Translated Books

5 Newly Published Translation Works


Muhammad ‘Ali Sadat and Hamid Talibzadeh, “FAMILY IN ISLAM,” trans. Mansoor Limba, 63 pages. (ISBN 978-600-429-168-2)

Sayyidah Tahirah Aghamiri, “FULFILLMENT OF TRUST,” trans. Mansoor Limba, 149 pages. (ISBN 978-600-429-170-5)

Muhammad ‘Ali Sadat and Hamid Talibzadeh, “ISLAMIC ANTHROPOLOGY,” trans. Mansoor Limba, 119 pages. (ISBN 978-600-429-116-3)

Murtada Mutahhari, “PHILOSOPHY OF ETHICS,” trans. Mansoor Limba, 419 pages. (ISBN 978-600-429-124-8)

Muhammad ‘Ali Sadat and Hamid Talibzadeh, “THE ISLAMIC MORAL SYSTEM,” trans. Mansoor Limba, 49 pages. (ISBN 978-600-429-166-8)

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Hijab and Mental Health



‘Abbas Rajabi, “HIJAB AND MENTAL HEALTH,” trans. Mansoor Limba (Tehran: ABWA Press, forthcoming), 178 pages.


Publisher’s Foreword


Statement of the Problem and Necessity for Research
Operational Definitions

Chapter 1: History of Ḥijāb
A Brief History
1. Women’s Covering in Ancient Greece and Rome
2. Women’s Covering in Ancient Persia
2.1. Median Period
2.2. Persian (Achaemenian) Period
2.3. Parthian Period
2.4. Sassanid Period
3. The Women’s Dress Code in Major Religions
3.1. Ḥijāb in the Sharī‘ah of Prophet Ibrāhīm (‘a)
3.2. Ḥijāb in Judaism
3.3. Ḥijāb in Christianity
3.4. Ḥijāb in Islam
4. Ḥijāb and the Lawfulness of the Relationship between Man and Woman in the Qur‟an
5. Ḥijāb and the Lawfulness of Relationship between Man and
Woman in the Traditions
6. The Muslim Jurists’ View on Women‟s Covering
7. The Ḥijāb of Iranian Women after the Advent of Islam
7.1. The Ḥijāb of Iranian Women during the Rule of the First Four Caliphs until the End of the Umayyad Caliphate (11-132 AH)
7.2. The Ḥijāb of Iranian Women during the Abbasid Caliphate (132-656 AH)
7.3. The Ḥijāb of Iranian Women during the Samanian Rule
(261-389 AH)
7.4. Ḥijāb of the Iranian Women during the Āli Būyeh Rule
(320-447 AH)
7.5. Ḥijāb of Iranian Women during the ‘Alawī Rule of Ṭabaristān (250-316 AH)
7.6. Ḥijāb of Iranian Women during the Ghaznawī Rule
(351-582 AH)
7.7. Ḥijāb of Women during the Mongol Rule (616-736 AH)
7.8. Ḥijāb of Women during the Safavid Rule (907-1135 AH)
7.9. Ḥijāb of the Women during the Qājār Rule (1193-1344 AH)
8. The History of Combatting Ḥijāb in Iran
9. Ḥijāb in Our National Islamic Culture

Chapter 2: The Innateness of Ḥijāb and Woman‟s Adornment Instinct
The Innateness of Woman‟s Dress Code
The Instinct of Ostentation and Adornment
1. This Instinct as Exclusive to Woman
2. The Need for Setting the Legal Parameters of the Instinct of
3. Excess in the Instinct of Ostentation and Adornment

Chapter 3: The Relationship between Ḥijāb and the Woman’s Mental Health
Ḥijāb and Mental Health
1. Safety
2. Psycho-social Development
3. Women‟s Acquisition of Value
4. Regulation of the Instinct of Ostentation and Adornment
5. Enhancement of the Sense of Self-worth
6. Protection of the Woman‟s Feelings
7. Adherence to the Human Moral Principles
8. Preservation of the Strong Family Bond
8.1. Effects of the Spread of Obscenity and Promiscuity in the
Shattering of the Family
8.2. Excess in the Consumption of Beautification Products
8.3. Sexual Frigidity

Chapter 4: Mental Health and Anxiety
Mental Health
Definition of ‘Mental Health’
1. Historical Background
2. Definition of ‘Anxiety’
3. Signs of Anxiety in the Different Dimensions
4. The Adolescent‟s Reaction to Anxiety
5. The Formation of Anxiety in the Process of Growing-up
6. Theoretical Points of View on Anxiety
6.1. Psychodynamic Theory
6.2. Etiological Theory
6.3. Humanistic and Existentialist Theory
6.4. Cognitive Theory
6.5. Behavioralist Theory
6.6. Socio-cultural Theory
7. Empirical Background of the Research

Chapter 5: Results of the Field Research
Research Methodology
Statistical Population
1. Sampling Method
2. Sampling Size
Other Findings

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Forthcoming Publication: “Philosophy of Ethics”


Murtada Mutahhari, “PHILOSOPHY OF ETHICS,” trans. Mansoor Limba (London: MIU Press, forthcoming), 272 pages.

Table of Contents

Translator’s Foreword
About the Author

Part One
Chapter 1: What is Ethics?
Chapter 2: Natural Action and Moral Action
Chapter 3: Theory of Emotionalism and the Muslim Philosophers’ Theory
Chapter 4: Conscience Theory
Chapter 5: Theory of Beauty
Chapter 6: Theory on Worship
Chapter 7: Islamic Ethics and Morality
Chapter 8: Self and Non-self
Chapter 9: Knowledge of the Self
Chapter 10: Spiritual and Moral Crises in the Present Age

Part Two
Chapter 11: The Criterion for Moral Action
Chapter 12: Communist Morality and Russell’s School of Morality
Chapter 13: Question of the ‘Self’ in Ethics

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Discursive Theology (Volumes 1-2)

Discursive Theology, volumes 1-2

Discursive Theology, volumes 1-2


‘Ali Rabbani Gulpaygani, DISCURSIVE THEOLOGY, Volume 1, trans. Mansoor Limba (Manila: AIF, 2013), pp. 310. Price: US$16.

‘Ali Rabbani Gulpaygani, DISCURSIVE THEOLOGY, Volume 2, trans. Mansoor Limba (Manila: AIF, 2015), pp. 368. Price: US$16.

About the Book:
Islamic theology is nourished by two sources, viz. reason (‘aql) and revelation (wahyi). Firstly, by citing axiomatic and definitive principles, reason proves the existence, knowledge, power, and wisdom of God, and on the basis of these rational theological doctrines, it also establishes the necessity for revelation and the infallibility of the prophets. And through revelation and prophethood (nubuwwah), it recognizes anew all the spiritual doctrines. Once again, by utilizing logical thinking, it embarks on elucidating and reinforcing those doctrines. On this basis, although Islamic theology is also anchored in revealed (wahyānī) texts and facts, it utilizes the method of reflection and intellection in all cases, because through a certain medium revealed facts are also traceable to rational principles and foundations.

It deals with a set of ideological and scholastic questions based upon Islamic theology. While reason and revelation (the Qur’an and Sunnah) have been the final reference and arbiter in decisions and evaluations, the ideas and opinions of Muslim thinkers have been amply utilized. With the aim of knowing the truth and exemplifying honest scholarship, the sources and references of the views and opinions of others have been cited and sometimes, their names or titles are even mentioned in the text or footnote.

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The Old Educational System and Intellectual Training


Mostly, our old educational system was such. You can see that individuals—whether because of lack of talent or because of defects in training and teaching—are exactly like tape recorders in relation to the facts they have learned. One studied a textbook diligently and meticulously, memorizing it from lesson to lesson, taking notes and learning from it. Later, he became a teacher, for example, and wanted to teach the same lessons. He studied and learned from the teacher whatever was [written] in the said book—its glosses and commentaries. He can perfectly answer whatever you ask about this textbook and its glosses and commentaries. Just make a little twist in your question and he would be dumb-founded. What he knows are only these “heard” (masmū‘) facts, and if another subject is presented in a different context and he wants to make certain conclusions on the basis of what he knows, he cannot do so. In fact, I have seen people who, in a certain context, made conclusions which were contrary to what they had learned in a different setting. As such, you can see that each of them is a learned person (ālim), yet his mind is ignorant (jāhil). He is learned but his mind is that of an ignorant. He is a scholar; that is, he has learned many things; he knows many pieces of information, but once you pose a question which is beyond the ambit of what he [explicitly] knows, you can see that you are facing a totally ignorant fellow. As it appears, an absolute ignoramus is at center stage.

The diviner and the king

There is a parable—of course, it is fictitious—of a diviner and geomancer who taught divination and geomancy to his son. He himself was receiving good pay from the royal court. He taught his son this knowledge so that he could occupy the post after him. One day, he introduced his son to the king. The king wanted to test him. He held an egg in his hands and asked the diviner’s son to guess what he was holding. The diviner’s son tried many times but failed to make the right guess. So, the king gave him a clue, saying: “Its center is yellow and its sides are white.” Something came to the mind of the aspiring diviner, and he said, “It is a millstone whose center is filled with carrots!” The king got furious, and summoned his father and said, “After all this, what is this knowledge you have taught him?” The father said, “I taught [him] my knowledge very well but he lacks intellect.” The first part of his answer was about his knowledge [he imparted to his son] while the second part [which he compared to his knowledge] was about his son’s lack of intelligence as manifested by his failure to realize that a millstone is too big to be concealed by hands. Human reason has to have [the ability to make] this judgment.

This is a popular story and so far I have heard it from many people. It is narrated that a foreigner came to Karaj[1] one day and met a villager. This villager used to give very substantial and excellent answers. He would give very good answer to every question the foreigner had. Then, the foreigner asked him, “How did you come to know all these facts?” The villager said, “Since I am illiterate, I am thinking.” This answer is very meaningful. That is, “What the literate says is what he knows but what I say is the product of my thinking and reflection. And thinking is far better than literacy.”

