the Prophet was no more than an ordinary human being (bashar) and just a warner. No more, no less! Is that really true? If so, how would you reconcile this idea with my following statements about this ordinary man?
-Muhammad was prophet, we were not. And yet, he was an ordinary man.
-The invocation, Peace Be Upon Him, is uttered after his name, not ours, and yet he was an ordinary man.
-Muslims have been asked by Allah to send "durud" on the Prophet and his Ahl al-Bayt, not on us, and yet he was an ordinary man.
-He was visited by Gabriel, Allah's Arch Angel, we were not. And yet, he was an ordinary man.
-Allah, Himself, has called Muhammad (A.S.) "the leader of all the prophets." We have received no such honor, but we choose to make him an ordinary man.
-He was our link with Allah, and yet we have chosen to make him an ordinary man.
-On one occasion, referring to certain sinners, Allah said, "O Muhammad if you had sought from me pardon for their sins, I would have pardoned them." Allah has given us no such prerogative, yet we call him an ordinary man.
-He went up to the seventh heaven; we did not, and yet he was an ordinary man.
-He, and not we, has been called "Rahemtul-Alemeen," and yet he was an ordinary man.
-Allah had kept him and his Ahl al-Bayt from all impurities in which we humans abound, and yet, we say, he was, an ordinary man.
-Illiterate, and yet this ordinary man gave the world the Quran which is full of wisdom and scientific truths over which, we university graduates (including the Ph.D’s) have hardly gained any mastery. Was he ordinary or extra-ordinary?
-"Leader of all the prophets," if he was ordinary, then Jesus was far more ordinary and so was Moses. And yet, like Jesus, none of us can claim to have been born of immaculate conception. If Jesus was not ordinary, how could Muhammad be? Moses parted the Red Sea. If he, too, was not ordinary, how could Muhammad be?
Allah called the Prophet a "bashar" when in the middle of the battle of Uhad a rumor spread that the Prophet had been killed. This rumor resulted in confusion and near-retreat by the army. It was, in this context, "bashar", which means mortal, is to be interpreted. Allah said Muhammad was a bashar and could be killed in which case the army should not flee but continue fighting.
In the times of prophethood, the prophet is the mazhar (manifestation or representative) of Allah. After prophethood, the hereditary Imams from the Prophet's progeny are the mazhars of Allah. The teachings of the designated Imams are merely the extension of the Prophetic hadiths, just as the light of their being is seen as the continuation of the Prophetic light. I for one would never have stayed Muslim if this Khalifa or mazhar (Imam-e-Zamaan) for all times were not present as promised. Let us see how the purpose and function of the Imam in Shi'ism is described by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Cambridge, Massachusetts:
"The Imams are like a chain of light issuing forth from the "Sun of Prophecy" which is their origin, and yet they are never separated from that Sun. Whatever is said by them emanates from the same inviolable treasury of inspired wisdom. Since they are the extension of the inner reality of the Blessed Prophet, their words really go back to him. That is why their sayings are seen in the Shi'ite perspective as an extension of the prophetic Hadith, just as the light of their being is seen as the continuation of the prophetic light. In Shi'ite eyes, the temporal separation of them Imams from the Blessed Prophet does not at all affect their essential and inner bond with him or the continuity of the "prophetic light" which is the source of his as well as their inspired knowledge."
There is another Quranic verse for which scholars, shaykhs, and mullahs have offered different interpretations, which are misleading and confusing. Speculations on the Quranic message have no place in true Islam. Allah's Islam was not meant to confuse and, consequently, frustrate believers, and yet it is doing just that. You can just imagine the enormous relief I felt when I found Ismailism! Now, just look up the following verse and you will read speculations of so-called experts on the meaning of the word houses.
"(Lit is such a Light) In houses, which Allah
Hath permitted to be raised
To honor; for celebration,
In them, of His name:
In them is He glorified
In the mornings and
In the evenings, (again and again)
(Quran: 24: 36)
In one version of the Quran translated by Maulana Muhammad Ali, the word houses is interpreted as "the huts and houses of the Arab dwellers." I rejected this interpretation because it made no sense to me. Anything that doesn't make sense is unIslamic to me.
In another version, translated by Yusufali, the commentator has interpreted the word houses to mean "special mosques, such as Kaba in Mecca, or the mosques in Madina or Jerusalem, for these are specially held in honor." I reflected on this interpretation.
