Islamic Thought (Ma‘ārif Islāmī)

Book ID

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, The All-Beneficent, The All-Merciful

نام کتاب: معارف اسلامی (جلد 1)

نویسندگان: محمّد سعیدی مهر، امیر دیوانی

تهیه کننده: اداره ترجمه، اداره کل پژوهش مجمع جهانی اهل بیت

مترجم: ابوذر احمدی

زبان ترجمه: انگلیسی

Islamic Thought (Ma‘ārif Islāmī)

Book One

Author: Muhammad Sa‘īdī-Mihr, Amīr Dīvānī

Translator: Abuzar Ahmadi


supervisor: Translation Unit, Research General Office, the ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly (ABWA)

Editor: Carol Eastman

Proofread by: Sayyid Baqir Husayni

Publisher: ABWA Publishing and Printing Center

First Printing: 2012

Printed by: Mujab Press

Copies: 5000

© The ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly (ABWA)



All rights reserved

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قال الله تعالی:

﴿إِنَّمَا یُرِیدُ اللَّهُ لِیُذْهِبَ عَنْکُمْ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَیْتِ وَیُطَهِّرَکُمْ تَطْهِیرًا﴾

Indeed, Allah desires to repel all impurity from you, O People of the Household, and purify you with a thorough purification.

(Surat al-Ahzab 33:33)

Prophetic traditions, mentioned in both Sunni and Shiite most reliable reference books of Hadith and Tafsir (Quranic Exegesis), have confirmed that this holy verse was revealed to exclusively involve the five individuals of the Cloak; namely, Muhammad, Ali, Fatimah, al-Hasan, and al-Husayn, peace be upon them, to whom the term ‘Ahl al-Bayt (People of the House)’ is solely dedicated.

For instance, refer to the following reference books:

A. Sunni Reference Books:

(1) Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241 AH), al-Musnad, 1:331; 4:107; 6:292, 304. (2) Sahih Muslim (d. 261 AH), 7:130. (3) Al-Tirmidhi (d. 279 AH), Sunan, 5:361 et al. (4) Al-Dulabi (d. 310 AH), al-Dhurriyyah al-Tahirah al-Nabawiyyah, pp. 108. (5) Al-Nassa’i (d. 303 AH), al-Sunan al-Kubra, 5:P108, 113. (6) al-Hakim al-Naysaburi (d. 405 AH), al-Mustadrak ala al-Sahihayn, 2:416, 3:133, 146, 147. (7) al-Zarkashi (d. 794 AH), al-Burhan, pp. 197. (8) Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d. 852), Fath al-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:104.

B. Shiite Reference Books:

(1) Al-Kulayni (d. 328 AH), Usul al-Kafi, 1:287. (2) Ibn Babawayh (d. 329 AH), al-Imamah wa’l-Tabsirah, pp. 47, H. 29. (3) Al-Maghribi (d. 363 AH), Da’aa’im al-Islam, pp. 35, 37. (4) Al-Saduq (d. 381 AH), al-Khisal, pp. 403, 550. (5) Al-Tusi (d. 460 AH), al-Amaali, H. 438, 482, 783.

For more details, refer to the exegesis of the holy verse involved in the following reference books of tafsir: (1) Al-Tabari (d. 310 AH), Book of Tafsir. (2) Al-Jassass (d. 370 AH), Ahkam al-Qur’an. (3) Al-Wahidi (d. 468 AH), Asbaab al-Nuzoul. (4) Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597 AH), Zaad al-Maseer. (5) Al-Qurtubi (d. 671 AH), al-Jami’ li-Ahkam al-Qur’an. (6) Ibn Katheer (d. 774 AH), Book of Tafsir. (7) Al-Tha’aalibi (d. 825 AH), Book of Tafsir. (8) Al-Suyouti (d. 911 AH), al-Durr al-Manthour. (9) Al-Shawkani (d. 1250 AH), Fath al-Qadeer. (10) Al-Ayyashi (d. 320 AH), Book of Tafsir. (11) Al-Qummi (d. 329 AH), Book of Tafsir. (12) Furt al-Kufi (d. 352 AH), Book of Tafsir; in the margin of the exegesis of verse 4:59. (13) Al-Tabrisi (d. 560 AH), Majma’ al-Bayan, as well as many other reference books of Hadith and Tafsir.

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Islamic Thought

(Ma‘ārif Islāmī)

Book One

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قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صلی الله علیه و آله:

إنِّی تَارِکٌ فِیکُمُ الثَّقَلَیْنِ: کِتَابَ اللهِ وَعِتْرَتِی أهْلَ بَیْتِی، مَا إنْ تَمَسَّکْتُمْ بِهِمَا لَنْ تَضِلُّوا بَعْدِی أبَداً، وَإنَّهُمَا لَنْ یَفْتَرِقَا حَتَّی یَرِدَا عَلَیَّ الْحَوْضَ.

The Messenger of Allah (s) said:

“Verily, I am leaving among you two precious things [Thaqalayn]: The Book of Allah and my progeny [‘Itrah], the members of my Household [Ahl al-Bayt]. If you hold fast to them, you shall never go astray. These two will never separate from each other until they meet me at the Pond [hawz] (of Kawthar).”

Some of its references:

Al­hakim an­Nayshaburi, Al­Mustadrak `ala al-Sahihayn (Beirut), vol. 3, pp. 109-110, 148, 533

Muslim, Al-Sahih, (English translation), book 31, hadiths 5920-3

At­Tirmidhi, Al-Sahih, vol. 5, pp. 621-2, hadiths 3786, 3788; vol. 2, p. 219

An-Nassa’i, Khasa’is ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, hadith 79

Ahmad ibn hanbal, Al-Musnad, vol. 3, pp. 14, 17, 26; vol. 3, pp. 26, 59; vol. 4, p. 371; vol. 5, pp. 181-182, 189-190

Ibn al­Athir, Jami` al­Usul, vol. 1, p. 277

Ibn Kathir, Al­Bidayah wa’n­Nihayah, vol. 5, p. 209

Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-`A¨im, vol. 6, p. 199

Nasir ad-Din al-Albani, Silsilat al-Ahadith as-sahihah (Kuwait: Ad-Dar as-Salafiyyah), vol. 4, pp. 355-358

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Islamic Thought (Ma‘ārif Islāmī)

Book One


Muhammad Sa‘īdī-Mihr

Amīr Dīvānī


Abuzar Ahmadi

Cultural Affairs Department

The Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly

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نام کتاب: معارف اسلامی (جلد 1)

نویسندگان: محمّد سعیدی مهر، امیر دیوانی

تهیه کننده: اداره ترجمه، اداره کل پژوهش مجمع جهانی اهل بیت

مترجم: ابوذر احمدی

زبان ترجمه: انگلیسی

Islamic Thought (Ma‘ārif Islāmī)

Book One

Author: Muhammad Sa‘īdī-Mihr, Amīr Dīvānī

Translator: Abuzar Ahmadi


supervisor: Translation Unit, Research General Office, the ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly (ABWA)

Editor: Carol Eastman

Proofread by: Sayyid Baqir Husayni

Publisher: ABWA Publishing and Printing Center

First Printing: 2012

Printed by: Mujab Press

Copies: 5000

© The ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly (ABWA)



All rights reserved

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Islamic Thought (Ma‘ārif Islāmī) _ Book One

Table of contents

PREFACE ―Error! Bookmark not defined.


Introduction: Religion in the Modern World ―17

Rationalism ―19

Empiricism ―20

Scienticism ―21

Humanism ―22

Cognition Crisis ―23

Moral Crises ―25

Mental Crises ―27

Technology ―29

The Role of Religion in Solving Crises ―31

Religion and the Knowledge Crisis ―32

Religion and Moral Crises ―33

Religion and Mental Crises ―33

Religion and the Technology Crisis ―34


Section One: In Search of the Object of Devotion ―39

History of Worship ―39

The Perfection and Excellence of Islamic Theology ―40

A Glimpse of Mundane Religious Theology ―41

Why Theology? ―45

The Methods of Realizing God ―46

I. The Way of the Heart ―47

Religious Experience ―50

The Quran and Innate Cognition of God ―53

II. The Way of Experience ―55

“Evidential Understanding” in the Quran and Traditions ―56

III. The Way of Intellect ―58

The Kalām Cosmological Argument ―60

The Quran and the Need of Contingents towards God ―65

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Section Two: The Path to “Him” ―67

Understanding the Nature of God and His Attributes ―68

The Methods of Understanding God ―70

Understanding Divine Attributes ―71

Purity and Understandability of Divine Attributes in the Quran ―73

1. Unity ―75

Theoretical and Applied Monotheism ―76

2. Divine Knowledge ―77

God’s Prior Knowledge and Humanity’s Free Will ―77

The Perspective of Quran and Traditions regarding Divine Knowledge ―77

The Absolute and Infinite Knowledge of God ―78

3. Divine Power ―80

Illimitability of God’s Power and the Omnipotence Paradox ―81

Divine Power in the Quran and Traditions ―84

4. Divine Life ―85

Divine Life according to the Quran and Traditions ―86

5. Past and Future Eternality ―87

Past and Future Eternality of God in the Quran and Traditions ―88

6. Divine Wisdom ―90

Divine Wisdom and Evil ―93

a) Fulfillment of the Potential of Humanity ―94

b) Divine Trials ―94

c) Awakening ―95

d) Appreciation of Divine Blessings ―96

7. Divine Justice ―98

The Definition of Justice ―99

General Categorization of Divine Justice ―99

Divine Justice in the Holy Quran ―100

Several Questions and Answers regarding Theodicy ―101

Apophatic Attributes [ṣifat-e salbī] ―104

1. Negation of Corporeality ―104

2. Transcendence of Space and Direction ―105

3. Negation of Incarnation ―105

4. Negation of Unity with Others ―106

5. Negation of Visual Perception ―106

Section Three: Anthropology ―107

Various Branches of Anthropology ―107

The Importance of Anthropology ―108

The Creation of the Human Race ―109

Aspects of Humanity’s Being ―110

Humans and Animals ―112

The Elect of Creation ―114

The Other Side of the Coin ―118

Compulsion or Free Will ―120

An Ancient Question ―120

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Islamic Theology and Free Will ―121

Quran and Free Will ―125

Human Perfection (Teleology) ―126

Worship and the Complete Human ―131

Ṣalāt, the Most Beautiful Aspect of Worshiping the Divine ―132

Secrets of Ṣalāt ―134

1. Wuḍū ―134

2. Call to Prayer [Adhān wa Iqāmah] ―134

3. Standing Motionless [qīyām] ―136

4. Intention [nīyyat] ―137

5. Recitation [qirā’at] ―138

6. Bowing [rukū‘]―139

7. Prostration [sajdah] ―140

8. Testimony [tashahud] ―140

9. Salaam ―140

Section Four: Cosmology [jahān shināsī] ―143

Religious and Scientific Cosmology ―144

The Invisible [ghayb] and the Manifest [shahādat] ―145

The Justness [ḥaqq madārī] of the World ―147

Finality of Creation ―149

Best Possible System ―149

Intrinsic Consciousness and Universal Praise [tasbīḥ-e ‘umūmī] ―150

God and the Universe ―152

Unity in Action ―153

The Natural World ―154

1. The Heavens and the Earth ―155

2. Celestial Bodies ―157

3. Terrestrial Phenomena ―158

4. Plants and Animals ―159

The Supernatural World ―160

1. Angels ―160

2. Jinn ―163

3. Satan [shaytān] ―165


Introduction ―171

In Quest for an Answer ―173

Eschatology and Anthropology ―177

Section One: The Human Essence ―179

Duality of Humans and Our Rationale ―181

Incorporeality of the Soul ―183

Aspects of Human Existence in the Quran ―185

Commentary and Interpretation ―186

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Section Two: Death ―189

Nature of Death ―189

Death as stated by the Quran and Hadith ―192

Fear of Death ―194

Religion and Fear of Death ―196

Section Three: Philosophical Approaches to Human Immortality ―201

1. The Unincorporated [nāmutajassid] Soul ―203

2. Metempsychosis (Reincarnation) ―204

3. Life in the Barzakh and Qīyāmat (Resurrection) ―207

The Quality of Immortality according to Islam ―208

Barzakh ―208

Barzakh Body ―211

Ākhirat Life ―212

Ākhirat Body ―214

Section Four: Life in the Hereafter as stated by the Quran ―217

The Possibility and Necessity of Resurrection ―217

A. Possibility of the Resurrection ―217

B. Necessity of the Resurrection ―221

Depiction of the Ākhirat in the Quran ―224

1. The Events Prior to the Resurrection ―225

2. Winding the Horn ―226

3. Advent of Ākhirat Life ―227

4. The Reckoning of Deeds ―227

Further Reading ―228

5. Witnesses of Deeds ―230

6. Retribution ―231

7. Hell [jahannam] ―233

8. Paradise ―234

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Publisher’s Foreword

In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful

The invaluable legacy of the Household [Ahl al-Bayt] of the Prophet (may peace be upon them all), as preserved by their followers, is a comprehensive school of thought that embraces all branches of Islamic knowledge. This school has produced many brilliant scholars who have drawn inspiration from this rich and pure resource. It has given many scholars to the Muslim ummah who, following in the footsteps of Imāms of the Prophet’s Household (‘a), have done their best to clear up the doubts raised by various creeds and currents within and without Muslim society and to answer their questions. Throughout the past centuries, they have given well-reasoned answers and clarifications concerning these questions and doubts.

To meet the responsibilities assigned to it, the Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly (ABWA) has embarked on a defence of the sanctity of the Islamic message and its verities, often obscured by the partisans of various sects and creeds as well as by currents hostile to Islam. The Assembly follows in the footsteps of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and the disciples of their school of thought in its readiness to confront these challenges and tries to be on the frontline in consonance with the demands of every age.

The arguments contained in the works of the scholars belonging to the School of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are of unique significance. That is because they are based on genuine scholarship and appeal to reason, and avoid prejudice and bias. These arguments address scholars and thinkers in a manner that appeals to healthy minds and wholesome human nature.

To assist the seekers of truth, the Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly has endeavored to present a new phase of these arguments contained in the studies and translations of the works of contemporary Shī‘ah writers and those who have embraced this sublime school of thought through divine blessing.

The Assembly is also engaged in edition and publication of the valuable works of leading Shī‘ah scholars of earlier ages to assist the seekers of the truth in discovering the truths which the School of the Prophet’s Household (‘a) has offered to the entire world.

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The Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly looks forward to benefit from the opinions of the readers and their suggestions and constructive criticism in this area.

We also invite scholars, translators and other institutions to assist us in propagating the genuine Islamic teachings as preached by the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ).

We beseech God, the Most High, to accept our humble efforts and to enable us to enhance them under the auspices of Imām al-Mahdī, His vicegerent on the earth (may Allah expedite his advent).

We express our gratitude to Muhammad Sa‘idi-Mehr and Amir Divani, the authors of the present book, and Abuzar Ahmadi, its translator. We also thank our colleagues who have participated in producing this work, especially the staff of the Translation Office. ?

Cultural Affairs Departmen

Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly

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We are thankful towards God, the Beneficent, that merely two terms after the first publication of the “Islamic Thought” textbook, the second edition of this book has been completed and thus we present it to our esteemed professors and students.

During this time, various gatherings of experts and professors of the Islamic sciences were formed in order to critique, analyze, and receive corrective and complementary opinions on the concepts and curriculum of the book. Additionally, opinion forms were given out to professors to gather their views and make necessary corrections.

Below is a summary of the proposed changes regarding the first edition:

1. Correction of the structure of the introduction and coordination of the introduction with the curriculum

2. Balancing the proportions of the first and second book

3. Consolidation of the proofs of monotheism (tawḥīd) in Book One

4. Addition of various contemporary Kalām(1) discussions related to the curriculum and the subjective concerns of students

5. Broadening the topic of religious administration and religious vicegerency [wilāyah]

In due regard to those who have graced us with their opinions, the Department of Research and Compilation of Textbooks of the Administration of Professors has made practical corrections to this series. Some of these corrections include:

1. Publication of the book in two separate volumes: The first volume, entitled “Islamic Thought: Book One”, consists of topics concerning God, humanity, the world, and the afterworld. The second collection, entitled “Islamic Thought:

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1- - Kalam is one of the religious sciences of Islam similar to dialectic theology. [trans.]

Book Two”, is comprised of the subjects of prophethood [nubuwah], Imamate, religious authority [marja’īah], and religious vicegerency [wilāyah]. The proportions of these books have been adapted to two study units each.

2. The structure of the introduction has been adapted to conform to the curriculum suggested by the Administration. This modified chapter has been named “Religion in the Modern World” which investigates the crises of modern humanity and related causes and factors and explains the function of religion in resolving these crises.

3. In the discussion concerning theology, while elucidating the methods of realizing God, the “Kalām Cosmological Argument” has been discussed in detail in the section entitled “The Way of Intellect”.

4. The policy of the Administration regarding introduction of contemporary Kalām discussions into the book was to do so gradually while simultaneously observing the necessary symmetry of the topics. Therefore, issues such as religious experience, benefits of religion, science and religion, and polytheism [kithrat girā’ī] have been introduced and existing materials have been enhanced in the second edition.

5. In this edition, the discussions concerning eschatology [ma’ād] and Imamate have been revised and the discussions on Imamate have been broadened. Additionally, discussions on religious authority [marja’īah] and religious vicegerency [wilāyah] have been revised in order to increase content accuracy and adjust the volume of this discussion. Furthermore, we have endeavored to answer all questions concerning these topics.

In spite of all these changes, we believe that not everything required in a study book has been compiled within this series. Although addition of details such as context questions, explanation of important terms, and research topics and references for students was kept in mind, due to timetable issues we have deferred greater detail to a later date. We hope that, with the help of God, we may soon rewrite this book with improved content and also include current academic debates and

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better align this book with the characteristics of standard textbooks. Forwarding the opinions of professors, students, and experts will greatly help in quickly and easily creating a more favorable and exemplary book.

Finally, we wish to thank the esteemed authors of this book, Hujjat ul-Islām wa l-Muslimīn Alī Riḍā Amīnī, Doctor Muḥsin Javādī, Hujjat ul-Islām wa al-Muslimīn Amīr Dīvānī, and Doctor Muḥammad Sa’īdī-Mihr. We also wish to express our thanks to the respected editor Mr. Riḍā Bābā’ī and all those who helped type, correct, and prepare this compilation.

Textbook Writing and Research Unit

Islamic Studies Professors and Courses Affairs Department

Office of the Supreme Leader in the Universities

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Introduction: Religion in the Modern World


At the threshold of the third millennium, does modern humanity need religiousness and religious research any longer?(1) With the ascension of humankind to the heights of empirical knowledge, has the era of religious faith truly passed? Does the endless horizon of empirical research leave any room for religion? In the modern world, is religiousness a thing of superstition and religious research an obsolete and futile activity? In light of amazing scientific developments and through utilization of our collective intellect, has humanity truly been able to create their promised Paradise on this mundane globe and thus no longer needs to endeavor to gain access to a heavenly Paradise? Ultimately, has contemporary humankind been successful in attaining true beatitude and happiness through its accomplishments?

These and many similar questions are among the basic quandaries that face modern humanity. Particularly, religious people, who believe that religion affects their lives, seriously need to illuminate their positions regarding such questions. There is no doubt that the modern era lures religious people into uncertainty with its colorful and deceptive appearance. Many of those who have been seduced by the charm of materialistic civilization consider religion an ebbing current and eagerly await its sunset and finale. They regard religion as a phenomenon linked to the outdated traditions and bygone history of humanity, which like cuneiform and the Ptolemaic system, has reached its expiration date. According to this notion, religion does not have (or should not have) an important or irreplaceable role in the life of modern humanity and thus in modern times, religiousness is a thing of superstition and foolishness. Correspondingly, religious research (theoretical research concerning religion)—assuming that its usefulness and necessity is endorsed—must be limited to research in the context of psychology, sociology, history, and similar fields. In

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1- - In the current discussion, by religion we mean divine monotheist religions that God has presented to humanity through His prophets throughout history. By religiousness, we signify devotion to religion and endorsing and having faith in its theoretical teachings and acting upon its practical teachings. Also by religious research, we mean theoretical research concerning religions and their teachings.

these studies, researchers must regard religion from an external perspective. For example, they must study the mental or social effects of religion or its historical evolution, without concerning themselves with examining the truths behind its claims or trying to understand and benefit from its teachings.

A superficial examination of the exterior appearance of modern human life and the astonishing results of modern technologies and industries, confirms the above notion or at least seems compatible with it. Nonetheless, more comprehensive, penetrating, and critical analyses of the condition of the world and the modern human(1) reveal the flagrant dramatization of the allegation that the era of faith has come to a conclusion and that modern humanity no longer requires religion. Even though many modern humans verbally deny need of religion, their condition states otherwise. Despite modern humanity’s astounding developments in science and technology, it is faced with massive crises(2) that either possess completely new identities, or hold much more terrible and horrific features compared to their historic parallels. A thorough and chronicled explanation and clarification of these crises would be too long a narrative to cover in the limited pages of this introductory chapter. What can be covered in this synopsis is an overview and brief explanation of several aspects of this discussion.

Doubtless various cognitional, social, economic, etc. factors have been influential in creating and intensifying what we call modern crises. Correctly understanding these factors can be effective in more accurately comprehending these crises and their historic origins. Here we will suffice it to mention several of the most important factors that

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1- By modern human, we mean men and women who consider the characteristics of the new lifestyle established in the West in the last few centuries desirable, and align their lifestyle and culture with this "modern" way of life. Several of these characteristics are Humanism, Empiricism, Rationalism, escape from tradition and aversion to worship, Secularism, Liberalism, and modern technologies. Because Europe is the source of modernism, today many modernists live in the West, but this does not mean that all westerners are modernists or that no easterners are such.
2- - By crisis, we mean fundamental and widespread problems whose escalation and prolongation can critically harm life and civilization in general.

have caused the outbreak of modern crises and brought about an overall transformation of the ideas of modern humans about themselves and the world around them.



The modern form of rationalism emerged in seventeenth century Europe through the contemplations of the famous French philosopher and mathematician, René Descartes (1596 – 1650) and was later advocated in the works of philosophers such as Baruch Spinoza (1632 – 1677) and Gottfried Leibniz (1646 – 1716). Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) set to critiquing pure reason and finally concluded that pure reason cannot prove the existence of God. He then endeavored to secure the foundations of intellectual belief in God based on ethics and practical reason. Additionally, he maintained that empirical truths (or objects per se), cannot be understood as they truly are, rather, we understand objects though previous concepts and categories within our minds. Although rationalist philosophers have presented differing philosophical systems, the common feature of modern day rationalism is that discursive or deductive reason is considered the most basic tool for understanding. Moreover, according to some of the more extremist narratives, reason can comprehend all fathomable things and nothing that reason cannot fathom is comprehensible.

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1- - In modern times, the word reason is used with several meanings, each of which must be elucidated. According to a rudimentary classification, two definitions may be noted. (1) According to the first definition, reason is an ability that identifies the natural world and relations between natural phenomena, assimilates the information gained through experience using logic, and reasons and deduces within these confines. Reason, according to this definition, mostly has an applicative and practical role because it is used as an instrument to alter the current conditions of the world in order to make them more desirable. Thus, this reason is usually called discursive reason, deductive reason, or practical reason. (2) According to the second definition, reason is the faculty that can analyze all phenomena—even paranormal facts—and can perceive general truths. Information gathered in this way is, in itself, valuable, and is not just a tool to better obtain ones practicable needs. In contrast to the first definition, this definition is called universal reason, intuitive reason, or pure reason. In the modern era, practical reason is mostly used to further technology and has no special relationship with the divine sciences. On the other hand, pure reason can have complete harmony with divine revelation and thus, pure reason is revered in religious texts.

The rationalist approach to religion, especially in the West and within Christianity, gradually deprived revelational theology [ilāhīāt-e waḥyānī] (theology based on divine texts) of its credibility. In this way, the seemingly unmatched rival of revelational theology—i.e. rational theology—was consolidated. Even so, sole reliance upon deductive reason and also the discovery of several limitations of reason as an instrument of cognition have caused new complications for rationalist theologians. For example, today, many western philosophers and theologians believe that religious teachings, including the existence of God, cannot be proven by reason. That being the case, they endeavor at least to demonstrate that accepting these teachings is not unreasonable.(1)


Empiricism is an ideological movement that developed parallel to rationalism following the western Renaissance. Even though rationalism had a long record in the history of philosophy, empiricism ultimately surpassed rationalism. This neo-rationalist movement emerged through the innovative assertions of Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) regarding the necessity of utilizing induction instead of deductive reasoning. Subsequently, distinctive forms of this school appeared in the philosophies of John Locke (1632 – 1704), George Berkeley (1685 – 1753), and David Hume (1711 – 1776). Positivism is also a form of twentieth century extremist rationalism.

The common element in the various narratives of extremist rationalism is that they all regard sensory experience as the only method of cognition and consider exterior senses the source of all human knowledge. Generally, rationalists have difficulty accepting the metaphysical teachings of religions because according to them the verity of these teachings cannot be established through sensory experience. The most severe opposition of contemporary rationalism with religion manifests in the criterion logical positivists propose regarding identification of meaningful statements. They allege that a meaningful statement is a statement that can be empirically analyzed.

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1- - For more information, see Michael Peterson et al, Reason and Religious Belief, Chapters three and seven.

According to one description of the principle of empirical analysis, an empirically analyzable statement is a statement whose verity or falsehood can be demonstrated using specific practical conditions that can occur in the real world. According to this criterion, religious statements (and metaphysical and moral statements) essentially lack any cognitive meaning. Therefore, it is a waste of time to investigate the truth of these statements! Even though serious criticism of positivism in the first few decades of the twentieth century resulted in the loss of its original authority, there are still residues of positivist thought in some western philosophers.(1)

The two doctrines of rationalism and empiricism, despite their fundamental differences, are identical in one issue: they both view with skepticism all knowledge that is beyond the reason or the senses. Furthermore, they regard no credibility for the revelation sciences or intuition.


Another one of the instigators of modern crises is the prevalence of scienticism upon the minds of many empiric scientists. According to this doctrine, which is an offshoot of empiricism in the domain of empirical knowledge, empirical knowledge is humanity’s only reliable guide to the truth. Scienticism itself is without doubt a philosophical and epistemological belief that cannot be scientifically proven because no scientific experiment can be orchestrated showing that science is the only reliable method of attaining the truth.

It has been quite some time that science and scienticism have become one within the minds of many empirical scientists (physicists, biologists, psychologists, etc.). This unacceptable union has developed grounds for the encroachment of empirical science upon the territory of philosophy, metaphysics, and religion.

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1- - For information on the positivist approach to theology, see ibid, pp. 260-269.



Another aspect of the modern era is the dominance of humanist views. According to traditional thought, even though humans have an elevated standing in the world, they are still creations of God. Therefore, they must carry out their divine obligations. The traditional humans sought their truth and identity through their connection with God and realized perfection through servitude and intimacy with God. Whereas according to humanism, humanity is the center and basis of all truths and goodness; everything, even God and religion must be justified and interpreted through humanity; humans are egoistic and have no responsibilities towards anyone but themselves; and in order to gain profit they are permitted to use anything in every way possible. Influenced by humanism, modern humanity measures everything by human quantities and standards and thus, they have desecrated all things holy. According to René Guénon:

“In the era of the Renaissance, one term has been subject to much reverence and credence and has beforehand epitomized the complete plan of modern civilization. This term is Humanism—a philosophy that considers humanity to be the criterion for the evaluation of all things. In truth, the intention for which this term is used is to limit all things according to human standards and measurements, and to make abstract all principles and doctrines containing spiritual and sublime characteristics. Indeed, it could be said as an exemplum that the intention was to turn our backs on the heavens with the excuse of having mastery over the world.”(2)

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1- - Humanism is a system of thought that places central emphasis upon humans and their capabilities, standing in the world, interests, and achievements. This doctrine has had various forms throughout history. (For example, philosophers such as Socrates, who instead of discussing cosmology and metaphysics brought moral, social, and political issues into philosophy, are called humanists.) In this discussion, we mean the approach that generally appeared in the West subsequent to the Renaissance. In this approach, humanity—rather than God—is the center of the universe and human talents are considered sufficient for humans to find their way in the world and achieve domination over nature.
2- - René Guénon, The Crisis of the Modern World.