This is the issue—that there must be growth of intellectual or rational personality in individuals and in society. It means that the power to analyze and scrutinize issues must be developed.[2] This is a basic concern. That is, exactly in this training and education in schools, the teacher’s duty is beyond teaching the child. Teachers must do something to develop the students’ analytical power and not only to fill their minds with facts and pieces of information. In fact, if there is too much pressure to fill the mind with facts, the mind becomes dull.



[1] Karaj: a city situated 20 km west of Tehran, at the foothills of the Alborz Mountains. [Trans.]

[2] Presently, it is not my concern whether Islam says so or not. Our inference is that this is the very point which Islam says about the intellect.

Training and Education in Islam(An excerpt from Murtada Mutahhari, TRAINING AND EDUCATION IN ISLAM, trans. Mansoor Limba (Tehran: IHCS and ABU, 2011), pp. 15-16.)

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Eclectic Understanding of the Story of Habil and Qabil


Around 30 years ago, one of those Marxist-leaning and eclectic individuals presented in his lecture a symbolic interpretation of the story of Habil and Qabil mentioned in the Qur’an. The story as narrated in the Qur’an is as follows:

وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ ابْنَيْ آدَمَ بِالْحَقِّ إِذْ قَرَّبَا قُرْبَانًا فَتُقُبِّلَ مِن أَحَدِهِمَا وَلَمْ يُتَقَبَّلْ مِنَ الآخَرِ قَالَ لَأَقْتُلَنَّكَ قَالَ إِنَّمَا يَتَقَبَّلُ اللّهُ مِنَ الْمُتَّقِينَ

“Relate to them truly the account of Adam’s two sons. When the two of them offered an offering, it was accepted from one of them and not accepted from the other. [One of them] said, ‘Surely I will kill you.’ [The other one] said, ‘Allah accepts only from the God-wary’.”2

As can be deduced from traditions, the sons of Hadhrat Adam (‘a), Qabil (Cain) and Habil (Abel), were supposed to make an offering to God. Habil offered a sheep for sacrifice while Qabil offered some grain. The offering of the former was accepted by God but that of the latter was not accepted. As such, Qabil became jealous and envious of his brother Habil to the extent that he murdered him. But he regretted what he had done. As he did not know what to do with the corpse of his brother, God sent a crow to teach him how to bury the dead body:

فَبَعَثَ اللّهُ غُرَابًا يَبْحَثُ فِي الأَرْضِ لِيُرِيَهُ كَيْفَ يُوَارِي سَوْءةَ أَخِيهِ قَالَ يَا وَيْلَتَا أَعَجَزْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِثْلَ هَـذَا الْغُرَابِ فَأُوَارِيَ سَوْءةَ أَخِي فَأَصْبَحَ مِنَ النَّادِمِينَ

“Then Allah sent a crow, exploring in the ground, to show him how to bury the corpse of his brother. He said, ‘Woe to me! Am I unable to be [even] like this crow and bury my brother’s corpse?’ Thus he became regretful.”3

When a crow, sent by God, started digging the ground in search of food in front of Qabil, the eldest son of Hadhrat Adam (‘a) who did not realize till then how he could dig the soil and bury a corpse, learned it from a crow and buried his brother’s corpse.

In his symbolic interpretation of this story, the said writer and speaker said that Habil is the symbol of the hardworking class of workers and peasants, the product of whose unrelenting sweat and toil is insignificant. Since God supports and inclines toward this class, He accepted his humble pasture product offering. Meanwhile, Qabil is the symbol of capitalists and when he offered his produce, God rejected his offering because God is against capitalists.

The speaker concluded that Habil and Qabil and their respective offerings did not exist in reality as they only represent and symbolize the classes of proletariats and capitalists and the struggle between the two classes. (During the time of Hadhrat Adam (‘a) when there was no other person other than him, his wife and two sons, how could the classes of the proletariats and the capitalists have existed and what was the meaning of class-based interpretation at that time? In any case, due to the prevalence of Marxist thought 30 years ago and the multitude of supporters of atheistic schools of thought, these symbolic interpretations earned wide acceptance.)

The said speaker presented a symbolic interpretation of Habil and Qabil but he did not tell what the raven symbolized. One of his students discovered this secret and in his article, he introduced the black raven as the symbol of akhunds who are preoccupied with rawdhahkhani4 and lamentation, propagators of wickedness and misfortune from pulpits, busy supporting feudal lords and capitalists. By discovering this secret, he allegedly completed the so-called third side of the triad of gold [zar], force [zur] and deceit [tazwir]. Interestingly, in narrating this story, God says: “Relate to them truly the account of Adam’s two sons.” That is, “Relate to the people the truth of this real event.” It is as if God predicts that one day there will be an unrealistic and erroneous interpretation of this event in history, and emphasizes that no distortion be made and the truth related to the people.

Yes, during recent decades, especially nowadays, symbolic, allegorical and fictitious interpretations of the Qur’an have increased and been propagated to such an extent that some of those who have studied Islam and are even wearing clerical garbs are hymning such melodies and claim that the language of the Qur’an is not realistic and it is not true that the Qur’anic verses show us objective and immutable realities.

Accordingly, in interpreting Qur’anic verses, we do not have decisive and convincing bases, fixed frameworks, and scientifically accurate criteria with which we can claim that so-and-so verse can have only one interpretation and explanation and all other interpretations are wrong. Rather, everyone can have a symbolic and allegorical interpretation of Qur’anic verses according to his ideas, presumptions and thoughts even if his interpretation is totally incompatible with other interpretations!

The presentation of an ambiguous image of religion

In order to be familiar with the theory of symbolism of religious narratives including the Qur’anic narratives and to enhance our minds, let me tell you that displayed in modern arts museums are tabloids with ambiguous geometrical forms that do not clearly show images of certain things, and everyone has his own interpretation and perception of them according to his literary talent, and introduces them as symbols of certain things.

Perhaps, the drawers of those tabloids might be unaware of others’ interpretations and perceptions of those drawings. Similarly, in some psychological tests some ink are spread on a sheet of paper and every patient is asked what object he can see on the paper. After a bit of thinking and conceiving the specific shapes on the paper which he thinks is the form of a certain object, each of the patients offers his own interpretation, saying, for example, that a certain portion of the formed shape shows the hair of a woman and another portion shows her hands, and finally, he introduces the ambiguous form and image as a woman’s portrait.

This is in spite of the fact that the one who scattered the small pieces of paper in different shapes on a sheet of paper has not intended to make a specific form or image at all and he did not want to do so consciously and logically. He just spread some ink on a sheet of paper, and as a result, an ambiguous image which is subject to various interpretations is formed.

They claim that the language of the Qur’an is not realistic and its narratives are related so that anyone can understand and comprehend something from it according to his own discernment. One should not treat as absolute his understanding and perception of the Qur’an and say that his interpretation of the Qur’an is definitely correct and that of others is wrong.

Likewise, if a person happens to deal with modern arts and has an interpretation of them, he can not say that his interpretation is definitely correct and that of another is wrong because he has a specific interpretation and understanding of them according to his ideas and specific conditions. Others also have their distinct interpretation and understanding according to their respective ideas and specific social conditions. Some interpretations cannot be regarded as correct and others as wrong. In essence, correctness or incorrectness in such cases is not something real and fixed and it cannot be said that one person’s understanding is correct and another’s wrong!

Is the Qur’an—God forbid—like modern arts which anyone can interpret according to his understanding? Most of those who have such understanding of the heavenly scriptures do not believe in God and divine revelation, and if ever they talk about religion, it is only meant to deceive others. Then, the advocates of the theory of various interpretations and readings of heavenly scriptures say: Assuming that there is God who has sent divine revelation and His Apostle has heard it correctly—which is of course, debatable—yet, the Apostle is human and his understanding is not error free. So, he might not have understood the words of God correctly.

Besides, if we accept that the Apostle has not erred in receiving and understanding the verses of the Qur’an, one cannot present a definite way of interpreting Qur’anic verses on the basis of which an interpretation can be treated as correct and definite and other interpretations as wrong. Instead, anyone can have an interpretation and understanding of the Qur’an and this interpretation and understanding is credible and authentic for him and no one can reject it. In dealing with the Holy Scripture, we are exactly like those who have undergone psychological tests, shown an ambiguous image and asked to state their interpretation of it. Then, everyone can have his own interpretation according to his mental setup!



2. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:27. [Trans.]

3. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:31.

4. Rawdhahkhani refers to the systematic commemoration of the martyrs of Karbala’ through the professional narrators of the event in ‘Ashura’ so as to excite weeping and lamentation. [Trans.]

Image courtesy of

IslamicPoliticalTheoryV1An excerpt from Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi, ISLAMIC POLITICAL THEORY (STATECRAFT), Volume 2, trans. Mansoor Limba (Tehran: ABWA, 2011), 233 pages.

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The Menace of Intellectual Eclecticism


The reason behind the emphasis on this subject and the discussion in this regard is the deviation among different levels of people as a result of intellectual eclecticism. To cite an example, if a scientist formulates a theory in the field of physics, only someone occupying a high station in the said field, like Albert Einstein, can express his opinion about the theory. However, the same scientist (Einstein) will not express his opinion on a theory in psychology.

If he ever wants to affirm or reject the said theory, he will refer to an authority in psychology because the field of science in question is beyond his expertise. Similarly, other scientists affirm and endorse a theory outside their expertise based on the affirmation of concerned authorities. There are times, however, when after studying the views of scientists in various fields a person accepts some views and inclines toward them without assessing them as being harmonious together or not.

Will his views and opinions constitute a coherent set of human values? He has neither thought about this approach nor has any intention of doing so. He merely says that in his opinion, so-and-so psychologist, sociologist, or lawyer has a better view, and this attitude leads to intellectual eclecticism.

The people of insight and research, however, collect all the views and analyze whether they are compatible or not. If they want to accept the theory of a certain psychologist, they compare it with another theory in sociology in order to know whether they are compatible or not. They also carry out the same comparison regarding other views in other fields and subjects.

