The Doctrine of Imamah continued

The true nature of the relationship between Abu Dhar al-Ghifari and `Uthman ibn `Affan
July 2, 2015
The Doctrine of Imamah
August 6, 2015

BACK Return to Table of contents


Contradictory Pictures of Early Islamic Era


What was the standard set by the earliest Islamic Era? What was the result; how the character and morals of the people were moulded under Rasulullah’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam guidance; and were these men different from national leaders, founders of kingdoms and persons aspiring for personal aggrandisement? What was their attitude to their kin; did the posterity of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam try to take advantage of its kinship to their great forefathers? How did these persons, particularly those belonging to Rasulullah’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam household, conduct themselves towards one another? What was the conduct of those who held wide and absolute power over a vast empire in that era? Did they indulge in pleasure and how did they behave with those committed to their care? What is the verdict of history in this regard? How far the claim about incorruptibility of the Scripture, which forms the bedrock and buttress of this religion, is correct? Was it really protected against all mutilations, accretions and alterations? The answers to these questions portray two contradictory pictures of Islam. One of it is that presented by the creed of the Ahlus Sunnah (followers of the Qurʼan and Sunnah) and the other is painted by the doctrines and tenets of Imamiyyah Ithna ‘Ashariyyah (The Twelvers). These portraits are not only diverse but also antithetical and contradictory.

Now anyone endowed with reason, sense of justice and knowledge of history can easily decide which one of the two versions is correct. Which one of the two depictions befits a religion revealed as mercy to the world which claims that its teachings are practicable in any age and region? It is a religion which announces that its Rasul salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was the most successful among all the prophets of Allah and the era of its Rasul salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was the most blessed period of its history. It was the era, it claims, of which the entire humanity can be proud of; for in the dark and dingy annals of the world with nothing but accounts of self-aggrandisement, wars for personal gains, struggles for power and prestige and taking advantage of one’s victorious exploits, this was the only period when we find self-abnegating and truthful individuals, all working for the common weal.

Those were the times which bear testimony to what the Khalifah ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al ’Aziz had thus given expression:


Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was sent as guide of humanity and not as a collector of revenues.


But the picture of Islam that emerges through the creed and portrayal of events by the Shia induces every intelligent and educated man to ask that if the call to Islam could not make any lasting impact on the people addressed by its founder and all of his followers barring four persons, became apostates just after his death, how can its claim to purify morals and behaviour of man be accepted? How can it claim to raise man from his baser instincts to the sublime stage of humanness? Let us suppose that a missionary of Islam is inviting people to accept Islam in a Western or any other non-Muslim country. A man, who has gone through the Shia literature, interrupts him to ask:


How can u invite others to Islam when its Prophet had no more than four or five believers in him after labouring for twenty-three long years? The vast majority recanted its faith!


What answer could be given to the man raising these objections?


Shia creed of ‘Allamah Khomeini

When Ayatollah Ruh Allah Khomeini gave a call for Islamic revolution and established the so-called Islamic Republic of Iran by overthrowing the Pahlavi monarchy a few years back, it was expected that in order to make his call more appealing and acceptable for all the Muslims, he would not open the door of Shia – Sunni controversy — at least he would not begin it again if he was unable to close the chapter.

It was hoped that if he did not publicly renounce those Shia tenets which were as much a stumbling block in the way of Islamic unity as in spreading the message of Islam, for reason of political expediency, he would at least not reiterate them publicly.

A man of his deep scholarship was expected to see the hand of Islam’s enemy who had cleverly exploited the injured pride of Iranians by the loss of their empire to the Arabs for sowing seeds of dissension among the Muslims. With his astounding victory over the Emperor and a powerful fighting machine to back him, it would have not been difficult for him to announce that the Muslims should now open a new chapter of friendship and amity for making Islam strong and powerful as well as for reforming the Muslim society of its ills, by forgetting the painful past. This was expected of him to make the future of Islam bright and also for inviting others to accept the truth of Islam.[1]

But these hopes were belied. He started publishing his Shia views through his works and articles. In his works entitled Al Hukumat al Islamiyyah Wilayat al Faqih he describes the Imams and the Imamah in a way that elevates them to the stage of divinity; he makes them out as superior to every nabi and angel; he pleads that the universe has been subordinated to them in its origin and creation.[2]

Similarly in Kashf al Asrar, written by him in Persian, he does not merely criticise but reviles and denounces and uses coarsely insulting language for the Sahabah, especially for the first three khulafaʼ, befitting the most wicked and vicious conspirers.[3]

Both these, his propagation of the Shia creed and imprecations of Sahabah are being publicised simultaneously on a wide scale through his works, for these are not his private epistles meant for his followers alone.


Followers of ‘Allamah Khomeini

The view of Imam Khomeini in regard to Imamah and Rasulullah’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam Sahabah are no secret. His works are being published widely both within and outside Iran. His pleadings for the Shia faith: the danger his views posed to Islam’s fundamental creed of Tauhid, the oneness of Allah; attributions of prophetic characteristics to the Imams; and more than these, the invectives showered by him on Rasulullah’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam Sahabah — who were held in the highest regard and whose era was held as the ideal period of the Islamic or rather world history — were expected to alienate at least those subscribing to the faith of Ahlus Sunnah. It was hoped that his activities would undermine his claim as the leader of an Islamic revolution and founder of a truly Islamic form of government. However it is disheartening to see that a section of Muslims, projecting itself as the standard-bearers of Islamic thought and as the reviver of Islamic glory, have accepted Imam Khomeini as the “Promised Guide”; it has lavished its affection and regard for him and is not prepared to condone even a word uttered in his criticism. This attitude leads to a two-fold conclusion.