The aforementioned factors along with several additional factors such as liberalism and individualism—which are too comprehensive to discuss here—have united together to present humanity with a world full of crises, tension, and turmoil, albeit they do have some positive aspects. Crises and troubles in the modern world are so severe, abysmal, and extensive that we not only cannot consider modern humankind more happy and prosperous than traditional humans, in fact we find the situation to be exactly the opposite.

Here we must emphasize the fact that we do not deny the positive results of modern civilization—such as advancement in empirical science and technology or establishment of more complex (and sometimes more efficient) social systems—yet we believe that these developments have not helped modern humankind appreciably in its advance on the path of perfection and human bliss. Modern humankind, as opposed to traditional humankind, has become more knowledgeable (meaning they possess more information) and more powerful (meaning they have the capability to utilize nature and machines without limit), although this fact does not necessarily mean that they have become more human. In order to verify this assertion, we must make a brief inquiry into several crises that confront modern humanity.

Cognition Crisis

Despite the awesome and rapid development of information(1), regarding knowledge, modern humanity is in a state that can be defined as modern cognitional bewilderment. The initial roots of this confusion in the modern era go back to the contemplations of Kant regarding the limits of human knowledge. Kant’s philosophy and epistemology brought about a deep and frightening gap between the external world, the cognitive world, and human knowledge: humanity does not have direct access to the external world (empirical reality) and it is inevitable that everything we perceive from the world is understood through previous concepts and categories within our

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1- - Presently, the information available to humanity doubles every year. This accelerating process of data increase induced specialists to seek out new ways to store this unbelievable capacity of data.

minds. In other words, we constantly see the world through the glasses of our minds. Therefore, humanity has no understanding of external objects, as they are in themselves.

Many of the philosophical doctrines and theories that appeared in the West after Kant’s philosophy were influenced by the Kantian epistemology. Additionally, many of them had much influence in intensifying the knowledge confusion of modern humanity.

For example, recent studies in hermeneutics (the science of interpretation) showed that there can never be a complete understanding of the words or writings of others. As an additional example, contemporary developments in logic and epistemology brought about the appearance of new theories regarding the meaning and verity of a statement—thus further increasing confusion. In contrast to the traditional view that regarded any statement that conformed to reality true, in contemporary theories, “truth” has a completely different meaning. For instance, according to the coherence theory of truth, the truth of a statement depends on its congruity and accord with the rest of ones’ beliefs; or according to the pragmatic theory of truth, essentially, a true statement is a statement whose merit becomes clear only through practical experience.

Furthermore, nowadays, the traditional theories about knowledge, which were mostly foundationalist, have gained powerful adversaries. According to several traditional foundationalist narratives, all statements are divided into two groups: axiomatic and theoretic. The credibility of theoretic statements is clarified with reference to axioms—which form the foundations of our knowledge—while axioms are regarded inherently true. Today, we are witness to the appearance of substitutive theories such as the coherence theory of truth. According to this theory, there are no basic statements in our knowledge structure which are the foundation of other statements; rather, the validity of our belief regarding a statement is based on its consistency with our other beliefs.

After encountering apparently impassable knowledge barriers in the domain of philosophy and metaphysics, modern humanity recovered their peace and tranquility in the empirical sciences. Yet not much time passed before it became apparent that what was considered with certainty to be an oasis was in fact a mirage. The escalating

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development in scientific knowledge resulted in swift substitution of rival theories. On the other hand, several scientific philosophers preformed in depth analysis of the nature of scientific theories and the role of mental and intellectual characteristics of scientists in the formation of these theories. It was soon revealed that empirical science is not the place of solace that the inquisitive minds of modern humans desired and for which they thoughtlessly refuted all metempirical cognition.

Today, the appearance of all manners of contradictory theories, especially in the humanities, has created a kind of confusion that can be called the “Crisis of Trust”. Modern humans are rapidly loosing trust and confidence in empirical knowledge, for which, in the past few centuries following the development of scienticism, they substituted trust in religion and divine texts.

In any event, rationalism and empiricism in the modern world were not as successful in guiding modern humans towards trustworthy substitute sciences as they were in estranging them to the revelational sciences [ma‘ārif-e waḥyānī].

Moral Crises

Considering the fundamental connection of humanity and morality, the definition of humankind as a “moral animal” is not an exaggeration. From ancient times, human philosophers have contemplated and speculated about morals and morality. Throughout history, there existed people of virtue, who purified and improved their inner beings, and afterwards endeavored to reform the human world and instruct people in ethics.

In the modern era, especially since the beginning of the twentieth century, the philosophical contemplations of various western thinkers regarding ethics and its foundations have formed original discussions in the domain of moral philosophy, which are hypothetically valuable and noteworthy. Even so, this great scientific outcome not only had little effect on the growth and development of ethics—especially individual ethics—rather, to some extent, it brought about the instability of the principles and foundations of human ethics. Moral relativism, utilitarianism, and hedonism—at least in some narratives—have had a great share in the spread of moral degeneration. Moreover, the humanist and individualist views of various freethinkers have

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befouled the realm of moral thought to such an extent that history can find no parallel. In this realm, talk of exalted human virtues and merits, and encouraging humans to oppose their abject self—which has always been the basic principle of all moral teachings of divine religions and traditional moral doctrines—is considered completely meaningless. It is thus that some moral theorists have acquired the audacity to devise so-called moral principles for heinous acts such as homosexuality and child molestation.

The moral degradation of contemporary man is not specific to the uneducated masses; rather it has even afflicted many educated individuals. As an example, nowadays in many universities and institutions of higher education in western industrialized nations, there are official student homosexual clubs and despite the fact that they have not had much success in attracting students, they have much more promotional resources than other societies. In some of these countries, marriage of homosexuals is sanctioned by law, and the mass media and propaganda networks endeavor with all their might to justify and naturalize this issue. Widespread use of narcotics, hallucinatory drugs, and alcoholic drinks is another aspect of the moral decline of modern men, women and children, even in view of the fact that the destructive social and economic results of these substances are hidden to no one.(1)

The role of modern technology in the moral degradation of industrial societies cannot be overlooked. Nowadays a vast amount of the audiovisual products that are at the disposal of the public through telecast, satellite television, international computer networks (such as the Internet) are essentially immoral and desecrate even the holiest of

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1- - According to the report of the American National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse half of those who are arrested are intoxicated with alcohol. One third of all homicides and one fourth of all suicides have been reported to be accompanied by consumption of alcohol. Sixty seven percent of all instances of child molestation and thirty nine percent of all instances of rape are accompanied by alcohol consumption… The use of alcohol causes the death of at least twelve thousand Spaniards every year… Experts claim that more than half of deaths in driving accidents are caused by alcohol… (Ja'far Sakhāvat, Sociology of Social Deviations (Jāmi'ah Shanāsī-i Inḥirāf-i Ijtimā'ī), pp. 113, 130.)

moral principles. Many powerful world tycoons support the production and distribution of these programs in order to gain more wealth.

In the modern age, moral degradation has not only resulted in the decline of the spiritual aptitude of modern humans, it has greatly thrown their social existence into disarray. For example, today, in industrial societies the very foundations of family, which is the most primary social institution, are faltering. This is happening such that the number of people who live their entire lives or most of their lives as singles increases every day; a large number of children live with only one parent and many juveniles abandon their families and live their lives far from their homes.

Moreover, modern and intelligent instruments have given modern humanity the ability to recreate the inhuman catastrophes of history in a much more large-scale and severe manner and facilitate the justification of its actions with unprecedented skill. For instance, the production of advanced military armaments and modern weapons of mass destruction has given the axes of power the ability to take the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the blink of an eye without even suffering the least physical or financial harm. Additionally, slavery (which after centuries of struggle by the black peoples of the West was recently abolished in its traditional and undisguised form) continues in a new and obscure form. Every year, thousands of women and children who live in poor and underdeveloped countries are taken away from their homelands by human trafficking mafias and sold to the western rich and wealthy for their self-indulgence.

Mental Crises

In recent times, there have been important advancements in psychiatry, psychology, and especially psychoanalysis. The experts of these sciences have analyzed the uncharted dimensions of the human mind and have thus uncovered some elements of the complex synergy between the human mind, environmental and genetic factors, and physiological characteristics. Nevertheless, the indisputable truth is that parallel to the development of human knowledge in this area, mental illnesses and abnormalities have also increased in industrial societies. Currently, many of the members of these societies are

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plagued by various forms of anxiety and mental pressure. Moreover, depression, in all its forms, has become an unsolvable problem. In order to treat these illnesses, many people have turned to synthetic medicine. Even when these drugs are successful in curing illness—because of their incompatibility with the natural structure of the human mind and body—they tend to cause new illnesses and abnormalities. In contemporary times, people suffer severely from a feeling of futility and lack of identity. The increase of the number of suicides, especially in industrial countries, is an obvious sign of the fact that a large portion of the society has despaired of their future, as a result, their feeling of unhappiness and defeat has left suicide as their only discernible alternative.

Even though communication among people has become much easier due to the growth of the communications industries, many people discover themselves completely alone and alienated, and can find no alternative to enduring the heavy weight of loneliness and estrangement.(1)

Why have the accomplishments of human knowledge regarding the human mind had little success in preventing or curing mental illnesses? We believe that the underlying problem is that essentially these sciences do not possess a realistic projection of the depths of humanity’s being, their fundamental needs, or their wondrous abilities; and they mostly analyze the surface of human identity.

Though jinn seem obscure,

Humanity is even more obscure than they

The wise know, though jinn are obscure,

Humans are a hundredfold more unknown

Pitiable humans have not fathomed themselves;

They came in abundance and left in poverty

Humans sell themselves cheap;

They are satin, but stitch themselves on coarse robes(2)

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1- - According to a public poll in America in 1968, fifty-two percent of participants declared that they feel lonely and depressed. (see: Honolulu Advertiser, Nov. 20, 1968, p. A3)
2- - گر چه به ظاهر آن پری پنهان بود آدمی پنهان تر از پریان بود نزد عاقل زان پری که مضمر است آدمی صدبار خود پنهان تر است خویشتن نشناخت مسکین آدمی از فزونی آمد و شد در کمی خویشتن را آدمی ارزان فروخت بود اطلس، خویش را بر دلق دوخت

On the other hand, the absence of mental abnormalities in people who live away from the turmoil of modern civilization and live in comparatively simple social structures, shows that technological advancement and the social complexities and problems caused by this advancement have resulted in the emergence and expansion of mental crises in advanced industrial societies. Unfortunately, these crises are not limited to adults and teenagers; rather, nowadays, many children suffer from various mental abnormalities.(1)


There is a seemingly endless history of humans using their scientific knowledge to build tools and utilize them. However, in recent centuries, parallel to the furtherance of practical sciences, a phenomenon called “technology” has appeared in industrial societies.(2)

Doubtless, modern technology has increased the material provisions of human livelihood and it has even brought about relative welfare and comfort in some areas. It also serves cultural and humanitarian aims. However, this is just one side of the coin. The other side reveals the destructive results and unfortunate effects of technology in various aspects of human life, such as culture, ethics, health, environment, etc.(3)

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1- - According to recent information, about six million American children suffer from depression. (Donald Mcnew, Psychology of Stress)
2- - Technology is the implementation of applied sciences—which have practical and industrial value—in the industries and arts.
3- - British philosopher and mathematician, Bertrand Russell, while indicating the plagues of technology, states: "Unlike religion, it [technology] is ethically neutral: it assures men that they can perform wonders, but does not tell them what wonders to perform. In this way it is incomplete. In practice, the purposes to which scientific skill will be devoted depend largely on chance. The men at the head of the vast organizations which it necessitates can, within limits, turn it this way or that as they please. The power impulse thus has a scope which it never had before… Ends are no longer considered; only the skillfulness of the process is valued. This also is a form of madness. It is, in our day, the most dangerous form, and the one against which a sane philosophy should provide an antidote…" (Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy, p. 494.)

Modern technology forces its own culture and moralities upon advanced societies. Unlimited freedom in utilizing machines has shriveled the mentality of contentment and avoiding waste—which have been considered moral virtues for centuries. It has roused the fire of lust for lordship over nature in the hearts of modern human and thus has sown the seeds of the delusion of self-sufficiency from Allah, which is one of the most terrible plagues of ethics existent in the minds of humanity.(1) Colorful products, which are launched into the market every day by manufacturers and are placed at the disposal of consumers, enthrall and spellbind people to such an extent that they have forgotten issues that are more important. In the western societies, luxury products have caused the prevalence of the desire for diversity and vogue; all kinds of plagues and calamities have befallen humanity because of the development of these mentalities! The unbelievably vast amounts of information, which are at the disposal of humankind because of the development of the media industries, have confused and perplexed their cognitive systems to such an extent that nowadays reaching unity in thought is wistful thinking.

In recent decades, modern technology has instigated fundamental and far-reaching crises such as the energy crisis and the environmental crisis. The avarice of modern humans has caused unprecedented extravagance in the use of the limited energies of the Earth. Thus, the question has been brought up that in a world whose energy resources are not sufficient for its inhabitants, who has the right to live? Now that modern humans have mindlessly and wastefully exhausted so many of the gifts that God through nature has freely given them, it has

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1- - As stated by the Holy Quran, the feeling of independence and self-sufficiency from God is the agent of insurrection and insubordination of humans toward Him: ﴿انَّ الإِنسانَ لیطْغی. اَنْ رآه ﭐستغنی﴾ “Surely humans are rebellious; for they see themselves self-sufficient.” (Sūrah ‘Alaq, 96:6-7)

suddenly come to their minds that perhaps future generations may also have a right in using these gifts!

It has been a while that the environmental problems caused by modern technology are being considered seriously. Even so, in industrial countries, many critics of technology severely doubt that humanity can save themselves from this menace.

The destruction of vast forests and grasslands, the pollution of extensive quantities of water resources of the Earth due to industrial drainage and oil wastes, the thinning of the ozone layer as a result of chemical contaminants, and the deadly air pollution in many megacities are some scenes from the tragic drama that humankind has written with its own hand and is in the process of performing!

On the other hand, the advancements in various branches of medicine and the development of pharmaceutical and hygiene industries have made diagnosis, prevention, and curing many illnesses simple. Nevertheless, the fact is that in this era, new and unidentified illnesses have spread whose dangers are no less than the dangers of illnesses whose cures have been found.

In any event, the beautiful snake of technology that modern man has nourished for some time has turned into a horrific fire-breathing dragon that is burning away blissful human life on Earth; furthermore, the insubordinate demon of industry is determined to crush all human values. Today, a question that has been reinforced in many minds is: Are machines the servants of humanity or its master? With the marvelous advancement of robot industries, a fear has risen in the hearts of many people that some day human-made robots may become completely independent and make them their slaves and subordinates!(1)

The Role of Religion in Solving Crises

That which we have discussed in complete brevity is only a small aspect of the problems and dead ends that modern humanity faces. Now, let us look anew upon the questions we posed at the beginning

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1- - This fear is so extensive that is has become the subject of many acclaimed science fiction movies.

of this chapter and ponder their answers. In our opinion, the only correct answer to all these questions is a negative one.

During the last few centuries, modern humanity has taken quick and hasty steps to insure the elimination of religion, humanization of all divine aspects of their being, and desecration of all things holy. Then they drunkenly bellowed throughout the world of their independence and self-sufficiency from religiousness and belief in God and arrogantly declared the end to the era of religion and religious spirituality. Now, at the periphery of the twenty-first century, it has come time to awaken from the deep sleep of negligence that has embraced us for centuries; discern the oasis from the mirage; stop endeavoring towards our doom; stop driving through the byways of aberration; open an aperture towards the light; and clear the visions of our eyes and hearts.

A comprehensive account of all that religiousness can do to solve the crises of modern humanity necessitates extensive research and a lengthy volume. Nevertheless, what we can say in brief is that, even if we cannot say all, at least a large portion of these crises will be eliminated through humanity’s return to the bosom of religion and their connection with religious spirituality.

Religion and the Knowledge Crisis

According to religious teachings, the methods that humans use to obtain knowledge are not limited to sensory input and experience; rather, divine revelation, and reason (especially universal reason that can cognize metaphysical issues) are also complementary sources for human understanding. By relying on these complementary sources, humanity can realize a more solid and complete set of truths. By disclosing unerring truths about God, humanity, and the world, religions based upon revelation provide us with a secure pillar of understanding and wider horizons for thought. Many truths—such as metaphysical issues or truths about the past and future of the world—can never be realized through sensory experience. Our need for knowledge about these issues can only be fulfilled through divine revelation. In the thought process of a religious person, religion and reason attain a blessed and productive union; reason reinforces the theoretical principals of religious beliefs and religion, by breaking the barriers of metaphysics, reminds us of the limits of reason and

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prepares the way for humanity’s ascent to higher apexes. Intuition of divine truths—that has various forms and arises through one’s deep connection with religious spirituality—establishes a secure foundation for humanity’s beliefs and frees them from the clutches of absolute skepticism and cognitional bewilderment.

In brief, it is always possible for religious people to harbor the windswept ship of their thoughts, which has been caught in the maelstrom of bewilderment and skepticism, at the calm shores of faith [‘īmān]. Naturally, by this assertion we do not mean that religious persons are instantly freed from bewilderment. This is because the domain of metaphysics at least, is a confusing domain—the highest forms of bewilderment pertain to the miracles of prophets and Gnostics. Actually, we mean that persons who open themselves to religious guidance never feel absolute bewilderment in such a way that they become bereft of all reliable intellectual footholds. Religious wonderment is harmonious with faith and absolute certitude towards God, as opposed to modern cognitional bewilderment that negates all certainty and trust.

Religion and Moral Crises

Religion has always been a strong supporter of ethics and thus a significant amount of religious teachings are related to ethics. The link between religion and ethics is so deep that some essentially regard religion and ethics one and the same. The foundations for religious ethics cannot be found in social conventions, utilitarianism, or hedonism; however, by perfectly defining the connection between humans and their Creator and between humans and perfection and true beatitude, religion shapes the divine foundations of moral norms. Of course, the role of religion in ethics is not limited to providing religious teachings based upon divine principles regarding the essence of humankind. The teachings concerning the absolute knowledge of God and His ceaseless and everlasting supervision upon the thoughts and actions of humans establish the most secure executive guaranty for moral regulations, in both personal and social aspects of ethics.

Religion and Mental Crises

Doubtless, portions of the theoretic principles of modern mental crises have resulted from humanity’s inverted ideology towards their essence, faculties, abilities, and ultimate destination (telos). According

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to modernist thought, humans are creatures that, like all other creatures, have risen out of the heart of nature and have reached their current state through biological evolution; moreover, their only conceivable destination is material advancement and further domination over the natural world, whereas the religious ideology towards humanity is completely incompatible with this perspective. Religion draws a different picture of humanity’s genesis and journey’s end. The human race, which is God’s chosen and special creation, has unlimited capacity and the ultimate purpose of its creation is advancement in spirituality and intimacy with the divine Oneness. It is clear that such an ideology can result in a completely different confrontation with crisis—including spiritual and mental crises—producing elements. For example, by virtue of this ideology, humans can endure even the most difficult troubles in life because they regard them as preparatory measures for reaching their ultimate destination. Such persons, while battling their problems and endeavoring to reach their goals, feel satisfaction and contentment in the depths of their soul concerning the outcome—whatever it may be—because they regard it as divine decree.

One’s faith towards religious teachings about God, humanity, his genesis and destination (eschatology) has an important role in preventing and curing mental abnormalities. Moreover, many psychologists and psychoanalysts have confirmed this role. For instance, Carl Jung (1875 – 1961), the prestigious Swiss psychoanalyst, has declared:

“Among all my middle-aged patients…there was not even one whose problem was not the problem of finding a religious ideology towards life. Surely the reason for all of their illnesses was that they lacked that which living religions of all ages present to their followers; none of them was truly able to recover without recovering their religious beliefs.”(1)

Yea, persons who have faith in the divine destination of their souls never feel meaningless or causeless. Those who believe in the existence of the Sublime God and His divine qualities—Power,

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1- - Carl G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, p. 284.

Mercy, Absolver of Sins, etc.—and trust in Him, never despair. Those who calm their heart through remembrance of their Beloved God are less troubled by anxiety and stress. The loving connection of humanity and God never leaves much room for feeling loneliness and isolation; rather, whenever the sorrow of worldly isolation overcomes such people, they relieve it with fellowship with their Beloved.

Religion and the Technology Crisis

The technology crisis originates not from its essence, but from its ungovernability. Even though the fact that humans have the ability to build machines and utilize them is inherently a type of perfection and virtue, the true plague of technology is in the construction of anything that can possibly be constructed and utilization of these constructs in any way conceivable without establishing reasonable restrictions. As we have indicated, the report card of modern humans—who do as they please—shows that they have uncontrollable avidity and unending voracity towards building and utilizing machines, such that social conventions and political commitments cannot limit this urge. Consequently, there is need of an alternative restrictive factor.

We believe that religious teachings—provided that they become the governing factor in people’s actions—can easily restrain the ‘demon’ of technology. By displaying the true status of humanity within the universe, its strengths and weaknesses and its rights and obligations, religion sets the conditions and limits for utilizing machines. Religious individuals do not consider their perfection to be in absolute utilization of technology; therefore, they acquiesce to a set of limits and rules. For example, according to religious ideology, exercising restraint in consumption of energy is obligatory, even where there are seemingly unlimited energy resources and, in contrast to several modernist views, energy usage in itself cannot be considered a sign of advancement or an indicator of development.

Basically, according to religious ideology, domination over nature is not a value as such; rather, it is a tool for bringing out humanity’s divine potentials and this purpose must establish the manner of machine utilization and draw the limits for technology. When in religious texts it is said that the world is the dominion of humanity, this does not mean that individuals are able to act without restriction; on the contrary, they are limited to the conditions and specifications

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defined in religious teachings. Religion regards the world as a divine proof and blessing; therefore, it deems the world worthy of respect and veneration. In various religious teachings, observing the rights of plants and animals is ardently advised.

In short, for religious humans, spiritual values have first priority and thus, while they regard technology advancement as an ideal, they endeavor to utilize it for moral and humane objectives, and if at any time they realize that this “preliminary” does not serve their purpose, they sacrifice the preliminary for divine purposes. Religious humans, as opposed to modern humans, never foster the motive of godhood over the Earth; rather, they regard themselves as the vicegerent of God on Earth and therefore consider themselves responsible for the preservation and maintenance of their natural surroundings.

Thus far, we have presented a short narrative of the lengthy adventures of the human race in the modern era. We believe that modern crises and fundamental problems, some of which we have described in short, shall sooner or later reveal unto humanity the mirage-like truth of modernism and result in their endeavoring to return to religion and religious spirituality.

As might be expected, in the meantime, religious people have a great responsibility. Two of the most basic duties of all religious intellectuals and those who are sympathetic towards their religion are:

a. Analytic examination of religious references in order to deepen and extend religious knowledge

b. Presentation of life-giving religious teachings in a modern form, albeit preserving their originality, in a manner that can answer the diverse needs of modern society

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Section One: In Search of the Object of Devotion

Section Two: The Path to Him

Section Three: Anthropology

Section Four: Cosmology

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Section One: In Search of the Object of Devotion

History of Worship

Believing in a Divine Origin and worshiping Him is one of the oldest aspects of human life. Historical research conducted by archaeologists and anthropologists has revealed that even primitive humans who lived thousands of years before the first civilization was formed had deep religious and metaphysical beliefs, such as belief in divine spirits and life after death. It seems that from the dawn of history humanity has inherently known that they have not been forsaken in this vast existence; rather, they are under the influence and authority of metaphysical entities and powers that preside over their existence and have a part in their destiny.

The drawings discovered in ancient caves, statues and various ornaments that have been found in underground excavations or deep within caves are all testimonies to the existence of various religious beliefs. Moreover, the remains of the dead, the method of their burial, and the existence of animal skulls, weapons, and valuable artifacts alongside the bodies are all proof of the fact that ancient humans, in some way, believed in life after death.

According to Islamic thought, humans innately seek and believe in God; in other words, they have an innate predisposition towards worshipping God and also possess a type of inborn cognition of Him. However, because this cognitive predisposition is not adequate for perfect worship and understanding of God, holy prophets have been appointed among various peoples throughout history in order to perfect this innate guidance and enlighten humankind in theology, self-knowledge, and the relationship between “God, humanity, and the world” and thus bring forth the fruits of human intellect and nature.

The holy prophets have always enjoined worship of the One Divine God—divine meaning that He is superior to and exempt from the

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natural and material world. Thus, in proportion to the influence that this invitation to worship has fostered in each person, humanity’s beliefs in general have been fluctuating between the boundaries of monotheism and polytheism.(1) This fluctuation has resulted in a wide-ranging spectrum of theological beliefs among earlier nations and societies even after emergence of the prophets. Naturally, because polytheism [shirk] and idolatry, in contrast to pure monotheist beliefs, have material qualities and effects—such as worship of idols, stones, animals, etc.—it is only logical that historic analysis should come across more signs of these beliefs. Because monotheism is less material, historic analysis should be able to demonstrate the radices of monotheism in human history to a much lesser degree. Even so, this truth does not make “monotheism” insignificant or marginal.

The Perfection and Excellence of Islamic Theology

In any event, for various reasons that are too extensive to include in this exposition, the long history of religion—generally speaking—has been witness to an astonishing diversity concerning religious beliefs and religious customs of various peoples. Apart from monotheist views, the diversity of polytheistic and henotheistic(2) religions has overwhelmed humanity with its profuseness. According to Islamic tradition, Islamic teachings in theology and other branches of religious studies, such as eschatology, are the most complete religious teachings at our disposal. Contemplation of the profundity of Islamic theological teachings is enough to prove this claim. Nevertheless, it is obvious that understanding the importance, profundity, and richness of Islamic theology can only be complete when Islamic beliefs are compared

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1- - One of the much-discussed issues among historians of religion is the question of whether, historically, monotheism predates polytheism or vice versa? According to religious references, indisputably after the appointment of the first prophet [the prophet Adam], monotheist belief existed among humans and after that, monotheism and polytheism endured in parallel and thus some people were monotheists and others were polytheists.
2- - Henotheism refers to belief in a superior god who has delegated a portion of the affairs of the universe to other gods and goddesses. Polytheism—general meaning intended—also encompasses this belief, but if we use polytheism in parallel to henotheism—with the particular meaning of belief in several gods—then these two definitions may be considered synonymous.

with those of other religions and sects, especially mundane religions and beliefs. This comparison, if preformed with contemplation and impartiality, can effectively reveal the excellence of Islamic theology.

A Glimpse of Mundane Religious Theology

There is no reliable and accurate knowledge concerning the religious lifestyle of ancient humans. Research on this subject has its own particular problems. Nevertheless, today, we have acquired some information on this subject through archeological research and analysis of the beliefs and religious ceremonies of contemporary primitive tribes. According to recent findings in archeology and anthropology, there are common elements in most primitive religions that exist with little variation in contemporary uncivilized and primitive tribes.

A common practice among ancient humans was veneration and glorification of various plants and animals. Religious historians term this plant or animal “Totem” and call veneration of these objects “Totemism”. Each of these primitive tribes worshiped a specific totem or group of totems and sometimes worshiped a particular animal that they believed to be one of their ancestors. They believed that totems had an occult power called “Mana” which made them worthy of veneration and glorification. Therefore, they strongly avoided harming or eating these totems and believed that the spirit within the totem protected them. Sometimes totems were chosen out of fear (lions and snakes for example) and sometimes beauty and exquisiteness were the grounds for worship (peacocks and gazelles for instance). Totem worshipers endeavored to make themselves resemble their totems.

