Between Us and Greek Mythology

Destroying the Fable
April 15, 2021
The Imams are Humans
April 15, 2021

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Between Us and Greek Mythology


Imam ‘Ali ‘alayh al Salam said, “Two types of people will meet destruction on account of me: he who loves me excessively to the point that he extols me with that which is not found in me, and he who hates me such that due to his hatred of me he would slander me.”[1]

Al Sharif al Radi, in Nahj al Balaghah, quotes a similar statement from Imam ‘Ali ‘alayh al Salam:

Two [types of] men shall perish on account of me: an extremist in his love for me, and a slanderer who fabricates lies against me.[2]


This is similar to his other statement:

Two [types of] men will perish on account of their disposition towards me: an extreme lover and a begrudging hater.[3]


I was once with a friend on the day of ‘Ashura’, discussing the Ta’ziyah processions and the Imams, when he surprised me by saying, “What is said about the Imams has removed them from the constraints of mere mortals and made them appear as demigods!” I was taken aback at his statement, yet simultaneously overjoyed to find an enlightened youth who refused to follow what he had inherited from his predecessors without contemplation.

He continued by saying, “One of the books that contains simply comedic contents is Al Tuhfat al Ridawiyyah fi Mujarrabat al Imamiyyah by Muhammad al Ridawi. This book could easily pass off as a book on witchcraft and magic. It demonstrates how to remove rats from the house by using specific talismans, and how to deduce the chastity of a woman by examining her name and her mother’s name.”[4]

Anyone who peruses the books of miracles and similar material will find a distorted image of the Imams ‘alayhim al Salam. Some would consider this indicative of the virtue of the Imams and of their lofty rank.

In the book Madinat al Ma’ajiz by al Sayed Hashim Al Bahrani, as well as in Bihar al Anwar by Al Majlisi, this story is mentioned:


It is on the authority of Salman Al Farisi, who said, “I said to ‘Ali ‘alayh al Salam, ‘I would like you to show me the camel of Thamud,’ so he entered his house and returned with a black horse, then called for another horse to come out.

He then said, ‘Mount O Salman.’

I mounted, when I saw that there were two wings attached to the horse’s back, with which it began to fly in the air.”

He then said, “We then reached a large tree, so he (‘Ali ‘alayh al Salam) split it with a twig in his hand, as a result of which a camel emerged, the height of which was 60 cubits, and the width of which was 40 cubits. He then called, and another camel emerged, even bigger than the first, the height of which was 120 cubits, and the width of which was 60 cubits. Its head was made from ruby, its legs from emerald, and its udders from pearl. Its right side was made of gold and its left from silver. I drank from its udders pure honey.”

At the end of the tale he said, “All of a sudden there were 70 rows of angels at every corner. So, he (‘Ali) sat at one corner and the angels would come to greet him, until gave them permission to leave and they would disperse.”[5]


More elaborate than this is the narration found in numerous works, including Rawdat al Wa’izin, wherein it is attributed to the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam that he said:

Verily my beloved, Jibril, descended at the time of ‘Ali’s birth. He then said to me, “O beloved of Allah! Allah sends you salutations and congratulates you on the birth of your brother, ‘Ali.”


The story continues until he is reported to have said:

So, I stretched my hand to his mother, when ‘Ali suddenly was leaning on my hand, placing his right hand on his right ear, as he was calling the Adhan and Iqamah announcing Hanifiyyah[6], testifying to the oneness of Allah and to my prophethood.


This is what the narration states despite the fact that the Adhan was only institutionalized after migration to Madinah! In fact, at that time, the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was not even formally initiated as a Prophet, and neither did he know of that he was a Prophet! The story, however, does not end here. It continues as follows:


He (the newborn ‘Ali) then said to me, “O Messenger of Allah, should I recite?”

To which I replied, “Recite!”

By Him in whose hand lies the life of Muhammad, he commenced with the scriptures revealed by Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala to Adam, that were upheld by Shith, and he recited them from the first to the last letter, in such a manner that were Shith to be present, he would have attested to the fact that ‘Ali had memorized them better than himself! He then recited the Torah of Musa such that were Musa present, he would have attested to the fact that ‘Ali had memorized it better than himself! Then he recited the Zaboor of Dawood, and then the Injil of ‘Isa! He then recited the Qur’an that Allah has revealed to me from its beginning to its end, such that I found his memorization of it equivalent in precision to my memorization of it at this moment![7]


Think about it carefully; ‘Ali, the infant, only just born, addressing the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, “O Messenger of Allah,” and reciting the Qur’an that was not even completely revealed at that point, from beginning to end! All of this, whereas the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was not aware of his own Prophethood, and not one verse is yet revealed to him!