The ground for eclecticism is more fertile in the lower academic levels where people study a book in any field without investigating the credibility of the author and the consistency of his ideas with other ideas and views in other subjects tend to be influenced by it. The result is intellectual eclecticism.

Intellectual eclecticism in realm of religious thought

Unfortunately, in our Islamic society, particularly during the last fifty years, many eclectic ideas have emerged. In a certain stage of their lives, people accept certain doctrines of Islam through their parents, environment and religious leaders. Then in the next stage, on entering high school and university they become acquainted with other views and beliefs from different sciences and subjects and also accept them without considering whether these views and beliefs are consistent or not; for example, whether a philosophical theory they have accepted is compatible with a certain religious theory or theory in biology, physics, or mathematics. When observed carefully, we find out that in some cases these views are incompatible and they do not constitute a coherent set. This form of thinking is called eclectic thinking.

Nowadays, many individuals in our religious society are afflicted with eclectic thinking because on the one hand, they have inherited family beliefs of the Islamic society which they do not want to abandon. On the other hand, ideas from different fields of social sciences are presented to them which they also accept and attach to the religious beliefs without knowing that these different ideas and views are incompatible with each other and that we have to accept either the religious beliefs or those ideas which are incompatible with religion.

Therefore, if we want to accept ideas and views in the fields of sociology, law, political science, and the like which are compatible with our religious beliefs, we have to set aside the schools of thought presented to us through the translation of foreign books and their propaganda, and advance new ideas in social sciences which are scientifically, foundationally and essentially compatible with our religious beliefs. Otherwise, we will either have to abandon our religious beliefs or set aside those ideas and views which are incompatible with our religious beliefs. The two cannot be combined together just as one cannot accept that it is day and night at the same time!

Without paying attention to the fundamental point we have mentioned, one cannot deal with all ideas and views and take something from each of them and adopt intellectual and religious eclecticism because in this case, the extremist idea of pluralism in knowledge and understanding will emerge in us which believes that whatever a person says is correct; nothing is absolutely false; every person tells a part of the truth; and every school of thought has part of the truth.

With the support of agnosticism in philosophy, which is also very popular today in the West, this approach ends up in skepticism. This approach asserts that the views of different sciences possess a portion of the truth. We cannot say that we have a definite and certain belief in something. So, it is better for us to have no definite and absolute belief in anything and only consider as probable the correctness and incorrectness of a theory. With regard to religion also, we have to accept religious pluralism, according to which we have to accept as correct the viewpoints of both the Muslims who believe in the Oneness of God and the beliefs of someone whom the Muslims regard deserves eternal damnation.

We have to equally accept as correct the faith of Christians who believe in the Trinity and the Zoroastrians who believe in the god of good and the god of evil, because none of these beliefs is definite and certain. Possibly, each of them is correct or incorrect and we are not supposed to confront any of them because all of them can be good and correct.

Tolerance of all beliefs and different conflicting views is anchored in the foundation of skepticism, agnosticism and pluralism, which reject the absoluteness of any belief. Social indulgence and negligence gain strength in the absence of prejudice, partisanship and violence, and they say, it is better not to be prejudiced but assume whatever another person says as possibly correct. This approach successfully creates a sense of indifference to religious, philosophical and scientific beliefs in a person.

Today this agnosticism of the Western world is also offered to us. There is an endeavor to make our society negligent and insensitive to religious, philosophical and scientific beliefs, and become skeptical about every viewpoint and theory, and believe that it could possibly be correct and so could its contradiction. Sometimes, it is also said that we should not regard our understanding as absolute and say that it is totally correct and there is no correct but this. We should not have such certainty. We should have our own beliefs and hold them respectable. Others should have also their own beliefs.

This culture adopted by the Western world for itself today, is being promoted so that the whole world should come under the influence of this culture. This culture negates the certainty of beliefs, negates the religion of truth, negates the belief that the true madhhab and correct theory are one, and inculcates the idea that the correct theory may be multiple so no one should have certainty of belief in anything. There should be no fanaticism in discussion. Religious zeal and sectarian fanaticism should be eliminated.

The people’s inclination to one religion, one madhhab and one idea should be eliminated so that all could live together and have no conflict over religious issues because these very religious disputes are the source of wars and mass murder. All sects, religions and ideas should be considered correct and truthful in order to pave the ground for peace, security and happiness.

Concept of religious pluralism

We do not intend to deal with the issue of pluralism in particular, but let us clearly say that we actually believe that we should deal respectfully, calmly and properly with followers of different religions and authorities in different philosophies and sciences. They should be allowed to express and defend their views and participate in dialogues, discussions and investigations in various spheres.

In today’s world we can witness Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians living together in peace, there being no room for conflict, dispute, fratricide, and genocide in their midst. This is something which receives more attention in Islam than in any religious, sectarian or political group, and followers of religions have not been accorded as cordial a treatment as offered by Islam. In Islam the cornerstone of beliefs is monotheism [tawhid] and struggle against the Trinity and polytheism [shirk] is regarded necessary in propagating and fortifying tawhid, yet in Islam, Christianity and Judaism are officially recognized religions.

Followers of these religions are under the protection of Islam. Their lives, property and honor are protected, and no one has the right to commit the least act of harassment and aggression against them.

This kind of treatment and attitude toward the followers of other religions is inspired by the conduct of the awliya of religion including the Commander of the Faithful (‘a). In one of his sermons recorded in Nahj al-Balaghah, the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) says: “I have come to know that every one of them entered upon… women under the protection of Islam and took away ornaments from their legs, arms, necks, and ears… If any Muslim dies of grief after all this he is not to be blamed but rather there is justification for him before me.”1

This is because in the Islamic territory and under the protection of the Islamic state a non-Muslim woman has been oppressed. Such an attitude toward followers of other religions is among the merits and sources of pride of Islam and according to an explicit text of the Qur’an:

قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ تَعَالَوْا إِلَى كَلَمَةٍ سَوَاءٍ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمْ أَلاَّ نَعْبُدَ إِلاَّ اللّه َ…

“Say, ‘O People of the Book! Come to a word common between us and you: that we will worship no one but Allah…2

Also, another verse invites us to the best manner of disputation:

وَلاَ تُجَادِلُوا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ إِلا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ…

“Do not dispute with the People of the Book except in a manner which is best.”3

If that is the meaning of pluralism, then we have to say that it is one of Islam’s sources of pride. However, if pluralism means that we say to ourselves that Christianity is also like Islam; Judaism is also like Islam; there is no difference between being a Muslim and a Jew because each of them has a segment of the truth; neither Islam nor Judaism is the absolute truth; or both of them are the truth, like two ways that end up in a single point of destination whichever way one treads, undoubtedly, such a notion and understanding is inconsistent with the spirit of every religion and the dictates of reason. Can it be claimed that belief in tawhid is identical with the belief in Trinity? In other words, is there no difference between the belief in the Oneness of God and the belief in Trinity and many gods? The religion of Islam says:

وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ ثَلاَثَةٌ انتَهُواْ خَيْرًا لَكُمْ

“And do not say, ‘[God is] a trinity.’ Relinquish [such a creed]! That is better for you.”4

In dealing with the untoward attributes given to God such as His having a child, the Qur’an says:

تَكَادُ السَّمَاوَاتُ يَتَفَطَّرْنَ مِنْهُ وَتَنشَقُّ الْأَرْضُ وَتَخِرُّ الْجِبَالُ هَدًّا

“The heavens are about to be rent apart at it, the earth to split open, and the mountains to collapse into bits!”5

Now, when Islam has such a firm approach toward polytheistic beliefs, how can we say that if you like you can be a Muslim and if you don’t, then worship idols, and these two faiths have no differences and are among the “straight paths” leading to the same goal! I think it is improbable for a rational person to accept this. In any case, intellectual eclecticism is one of the plagues and predicaments of our age which must be given attention to and the ways of purging the mind and acquiring a pure and pristine mentality must be identified and acted upon.



1. Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon 27. This refers to the attack of Sufyan ibn ‘Awf (a commander of Mu‘awiyah) on the city of Anbar that took place at the time of Imam ‘Ali’s (‘a) rule. One of the soldiers stopped two women, one a Muslim and the other a dhimmi and robbed them of their anklets, bracelets and earrings. [Trans.]

2. Surah Al ‘Imran 3:64.

3. Surah al-‘Ankabut 29:46.

4. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:171.

5. Surah Maryam 19:90.

6. Surah an-Nahl 16:36.

(Image courtesy of

IslamicPoliticalTheoryV1(An excerpt from Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi, ISLAMIC POLITICAL THEORY (LEGISLATION), Volume 1, trans. Mansoor Limba (Tehran: ABWA, 2011), 278 pages.)

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The Relationship between Pluralism and Liberalism

Investigations and Challenges

In order to explain the relationship between pluralism and liberalism, at the outset, we have to clarify the meaning of these two terms. During the earlier sessions, enough explanation was made regarding the concept of pluralism, but we have to explain here the concept of liberalism.

Lexically, liberalism means “freedom” and technically, it can be said that liberalism is an ideology on the basis of which, man should act the way he likes in life and no external factor, or condition and circumstance should set limit on his action except in a situation when in the end, his action encroaches upon the freedom and endangers the safety of others. Liberalism has been discussed mainly in three important domains, i.e. economics, politics, and religion and culture.

Economic liberalism means that economic activity in the society should be totally free and anyone can produce any commodity he likes and present and sell it in whatever way he likes. In sum, based on economic liberalism, there should be no restriction of any kind in the areas of production, determining the primary goods, advertisement, distribution, investment, and other cases related to the economic domain except that which infringes upon the liberty and jeopardizes others.

In the political sphere, liberalism also means that in choosing the type and form of government, the ruling individuals, the laws governing the society, and other political actions, the people must be totally free and they have the right to act in whatever way they like except in cases where they contradict the liberty and security of others.

