Discussion 6: ‘Ismah (Infallibility)

BACK⇒ Return to Table of contents

 

‘Ismah (Infallibility)

 

What is new regarding the stance of the contemporary scholars in this regard is that they have adopted the view of their later scholars in claiming absolute infallibility for the Imams, a view that represents the highest level of extremism due to it entailing that the Imams do not falter and forget.

This specific view was treated by the Shia of the fourth century as an extremist radical view. To the extent that their scholar Ibn Babawayh al Qummi, the author of Man la Yahduruhu al Faqih, has stated that the sign of extremism is negating forgetfulness from the Imams. He says:

 

إن الغلاة والمفوضة ينكرون سهو النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم

The extremist and the consigners do not believe in the forgetting of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.[1]

 

Hence, likewise will be the case of those who negate forgetfulness from the Imams.

Their scholar al Majlisi concedes that many of their narrations indicate to the fact that their Imams would at times forget.[2] But their later scholars did not worry about that and unanimously opposed it by believing that the Imams are free from forgetfulness. It is for this reason that al Majlisi admits that this is a very contentious issue;[3] i.e. he realised that many of his friends agreed upon opposing their copious narrations in this regard.

The contemporaries have treaded the path of the later scholars in opposing the narrations of the Shia and what their senior scholars have said. We thus find one of their cotemporary scholars ‘Abdullah al Mamaqani, also known as al Ayah al ‘Udhma (the greatest sign) emphasising that rejecting the infallibility of the Imams is to reject a categorically established aspect of the Shia dogma.[4] Surprisingly, he does not deny the fact that amongst their early scholars there were those who considered this to be extreme, but he comments:

 

إن ما يعتبر غلوا في الماضي أصبح اليوم من ضرورات المذهب

That which was considered to be extreme in the past has become an incontrovertible aspect of the dogma.[5]

 

This view that the Imams are infallible is repeatedly emphasised by their scholars. Hence al Muzaffar considers it to be a firmly established principle of the Imamiyyah without even hinting to any dispute amongst the Shia regarding it.[6] Al Khunayzi, in his book al Da’wah al Islamiyyah ila Wahdah Ahlus Sunnah wa al Imamiyyah, emphasises upon it without any Taqiyyah;[7] and Khomeini, in his book al Hukumah al Islamiyyah, negates even the possibility of the Imams forgetting.[8]

Where on the one hand the claim of infallibility for the Imams equates them to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in their verdicts and actions,

وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُوْحَىٰ

By the star when it descends, your companion [i.e., Muhammad] has not strayed, nor has he erred.[9]

 

On the other hand the claim that they do not forget/err or that it is inconceivable for them to forget/err is equivalent to deifying them. This is clearly understood from the following statement of Ibn Babawayh al Qummi:

 

إن الله أسهى نبيه ليعلم أنه بشر مخلوق فلا يتخذ ربا معبودا دونه

Allah made his Nabi forget so that it becomes known that he was a created human and thus is not thereafter treated as a deity besides Allah.[10]

 

Furthermore, Ibn Babawayh and other scholars of the fourth century considered the rejection of these narrations, i.e. the narrations of the forgetting of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, to amount to nullifying the Din and the Shari’ah completely. Ibn Babawayh says:

 

ولو جاز أن ترد الأخبار الواردة في هذا المعنى لجاز أن ترد جميع الأخبار، وفي ردها إبطال الدين والشريعة، وأنا أحتسب الأجر في تصنيف كتاب منفرد في إثبات سهو النبي صلى الله عليه وآله والرد على منكريه إن شاء الله تعالى

If it is possible to reject narrations with such content it would likewise be possible to reject all the narrations. And in rejecting them is the nullification of Din and the Shari’ah. I am hopeful of reward in writing an exclusive book on the forgetfulness of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and so am I hopeful of reward in rebutting the claims of those who deny it, if Allah wills.[11]

 

However, the later scholars and the contemporary scholars did not pay any heed to the view of Ibn Babawayh. They likewise did not pay heed to his denial of their erroneous belief of interpolation and to any view or voice which opposed what the scholars of the Safawid Empire agreed upon.

The contemporary scholars have, as represented by al Mamaqani, considered the denial of forgetfulness from Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to be an integral aspect of the Shia dogma. And their scholar Muhsin al Amin has affirmed that whoever denies a categorical aspect of the Shia dogma is a disbeliever according to them.[12]

This necessarily implies that their later scholars excommunicate their earlier scholars due to them denying a categorical aspect of the Shia dogma. Just as it implies that the later scholars are victims of the curses of their early scholars due to them adopting the viewpoint of the extremist Mufawwidah who were cursed by the Imams.

Not only that, in the books which they publish and direct to the lands of the Ahlus Sunnah we find[13] that the belief that the Imams are infallible is the view of all the Shia.[14] And surprisingly, in other books of the Shia we find the view that the Shia unanimously concur on rejecting the infallibility of the Imams,[15] and that rejecting it is a categorically established aspect of the Shia dogma.[16]

So who do we believe and who is actually representing the Shia dogma?

This is how the Shia excommunicate each other and contradict each other; each one claims that what he says is the official viewpoint of the cult.

 

NEXT⇒ Discussion 7: Raj’ah (the return)


[1] Ibn Babawayh: Man la Yahduruhu al Faqih 1/234.

[2] Bihar al Anwar 25/351.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Al Mamaqani: Tanqih al Maqal 3/240.

[5] Ibid.

[6] ‘Aqa’id al Imamiyyah p. 95.

[7] Al Da’wah al Islamiyyah 1/92.

[8] Al Hukumah al Islamiyyah p. 91.

[9] Surah al Najm: 2.

[10] Man la Yahduruhu al Faqih 1/234.

[11] Bihar al Anwar 17/111.

[12] Muhsin al Amin: Kashf al Irtiyab: the 2nd introduction. This is also established in their book Muhadhdhab al Ahkam 1/388-393.

[13] Like in the writings of Muhammad Jawwad Mugniyyah wherein we find that he has ‘freed himself’ from much of the extremism of the Shia and their fanaticism. But these books are spread in the lands of the Ahlus Sunnah and thus the possibility of Taqiyyah still stands.

[14] Muhammad Jawwad Mugniyyah: al Shia fi al Mizan p. 272-273.

[15] Muhammad Asif al Muhsini: Sirat al Haqq 3/121.

[16] As has been presented already i.e. the view of al Mamaqani in Tanqih al Maqal.