Other than glorification of plants and animals, various lifeless objects were also sacred; such an object is termed “Fetish”. Fetishes were venerated by various primitive clans and were taken on battles and hunts. Natural fetishes (non-manufactured) such as pebbles, unusual and rare pieces of wood, and meteor stones usually had strange and singular shapes and were considered sources of magical powers. Later, among more advanced peoples who were able to fashion metal objects, worship of manufactured fetishes became common and gradually transformed into a form of idolatry.

Parallel to belief in holy objects, plants, and animals, a kind of “Animism” was prevalent. Animism is the belief that various aspects

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of nature have independent souls and spirits that can influence human destinies. In addition, wholehearted belief in sorcery and magic and avoidance of specific objects due to the belief that they had occult powers are several other beliefs and customs that were to some extent existent among primitive tribes.

These facts show that affinity and dependency towards a superior power and the inclination to venerate and worship this power has commonly prevailed in a simple and rudimentary manner among ancient humans. However, this primitive feeling and inclination—influenced by factors such as imagination, ignorance, lack of knowledge, fear and insecurity, etc.—manifested itself in the form of the worship of special objects, plants, and animals. In other words, ancient humans were very far from the intellectual maturity they required to receive divine knowledge concerning cognition of the source, administration, and design structure of existence.

Subsequent to prehistoric eras, history was gradually witness to the formation of great civilizations in various parts of the world. In this era, main elements of tribal religions endured, although sometimes they acquired “modern” forms. For example, belief in totems and fetishes, and also idolatry and animism transferred over to newly established civilizations in various forms. As well, these civilizations were the sources of new forms of theism such as polytheism and henotheism.

Ancient Egyptians evolved through all the phases of rudimentary religions, such as totemism and animism, and finally tending towards multitudes of gods, they became absolute polytheists. They regarded the Egyptian pharaohs as the offspring of the Sun and considered them to possess some form of divinity. The erectors of the Egyptian pyramids designated the pharaohs as Sons of Ra (the Egyptian sun god), and built in their names pyramids whose shapes are allegories of the rays of the Sun.

Sun worship was commonplace among ancient Sumerians. The name of their sun god was Shamash. Inanna was their great goddess of cities, plants, and fertility. Each Sumerian god resided at a specific temple where it was worshiped. In addition to belief in multiple gods, the Sumerians also believed in mythological creatures and spirits. In

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the second age of Sumerian civilization, the Babylonian-Assyrian period, there were numerous gods with similar names.

In the most ancient religious texts of the Hindu civilization—the Vedas—gods are described in human forms. In its initial form, Hinduism includes the two elements of nature worship and polytheism. The Vedic gods, great and small, were elements and aspects of nature that had gained divinity. The common characteristics of these gods included possessing human forms, compassionate natures, immortality, and lack of individuality. In addition, the followers of Buddha deified him after his death and gradually, many other gods became objects of their worship.

According to the ancient Chinese, the world is under the dominion of “Shangdi” meaning ‘Above Sovereign’. In some narrations, the creation of humanity is attributed to Shangdi. An army of gods governed affairs under the authority of Shangdi because he was too great to attend to the problems of mortal beings. There is no complete list of these gods. A group of the Chinese gods guarded the people’s homes and thus every Chinese house was believed to contain both celestial and worldly inhabitants.

In ancient Greece, polytheism was rampant. Every family had their own god and the fires in their ovens constantly burned in the name of these gods. Offering food to the gods was one of the most prevalent religious ceremonies in people’s homes. In addition to the god that each family had, each tribe, clan, and city worshiped their own specific god. The Greeks’ religious imagination, by extending beyond their own locality, formed the common mythologies and gods of ancient Greece. The Greek people had a god for every aspect of nature and society, worldly and celestial powers, good and evil, various affairs, etc.

In Rome, people believed in numerous spirits—those who lacked a specific form or independent personality. They would beseech some of these spirits for prosperity in agriculture and harvest. Others were venerated and deified within familial circles. There were innumerable official Roman gods who had special priests in government temples and who were worshiped with special customs and rites.

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In pre-Zoroastrian Iran, the “Magian” belief was popular. This belief propagated dualism and belief in a god of good and a god of evil. Zoroaster corrected this belief after his appearance and altered the beliefs of Iranians from polytheism towards monotheism.

According to what was said, we can identify a set of religious and ideological principles and elements that are more or less common in all religions described.

1) As we have established, in these religions, instead of One God, there were numerous gods. Sometimes the number of these gods would increase in proportion to cities, tribes, and even families. Therefore, the theology of these religions must be described as an extreme version of polytheism, which is very distant from pure monotheistic thought.

2) The incarnations of these gods were natural elements, celestial bodies, various animals, and even particular people and thus were not divine beings but merely aspects of nature.

3) These gods were subject to much change as a result of social progress, wars, encounters with neighboring civilizations, etc.; insomuch that at times, following these factors, a god would lose his former glory or a goddess who had no previous status would join the ranks of important and official gods!

4) Occasionally, a number of gods, who were products of the fantasies and imaginations of their worshipers, would combine and bring about a new god who was an amalgam of the traits and attributes of the previous gods.

5) Among most peoples, various prevalent mythologies about gods spoke of childbearing, combining, and internal battles among gods! The pinnacle of these mythologies can be found within the ancient Greek civilization, especially in the epics of Homer and Hesiod.

6) The majority of these gods were not divine and incorporeal beings. In fact, they had humanlike personalities and they were confined by human characteristics and relationships, such as reproduction, marriage, and paradoxically death.

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7) Often, governing the affairs of nature was divided among gods and each one was the custodian of one or several natural processes, such as the wind and rain, and were heeded and beseeched only in their specific domains.

Today it has become apparent to most people that the gods of ancient peoples are in no way worthy of worship and cannot answer our innate longing to worship a divine and holy being. Nevertheless, the prevalence of the worship and veneration of these gods among ancient peoples reveals a fundamental need—the need to worship, venerate, feel dependant upon, and have a link with a superior being—in the depths of our soul; a need that has been fulfilled to perfection by the Islamic religion.(1)

Why Theology?

At first, we might see ourselves faced with this fundamental question: “What is the importance and necessity of endeavoring to understand God and what role does this understanding have in our personal and social lives?”

In order to answer this question, we must first recount several issues:

A short reflection upon the individual and social characteristics of the lives of those around us reveals the fact that there is a fundamental difference between the lives of believers and unbelievers. Additionally, two people who each has a differing view of their God

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1- - Several recommended references for supplementary reading: 1.Eliade, Mircea, Myths, Dreams and Mysteries, Trans. Philip Mairet. New York: Harper Row, 1967. 2.Eliade, Mircea, History of Religions, University of Chicago, 1969. 3.Eliade, Mircea, The Encyclopedia of Religion, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987. 4.Nass, John B., The Comprehensive History of Religions. 5.Hume, Robert A., The World's Living Religions, New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1959. 6.Tūqifī, Hussaīn, Āshnā’ī bā Adiyān-e Buzurg (Introduction to the Great Religions), Simat Foundation and Ṭāḥā Cultural Institute, Qum, AH 1372. 7.Hikmat, ‘Alī Asghar, Tārīkh-e Adiyān (History of Religions), Ibn Sīnā Publications, Tehran, AH 1345. 8.Zarrīn Kūb, 'Abdul Hussaīn, Dar Qalamruw-e Vijdān (In the Domain of Conscience), Surūsh Publications, Tehran, AH 1357.

do not live in the same manner. This is because our belief in God, understanding of God’s traits, and relationship with God—especially when these beliefs become imbued into our souls and we wear the raiment of faith [īmān]—have a profound effect upon the various aspects of our lives. Humanity’s understanding of their creator influence their motives and causes, desires and ambitions, thought and speech, and actions and behavior. This understanding gives their lives direction, and it bestows upon them special identities. Therefore, walking the path of theology and understanding God is not just a scientific endeavor to answer several questions of our inquisitive minds; rather, it is a movement towards choosing a special way of life and manner of living.

Indeed, belief in and love of God has never been an easily overlooked, subsidiary, or inferior issue. Persons who wish to strengthen the pillars of their lives upon the foundation of reason and sagacity would never allow themselves to neglect this matter. Belief in God is a fundamental issue in religious life, and it is not possible to make an informed decision about the best way of life without correct and comprehensive understanding of religious life.

History also supports the importance of theology. As far as historical facts show, enquiry concerning the source of existence and the creator of the world has always been one of the main concerns of thoughtful humanity. Additionally, theological opinions and beliefs, and discussions about existence and God’s attributes have greatly helped the general and historical culture of humankind.(1)

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1- - From long ago, Islamic philosophers [mutakallimīn] have emphasized two main principles that demonstrate the necessity of endeavoring to know and understand God. i.Countering probable loss: Any wise person accepts the probability that they might be punished if they do not abide by religious teachings. Because reason demands the prevention of harm—albeit by possible punishment—it is absolutely necessary that humans inquire into the existence of God and His attributes so that if God truly exists and the call of the prophets is true, they can free themselves of divine punishment by following the divine teachings. ii.Necessity of thanking one's benefactor: There is no doubt that the many gifts and blessings that we enjoy have been given to us by a benefactor. Furthermore, logic dictates that we thank our benefactors. Because thanking others is not possible without first knowing who they are, reason demands that we endeavor to understand our true benefactor—i.e. God.
The Methods of Realizing God

It is befitting that we commence our discussion on the methods of realizing God with two definitions. Two fundamental stages can be identified concerning understanding God: 1. Cognizance of the existence of Allah, 2. Cognition of Divine attributes and actions and the relationship of Allah with humanity and the world. In the first stage, one realizes that “Allah is”. This realization separates one from the ranks of atheists and agnostics, and joins him with the ranks of believers. Next, one enters the second stage, becomes acquainted with God’s attributes, and identifies God’s relationship with all creatures of the world. This stage consists of an endless path that each believer can only partially traverse depending upon his capacity.

In order to avoid mistaking these two fundamental stages with each other, we will term the first stage “realizing Allah” and the second stage “understanding Allah”.

From one perspective, we can place the most important methods of realizing God in three categories: the way of the heart, the way of experience, and the way of reason.(1)

I. The Way of the Heart

Sometimes through introspection, without needing logical deduction or empirical observation, humans realize their Creator and thus reach their Beloved by way of heart. The starting point of this path is innate [fiṭrī] realization of God, which is also called the way of nature [fiṭrat]. The advanced stages of this method pertains to a special group of mystics and illuminated Gnostics; through sincere worship, self-purification, and self-edification, these individuals observe the mighty and beautiful Divine attributes through the vision of their souls.

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1- - It must be mentioned that this and similar classifications are categorized by taking into account the general methods that we realize God. However, if we consider the personal and individual attributes of these methods, it must be said that all persons are unique, and realize and understand their creator in their own distinctive way. According to this perspective, there are innumerable ways of realizing and understanding God.

By studying the lives of devoted believers, it is apparent that many of them have realized and understood their Creator by way of their hearts; their religious faith is a robust tree that is watered from the spring of intuition. As a result of suitable circumstances and absence of impediments, the God-seeking and God-believing nature of many individuals matures and flourishes. These individuals feel the presence of their Lord with their hearts and souls and discover within themselves their deep-rooted dependence on the Divine Origin. Through mysticism, some of these individuals endeavor to lift the veils between themselves and God, which arise through their egocentricity and self-importance, thereby attaining the rank in which they may observe Almighty God through the vision of their souls and thus meet their Lord [liqā’ allāh].

In describing intuition, Mawlānā (Jalāl ad-Dīn ar-Rūmī) has written:

The purity of the mirror is a description of the heart;

The heart which is worthy to display the countenance of the Divine Infinite.

The Divine infinite countenance of the Invisible;

Miraculously shined from the collar of Moses through the mirror of his heart.

The divine countenance of Allah cannot be contained in the heavens;

Nor even in the Empyrean nor in the earth nor in the sea nor in fish.

For these are all limited and countable;

But know that the mirror of the heart has no limit.

Sanctified mystics who have cleansed themselves of all scent and color (ego);

See beauty every moment without pause.

The reflection of no image endures forever;

Except for images both spiritual and mundane that radiate from the heart.

From the time the images of the seven Heavens shined upon the hearts of humans;

Their hearts have been seeking Heaven.

They are superior to the Heavens and the Throne of Allah;

The inhabitants of the true sanctuary of Allah.

They possess many signs from Allah, even so they are absolutely obscure;

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What are mere signs; they are in fact united with Allah.(1) (Book I)

In addition, Hafiz recites:

There exists no partition between lovers and the object of their love,

You, yourself are your own shroud Hafiz, arise from the midst.(2)

A person asked, “O, Commander of the Faithful! Have you seen your Creator?” Amīr al-Mu’minīn(3) (‘a)—the originator of mysticism and leader of all mystics—declared in indication of intuitive and inner understanding of God, “Should I worship something that I have not seen?”

The person then asked, “How do you see Him?” The Imam answered: “Eyes do not see Him manifestly, but hearts realize Him through the reality of faith.”(4)

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1- - آن صفای آینه وصف دل است صورت بی منتها را قابل است صورت بی صورت بی حد غیب زآینه دل تافت بر موسی ز جیب گرچه این صورت نگنجد در فلک نی به عرش و فرش و دریا و سمک زانکه محدود است و معدود است آن آینه دل را نباشد حدّ بدان اهل صیقل رسته اند از بو و رنگ هر دمی بینند خوبی بی درنگ عکس هر نقشی نتابد تا ابد جز ز دل هم بی عدد هم با عدد تا نقوش هشت جنت تافته است لوح دل شان را پذیرا یافته است برترند از عرش و کرسی و خلا ساکنان مقعد صدق خدا صد نشان دارند و محو مطلق اند چه نشان بل عین دیدار حق اند (دفتر اول)
2- - میان عاشق و معشوق هیچ حایل نیست تو خود حجاب خودی حافظ از میان برخیز
3- - Amīr al-Mu’minīn (meaning Commander of the Faithful) is the title of Imam ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālīb ('a). [trans.]
4- - Nahj ul-Balāghah, Sermon 179.

Those who have attained this status do not seek their Lord through other methods, such as the way of reason or experience, because they have realized Him with their whole beings; what else could one who has found what he has sought desire? Such intuitive people believe that immersing themselves in the observation of God’s creations or logical reasoning hinders union with the Beloved and appealing to anything but God in order to prove His existence is improper. The condition of this group is similar to what is uttered in the prayer (munājāt) of Imam Hussein (‘a):

“O He whom I worship! When I consider each of the tokens of Your power in order to understand You, the path to union with You grows far… How can I prove Your existence through things that rely upon You for their existence? Is there any being besides you that has a manifestation that is not Your doing, which can manifest You? When have You become hidden that You must need a guide to show me the way to You? And when have You been apart from me to make it necessary that your creations bring me to You? Blind is the eye that does not see You, while You have always been its companion!”(1)

When have You left my heart that I must plea for You?

When have You become hidden that I must seek You?(2)

Naturally, even though the path of the heart is the most complete method of realizing God, it is not the only method of doing so. The state of many people is such that other methods, for example, contemplation of God’s creations or logical reasoning can benefit them more and thus traveling these paths can help them realize, albeit to a lesser degree, the true Object of Devotion.

Religious Experience

The term religious experience has gained a special place in modern theological discussions in the West during the past two centuries. This

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1- - The Prayer (du'ā) of the day of ‘Arafah.
2- - کی رفته ای ز دل که تمنا کنم ترا کی بوده ای نهفته که پیدا کنم ترا

term, at least in some narratives, has an absolute relationship with what we entitled “realizing Allah by way of heart”. Of course, in contrast to what western philosophers of religion depict, religious experience is not specific to the presence and manifestation of God; rather, it often happens that the experiencer cognizes the presence of a metaphysical being or a person who has a special relationship with God (such as the prophets). In this discussion, we will take a brief glimpse at the subject of religious experience and the debates that it has initiated among various thinkers and philosophers, especially in the western world.

Even though various aspects of the issue of religious experience have been controversial, there is relative unanimity concerning the existence of such experiences. Religious experience is not religion specific; on the contrary, it is observed in various forms among the followers of diverse religions—encompassing Moslems, Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists. Many people attest that in specific circumstances they have felt the presence of God or a divine being. Sometimes these experiences are visual, such as when one sees the visage of holy people—such as prophets and saints [awliyā’ ilāhī]—and sometimes persons go deep into a spiritual and mystical state such that they achieve a form of ecstasy and experience the divine kindness, love, and providence of God. Dreams and spiritual calls are also specific forms of religious experience.

Additionally, gnostic inspiration is considered a form of religious experience. In the higher degrees of these revelations, the individual attains a state of unified mystical knowledge, meaning that the knowledge of the individual loses all attachment—through meditation and severe asceticism, the mystic individual strips all concepts, beliefs, and feelings from his mind to the point that only pure knowledge remains.

When confronted with the definition of religious experience, fundamental questions have arisen within the minds of religious philosophers and theologists: What are the historical factors and cultural foundations for the manifestation of these experiences? Basically, what is the essence of religious experience? Do the extremely diverse religious experiences that are observed among the followers of various religions have a common core? How much does

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the religious belief of an individual influence his interpretation of his religious experiences? Finally, can religious experience be considered a secure basis for authenticating religious beliefs and customs—including belief in God?

Varying answers to these questions have given rise to diverse viewpoints concerning religious experience. For example, there are disparate interpretations and analyses concerning the essence of religious experience. According to one interpretation, religious experience is a sort of feeling that is attained without the intermediation of concepts and judgments and only through personal cognition. Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (1768 – 1834),

William James (1842 – 1910), and Rudolf Otto (1869 – 1937) are several renowned supporters of this viewpoint. James declared, “I do believe that feeling is the deeper source of religion, and that philosophic and theological formulas are secondary products, like translations of a text into another tongue.”(1)

In addition, Rudolf Otto believed that there is an aspect of God that reason can comprehend. We can allegorically attribute characteristics such as purposefulness, absolute power, and possession of personal identity to God. Nevertheless, regarding the deeper degrees of God’s essence (meaning God’s Holiness), God cannot be understood by reason; He is indescribable. We must realize the Holiness of God with something beyond reason (such as feeling). According to Otto, this feeling has various forms:

“The feeling [of an awesome secret] may sometimes enter swiftly like a delightful breeze and suffuse the soul with a tranquility derived from the deepest layers of worship. This feeling may transform into a more stable and permanent spiritual state… It may appear suddenly like an eruption from the depths of the soul and be accompanied by intense rapture

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1- - William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, New York: The Modern Library, 1902, p. 44.

and tremors, or result in an extremely singular exhilaration, senseless rapture, ecstatic state, and entrancement.”(1)

Schleiermacher believed that the fundamental essence of religion is a sort of feeling of absolute dependence:

“…The essence of religiousness is this: knowledge of absolute dependence, or in other words, knowledge of one’s relationship with God.”(2)

Based on this, Schleiermacher extremely opposed the transition and referral of religion to theology, metaphysics, or ethics.

According to another viewpoint, religious experience is a sort of sensory perception and therefore its general attributes are the same as all other sensory perceptions. One of the most prominent advocates of this viewpoint is William Alston. By analyzing the reason that our confidence in the data gathered by our senses is logical, Alston shows that religious experiences are also logical and credible on the same grounds.

A third group believes that alleged religious experiences are experiences that can only be understood through the minds of their owner, based on their beliefs and religious teachings, even though these religious experiences may in truth lack any metaphysical cause. According to this belief, religious experiences are nothing more than the evolution of the experiencer’s prior beliefs and ideology and therefore can be explained using empirical sciences without the intercession of metaphysics.

Regardless of the theoretical discussions and difference of opinions regarding religious experience, the important fact is that religious experience, at least for some contemporary western thinkers, is a doorway to understanding God and His attributes and acquaintance with metaphysical layers of existence. It is a path that does not require theoretical concepts and dry theoretical reasoning, and only utilizes the personal intuition of the experiencer. Today, a number of the most

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1- - Reason and Religious Belief (‘Aql wa I'tiqādi Dīnī), p. 42.
2- - F. Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, Edinburgh: TT Clark, 1928.

prominent contemporary western religious philosophers (such as William Alston and Richard Swinburne) are occupied with strengthening the philosophical principles of religious experience and answering the critiques of opposers.(1)

The Quran and Innate Cognition of God

The Holy Quran has used the word fiṭrat (nature) in Sūrah Rūm where it has introduced religion as an innate [fiṭrī] affair. It seems that Islamic researchers have been inspired by this Quranic verse in usage of the term fiṭrat:

“So set thy face to the pure religion of Allah; this is the fiṭrat (nature) upon which Allah has created the humankind. The creation of Allah is immutable. This is the eternal religion, but most people do not know.”(2)

This verse states the fact that religion is an innate attribute and that God has created humanity’s essence based upon this attribute. Even though this verse does not explicitly speak of innate realization of God, we may consider it a confirmation of this fact because, if the intent of “religion” in this verse is the primary teachings and pillars of faith in Islam, then surely this includes belief in the existence of God. Another possibility is that the intent of “religion” is submission and humility towards God and worshiping Him. In this case, the verse indicates the innateness of worshiping God and since worship of an unknown being is not possible, innate theism necessitates innateness of the awareness of God’s existence.

Another verse that can be cited as a confirmation of innate realization of God is the verse of Mīthāq (covenant):

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1- - Several recommended references for supplementary reading: 1.Peterson, Michael, et al, Reason and Religious Belief, Oxford University Press, chapter 2. 2.Proudfoot, Wayne, Religious Experience, University of California Press; Reprint edition, 1987. 3.Wainwright, William J., Philosophy of Religion, 2nd ed., (Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1999), chapter 7, pp.120-141.
2- - Sūrah Rūm 30:30. (The Quranic translations in this book are derived from the Arbery translation of the Holy Quran.)

“And when your Lord took from the loins of the children of Adam their seed and made them their own witness, asking that: “Am I not your Lord?” They said: “Yes, we bear witness [to this fact]”—lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: “Surely we were unaware of this [fact].”(1)

What can be briefly understood from the verse of Mīthāq is that in one stage of creation, God gathered all the humans who would live in the world from the Beginning until the Day of Resurrection and secured their acknowledgement of His Lordship. The purpose for requesting this confession was that unbelievers and polytheists later could not bring the excuse that they were unaware and ignorant.(2)

In addition, in several verses, the Holy Quran informs of the fact that the God-perceiving nature [fiṭrat] of humans sometimes becomes stagnant and only awakens at critical moments:

﴿فإِذا رَکِبُوا فی الفُلْکِ دعوا اللهَ مُخلصینَ له الدّینَ فلمّا نجّاهم إِلی البرِّ إذا هم یُشرکون﴾

“And when they embark in a ship they call upon Allah with sincerity, but when they are delivered to land and are saved, then [again] they associate others with Him.” (3)

These verses also show that the Quran confirms humankind’s innate knowledge of the existence of God.

In addition, among the traditions of the Immaculates, there is mention of the innate ability of humankind to perceive God. For

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1- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:172.
2- - The verse of Mīthāq has an immensely profound content and thus exegetes have interpreted it differently: Some believe it means that before creation of the natural world, God gathered all humans in another world—the world of Dharr—where He exposed His Lordship unto them. According to another interpretation, this verse speaks symbolically and states the fact that all humans, in the essences of their beings, possess a sort of personal—not general—and inherent—not acquired—awareness of God.
3- - Sūrah ‘Ankabūt 29:65; also see: Sūrah Luqmān 31:32, and Sūrah Naḥl 16:53-54.

example, in exegesis of verse 30 of Sūrah Rūm, Imam Bāqir (‘a) has declared:

فَطَرَهُمْ عَلَی المَعْرِفَة.

“God has established in the nature of humans understanding of Himself.”(1)

II. The Way of Experience

Sometimes through accurate observation and meditation concerning the qualities and relations between empiric phenomena one may be guided towards cognizing the existence of God and understanding of His attributes, including Absolute Knowledge, Wisdom, and Power. This method is called the way of experience because it is based upon observation of the natural world and empirical analysis of natural phenomena.(2) Because of the unique advantages of this method, the Holy Quran has special regard towards it and thus in many verses it calls upon humans to contemplate the phenomena of the world around them as genetic [takwīnī] proofs and signs of God. Some Islamic researchers have developed an argument of the existence of God based upon one aspect of the natural world—the order and discipline prevailing upon natural objects—which is called the argument of design or order [burhān-e naẓm].(3) The argumentation of order is an obvious example of what we have termed the way of experience.

“Evidential Understanding” in the Quran and Traditions

In many parts of the Quran, there are verses that describe various natural phenomena, regarding such phenomena as evidence and signs of the existence of God and calling upon humans to contemplate and meditate upon them. Understanding God through the genetic [takwīnī] signs in Creation, which is a prime example of the experiential method

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1- - Kulaīnī, Uṣūl-e Kāfī, vol 1, p. 13.
2- - By calling this method experiential, we do not mean that it is free of all rational reasoning; rather, we mean that one of the basic rudiments of this method is observation of natural phenomena.
3- - Because the “argumentation of order” has been extensively discussed in previous textbooks we will refrain from discussing this argument.

of cognition of God, is sometimes called evidential or extroversive understanding.(1)

A number of verses call upon humans to contemplate the genetic [takwīnī] signs of God. These verses consider the existing order and organization in the world and in humankind a justification and beacon that may guide the wise towards the Divine Origin of the world:

﴿اِنَّ فِی خَلقِ السَماواتِ و الأَرضِ و اختلافِ اللّیلِ و النّهارِ لَأَیاتٍ لِأولِی الأَلبابِ﴾

“Surely in the creation of the heavens and earth and in the alternation of night and day there are [convincing] signs for people possessed of minds.”(2)

﴿وَ فِی الأرضِ آیاتٌ لِلموقِنینَ وَ فِی أنفُسِکُم أفلا تُبصِرونَ﴾

“And upon the earth there are [persuasive] signs for those having sure faith; and in yourselves; so do you not see?”(3)

Furthermore, large selections of Quranic verses indicate a specific phenomenon and represent it as a sign of the existence of God and

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1- - It must be said that there are several opinions regarding the interpretation of evidential understanding [shenākht-e Āyeh’ī] which have been derived from the Holy Quran. Some regard it as a preliminary to forming a rational argument—similar to what was said in explanation of the argumentation of order—concerning the existence of God and His Knowledge and Wisdom. According to another interpretation, the Quranic verses that call upon humans to contemplate natural phenomena, merely remind us of our innate understanding of God and have no significance other than notification and expunging neglect. The third opinion asserts that these verses are stated as a better disputation against polytheists; those who wrongly believe that their false idols and gods have a role in various worldly affairs and do not have a correct understanding of the Divine Unity of God. (For more information see: ‘Allāmih Ṭabāṭabā’ī, Al-Mīzān, vol 18, p. 154; Miṣbāḥ Yazdī, Education in Beliefs [Āmūzish-e ‘Aqāyid], vol. 2-1, p. 68; and Javādī Āmulī, Explanation of the Arguments of God’s Existence [Tabyīn-e Barāhīn-e Ithbāt-e Khudā], p. 43.)
2- - Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:190.
3- - Sūrah Dhāriyāt 51:20-21. Also see: Sūrah Baqarah 2:164; Sūrah Jāthiyah 45:3-6; Sūrah Yūnus 10:100-101; and Sūrah Ibrāhīm 14:10.

