Translator: Mansoor Limba
eBook Price: $5.994The one-volume encyclopedia concisely, yet profoundly, deals with such subjects as definition of religion (essentialist, psychological-sociological
Yesterday afternoon, out of the blue, I received a message via Telegram app:
“Salamun ‘alaykum. I’m _____ _____, one of the lecturers of _____ _____ University. I have a question for you.”
I replied, “‘Alaykumis-salam Shaykh. I’m at your service.”
“I teach using Shahid Mutahhari’s book ‘Islamic Training and Education’ which is translated into English. As I browsed online, I have learned that it’s your translation, and we’re provided a copy of it in our university.”
(Actually the book’s title is “Training and Education in Islam”.)
“Yes. it’s my translation. https://www.islamic-college.ac.uk/…/training-education-isl…/
Any problem with the translation?”
“Yes, professor. It needs much of edition!” (He then attached two photos of a text with his alleged corrections.)
“Is that the actual page of the book, or something retyped from the book? If it’s retyped, then typographical errors might have occurred. Kindly scan so that I can properly read it.
“Do you have your translation file? If yes, send it please to compare both.”
(As can be noticed, he refuses to answer my question, but instead asked for the softcopy of the book for FREE.)
“You can’t expect me to give you my copy because it’s violative of the contract I have signed with the publisher. I’m asking, is it the actual page of the book, or something retyped from the book?”
“I don’t have the book.”
“That’s what I was expecting: it’s something retyped from the book, not the actual book! I do suggest you to do two things: (1) to get your copy of the book, and then (2) compare the text of the actual book with the sheets in your hand. And if you discover that they are not exactly the same with the text in the book, then tell those who are responsible in typing the modules in your school to type the text
“What is the name and address of publisher?”
“It only shows that you have not checked the link I have given you. Please check my earlier messages.
“I checked but couldn’t download the file.”
“You are asking me about the name and address of the publisher. It’s mentioned there in the link. Or, are you really looking for the name of the publisher, or for the electronic copy of the book to download IN GRATIS?”
“This part (attaching again the photo) is the same in your link. Also there is (sic) some differences in some parts. You are somehow right, mistyped some parts, but as you saw again there is (sic) some to be edited.”
“It’s clear now that the text of the book is not exactly reflected in the sheets. We will talk about your claim that my translation requires editing once you have already a copy of the book.”
“Surely my professor. Is that publisher in London?”
“Please read again the link.”
“It was written that the publisher is in London; just to be sure my professor.”
“You are addressing me as ‘my professor’ and yet you are saying that my translation requires editing!”
“Some teachers have talented students than themselves. Humbly I am your student. Waiting [for] the right copy of your translation. I have heard of you here as a professional translator.”
“Wow! Then you have the audacity to say that you are ‘humble’ and at the same time saying that you are more talented than your teacher.”
“So finding that copy in your name shocked me. So I decided to make you aware of this. Thanks for beautiful chat.”
“Wow, you are saying that you are shocked [due to my poor translation], and yet you haven’t read my translation as a whole.”
“Bravery is our heritage… at same time being humble to the teachers. That was what I had in my hand and find it for your name. Anyway it was a good start for our relationship if you want.”
“Three things you can do: (1) Get your copy of the book, (2) and then enumerate the errors to the publisher and (3) to Dr. Muhammad Mutahhari, the author’s son who manages the Mutahhari Foundation (the repository of the author’s extensive works).
“How can I get the proper copy? Please give me a number or address to contact directly to (sic) the publisher. Thanks a million.”
“How to get a copy? Very simple, borrow from a library, or buy your own copy.”
“U mentioned that the same in the link has mistyped. So which library has the authentic copy?”
“The issue here is not which copy is authentic. The fact is that you have not yet read the whole book and yet you claim that it needs ‘much editing’.”
I just hope my fellow interlocutor above would soon meet Dr. Muhammad Mutahhari, who himself had personally given his feedback to me some years ago on my translation of his late father’s two books, namely, “Training and Education in Islam” and “The Theory of Knowledge: An Islamic Perspective”.
Now, let me ask those who have read the whole book: Does it really need ‘much editing’?
This translator and the book’s editor, Dr. Amina Inloes, will surely be very grateful if you can let us know of the errors in the translation. As the Indonesian proverb goes, “Dimana gading yang tida retak,” which means “There’s no ivory without a crack.”
Even after this post of mine, he did not stop notifying me of the alleged errors in my translation: “Here are some I noticed in your given link…” (Actually, I didn’t give any link to him.)