The term “liberalism” is also sometimes used in the sphere of culture especially in religion and belief. It is said that the first person who has applied the term “liberalism” in the realm of religion is Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) who made use of the term “liberal Protestantism” and from then on, this term (liberalism) has been more or less also applied in religion.[1] In any case, what is meant by religious pluralism is that the people are free in choosing any religion they want, or in principle, the acceptance or rejection of the essence of religion and religious laws, and no limitation and restriction should be imposed upon them in this regard.

If we discuss liberalism only in the economic and political realms, we will not find any direct connection to religious pluralism. But if we broaden it and in addition to economic liberalism and political liberalism, we also entertain religious liberalism, then the relationship between liberalism and pluralism will be established in the sense that the requisite of man being free in choosing a religion and acting according to its ordinances or otherwise (religious liberalism) is that we regard as acceptable the diverse religions in terms of their truthfulness and correctness. In this way, in terms of the existing four types of logical relations among concepts (equality, absolute general and particular, non-absolute general and particular, contrast), the relationship between liberalism and religious pluralism shall be that of absolute general and particular. That is, religious pluralism is always a manifestation of liberalism but not every type of liberalism is a manifestation of religious pluralism. For example, political liberalism is a manifestation of liberalism but not a manifestation of religious pluralism.

Of course, if we tackle pluralism even in other areas such as political, economic and epistemological pluralism, as we did in the previous sessions, then the relationship between liberalism and pluralism will change.

At any rate, without taking into account the historical trend and the evolution of these two concepts, the relationship between them is as what we have explained. But historically, liberal thought was apparently prior to pluralism and even secularism.

A review of the motive behind the emergence of religious pluralism

During the earlier sessions, some points were mentioned about the motive behind the emergence of pluralism and we have indicated that one of the important motives behind it was to put an end to war and bloodshed as the result of religious differences and it was first mentioned in Christianity. As it is known to you, after Martin Luther, a German priest, founded the Protestant Church in Christianity and a relatively large number of Christians gradually followed him, bloody wars and conflicts between the Catholics and Protestants ensued and persisted, and it still continues in some places such as Northern Ireland of the United Kingdom. Prior to it, there was also a conflict between the followers of two Christian sects, viz. Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity.

With the aim of putting an end to the sectarian conflicts, some Christian scholars and theologians propounded the theory of pluralism in Christianity, saying that for eternal deliverance and salvation, it is enough that we are Christians, and there is no difference among the Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Protestants.

Later on, because of the perennial conflicts existing between the Christians and the Jews and in order to put an end to these conflicts, pluralism between Christianity and Judaism was also advanced and efforts were made to eliminate the ground for these conflicts. For instance, one of the Christian rituals, particularly among the Catholics, is the Eucharist which is the so-called Christian’s Prayer and in which certain recitals, supplications and subjects are mentioned. Among the things existing before in the Eucharist was the cursing of the Jews as the killers of the Holy Christ [Ḥaḍrat al-Masīḥ] (‘a). When the Jews, the Zionists in particular, succeeded by executing some programs in Europe in acquiring power, the Vatican was forced to decide to officially and legally eliminate this part of the Christian’s Prayer and the Eucharist, and in a sense, the Christian authorities issued religious edict that from then on, the Jews should not be cursed during the Eucharist. For a long period, the practice of cursing the Jews had been omitted from the Eucharist but the Christians still used to regard the Jewish people as the killers of the Holy Christ (‘a) until such time that in the recent years, as you perhaps are aware of, the Pope ordered the Christians to remove this belief from their minds and hearts, saying that “We want to make peace with the Jews.” In the not-so-distant future, the Holy See is supposed to officially visit the Occupied Palestine and meet the Jewish leaders.

In any case, later on the Christendom observed the same policy in relation to all religions and countries in the world, saying that “We are not at war or in conflict with any religion, sect or country on the grounds of religious beliefs and we accept everybody. Some even went to the extent of acknowledging that Islam is better than Christianity, openly declaring it, but saying that Christianity is a good religion anyway.

The emphasis is then more on peaceful coexistence and avoidance of war and bloodshed on grounds of religious beliefs and sectarian differences, and as indicated earlier, Islam accepts this type of pluralism, i.e. practical pluralism between Islam and other religions of heavenly origin and the People of the Book [ahl al-kitāb]—and sometimes even those who are not People of the Book—and officially recognizing them, and their life, property and chastity like that of the Muslims are honored.

Yet, as also indicted earlier, pluralism is not only practical pluralism and the proponents of this theory usually expand it to include theoretical pluralism, saying that “Not only in practice that we do not fight and wage war against each other but rather theoretically, all religions can be true in principle, and anyone who believes in any of them and faithfully act upon its ordinances will attain salvation and felicity, and his or her belief and deeds shall be accepted. Of course, as to how all the religions might be true and on the truth notwithstanding the contradictions and inconsistencies existing among them, there are various interpretations which we discussed in the previous sessions. From here, I want to proceed to the second part of this session’s discussion and it shall be the answer to a question raised in an earlier session.



[1] See Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers (New York: Harper, 1958). [Trans.]

Investigations and Challenges(An excerpt from Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi, INVESTIGATIONS AND CHALLENGES: DISCOURSES ON CURRENT CULTURAL, SOCIOPOLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS ISSUES, trans. Mansoor Limba (Tehran: ABWA, 2012), pp. 95-98.

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The Position of Ḥadīth in the Study of Islam


As the final and more perfect heavenly religion, Islam consists of a set of beliefs, teachings and practical programs for both individual and group as reflected in two fundamental sources, namely the Qur’an and adīth.

When we say that Islam is the final heavenly religion, it means that from its emergence up to the end of the world, which takes place with the Resurrection, it addresses all human needs in the realm of religion. For this reason, alongside its description as the “final” religion, the expression “the most perfect” heavenly religion must also be emphasized because the philosophy behind the emergence of numerous religions with heavenly origin – notwithstanding their uniformity in religious foundations, in terms of the profundity of the teachings and scope of the religious law, they have gradually moved toward perfection – is to conform each of them with man’s intellectual level.[1] The end of acceptance of the emergence of a new heavenly religion and the sealing of the book of revelation mean the acceptance and reaching of the caravan of humanity at the last stages of rational perfection.

In view of the astounding advancements of human knowledge and man’s unbelievable dominance over nature and the emergence of thousands of modern phenomena such as the satellite, computer and others, particularly in the last century, no one has any doubt in accepting that the caravan of humanity has reached its optimum stages. For instance, today’s human being – being inebriated by all these victories – celebrates his seemingly absolute mastery over the world. Now, it is worthy to ask this question: how can a religion that emerged fourteen centuries ago – notwithstanding the simplicity of social relations and the lack of modern life equipments [at that time] – be able to respond to the religious or spiritual needs of today’s man?

A logical answer free from any empty rhetoric can be given to this very important question if and when we actually ask those who ask questions to present to Islam their queries and issues in the realm of religion. Then, if, notwithstanding all their skepticisms, they find out that like a great and inexhaustible treasure, Islam can provide answers to all the questions, then the argument (ujjah) of God is fully presented to them and nothing is also expected from them except submission and acknowledgment of this heavenly and eternal religion.

The fact is that as viewed by friends and even by candid enemies, Islam has time and again passed the test with flying colors, thereby proving its eternalness and universality to the people of the world.[2]

Now, it is appropriate to pose this question: given the temporal, geographical and cultural limitations of the time of its emergence, how can Islam teach today’s man who is inebriated and wandering how to think and live [properly]? Can it only be done by the help of the Qur’an? Without any doubt, the answer is negative, for the Muslims, even during the time of the revelation of the Qur’an, would refer to the Prophet () for their questions regarding religion and the Qur’an.[3] Obviously, this point has been very clear to them. If this fact has been well understood by the Muslims during the time of revelation of the Qur’an notwithstanding the simplicity and superficiality of much of the questions, how can one entertain the idea that after the passage of fourteen centuries and the raising of thousands of new questions, one must seek the help of the Sunnah alongside the Qur’an?

The insistence of some Sunnī scholars (‘ulamā) such as Ghazālī[4] and some Akhbārīs that the Qur’an – alone – can respond to all the questions including those questions that are outside the realm of religion by citing sometimes the existence of esoteric meanings (bawāṭin) of Qur’anic verses[5] and at times by regarding the Imāms (‘a) as having exclusive knowledge of the answers is something illogical. In addition, such a claim is inconsistent with the teachings of the Qur’an as well as the emphasis of the religious leaders on the position of the Sunnah in knowing the religion. No benefit can be gained from establishing the “universality” of the Qur’an – the way they conceive it – because if the acceptance of such a claim is convincing to them, how can one refer to the esoteric meanings of verses which are inaccessible or the infallible Imāms (‘a) who are currently not present among the people in answering the questions of today’s humanity?