His Divine Knowledge and Power. These verses are so extensive that even enumerating a small number of them necessitates much time.(1)

In compliance with the Holy Quran, the leaders of Islam have strenuously emphasized “evidential understanding” of God. For example, in a comprehensive narration addressed to one of his disciples, Imam Sādīq (‘a) stated:

“O Mufaḍal! The first edification and rationale of the existence of God—the Almighty, the Glorious—is the formation, assembly of elements, and systematization of this world. Thus if you deeply and properly contemplate the workings of the world using your intellect and wisdom, you will surely see it as a home in which all of the needs of God’s servants are ready and gathered. The sky has been raised like a ceiling; the earth has been spread like a carpet; the stars have been arranged like lamps; gems have been hidden inside the earth as stockpiles; and everything has been set in its proper place. And humankind is the one who has been bestowed this home and everything within it. All kinds of plants and animals have been

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1- - Verses that emphasize specific phenomena as signs can be categorized into several groups. Verses regarding the domain of human life are as follows: 1. The general order in the human genesis: Sūrah Jāthīyah 45:4; and Sūrah Rūm 30:20. 2. The order of development of the sperm and egg in the uterus: Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:6; Sūrah Infiṭār 82:6-7; Sūrah Taghābun 64:3; Sūrah Ghāfir 40:64; Sūrah Ḥashr 59:24; and Sūrah Nūḥ 71:13-14. 3. The human cognitive system: Sūrah Naḥl 16:78. 4. Linguistic and racial differences: Sūrah Rūm 30:22; Sūrah Fāṭir 35:27-28. 5. Human livelihood: Sūrah Ghāfir 40:64; Sūrah Isrā’ 17:70; Sūrah Jāthīyah 45:5; Sūrah Fāṭir 35:3; Sūrah Rūm 30:4-5; Sūrah Saba’ 34:24; Sūrah Yūnus 10:31; Sūrah Naml 27:64; Sūrah Mulk 67:21; Sūrah Anfāl 8:26; Sūrah Baqarah 2:22, 2:172; and Sūrah Dhāriyāt 51:58. 6. The system of sleep: Sūrah Rūm 30:23; Sūrah Naml 27:86; Sūrah Furqān 25:47; Sūrah Naba’ 78:9; and Sūrah Zumar 39:42. 7. Clothing and beautification: Sūrah A‘rāf 7:26; Sūrah Naḥl 16:14, 16:81. 8. Residence: Sūrah Naḥl 16:80. 9. Marriage: Sūrah Rūm 30:21; Sūrah Shaūrā 42:11; Sūrah Fāṭir 35:11; Sūrah Najm 53:45; Sūrah Qīyāmah 75:39; Sūrah Naḥl 16:72; Sūrah Laīl 92:3; Sūrah Naba’ 78:8; and Sūrah A‘rāf 7:189.

prepared to provide their needs and further their interests. All this shows that the world has been created through precise and intelligent quantification, order, proportion, and coordination. It has but one Creator and He is the One who has formed, ordered, and coordinated its elements.”(1)

III. The Way of Intellect

In this method, the existence of God is proven through premises, principles, and purely logical techniques.(2) Philosophical arguments and proofs of the existence of God are clear examples of intellectual analyses proving the existence of God. In comparison with the previous two methods, this method has several unique characteristics that are as follows:

1. Because of their deep and intricate philosophical nature, many argumentations and logical explanations of the existence of God are not very useful for people who are not acquainted with philosophical discussions.(3)

2. One of the advantages of this method is that it can be used in the scientific battle against paradoxes put forth by heretics; in debates, it can reveal the weakness and frailty of the rationales of atheists; and it can answer the challenges of rationalists who accept nothing but logical reasoning.

3. This method can be effective in strengthening religious faith because if an individual’s intellect bows before a truth, his heart also acquires a stronger inclination toward this truth.

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1- - For more information, see: Nahj ul-Balāghah, sermon 186; Shaīkh Ṣadūq, At-Tawḥīd, vol. 2, chap. 2; and ‘Allāmah Majlisī, Biḥār al-Anwār, vol. 3, pp. 61, 82, 130, 152.
2- - By naming this method intellectual, we do not mean that it is based only on the intellect; rather, we mean that logical premises and methods are implemented.
3- - This is not contradictory to the “generality” of the intellectual method; because by generality we mean relative generality as opposed to idiosyncrasy. In other words, this method is not specific to any single person; rather, numerous people can take advantage of it.

Additionally, eliminating doubt and uncertainty through secure logical reasoning has a great role in preventing loss of faith.(1)

In virtue of the unique uses of the intellectual method and the innate inclination of the inquisitive minds of humanity towards profound logical and philosophical discussions, Moslem intellectuals have performed in depth studies regarding intellectual realization of God. Some of these studies have resulted in the establishment of new argumentations regarding the existence of God or refinement of previous argumentations. The most logical argument proving the existence of God is the popular Cosmological Argument.(2) This argument has been presented in various forms, one of which we will introduce here:

The Kalām Cosmological Argument

The kalām cosmological argument is based upon several premises. Complete understanding of this argument is not possible without first understanding these premises. Therefore, it is appropriate that we summarily introduce these main premises before we discuss the argument.

a) Definition of “Necessary Being” and “Contingent Being”

Understanding the kalām cosmological argument is only viable through comprehension of the definitions of “necessary being” and “contingent being” and the differences between them. In explanation of these two terms, it can be said that the relationship of an extant

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1- - This method is especially useful for those who are deprived of inner intuition and spiritual observation of Almighty God. According to Maūlānā: چشم اگر داری کورانه میا ور نداری چشم، دست آور عصا آن عصای حزم و استدلال را چون نداری دید، می کن پیشوا If you have [spiritual] eyes, come not blind; And if you have no eyes, lay hold to a cane. The cane of wisdom and reasoning; Whilst you have no sight, make your guide. (Book III, pp. 275, 276)
2- - There are two main forms of this argument: the modal form and the temporal form. The form described in this text is the temporal kalām cosmological argument, which is based upon the fact that the universe has a beginning in time. [trans.]

object with existence—possessing the quality of being—can only be one of the following:

1. The existence of the object is necessary such that disunion of the object with existence (in other words its lack of existence) cannot be conceived.(1)

2. The existence of the object is not necessary such that it can be conceived that its relationship with existence be discontinued and it becomes non-existent.(2)

The first being whose existence is necessary and cannot possibly be non-existent is called “necessary being”. The second, which can possibly become non-existent, is called “contingent being”.

The following analogy is useful in bringing the issue closer to mind: the relationship of a necessary being and a contingent being with existence is similar to the relationship of sugar and water with sweetness; the sweetness of sugar can never be detached therefore the term “sweet sugar” is meaningless, but water can either be sweet or not. In order for water to become sweet, sweetness must be externally added to it. In addition, the sweetness of water can be taken from it.(3)

According to mutakallimūn(4) and philosophers, this necessary being is God and all other beings are contingent beings. Therefore proving the existence of a necessary being is the same as proving the existence of

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1- - In more simple terms, a necessary being is a being that cannot possibly fail to exist. In contrast, a contingent being is a being that can fail to exist. In other words, we can imagine its inexistence. [trans.]
2- - Notice that there is no other possible case, because the only other assumption is that the existence of the object is impossible. This assumption is exempt from our discussion because an object whose existence is impossible can never become existent, while this discussion concerns existent objects. In other words, our categorization only covers extant objects.
3- - Of course, as it has been discussed in technical Islamic philosophy regarding necessity, the necessity of the existence of a necessary being is an “eternal necessity”, while the necessity of sweetness for sugar is an “inherent necessity”. According to this, there is a discrete difference between the example of sugar and sweetness and our discussion.
4- - Those who practice kalām are known as mutakallimūn.

God. Sometimes for brevity, instead of “necessary being” and “contingent being” the shorter terms “necessary” and “contingent” are used.

b) The Causality Principle

Another of the premises of the kalām cosmological argument is the Causality Principle. Taking the definitions of necessary being and contingent being into consideration, the description of the Causality Principle is as follows: “All contingent beings require a cause”.

According to this definition, the Causality Principle is a logical and axiomatic clause whose conception is sufficient for conformation and acceptance. A contingent being is a being whose existence is not necessary, in other words, its relationship with existence and non-existence is identical, meaning that it can either be or not be. Therefore, in order to exist, such an object needs a “preferrer” (meaning a detached object that causes the preference of the existence of the first object over its non-existence). This “preferrer” is the cause of the contingent being. Using the analogy of sugar and water it can be said that just as water needs an exterior object to make it sweet. In order for a contingent object to become existent, it also needs an exterior object to bring it into existence; this exterior object is its cause.(1)

Considering the above discussion there can be derived another characteristic for a necessary being and a contingent being: a contingent being is a being whose existence is dependant upon another being (i.e. the cause), but a necessary being has an independent existence.

c) The Impossibility of an Infinite Regress or Sequence (Tasalsul)

An additional premise of the kalām cosmological argument is the principle of the “Impossibility of an Infinite Sequence”. Sequence means series or a set of objects coming one after the other, but in [Islamic] philosophy, it has a more specific meaning.(2) In the current

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1- - Here by cause, we mean a being that causes the existence of another being (i.e. the effect). In philosophical discussions, this cause is called “Efficient cause”.
2- - According to philosophers, in order for a sequence (regress) to be impossible it must meet these three conditions. i.There must be an infinite number of elements in the sequence ii.The elements of the sequence must all exist simultaneously (temporal) iii.The existence of each element must be based upon the previous element. That is, each element must be caused by the previous element (causal). Therefore, a finite sequence of causes and effects (for not meeting the first condition), an infinite sequence of numbers or an infinite sequence of events taken place from Creation until now (for not meeting the second condition), and an infinite set of objects that do not have a causal relationship such as an infinite line of people (for not meeting the third condition) are not [philosophically] impossible.

discussion, by sequence we mean a sequence of causes and effects that continue infinitely, never reaching a first cause. To state the matter more clearly, an impossible sequence is a sequence in which object “A” is caused by object “B”, and object “B” is caused by object “C”, and object “C” is caused by object “D”, and so on, without the sequence ever ending. According to the principle of “Impossibility of an Infinite Sequence”, the existence of an infinite temporal causal sequence is impossible.

Some consider the principle of “Impossibility of an Infinite Sequence” axiomatic and needless of reasoning and others apply various logical arguments to prove it. For example, as an argument to prove this principle it is said:

If we imagine an infinite chain of causes and effects that do not end with a first cause—a cause that is not the effect of another cause—then each of the links in this sequence would depend upon the previous link (which is the cause of the next link) for its existence.

Because this characteristic embraces all of these envisioned links, the whole set of links (the whole sequence) would also possess this characteristic. Therefore, the whole sequence in itself would need a separate object external to the sequence that was not caused by something else. An object that originated the links in said chain. This object is the first cause; by considering it, our imagined infinite sequence is converted into a finite sequence.(1)

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1- - This argument has been presented by Fārābī. By reflecting upon its content, it is clear that with minor alterations, it can be used as an argument proving the existence of a necessary being. Among Moslem philosophers, other arguments have also been presented proving the impossibility of an infinite regress, such as the argument of “Extremity and Centre” (Ṭaraf wa Wasaṭ) and the argument of “Conformation” (Taṭbīq). Complete accounts of these argumentations can be found in most books on Islamic Philosophy.

In order to understand this principle in a tangible manner various examples are commonly presented. For instance, imagine a rank of soldiers who plan to attack the enemy. Each soldier will only attack on the condition that the soldier beside him attacks first. Therefore, soldier “A” will only attack when soldier “B” attacks and soldier “B” conditions his attack on the attack of soldier “C” and so on. Now, if this is not a finite sequence, which does not end with a soldier whose attack is not conditional, will any attack actually commence? Clearly, the answer to this question is negative. In causal sequences, the situation is exactly similar because the existence of each element depends of the existence of its cause whose existence is also dependant upon the existence of another cause and so forth. Undoubtedly, if this sequence is infinite, basically, it cannot come into existence. Therefore, if we consider a causal sequence of extant objects, it will surely be finite. Such that in the example of the soldiers, if an attack has commenced, we would surely realize that the sequence was finite.

d) The Impossibility of a Circular Cause (Dawr)

A circular cause happens when an object is its own cause through one or several intermediate causes.(1) The first form, meaning when an object is its own cause, is called a clear loop [daūr-e ṣarīḥ] and the second form, meaning when an object is its own cause with several intermediate causes, is called a hidden loop [daūr-e muḍmar]. Therefore, the conjecture that “A” is the cause of “B” and that “B” is the cause of “A” is a clear loop; and the supposition that “A” caused “B”, “B” caused “C”, and “C” caused “A” is a hidden loop. The impossibility of a circular cause is obvious and self-evident in both

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1- - It must be said that circularity is not limited to circular causes; rather, it is conceivable in other areas such as definition or reasoning. If definition “A” is defined using definition “B” and definition “B” is defined using definition “A”, we would have a “circular definition”. Similarly, if we use statement “A” to prove statement “B”, while statement “B” is proved using statement “A”, we would have a “circular argument”. Obviously, a circular definition of a term or a circular argument attempting to prove a statement would not be successful in attaining the purpose of the definition or reasoning.

forms; because considering the fact that every cause is antecedent to its effect(1), the causality of “A” regarding “B” necessitates the antecedence of “A” over “B”, and if “B” is the cause of “A” then “B” would be antecedent over “A”. Therefore, “A” would be antecedent over itself.(2) This is a contradiction, because it requires that “A” simultaneously be and not be antecedent to itself.

The Main Argument

Now that we have elucidated these premises, we shall explain the kalām cosmological argument:

There is no doubt that at least one being exists in the whole world about which we can possibly talk or think. That is to say, the set of all existents is not a void set and we are not dealing with absolute nihility, on the contrary, this set indisputably has at least one element. This being is either a necessary being or a contingent being (while no other assumption is possible). In other words, this being is either inherently independent and is not dependent upon any other being for its existence (i.e. necessary being) or it is dependent upon another being for its existence (i.e. contingent being).

If the first assumption is correct, then the existence of a necessary being has been proven and as we have previously stated, this necessary being is God.

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1- - Of course it should be noted that the antecedence of a cause in respect to its effect is not “temporal” rather, it is “essential”. If we assume that the impact of a rock was the cause for shattering a window, there is no time interval between impact of the rock (cause) and the window shattering (effect); even so, we can say that impact of the rock antecedes the window breaking. Meaning that until the rock impacts upon the window, the window will not break. (However, the opposite is not true; in other words, it cannot be said that until the window breaks, the rock will not impact upon it.) This example somewhat elucidates the meaning of essential antecedence of a cause over its effect.
2- - This is because the relationship of “antecedence” possesses the attribute of “transitivity”. In explanation, a relationship is transitive if “A” and “B”, and “B” and “C” are related, then “A” and “C” are also similarly related. For example, if “A” is greater than “B” and “B” is greater than “C”, then “A” is greater than “C”. However, the relationship of “doubleness” is not transitive, because if “A” is double “B” and “B” is double “C”, “A” is not double “C”.

However, if the second assumption is correct and the presumed being is a contingent being, according to the causal principle it needs a cause, that is to say its existence indicates the existence of its cause. If its cause is a contingent being—which needs a separate cause—and this sequence of causes goes on unto infinity, we will have an infinite regress, while as we have previously shown an infinite causal regress is impossible. Another possibility is that the presumed contingent being, with or without intermediate causes, is the effect of a cause which itself has been caused by the presumed contingent being. This possibility is also invalid because it necessitates a circular cause and as we have indicated, a circular cause, like an infinite regress is intellectually impossible.

Therefore, the only remaining possibility is that this contingent being, with or without intermediate causes, has been brought about by a cause, which has not been precipitated by another object. The fact that this cause is not also an effect means that it is inherently independent and needless of others; this being is a necessary being. Thus, the existence of a necessary being has been proven once again.

According to what we have stated, the kalām cosmological argument can be thusly summarized: Undeniably, there is at least one being in the exterior world. If this being is a necessary being, our objective (which is the existence of God or a necessary being) has been proven. If it is a contingent being, considering its need of a cause and the impossibility of an infinite regress and a circular cause, it needs a being whose existence is not the effect of another being. This being is a necessary being (or God).

The Quran and the Need of Contingents towards God

As far as we know, the kalām cosmology argument has not been stated in the Holy Quran in its philosophic form. Several Quranic verses speak of a sort of need and dependency within all beings for God. These verses may be considered an indication of intellectual arguments that are founded upon the dependency of the world of contingents towards a God who is not dependent upon any being. For example, it has been stated in Sūrah Fāṭir:

﴿یا أیّها النّاس أَنتم الفقراءُ إلی الله وَ اللهُ هُو الغنیُّ الحمیدُ﴾

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“O people! You are the ones that have need of Allah; and Allah is the All-sufficient, the All-laudable.”(1)

Apparently, in this verse “neediness” has a very comprehensive meaning and includes a variety of needs that all beings have towards God, the most important of which is their existential dependency.

Also in various verses, the Quran emphasizes the fact that all beings, including humans, have been created and it has reasoned the existence of God—as the creator of the cosmos—in a manner that can be stated in the form of a logical argument. The Quran declares in argumentation against unbelievers:

﴿اَم خُلِقوا مِنْ غَیرِ شَیْ ءٍ اَمْ هُمُ الخالِقُونَ﴾

“Have they been created from nothing or are they [their own] creators?”(2)

This is what may be extracted from this verse: Unquestionably, all humans have been created and initiated, meaning that they did not exist at one time and then they came into existence. Here we are confronted by several possibilities:


have come into existence without a cause.


are their own creators and originators.

These two possibilities, in all common sense, are obviously invalid and with little thought, their irrationality becomes evident. Therefore, the only logical possibility is that they are creations of a divine entity, transcendent to themselves who is God.

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1- - Sūrah Fāṭir 35:15.
2- - Sūrah Ṭūr 52:35.

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Section Two: The Path to “Him”


In the previous section, we discussed the superiority and perfection of Islamic theology and afterwards we briefly discussed the methods of realizing God, which is the first stage in understanding Him. Now we shall examine the second stage, which involves identifying divine attributes and actions. We call this step “Understanding God” as opposed to “Realizing God”.

We all know very well that each religion and ideology including Islam attributes certain characteristics to their God and ascribes certain actions to Him. As we have previously mentioned, the difference of opinion between various theists regarding the attributes and actions of God have resulted in contrasting theologies and diverse portrayals of their object of devotion. Indeed, the most significant method of understanding God is by understanding His attributes and actions. A more comprehensive and in-depth insight into these issues results in a more perfect theology. Therefore, it is morally and intellectually imperative that all believers increase the depth and caliber of their understanding of God through correct and penetrating studies of God’s attributes.

All of us may have seen believers who do not have an accurate understanding of God’s attributes and have sufficed themselves with superficial and fallacious knowledge. It may even be true that we too are such believers. We may have seen many people who albeit unwittingly tend toward “corporealization of God” [jism ingārī]. For example, they may visualize God as a great being who lives in the skies. Many of us are also affected by a kind of “anthropomorphism of God” [insānvār ingārī]; in other words, we regard God—at least with respect to some attributes—similar to humans, or we consider the source of divine acts as humanlike feelings and emotions!

We must also bear in mind that superficial or fallacious understanding of divine attributes and actions is not merely an intellectual problem

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without any effect on our daily lives; the truth is the complete opposite. Persons who believe in God and His power and sovereignty but do not correctly understand the boundlessness of His mercy and clemency may completely lose all hope in attaining paradise after committing a great sin and may regard themselves eternally damned and suffer from mental anguish throughout their lives because they believe that God will never forgive them. In addition, when faced with apparently unsolvable problems in their lives, those who incorrectly understand the power and generosity of God easily give up and instead of practicing patience, perseverance, and trust in God, become debilitated and weak.

In short, the endeavors of believers to continually correct and perfect their theology is not simply a struggle to attain a worthy set of beliefs and knowledge; rather, these efforts have phenomenal, practical and sometimes decisive effects upon one’s life. This is why Islam has a special regard for theological issues and has presented comprehensive teachings about divine attributes and acts. Throughout the centuries, the detailed teachings of Islam have presented mutakalimūn, philosophers, mystics and other Moslem thinkers with an invaluable legacy, which, through interpretation and development, has brought order to Islamic theology. In the following discussions, we shall attempt to illuminate briefly some of the most important Islamic theological beliefs.

Understanding the Nature of God and His Attributes

One of the basics of Islamic theology is recognition and differentiation between the nature of God and His attributes and actions. Understanding Divine Nature is not possible for any being other than God, including humanity. A short and clear proof of this claim is that the nature of God is illimitable and infinite while all other beings are limited and finite and, self-evidently, a limited being cannot understand the unlimited nature of God.(1)

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1- - The philosophical basis of this reasoning is that knowledge and understanding require a type of encompassment of knowledge by the scholar and because a limited being cannot encompass an unlimited essence, no limited being can gain knowledge of an unlimited essence.

The intellect can understand the depth of His nature,

If a whirligig can reach the depth of the sea.(1)

This fact can also be extracted from various Quranic verses such as this:

﴿یَعلَمُ مَا بَینَ أَیدیهِم وَ مَا خَلفَهُم وَ لایُحیطُونَ بِهِ عِلماً﴾

“He knows that which they have before them, and that which they have left behind, while they do not comprehend Him in knowledge.”(2)

According to a tradition, as an interpretation of this verse Imam ‘Alī (‘a) stated:

لایُحیطُ الخَلائقُ باللهِ عزّوجلّ عِلماً.

“Creations cannot comprehend God in knowledge.”(3)

The impossibility of understanding Divine Nature does not mean that we are deprived of any knowledge of God whatsoever; rather, humanity has been given access to a different sort of knowledge that comes through appreciation of divine attributes and actions. Therefore, humanity’s desire for understanding their Lord is not out of proportion. On the contrary, comprehension of God—in the way we have explained—is not only possible but also ideal. Divine prophets have also endeavored to familiarize humans with divine attributes and reveal unto them their mistakes and obstacles in the path of understanding God.

The Holy Quran has mentioned the attributes of God in many verses. For example, regard the following verse:

“He is Allah besides Whom there is no god. He is the King, the All-holy, the All-salutary, the Granter of security, the

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1- -[1] به کنه ذاتش خرد برد پی اگر رسد خس به قعر دریا
2- - Sūrah Ṭāhā 20:110. This interpretation is based upon the assumption that the Arabic pronoun “ه” (him/it) in the compound “بِهِ” (about him) refers to God.
3- - Alḥuwaīzī, Tafsīr-e Nūr u-Thaqalaīn, vol. 3, p. 394, Tradition 117.

Guardian over all, the Almighty, the All-dominating, the All-sublime. Allah is pure of those they associate with Him. He is Allah the Creator, the Maker, the Shaper. To Him belong the Names [and attributes] Most Beautiful [asmā’ ul-ḥusnā]. All that is in the Heavens and earth glorify Him. He is the Almighty, the All-wise.”(1)

The Methods of Understanding God

Many methods of understanding the attributes and acts of God have been placed before humankind. The following are the most important methods of understanding God:

1. Intellect:

Just as the human intellect is useful in proving the existence of God, so also can it be useful in understanding God’s attributes. Initially, through the illuminations of their minds, humans concisely realize that God must contain all attributes of perfection; meaning that God possesses all qualities—in an absolute manner without any defects or faults—that in any way express the perfection of their modified noun.

Subsequently, through in-depth analysis of those attributes of God that are revealed in the course of proving His existence, one may attain comprehensive understanding of other divine attributes and their respective definitions and characteristics. For example, through intellectual reasoning regarding the existence of God, we proved His existence as a necessary being and thus by contemplating the meaning of the necessity of existence, we realize that God is not compound [murakkab] and is indivisible or monad [basīṭ]. This is because any compound requires the existence of its constituents and having need of something else to exist is incompatible with necessity of being. Thus, the intellect proves the attribute of indivisibility of God.

2. Nature:

As we shall elucidate later in the discussion of divine Unity, at least several stages of belief in monotheism are amalgamated in the nature of humanity. In other words, the human nature regards God as One and Unique and does not tolerate polytheism. As a result, humans can

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1- - Sūrah Ḥashr 59:23-24.

realize and understand several of God’s attributes—such as Unity—through their nature.

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3. Investigation of the Natural World:

Another means of understanding God is contemplation about the state and characteristics of the world around us. For example, considering the general order of existence and the finality [hadafmandī / ghāyatmandī] of natural phenomena reveals the attributes of God’s omniscience and divine wisdom.

4. Mystical Revelation:

Mystical revelation is also a method of understanding God. Through spiritual and mystical perfection, humans can attain such rank that they can spiritually perceive the beauty and majesty of God and observe the manifestations of His perfect attributes.

5. Referral to the Quran and Traditions:

Yet another method of understanding the attributes and actions of God is studying Quranic verses and the teachings of the leaders of Islam. The perpetually flowing and inspiring fountainhead that is the Quran and Traditions of the Immaculates presents us with profound and extensive teachings concerning theology—teachings that the intellect cannot possibly unravel by itself or that can be comprehend only with great difficulty.(1)

Understanding Divine Attributes

The intellect and divine revelation both agree that God possesses all attributes of perfection; God is Omniscient, Omnipotent, Benevolent, Living, Creator, Benefactor, and, in addition to these attributes, many other qualities can be accredited to Him. On the other hand, many of God’s attributes—such as knowledge, power, and life—are used in common with both God and His creations. Are the meanings of each of these attributes identical in both usages? Or, does each usage have a different meaning? For example, does the word “knowledgeable” have the same meaning in these two statements: “God is knowledgeable” and “Humans are knowledgeable”? There are three main perspectives concerning these questions:

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1- - Utilization of the Quran in order to understand the attributes of God necessitates basic acceptance of several issues including the prophethood of Muḥammad (ṣ), his being chosen by God, and proof of several attributes of God, including truthfulness—upon which the veracity if the Quran is based.

The First Perspective:

Some believe that not only is the meaning different in each of these usages, in fact humankind cannot fully understand the meaning of divine attributes. They believe that we may only accept and have faith in the existence of the attributes of God that are expressed in the Quran and Traditions but we cannot understand the full truth of these attributes. The main grounds they offer for their belief is that humans perceive the meaning of attributes such as knowledge, power, and will through perceptions of our surroundings internal to ourselves, whereas associating these perceptions with God is not proper because God is in no way similar to His creations. He is an absolute and necessary being, while all other beings are contingent, limited, and imperfect. Therefore, we have no right to generalize our own attributes to God and because we do not have access to worthier concepts—and those concepts we do possess are based upon contingent beings—we have no choice but to remain silent regarding divine attributes and content ourselves with that which is discussed in the Quran and Traditions.

The Second Perspective:

This group believes that there is no significant difference between the meanings of divine attributes and the attributes of created things and those attributes that are ascribed to both God and His creations have a somewhat similar meaning.

The Third Perspective:

Alongside the aforementioned views, there is a third perspective that is more compatible with the general ambience of the Quran and Traditions. According to this view, even though there is a difference between the definitions of God’s attributes and those of His creations, this does not mean that God’s attributes are unfathomable. By taking inspiration from Quranic and Traditional concepts, the advocates of this perspective endeavor to offer an analysis of divine attributes that preserves the purity and sublimity of God in respect to the faults and limits of His creations while confirming the comprehensibility of His attributes. Following is a concise example of such an analysis:

First, we must contemplate the essence of an attribute of perfection when used in respect to ourselves and the beings around us, and identify all the conditions that in some way limit this attribute.

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Next, we must distill the attribute of these limiting conditions. In other words, we must prune and isolate the essential meaning of the attribute from all limiting factors. Thus we reach a concept that is worthy of God since it describes a sort of existential perfection and is abstracted from all faults and deficiencies.

For instance, through our internal perception and contemplation of external objects, we arrive at an understanding of “knowledge” which is a type of awareness. However, this awareness is limited by several factors: it is temporal because at first it does not exist and later comes into existence. It is also affected by deterioration and forgetfulness. Additionally, in order to gain knowledge—in many cases—tools and instruments are needed. Also, in gaining knowledge there is a possibility of error. These factors—temporality, possibility of deterioration and errors, and necessity of instruments—are such that they cause limits or faults in our knowledge and awareness. Therefore, when using this attribute regarding God, we must abstract it of all these factors while preserving its essential meaning—awareness. Thus we arrive at a description of a knowledge that is past and future eternal (non-temporal), infallible, and needless of instruments. Such a description makes the Knowledge of God understandable and at the same time compatible with the Holiness and Sublimity of God.