Consider how it relates to the incident of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam first receiving revelation. When Jibril descended to him with the revelation, the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was alarmed and went to Sayyidah Khadijah ‘alayh al Salam, trembling and said to her, “Cover me! Cover me!” He then went to Waraqah ibn Nawfal who subsequently informed him that it was the same angel that was sent down to Musa ‘alayh al Salam.

There is another famous narration is mentioned in Bihar al Anwar that reads:


Imam ‘Ali ‘alayh al Salam was born inside the Ka’bah and the wall of the Ka’bah opened for Fatimah bint al Asad, the mother of Imam ‘Ali ‘alayh al Salam, so that she may enter. Then, after his birth, he saw his father Abu Talib and greeted him. Later, when he saw the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam he greeted him saying, “Peace be upon you, O Messenger of Allah, and Allah’s mercy and His blessings.” He then recited, after his birth, Surat al Mu’minun.[8]


Was the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam keeping up a pretence to those around him, creating the impression that he was unaware of being a Prophet?

Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:

تِلْكَ مِنْ أَنبَاءِ الْغَيْبِ نُوحِيهَا إِلَيْكَ ۖ مَا كُنتَ تَعْلَمُهَا أَنتَ وَلَا قَوْمُكَ مِن قَبْلِ هَٰذَا ۖ فَاصْبِرْ ۖ إِنَّ الْعَاقِبَةَ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ

These are some of the accounts of the unseen. We reveal them to you. Neither you nor your people knew them before now. So be patient; the good outcome is for the Godfearing.[9]


Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says further:


وَكَذَٰلِكَ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ رُوحًا مِّنْ أَمْرِنَا ۚ مَا كُنتَ تَدْرِي مَا الْكِتَابُ وَلَا الْإِيمَانُ وَلَٰكِن جَعَلْنَاهُ نُورًا نَّهْدِي بِهِ مَن نَّشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا ۚ وَإِنَّكَ لَتَهْدِي إِلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ

In a similar way we have revealed to you a Spirit by our command. You knew neither the scripture nor faith, but we made it a light by which we guide whomsoever we will to guide from our slaves. You are truly guiding to the straight path.[10]


Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala informs us Himself that the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not know a thing regarding        his own Prophethood prior to his receiving revelation. On the other hand, we are fabricating reports to claim that Imam ‘Ali ‘alayh al Salam knows, and even recites, the Qur’an in its entirety the first instant that he exits his mother’s womb to the world!

The narrations on the births of the remaining Imams follow a similar pattern. What is strange is our bias and adherence to these narrations; even at the cost of rejecting the Qur’an and sound reason. We have no reason for doing so save the fact that we have become fond of hearing these stories from the time we opened our eyes in this world.

In the book Makanat al Mar’ah fi Fikr al Imam al Khumayni:

Al Zahra’ was no ordinary woman; she was a sacred and angelic woman. Rather, she is an angelic being who appeared in this world in human image. On the contrary, she is a divine being who appeared in the form of a woman.[11]


Thus, the logical conclusion to this is that Al Zahra’ was not a human!

Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says about his Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam:


قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ

Say, “I am but a man like yourselves, [except] revelation is sent to me.”[12]


Al Sayed Hashim Al Bahrani mentions in his book, Madinat al Ma’ajiz:


Shadhan ibn ‘Umar narrated to us — from Murrah ibn Qabisah ibn ‘Abdul Hamid — Jabir ibn Yazid al Ju’fi told me, “I saw my master al Baqir ‘alayh al Salam when he had just made an elephant from clay. So, he mounted it and it flew in the air until he went to Makkah and returned on it.”

I (Murrah) did not believe him until I met al Baqir ‘alayh al Salam myself and said to him, “Jabir informed of such-and-such regarding you?”

So he did the same and mounted, taking me with him to Makkah and then returning me.[13]


Flying elephants! Horses with wings! We do not deny the miracles of the pious. However, these are not miracles; they are fables that cannot be accepted by the intellect!

It is sufficient for the Imam what they have actually done for them to be illuminating lanterns that light up the world. They have no need of anyone to invent outlandish tales about them! The Imams are great figures in and of themselves, their personalities speak for them; they are in no need of our fabricating tales extolling them! The strange thing is that these stories are contrived in order to affirm that their abilities surpass human boundaries, but despite this, cowardice and silence in the face of oppression is also attributed to them! This is to the extent that when the house of Imam ‘Ali ‘alayh al Salam is attacked, and the rib of his pure wife is broken, on account of which she suffers a miscarriage, he simply looks on like a spectator without any reaction as if the matter does not concern him!

Do the Messengers of Allah conjure up miracles at will, choosing what they will bring about; or do these miracles manifest with the will of Allah in a manner that the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam may not even know of a miracle except after its occurrence?

The people of the cave said, “We stayed (in the cave) for a day or part of a day.” They did not know that they had slept for over 300 years.