By stipulating the status of the Prophet () in elucidating the Qur’an alongside its conveyance,[6] the Holy Qur’an itself has put emphasis on obedience to the commands of the Prophet () as equal to obedience to God,[7] his wholesome and meritorious pattern of example,[8] and the authority and credibility of all teachings of the Noble Messenger ()[9] on the status of the Sunnah in knowing the religion. For instance, the credibility of the Sunnah as the second fountainhead of understanding the religion has been made clear in the sayings and intellectual approach of the religious leaders. Also, in his most enduring sermon during the Farewell Pilgrimage (hajj al-widā’), the Noble Messenger () has made mention alongside the Qur’an (as the greater thiql or Weighty Thing) of the “progeny” (‘itrat), that is the transmitters of the Sunnah, as the lesser thiql and his second valuable legacy.[10] The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) have also called to mind time and again this point that “God has reflected in the Qur’an and the Sunnah the answer to the human needs.” For example, Imām Ja‘far al-Ṣādiq (‘a) said:

مَا مِنْ شَيْء، إِلاَّ وَفِيهِ كِتاب أَوْ سُنَّة

“There is nothing except that its explanation is mentioned in the Book or the Sunnah.”[11]

And Imām Muḥammad al-Bāqir (‘a) said:

.(إِنَّ اللهَ تَعالىٰ لَمْ يَدَعْ شَيْئاً يحْتاَج إِلَيْه الأُمَّة، إِلاَّ أَنْزَلَهُ فِي كِتاَبَه وَبَيِّنَة لِرَسُولِهِ (ص

“Indeed Allah, the Exalted, has not left out anything needed by the community (ummah) except that it is revealed in His Book and conveyed to His Messenger.”[12]

And because of the complementary role of the Sunnah with respect to the Qur’an, Imām al-Ṣādiq (‘a) has considered both the Book and the Sunnah as the criteria for acceptance of every matter:

.كُلُّ شَيْءٍ مَرْدودٌ إِلىٰ الْكِتاَبِ وَالسُّنَّةِ

“Everything can be referred back to the Book and the Sunnah.”[13]

In spite of [their] emphasis on the sublime status of wilāyah (guardianship) and its superiority to the ritual prayer (ṣalāt), fasting and Ḥajj pilgrimage, even the Imāms (‘a), in reply to the question as to why the name of Ḥaḍrat Amīr (Imām ‘Alī) (‘a) is not explicitly mentioned in the text of the Qur’an, has stressed that the Qur’an suffices itself to mention the generalities while the elucidation of the details has been delegated to the Prophet (). In this manner, the wilāyah (guardianship) of Imām ‘Alī (‘a), like the ritual prayer, has been explained in words of the Prophet () alongside the mentioning of generalities in the Qur’an such as the Verse of Conveyance (āyat al-tablīgh), the Verse of Guardianship (āyat al-wilāyah) and others.[14] Interestingly enough, the notion that “the Qur’an is enough [for us]” has existed from the beginning among some of the Companions (ṣaḥābah), and the Prophet () himself warned of its danger. A number of Sunnī traditionists (muḥaddithūn) have reported this narration from the Prophet ():

.لا الفين أحدكم، متّكئاً على أريكته، يأتيه امر ممّا أمرت به، أونهيت عنه فيقول: لا أدري ما وجدنا في كتاب الله اتّبعناه

“May I not see anyone from among you who reclines on his sofa and whenever he encounters a matter from among my commands and prohibitions, he would say, ‘I don’t know. We follow whatever we find in the Book of Allah.’”[15]

What is more interesting is the following famous statement of the Noble Messenger () which has been recognized as the basis of the Sunnah being the complement of the Qur’an:

.ألا إنّي أُوتيت القرآن ومثله معه

“Be it known that I have been endowed with the Qur’an along with its equal.”[16]

It is stated at the beginning of a narration similar to the previous one that the Holy Prophet () thus said in this narration after the previous sentence:

ألا يوشك رجل شبعان على أريكته، يقول: عليكم بهذا القرآن، فما وجدتم فيه من حلال فاحلّوه، وما وجدتم فيه من حرام فحرّموه؛ ألا وإنّ ما حرّم رسول الله كما حرّم الله

“Be it known that a man whose stomach is full and is reclining on his sofa will soon say, ‘May this Qur’an be with you! Take as lawful whatever you find therein lawful and regard as unlawful whatever you find therein as unlawful.’ Be it known that whatever the Messenger of Allah considered unlawful is as if Allah considered the same unlawful.”[17]

From these two narrations, the following points can be deduced:

  1. To advance the notion “The Book of Allah is enough for us” (ḥasbunā kitāb Allāh) and taking the Qur’an as sufficient in knowing the religion during the time of the Prophet () has roots whose emergence has been the subject of his stern warning. For instance, usually the Prophet’s () warnings had roots during his lifetime and perhaps the warning about the Muslims’ dissension[18] is indicated by the phrase “anyone from among you” (aḥadakum).
  2. “Relying on the sofa” which alludes to power and domination signifies that by relying on the power of government and caliphate, such a person used to insist the separation and independence of the Qur’an from the Sunnah. For instance, the expression “whose stomach is full” (shab‘ān) bespeaks of his possession of wealth and assets which naturally goes along with holding of government power. This point may be indicative of the political motives in presenting such an idea.
  3. The main contention of such notion is the sufficiency of the teachings of the Qur’an and its independence from the Prophet’s () Sunnah as shown by the emphasis: “May this Qur’an be with you!” and “We follow whatever we find in the Book of Allah”.[19]
  4. Alongside the prediction of the emergence of the dangerous notion of “the Qur’an’s sufficiency,” the Prophet () has put forth two proofs to refute it:
  1. Along with the Qur’an, God, the Exalted, has granted him something equal and complementary to it, i.e. the Sunnah and the statement “Be it known that I have been endowed with the Qur’an along with its equal” has three implications: First, that the Sunnah is like the Qur’an [in importance] is based upon divine revelation. Second, the Sunnah is like the Qur’an in the sense of having the same credibility and standing in elucidating and explaining the religion. Third, side by side with the Qur’an, the Sunnah speaks about the Divine precedent (sunnat Allāh) in presenting the religious teachings in these two realms as well as the Sunnah as reference after the Qur’an in the study of religion.
  2. Since the Prophet’s () Sunnah is based upon divine revelation – non-Qur’anic revelation, of course – for the same reason that the commandment and prohibition of the Qur’an are obligatory to follow as they emanate from God, acting according to what is deemed lawful (ḥalāl) and unlawful (ḥarām) by the Prophet () is also obligatory and necessary, and to differentiate these two from one another is not anchored in any logical proof, and thus, it is based upon sheer force and political power!



[1] For further information, see Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn Ṭabāṭabā’ī, Al-Mīzān fī Tafsīr al-Qur’ān, vol. 5, p. 351.

[2] For information about the opinion of Orientalists in this regard, see ‘Alī Āl Isḥāq Khū’īnī, Islām az Dīdgāh-e Dānishmandān-e Jahān (Islam as Viewed by Scholars Around the World).

[3] There are existing exegetic narrations (riwāyāt-e tafsīrī) of the Prophet () which substantiate this point. See Jalāl al-Dīn Suyūṭī, Al-Itqān fī ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān, vol. 4, pp. 245-298.

[4] Al-Ghazālī, Jawāhir al-Qur’ān, pp. 28-34; Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad Ghazālī, Iḥyā’ ‘Ulūm al-Dīn, vol. 3, pp. 16-18, 49-50.

[5] Apparently, such a claim can be inferred from Fayḍ Kāshānī in the Seventh Introduction to Tafsīr al-Ṣāfī. See Tafsīr al-Ṣāfī, vol. 1, pp. 56-57.

[6] “We have sent down the reminder to you so that you may clarify for the people that which has been sent down to them.” (Sūrat an-Nahl 16:44)

[7] “O you who have faith! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those vested with authority among you. And if you dispute concerning anything, refer it to Allah and the Apostle… Whoever obeys the Apostle certainly obeys Allah.” (Sūrat al-Nisā’ 4:59, 80) “A faithful man or woman may not, when Allah and His Apostle have decided on a matter, have any option in their matter.” (Sūrat al-Ahzāb 33:36)

[8] “In the Apostle of Allah there is certainly for you a good example.” (Sūrat al-Aḥzāb 33:21)

[9] “Take whatever the Apostle gives you, and relinquish whatever he forbids you and be wary of Allah.” (Sūrat al-Ḥashr 59:7)

[10] Ibn Farrūkh al-Ṣaffār al-Qummī, Baṣā’ir al-Darajāt, p. 433; Shaykh al-Ṣadūq, Al-Amālī, p. 500.

[11] Muḥammad ibn Ya‘qūb al-Kulaynī, Al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 59.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., p. 89. In Al-Kāfī, the late Kulaynī has allocated a section (bāb) with the heading “All Things Needed by the Community (Ummah) are [Mentioned] in the Book and the Sunnah”. See Uṣūl al-Kāfī, vol. 1, pp. 59-61. The author has detailed discussion of this subject in the forthcoming book Rābiṭeh-ye Mutaqābil Kitāb wa Sunnat (Mutual Relationship between the Book and the Sunnah) by the Institute of Islamic Culture and Thought.

[14] Al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 287, “Bāb Mā Naṣṣ Allāh ‘Azza wa Jall wa Rasūlahu ‘alā ’l-A’immah (‘a) Wāḥidan Fawāḥidan.”

[15] For example, see Muḥammad ibn Yazīd al-Qazwīnī, Sunan Ibn Mājah, vol. 1, p. 6-7; Al-Mustadrak ‘Alā ’ṣ-Ṣaḥīḥayn, vol. 1, p. 108; Sulaymān ibn Ash‘ath al-Sijistānī, Sunan Abī Dāwud, vol. 4, p. 200.

[16] Abū ‘Abd Allāh al-Qurṭubī, Al-Jāmi‘ Li-Aḥkām al-Qur’ān al-Karīm, vol. 1, p. 37; Sunan Abī Dāwud, vol. 2, p. 392.

[17] Sunan Abī Dāwud, vol. 2, p. 392; Kanz al-‘Ummāl fī Sunan al-Aqwāl wa ’l-Af‘āl, vol. 1, p. 174; Sayyid Muḥammad Riḍā Ḥusaynī Jalālī has an extensive and well-argued discussion in his study of arīkah (‘sofa’) narrations. See Tadwīn al-Sunnat al-Sharīfah, pp. 352-364.

[18] For further information about the narrations (riwāyāt) on the Muslims’ division into seventy three sects, see Ja‘far Ṣubḥānī, Buḥūth fī ’l-Milal wa ’n-Nihal, vol. 1, pp. 23-41.

[19] In Kitāb al-Umm, Shāfi‘ī (died 204 AH) has mentioned a group that denies the Sunnah’s credibility. See Kitāb al-Umm, vol. 7, p. 287, and in our time the “Qur’ānīs” or “Ahl al-Qur’ān” sect formally insists that the Sunnah has no credibility and the Qur’an is sufficient. For information about the history and ideas of this sect, see Khādim Ḥusayn Ilāhībakhsh, Dirāsāt fī ’l-Firq al-Qur’āniyyūn wa Shubahātuhum Ḥawl al-Sunnah.