Purity and Understandability of Divine Attributes in the Quran

As we have previously mentioned, this third perspective is more compatible with the Quran and Traditions. The Quran has mentioned God’s attributes in hundreds of verses and in some cases it has described and analyzed these attributes. The Quran continually invites us to contemplate upon its verses.(1) How can one contemplate a verse containing God’s attributes without understanding those attributes? Can one truly accept that our duty is merely to read Quranic verses without understanding? Hence, continual reference to the attributes of God in the Quran proves the fallaciousness of the first perspective. Additionally, the Quran

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1- - For examples see: Sūrah Nisā’ 4:82; Sūrah Muḥammad 47:24; and Sūrah Ṣād 38:29.

regards “worship” and “servitude” toward God as the ultimate purpose of our creation:

﴿وَ ما خلقتُ الجنّ و الإنس إِلا لِیَعبدون﴾

“And I have not created the jinn and humankind but that they worship Me.” (1)

It also obvious that worship of a being whose essence and attributes are completely unknown is meaningless and futile. From a logical standpoint, neither communicative relations nor spiritual proximity is possible with an unintelligible being. As an example, if we do not believe in the unlimited power, authority and ability of a being to act how can we beseech help from and have faith in that being?

Additionally, many verses in the Quran emphasize the sublimity and purity of God high above the attributes of His creations. God does not tolerate the assimilative descriptions some humans associate with Him. For example, after mentioning the unworthy beliefs of polytheists about God, the Quran regards their descriptions as unfitting of the status of Divine Holiness:

﴿و جعلوا لله شُرکاءَ الجنَّ و خَلَقَهم و خَرَقوا له بَنینَ و بناتِ بغَیر علمٍ، سبحانه و تعالی عمّا یصفون﴾

“And they ascribe the jinn as associates to Allah, though He has created them. And without any knowledge, they impute to Him sons and daughters. He is pure of and highly exalted above what they describe.”(2)

The purity the Quran describes, which both disagrees with the incomprehensibility of divine attributes and comparison of God with His creations, has been affirmed in several Traditions. Imam ‘Alī (‘a) has stated:

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1- - Sūrah Dhārīyāt 51:56.
2- - Sūrah An‘ām 6:100.

لَم یُطلِع العقُولَ عَلی تَحدیدِ صِفَتِهِ وَ لَم یَحجبها عَن واجِبِ مَعرِفَتِهِ.

“He has not informed the intellect of the limits of His attributes; however He has not made it blind to necessary knowledge of Himself.” (1)

Thus, it can be said that improving one’s understanding of God can only come about through understanding His attributes. Therefore, we shall endeavor to elucidate concisely several of the most important divine attributes. According to Islamic belief, one of the most important divine attributes is Divine Unity. Because of the importance of Divine Unity [tawḥīd], we will start our succinct discussion regarding divine attributes with Unity.

1. Unity

Islam is a monotheist religion. The importance of Unity is such that, along with acceptance of the prophethood of Muḥammad (ṣ), it is the first condition for entering the life-giving religion of Islam and eternal salvation and bliss. Knowing that God is Unique and worshiping none but Him not only has a fundamental part in Islamic beliefs, it also has a key role in other areas of Islamic teachings, such as ethics [akhlāq] and Islamic jurisprudence [fiqh]. The essence of the Islamic moral system is based upon Divine Unity and many Islamic laws and rites originate from the monotheistic essence of Islam. Belief in Divine Unity reshapes the lives of humans—in both intellectual and ideological areas, and in deed and action—and colors our whole existence.

In short, Divine Unity is the root of the tree of Islam, and ideological, moral, and applied teachings are its branches, leaves, and fruit.

The doctrine of Divine Unity is not limited to Islam. In fact, all divine prophets enjoined humans to monotheism and all divine religions were monotheistic:

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1- - Nahj ul-Balāghah, sermon 49.

﴿و ما أرسلنا مِن قبلک مِن رَسولٍ إلّا نُوحی إلیهِ أَنَّهُ لا إلهَ إِلّا أَنا فاعبُدُون﴾

“And before thee, we have never sent a messenger but that we revealed unto him, saying: ‘There is no Allah but I, so serve Me.’”(1)

In perpetuation of the call of previous prophets, the Holy Quran pays special attention to the principle of Divine Unity. The maxim of monotheism has been repeated many times in different forms throughout the Quran, including statements such as, “There is no god but Allah(2)”, “There is no god but He(3)”, and “There is no god but I(4)”. Also by divine decree, the messenger of Islam (ṣ) declares that the epitome of his message (risālah) is enjoining people to monotheism:

﴿قُل إِنَّما أُمِرتُ أَن أَعبدَ اللهَ و لا أُشرِک به، إِلیهِ أَدعُوا و إِلیهِ مَأَب﴾

“Say: ‘I have been commanded to serve Allah and to associate naught with Him. To Him I invite [you], and to Him I return.’”(5)

Theoretical and Applied Monotheism

Monotheism is divided into two major branches: theoretical and applied. Theoretical monotheism is unconditional belief in the Unity of God in essence, attributes, and acts. When this belief becomes fused into the heart and soul, a person’s actions and endeavors gain a certain tenor and their deeds become monotheistic. Thus, applied monotheism is the condition where a person’s monotheistic beliefs control his actions so that he acts in accordance with his monotheistic thought.(6)

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1- - Sūrah Anbiyā’ 21:25.
2- - “لا إِله إِلّا الله” (Sūrah Ṣāfāt 37:35; and Sūrah Muḥammad 47:19)
3- - “لا إِله إِلّا هو” (Sūrah Baqarah 2:163 and 2:255; and Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:2, 3:6, 3:18)
4- - “لا إِله إِلّا انا” (Sūrah Naḥl 16:2; and Sūrah Anbīyā’ 21:25)
5- - Sūrah Ra‘d 13:36.
6- - It must be said that by deeds and actions we intend a more general meaning than external actions. This meaning also includes internal states and behaviors such as love and faith.

Theoretical monotheism is categorized into three groups: unity of divine essence [tawḥīd-e ẓātī], unity of divine attributes [tawḥīd-e ṣifātī], and unity of divine acts [tawḥīd-e af‘ālī]. Applied monotheism is also divided into several groups.(1)

2. Divine Knowledge

According to Islamic doctrine, God is knowledgeable of all creation and is aware of everything. As we have stated earlier, “knowledge” has a specific meaning which each of us experiences within ourselves. Nonetheless, in order to ascribe this definition to God we must strip it of all of the philosophical limits and conditions that are unbefitting of the divine status of God. Thus, we may define the knowledge of God as such: Divine knowledge is absolute, limitless, past and future eternal, infallible; it needs no instruments, preparation, or intermediates; and does not require external influence on the Divine Essence.

The most important fact regarding God’s knowledge is the issue of the boundlessness of His awareness. God is absolutely knowledgeable of His Essence and is aware of all of His creations, both before and after their creation.

God’s Prior Knowledge and Humanity’s Free Will

The knowledge of God is boundless and infinite and includes all incidents throughout the past, present and future. Thus, from the beginning of time, God has been aware of everything throughout eternity. This includes knowledge of what people will do and refrain from doing in the future. From long ago, God’s awareness of the future of all people has been regarded by some as a negation of our free will. They have the misunderstanding that God’s prior knowledge of our future deeds is incompatible with free will. This dispute and its resolution will be explored in the discussion entitled Compulsion [jabr] or Free Will [ikhtīyār].

The Perspective of Quran and Traditions regarding Divine Knowledge

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1- - In favor of brevity, we shall refrain from further elucidation in this book.

Many Quranic verses speak of the knowledge and awareness of God. The conjugates of the infinitive ‘ilm (knowledge), such as ‘alima (he knew) and ya’lamu (he knows), and the qualifier ‘alīm (very knowledgeable/omniscient) and its various offshoots such as samī’ (able to hear/all-hearing) and baṣīr (able to see/all-seeing) are used many times to describe God. Additionally, in several verses there are more specific qualities of knowledge attributed to God such as ‘ālim ul-ghaīb (Knower of the Invisible) and ‘allām ul-ghuyūb (Knower of All Things Hidden). Because of the vast number of these verses, we will suffice with the explanation of two key points:

Proof of the Knowledge of God:

It seems that the Holy Quran considers God’s knowledge and awareness needless of proof. Even so, the following interpretation in various verses indicates a sort of rationale regarding God’s omniscience:

﴿ ألا یعلم مَن خَلَقَ و هو اللَّطیفُ الخبیرُ﴾

“Does not He who created know, while He is the All-exact (Knower of subtleties), the All-aware?”(1)

By rhetorical questioning(2), this verse asks if it is possible that God, who is the Creator, not be knowledgeable while the act of creation necessitates knowledge of all conditions and qualities of the creature. Thus according to the Holy Quran, there is a correlation between the act of creation and knowledge of the creature. Accordingly, one who considers God the Creator of all beings cannot refute His infinite knowledge of all the intricacies of Creation.

The Absolute and Infinite Knowledge of God

While describing God as knowledgeable and aware, the Holy Quran emphasizes the boundlessness of His knowledge. A reason for this emphasis may be that in addition to revealing a fundamental fact regarding divine attributes and perfecting and augmenting our

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1- - Sūrah Mulk 67:14.
2- - Rhetorical questioning is a sort of questioning in which the speaker propounds a question in such a way that its answer is in the negative.

theology and understanding of God, the principle of God’s infinite knowledge has valuable ethical and spiritual effects. Faith in the infinite knowledge of God and His awareness of all things has a profound role in fortifying our trust in God and stimulates us to engage in sincere worship of God. Furthermore, belief in the fact that God is aware of the public and private deeds of all people, including their motives and intents, has a positive effect upon our abstinence from sin and wrongdoing. In various places, the Quran explicitly declares the boundlessness of Divine Knowledge:

﴿و الله بکلّ شیء علیم﴾

“And Allah is knowledgeable of all things.”(1)

Moreover, in other instances, it elucidates various aspects of divine knowledge and thus puts emphasizes on its comprehensiveness:

“He knows what penetrates into the earth, and what comes forth from it, and what descends from the heavens and what ascends into it. He is with you no matter where you are; and Allah sees all you do.”(2)

The descriptions in this verse pertain to many things, and in sum, this verse depicts the various aspects of God’s awareness of His creation. These descriptions include seeds, raindrops, tree roots, mines and treasures hidden within the earth, subterranean animals, seething springs, ascending and descending angels, clouds, birds, comets, and inestimable other things.

Yet other verses speak of God’s knowledge of the secrets hidden within the hearts:

﴿قل إِن تُخفوا ما فی صُدورِکم أو تُبدوه یَعلَمهُ اللهُ و یَعلمُ ما فی السّماوات و ما فی الأَرض﴾

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1- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:282.
2- - Sūrah Ḥadīd 57:4.

“Say: ‘Whether you hide what is in your breasts or reveal it, Allah knows it and He also knows all that is in the heavens and the earth.’”(1)

The extensiveness and infiniteness of Divine Knowledge is also reflected in the teachings of Traditions (Hadith).

The Leader of the Faithful, ‘Alī (‘a), explains the broadness of Divine Knowledge as follows:

یَعلَم عَجیجَ الوُحُوشِ فی الفَلَواتِ و مَعاصِی العِبادِ فی الخَلَواتِ و اختِلافَ النّینانِ فی البِحار الغامِراتِ و تَلاطُمَ الماءِ بِالرّیاحِ العاصِفاتِ.

“God is aware of the cries of wild animals in the mountains and deserts, and the private transgressions of His servants, and the movements of fish in deep seas, and also the formation of turbulence and waves by strong winds.”(2)

Additionally, it has been quoted about Imam Ṣādiq (‘a) that in response to one of his disciples who said, “I thank God to the extent of His knowledge(3)”, he replied, “Do not say that because there is no extent to His knowledge.”(4)

3. Divine Power

Another of God’s attributes is power (omnipotence). Power is also one of the attributes that humans possess in a limited and deficient manner. Consequently, the meaning of power and impotence are, to a large extent, clear to us. Even so, we must bear in mind that at times the word power is used in religious teachings with a different meaning intended. For instance, in physics and the natural sciences, power may be used synonymously with energy or force. For better understanding of the difference of meanings and avoiding confusion, it can be said that in this discussion, ‘powerful beings’ are beings that can perform

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1- - Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:29.
2- - Nahj ul-Balāghah, sermon 198.
3- - “الحَمدلله مُنتَهی عِلمِهِ” This statement presupposes that there is an extent or boundry for God’s Knowledge whereas in fact there is no limit to His Knowledge [editor].
4- - “لا تَقُل ذلِکَ فَإِنَّه لَیسَ لِعِلمِهِ مُنتَهی” (Shaīkh Ṣadūq, At-Tawḥīd, chap. 10, Tradition 1).

an act if they will to do so and can refrain from performing it if they do not will to do so.

In other words, we can only say that one has the power to perform a certain act if performing the act or refraining from performing it depends on his own explicit volition and will. Therefore, the meaning of the statement “Jane has the power to write” is that if Jane wants to write, she may and if she does not want to, she may refrain from writing. Accordingly, omnipotence means that if God wills an act, He can carry it out, and if He wills not, He can refrain from performing the act.

Naturally, as previously mentioned, here too we must contemplate what we regard as “power” in the creatures of God, identify all limiting factors, and proclaim omnipotence to be pure of these limits. For example, when we scrutinize the truth of our power, we find that performing or foregoing an action is usually a function of external influences. Obviously, this is not true with reference to God because it necessitates that God be influenced by others and be controlled by something other than Himself, while this is contrary to the necessity of being and self-sufficiency of God.

Illimitability of God’s Power and the Omnipotence Paradox

Is God’s power unlimited, absolute, and all-encompassing? Alternatively, is His power finite with some things being outside His power? According to the majority of Islamic scholars, omnipotence, like all other divine attributes of perfection, is unlimited, boundless, and without restrictions. A range of Quranic verses also attest to this fact.

Throughout time, belief in the Absolute Power of God has met with various doubts and challenges. Here we shall explain and answer one of the most important challenges which is sometimes called the “omnipotence paradox”.

The omnipotence paradox has diverse forms, all of which are based upon a single foundation. The most complex form of this paradox is delineation of a question in which at first glance, both negative and positive answers result in direct repudiation of omnipotence. For instance, it may be asked: Is God able to create a stone that He cannot lift? Or, one may enquire: Can God create a being that He is not able

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to annihilate? Upon contemplation of these questions, it seems that both a positive and a negative answer will result in refutation of the absoluteness of God’s power. We see that a positive answer to the first question signifies the possibility of the existence of a stone that God cannot lift and a negative answer to the same question would mean that God is powerless to create a specific stone!

Before presenting a solution to the omnipotence paradox, we must first explain types of “impossibilities” which are divided into three groups:

a) Essential Impossibility: That which is impossible per se with no other factor being involved. A contradiction is one of the most obvious forms of essential impossibility.

b) Accidental Impossibility: That which is not impossible per se, but whose occurrence necessitates realization of an essential impossibility. For example, the existence of an effect without a cause is an accidental impossibility because its realization necessitates a contradiction.(1) Essential and accidental impossibilities are also called logical impossibilities.

c) Normal Impossibility: That the occurrence of which seems impossible with respect to known natural laws, but whose realization is neither essentially impossible nor necessitates an essential impossibility. Transformation of a wooden staff into a snake, curing the sick without medicine, and speech of inanimate beings are several examples of normal impossibilities.(2)

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1- - Contradiction is the contemporaneous existence and nonexistence of an object—with the preservation of conditions that are set in logic and philosophy. According to many thinkers, the impossibility of a contradiction is the most axiomatic intellectual principle, whose refutation would cause the collapse of all human knowledge.
2- - The miracles of divine prophets are considered normal impossibilities. Through contemplation of the nature of these events, it can be realized that these occurrences oppose the normal workings of nature and the causal system of the world, but they are realized through unknown specific supernatural causes. Thus, it may be stated that normal impossibilities are not truly impossible; rather, our lack of knowledge regarding their specific causes, result in them being considered as a division of impossibilities.

Bearing in mind the above explanations, God’s power does not encompass essential and accidental impossibilities, and all questions that are asked within the omnipotence paradox regarding the power of God in performing various acts are accidental impossibilities. For example, if we thoroughly contemplate the true nature of creation—which is called causality in philosophy—we realize that the Creator—i.e. the existence-giving cause—transcends all aspects of the creature—i.e. the effect. More specifically, the existence and all qualities and characteristics of creatures are dependant upon their Creator. Thus, supposing a creature whose creator cannot alter or destroy, necessitates supposing a situation in which the “creator” simultaneously be and not be the creator which is clearly a contradiction. Accordingly, creation of a stone that the creator cannot lift or creation of a being that the creator cannot destroy is an accidental impossibility and as we have already stated, Divine Power does not encompass accidental impossibilities.

It could be stated thus that the result of the above analysis is nothing but the acceptance of the finitude of God’s power, but it is essential to keep in mind that the exclusion of essential and accidental impossibilities from the realm of God’s power is in no way a limiting factor for divine power because essentially these things are not capable of being originated and therefore are beyond the encompassment of any type of power. Consequently, it is stated that, in essence, the definition of shay’ (thing) does not include logical impossibilities, and thus Quranic phrases such as “God is capable of all things” are not subject to these impossibilities.(1) In other words, the deficiency and limitation pertains to the “acceptant” not the “subject”.(2)

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1- - ﴿اِنَّ اللهَ علی کُلِّ شیءٍ قَدیرٌ﴾
2- - According to philosophers, the ability of the subject—i.e. God—in performing the act is absolute, whereas the acceptant—i.e. logical impossibility—is not capable of undergoing the act. هر چه هست از قامت ناساز بی اندام ما است ورنه تشریف تو بر بالای کس کوتاه نیست All problems arise from our lack of understanding; You are All-powerful and All-encompassing. For further elucidation, contemplate this example: Consider a master of potter who can fashion the most beautiful of pots from clay. Instead of clay, some water is given to him and he is asked to make a pot. It is self-evident that the potter will not be successful in the least in making a pot. Clearly, this cannot be attributed to his inability or inexperience and his status as master cannot be doubted because, essentially, what he has been provided with does not have the capability of being altered into a pot. Naturally, we admit that this example and similar examples are inherently different from the issue of our discussion—the power and ability of God. Nonetheless, because of its similarity, it can be considered as an analogy in order to understand better the subject under discussion.

As a summary of our answer to the “omnipotence paradox”, we could state that these paradoxes are logical impossibilities and thus cannot be associated with power. However, this non-association is not a fundamental flaw of divine power; on the contrary, the limitation is embedded in the nature of these things.

It is significant to note that in Islamic Traditions, the answers to various forms of the omnipotence paradox are indicative of the same answer that we have proposed. According to a Hadith, in reply to someone who asked:

هَل یَقدرُ رَبّکَ أَن یُدخِلَ الدُّنیا فی بَیضةٍ مِن غَیرِ أن تَصغُرَ الدّنیا و تکبرَ البیضَة؟

“Can your Lord place the world into an egg without shrinking the world or enlarging the egg?”

Imam ‘Alī (‘a) replied:

إِنَّ اللهَ تبارکَ و تَعالی لایُنسبُ إِلی العجزِ و الّذی سَأَلتنی لایَکُونُ.

“Verily, God, the Blessed, the Sublime, cannot be attributed with weakness; rather, what you have asked me cannot come to pass.”(1)

According to the answer of Imam ‘Alī (‘a), the objective of the question itself is an impossibility. However, he explains that this does not entail weakness and impotence in God; rather, it rises from the

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1- Shaīkh Ṣadūq, Al-Tawḥīd, chap. 9, Tradition 6.

fact that the goal in question is logically impossible and thus, in essence, not capable of coming into being.

Divine Power in the Quran and Traditions

The Holy Quran emphasizes the power of God through repetition of qualities such as qādir (able) and qadīr (all-powerful), and thus it regards God as omnipotent. In addition, the phrase “God is capable of all things”(1) and similar phrases have been used many times over in the Quran—all of which inform of the generality and illimitability of divine power.

In various Quranic verses, we encounter a type of reasoning regarding the boundlessness of God’s power. As an example, the Quran regards the creation of the heavens and earth as a sign of God’s ability to resurrect the dead:

“Have they not seen that Allah, who created the heavens and earth and has not been wearied by creating them, is able to resurrect the dead? Yes indeed, He is capable of all things.”(2)

In addition, the generality of God’s power is emphasized in many Hadiths. According to one Hadith, Imam Ṣādiq (‘a) declared:

مُحیطٌ بِما خَلَقَ عِلماً وَ قُدرَةً... وَ الأشیاءُ لَهُ سِواءٌ عِلماً و قُدرَةً.

“He is All-encompassing in knowledge and power with respect to His creations… All things are equal for Him in His knowledge and power.”(3)

4. Divine Life

God is living. Like knowledge and power, this attribute can also be ascribed to both God and some of His creations. Through contemplation of the uses of this attribute, we realize that a living being is a being that possesses active volition and awareness. Thus, in definition we can say: “Life is a type of existential perfection which manifests such that the creature possessing it engages in volitional

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1- - ﴿إِنَّ اللهَ علی کُلِّ شیءٍ قَدیرٌ﴾ (For examples see: Sūrah Baqarah 2:109, 2:148, 2:259, etc.)
2- - Sūrah Aḥqāf 46:33.
3- - Shaīkh Ṣadūq, Al-Tawḥīd, chap. 9, Tradition 15.

actions, and has knowledge and awareness.” According to this definition, activity and awareness are signs of life, and lack of these qualities in an object shows that object to be lifeless.

With regard to this explanation, the fact that God has life means that the Divine Essence possesses a specific perfection that affirms His knowledge and actions. Naturally, in order to uphold the holiness and sublimity of God, we must purify this attribute of all limits and restrictions perceived in the life of created things.

For instance, in natural creatures such as humans and animals, life is accompanied by growth, consumption of food, reproduction, and movement such that these things signify life in these creatures.

However, we must not regard these qualities as necessary to life and we must not assume that life is absolutely linked with these qualities; rather, these qualities are only necessary in natural beings. In fact, divine life is pure of all limiting properties, which are not befitting of the divinity of God. Divine life is inherent, past eternal (azalī), future eternal (abadī), and immutable without it being associated with the necessities of natural life such as growth, consumption of food, etc.

Divine Life according to the Quran and Traditions

There are many Quranic verses wherein God is accredited with the quality of life:

﴿الله لا إله الّا هو الحی القیوم﴾

“He is Allah; there is no god but Him, the Living, the Everlasting.”(1)

﴿هو الحیّ لا إِله الّا هو فادعوه مخلصین له الدین﴾

“He is the Living; there is no Allah but Him, so call upon Him purifying your religion for Him, wholeheartedly.”(2)

The phrase, “هو الحیّ” (He is the Living)—according to Arabic grammar(3)—indicates the exclusivity of life for God and holds that true

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1- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:255, and Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:2.
2- - Sūrah Ghāfir 40:65.
3- - According to Arabic grammar, if the predicate of a substantive sentence is definite it demonstrates the exclusivity of the predicate for the subject.

life is unique to God. Bearing in mind the fact that inferior degrees of life exist in other beings and that essentially, the Quran introduces God as the life-giver of all beings,(1) it seems that the signification of this exclusiveness is that only divine life is inherent, and past and future eternal, while lives of all creatures are temporary and ‘on loan’ from God.

The inexhaustibility and eternality of divine life has been stressed in various Quranic verses:

﴿و توکّل علی الحیِّ الّذی لایموت﴾

“And put thy trust in the Ever-living who dies not.”(2)

In various Hadiths, the truth of divine life and its differences with the lives of creations are enumerated. The following is a profound and precise Hadith from Imam Kāẓim (‘a):

و کان اللهُ حَیّاً بِلاحَیاة حادِثَةٍ و لاکَونٍ مُوصوفٍ و لاکَیفٍ محدودٍ و لا أینٍ مَوقُوفٍ و لاسکانٍ ساکِن بَل حَیٌّ لِنَفسِهِ.

“And God is living but not a life that has come into being; His life does not have an [independent] existence with which to be qualified; it does not possess limitative conditions or a location in which to remain or a place in which to abide; rather, His life is inherent.”(3)

This valuable Hadith reveals that in contrast to the lives of His creations, divine life has not come into being; on the contrary, in adherence with the past eternality of the Divine Essence, His life is also past eternal. Life is not accidental and separate from His essence; rather, it is one with His essence. Thus, in accordance with His essence, it is illimitable and boundless.

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1- - For example, see: Sūrah Rūm 30:19, and Sūrah Ḥajj 22:66.
2- - Sūrah Furqān 25:58.
3- - Shaīkh Ṣadūq, Al-Tawḥīd, chap. 11, Tradition 6.
5. Past and Future Eternality

God is past and future eternal.(1) Most monotheists believe that God is a past eternal being, meaning that He has always existed and, in the past, there was no time in which He has not existed. Furthermore, God is future eternal—meaning that no time will come when He does not exist.

With regard to the opinions of Moslem scholars, there are evidently two perspectives in the interpretation of past and future eternality. According to the first exposition, God exists in all times; He has existed in the past, He exists now, and He will exist in the future. This explanation necessitates that God be a temporal being, restricted to the confines of time, and subject to the passage of time. In contrast, the second interpretation states past and future eternality. Basically, this means that the essence of God transcends the framework of time while being immanent throughout time and all temporal beings.(2) According to this perspective, saying that God has always existed or will perpetually exist in the future, is a careless and negligent statement.

Even though the general meaning of past and future eternality is compatible with the first interpretation, it would appear that the second interpretation presents a more precise and in-depth perspective because the absoluteness of the Divine Essence signifies that His essence is not restricted to any limits or conditions—even time. To state this differently, time—with regard to the prevailing definition—is considered a quality of mobile and material creatures while the Divine Essence is pure of materiality and motion.

Accordingly, when speaking of the past and future eternality of God, we must bear in mind that the exact and acceptable meaning is that Divine Essence transcends time and that He surpasses all temporal beings. Naturally, we do not deny the fact that as long as we are restricted to the natural and physical world and have a temporal existence similar to all other natural creatures, it is difficult to imagine

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1- - Of course, this attribute can also be designated as an apophatic attribute [ṣifat-e salbī] and thus we can declare that God is a ‘non-temporal’ entity.
2- - This issue will be explained in further detail in the discourse on cosmology.

an ultra-temporal entity—for whom the past, present, and future are the same.(1)

Past and Future Eternality of God in the Quran and Traditions

The terms “azalī” (past eternal) and “abadī” (future eternal) are not mentioned in the Holy Quran; the Quran has used other terms to indicate the past and future eternality of God. For example, the Quran introduces God as the “First” [awwal] and “Last” [ākhir]:

﴿هو الاوّل و الآخِر و الظّاهِرُ و الباطِنُ و هو بکلِّ شیءٍ علیمٌ﴾

“He is the First and the Last, and the manifest and invisible; and He is aware of all things.”(2)

Although exegetes have interpreted the two terms “awwal” and “ākhir” dissimilarly, it appears that the meaning behind these terms equates to past and future eternality and this interpretation has been endorsed by several Traditions. In a sermon entitled “Apparitions” [Ashbāḥ] Imam ‘Alī (‘a) states:

الاوّلُ الّذی لم یکن له قبل فیکون شیء قبله و الآخِر الّذی لیس له بعد فیکون شیء بعده.