When I first embraced Islam, I wanted the best for myself from my new faith, but residing in North America would not help me accomplish that, I pondered. Had I been residing anywhere in the vicinity of the above-mentioned three special mosques, then only I could benefit the most from Islam. Was it not so unfair that only those who could access those three special mosques would benefit the most from the faith of Islam, I lamented! Those who were born in the neighborhood of those three mosques were the favored ones, and those like us who were born oceans away were not so lucky! It made no sense to me! Just then, M.D. Donalson's words, quoted, heretofore, came to my mind. I rejected the interpretation, outright. I embarked on my own search and I was pleasantly surprised, one day, when I found the answer, which had no room for confusion, ambiguity, or uncertainty. That was the most exciting day for me. I repeatedly went into prostrations just to express my gratitude to Allah the Merciful for enlightenment on this issue. It is true that:
"Allah doth guide, whom He will, to His Light." (Quran: 24: 36)
There is a hadith widely accepted by Suni and Shia Islam, alike! When asked what the word houses referred to, the Prophet explained that it referred to the dwellings of the prophets. At this Abu-Bakr asked, "Are the dwellings of Ali and Fatima included in this?"
The Prophet replied, "Yes, they are. And their dwellings are more exalted."
Aren't we Ismailis lucky that, both mornings and evenings, it is in the dwellings (Jamatkhanas) of Ali and Fatima and their hereditary descendants that we celebrate and glorify Allah's name? Our Jamatkhanas are those exalted houses. Can you born-Ismailis, ever be amply grateful to Allah for having been blessed with a birth in the Ismaili faith? It's very easy to take our blessings for granted. I found this faith the hard way and at no cost would I ever want to lose it.
I have always preferred to dispense with any need to depend on the Prophet's hadiths to support any of my arguments concerning Islam, the Quran or the Prophet unless they (hadiths) were reported by Ahl-al Bayat. My main reason is their (hadiths') doubtful authenticity. I find it ludicrous and irrational having to turn to outsiders such as the Prophet's companions, hadith transmitters, and hadith analysts such as Muslim, Tabari, Hanbal, Bukhari, and several others for information on Islam, the Quran, and the Prophet. All of them were outsiders. I call them outsiders because they were not part of the Prophet's family. They did not live under the same roof with the Prophet! Their children did not play in his lap as Ali, Fatima, and Hazrat Hassan and Hussein did! Ali was raised by the Prophet and he, the Prophet was raised by Ali's father. Suni commentator Yusufali writes that Ali helped the cause of Islam since the age of thirteen. I have yet to see a more close-knit family like the Prophet's! And yet, there are outsiders, such as those I referred to, that want to presume to know more about the daily life and activities of the Prophet, and what he did and said during his lifetime. And besides, how the Prophet lived and what he did in his everyday life is not what I concern myself with. I only concern myself with what we have been asked or instructed by him to do and try to fulfill that. He married Ayesha when she was still a child and playing with her toys and actually brought her toys with her to her husband's house. Should we copy the Prophet's Sunna in this respect in Canada or U.S.? What would be the legal consequence if we did? The Quran descended on the house of the Prophet. The Quran descended on the house of Ali, Fatimah, and their children, Hassan and Hussein. Hassan and Hussein were the "youths of Paradise." They were Ale-Rasool. This was the Prophet's family and they knew him more intimately than his companions who were outsiders. The Quran did not descend on the house of the companions, or hadith reporters or analysts. Would my friends or neighbors know me better than my own children? My own flesh and blood? Would I confide the intimate matters about myself to my loved ones or to my companions, neighbors and other outsiders? Such intimate matters as my bank balance, my stock and bonds investments? Why should I then go to outsiders instead of the progeny of the Prophet for any information concerning the faith of Islam?
And whoever said stories and accounts that are passed down from generation to generation do not get altered or corrupted?
