Editor’s Note: Mohib Ebrahim’s article How to Validate the Shia Imamat from the Holy Qur’an presents a novel validation for the manfiest Imamat of the Ismailis based on three facets of the notion of Qur’anic notion of “rightly guided, qualified leadership”. In this we provide excerpts related to the third of the three aspects: the Purified.
Click to download and read Thread III
Commentary to Thread III
There is no disagreement among all Muslims — Sunni and Shia — that:
- Only Allah purifies.
- The Prophets, being purified by Allah and having knowledge of scripture, are rightly guided.
- That the Prophets mentioned in the Qur’an — including Prophet Muhammad — are from the same “seed,” i.e. family line.
- That Allah promised Abraham leadership among the righteous of his “seed.”
- As per verse 33:33, the Ahl al-bayt, i.e. the People of the Prophet’s Household, are purified by Allah.
What is contested is whether or not all of the Prophet’s wives and/or the progeny of the Prophet are included as members of the Ahl al-bayt and thus purified.
According to the Shia, citing the historical record, when 33:33 was revealed the Prophet indicated that along with himself, only Hazrat Ali and his wife — the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima — and their two sons, Hussan and Hussein, were his Ahl al-bayt. Prophetic tradition — such as those from Ghadir Khumm discussed earlier — extend the Ahl al-bayt to include the Shia of Imams arising from Hussein’s progeny. The Sunni disagree. They include some or all of the Prophet’s wives and exclude any further progeny from the Ahl al-bayt. Whether or not the Prophet’s wives are included as part of the Ahl al-bayt is not relevant to the issue of Imamat, but the Prophet’s progeny is of course fundamental, for if they are, then according to 33:33 they are purified and have automatic right to leadership and are vested with the knowledge to interpret the Qur’an.
As was done with Threads I and II, when faced with conflicting interpretations, our methodology is to invoke 4:82 and see if other verses can resolve the conflict.
Observation 9 summarises the conclusions of Threads I and II, that (a) on the matter of leadership we are instructed to obey the pure and (b) on the matter of interpretation of the Qur’an, it is fully explained and that explanation lies with the purified. Leaving aside the issue of the Prophet’s progeny, the fact that the Sunni position doesn’t even insist that the purified are required to fulfil these two conditions is itself inconsistent with the Qur’an. The question, therefore, is not if the purified must be present among each generation, but rather, who are they?
It is self-evident that, during the Prophet’s lifetime, these two conditions were met by the Prophet himself. Similarly it is also self-evident that: :
- if each generation after the Prophet are to obey Allah’s instructions to only follow purified leaders, and
- if the Qur’an is to be fully explained, in perpetuity, as Allah promises.
then a purified person must live with each generation after the Prophet. That two conditions require the purified to satisfy them doubly confirms the necessity of a purified among each generation.
As Observation 10 notes, we must be informed by Allah who are purified since we are not able to make that judgement by ourselves since our knowledge is limited and not perfect. At the Prophet’s time, Allah only identified the Ahl al-bayt — i.e. the People of [Mohammad’s] House — as purified. If the purified, who are to fulfil the above two conditions in each generation, do not come from the Ahl al-bayt, then we have no way of identifying them — since Allah doesn’t inform us that any other family will be purified after the Prophet — and thus it becomes impossible to fulfil or meet the above two conditions. This would be a significant inconsistency in the Qur’an.
On the other hand, Threads I and II expound — in consistency with the Shia position that purified in each generation are part of the Ahl al-bayt — that, historically (going as far back as the Qur’an speaks to) all the purified have descended from, or are members of, one “house,” i.e. family, and furthermore, Allah promised that He would continue to appoint the righteous from the same “house” (the House of Abraham) as leaders for Mankind, i.e. they will be the purified, per Thread I. And consistent with this and verse 33:62 — where Allah informs us that He does not change His practices — there aren’t, to my knowledge, any verses in which Allah indicates He has terminated this practice or rescinded his promise to Abraham and therefore we have no reason whatsoever to assume the purified will not continue to be appointed from one family — indeed the same family they were appointed from prior to the Prophet. Failure, therefore, to find such a continuous lineage of the purified after the Prophet, descended from the Prophet, would again result in a serious failing in the order the Qur’an lays down for mankind.
On the other hand that there is such a lineage, and critically only one such claimed lineage of “qualified rightly guided leadership”, i.e. leadership appointed by Allah, at the very least corroborates or at best confirms the Qur’an (depending on one’s insight into the evidence). That lineage is the lineage of the Shia Ismaili Imams, of whom His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam. As his predecessor, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, said:
If those who believe that Hazrat Ali was the rightful successor of the Prophet to be the ‘Ulu’l-amr Menkom [then they] must accept the principle of that succession — for the same reasons they accept in the case of Hazrat Ali — his rightful Imam descendants. [T]he Spiritual Imamat remained with Hazrat Ali and remains with his direct descendants always alive till the Day of Judgement. That a spiritual succession to the Imamat makes the Imam the ‘Ulu’l-amr Menkom always according to the Qur’an and though he has his moral claim to the Khalifat as well, always he can, like Hazrat Ali himself owing to the conditions of the world, accept and support such worldly authorities as the Imam believes help the cause of Islam. (12)
Observations 11 and 12, and verse 36:12 quoted in the conclusion of the thread are not critical to the argument but offered merely to illustrate how allegorical verses — when viewed through the prism of the foregoing — assume a corroborative air or quality, consistent with the necessity of a lineage of purified, descended from the Prophet, living among each generation.