“[God] is the First who has no before in order that there be something before Him, and He is the Last who has no after in order for there to be something after Him.”(3)

In another Hadith, Imam Ṣādiq has stated:

الاوّلُ لاعَن اوّلٍ قَبلَهُ و لا عَن بَدءٍ سَبَقَهُ و الآخِرُ لا عَن نِهایَةٍ... لَم یَزَل و لایَزُولُ بِلا بَدءٍ و لانِهایَةٍ.

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1- - For a more comprehensive analysis of this discussion, issues that are more complex must be brought up, which would exceed the brevity of the current discourse.
2- - Sūrah Ḥadīd 57:3.
3- - Nahj ul-Balāghah, sermon 91.

“He is the First without there being anything before Him or a beginning preceding Him, and He is the Last without having an end Himself… He has always been and always will be, without having a beginning or end.”(1)

These statements show that “First” and “Last” mean that with regard to God no before or after can be imagined, He has no beginning nor end, and nihility neither precedes nor follows Him.

Several Quranic verses also emphasize the eternality and indestructibility of God:

﴿کلُّ شیءٍ هالکٌ إِلّا وَجهَه﴾

“All things perish except His Face.”(2)

Many exegetes believe the intent of “God’s Face” is the Divine Essence. Accordingly, this verse implies the perpetuity and eternality of God.

6. Divine Wisdom

God is wise. Wisdom [ḥikmat] has several meanings and identifying them is necessary in order to understand this discourse better:

1. One definition of wisdom is “knowing and understanding the truth of objects”. With respect to the boundless knowledge of God, this definition is correct regarding God, the Exalted; however, it ultimately refers to the knowledge of God. In other words, according to this definition, wisdom is one of the branches of divine knowledge.

2. The second meaning of wisdom is that the acts of an agent are consistent and perfect to the extremity, and far from any faults. According to this definition also, God is wise; meaning that all His actions are realized in the most unimpeachable and perfect manner and are free of any defects or flaws.

As a concise reasoning for the wisdom of God—regarding this definition—we can declare that doubtless, there is a type of congruency and general resemblance between an agent and its action

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1- - Kulaīnī, Uṣūl-e Kāfī, Chapter of Definition of Names [Ma‘ānī ul-Asmā‘], vol. 1, Tradition 6.
2- - Sūrah Qaṣaṣ 28:88.

because an action is, in truth, a manifestation of the fundamental nature of the agent and a display of the perfections of its essence. Thus, the action of an agent whose essence is perfect in all aspects, must be perfect in all aspects. In definition of divine wisdom the Commander of the Faithful [Amīr al-Mu’minīn] (‘a) has made the following statements:

قَدَّرَ ما خَلَقَ فَأَحکَمَ تَقدیرَهُ.

“God measured all He created and then secured and stabilized creation.”(1)

مُبتدِع الخَلائِقِ بِعلمهِ و مُنشِئهِم بِحُکمهِ بلا اقتِداءٍ لاتَعلیمٍ و لااحتذاءٍ لِمِثالِ صانعٍ حَکیمٍ.

“Through His knowledge He originates His creations and through His wisdom He creates them; without copying or learning from someone or utilizing a sample from a wise creator.”(2)

An important result of divine wisdom—according to this definition—is deeming this world the best of all possible worlds, because the world, with all its immeasurable expanses, is an act of God and divine wisdom behooves that His actions be as perfect as possible.

3. The third definition of wisdom is eschewal of unrighteous and abhorrent actions. According to this definition, a wise being never commits indecent and evil acts. This definition is also true of God. According to Islamic belief, even though God is able to commit evil acts, His perfect and illimitable essence requires that He be solely a source of good acts. Belief in this type of divine wisdom entails believing that God is pure of committing any act the general intellect of humankind deems evil.

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1- - Nahj ul-Balāghah, sermon 91, p. 76.
2- - Nahj ul-Balāghah, sermon 191, p. 208.

By contemplating this definition, it becomes evident that justice is a branch of this type of wisdom; because, it means that God does not commit any evil act including lying, deceit, perfidy, or injustice.

4. The fourth definition of wisdom is that an agent performs actions according to rational ends and reasonable motives, and refrains from performing useless and futile acts. Therefore, this type of wisdom is the same as finality in deeds, meaning that God is pure of committing useless and purposeless acts and all His deeds are supported by rational intentions.

We humans also perform many of our actions with specific aims, but we must not overlook the fact that there is a fundamental difference between the finality of our deeds and the sagacity of divine acts. Through our volitional and meaningful actions, we generally endeavor to resolve one of our needs or deficiencies and by performing an action, we reach a level of perfection. Thus, the aim of our deeds is resolving needs and attaining perfection. For instance, persons who endeavor to gain knowledge by learning from a master or reading a book are in fact attempting to resolve their need of acquiring knowledge and replace ignorance with understanding to attain an ideal perfection. However, the purpose of divine acts is not attaining perfection. This is because God is absolute perfection and possesses no faults for which to attempt to compensate by carrying out various actions. In fact, the purpose of divine actions is guiding creations to an ideal perfection and the usefulness of these actions is resolving the needs of creatures.

The definition of divine wisdom under discussion is outlined in many Quranic verses. For example, regarding the finality of the creation of humans, it states:

﴿أَفحسِبتم أَنّما خَلَقناکم عَبثاً و أَنّکُم إِلینا لاتُرجَعون﴾

“Did you [truly] think that We have created you in vain and that you would not be returned to Us?”(1)

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1- - Sūrah Mu’minūn 23:115.

In this verse, the Quran regards the creation of humans as a divine act and states that this act is not futile; rather, it has a sagacious aim. The second part of this verse may be a subtle indication of this aim, meaning that God has created us in order that we utilize our facilities for attaining perfection and bliss and ultimately achieve the results of our actions in the next life.

In another verse, the Quran speaks of the sagacity of the creation of the heavens and earth and the creatures in between—which is probably an allusion to the creation of the universe:

﴿و ما خلقنا السّماواتِ و الأَرضَ و ما بینَهُما لاعبین﴾

“And we have not created the heavens and earth and all that is between for sport.”(1)

Also, according to a Hadith from Imam Ṣādiq (‘a), in answer to someone who asked “Why has God created His servants?” he stated:

إِنَّ الله تَبارَکَ و تَعالی لَم یخلُق خَلقَهُ عَبَثاً و لَم یَترُکهُم سُدیً... و ما خَلَقَهُم لِیَجلِبُ منهُم مَنفِعَةً و لا لِیَدفِعُ بِهِم مَضِرَّةً بَل خَلَقَهُم لَیَنفَعَهم و یوصِلَهُم إلی نَعیمِ الأَبَدِ.

“Verily, God, the Blessed, the Exalted, has not created His creatures in vain and has not forsaken them… and He has not created them for profit or to draw off harm through them; rather, He has created them to bring them profit and to adjoin them with eternal blessings.”(2)

Divine Wisdom and Evil

Up to this point, it has become clear that in Islamic thought all divine acts are sagacious and have rational purposes, and naturally these purposes pertain to His creations. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that in the world around us, there are affairs which we consider evil; all people are to some extent entangled in calamities and misfortunes caused by natural phenomena such as floods, earthquakes,

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1- - Sūrah Dukhān 44:38.
2- - Allāmah Majlisī, Biḥār al-Anwār, vol. 5, p. 313.

epidemics, physical pains, mental illnesses, etc. which form an extensive share of evils. However, is the existence of various evils consistent with divine wisdom and the finality of Creation? If the purpose of the creation of humanity is securing their benefits, how can the existence of evil, which is contrary to human good and the purpose of humankind’s creation, be justified?

First, we must realize that the existence of calamities, misfortunes, pain, suffering, and hardships in the world is not void of rational purposes. In fact, these affairs aim to provide the true personal and general good of humanity. It is evident that presenting an in-depth exposition of the philosophy or wisdom behind the existence of evil would require a detailed discussion; however, here we shall concisely enumerate several advantages of the existence of evil in the personal and social lives of humankind.

a) Fulfillment of the Potential of Humanity

Humanity’s nature and the general circumstances of the natural world are such that much of our material and spiritual potential can only be realized through confrontation with hardships and struggling with problems. Just as the muscles of an athlete develop through exhausting and onerous exercise, so also some of humanity’s spiritual and mental abilities emerge only in order to overcome the difficulties of life when faced with trials and tribulations. For instance, many discoveries and scientific inventions have been made in response to the fundamental needs of humankind and in order to solve individual or collective problems.

The Quran emphasizes the fact that facility and ease is latent in every hardship and affliction:

﴿فانّ مع العسر یُسراً. إِنَّ مع العُسر یُسراً﴾

“So [know that] truly with hardship there is ease. Yes, verily, with hardship comes ease.”(1)

In addition, using beautiful analogies Imam ‘Alī (‘a) describes the effects of hardships in developing humanity’s hidden abilities:

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1- - Sūrah Sharḥ 94:5-6.

ألا و إِن الشَّجرة البریّه أصلب عوداً و الرواتع الخضرة أَرقُّ جلوداً و النّباتات البدویّة اقوی وقواً و أَبطا خموداً.

“Know that the branches of a tree that grows in the desert are tougher, [while] the membrane of pleasant grass is thinner, and the fires [made] of desert plants are more radiant and they burn longer.”(1)

b) Divine Trials

One of the general traditions (sunnat) of God is ibtilā’ or trialing. Based on the purposes of our creation and existential characteristics, God tests us in the various contexts of our lives. Of course, it must be kept in mind that divine trials are not carried out by God with the purpose of discovering an unknown; on the contrary, the purpose of this divine act—trialing—refers to His creations—humanity, and the purpose is the development of our innate abilities and emergence of our inner treasures. Humanity, in the process of divine trials, is like an ore that is placed in a fiery furnace in order to separate its impurities and reveal its precious essence. Even so, sometimes divine trials are accomplished through ease and welfare.(2) Several Quranic verses indicate trialing humans through hardships and affliction, such as:

﴿و لَنبلونّکم بِشیءٍ مِنَ الخوفِ و الجُوعِ و نَقصٍ مِن الأَموالِ و الأَنفُسِ و الثَّمَراتِ و بَشِّر الصّابرین﴾

“And surely we shall try you with something of fear and hunger, and reduction of assets, lives, and produce; and give thou good tidings unto the patient.”(3)

Regarding God’s purpose in testing His servants through hardships, Imam ‘Alī (‘a) declares:

“As punishment of indecent behavior, God afflicts His servants with reduction of the fruits of trees, withholding rain, and closing off the cascade of blessings so that a repenter

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1- - Nahj ul-Balāghah, letter 45, p. 318.
2- - For more information, see: Sūrah Anbiyā’ 21:35.
3- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:155.

repents, and a sinner renounces his sins and a self-edifier becomes edified…”(1)

c) Awakening

One of the most important consequences of trials and tribulations is that they awaken humans from the slumber of negligence due to our immersion in worldly luxuries; they remind us of our important responsibilities regarding our Lord and transform our arrogance into humility and modesty. As an indication of this fact, the Holy Quran declares that the peoples of the prophets have always been confronted with difficulties so that they might renounce their disobedience and surrender to righteousness:

﴿و ما أَرسلنا فی قریَةٍ من نبیٍّ إِلّا أَخذنا أَهلَها بِالبَأساءِ و الضَّرّاءِ لَعَلَّهُم یَضَّرّعون﴾

“And We have sent no prophet to any city but that We burdened its people with hardship and affliction that haply they might weep [before Allah and be humble].”(2)

In addition, the Quran states that the calamities and hardships afflicted upon Pharaoh’s nation were admonitions to remind them of the truths they had neglected:

﴿و لقد أَخذنا آل فرعونَ بِالسِّنینَ و نَقصٍ مِن الثَّمراتِ لَعَلَّهُم یَذَّکّرونَ﴾

“And verily, we afflicted the people of the Pharaoh with drought and diminution of produce that haply they might be edified.”(3)

d) Appreciation of Divine Blessings

Another advantage of the existence of evils is that people realize the significance of divine blessings and are thankful for them because,

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1- - Nahj ul-Balāghah, sermon 143, p. 138.
2- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:94.
3- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:130.

“Only one who has been afflicted can appreciate health and ease”(1). Imam Ṣādiq has stated:

إِنّ هذِه الآفاتِ و إِن کانَت تَنالُ الصّالِحُ و الطّالِحُ جَمیعاً فَإِنَّ اللهَ جَعَلَ ذلِکَ صَلاحاً لِلصِّنفَینِ کلیهما أَمّا الصّالِحُونَ فإِنَّ الّذی یُصیبُهُم مِن هذا یَرُدُّهُم نِعَمَ رَبِّهم عِندَهُم فی سالِفِ أَیّامِهِم فَیحُدّوهُم ذلک عَلَی الشُّکرِ و الصَّبرِ.

“While both the righteous and the wicked are plagued with these blights, God has instituted them as reformation for both. The blights and calamities which befall the righteous cause them to appreciate the past blessings of their Lord and this leads them to thankfulness and patience.”(2)

So far, we have indicated several advantages and positive results of evil in the lives of humans. Here we shall discuss several general principles whose consideration will facilitate reaching the conclusions of this discourse.

1. Doubtless, the proportion of the knowledge of humanity before their ignorance is similar to the proportion of a raindrop before an endless ocean. Not only in the external world but also in the depths of our own beings there are still many untold secrets that we have yet to discover. Bearing in mind the limits of our knowledge, we cannot claim that we are aware of all the secrets and mysteries of what we call evil. Evils may have many advantages that we do not understand and evidently, not finding something is not a sure sign that it does not exist. Accordingly, wisdom dictates that we be more careful in our judgments because it is possible that what we deem evil is in fact good. The Quran reveals this truth beautifully by saying:

﴿و عَسَی أَن تَکرَهوا شیأً و هو خیرٌ لکم﴾

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1- - This is a Farsi proverb: “قدر عافیت کسی داند که به مصیبتی دچار آید”.
2- - Allāmah Majlisī, Biḥār al-Anwār, vol. 3, p. 139.

“And much it happens that you abhor something which is best for you.”(1)

While rendering this enameled circle full of patterns,

No one knows what He did in the revolution of the compass.(2)

2. The ultimate purpose of the creation of humanity is not that we occupy ourselves with indolence and leisure; rather, our main and ultimate purpose is attaining true bliss, which is not possible except through worship of God and achieving divine proximity. Therefore, one must not deem anything that is in conflict with one’s welfare and ease, contrary to wisdom and the purpose of creation because our eternal bliss and salvation habitually depends on enduring hardships and harshness. Therefore, consideration of the true purpose of the creation of humanity is a fundamental factor in analyzing the relationship of evils with divine wisdom. Consideration of this purpose results in a more comprehensive and realistic picture of reality.

3. Another important point that must not be neglected is the influence of the actions of people themselves in originating various evils. Humans are volitive creatures, and according to the law of causality, some of their volitional actions resulting from incorrect choices may cause or intensify various calamities and tragedies. Consequently, sometimes people bring about evil for themselves and others; however, due to unawareness of the relationship between their own actions and the results, they use the results of their actions as an excuse to challenge divine wisdom. Alas, “A self-inflictor cannot complain”.(3)

The Quran also warns of the effects of human actions in creating unpleasant incidents:

﴿ظَهَرَ الفَسادُ فی البرّ و البحرِ بما کَسَبَت أَیدی النَّاس﴾

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1- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:216.
2- - آنکه پر نقش زد این دایره مینایی کس ندانست که در گردش پرگار چه کرد
3- - This is a Farsi proverb: “خودکرده را تدبیر نیست”.

“Corruption has appeared in land and sea for that which humans have done by their own hands.”(1)

4. A final point is that it may be that not all the advantages of the existence of evils can be found in every evil. However, despite the fact that this may be due to our lack of understanding, it does not harm our claim because, even if one advantage can be found for each unpleasant phenomenon, the challenge of incompatibility of evil and divine wisdom would become void.

7. Divine Justice

The justness of God is one of the important pillars of Islamic theology and is also one of God’s attributes. Because of its unique prominence and importance, divine justice has a special position in Islamic belief. This importance is so great that divine justice is regarded as one of the five main tenets of Shi’ism. Justice is intricately related to the genetic [takwīnī] order of existence and divine legislation. The acceptance or negation of divine justice results in a fundamental difference in one’s ideology. Furthermore, belief in the justness of God is one of the bases of proving the resurrection, and recompense and retribution in the afterlife. Additionally, belief in the justice of God strengthens humanity’s resolve to establish a just social system and confront manifestations of evil and oppression.

The Definition of Justice

Justice has been defined in many ways including “observance of equality and avoidance of discrimination” or “observing the rights of others”. However, sometimes justice has a more general meaning that is inclusive of these definitions: “placing people and objects in suitable positions”. This definition can be extracted from the following Hadith of Imam ‘Alī (‘a):

العدل یَضَع الامورَ مواضعها.

“Justice sets everything in its place”.(2)

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1- - Sūrah Rūm 30:41.
2- - Nahj ul-Balāghah, wise saying 437.

The basis of this statement is that everything in the world has a proper station and justice is the observance of this proportion and the positioning of everything in its appropriate place.

Therefore, divine justice is such that God deals with all of His creations as they merit, sets them in their worthy station, and provides them as they deserve.

General Categorization of Divine Justice

To explain the range of divine justice and facilitate understanding of this discourse, we shall divide divine justice into three main branches:

1. Genetic Justice [‘adl-e takwīnī]:

God blesses every being with favors according to its eligibility and does not waste any talents or abilities. In other words, the genetic justice of God requires that He impart upon each of His creations to the extent of their capacities and bestow perfections upon them according to their abilities and aptitude.

2. Legislative Justice [‘adl-e tashrī‘ī]:

God does not neglect ordaining laws and duties that are essential to the eternal bliss of humankind. Additionally, He does not give any person an obligation beyond their abilities and tolerance. Thus, divine legislation is just in relation to both these facts.

3. Compensational Justice [‘adl-e jazā’ī]:

God ordains the recompense of each person in proportion with his or her deeds. Thus, God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. The compensational justice of God requires that no one be penalized for a duty that was not imparted. Some divine rewards and punishments are realized in this world and the rest are realized in the afterworld.(1)

Divine Justice in the Holy Quran

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1- - It is worthy of note that divine legislative and compensational justice do not solely pertain to humans; rather, they include all responsible beings. Even so, usually the main stress of this discussion is the justness of God regarding humanity. Additionally, according to the genetic relationship of retribution in the afterlife with humankind’s deeds, it can be declared that, ultimately, the compensational justice of God is a subdivision of His genetic justice.

The Quran indicates divine justice through negation of cruelty and oppression; God does not oppress any person:

﴿إِنَّ الله لا یظلِمُ النّاسَ شیئاً و لکنَّ النّاسَ أَنفُسَهم یظلمون﴾

“Surely, Allah in no way wrongs people; yet humans wrong themselves.”(1)

At times, the Quran speaks of Justice in a more general manner:

﴿و ما اللهُ یریدُ ظلماً للعالمین﴾

“And Allah wishes no wrong upon the inhabitants of the world.”(2)

Also, some Quranic verses speak of the legislative justice of God:

﴿و لانُکلِّفُ نَفساً إِلّا وُسعَها و لَدینا کِتابٌ یَنطقُ بالحقِّ، و هُم لا یُظلمونَ﴾

“And We charge not any soul, save to its capacity and with Us is a Book speaking truth; and they shall not be wronged.”(3)

And some verses testify to the compensational justice of God:

﴿و نَضَعُ الموازینَ القِسطَ لِیومِ القِیامَةِ فلا تُظلَمُ نفسٌ شیئاً﴾

“And we shall set up the scales of justice for the Day of Judgment so that no soul will be wronged in any way.”(4)

﴿و ما کنّا مُعذّبینَ حتّی نبعثَ رسولاً﴾

“And We shall not chastise before We send forth a messenger.”(5)

Several Questions and Answers regarding Theodicy

Several Questions and Answers regarding Theodicy(6)

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1- - Sūrah Yūnus 10:44.
2- - Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:108.
3- - Sūrah Mu’minūn 23:62.
4- - Sūrah Anbīyā’ 21:47.
5- - Sūrah Isrā’ 17:15.
6- - Theodicy is the philosophic science of vindication of divine justice in view of the existence of evil. [Trans.]

Various questions have been proposed regarding divine justice and reaching rational answers to these may fortify one’s belief in the justness of God. Here, we shall elucidate several of the major questions and answers:

a) Difference or Discrimination?

Is the existence of differences between beings compatible with divine justice? Why has God created some as humans and others as plants or animals? Moreover, why has He deprived plants, animals, and inanimate beings of the blessing of being human? Why are some people sighted and others blind? Why are some beautiful and others ugly? Why are some intelligent and others obtuse? Are these differences not types of discriminations or unjustness regarding some of God’s creatures?

In order to arrive at a succinct answer to these questions one must study the world of creation and its characteristics. As a result of such study, it is easily realized that there are unalterable laws and perfect order governing the world that cannot be dissociated from it. To state matters differently, a world cannot exist with different general laws just as there cannot be non-sweet sugar or non-liquid water. On the other hand, we observe that incommutable laws require differences between entities. For instance, let us consider the general law of causality: according to this law, every effect is deficient when compared with its cause; in other words, cause and effect are necessarily dissimilar regarding their existential perfections and the existence of an effect that is completely similar to its cause or more perfect than its cause is not possible. Additionally, the principle of consistency and congruency between cause and effect requires that if the cause of emergence of a plant or birth of a malformed child comes to pass, the effect corresponding to the cause must surely come about (i.e. the plant or malformed child). Moreover, one must not expect for instance, that a human being emerge from a seed planted in the earth or that the cause of a malformed child result in a healthy child.

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In short, the existence of various types of differences—typical, racial, individual, characteristic, etc.—between the creations of God is an inseparable condition of laws that cannot be altered or removed from the world. In addition, as we have stated about the second definition of divine wisdom, this world—with all its characteristics and laws—is the best of all possible worlds.

It is clear from the discussion that genetic [takwīnī] dissimilarities between creations are in no way discriminations. Discrimination occurs when two objects have an equal capacity to receive benefit, but this benefit is only bestowed upon one of the two; however, the fact that some beings do not receive various perfections is due to the laws governing existence; basically, they do not have the capacity to attain such perfections. To state the matter differently, God is infinitely gracious, but the capacity and abilities of His creatures are limited. This restriction is an impartible quality of the world.

Consequently, divine justice tolerates the genetic [takwīnī] differences of creatures because these differences do not result in evil or discrimination.

b) Death and Nonexistence

Another question regarding divine justice involves death: Why must we become nonexistent and deprived of life after tasting the pleasures of life and longing for immortality? Is this situation consistent with God’s justice?

In short, we can answer: Death is an inextricable requirement of life in the natural world and a being that prospers in nature cannot stay in it indefinitely. That is to say, the term “perpetuity in nature” is self-contradictory. In addition, death is not the end of our existence; rather, it is a transition from one world to the next. Death is the end of a part of our lives and the start of another. Therefore, there is no unjust aspect to death.

c) Commensurability of Sins with Retribution

The previous questions concern the genetic justice [‘adl-e takwīnī] of God; however, this question relates to His compensational justice. The basis of this question is that rationally, the commensurability between a crime and its punishment must be observed. Accordingly, it is not fair for instance that a person who has committed a driving infraction

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be treated in the same way as a murderer. However, God has ordained heavy punishments in the afterlife for various sins. For example, according to the Quran, the punishment of a person who intentionally kills a believer is eternal damnation. Here it can be asked: Are punishments in the afterlife—that are not consistent with the sins and transgressions of God’s servants either temporally or qualitatively—compatible with divine justice?

The answer to this question requires contemplation of the nature of punishments in the afterlife. The truth is that afterworld retribution is fundamentally different from the conventional punishments in this world. The quality and quantity of conventional punishments are determined by legislations and conventions; this is why various juridical systems assign differing punishments for identical crimes. For instance, in one juridical system, the punishment of murder may be execution, while another juridical system may at most sentence a murderer to life imprisonment. However, afterworld retribution is not a conventional affair. It is the genetic [takwīnī] and necessary result of the deeds of criminals. More precisely, it is the manifestation of the true nature of sins—the embodiment of one’s deeds. Therefore, speaking of incommensurability or unjust severity is irrelevant. Accordingly, in the same manner that the apparently simple and quick act of drinking poison has serious and long term consequences,—such as long-term illness or eternal deprivation of worldly life—in addition to their negative worldly consequences, our sins have inescapable results that will manifest in the afterlife. More accurately, the truths regarding sins are revealed in the next world, which is the place of manifestation of truths and expulsion of veils.

d) Divine Justice and Human Suffering

Another question about divine justice is concerned with the pain and suffering of humans. Is the pain and suffering that result from calamities, hardships, illnesses, etc. congruous with God’s justice?

In order to answer this question concisely, we will first divide the pain and suffering of humanity into two groups:

1. Some suffering and hardships rise from wicked deeds and are the inevitable result of our own mistakes. Due to the sagacious purpose of our genesis, humankind has been created with volition. People make mistakes through misuse of their free will and thus they become

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trapped within the consequences. It is evident that this sort of pain and suffering that is a product of our own deeds, in no way contradicts divine justice. As we have stated in the discussion on wisdom, the Quran also regards many of humanity’s problems as the fruit of their own deeds.

2. Some of humankind’s tribulations are not the results of their own deeds and are not worldly retributions for their sins, such as the suffering of innocent children or the atrocities that befall innocents on account of wars imposed by others. We Muslims believe that divine justice requires that reparations be made for these sufferings in some way—whether in this world or the next. In other words, in this world or in the afterlife, God will bestow upon those who were afflicted blessings greater than their suffering and in this way, He will more than compensate for humanity’s misery and adversity. Thus, it is clear that humankind’s worldly suffering does not damage the countenance of divine justice.

Apophatic Attributes [ṣifat-e salbī]

Thus far, we have reviewed the cataphatic attributes [ṣifat-e thubūtī] of God. Now it is time to consider God’s apophatic attributes. In order to keep this discussion short, we must inevitably suffice with several of the more important attributes.

1. Negation of Corporeality

One of the most important apophatic attributes of God is His incorporeality. The Divine Essence is pure of being material and corporeal. This is because all of corporeality possesses dimensions such as length, breadth, and height and thus they have a combination of qualitative components. Consequently, all corporeal creatures are compound, whereas in the discussion of divine unity we explained that God is monad and indivisible and that basically it is not possible for the Divine Essence to be compound. As a result, the corporeality of God is impossible.

2. Transcendence of Space and Direction

God cannot be situated in a specific position and is not a spatial entity occupying space or location. A more evident reason for this claim is that occupying space and being placed in a certain locality are material qualities, whereas God is immaterial. The Holy Quran indicates this apophatic attribute in this manner:

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﴿و للهِ المشرقُ و المغربُ، فأَینما تُولّوا فَثمَّ وجهُ الله﴾

“And to Allah belong the east and west; whithersoever you turn is facing Allah.”(1)

It seems that the purport of east and west in this verse are not the two popular geographical directions; instead, this phrase is an allusion to all directions and the phrase “whithersoever you turn is facing God” indicates that God is present in all places and directions. The Divine Essence is not compound and has no components; therefore, His presence in all places cannot mean that He occupies all space and directions because material and sensorial occupation of direction and space requires that He be compound. Thus, His being everywhere means that He transcends direction and space.

The purport of this verse also suggests the negation of God’s materiality: Since two objects cannot occupy the same space, the presence of God throughout the material and corporeal world, which is full of a variety of objects, is true only if God is an immaterial entity.

3. Negation of Incarnation

God cannot be embodied in any physical form. Therefore, according to Islamic belief, all perspectives that regard God as a type of incarnation in natural beings or as various humans are invalid and untrue. A short reasoning for the verity of this apophatic attribute for God is that—bearing in mind the reasoning for divine Unity—the incarnation of God in others requires that the Divine Essence become restricted and it necessitates His need of the assumed space. However, God has an illimitable existence, He is All-sufficient, and no need can be conceived for Him.