The Bible and the Torah that were Allah's words have got corrupted, haven't they? I am not surprised that Bukhari found only 4OOO hadiths out of 6OO,OOO to be authentic. This again does not mean Bukhari had done a perfect job. What man was ever perfect! Bukhari’s selection of hadiths got compiled 200 years after the Prophet’s death. So then, isn't there a possibility that much fewer than those 4OOO hadiths were authentic, or perhaps more. In view of such a controversial situation, I would only prefer to depend on the insiders (the Ahl al-Bayt) and not the outsiders to show me the Sirat-al-Mustaqueem. The designated Imams from the Ahl al-Bayt are the ones my commonsense dictates I should turn to for spiritual satisfaction. If I had ever had to depend on what was reported by the companions and whether what they reported was authentic or not, whether it came from Bukhari, Tabari, Muslim, etc., I would feel terribly frustrated and would even lose my sleep over this. The last thing I ever want is doubts about my faith. Therefore, I would much rather hear about Islam from the horse's mouth, as we say in English. In our case that mouth is the mouth of the hereditary Imam's. No outsider should presume to claim to know more about the Prophet, Islam or the Quran than the Prophet's progeny. That is why I have little or no interest in the hadiths unless they are reported by Ahl al-Bayt or they are in favour of Ahl al-Bayt. If ever someone quotes to me a hadith from any of the above-mentioned analysts, I stop him right there and let him go no further. My terse remark would be: "In our judicial system such a testimony from uncontemporary outsiders would be considered the worst kind of hearsay and inadmissible evidence in a court of law." And yet, you will notice, I have quoted a few hadiths myself for the satisfaction of the reader
Then there is the vexatious question of hadith transmission. Was the hadith transmission through an interrupted or uninterrupted chain of transmitters? In a faith as easy and simple as Islam, I would not wish to be subjected to the pain of resolving doubts engendered by the quality or integrity of hadith transmitters. If the uninterrupted chain of hadith transmitters is what we are really looking for, then the Ismaili faith is the answer; for, "light upon light," the Imams have come down in an uninterrupted chain straight from the house of the Prophet himself. What could be a better, more reliable and uninterrupted chain of hadith transmitters than the hereditary Imams from the house of the Prophet himself! In spite of the claims of rigorous scrutiny certain hadiths have been subjected to, I am loath to be convinced that they are authentic. There never was a dearth of unscrupulous people on this earth at any time who would not be quick to manipulate texts, words and statements to achieve their selfish ends. Therefore, I would only believe as authentic the hadiths that have come from the Ismaili Imams.
I explained right at the start that when I first became dissatisfied with Suni Islam, one of my major concerns was how to locate Siratal-Mustaqeem from amongst 73 sects, and so I embarked on my search again. During this period of my search, I would become pensive, trying to rationalize. I would wonder about the concrete and the abstract:
At night, we cannot tell where the East is. But when day breaks, we know where it is because the physical object, the sun, rises only in the east. Thus the concrete helps us identify the abstract.
In the same way, at night, when the sun is absent and we want to know where the North is, we can find it with the help of a physical object called a compass. Again the concrete helps us find the abstract.
Truth is what we are all looking for. But truth is abstract. I wondered if there was any physical object, like the compass or the sun, pointing to truth!
I agonized. I wanted to find truth. Which one of these 73 sects could take me to truth? Every one of them could not be Siratal-Mustaqeem! I couldn't afford to spend my life-time, experimenting each sect. In the time of the Prophet there were no factions. There was just one Islam, which was the Prophet's Islam. I worried and worried. If only I could see with my physical eyes where truth was and then it would be so easy to follow it. But, that was not possible because truth cannot be experienced by our five senses. It is intangible and impalpable. So, how could I ever find it unless there was some physical object pointing to it or assisting me to identify it! My frustrations knew no bounds. This was affecting the quality of my work at work-place and also my moods. And then, one day I stumbled upon a tradition, which brought my search for Siratal-Mustaqeem to a conclusive end. The Prophet has been known to repeatedly supplicate Allah:
"O, Allah, have truth always follow Ali."
While, when praying for the Umma, the Prophet would say, "O, Allah, have them (Umma) follow truth."
Two very contrasting prayers! In the first one, Ali is superior to truth. In the second one, truth is superior to the Umma. In the first, truth is asked to follow Ali; in the second, the Umma is asked to follow truth.
All that was now left for me to do was to look for Ali to find truth. Truth was invisible but Ali was not. Ali was tangible, palpable and visible, just like the sun and the compass. In each case one material or concrete object helps us find the abstract that we are looking for. Once we have found the physical presence of Ali, we have found truth. I found truth and I also found Siratal-Mustaqeem.