(An excerpt from ‘Ali Nasiri, AN INTRODUCTION TO HADITH: HISTORY AND SOURCES, trans. Mansoor Limba (London: MIU Press, 2013), pp. 9-15.

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Definitions of Religion Based on Metaphysical Foundation

Aston         Shariati         Geisler

Some of the philosophers of religion regard as religion any school of thought which has the following three principal elements of belief:

  1. There is a world beyond the world of tangibles;
  2. The world of nature has a purpose; and
  3. The world of being has a moral system.

The third element can be analyzed in two ways. One way is that the world of being is such that it perceives what is morally good or evil. The other way is that the world of being is such that it rewards moral goodness or wickedness.[1]


Some supplementary and critical points to this definition are worth mentioning:

First, concerning the first belief, this point must be added that man is also a reality that is situated between the natural and supernatural worlds.

دو سر هر دو حلقة هستي   به حقيقت به هم تو پيوستي

Both two heads are of the axis of existence.

Indeed you are also attached to them.

Man’s religious, intellectual and political search in this domain is meant for the improvement of his supernatural asset. Acquisition of more knowledge about the dimensions and realities of the world of nature as well as its laws helps in his advancement in the supernatural realm.

Second, the world of nature’s purposefulness is connected to another principal belief, and that is the world of creation’s dependence on the All-wise and Absolute God who is devoid of any futile and vain act at all.

Third, in this definition the question of God is raised ambiguously. That there is a world beyond the world of nature and tangibles is an extremely general statement, for it is possible to refer to a world in which there is no mention of God, such as the world of myths and fables.

Fourth, in saying that the world of being is such that it gives reward or retribution to what is morally good or evil, does ‘the world of being’ refer to this world or include the otherworldly as well?

If it refers only to this world, then all good deeds of a person are not compensated well in this world. In the same manner, because of this world’s limited capacity [to compensate], the criminals cannot be duly punished for all their crimes in this world. Of course, we have the law of causation, or action and reaction in this world but the capacity of this world is not enough to duly compensate all human actions. Unless the eternal world is accepted, reward and punishment for what is morally good and bad cannot be considered.

Fifth, in some creeds, particularly the ascetic schools, the abovementioned three points can be seen, without them claiming to be forms of religion.

Sixth, not every moral system is religious. The moral system whose foundation is God in the sense that the criterion for good and evil in it is the Divine commands has religious dimension. The basic foundation of what is morally good and evil in religion is revelation which is immune from error and deviation.

If to say that the world of being perceives what is morally good and evil means that the world of being has the ability to perceive the good and evil, then it is acceptable from a religious perspective in view of the fact that all parts of the world of being are in a state of glorying, prostration and remembering God. And if it means that like human beings, the world of being also acquires knowledge of what is morally good and evil and the perception of the world of being is like the human knowledge about the abovementioned matters, then this meaning is not a religious necessity. That the world of being gives recompense to what is morally good or bad can be interpreted in two ways:

One is that the world of being’s giving of reward is like one of the laws which God has prescribed in the world of being. It is the same law of causation whose enactment and implementation are like those of other laws of God.

The other way is that as a warning to His creatures, God, the Glorious, has directly enacted and implemented the said law.

We must know that this causation is only for the awareness of human beings:

 كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ رَهِينَةٌ

“Every soul is hostage to what it has earned.”[2]

Otherwise, because of the lack of capacity of the world of matter and materiality to implement absolutely the law of divine justice for good and evil deeds, it can be implemented in the eternal world. It can be said that in this definition, three subjects which are acceptable and of immense importance for religion are mentioned. Yet, paying attention to the religious duties and rights and distinguishing them from moral cases are not yet done. On the other hand, there has been no categorical and decisive statement regarding the Sacred Being of God, His control over the creation, Attributes of Perfection, and the Resurrection.

Aston’s Definition

W.G. Aston, a contemporary philosopher of religion, presents the following as the common features of religions:

  1. Belief in metaphysical beings;
  2. Differentiation between the sacred and the worldly affair;
  3. Rites which are concentrated on certain things;
  4. A set of moral rules whose implementation is guaranteed by God or gods;
  5. Specific religious feelings (such as fear, reverence, sense of guilt, and gratitude) which are expressed before sacred things or in the performance of rites;
  6. Worship and other forms of connection with God or gods;
  7. A general viewpoint about the world as a unit and the station of man in it (worldview);
  8. Relatively comprehensive organization of human life based upon such viewpoint (ideology); and
  9. A united social group with the support of the abovementioned elements (community or church).


  1. It is as if these thinkers have sensitivity to God as they talk about ‘metaphysical beings’. It must not be forgotten that the same sensitivity caused some Western countries to use the term ‘supreme being’ instead of the word ‘God’ in their constitutions!

Essential to religion is the belief in the existence of God, and not merely metaphysical creatures. Of course, belief in metaphysical creatures such as the angels and souls that have reached the lofty station of immateriality, eternity, and the truths pertaining to them is considered part of the religious beliefs.

  1. Differentiation of the sacred matter from the worldly matter is not true to all religions.
  2. Rites which are concentrated on certain things are related to primitive religions. Rites exist in religions with divine origins but not rites which are centered on certain things, but rites which are held as a form of worship, linking the most insignificant to the most significant. Be that as it may, rites of the primitive periods whether they are in the form of totem, taboo, or any other form have nothing to do with the world Abrahamic faith.
  3. In religions with divine origins, the criterion for the moral rules is God, and not that God merely guarantees the implementation of laws.
  4. To have certain religious sentiments is one of the effects of belief in God. The rites which exist in religion make a person experience particular spiritual states. It must also be noted that in some creeds which are known as religions rites with superstitious underpinning exist and they cannot be compared with real rites of religions with divine origins, as discussed above.
  5. Religion fosters unity among individuals. And this point is also one of the essentials and effects of religion and not the religion itself. Of course, the ‘single community’ (ummatan wāḥidah) which is attained through the religious conviction cannot be compared with organizations formed by groups, for the goal of religion is to let the human beings move as a single caravan to be sublime Origin. Unity of a religious community is not similar to a racial, geographical, or political organization formed for a particular purpose such as defense against an enemy. Rather, as stated in Islamic sources, faithful individuals are like a single body; if one part experiences pain, all parts will experience the same. The souls of faithful individuals are like a single soul, and the link of the soul of faithful person to God is stronger than the link between the sun and its rays.[3]
  6. There is no doubt that the affairs of the world of being have connection with sacred truths, and that sacred matters are sometimes distinct from worldly matters. In the religion of Islam, however, it can be said that as they are related to the world of creation—on account that all parts of the world of creation, whether they are inward or outward, are divine signs: “Soon We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and in their own souls until it becomes clear to them that He is the Real”[4] and “So whichever way you turn, there is the face of Allah!”[5]—it follows then that in a sense the entire universe has a sacred dimension.
  7. Regarding the phrase “Rites which are concentrated on certain things” it must be explained whether or not it means the presence of a set of rites in every religion. It is correct but the taboo rites must be distinguished from rites which are performed in the form of worship and other rational inclinations to the metaphysical.
  8. The meaning of this statement, “The guarantor of the implementation of moral rules is God or gods” must be clarified. In this regard, there are some possibilities:

First possibility: It means that God helps the human beings so that their actions are consistent with the moral rules. Of course, one can infer from the sources of Abrahamic Faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) this meaning with utmost clarity, for the justice and grace of God necessitate that He guides His servants to the path of material and spiritual prosperity.

Second possibility: “The guarantor of the implementation of moral rules” means control and stimulation of the pure conscience and not attributing the actions to deterministic factors.

Third possibility: “Moral rules” refer to religious laws, duties and rights because of their association with God. That is, it is because God enacted them and He is cognizant of the interaction of people with one another. If it means this third possibility, then it is closer to the reality compared to the other two possibilities.

  1. Specific religious feelings (such as fear, reverence, sense of guilt, and gratitude) which are expressed before sacred things or in the performance of rites:

On one hand, such concepts are not exclusive to religion, for when a rational person sees himself in front of a Real Being higher than him and he experiences a sense of cautiousness coupled with hope, there is the sense of awe in such a person. When a rational and wary person with a sound mind learns of the majesty of the world of being and its vastness and orderliness, he will definitely experience a sense of astonishment (and not primitive bewilderment, doubt and skepticism). Definitely, anyone who does something against the law—provided he has a sound mind and personality—will feel ashamed and this feeling is the result of committing a sin, although he may not use the same terms. Similarly, gratitude or thanksgiving in times of joy caused by material and spiritual favors in life which are attributed to mere luck is a common phenomenon. All such phenomena can have religious underpinning when they connect man to God.

  1. With regards to “Worship and other forms of connection with God or gods,” it must be said that in Abrahamic monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), gods are not objects of worship and other religious connections. In the said religions, there are no such things as ‘gods’ at all.[6]
  2. A general viewpoint about the world as a unit and the station of man in it (worldview):

This viewpoint consists of the following:

  1. The world of being is a creation of God;
  2. The world of being is created based upon the governance and will God for a lofty purpose;

The station of man in this world is such that he is a very important being with various talents through which he can have interactive relationship with all levels and dimensions of the world in which he lives, and the magnitude and quality of his perfection depend on such relationship.

Man can have two types of honor:

The first type is intrinsic honor:

 وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ وَحَمَلْنَاهُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَرَزَقْنَاهُمْ مِنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَفَضَّلْنَاهُمْ عَلَى كَثِيرٍ مِمَّنْ خَلَقْنَا تَفْضِيلا

“Certainly We have honored the Children of Adam, and carried them over land and sea, and provided them with all the good things, and given them an advantage over many of those We have created with a complete preference.”[7]

All human beings possess this honor, provided that they would not deprive themselves of it by committing treachery (khiyānah).