Significance of Creed in Islam

First, the criterion devised by certain persons for approbation and disapprobation of anything is not that it should conform to the Qurʼan and the Sunnah or the practice or creed of our honoured precursors, but that it leads to establishment of an Islamic government, wresting of power for Islam, posing a challenge to any western power or creating difficulties for Western supremacy. This is what certain persons have come round to regard as the qualification for an ideal leader.

Secondly, fundamental Islamic creed is being taken lightly by our modern educated class. This is a dangerous development, sufficient to disturb all well-meaning believers. The dividing line between the movements launched by political leaders and the divine call given by the prophets of Allah is nothing but the creed propagated by the latter.[4] The prophets are never prepared to make any compromise at the cost of their creed. Their criterion for acceptance or rejection of any proposition is how far it is compatible with their creed. If the Muslims have been able to preserve their religion unadulterated, in its original form despite their numerous weaknesses, it has been on account of their sensitiveness and zeal for maintaining it in its purest form. The scholars of Islam, those charged with the protection and interpretations of its doctrines, have refused to be cowed down by the most tyrant and powerful rulers.

They have never played safe nor kept mum whenever they have found any Islamic tenet being misconstrued by the kings and emperors, let alone accepting any non-conformist view for their own benefit or for the good of Muslim masses. The fortitude found by Ahmed ibn Hambal (d. 241/856) in facing the persecutions of Khalifah Maʼmun and Mu’tasim, the two most powerful emperors of his time, on the question of the Qur’an’s creation[5] and the way Sheikh Ahmed Mujaddid Alf-e Thani (d.1034/1624) continued to struggle against the Emperor Akbar’s claims of Islam’s supersession by his eclectic religion of Din-e Ilahi and the emperor’s divine right of final say in all religious matters, until the Mughals were forced to change their policy[6], are but two examples that need to be cited here.

History of Islam offers innumerable shining examples of its votaries acting on the dictums: “Be truthful to the face of a tyrant ruler and no obedience to created beings involving disobedience to the Creator.” The tempter in this regard is often a tyrant ruler, occasionally the public opinion, at times fame and popularity, and not infrequently success in life; while experience tells us that it is the latter ones which are hardest to withstand.

The teachings and the creed of Islam are really like a river which never changes its course nor does it go dry. Political powers, occasional revolutions, rise and fall of governments, movements and forces come and go. If the river is flowing in the right direction they pose no danger, but if the creed is distorted, it means that the river has changed its course or its water has been contaminated. Thus, no mission, call or movement to make any country strong and powerful or to reform any society of its ills can ever be acceptable if its creed is not sound, seamless. This is essential for the stability of this religion and maintaining the vigour of its followers. This is why the servants and scholars of Islam, who have to safeguard the Shari’ah and the Sunnah, cannot avoid taking steps apparently unpleasant to certain persons.


The Secret of Khomeini’s Success

The reasons for the popularity of Ayatollah Khomeini are more than one. His success against the Shah and a peculiar type of revolution in the Iranian society; failure of America, the greatest world power to face his challenge; the fire and passion of Iranian youths for self-sacrifice; the unsatisfactory state of affairs, religion and moral shortcomings apparent in several Arab and Muslim countries; dissatisfaction of the Muslim youth in the Indo-Pak sub-continent owing to the conditions obtaining in their own countries; their readiness to accept whatever is presented to them in the name of Islam, are some of the factors that have won the same popular regard for Imam Khomeini as was once enjoyed by Kamal Ataturk in India and Gamal ‘Abd al Nasir in the Arab world.

There are also some heads of states in a few Muslim countries that were admired by their people even though they openly deny validity of the hadith and the Sunnah, at times they make fun of these, endeavour to make their countries culturally part of the West and are known sympathisers of communism. Imam Khomeini, however, got ahead of all such leaders because of his religious appeal. He is held in the highest regard by some who would not listen to any argument even if it aims at an appraisal of Imam Khomeini’s actions in the light of accepted creed, the Qurʼan or the Sunnah, they simply cannot tolerate any adverse criticism of Imam Khomeini. The way things are shaping is extremely dangerous for the future of Islam and the preservation of its spirit; this brings to mind a pithy remark by Khalifah ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu who said:

(There are those) who run after every rattler.


رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ رَحْمَةً ۚ   إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْوَهَّابُ

O Rabb make not our hearts to swerve after You have guided us; and favour us with Mercy from You. Verily You are the Giver.[7]


[1] The reason is that Islam cannot be presented as a saving principle for mankind if out of more than a hundred thousand companions stated to be present on the occasion of the Rasul’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam last pilgrimage, only four of them remained wedded to the faith after the Rasul’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam demise, if the Qur’an was totally mutilated and the real faith was kept secret by the Imams as claimed in Usul-Kafi, Fasl al Khitab and Kashf al Asrar.

[2]Al Hukumat al Islamiyyah op. cit., p. 52.

[3]Kashf al Asrar, op. cit., p.113-14.

[4]  See the author’s Dasur-e Hayat, Lucknow, 1978.

[5]  See Saviours of Islamic Spirit, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 67-86.

[6]  See Saviours of Islamic Spirit, Lucknow, 1983 Vol, III.

[7]  Surah Al ‘Imran: 8