The Ismaili faith also resolved my major concerns about the following Quranic verse concerning obligatory charity which is "zakat" and not "alms" which is voluntary charity given to the poor:
“Of their goods take zakat, so thou mightest purify and sanctify them; and pray on their behalf. Verily thy prayers are a source of security for them: And Allah is One Who heareth and knoweth”. (9: 1O3)
In the above verse the Prophet himself has been assigned the task of collecting dues from the believers with the express purpose of purifying and sanctifying the givers. When sunni, I kept wondering why there was no one assigned to carry on with the task of receiving zakat from the believers and, consequently, purify and sanctify them! I wondered why Allah made no such blessed provision for the succeeding generations of Muslims! This anomaly made no sense to me. Anything that doesn't make sense is unIslamic to me. And, this verse was also responsible for sending me on in search of Allah's and the Prophet's party or representative to whom I could safely hand my share to get purified and sanctified. Ismailism resolved my concerns. The hereditary Imam from Ale-Imran was the rightful recipient and authorized to conduct the task of purifying and sanctifying, thus continuing the Prophet's and Allah's tradition. Previously, I had lost sleep over whether my zakat was ending up in the right hands, considering the amount of scam and fraud that our present world is notorious for. Besides, there was no one to purify or sanctify me every time upon my act of giving, which left me deeply frustrated. I am now fully at ease that my obligatory charity (zakat) goes to the Imam of the time, the Agakhan IV whose humanitarian deeds are widely known and acknowledged globally. In the West where Islam is looked upon as violent, he is the only Muslim who is held in the highest esteem and accorded welcome accompanied by chantings and recitations of "Allah-u-Akbar" as at the Brown University or the verses from the Quran at McMaster University. As I said earlier, such an honor is unprecedented in the Occident.
I am so grateful to the Lord Almighty I found Ismailism which is so deeply esoteric and permeating with spiritualism that it soothes the heart whenever I read the verse "Allah is the Noor of the heavens and the earth." Ismailism is Noor and nothing but Noor. This concept of Noor has taken a huge burden off my heart, namely the fear of death. I am no longer afraid to die. Death is no longer something I dread. It is an auspicious and welcome event. Our faith is so fluid that whether it was a thousand years in the past or a thousand years in the future, it will always be current and easy to practice. The Quran says Islam is easy to practice; it is the Imam's presence and guidance that makes the faith easy to practice.
Prince Karim Agakhan IV, 49th Imam was asked in an interview taken by editor Arun Puree of INDIA TODAY:
Q. As Imam of your sect you are also an interpreter of the Quran for your followers, but on the other hand you are a man with a modern education and background. How do you reconcile these two aspects on subjects like women's rights, family planning and other related matters?
A. As Imam of the Ismaili sect I am in a position to adapt the teachings of the Quran to the modern condition. On the question of modernity the issue is essentially whether one is affecting the fundamental moral fabric of society or whether one is affecting the fundamentals of religious practice. As long as these two aspects are safe-guarded, the rest can be subject to adjustment.
I hope this thesis has successfully refuted the allegation that the Holy Prophet appointed no successor.
I had planned a response of only two pages and I just got carried away. In conclusion, I would like to say that I do not wish to involve myself in wasting any time responding to a controversy this write-up may engender among disbelievers, skeptics, or those who dissociate faith from intellect. To them my mere response is:
"It is God, not man, who will decide who will believe in Him."
Before I sign off, I would like to leave the reader with the following points to ponder.
1. If the Prophet was really "Rahemat-ul-Alemeen" (Mercy for all the universes), why then the Muslim Umma itself is far worse off on this planet than any other race? Most refugees on this planet are Muslims. Just look at the recent incidents of Bosnia and Kosovo. We all saw the unspeakable crimes and sufferings and Allah was nowhere in sight to help them. It was the Nato countries, all Christian, whom the victims have been thanking for their help, and not Allah. Had I been one of those Muslim victims, I would have lost my faith in Islam, immediately. It seems Muslims were abandoned by Allah centuries ago. The Prophet may be "Rahemat-Ul-Alemeen" for races other than Muslims! That's how it appears to me. What do you think?
2. Is it really true that the Prophet, as history suggests, did not have the Quranic revelations documented in his lifetime? Why did Muhammad (A.S.), Allah's greatest prophet, who was known as Al-Amin (trustworthy), allegedly neglect to compile the Holy Quran in his own lifetime? He was trusted with the task of conveying Allah's revelations to the Muslim Umma and the world, and yet he, the seal of all the prophets, seems to have failed to fully discharge his trust! The Umma, allegedly, remained without a documented Quran for many years until it occurred to Othman, the third Khaliph, to compile the Quran for the benefit of the Umma. For a moment, I am inclined to think Othman cared for the Umma more than the Prophet, himself. But that does not make any sense to me. And anything that doesn't make sense is unIslamic to me. I could not accept the fact (rather fiction) that the trusted Prophet left part of his most important mission incomplete. We are asked to believe that the Prophet did not finish the task assigned to him by Allah during his lifetime. We are asked to believe that several Muslim generations remained sadly deprived of the written text of the Quran. It appears that if Othman had not undertaken the task of compiling the Quran, there would have been, perhaps, no documented Quran among us, today! It is suggested that the Quran, though imperfectly compiled as the verses are sadly not in the order they were revealed to the Prophet, has endured because of the efforts of Othman who found it in his heart to finish the task left unfinished by the Prophet. All this was mind-boggling to me before. After I found Ismailism, all is plain and clear.