The second type is acquired honor:

 يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ

“O mankind! Indeed We created you from a male and a female, and made you nations and tribes that you may identify with one another. Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-wary among you.”[8]

  1. Relatively comprehensive organization of human life based upon such viewpoint (ideology):

This is the same relationship of man with the world which is the third of the four relationships upon which all religions with divine origins are organized: (1) man’s relationship with himself; (2) man’s relationship with God; (3) man’s relationship with the world of being; and (4) man’s relationship with his fellow human beings.

Therefore, there will be no objection if we say, “Relatively comprehensive organization of human life based upon the abovementioned four relationships”.

  1. A united social group with the support of the abovementioned elements (community or church):

In this part of the definition of religion, two ambiguous issues must be examined:

  1. The social organization in itself is not a pillar of the essence of religion, for even if only one person or a few people believe in religion in this world, he or they will still constitute a community (ummah). As such, the Noble Qur’an introduces Prophet Ibrāhīm (Abraham) (‘a) alone as a community:

 إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ كَانَ أُمَّةً

“Indeed Abraham was a nation.”[9]

Of course, as the number of individuals and communities that follow the religion increases, the social organization of those who believe in the said religion (ummah) also becomes larger.

  1. Ummah refers to the group of people who believe in a particular religion, or if we really broaden its meaning, it refers to the group of people that cling to a given ideology, whether it is religious or not.

Like the mosque and other houses of worship which are built on earth as places of worship, the church means a center for collective worship and devotion, unless the original meaning of it is changed into another one.

Sharī‘atī’s Definition

Dr. ‘Alī Sharī‘atī[10] enumerates the common features of religions as follows:

  1. Religion declares existence as meaningful.
  2. It is correct provided that the meaning of the meaningfulness of the world is its association with God and the sublime wisdom and will of the Sacred Essence. Its purposefulness is also a requisite of its being associated with the wisdom and will of God. The requisite of the observance of this condition is the belief in the world as having an ultimate goal. Similarly, the said condition also necessitates the meaningfulness of man and history. Definitely, if the goal is not limited to the creation of the world, at least this can be regarded as one of its highest goals. Therefore, Sharī‘atī might have possibly stated the first two points as one.
  3. The duality of the human being in all religions:

If this ‘duality’ refers to the physical and spiritual, the dispositional and the behavioral, the outward and the inward, the intrinsic and the extrinsic, then this is correct.

  1. Sanctity in the world:

Sanctity or sacredness in the world can be considered from two perspectives. The first perspective is that the world relies upon the wisdom and will of God, and the notion of the world as a divine sign (āyah) (both within man and in the outside world) refers to this perspective:

 سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ حَتَّى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ

“Soon We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and in their own souls until it becomes clear to them that He is the Real”[11]

According to the second perspective, the facility and potential of this world are meant to prepare man and push him to the sublime goal of perfection. The ardent desire for it exists in the hearts of all people who are immune from selfishness. In the speech of the Commander of the Faithful ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (‘a) in reply to someone who rebuked the world, this perspective is expressed in this manner:

O’ you who abuse the world, O’ you who have been deceived by its deceit and cheated by its wrongs. Do you accuse it or it should accuse you? When did it bewilder you or deceive you? … Certainly, this world is a house of truth for him who appreciates it; a place of safety for him who understands it; a house of riches for him who collects provision from it (for the next world); and a house of instructions for him who draws instruction from it. It is a place of worship for the lovers of Allah; the place of praying for the angels of Allah; the place where the revelation of Allah descends; and the marketing place for those devoted to Allah.”[12]

  1. The division of all things, affairs and realities into tangible and intangible:

This division is not a distinctive feature of religions although this is acceptable in religions on the basis of undeniable fact (the division of all things into tangible and intangible).

  1. Religion as the social spirit:

This point is also not a distinctive feature of religions, for collective life—whether motivated by the need for division of labor among people, kinship through sexual reproduction or racial unity, or the natural demand for their civility—is a salient feature of human life in the sphere of coexistence.

  1. The global nature of the distinctive features of religion:

This issue must also be examined more accurately, for all religions with divine origins can be generally grouped into two:

First group: It consists of national religions which are exclusive to limited groups in the history of religion. The prophets of these religions were not the preeminent ones in determination (ūlū ’l-‘azm) and were limited to their respective time or group.

Second group: It consists of the world religions like the ones associated with Prophet Ibrāhīm (‘a) and whose messengers were the ūlū ’l-‘azm, viz. Nūḥ (Noah), Ibrāhīm, Mūsā (Moses), ‘Īsā (Jesus), and Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd Allāh (‘a). If it is not so, then the phrase refers to the common features of all religions such as belief in God, eternity, religious duties and rights, and the like.

8 and 9. “The unity of man and nature” and “the unity of man, nature and the spirit of being”:

These two phrases have a very broad meaning and are not a salient feature of the phenomenon called ‘religion’. There are philosophers who philosophically acknowledge this unity. Sufis and mystics also believe in this unity and something even higher. That is, man, nature, the spirit of the entire universe, and even God are a single being (theory of the unity of being). The stoics and a group of Indian philosophers and mystics believe in this theory. Therefore, items 8 and nine are not exclusive to religion.

  1. Apprehension, struggle and desire for union (ittiṣāl):

This point is also not free from ambiguity. The possible meanings which can be conceived of in this regard are as follows:

  1. Ardent desire, struggle and aspiration of man to be in union with God are like the union of the drops of water to the sea. This possibility is not correct in monotheistic religions, for the Sacred Essence of the Lord is higher than that a creature that He created or originated be part of His Sacred Essence.
  2. Endeavor and desire for the change in humanity that has the potential to be God-like through the possession of divine attributes that exist within the said potential of man. If it means possession of those attributes within the limits of man, this is possible in monotheistic religions.
  3. Union means entry to the attraction to the Lordly Perfection. In this station, the person becomes an embodiment of the Divine Lights, but he will never reach the Sublime Lordly Station. This is the best possible meaning for the above item.

Note: The word ‘apprehension’ which implies agitation along the way to perfection is not correct. Instead, ardent desire, serious endeavor and persistence are which called kadaḥ (كدح) in Arabic are more accurate than the terms ‘apprehension’ and mere ‘desire’.

  1. Belief in dominance, progress, exaltation, and movement:

In this phrase, the word ‘dominance’ requires explanation. If ‘dominance’ means attainment of power for the organization of the four types of relationship (man’s relationship with himself, God, the universe, and fellow human beings), then it is perfectly correct, and it can be said that the attainment of the lofty goal of religion is to acquire such power. Acquisition of power for the organization of relationship with the self means control and mastership over the self. Through this power a person could set himself along the path of God-wariness (taqwā) which means maintenance of self-perfection. And through this taqwā he can proceed to the height of attraction to the Sublime Perfection. It also means acquisition of power for the organization of relationship with God. Through this power one could control himself from sin, selfishness and self-centeredness and undertake his ideal movement. By acquiring power for the organization of intellectual, perceptive and interactive relationship with the world of being, he will succeed in self-building.

  1. Emancipation from what exists means emancipation from captivity:

If it means disconnection from whatever exists and severance of relationship with whatever is, then this point is forbidden in religion, for detachment from the world connection to which is one of the fundamental relationships a person has in his subsistence is actually detachment or disconnection from the self. Obviously, negation of the self is not the same with the pursuance of one’s perfection which emanates from God’s boundless wisdom and favor. The world of being is the passageway for its progress and the Beatific Vision (liqā’ Allāh) in eternity is its ultimate goal and objective. It must be borne in mind that to be in the world which in the words of the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) is the great place of worship for the wary people is not the same with negation and disconnection from it which can be considerably seen in Buddhism.

  1. The concept of protection and preservation of man, life and society:

No meaning for this item (13) can be conceived of except protection of man, life and society from pollution, degradation, fall, and backwardness. This point is perfectly correct in religion but the word ‘concept’ must be omitted from the above phrase, for that which is part of the salient features of religion is the protection and preservation and not its concept.

  1. and 15. Acquaintance, curiosity and engagement in curiosity:

Acquaintance, inquiry and research to increase knowledge about the self, God, the world, and fellow human beings, and the use of knowledge and learning along the path of searching for perfection are part of the essentials of religion.

  1. Beauty and art:

The meaning of the desire for tangible and intelligible beauties which, in addition to the resultant purification of the soul and preparation of the self to soar from this very high platform to the Absolute Beauty which is something incomparable, must be shown in the world and shorten for the people the distance of realizing God. Moreover, the meaning of ‘art’ is supposedly to undertake artistic intellectual or psychological activities and setting purely constructive artistic works at the service of spiritual growth and enhancement of the human talents, and not the beauty and art which always exist for all people in various cultures of human society.

  1. Love and worship:

Definitely, ‘ishq refers to the highest degree of love, passion and craving for Sublime Perfection which is the totality of beauty and glory, and it is correct to regard this love as one of the salient features of religion. However, what is called ‘metaphorical love’ or mere love without its attachment to the Sublime Perfection (which is definitely what Sharī‘atī intended to mean) is not only not part of the salient features of religion, but religion is even inimical to it. A person’s expression of ‘virtual love’ will cost and leads to the wastage of all his life’s assets and capitals, for

عشقهايي كز پي رنگي بود                                    عشق نبود عاقبت ننگي بود

Those loves which are for the sake of a color (outward beauty) are not love: in the end they are a disgrace.[13]

هرچه جز عشق خداي احسن است          گر شكر خوارﻱﺳﺖ آن جان كندن است

Except love of the most beauteous God, everything, though (outwardly) it is (pleasant like) eating sugar, is (in truth) agony of spirit.[14]

عاشقان از درد زان ناليدﻩﺍند                      كه نظر تا جايگاه ماليدﻩاند

The cause why lovers have moaned in grief is that they have rubbed their eyes malapropos.[15]

Meanwhile, worship of God, the Glorious, after knowing him, is the purest essential feature, nay pillar, of religion.