4. Negation of Unity with Others

God does not unite with other beings. A reason for this claim is that if the figurative sense of unity is intended—signifying combination of two objects or alteration of an object’s form—this requires reaction, transformation, and the state of being compound whereas the Sacred

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1- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:115.

Divine Essence is pure of these affairs because these conditions necessitate imperfection and need. However, if the true meaning of unity is intended—meaning synthesis of two essences to form a single essence—this is impossible not only for God but for any two beings.

5. Negation of Visual Perception

Visual perception of God is impossible in both this world and the next. Seeing an object with one’s eyes requires that the object be situated before our eyes—while maintaining special physical conditions. Such an encounter would involve the positioning of the object in a specific location. Thus, the visibility of an object necessitates possession of locality, while God, the Divine, is pure of orientation.

Yea, sensory perception of God is impossible by optical perception; however, spiritual perception, meaning intuition of the beauty and majesty of God is possible and attainable.

Your countenance may only be seen by spiritual eyes;

Which are not comparable to my worldly eyes.(1)

The Quran explicitly stresses the impossibility of optical perception of God:

﴿لا تُدرکه الأَبصارُ و هو یُدرکُ الأَبصار﴾

“Eyes realize Him not, but He realizes all eyes.”(2)

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1- - دیدن روی تو را دیدة جان بین باید وین کجا مرتبة چشم جهان بین من است
2- - Sūrah An‘ām 6:103, also see: Sūrah A‘rāf 7:143.

Section Three: Anthropology


The human race is mysterious and mystifying. The various aspects of existence are more profound than can be understood. Despite constant endeavor throughout history to solve the riddle of humanity’s existence, there are still incalculable unrevealed mysteries. Even now that we stand upon the heights of a multitude of anthropological studies and research, we are still faced with a number of ambiguities. It is astonishing that with the development of these studies still more unconsidered perplexities unfold.

Appreciation of the importance of anthropology does not require much explanation or emphasis. The major difference between anthropology and other fields of research is that in anthropology the problem is not understanding it, but understanding me. Thus, any results from anthropological research can be greatly effective in our interpretation of the philosophy of life, our own status in existence, and our relationship with other elements of existence. In this way, anthropological research can give our lives special meaning. From this perspective, there is an irrefutable difference between understanding humankind and understanding a type of plant or animal or faraway star. In addition, many current theories and debates regarding various branches of science are based on specific anthropological hypotheses. For example, the many theories in education are established on a particular portrayal of the human race and its abilities and potentials.

Various Branches of Anthropology

Despite their astonishing variety, the different discussions in anthropology may be classified into the four spheres of scientific, philosophical, theosophical, and theological anthropology. These four

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branches may also differ in their principles and methods of research.(1)

Nonetheless, it seems that comprehensive understanding of humanity cannot come about without considering the findings of all these divisions. In this treatise, our object of debate is mostly Islamic anthropology. In view of the remarkable comprehensiveness of the Islamic principles and teachings that are related to understanding humanity, we shall endeavor to present a short representation of Islam’s view of humankind by selecting a few major issues.

The Importance of Anthropology

In addition to the general aspects of the importance of understanding human nature, anthropology is especially significant from the religious perspective. The understanding of humanity and the mysteries of its being open up new doorways to understanding God. Humans are the only creation that can be the manifestation and absolute mirror of the Supreme Truth. Thus, similar to the exterior world, our inner being is also a focus of divine signs:

﴿سَنُریهم آیاتِنا فی الآفاقِ و فی أَنفسِهم حتّی یَتبیّن لهم أَنَّه الحقّ﴾

“We shall soon reveal unto them Our signs in the horizons and in themselves, till it is clear to them that He is the Supreme Truth (that it is the truth).”(2)

Moreover, the Quran considers neglecting oneself concomitant with neglecting God:

﴿نَسُوا اللهَ فَأَنساهُم أَنفسَهم﴾

“They forgot Allah so He caused them to forget themselves.”(3)

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1- - The main methods in scientific, philosophical, and theosophical anthropology are respectively empirical, theoretical, and intuitional. Theological anthropology is based on referral to original texts of religion. Additionally, in general, scientific anthropology mostly endeavors to answer specific and detailed questions, while in the other approaches we are faced with questions that are more fundamental.
2- - Sūrah Fuṣṣilat (Ḥā Mīm) 41:53.
3- - Sūrah Ḥashr 59:19.

Various Hadiths also emphasize this concomitance.(1) Additionally, anthropology has an intricate relationship with other Islamic ideological—like prophethood and resurrection—, moral and jurisprudential [fiqhī] teachings such that correct understanding of these teachings cannot be realized without understanding humanity.

The Creation of the Human Race

According to Islamic belief, all humans that have ever existed, regardless of their racial, cultural, lingual, and other differences have arisen from a single and common origin. In the beginning, God created a single man and woman and the rest of humankind were born of their filiation. Thus, through consecutive generations, the number of humans slowly increased:

“O People! Be pious towards your Lord, who created you from a single soul (person), and from it created its mate, and scattered from them many men and women.”(2)

Accordingly, some Quranic verses call humans the children of Adam and in this way the Quran stresses their relationship with the first link in humanity’s history.(3) Also, in several verses it is emphasized that Adam (‘a), who was the first human to lay foot on earth, has been created differently than the creation of his children because, in contrast to his descendants, he has not been born through the coupling of a man and woman. Like many other truths in existence, the manner of genesis of the first human is hidden from us. We know nothing more than the fact that the original substance from which the human race was created is what the Quran terms dust (turāb) or clay (ṭīn):

﴿إِذ قالَ ربّک للملائکةِ إِنی خالقٌ بشراً من طینٍ﴾

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1- - See: ‘Allāmah Majlisī, Baḥār al-Anwār, vol. 2, p. 32.
2- - Sūrah Nisā’ 4:1.
3- - For examples of these Quranic verses, see: Sūrah A‘rāf 7:26, 27; Sūrah Isrā’ 17:70; and Sūrah Yāsīn 36:60.

“When thy Lord said unto the angels: Verily, I shall create a human from clay.”(1)

According to this, we can say that the Quran denounces theories that regard humanity as an evolved product of animals or humanoid beings.(2)

God’s unique genesis of the first human shows an aspect of humanity’s intrinsic greatness and their supremacy over all other creatures in existence.

Aspects of Humanity’s Being

According to the Islamic perspective, humankind is not a completely material and natural creature. In fact, humanity’s existence consists of a material aspect—the body—and an incorporeal aspect—the spirit or soul. Regarding the inception of humans, the Holy Quran declares that after the completion of several stages in the formation of the fetus, a new stage begins that is related to their incorporeal aspect:

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1- - Sūrah Ṣād 38:71. For further examples, see: Sūrah Sajdah 32:7; and Sūrah A‘rāf 7:12. Various Quranic verses speak of “dirt” (such as Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:59) or “water” (such as Sūrah Furqān 25:54) or similar terms (Sūrah Ḥijr 15:28, 15:33).
2- - On occasion, it is thought that religious teachings regarding the creation of the first human contradicts Charles Darwin’s (1809-1882) theory of evolution through natural selection. Discussing the relationship of these two viewpoints requires an independent discussion. Here we shall suffice with three points: a. Even though the theory of evolution, which is based upon natural selection, reveals truths regarding the evolution of various types of plants and animals, there are no consistent scientific rationales in favor of extending this theory to include humankind. In fact, with regard to the special distinctions of humans compared to advanced types of animals—such as simians—, numerous attestations repudiate this extension and render it unscientific and illegitimate. b. The existence of fossils and other millions-of-year-old relics from humanoids cannot confirm the application of Darwin’s theory to humans. This is because the extreme probability has been proposed that humanoids have existed and become extinct before the introduction of humans—who have had an entirely different and independent genesis. c. We cannot disregard a religious standpoint that is clearly based upon Quranic verses that speak of the unique genesis of Adam and humanity’s link to him on account of a scientific theory that has many critics even within the biologists’ society.

“Then of the sperm We created a blood-clot, next of the blood-clot We created tissue, and then of the tissue We created bones, afterwards We covered the bones with flesh, and then We originated within it a different existence.”(1)

Even though the qualities of this new existence are not revealed, the difference in phrasing and the use of the verb “انشأنا” (we originated) instead of “خلقنا” (we created) is a subtle indication of the fundamental difference between the respective stage and the previous stages— which were all concerned with humanity’s material aspect. Therefore, many exegetes consider this verse to be a testimony of the creation of the human spiritual gem.

Also in several Quranic verses, the creation of the spiritual and immaterial aspect of humanity is termed breath of spirit:

﴿ثمّ سوّاه و نَفَخَ فیه من روحِهِ﴾

“Then He shaped it and breathed in it of His spirit.”(2)

According to this verse, after God brings order to the creation of the fetus, and makes its body well proportioned and balanced, He breathes spirit(3) into its body.

The nature of humanity’s spirit is a complex and controversial issue.(4) According to several Quranic verses, it seems that after death the soul

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1- - Sūrah Mu’minūn 23:14.
2- - Sūrah Sajdah 32:9.
3- - The compound structure “روحه” (His spirit) is not a possessive compound but a “reverence compound”. In this type of compound, in order to show reverence and the lofty rank of an object, the object is attributed to one of great standing and honor. Thus, the attribution of spirit to God—like similar cases such as “بیت الله” (the House of God—the holy Kaaba) or “ثار الله” (the Blood of God—attributed to Imam Hussaīn (‘a))— states the reverence and greatness of the spirit among the creations of God.
4- - Many Moslem thinkers regard the spirit as incorporeal and immaterial and others believe it is a type of “subtle body” that is different in several qualities from the material body.

continues its life independent of its corporeal body.(1) Since the endurance of the spirit after the body’s extinction entails the continuity of one’s existence, it is clear that between the two aspects of humanity’s being, their spiritual gem has authenticity; this gem forms the essence of each human and it is usually interpreted as “me”.

Of course, the existential independence of the spirit from the body after death does not mean that there is no true relationship between these two. In fact, as long as persons live in the natural world their body and soul are correlated and are affected by each other. Based on this correlation, religious teachings obligate us to protect the sanctity of both aspects. Thus, we must be utterly protective of our body and utilize it in the best possible manner on the path of attaining salvation and bliss.(2)

The advantages of humanity’s nature, especially those that originate from the spiritual aspect, have provided them with an elite status in the expansive world of existence. Humans, in the core of their essence, are superior not only superior to animals, but also to all of God’s creations.

Humans and Animals

The material aspect of humankind has many similarities to animals. However, our spiritual aspect has profound differences that affect our beliefs and propensities.

Humans are both superior to animals in their understanding and in the instruments and sources of their understanding. In addition, our cognitive system, regarding its qualities and applications, is far more complex than the faculties of animal cognitive systems. Animal cognition is restricted to a collection of sensory data which humans share but to which they are not restricted. In addition to the senses, humankind is also equipped with the intellect—something that

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1- - This includes verses that term human death tawaffā “توفّی” (such as Sūrah Sajdah 32:11; Sūrah An‘ām 6:61; Sūrah Naḥl 16:70; etc.)
2- - Many profound matters may be discussed on the relationship of the body and soul, their qualities, the genetic antecedence of the soul over the body, and the materiality or spirituality of the ego. These discussions have been omitted for the sake of brevity.

animals do not enjoy.(1) Through deliberation, humans are able to understand more general concepts and laws of nature; they can discern the depth and core of a thing by studying its exterior; and can discover the relationships of apparently unassociated and scattered phenomena. Logic, philosophy, and even the disparate branches of empirical science would never have been conceived without the employment of intellect.

Moreover, humans possess various spiritual (non-material) aspirations that animals do no have. These are as follows:

1. The Aspiration for Knowledge:

Humans are naturally scholarly and inquisitive and the propensity to know is fused deep within their souls. Amazingly, human curiosity is not restricted to sciences that directly concern their daily lives. In fact, discovering new truths is always fascinating to humans. Knowledge and awareness is always appealing and desirable to the human race. In short, due to their inner calling, humans flee from ignorance and tend towards knowledge and awareness.

2. The Aspiration for Beauty:

Another of humanity’s spiritual inclinations is fondness of beauty and aesthetics. All humans prefer beauty to ugliness. Our beauty and the beauty of our living environment and the objects with which we relate are important to us. In contrast, animals only endeavor to resolve their instinctive needs. Gorgeous features, attractive scenery, beautiful homes, etc. are meaningless to them. Throughout history, aesthetical tendencies have been the source of timeless masterpieces and various spiritual disciplines.

3. Moral Aspiration:

One of humanity’s most elevated spiritual features is their ethics. Humans organize many of their deeds within the framework of moral standards and principles. Ethics has a decisive effect upon one’s motives and behavior. Good and evil, and obligation and constraint

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1- - In truth, we have no direct or firsthand knowledge of the perceptions of animals. All our judgments regarding this issue are solely based on observation of various signs and effects. Based on these observations, there is no doubt that animals do not enjoy intellectual thought in the manner that humans do.

have no meaning to an animal, whereas moral good and evil, and duties and restrictions are the criterion for assessment and evaluation of a person’s deeds.

According to Islamic belief, understanding good and evil, and understanding the system of morals is amalgamated in humanity’s being:(1)

﴿و نَفسٍ و ما سَوّاها. فَألْهَمَها فجورها و تقواها﴾

“By the soul and He who shaped it and then inspired it [with the understanding of] its lewdnesses and pieties.”(2)

Also due to their nature, humans tend toward engaging in good and are inclined against committing evils:

﴿وَ ل_کِنَّ اللهَ حَبَّبَ إِلیکم الایمانَ و زیَّنَه فی قلوبکم و کَرَّه إِلیکم الکفرَ و الفسوقَ و العصیان﴾

“But Allah has endeared to you faith and has beautified it within your hearts, and He has made repulsive to you unbelief and transgression and disobedience.”(3)

Thus, disposition toward moral virtues is another quality that has made humankind superior to animals.

4. Aspiration to Worship:

Propensity towards worship and veneration of a divine being is another of humanity’s spiritual features. Historical investigations show that from long ago, humans have been familiar with worship and adulation. The unique feeling of this disposition is so powerful and extensive that even deniers who boast of irreligion are not free of some type of exaltation and worship. Thus, prophets were not the initiators of worship and veneration. In fact, their duty was to show

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1- - Understanding good and evil and moral prerequisites and stipulations is in fact a part of humanity’s unique percipience; something that does not exist in animals. Even so, we mentioned this issue because of its close rapport with the discussion at hand.
2- - Sūrah Shams 91:7-8.
3- - Sūrah Ḥujurāt 49:7.

the correct method of worship and present humanity’s religious feeling with a worthy orientation.

The Elect of Creation

Not only is the human race superior to animals, but in light of their various attributes and distinctions, humans possess a lofty and privileged status in contrast to the whole of creation. Here we shall enumerate several of these distinctions:

1. God’s Vicegerent [Khalīfah] upon the Earth

Humans are the only beings who—because of their impressive existential capacities—hold the status of divine vicegerency. While quoting a discussion between God and the angels, the Holy Quran reminisces of the creation of humans, which was carried out in order for them to be His representative upon the earth:

﴿و إِذ قال ربّک للملائکةِ إِنّی جاعلٌ فی الأَرض خلیفةً﴾

“And when thy Lord said unto the angels: Verily, I shall set a viceroy upon the earth.”(1)

Various indications within this verse show that divine vicegerency is not specific to Adam (‘a) and includes all human beings.(2) Additionally, when contemplating the meaning of khalīfah we realize that the humans are the only beings that can become the best possible manifestation of divine attributes of perfection and a symbol of His absolute good and beauty throughout the entire Creation. This is because khalīfahs or vicegerents are, in all aspects, representative of the office that appointed them. Therefore, the selection of humanity for this office indicates their genetic [takwīnī] potential and immense capacity for reaching perfection.

2. The Highest Capacity for Knowledge:

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1- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:30.
2- - The use of a substantive sentence, “إِنّی جاعلٌ...”, which indicates continuity, and also the objections of the angels regarding the immorality and bloodshed of humans upon the earth show that the topic of the debate between God and the angels involved the establishment of the human species.

The Quran states that God taught Adam a special knowledge of which the angels were ignorant. After they professed their ignorance, God ordered Adam (‘a) to teach the angles some of this unique knowledge:

“And He taught Adam [the knowledge of] the Names, all of them, then He presented them upon the angels and said: ‘Explain to Me these names, if thou speak truly.’ They said: ‘Glory be unto Thee! We have no knowledge save what Thou hast taught us. Surely Thou art the All-knowing, the All-wise.’ He said: ‘O Adam! Explain unto them their names.’”(1)

We do not completely know the truth of what it means to know “the Names”. Even so, it seems that knowing the Names does not merely mean understanding various words, but awareness of general truths in which all of humanity’s knowledge is rooted and which is attainable by God’s creations.

In any case, this verse indicates the awesome capacity for knowledge that humans possess. This potential makes humans worthy of the vicegerency of God on earth, and elevates them to the status of educator of angels.

3. Divine Trusteeship:

Humans are the only creatures who accepted the heavy burden of the divine trust:

“Surely We offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused to carry it and were afraid of it, but humans carried it; surely they are foolish wrongdoers.”(2)

Many exegetes consider this trust [amānah] a type of volition, duty, or perfection that is realized through the volitional choices of humans. No other creature carries the responsibility of its choices and its perfection; but humans are free in choosing between good and evil. Therefore, they hold responsibility for their own volitive actions.

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1- Sūrah Baqarah 2:31-33.
2- Sūrah Aḥzāb 33:72.

In any event, humans—like their Creator—have free will and through righteous use of their volition, they can attain perfections that the rest of God’s creations cannot enjoy; and this is another feature of humanity’s intrinsic superiority.

4. The World as Humankind’s Instrument

Another point that reveals the lofty status of humans in the world is that God has made the universe their instrument and has given control of other things in nature to them:

﴿أَلم تروا أَنّ اللهَ سَخّر لکم ما فی السّماوات و ما فی الأَرض و أَسبَغَ علیکم نِعَمَهُ ظاهرةً و باطنةً﴾

“Have you not seen that Allah has subjected to you all that is in the heavens and earth, and has lavished upon you His blessings, both manifest and hidden?”(1)

Yea, the philosophy of the world’s existence is to bring about a foundation in which humans can ascend towards worthy perfections and volitional intimacy with God. The whole world belongs to humans, so that they live for God and remember Him.

The clouds, winds, sun, and sky exist;

that you earn some bread and eat it not in neglect.

For you all are bewildered and obedient;

it would not be fair that you be not dutiful.(2)

5. Obeisance of the Angels:

After creating Adam (‘a), God ordered the angels to bow before him:

﴿و إِذ قلنا للملائکةِ اسجُدوا لآدم فسجدوا﴾

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1- Sūrah Luqmān 31:20.
2- - ابر و باد و مه و خورشید و فلک در کارند تا تو نانی به کف آری و به غفلت نخوری همه از بهر تو سرگشته و فرمانبردار شرط انصاف نباشد که تو فرمان نبری

“And when We said unto the angels: ‘Bow to Adam’, so they bowed.”(1)

Because Adam (‘a) is the manifestation of all of humanity’s existential potentials and abilities, obeisance of the angels reveals that, due to its unlimited capacities, humankind is superior even to the angels.

6. Humanity’s Inherent Honor:

The intrinsic abilities of humankind, some of which we indicated earlier, have caused them to be honored by God:

﴿و لقد کرّمنا بنی آدم﴾

“And truly We honored the children of Adam.”(2)

Doubtless, by this all-embracing honor, a sort of inherent honor was intended. Because of humanity’s unique abilities, this honor embraces all humans.(3) Accordingly, humankind is a lofty and elevated creature before God.

The Other Side of the Coin

Up to this point, humanity’s distinctions and merits have been discussed. However, the Holy Quran also has many critical verses regarding humanity and the enumeration of their faults and deficiencies: various Quranic verses introduce humans as foolish wrongdoers,(4) very ungrateful,(5) insubordinate and rebellious,(6) niggardly(7) and avaricious,(8) hasty and rash,(9) and the most disputatious of God’s creations. How is it that on one side, the Quran elevates

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1- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:34.
2- - Sūrah Isrā’ 17:70.
3- - In contrast, obtainable honor is a kind of honor that can only come about through faith and virtuous deeds. The highest ranks of this type of honor are specific to the truly pious.
4- - Sūrah Aḥzāb 33:72.
5- - Sūrah Ḥajj 22:66.
6- - Sūrah ‘Alaq 96:6.
7- - Sūrah Isrā’ 17:100.
8- - Sūrah Ma‘ārij 70:18.
9- - Sūrah Isrā’ 17:11

humans to the highest of ranks and on the other side, it dispraises them with the strongest of admonishments?

The truth is that there is no contradiction in the Quran’s laudations and criticisms of humans. This is because each of these laudations and criticisms addresses a specific aspect of humanity’s being. Humans are unique creatures that possess an existential comprehensiveness, because both celestial [malakūtī] and animalistic aspects exist within them. This richness originating from the essence and nature of humankind sets them in the highest echelon of Creation. This is because they have the capacity to attain the ultimate status of perfection by strengthening their celestial and empyrean aspects and harnessing their animalistic and ignoble facets. According to the religious perspective, because of this existential wealth, humankind is worthy of praise and are thoughtful and noble creatures. In contrast, if we only consider the base aspects of humankind and focus on their instinctive and natural necessities, we shall discover a being that deserves criticism and reproach. Persons who relinquish control to their instincts and carnality [shahwat] and whose intellects serve their animalistic instincts and tendencies would soon become avaricious, niggardly, ungrateful, rebellious, evildoers, etc. Sometimes, such humans advance so far on the path of animality that, according to the Quran, they become viler than beasts:

﴿اولئک کالأَنعام بل هم أَضلّ﴾

“They are like beasts; nay, rather, they are further astray.”(1)

Additionally, in various narrations [riwāyāt] after comparing humans with angels and animals, it is declared:

فمن غلب عقلهُ علی شهوتهِ فهو أَعلی مِن الملائکةِ و مَن غلبَت شهوتُه علی عقلِه فهو أَدنی مِن البَهائمِ.

“So whoever’s intellect prevails over their carnality is better than angels, and whoever’s carnality prevails over their intellect is lower than animals.”

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1- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:179.

Mawlānā versified the substance of this narration in his Mathnavī-e Ma‘navī (Spiritual Couplets):

Word has come that the Holy Creator;

Has created the creations of the world in three types.

One group’s existence is all intellect and knowledge;

These are the angels who know naught but worship.

In their essence, there is no want or passion;

They are pure light and live by the love of Allah.

Another type is void of knowledge;

It is called animal and is satiated by forage.

It sees naught but the stable and fodder;

It is unaware of wickedness and of honor.

And the third is humankind;

It is half angel and half donkey.

Its donkey half tends towards baseness;

The other half tends towards greatness.

And which will prevail in the battle of morality;

Of this pair which will win the backgammon?(1)

Compulsion or Free Will

So far, we made it clear that God has established great potentials and abilities within humanity’s being. Additionally, through use of their free will and correct choices, humans can realize their genetic

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1- -[2] در حدیث آمد که خلّاق مجید خلق عالم را سه گونه آفرید یک گُرُه را جمله عقل و علم وجود آن فرشته است و نداند جز سجود نیست اندر عنصرش حرص و هوا نور مطلق زنده از عشق خدا یک گروه دیگر از دانش تهی همچو حیوان از علف در فربهی او نبیند جز که اصطبل و علف از شقاوت غافل است و از شرف و آن سوم هست آدمیزاد و بشر از فرشته نیمی و نیمی ز خر نیم خر خود مایل سفلی بود نیم دیگر مایل عِلوی شود تا کدامین غالب آید در نبرد زین دوگانه تا کدامین بُرد نرد

[takwīnī] and inherent potentials and attain lofty ranks of perfection. However, do we humans truly possess this instrument of volition or is everything we do compulsory and enforced? In order to answer this question we must present a brief discussion on compulsion and volition, especially since various religious teachings sometimes reinforce belief in compulsion or determinism [jabr ingārī].

An Ancient Question

The issue of compulsion and volition is a very timeworn issue that has continually called humans to contemplation. The fundamental question is this: Do humans have free will in some of their deeds or do they have no volition whatsoever, making their actions compulsory? Volition means that a person’s behavior is based on their awareness, power, and will in such a way that they are able to abandon the said behavior. In other words, a volitional act is one which is founded upon the choice and selection of the agent and happens through one’s intention and decision. Of course, the fact that an action is volitional does not mean that it is committed with desire and relish because it often happens that an action is selected while contrary to the primary tendency of the agent but due to knowledge of its advantage, such as the sick who drink bitter medicine against their initial desire.

In any case, there have always been two general perspectives regarding the answer to this question: some advocate determinism [jabr ingārī] and believe that humans cannot commit true volitional actions and others favor free will or libertarianism [ikhtīyār] and believe that humans have volition in some of their deeds.(1)

Islamic Theology and Free Will

The issue of compulsion and volition can be analyzed from various aspects and approaches. Since this treatise does not have the capacity for an extensive discussion regarding this issue, we will merely

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1- - The existence of various involuntary actions in humans does not validate determinism and refute belief in free will and libertarianism. In fact, finding even one volitional action in humans can prove free will.

investigate in short several religious teachings regarding the relationship of divine attributes with determinism.(1)

Some people assume that various fundamentals of Islamic belief are incompatible with belief in free will and therefore by accepting these beliefs one must also believe in compulsion. In short, these fundamentals consist of (a) creational unity, (b) the past eternal knowledge of Allah, and (c) the generality of Allah’s will.

a. Unity in Creation:

In favor of determinism, it is stated that creational unity means that the sole Creator of all things is God. Thus, because human actions are also phenomena of the world of creation, the generality of the attribute of God’s creation includes human actions. Therefore, only God is the Creator of humanity’s deeds. That is, humans have no role in generating their own actions. In effect, there is no place for free will within humans.

In contrast, the correct meaning of creational unity is that the only independent creator that creates without the permission of a separate entity is God. Thus, creational unity does not negate the fact that other beings may be the origin of creation and fabrication through divine will and according to the general laws that He has ordained. Additionally, as we have previously stated, the Holy Quran has attributed origination and influence to God’s creations. Consequently, creational unity—according to its correct interpretation—is compatible with humanity’s role in their own deeds and does not result in determinism.

b. God’s Past Eternal Knowledge:

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1- - It is worthy of note that various rationales have been presented in verification of determinism. Some of these rationales are philosophical and others are based on psychological and sociological provisions. By referring to the physical characteristics of the human body, various determinists have claimed that no human action is truly volitional and free of physiological determinative factors. Thus, one may speak of the various approaches to determinism; such as the philosophic approach, the sociologic approach, etc. In this discourse, we shall discuss the Kalam approach that addresses the relationship of free will with various religious beliefs regarding the attributes of God.

Presented here is an abstract of the determinist rationale based on the past eternal knowledge of God: God knows beforehand what people will and will not do in the future. Additionally, the nonconformity of divine knowledge with external truths necessitates the alteration of divine knowledge to ignorance. To state matters differently, if God knows that a specific person will perform a specific action at a specific time, but that person abandons that action at that time, God’s knowledge would become ignorance because according to the assumption, that which was within God’s knowledge did not conform to actuality. However, the absolute knowledge of God requires that He know all events and phenomena as they truly are. Thus, performing an action that God knows will happen is necessary, and carrying out any action that God knows will not occur is impossible. As a result, human deeds are either necessary or impossible. Which means that none of our deeds is volitional; because the occurrence of the actions that we perform is necessary and not accomplishing them is impossible; also, the actions that we do not perform are impossible to execute and abandoning them is necessary.