3. Where is the Kauthar (the pond of holy water) of Sura 108 that the Quran says Allah gave to the Prophet for us? Did the Prophet take it away with him? I always wondered about it before, but not anymore! I found it in the Ismaili faith and drink from it everyday.
The following are the Suni References supporting strongly that there was an heir declared by the Holy Prophet at Gadir-al-khuum, and that was Ali (A.S.).
* Sahih Muslim, Chapter of the virtues of the companions, section of the virtues of Ali,198O Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, Arabic version, v, p1873, Tradition #36
* And many others such as Sahih al-Tirmidhi, Musnad Ahmed
The reader is, also, strongly advised to read the following three books which are replete with rational arguments that should, successfully, dispel any doubts in the minds of those who have been programmed and brain-washed, for centuries, as to the truth about Ali's (A.S.) wilaya (plenipotency).
1. THE RIGHT PATH by Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din al-Musawi
Translated by Muhammad Amir Haider Khan
2. THE BROTHER OF MOHAMMAD by Mohamed Jawad Chirri
3. NAHJUL-BALAGHA - Sermons of Hazrat Ali
There are numerous other Suni References. The reader is advised to retrieve the following from the internet for further overwhelming proof.
Subject: Quran and Ahlul-Bayt
For an authentic account on the history of the Ismailis, please read:
-THE ISMAILIS: THEIR HISTORY AND DOCTRINES by Farhad Daftary
-THE ASSASSIN LEGENDS - Myths of the Ismailis by Farhad Daftary(1994)
The research that went into these two books has set the record straight and has eliminated all the myths woven by historians whose sources were hostile and bitterly biased against Ismailis. Truth has finally prevailed.
Ismaili Tariqah by Abualy A. Aziz
My heartfelt thanks to the compiler of "Quran and Ahlul-Bayat" for his magnificent contribution in the service of truth.
My heartfelt thanks to Nizar Premji who translated Mr. Bahadur Rajani’s waezez for me
TAMARO NEKI NO KHARKHANO CHAALUJ CHE.
Congratulations for this posting.This is the one of the best posting of RESEARCHED reference from your side.
It took me 2 days to read n digest it,As I am man of understanding few words/lines of Essence and get into Baatin of it.
This Anon writer looks from USA,where he has named some persons.he must be located if can.
His essay is worthy of publication by an Institution.Any Sunni smart cookie gate crashing our site should be offered THIS n the posting on word 'ALLAH' as welcome jura.He wont stick around for long out here.
BUS LAGE RAHO MAHERALI BHAI.
When I read in the above article that the Holy Prophet named no successor, I was just appalled and felt that I had to respond. Please note that the views expressed in this response are strictly my own, and I am responding for the benefit of Ismaili readers, particularly children, to whom I wish to say that they must have done something right to be born in this faith. If only they could imagine the heartache, frustrations, and obstacles that I had to reckon with and overcome before I found this Siratal-Mustaqeem. One regular prayer that every Ismaili Muslim should always remember to offer is: "Ya, Ali, thank You for giving me birth in the Ismaili faith." Ali, by the way, is one of Allah's attributes.
Ali, by the way, is one of Allah's attributes.
Somebody should inform this author that Imam Ali and "AL-'ALIYY"
meaning The Most High are two different things. "AL-'ALIYY" is referenced in (2:255) (4:34) (31:30) (42:4) (42:51)
Tell him to Google "99 names of God" He would find all 99 attributes.
You do not call Allah by other attribute like
"Ya Al-Hadi", or "Ya Al-Gafur" or "Ya Al-Kabir"
We ismailis call Allah by whatever name pleases Him.
Sometimes we call him Ya Hayul Qayum, sometime Ya Raheman, sometime Ya Rahim... any objection?
Our Kalima does not stop at two lines, we also say several of them in our prayers such as La illah ha illala hul Malik yaum e din or La illah ha illala hul Malkul Haqkul Mubeen etc...
stop comparing our ways of showing our love to Allah with your ways or even the majority's ways. There is no guaranty that Allah prefers the way of the majority. We do not stop any person to pray as he wishes and in manners that gives him satisfaction that he has perform his prayers. Please respect our faith also.
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