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Summary of question
According to a Sunni scholar, this verse "O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and…" proves the invalidity of the belief in Imams. What is your opinion in this regard?
question
According to a Sunni scholar, the verse 59 of Chapter al-Nisa which says "Atte’u–llaha wa atti’u rasoola wa Ulu al-Amr-e minkum. Wa in Tanazatum fi shay....." confirms the invalidity of the concept of Imamate. Because if the Imams were infallible, then the verse should not have the phrase "Wa in Tanazatum ...". It should have been an absolute statement, "Obey Allah and the Prophet and the Ulul Amir." The phrase proves that you can have a dispute with the Ulul Amr and if you do, then refer back to Allah (SWT) and the Prophet (pbuh). Moreover, if there is a dispute and if Imamate was a valid concept, then it should have said, "Rudduhu ilal-Allah wa Rasoolehi wa ila Ulil Amr-e minkum". Please comment on this understanding of the verse.
Concise answer

The verse in question is comprised of two parts. In the first part the infallibility of those in authority can be inferred from the absoluteness of the verse about obeying God, the Prophet (s) and those who are in authority. The command is unrestricted and unconditional.  Since all necessary conditions and adverbs are mentioned in divine words and if it was likely of those in authority to make a mistake, God would certainly restrict their obedience with some conditions and He would not give an injunction without any restriction or a condition as it is in the case of obeying parents where obedience of them has been forbidden if their commands are in contrast with divine commands. Since there is no condition and adverb in this verse it is clear that those who are in authority are infallible like the Apostle (pbuh). Having said, we have to see who the manifestation of Ulul Amr (those in authority) is and  in order to get an answer to, we advise the reader to refer to question No.3057 (website:4302). To find out why "those who are in authority" is not mentioned in the rest of the verse you can refer to the following detailed answer.

Detailed Answer

The verse in question is verse 59 of chapter of al-Nisa (4) where the Quran says:"O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those in authority from among you; then if you quarrel about anything, refer it to Allah and the Apostle, if you believe in Allah and the last day; this is better and very good in the end[1]."Obviously, the verse has two parts. In the first part, obedience of God, the Apostle and those who are in authority has been brought up and then there is guideline as to whom people should refer to in case of any disputes.

In the first part of the verse, God speaks of obeying Him, the Apostle and those who are in authority. Two points are important and should be noted here:

1-Absoluteness of the verse about obeying the Apostle and those who are in authority

2-Manifestation of "those who are in authority" and its compliance with twelve Imams

First point:

From the absoluteness of God's command to obey the Apostle and with no condition and adverb qualifying the statement, it can be inferred that as there is obviously no condition in God's obedience there is also no condition in obeying the Apostle and if it was least likely of the Apostle to make a mistake, God Who is Omniscient and All-Wise would not command His servants in an absolute way.

So this verse implies that the Apostle is infallible and does not command or forbid anything against God's commands otherwise it would be meaningless for God to command people to obey the Messenger in an absolute way if he were likely to make mistakes. So his obedience is exactly the same as God's obedience. Verse 8 of chapter 4 of the Quran refers to this fact where it says:" Whoever obeys the Apostle, he indeed obeys Allah[2]"

If it was least likely of the Apostle to commit a sin, God would have certainly restricted his obedience as in the case of parents where God says:"And if they contend with you that you should associate (others) with Me, of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them[3]"

The infallibility of the Apostle is proven. It is accepted by Shiites and majority of Sunnis though.

"Those in authority" is added to "the Apostle" without repeating "obey" for "those in authority" (unlike its repetition for the Apostle) which clearly indicates that what has been said about the Apostle and his infallibility is applicable to and confirmable about "those in authority". Therefore "those in authority" should be infallible and they are.

When it comes to second point i.e. the manifestation of "those who are in authority" and its application to the twelve Imams, refer to the answer of question no.3057 (site: 4302) in this regard.

Here we deal with the second part of the verse i.e. referring to God and the Apostle in quarrels and disputes:

The question here has something to do with the first part in which the infallibility of those who are in authority is substantiated and their absolute obedience has been commanded, why haven’t they (those in authority) been mentioned here and it has not been said to refer to God, the Apostle and those who are in authority and only God and the Apostle have been mentioned?

In response to this question it should be said:

First, this objection can be made to some Sunnis such as Fakhr Razi[4], Zamakhshari[5], Tabari[6] and so on since this question can be posed in every case no matter what meaning may be inferred from "those who are in authority".

Second, if "those who are in authority" are disputed over, we cannot refer to “those in authority” to settle the dispute. Therefore not mentioning or repeating "those who are in authority" in the rest of the verse does not imply their fallibility or their being unqualified to rule the Muslim nation after the demise of the Apostle.

Third, this statement is baseless to say that not mentioning "those who are in authority" in the rest of the verse means that the belief in Imams is false; by the reasons offered earlier we know that the Apostle is infallible while verse 10 of chapter 42 of the Quran says:"And in whatever thing you disagree, the judgment thereof is (in) Allah's (hand)[7]"according to the reasoning mentioned earlier should it be said that the Apostle is not infallible so he is not mentioned by God in this verse?! Or should it be said that the belief in the Apostle's prophecy –we take refuge to God – is a baseless belief while no one has said such a statement. In other words, the verse in question does not imply not to refer to Imams or to judges and so on.

Apart from all this, the issue of referring to "those who are in authority" has been brought up in verse 83 of chapter 4 of the Quran where it says:" and if they had referred it to the Apostle and to those in authority among them, those among them who can search out the knowledge of it would have known it" so referring to "those in authority[8]" is also stated in this verse.

Related index: The meaning of "those who are in authority" No.2658 (site:3057)

 


[1]Quran 4:59

[2]Quran 4:80

[3]Quran 29:8

[4]Razi, Fakhroddin Muhammad, Mafatihul Gayb, vol.10, p.144, Dar Ehyaat-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut, third edition, 1998

[5]Zamakhshari, al-Kashshaf, vol.2, p.524, DarulKitab al-Arabi, Bairut, third edition, 1985

[6]Tabari, Jami'ol Bayan fi Tafsir al-Quran, vol.5, p.180, Darul Ma'rifa, Beirut, first edition, 1990

[7]Quran 42:10

[8]Quran 4:83

 

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