Allah’s Messenger, Musa ‘alayh al Salam, threw his staff, and when he saw it as a slithering serpent, he turned away out of fear at the sight of it.

So, does the Imam do as he wishes, as if these affairs are under his control, by resurrecting the dead at some instances, taking control of the sun, peeking into the unseen, fulfilling people’s needs, and sending them their livelihoods at others?

Supernatural acts have been ascribed to the Imams in a manner that elevates them from the realm of mere mortals to a realm beyond human comprehension. That being the case, how are we then to follow them when they bear these supernatural qualities, and we are only mortals? When the Imam is providentially moulded in the worship of Allah, like the angels, then how can we emulate him?

Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:

لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ

You have an excellent model in the Messenger of Allah.[14]


We emulate the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam because he is a human being, the same way we are. He never said, “Follow Jibril or Mika’il”. Why would He make us follow creatures who bear no likeness to us in our emotions, our feelings, and in our bodily composition?

Furthermore, who is better: one who was created as a normal human with their inclinations and proclivities, yet is able to overcome those inclinations with their firm resolve and strength of spirit; or one who is providentially predisposed to following divine guidance, and has no potential to stray from that path?

When miracles were demanded from the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, Allah ordered His Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to emphasize the fact that he was human:


قَالُوا لَن نُّؤْمِنَ لَكَ حَتَّىٰ تَفْجُرَ لَنَا مِنَ الْأَرْضِ يَنبُوعًا أَوْ تَكُونَ لَكَ جَنَّةٌ مِّن نَّخِيلٍ وَعِنَبٍ فَتُفَجِّرَ الْأَنْهَارَ خِلَالَهَا تَفْجِيرًا أَوْ تُسْقِطَ السَّمَاءَ كَمَا زَعَمْتَ عَلَيْنَا كِسَفًا أَوْ تَأْتِيَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ قَبِيلًا أَوْ يَكُونَ لَكَ بَيْتٌ مِّن زُخْرُفٍ أَوْ تَرْقَىٰ فِي السَّمَاءِ وَلَن نُّؤْمِنَ لِرُقِيِّكَ حَتَّىٰ تُنَزِّلَ عَلَيْنَا كِتَابًا نَّقْرَؤُهُ ۗ قُلْ سُبْحَانَ رَبِّي هَلْ كُنتُ إِلَّا بَشَرًا رَّسُولًا

They said, “We will not believe you until you make a spring gush out from the earth for us; or until you have a garden of dates and grapes through which you make rivers come pouring; or make the sky, as you claim, fall onto us in pieces; or bring Allah and the angels to us face-to-face or have a house of gold; or ascend into the sky. Even then, we will not believe in your ascension until you send down on us a book that we may read.” Say, “Pure is my Lord! Am I anything but a human messenger?”[15]


Imam al Sadiq ‘alayh al Salam said, upon hearing of those who had gone to extremes in their allegiance to him:


By Allah, we are nothing but slaves to that being who created us; we can neither harm nor benefit. If He shows mercy on us then it is out of His mercy, and if He punishes us, then it is as a result of our sins. By Allah we have no proof against Allah, and neither are we independent of Allah. Indeed, we are to expire, be buried, be resurrected and raised, and apprehended and questioned (on the day of judgement). Woe to them! What is the matter with them, may Allah curse them! They have disobeyed Allah and discomforted his Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in his grave, and they have discomforted the leader of the believers, as well as Fatimah, Hassan, Hussain, ‘Ali ibn Hussain, and Muhammad ibn ‘Ali.[16]


NEXT⇒ The Imams are Humans

[1] Ibrahim Al Thaqafi: Kitab al Gharat, 2/590.

[2] Nahj al Balaghah, 4/108.

[3] Ibid, 4/28.

[4] Another book similar to Al Tuhfat al Ridawiyyah is Diya’ al Salihin by al Jawahirji. Professor Hussain Bazbuz has written an important article about this book titled Waqafat ma’ Diya’ al Salihin, in which he has underscored the various aspects of superstition and magic found therein. The article can be accessed on this link:

[5] Sayed Hashim Bahrani: Madinat al Ma’ajiz, 1/535; Bihar al Anwar, 54/339.

[6] Hanifiyyah is the quality of turning away from the world towards Allah.

[7] Sayed Hashim Bahrani: Hilyat al Abrar, 2/57-59; Rawdat al Wa’izin, pg.83.

[8] Bihar al Anwar, 35/17-18.

[9] Surah al Hud: 49.

[10] Surah al Shura: 52.

[11] Makanat al Mar’ah fi Fikr al Imam al Khumayni, pg.23-24.

[12] Surah al Kahf: 110.

[13] Madinat al Ma’ajiz, 5/10.

[14] Surah al Ahzab: 21.

[15] Surah al Isra’: 90-93.

[16] Rijal al Kashhi, 2/491; Bihar al Anwar, 25/289.

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