Thereafter, I replied to him: “After bringing your list of the alleged errors in my translation to the attention of (1) the publisher and (2) Dr. Muhammad Mutahhari, the Director of Mutahhari Foundation, please let me know their reaction. Thanks ”
Then he responded thus, “Don’t you feel that this is your own business and responsibility? A book is distributing worldwide via your given link in your name full of errors! You yourself referred me to that university site for your translated book, And in a little glance l encountered this mistakes again there! Just in some available parts there. I saw and feel some non religious and non Muslim scholars worldwide are more receptive to my comments and critics even for misprintings. While YOU evaluate that as ALLEGED! While they are of your link!! Instead of begin thankful. Again maybe I will hear it’s for mistyped copy:blush: No time for looking publisher or the man without address or phone.Or writing down the list which will be named ALLEGED! Nice chat Bye my professor:pray:”
(He’s lying in saying that I referred him a certain university site.)
Naturally, I was smiling while reading his message, and then I replied. “Salam. ” I hope that will be our parting message – salam.
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)
Murtada Mutahhari, “PHILOSOPHY OF ETHICS,” trans. Mansoor Limba (London: MIU Press, forthcoming), 272 pages.
Table of Contents
About the Author
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
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
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 ḥadīth.
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. 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 (ḥujjah) 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.
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 (ṣ) for their questions regarding religion and the Qur’an. 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 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 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 (ṣ) in elucidating the Qur’an alongside its conveyance, the Holy Qur’an itself has put emphasis on obedience to the commands of the Prophet (ṣ) as equal to obedience to God, his wholesome and meritorious pattern of example, and the authority and credibility of all teachings of the Noble Messenger (ṣ) 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 (ṣ) 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. 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.”
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.”
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.”
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 (ṣ). In this manner, the wilāyah (guardianship) of Imām ‘Alī (‘a), like the ritual prayer, has been explained in words of the Prophet (ṣ) 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. 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 (ṣ) himself warned of its danger. A number of Sunnī traditionists (muḥaddithūn) have reported this narration from the Prophet (ṣ):
.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.’”
What is more interesting is the following famous statement of the Noble Messenger (ṣ) 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.”
It is stated at the beginning of a narration similar to the previous one that the Holy Prophet (ṣ) 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.”
From these two narrations, the following points can be deduced:
 For further information, see Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn Ṭabāṭabā’ī, Al-Mīzān fī Tafsīr al-Qur’ān, vol. 5, p. 351.
 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).
 There are existing exegetic narrations (riwāyāt-e tafsīrī) of the Prophet (ṣ) which substantiate this point. See Jalāl al-Dīn Suyūṭī, Al-Itqān fī ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān, vol. 4, pp. 245-298.
 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.
 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.
 “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-Nahl 16:44)
 “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-Ahzāb 33:36)
 “In the Apostle of Allah there is certainly for you a good example.” (Sūrat al-Aḥzāb 33:21)
 “Take whatever the Apostle gives you, and relinquish whatever he forbids you and be wary of Allah.” (Sūrat al-Ḥashr 59:7)
 Ibn Farrūkh al-Ṣaffār al-Qummī, Baṣā’ir al-Darajāt, p. 433; Shaykh al-Ṣadūq, Al-Amālī, p. 500.
 Muḥammad ibn Ya‘qūb al-Kulaynī, Al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 59.
 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.
 Al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 287, “Bāb Mā Naṣṣ Allāh ‘Azza wa Jall wa Rasūlahu ‘alā ’l-A’immah (‘a) Wāḥidan Fawāḥidan.”
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
Some of the philosophers of religion regard as religion any school of thought which has the following three principal elements of belief:
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.
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.”
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.
W.G. Aston, a contemporary philosopher of religion, presents the following as the common features of religions:
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.
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.
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.
This viewpoint consists of the following:
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.”
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.”
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”.
In this part of the definition of religion, two ambiguous issues must be examined:
إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ كَانَ أُمَّةً
“Indeed Abraham was a nation.”
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.
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.
Dr. ‘Alī Sharī‘atī enumerates the common features of religions as follows:
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.
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”
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.”
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).
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.
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.
This point is also not free from ambiguity. The possible meanings which can be conceived of in this regard are as follows:
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, worship of God, the Glorious, after knowing him, is the purest essential feature, nay pillar, of religion.
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.
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). 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:
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.
Sharī‘atī has not mentioned three very important salient features of religion:
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.
Geisler 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:
Some important points in the definition of Geisler must be examined:
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”.
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.
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.
 Ḥawzeh wa Dāneshgāh Magazine, issue 3, p. 68.
 Sūrat al-Muddaththir 74:38. [Trans.]
 Al-Uṣūl min al-Kāfī, vol. 2, p. 166.
 Sūrat Fuṣṣilat 41:53. [Trans.]
 Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:115. [Trans.]
