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Forthcoming Publication: “Philosophy of Ethics”

PhilosophyofEthics

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

Table of Contents

Translator’s Foreword
About the Author
Preface

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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Ways to Attain Gnosis (ma‘rifah)

gnosis

In general, man can attain ontological (takwīnī) and legislative (tashri‘ī) knowledge through the following four ways:

  1. Sensual way (ṭarīq-e ḥissī) or sensual knowledge: sensual knowledge has the following characteristics:

Firstly, it is particular and personal.

Secondly, it is confined to material realities.

Thirdly, it is limited to the outward aspects of material phenomena and it has no access to the quiddities of things.

Therefore, although it has an important contribution in worldview and man is not independent from it, sensual knowledge cannot provide a comprehensive and firm worldview for man.

  1. Rational way (ṭarīq-e ‘aqlī): the components of this type of knowledge are universal rational principles and rules and its form consists of rational analysis and synthesis. This knowledge has the following characteristics:

a. It is universal and all-encompassing.

b. Its scope is the absolute existence including both the material (māddī) and the immaterial (mujarrad).

c. It encompasses even the essence and quiddities of things, yet it is incapable of discerning and knowing the manifestations and particularities of things.

In view of the above points, we can conclude that since some manifestations and particularities are outside the domain of the sensual and rational knowledge, it follows that the sensual and rational knowledge cannot separately or jointly address the epistemological need of man, although they have a big share in this regard and without them, the epistemological system of man cannot take shape.

  1. Way of inward overture and intuition (ṭarīq-e kashf wa shuhūd-e bāṭinī) this type of knowledge is intuitive (shuhūdī) and presential (ḥuḍūrī); that is, through his heart and soul, man directly witnesses the truths within and outside his being.

Intuitive witnessing and discernment of external truths can be realized provided that the self (nafs) is purified through abstinence (riyāḍah) and free from the entanglements and fetters of materialistic inclinations. Abstinence necessitates rational and lawful regulations. For this reason, this method is in need of reason (‘aql) and the Divine law (sharī‘ah)

  1. Way of the Divine revelation and inspiration (ṭarīq-e waḥyi wa ilhām): although this type of knowledge is based upon sensory perception (ḥiss) and reason, Divine revelation deepens man’s sensual and rational knowledge because Divine revelation unveils truths which are beyond the realm of man’s sensual and rational knowledge; for example, knowledge of the details of laws and morality (the branches of religion or furū‘ al-dīn) as well as issues pertaining to the high levels of discursive knowledge about God such as the Divine Unity (tawḥīd) or subjects related to the next world.

DiscursiveTheology2 (An excerpt from ‘Ali Rabbani Gulpaygani, DISCURSIVE THEOLOGY, Volume 2, trans. Mansoor Limba (Manila: AIF, 2015), pp. 368.)

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The Old Educational System and Intellectual Training

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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.

——-

Notes:

[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

habilnqabil

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!

——-

Notes:

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 ytimg.com

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 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.

——-

Note:

[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

IntrotoHadith

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!

——-

Notes:

[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.

IntrotoHadith

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

Categories: Hadith Sciences, Translated Books, Translation | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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