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Last Updated: 2007/07/20
Summary of question
Why aren’t the imams able to protect their shrines from terrorist attacks?
If the imams are capable of doing anything, then why aren’t they even able to protect their own shrines from terrorist attacks and shootings?
Concise answer

In addition to Wilayah Tashri’i (legislative authority of making things haram or halal), Allah (swt) has given the Prophet (pbuh) and imams (as) Wilayah Takwini (the authority and power of making changes in our material world eg. splitting the moon). They have the ability to make any changes in our physical world, and this authority or power isn’t limited to their lifetime, but they also possess it after their deaths, because they are very sacred beings, yet they don’t make use of this power at all times and places, on the contrary, they use it whenever it is to the advantage of religion and the guidance of the people and not in contrast with Allah’s (swt) unchangeable precedents and courses of action.

On one hand, respecting the imams is the way of guidance, while disrespecting them and their holy shrines is transgression and going astray. On the other hand, one of Allah’s (swt) traditions and courses of action throughout history has been to leave people to their own will and leave them free to their own decisions, right or wrong. Allah (swt) doesn’t always make use of His never-ending power although He can, and the same goes for the Prophet (pbuh) and the imams (as) for the same reasons. Throughout history, there have been assaults on the Ka’bah, ending up in its partial destruction, yet Allah (swt) only prevented such a raid in one case, and that being the raid of Abrahah (in which its story has been pointed to in the surah of Fil).

Detailed Answer

In addition to Wilayah Tashri’i (the authority to legislate Islamic laws), Allah (swt) has granted the Prophet (pbuh) and the imams (as) Wilayah Takwini (which means that they have the power and authority to make any changes they desire in our material world). Imam Baqir (as) has said: “The Great Name is made up of seventy-three letters, Asef ibn Barkhia possessed one of these letters, and this gave him the power to be able to summon the throne of Bil-Qeys (the ruler and queen of the land of Saba’; this story has been pointed to in the surah of Nahl:38-40) in an instant. We the imams possess seventy-two of these words.”[1] This noble hadith shows the degree of the power and might of our imams. There is no difference between the life and death of these sacred beings (meaning that they are capable of doing the same things before and after their deaths and their martyrdoms in no way causes them to lose any of their powers). Despite this fact, the imams would live normal lives using their own knowledge and power instead of depending on their extraordinary knowledge and powers. It was only in exceptional conditions and situations and with the permission of Allah (swt) that they would do miracles. These specific cases were cases in which the guidance of the people depended on a miracle taking place.

Just like how Allah (swt), who is the most powerful of all and of never-ending might, doesn’t always make use of His power. Throughout history, there have been various attacks on the Ka’bah by tyrant groups, ending in its partial destruction, yet Allah (swt) has refused to prevent any of them from taking place. The only exception is the raid of Abrahah, in which had made a firm decision to completely destroy the Ka’bah. Allah (swt) miraculously abolished Abrahah so that all would know that Allah (swt) is the Almighty and that if He wishes, He can punish and abolish all of the disbelievers and sinners, yet it is His never-ending grace and kindness that prevents Him from doing so, so that those who are going astray as a result of not knowing the truth and their ignorance have a final chance, losing all excuses that they might claim on the Day of Judgement. This is also the basis of why the prophets and imams (as) go by the normal conditions of life--in order for guidance to be possible for all individuals. Also, there are some cases in which the imams have indeed protected themselves, their followers and shrines using their given powers, and these cases have been recorded in history, but for the same reasons mentioned above, these cases are special cases and aren’t very common.

Respecting the shrines of the imams is the way of prosperity and guidance, and disrespecting them is a way of going astray and loss. One of the traditions and courses of action of Allah (swt) throughout time has been to leave people to their own choice and decisions. Therefore, there is a great contradiction between the imams using their extraordinary powers and knowledge when facing their enemies (which in fact are Allah’s enemies as well) and destroying them in the shortest time possible, and the continuous and never-changing course of action that Allah (swt) has regarding His enemies. If they do so, the goal and purpose of creation which is for man to perfect through passing different tests will not be accomplished.

Unfortunately today, many Muslims are seen who attack other poor and defenseless Muslims. In reality, these individuals have been deceived by the sinister powers in the world, and are making these mistakes in the name of Islam! These groups’ actions remind us of the Khawarij of the battle of Nahrawan, who in the name of obtaining thawab and rewards from Allah (swt), struck Imam Ali (as) on one of the holy nights of the holy month of Ramadhan, martyring him in the masjid of Kufa. They also remind us of the army of Yazid who fought with Imam Husein (as) for Allah’s sake, because they falsely claimed that his Excellency had turned from his grandfather’s religion, just like how the Khawarij considered Imam Ali (as) a kafir. Nevertheless, these kind imams never made use of their powers to destroy their evil enemies.

At closing, this point must be made that although the imams didn’t make use of their powers in destroying their enemies, yet they taught their followers the natural way of confronting and destroying them. In other words, if they had made use of their extraordinary powers, they could no longer be role models for us because we don’t possess the same powers they do. As a result, we would no longer know what our responsibilities were if we were to be in situations similar to the one that Imam Husein (as) was in (while Imam Husein (as) showed us what to do in situations similar to his). This is why they hardly make use of their true abilities anywhere.

[1] Muhammad ibn Ya’qub Kuleini, Usulul-Kafi, vol. 1, pg. 230, hadith 1.

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