 For further information, see Tafsīr wa Naqd wa Taḥlīl az Mathnawī, vol. 10, pp. 63-73.
 Sūrat al-Isrā’ (or Banī Isrā’īl) 17:70.
 Sūrat al-Ḥujurāt 49:13.
 Sūrat al-Naḥl 16:120.
 ‘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.]
 Sūrat Fuṣṣilat 41:53. [Trans.]
 Nahj al-Balāghah, Maxim 131.
 The Mathnawī of Jalālu ’ddīn Rūmī, Book 1, line 205, p. 27. [Trans.]
 The Mathnawī of Jalālu ’ddīn Rūmī, Book 1, line 3686, p. 397. [Trans.]
 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.]
 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.]
 The Mathnawī of Jalālu ’ddīn Rūmī, Book 1, line 215, p. 27. [Trans.]
 Nāṣir Khusrū, Dīwān-e Ash‘ār, Elegy 241.
 Norman L. Geisler (born 1932): a Christian apologist and philosopher noted for his philosophical approach to theology. [Trans.]
 Ian Ramsey (): [Trans.]
 Sa‘dī, Mawā‘iẓ, ghazal 13.
(Images courtesy of wikipedia.com and normgeisler.com)
The Qur’an has used the word taḥrīf only in its literal sense, i.e. distortion in the meaning of the word and its interpretation in a wrong way, which is called misinterpretation (sū’ tafsīr) or conjectural interpretation (tafsīr bi ’r-rayy). Taḥrīf in this sense refers to the contextual distortion.
Earlier, we have dealt with this noble verse:
يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَنْ مَوَاضِعِهِ
“They pervert words from their meanings.”
An mawāḍi‘ihi in this verse refers to the following: after the word is used in its real sense as it appears, or based on the conventional implication of the common meaning, its message is distorted as a treacherous act. For example, in the expression min ba‘di mawāḍi‘ih this meaning has been indicated although taḥrīf means to divert the word from its real meaning.
It is thus stated in Sūrat al-Baqarah:
وَقَدْ كَانَ فَرِيقٌ مِنْهُمْ يَسْمَعُونَ كَلامَ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ يُحَرِّفُونَهُ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا عَقَلُوهُ
“Though a part of them would hear the word of Allah and then they would distort it after they had understood it.”
That is, after understanding that the real meaning – which is what God intends – is contrary to their own interests, they would distort it so as for it to become favourable to them.
As such, Ṭabarsī, and prior to him, Shaykh al-Ṭūsī have described this kind of taḥrīf as misinterpretation (sū’ ta’wīl). In Al-Tibyān, the late Shaykh says, “Taḥrīf is of two types, viz. misinterpretation, and changing and substitution.” That is, the intonation of the word is changed in such a way that the meaning it conveys is distorted, such as the case mentioned in verse 78 of Sūrat Āl ‘Imrān.
Shaykh Muḥammad ‘Abduh says:
Amongst the meanings of taḥrīf is [conjectural] interpretation of the word in the sense that it is construed in a way different from its contextual meaning. This is the meaning of taḥrīf being raised because their pretext in denying the Prophet (ṣ) and his prophethood lies in this meaning [of taḥrīf]. As such, they would interpret in a way the glad tidings of his prophethood.”
‘Abduh implies that the plausible meaning of taḥrīf mentioned in these verses is the distortion of meaning, and what gave them courage to interpret in a way the glad tidings and therefore to deny the prophethood of the Prophet (ṣ) is contextual distortion.
In his exegesis of the noble verse, “They pervert words from their meanings,” Zamakhsharī says, “They pervert the word from its [supposed] position,” for if a word is not interpreted according to its apparent meaning or implications, it is tantamount to taking it away from its position.
In sum, the distortion of the New and Old Testaments which is indicated in the Qur’an is either through misinterpretation in the sense of manipulating them contrary to the truth – without any basis from the book – or in addition to it, changing the pronunciation of the words when reading the book. As God says,
وَإِنَّ مِنْهُمْ لَفَرِيقًا يَلْوُونَ أَلْسِنَتَهُمْ بِالْكِتَابِ لِتَحْسَبُوهُ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمَا هُوَ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَيَقُولُونَ هُوَ مِنْ عِنْدِ اللَّهِ وَمَا هُوَ مِنْ عِنْدِ اللَّهِ وَيَقُولُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ
“There is indeed a group of them who twist their tongues to mimic the Book, that you may suppose that it is from the Book, though it is not from the Book, and they say, ‘It is from Allah,’ though it is not from Allah, and they attribute lies to Allah, and they know [it].”