  1. The ideal, ideal man and utopian city:

This point can be analyzed under two headings: (1) The ideal means that religion is ideal goal of the human beings, or the ideal goal of the human beings is in religion. (2) It is religion which molds the ideal man. Both propositions are correct. Meanwhile, the ‘utopian city’ (madīneh-ye fāḍileh) which means the use of the individuals and groups of society of all their positive potentials in social life is obviously the purest features of religion in the dimension of people’s social life. This point can also be inferred from item 13.

  1. Awaiting as protest against the status quo and moving toward the ideal:

Taking into account the fundamentals of Sharī‘atī’s school of thought, awaiting (intiẓār) means wishing for the emergence of the best society and struggle for its realization whose most perfect form will be possible with the advent of the Master of the Age (‘atfs).[16] Of course, it must be borne in mind that intiẓār is not identical with protest (i‘tirāḍ) against the status quo. It rather stems from the feeling of disgust and anguish for the undesirable condition which stands in the way of perfection of collective human life.

Meanwhile, protest against the status quo can be interpreted in two ways:

  1. Protest against the status quo stems from the lack of the divine pleasure in every condition which is contrary to the ideal human felicity. In view of the high and reformative potentials of the human beings, it is a common phenomenon that exists in all communities and nations with rational cultures. It is even said that the lack of divine satisfaction for the status quo is one of the strongest elements of forward movement in history.
  2. Protest means the lack of divine pleasure for anything that causes degradation and engrossment of mankind in ignorance, poverty and human rights violations. Through the efforts for changing the direction of life’s movement toward its lofty goals and means.
  1. Nature’s self-consciousness:

This item can be inferred from item 9 (“the unity of man, nature and the spirit of being”). Given this, it is possible that this point can be separately inferred from the Qur’anic verses that indicate glorification (tasbīḥ) and prostration (sajdah) of the creatures in the world. Of course, in proving the self-consciousness of nature, some thinkers have cited the law of causation.

 اين جهان كوه است و فعل ما ندا         سوي ما آين نداها را صدا

This world is the mountain, and our action the shout:

The echo of the shouts comes (back) to us.[17]

Sharī‘atī has not mentioned three very important salient features of religion:

  1. The religious laws, rights, duties, and manners as well as worship of the Sublime Origin (God) and belief in the Resurrection (ma‘ād) must be stated more clearly and elaborately to some extent. Most probably, he contented himself with items 1, 4, 10, 13, 16, and 23. However, as demanded by the law on definitions, it would be better to state more clearly and elaborately the above points.
  2. The ultimate reply to the six fundamental questions on life (1. Who am I? 2. From where I have come? 3. With which I have come? 4. With whom am I? 5. To where shall I go? 6. For which I have come?) which only religion can give.
  3. The real felicity, virtue and sacrifices in the way of lofty human values such as faithfulness to promise and covenant, defense of the truth, responsible freedom, justice, and the like, for without religion, the world is a place for play, jumping, beating, and eating in which if a person would use all his facilities and potentials in the way of selfishness and self-interests, he will miserably lose.

روزگار و چرخ و انجم سر بسر بازيستي           گرنه اين روز دراز دهر را فرداستي

The world, fate and stars are all your playthings

Otherwise this long day of fortune is your tomorrow.[18]

Geisler’s Definition

Geisler[19] defines religion in its most general sense, thereby encompassing every supposed religion. He regards religion as having two basic characteristics: (1) awareness of something sublime, and (2) total devotion and utmost attachment. So, in his general definition of religion, any consciousness of something sublime coupled with total devotion and utmost attachment is called ‘religion’. The elements of this definition are mentioned as follows:

  1. Awareness: a person considers himself professing religion when he is aware or acquainted with something other than himself.
  2. Something sublime: a thing is sublime when it transcends and goes beyond direct awareness of a person. Given this, even in unconsciousness, ‘I’ and others apart from ‘me’ are deemed sublime. Moreover, that which is sublime is beyond the experienced ones (mujarrabāt).
  3. It pertains to total devotion. Religion comprises something which is beyond mere manifestation; something not stipulated and ultimate; something to which people want to be devoted with utmost sincerity. In other words, it includes not only awareness to anything sublime. In fact, it includes whatever is treated final and whatever requires utmost devotion. Of course, in the words of Ian Ramsey,[20] this devotion most also be total as well as widespread. So, this devotion must be final and universal


Some important points in the definition of Geisler must be examined:

  1. It is true that from the totality of terms used by Geisler, it can be deduced that “that which is sublime” which is the object of awareness, total devotion and ultimate affection and yearning is no other than God, the Perfect and Absolute, that all religions have mentioned whether explicitly or as something essential to the ideological text. However, in view of the crucial importance of the thing being defined (mu‘arraf), its name must be specified. If it is argued that not all religions call it ‘God’, the reply is that an ambiguous reality, even if it is described as ‘something sublime’, cannot be considered the basic foundation of religion because “awareness of the existence of God” and “total devotion and attachment to Him” require that He must be the Creator of all beings and created them according to His sublime wisdom and will.

From this analysis, it is clear that the line “a person considers himself professing religion when he is aware or acquainted with something other than himself” is somewhat inaccurately stated because the concept of God, Exalted is His Station, who is Perfect and Absolute in all aspects, is not clear in the above expression (“something other than himself”). Similarly, the expression “a thing is sublime when it transcends” is not free from ambiguity because it is a common concept, and it must be said instead, “a thing is sublime when it transcends all things”.

  1. “…and goes beyond direct awareness of a person”:

This is an excellent point which is discussed in various expressions in the religion of Islam; for example, Prophet Mūsā (‘a) is reported to have said God, “How can I reach You?” In reply, God said:

قَصْدَكَ لِي وَصْلَكَ إِلَيّ.

“As you have aimed Me, you have reached Me.”

Of course, this understanding is not direct or without mediation. Even in intuitive knowledge (self-consciousness), the “I” perceives his self directly, for the perception of the “I” in intuitive knowledge is not possible without negation of “other than I” even quickly, generally or briefly. This is while the perception of God only needs intention. This is the meaning of what Geisler said, “That which is sublime is beyond the experienced ones (mujarrabāt).” And in the jargon of Western philosophers, it is a priori upon which the philosophy of Kant, in particular, relies.

  1. He said, “Religion comprises something which is beyond mere manifestation; something not stipulated and ultimate; something to which people want to be devoted with utmost sincerity.” This point is also very fine because in religion familiarity, information and acquaintance with God is not sufficient. Instead, as the very knowledge about that Sacred Being is attained, ardent desire for ‘searching’ in order to obtain His Lordly attraction begins.
  2. In the expression of Ian Ramsey, there is a line which must definitely be modified and that is, this devotion most also be total as well as widespread. It is because delight and pleasure from knowing the world is different from devotion to it. That which exists in religion is the former and not the latter. That is, it is delight caused by the fact that the universe has been created according to the lofty wisdom and will of God and witnessing the celestial splendor of the universe impels a person to pay ultimate devotion to God, and not that a person just submits to the universe and surrenders himself to it. A majestic element of the universe or one of the lofty aspects of this universe gives rise to devotion to the Creator. Man is not supposed to surrender to the universe. Instead, with utmost cheer and confidence, he must consider it a springboard for his own spiritual flight.

به جهان خرم از آنم که جهان خرم ازوست

عاشقم بر همه عالم که همه عالم ازوست

I belong to the pleasant world as the pleasant world is from Him.

I am in love with the entire world as the entire world is from Him.[21]



[1] Ḥawzeh wa Dāneshgāh Magazine, issue 3, p. 68.

[2] Sūrat al-Muddaththir 74:38. [Trans.]

[3] Al-Uṣūl min al-Kāfī, vol. 2, p. 166.

[4] Sūrat Fuṣṣilat 41:53. [Trans.]

[5] Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:115. [Trans.]

[6] For further information, see Tafsīr wa Naqd wa Taḥlīl az Mathnawī, vol. 10, pp. 63-73.

[7] Sūrat al-Isrā’ (or Banī Isrā’īl) 17:70.

[8] Sūrat al-Ḥujurāt 49:13.

[9] Sūrat al-Naḥl 16:120.

[10] ‘Alī Sharī‘atī (1933-77): an Iranian revolutionary and sociologist who focused on the sociology of religion and considered one of the most influential Iranian intellectuals of the 20th century. [Trans.]

[11] Sūrat Fuṣṣilat 41:53. [Trans.]

[12] Nahj al-Balāghah, Maxim 131.

[13] The Mathnawī of Jalālu ’ddīn Rūmī, Book 1, line 205, p. 27. [Trans.]

[14] The Mathnawī of Jalālu ’ddīn Rūmī, Book 1, line 3686, p. 397. [Trans.]

[15] That is, they have not purged their inward eye of sensual impressions and therefore have taken a false view. The Mathnawī of Jalālu ’ddīn Rūmī, Book 4, line 229, p. 31. [Trans.]

[16] Walī al-‘Aṣr, literally, “Master of the Age” is one the titles of the 12th Imām Muḥammad al-Mahdī (‘a), the others being Walī al-Amr (Master of the Affair), Imām al-Zamān (Imām of the Time), etc. The abbreviation, “‘atfs” stands for the Arabic invocative phrase, ‘ajjalallāhu ta‘ālā farajahu ’sh-sharīf (may Allah, the Exalted, expedite his glorious advent), which is invoked after mentioning the name of Imām al-Mahdī (‘atfs). [Trans.]

[17] The Mathnawī of Jalālu ’ddīn Rūmī, Book 1, line 215, p. 27. [Trans.]

[18] Nāṣir Khusrū, Dīwān-e Ash‘ār, Elegy 241.

[19] Norman L. Geisler (born 1932): a Christian apologist and philosopher noted for his philosophical approach to theology. [Trans.]

[20] Ian Ramsey (): [Trans.]

[21] Sa‘dī, Mawā‘iẓ, ghazal 13.

(Images courtesy of and

FalsafehDin(Excerpt from Muhammad Taqi Ja’fari, PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION, trans. Mansoor Limba (Tehran: ABWA, 2014), p. 26-42.)

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