This is because if a word is pronounced contrary to the way it is first pronounced, it will be treated as another word and not the earlier word. And in a bid to conceal the truth and not to disclose the glad tidings of the coming of the Holy Prophet (ṣ), the People of the Book had engaged in contextual distortion. But taḥrīf in the sense of addition, deletion or changing of words by another set of words which is the technical meaning of taḥrīf, as can be observed, has not been used in the Qur’an.
 Sūrat al-Nisā’ 4:46; Sūrat al-Mā’idah 5:13.
 Sūrat al-Mā’idah 5:41.
 Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:75.
 Al-Tibyān, vol. 3, p. 470.
 Al-Manār, vol. 5, p. 140.
 Sūrat al-Nisā’ 4:46; Sūrat al-Mā’idah 5:13.
 Al-Kashshāf, vol. 1, p. 633.
 Sūrat Āl ‘Imrān 3:78.
 People of the Book (ahl al-kitāb): the respectful title given to the Jews and Christians in the Qur’an. [Trans.]
In nine places of the Qur’an, mountains are mentioned with the expression rawāsiya:
وَجَعَلْنَا فِي الأرْضِ رَوَاسِيَ أَنْ تَمِيدَ بِهِمْ وَجَعَلْنَا فِيهَا فِجَاجًا سُبُلا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَهْتَدُونَ
“We set firm mountains in the earth lest it should shake with them, and We have made therein broad highways (between mountains) for them to pass through: that they may receive Guidance.”
The mountains are described as rawāsiya because they are the ‘firm ones’ which are based on strong foundations and it is derived from the term rasati ’s-safīnah which means “ship’s anchor”. Because of this anchor, the ship remains stable in the middle of the raging sea. As such, the mountains are like anchors which prevent the earth from shaking on account of its rotation.
The mountains are also described with the term awtād which means “nails” which keeps the earth from scattering together:
“…And the mountains as pegs?”
In this regard, the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) said something which satisfactorily clarifies the inimitable expressions of the Qur’an. Imām ‘Alī (‘a) thus says:
وَجَبَلَ جَلاَمِيدَهَا وَنُشُوزَ ضس مُتُونِهَا وَأَطْوَادِهَا فَأَرْسَاهَا في مَرَاسِيهَا وَأَلْزَمَهَا قَرَارَاتِهَا فَمَضَتْ رُؤُسُهَا فِي الْهَوَاءِ، وَرَسَتْ أُصُولُهَا فِي الْمَاءِ، فَأَنْهَدَ جِبَالَهَاعَنْ سُهُولِهَا، وَأَسَاخَ قَوَاعِدَهَا فِي متُونِ أَقْطَارِهَا، وَمَوَاضِعِ أَنْصَابِهَا فَأشْهَقَ قِلاَلَهَا، وَأَطَالَ أَنْشَازَهَا وَجَعَلَهَا لِلْأَرْضِ عِمَاداً، وَأَرَّزَهَا فِيهَا أَوْتَاداً، فَسَكَنَتْ عَلَى حَرَكَتِهَا مِن أَنْ تَمِيدَبِأَهْلِهَا، أَوْ تَسِيخَ بِحِمْلِهَا، أَوْ تَزُولَ عَنْ مَواضِعِهَا. فَسُبْحَانَ مَنْ أَمْسَكَهَا بَعْدَ مَوَجَانِ مِيَاهِهَا.
He also created high hills, rocks of stones and lofty mountains. He put them in their positions and made them remain stationary. Their peaks rose into the air while their roots remained in the water. In this way He raised the mountains above the plains and fixed their foundations in the vast expanse wherever they stood. He made their peaks high and made their bodies lofty. He made them like pillars for the earth and fixed them in it like pegs. Consequently, the earth became stationary; otherwise it might bend with its inhabitants or sink inwards with its burden, or shift from its positions. Therefore, glorified is He who stopped it after the flowing of its waters.
In some parts of this speech, it is said that notwithstanding its movements and motions, the earth is prevented from shaking and scattering together. From this speech, three points can be inferred:
 Sūrat al-Ra‘d 13:3; Sūrat al-Naml 27:61; Sūrat al-Ḥijr 15:19; Sūrat Qāf 50:7; Sūrat al-Naḥl 16:15; Sūrat Luqmān 31:10; Sūrat al-Anbiyā’ 21:31; Sūrat al-Fuṣṣilat 41:10; Sūrat al-Mursalāt 77:27.
 Sūrat al-Anbiyā’ 21:31.
 Sūrat al-Naba’ 78:7.
 Nahj al-Balāghah, Sermon 211, p. 328.
 Sūrat al-Anbiyā’ 21:31.
(Excerpt from Muhammad Hadi Ma’rifat, INTRODUCTION TO THE SCIENCES OF THE QUR’AN, Volume 1, trans. Mansoor Limba and Salim Rossier (Tehran: SAMT Publications, 2014))