In response to this rationale, we can declare, there is no doubt that God has foreknowledge of our actions, yet that which is recorded in divine knowledge is human actions complete with all their characteristics and conditions. Some of these characteristics include space and time elements and some pertain to the agent. One of the characteristics of volitional actions is that they emerge though volition and free choices. Therefore, the fact that God has foreknowledge of our volitional actions means that God knows that a specific person, utilizing their free will—not under compulsion—shall perform a specific action in a specific time and place. To state matters differently, if God knows that an individual shall perform an action at time A and location B, then performing that action becomes necessary at time A and location B and its occurrence at time B or location C would be impossible. Similarly, if God knows that a definite action shall be performed with volition, then that action must surely occur through volition. Therefore, it is clear that the necessity for the occurrence of volitional actions—according to God’s foreknowledge—is not only not contradictory to it being volitional, but it confirms it. Because God’s foreknowledge means that, the

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compulsory and involuntary occurrence of these actions is impossible.(1)

The conundrum [shubhah] of divine knowledge and free will, in addition to having complex expositions such as the one we presented, has simple and more general forms that are usually expressed using terms such as destiny or fate.

It is clear from the response we gave for this conundrum that terms such as destiny or fate do not mean that humans have no volition; rather that a person’s destiny is nothing more than the fact that the person shall perform their volitional actions with free will and their involuntary actions, involuntarily. In other words, destiny has two areas:

The domain outside volition: In this case, the duty of the believer is submission and contentment.

The domain of volitional actions: In this area, fate is not in conflict with our free will and choices. Thus, in this domain, humans are responsible for their actions.

c. Generality of the Divine Will:

Another of the Islamic principles of faith, which may seem to necessitate compulsion, is the Divine Will predominance principle: according to religious teachings and various Quranic verses,(2) nothing happens outside the all-encompassing sphere of the Divine Will. As a requirement of this principle, all actions and even feelings adhere to God’s will. In this case, is there any room left for free will?

The answer to this claim can be extracted from our previous discussion regarding the divine knowledge and human volition incompatibility conundrum. Here, God’s will does not involve the occurrence of actions in an absolute manner and free of conditions. In

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1- - In philosophical terms, the necessity for occurrence of a volitional action is of the same type of the necessity for occurrence of an effect whose sufficient cause is realized. In other words, when the sufficient cause for the occurrence of a volitional action is realized—including the external and internal conditions of the agent such as selection, choice, and will—its occurrence becomes necessary.
2- - For examples see: Sūrah Yūnus 10:100; and Sūrah Takwīr 81:29.

fact, His will requires that every effect be originated by an immediate cause while preserving all the conditions of the effect. Hence, in the same way that the Divine Will requires involuntary emanation of heat from fire, His will also requires that our volitional actions be accompanied by human knowledge, will, and volition. Therefore, realization of the Divine Will not only does not negate free will, it guaranties it.

These discussions reveal that if the religious teachings regarding divine attributes are correctly understood, they will not contradict the principle of free will.

Not only is the doctrine of free will able to answer all determinist conundrums, there are many verifications to its validity. These verifications are moral or intuitional in nature and are more or less available to everyone. On the whole, these proofs provide a secure foundation for free will: inner feeling and intuition of free will; indecision; legislating social laws, prohibitions, and ordinances; existence of instructive systems and penal codes and rewards; and regret for performing acts of evil are several of these proofs.(1) The

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1- - In various parts of the Mathnavī-e Ma‘navī (Spiritual Couplets), Maulānā has utilized these evidences and has regarded them as proofs of free will. Some of these verses include: a. Intuition of Free will: Doubtless, we have free will; feeling cannot refute it. Free will is hidden within us; when faced with a dilemma it is revealed. Intuition shows the same as feeling does; O brother, they both are of the same tier. (Book V) b. Indecision: That you ask yourself tomorrow, should I do this or that; this itself is proof of free will, O Idol! We are caught in indecision between two things; how can this indecision be involuntary? How can ‘should I do this or that’ happen, if one’s hands and feet are tied? (Book V) c. Ordering and Forbidding Others: No one tells a stone to come; and who would seek loyalty from a piece of clod? No one tells a stone that it has come late; or that O stick! Why have you struck me? Orders, forbiddance, wrath, respect, and retribution; go with nothing but free will, O true of heart! (Book V) d. System of Reward and Punishment: Teachers beat their pupils; would they ever punish a black stone? Would you ever tell a stone to come; and if not, I will punish the naughty? (Book V) e. Regretting Evil Deeds: Our weeping is a reason of free will; our embarrassment has become a reason for compulsion. If there is no free will, what is this shame; what are pity, humiliation, and modesty? If all was compulsion, who would be embarrassed; if all was injustice who would be guardian? (Book I)

consequential and extensive existence of these affairs in our individual and social lives has made even hard fatalists unable to refute free will in practice.

Quran and Free Will

There are many verses in the Holy Quran that directly or obliquely speak of humanity’s free will and its role in one’s deeds. For instance, the Quran has stressed the voluntariness of faith and disbelief—both of which are innate acts:

﴿و قل الحقُّ من ربّکم فَمن شاءَ فَلیؤمن و مَن شاءَ فَلیَکفر﴾

“And say: ‘The truth is from your Lord, so let whoever wills believe and whoever wills disbelieve.’”(1)

Additionally, verses that speak of testing and trialing humanity in their worldly life indicate their free will, since testing an agent without volition is futile.

﴿و نَبلوکم بالشَّر و الخَیر فتنةً و إِلینا تُرجَعون﴾

“And We shall try you with evil and goodness and surely, you shall return to Us.”(2)

Moreover, various Quranic verses inform of our responsibility towards our actions. Needless to say, only volitive agents may be held answerable.

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1- - Sūrah Kahf 18:29.
2- - Sūrah Anbīyā’ 21:35.

﴿وقِفُوهم إِنّهم مَسئُولون﴾

“And stop them for surely they are responsible.” (1)

Furthermore, all Quranic verses that pertain to recompense and retribution for the actions of humans either praise the righteous and criticize the wicked, speak of humankind’s injustice towards their souls, inform of appointing prophets or the establishment of religions, or include edicts and proscriptions. All these issues validate free will in some way because if there were no free will these Quranic verses would have no acceptable or coherent meaning.

In addition to the verses we have indicated, various verses speak of the generality of the Divine Will and its precedence over the will of humankind or the generality of divine knowledge. However, as we have previously stated, if the intent of these verses are correctly understood, there will be no inconsistency with the voluntariness of some of our deeds.

Human Perfection (Teleology)

Theological anthropology is not limited to the origin of humanity, the structure of its being, and its natural potentials. In fact, it includes a long eulogy regarding the purposes of humanity’s creation, the levels of its perfection, and the methods of attaining these perfections. It would not be an exaggeration to claim that all the scientific teachings of Islam, both in the spheres of religion and ethics, have been presented in order to guide humanity toward their highest state of perfection.

The perfection of an object gains meaning through the purposes of its existence. The closer a being comes to the purposes of its creation, the more complete it is. The purpose of the creation of humans, contrary to many other creations, can only be realized through conscious choices. This is why humanity’s perfection is volitive and must be obtained. In addition, because the ultimate objective of humanity’s existence has no limits, humans can attain unlimited levels of

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1- - Sūrah Sāffāt 37:24.

perfection. As a result, one can always speak of a more perfect person and thus the path of perfection has no journey’s end.

Of course, phrases such as walking the path of perfection do not mean that there is a path external to humanity’s being that brings them closer to the purpose of their creation; rather, here, the traveler—mystic—and path are one. In other words, humans’ path of perfection is “themselves”. Thus, transitive and immanent acts can only help one attain perfection if they affect one’s soul and cause it to transcend its respective status. Therefore, any external or unrelated affair to the human essence, such as fame, riches, and titles cannot bring about humanity’s true perfection. The Quran indicates this truth in a very subtle manner:

﴿هم درجات عند الله﴾

“They [have] ranks before Allah.”(1)

This assertion both indicates humanity’s various levels of perfection and also signifies that the source of this difference is not external to their own essence but it is they themselves that are the ranks and statuses. In other words, spiritual ranks are not like worldly conventional ranks to which one can be appointed or discharged; rather, each person is a rank and level of perfection.

The Quran regards the ultimate purpose or telos of humanity’s creation and the terminus of their perfection the attaining of the rank of God’s servant:

﴿و ما خلقتُ الجنَ و الإِنسَ إِلّا لیعبدون﴾

“And I have not created the jinn and humans except that they serve Me.”(2)

Thus, by increasing our servility towards God we become more complete. Servility towards God begins with outward humility and performing the sacred rites of religion. It progresses in synchrony with

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1- - Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:163.
2- - Sūrah Dhārīyāt 51:56.

love of God, understanding Him, and sincerity [ikhlāṣ] in one’s actions. Gradually, humans reach a position in which all their states, from their motives and thoughts, to their speech and deeds, become divine and their carnality [hawāye nafs] and materialism are altogether extinguished. In this state, our truth-discerning eyes are opened and we see the degrees of divine Unity through our hearts and discover the entire world as a manifestation of the names and attributes of the Supreme Truth. It has been narrated from Amir al-Mu’minīn, ‘Alī (‘a) that:

ما رأیتُ شیئاً إِلّا و رأیتُ الله قبلَه و معَه و بعدَه.

“I have never seen anything but that I saw God before it, with it, and after it.”(1)

As we have previously indicated, people are multidimensional beings. Therefore, their perfection requires that all of their existential aspects grow simultaneously and that all of their physical and spiritual potentials and capacities be employed in the best possible manner. In portraying the perfect human, the mundane doctrines only emphasize several specific aspects: some philosophers regard the perfection of humankind in the perfection of their intellect, and some mystics seek it in seclusion and ascesis [riyāẓat]. Others perceive furthering the conquest and exploitation of nature as a standard for human perfection. According to Islam, human perfection cannot be realized but through coordinated and simultaneous development of all human abilities, such that all talents are utilized on the path of servitude and intimacy with God.

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1- - ‘Ilm ul-Yaqīn, vol. 1, p. 49. Also according to Sa‘dī : رسد آدمی به جایی که به جز خدا نبیند بنگر که تا چه حد است مکان آدمیت Humans can reach the status that they see naught but God; Behold the greatness of humanity’s position. And Shaīkh Maḥmūd Shabastarī said in his book Gulshan-e Rāz: به نزد آنکه جانش در تجلّی است همه عالم کتاب حقْ تعالی است According to one whose whole being is infused with revelation; The whole world is the book of Divine Truth (God).

Islam’s perfect human does not become attached to the world or bewitched by it. In fact, perfect humans regard the phenomena of the natural world as divine signs and blessings and consider the world a plantation for reaping for the next world. According to their perspective, their material bodies are not cages but one of the gifts of their creation that must be utilized in the best possible manner. In addition, such persons do not retreat from society. Indeed, they regard being with people and helping their fellow humans a type of servitude and worship of God, which results in closer intimacy with God. They are also distressed and troubled at the pain and suffering of others. This is why the divine prophets and saints [awliyā’ ilāhī]—which are exalted examples of human perfection—have lived within the society and worried about the spiritual and material problems of their peoples and became heartsick at the transgressions that caused their peoples to go astray and the persecution and privation that troubled them. The Quran declares of our holy prophet (ṣ):

﴿لقد جاءکم رسولٌ من أَنفسکم عزیزٌ علیه ما عَنِتّم حریصٌ علیکم و بالمؤمنینَ رءوفٌ رحیمٌ﴾

“Surely, there has come to you a messenger from among yourselves; grievous to him is your suffering, anxious he is over your [guidance], to the believers [he is] gentle and compassionate.”(1)

Another manifestation of human perfection in Islam is contemplation. In many verses, the Quran enjoins us to contemplate and think. Doubtless, here the intended faculty for contemplation is not ‘instrumental’ reason, which is the foundation of industry and technology. This is because history clearly shows that there is no interdependence between industrial development and the exploitation of nature and humanity’s perfection in either their material or spiritual aspects. The contemplation that Islam regards as a precondition to perfection is the reflection upon the fundamental truths of the world that bring about a more complete state of self-knowledge and understanding of God. For example, we must contemplate the inherent

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1- - Sūrah Tawbah 9:128.

nature of humankind and the world, its origin and final destination, the status of humanity in the world, and our rights and obligations. Additionally, this contemplation must result in a foundation for conscious servitude towards God that is suffused with love and understanding. It must also strip the rust of ignorance and negligence from humanity’s heart and soul. According to various Hadith, such contemplation is greater than [heedless] worship, and is in fact the essence of meritorious worship:

تفکّر ساعة أَفضلُ من عبادة سبعین سنة.

“A moment’s thought is superior to seventy years of worship.”

و العقل ما عُبِد به الرحمن.

“And the intellect is that which is used to worship the Beneficent.”(1)

The intellect of faith is like a righteous person;

It is the guardian and ruler of the city of the heart.

That marvelous messenger said very beautifully;

A grain of your intellect is better than fasting and prayer.

This is because your intellect is essential and these two are incidental;

These two obligations complete that.(2)

There are many discussions about the attributes and manifestations of human perfection in Islam and the portrayal of the countenance of a perfect human is like the drawing of an exquisite painting that cannot be created without the use of hundreds of marvelous colors and unparalleled patterns. Here are several of the most notable qualities of a perfect human in one sentence. Perfect humans are self-knowing, god-knowing, contemplative, self-analyzing, faithful, pious, righteous,

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1- - Uṣūl-e Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 11.
2- - عقل ایمانی چو شخص عادل است پاسبان و حاکم شهر دل است بس نکو گفت آن رسول دلنواز ذره ای عقلت به از صوم و نماز زانکه عقلت جوهر است این دو عرض این دو تکمیل آن شد مفترض

monotheist in thought and practice, adorned with all virtues and divested of all ethical evils, suffused with love of God, possessed of love and compassion for all of God’s creatures, vigilant and heedful of the rights of the oppressed and deprived, true servants of God, nightly worshipers and daily toilers, predominant over their carnalities [shahawāt-e nafsānī], and utilizers of nature for divine purposes.

Of course, as we have previously stated, human perfection has unlimited stages. Therefore, the more extensive and deep-rooted a person can make these qualities within themselves, the higher the degree of perfection.

Worship and the Complete Human

One of the subtle and precious expressions of the human soul is worshiping a divine being, confiding in Him, and confessing one’s needs to Him [rāz wa nīyāz]. As we have stated earlier, humanity’s need and propensity for worship is one of the characteristics that make them superior to animals. One of the achievements of divine religions is that they respond to this need in the best possible manner by enjoining people to worship the true Deity and preventing worship of false gods.

Confiding one’s secrets and professing one’s needs to his Lord is one of the most beautiful expressions of worship. This is because in this state a person perceives their Lord more intimately than a person perceives any other; they regard Him worthy of their confidence; and with faith in His power, benevolence, and grace they profess their needs to Him. Praying to God, if done with love and purity of heart, and with the help of divine attraction [jazabah-ye ilāhī], can promote a person to such heights that even the angels cannot attain and can bless a person with unrivaled ecstasy and bliss.

The Quran enjoins humans to call upon God at all times. Also, it regards the true enlightened [Ulul-Albāb] to be those who do not forget God no matter what circumstances they have in their lives:

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﴿الّذین یذکرونَ الله قیاماً و قُعوداً و علی جنوبهم﴾

“Those who remember Allah while standing and sitting and lying on their sides.”(1)

Additionally, many Quranic verses enjoin people to ask for succor sincerely:

﴿هو الحیُّ لا إِله إِلّا هو فادعوه مخلصینَ له الدّین﴾

“He is the Living; there is no Allah but Him. So call upon Him, making your religion His sincerely.”(2)

Various Quranic verses advise worshiping God in private. It seems that in private, our soul is better prepared for spiritual connection with God and soaring towards the Heavens:

﴿ادعوا ربّکم تضرُّعاً و خفیةً، إِنّه لا یُحبُّ المُعتدین﴾

“Call upon your Lord, humbly and secretly; Surely, He loves not transgressors.”(3)

In addition to enjoining humankind to worshiping the One God, Islam sets specific standards for worship. Besides various Quranic verses that are themselves supplications or prayers,(4) we have inherited a legacy of valuable prayers [du‘ā] from the Infallibles (‘a). These prayers display the most beautiful features of worship, sincerity, love, and devotion. Even so, the most important Islamic worship is Ṣalāt (Farsi: Namāz)—the Muslim daily ritual prayer.

Ṣalāt, the Most Beautiful Aspect of Worshiping the Divine

Although the form of Ṣalāt is no more than a set of specific gestures and utterances, the reality of Ṣalāt is much more profound. In other

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1- - Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:191.
2- - Sūrah Ghāfir 40:65.
3- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:55.
4- - These verses generally begin with the term “ربّنا” (Our Lord!) and relate the substance of the supplications of prophets, saints, and the faithful [mu’minūn]. For examples, see: Sūrah Baqarah 2:201, 2:250; and Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:8-9, 3:16.

words, like humans, Ṣalāt also has a dual reality. Thus, we may speak of the ‘perfection of Ṣalāt’ and the ‘perfect Ṣalāt’. The form of Ṣalāt consists of precise actions and vocables, which must be preceded by specific preliminaries and special conditions. Religious jurisprudence [fiqh] discusses in detail the preliminaries, conditions, pillars [arkān], and elements of Ṣalāt. Observing the jurisprudential [fiqhī] edicts of Ṣalāt is the first condition to benefiting from its spiritual effects and blessings. However, transcending all these forms are hidden secrets and truths. These inner secrets have caused Ṣalāt to be one of the pillars of the Islamic religion(1) and have made it the ‘ascension [mi‘rāj] of the faithful [mu’min]’:

الصلاة معراج المؤمن.

“Ṣalāt is the ascension of the faithful.”

The more a person understands the secrets of the ritual prayer and reaches its depths, their Ṣalāt becomes more complete and perfect. Not only is the perfection of one’s Ṣalāt a sign of one’s perfection, it is in fact the practical manifestation of one’s perfection. During Ṣalāt, perfect humans lose all indications of egocentricity and selfishness and they become completely captivated by the beauty of the Deity.

While performing Ṣalāt I recalled the curve of your eyebrows;(2)

I attained a state in which I heard the shrine glorifying You.(3)

The depth and comprehensiveness of the ritual prayer is such that it can be regarded from many perspectives where its different effects and blessings can be analyzed. For example, academic specialists study the educative and moral effects of Ṣalāt, while psychoanalysts analyze its mental effects. One may also research the role of Ṣalāt in the Islamic society from a social perspective. However, mystics have a different frame of mind. The Gnostics of Truth and travelers on the

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1- - In many Hadiths, Salāt is enumerated as one of the five pillars of Islam.
2- - The curve of the eyebrows is symbolic of God’s characteristics.
3- - در نمازم خم ابروی تو در یاد آمد حالتی رفت که محراب به فریاد آمد

path of the Beloved observe Ṣalāt with penetrating eyes and an intuition that tears the veils of materiality, and thus expose spiritual and mystical secrets. Herein, we shall briefly explain various inner secrets of some preliminaries and elements of Ṣalāt.(1) May it guide us to deeper wisdom and understanding of worship.

Secrets of Ṣalāt

As we have indicated, Ṣalāt has various aspects, which begin with the most manifest of facets (uttering various words and performing assorted gestures) and develops endlessly in accordance with the spiritual status of the worshiper. What we shall indicate herein is a drop from the boundless ocean of Ṣalāt and a whisper of its unlimited degrees and untold secrets.

1. Wuḍū


The outward appearance of Wuḍū is washing and wiping [masḥ] various members of one’s body with clean and pure [pāk/muṭahar] water through which our external dirtiness is purged. The essence of Wuḍū, however, is cleansing of the heart and soul of the worshiper with the water of divine manifestations [tajalliyāt-e ilāhī]. Just as the water that descends from the sky can clean one’s body, the water of divine manifestations descends upon the hearts of worshipers and cleanses their heart and soul. By washing their face—i.e. manifest countenance—worshipers purify their hearts—i.e. spiritual countenance—of all thoughts but God. By washing their hands and arms, they wash themselves of worldliness. By wiping their head and feet, they prevent themselves from pondering the mundane world and walking the path of secularism.

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1- - Comprehensive exposition of the spiritual and mystical secrets of Ṣalāt may be found in the two books Sirr uṣ-Ṣalāt (The Secrets of Ṣalāt) and Ādāb uṣ-Ṣalāt (The Disciplines of the Prayer, The Institute for Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini’s Works, Intrnational Affairs Department, Publisher,1996) of the perfect mystic Imam Khomeini (r) and also Shahīd-e Thānī’s Ādāb uṣ-Ṣalāt. In light of the fact that Islamic theosophy [‘irfān] has a very technical language and contains esoteric theosophical terms, we shall endeavor to elucidate the secrets of Ṣalāt in simple terms as much as possible.
2- - Wuḍu is a type of ritual partial ablution that is a prerequisite to Ṣalāt. [trans.]
2. Call to Prayer [Adhān wa Iqāmah]

“Adhān” is an Arabic word meaning to announce and make aware and its outward aspect consists of announcing the time of Ṣalāt and inviting Moslems to gather for performing this divine ritual.

Moreover, “Iqāmah” means to set up or perform and its apparent facet is getting ready to perform Ṣalāt and inviting to the divine worship.

As for the spiritual meaning of Adhān, it is summoning all of existence to prepare to attend the presence of the Divine and announcing the good news of the time to appear before the presence of the Divine Oneness. Moreover, according to the illuminated [ahl-e ma‘rifat], Iqāmah is a call for all beings to present themselves before God and stand before Him. Adhān begins with four Takbīr (i.e. Allahu Akbar)(1) whose conspicuous meaning is professing the greatness and magnificence of God. Its inner meaning is professing our inability to properly understand and describe the truth of the Most Divine.(2) By saying Takbīr four times, the worshiper regards all the creatures of the external, internal, and ethereal worlds nothing compared to the magnificence of God.

After making Wuḍū from the fount of love;

I said four Takbīr and thus professed the triviality of all but Allah.(3)

After Takbīr—the demonstration of God’s greatness—is uttered, by declaring the holy invocation “ashhadu allā ilāha illallāh”(4),

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1- - Takbīr is the name of the invocation “اللهُ اکبر” [Allāhu Akbar] meaning God is the Greatest. [trans.]
2- - It has been narrated of Imam Ṣādiq (‘a) that he asked the opinion of one of his followers about “الله اکبر” [Allāhu Akbar]. The follower replied, “God is greater than all objects.” The Imam (‘a) declared, “Is there any object next to God to which He may be greater?” He then interpreted Allahu Akbar thus: الله اکبرُ مِنْ اَنْ یُوصَفَ “God is greater than can be described.” (Baḥār al-Anwār, vol. 84, p. 257)
3- - من از آن دم که وضو ساختم از چشمه عشق چار تکبیر زدم یک سره بر هر چه که هست
4- That is, I attest that there is no god but Allah (the One God): “اَشْهَدُ اَنَّ لا اِله الّا الله”. [trans.]

worshipers bear witness to the fact that their Lord is united, and that godhead is exclusive to Allah. In order to emphasize this fact, worshipers repeat this avowal. Then worshipers enter the sanctum of the divine intercessors (the Prophet (ṣ) and Amīr al-Mu’minīn (‘a)) and by saying “ashhadu anna muḥammad ar-rasūl ul-lāh”(1) and “ashhadu anna ‘alīyya-wwaliyyul-lāh”(2) they attest to the prophethood of Muḥammad (ṣ) and the apostleship and vicegerency of ‘Alī (‘a). Again, in order to emphasize and establish this fact within their soul, they repeat each avowal. Then they address their entire being and call upon it to hasten towards Ṣalāt by saying: “ḥayya ‘alaṣ-ṣalāh”(3). In order to prepare their mind and body further for attending the celebration of divine intimacy and to intensify the fires of their enthusiasm, they repeat this command.

Then, the worshipers announce the epitome of Ṣalāt—which is attaining salvation and bliss—and its superiority over all other deeds. Thus, they call to their perfectionist and liberal nature: “ḥayya ‘alal falāḥ”(4) and “ḥayya ‘ala khayril ‘amal”(5). After awakening their nature, they again attest to the greatness of God and then twice declare the holy adage of monotheism: “lā ilāha illal-lāh”(6) in order to solidify their admission of inability to describe God and avowal of God’s unity within their heart.

In Iqāmah, worshipers repeat their previously declared truths and thus renew their covenant with these truths. After recourse to the

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1- - This means, I attest that Muḥammad is God’s messenger: “اَشْهَدُ اَنَّ مُحَمَّداً رسولُ الله”. [trans.]
2- - The translation of which is, I attest that ‘Alī is God’s vicegerent: “اَشْهَدُ اَنَّ علیاً ولیُّ الله”. [trans.] It is worthy of note that this term is not part of Adhān or Iqāmah, even so, saying it is desirable and recommended [mustaḥabb].
3- - Which means, hasten towards Salāt: “حَیَّ عَلَی الصَّلوة” [trans.]
4- - This means, hasten towards salvation: “حَیَّ عَلَی الفَلاح”. [trans.]
5- - That is, hasten towards the best of deeds: “حَیَّ عَلَی خَیْرِ العَمَلِ”. [trans.]
6- - There is no god but Allah: “لا اله الا الله”. [trans.]

prophethood and vicegerency and intensifying the fires of enthusiasm for intimacy with the Beloved, by declaring “qad qāmatiṣ-ṣalāt”(1) worshipers proclaim their presence before the Magnificent.

3. Standing Motionless [qīyām]

The outer appearance of qīyām is standing upright and straight, free of all distortion and perversity, before God. The spirit of qīyām is initiating one’s heart into the status of servitude [‘ubūdīyat] and establishing oneself upon the path of humane righteousness [ṣirāṭ al-mustaqīm] and refraining from all immoderations and deviations. Standing in a balanced posture is a symbol of the spiritual and moral balance of worshipers and the equilibrium of fear [khaūf] (regarding God) and hope [rajā’] (of salvation) within their being, such that neither their fear of God surpasses their hope for salvation, nor their hope for salvation surpasses their fear of God.

One of the etiquettes of qīyām is that worshipers must remember that they are standing in the presence of a God who knows them, manifest, secrets and all, and according to a Hadith, is closer to them than their jugular vein. It is befitting that in this state, worshipers bow their heads—which is the noblest part of the body—in humility and as a symbol of modesty and humbleness. They must be shameful of their shortcomings and offences and look at the place where they set their forehead in prostration [sajdah], and thus remember their abjectness compared to the grandeur and glory of their Lord.

4. Intention [nīyyat]

“Nīyyat” is the decision and resolution to perform an action. In Ṣalāt, nīyyat has various degrees that compare with the spiritual statuses of worshipers.

Ordinary people regard nīyyat as the intention to obey God in performing Ṣalāt in covetousness for rewards or fear of divine retribution. According to the Quran:

﴿یدعون ربهم خوفاً و طمعاً﴾

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1- - Verily, Salāt has commenced: “قَدْ قامَتِ الصلوة”.

“They call upon their Lord in fear and hope.”(1)

According to the illuminated, the intention is to obey God as well as to magnify His Lordship. As stated by the adherents to the path of divine love and rapture [ahl-e dil], the intention is to obey God due to enthusiasm and love of the Deity.(2) Finally, according to divine saints [awliyā’ ilāhī] the intention is the resolution to obey while the worshipper has attained the status of annihilation in God [fanā].

One of the important etiquettes of nīyyat, which encompasses all worship, is sincerity [ikhlāṣ]. Ikhlāṣ is purging one’s actions of all ungodly elements. Ikhlāṣ, like human perfection, has various degrees: For ordinary people, ikhlāṣ means to purify their worship of hidden and manifest polytheism [shirk-e āshkār wa pinhān], such as hypocrisy and vanity. In the worship of the elect [khawāṣ], it is purging deeds of avarice (for blessings) and fear (of retribution). According to the advocates of divine love [ahl-e dil], ikhlāṣ is cleansing one’s worship of all egocentricity, selfishness, and narcissist elements.

5. Recitation [qirā’at]

In the spiritual journey and divine ascension of Ṣalāt, recitation also has various degrees and ranks in accordance with the spiritual rank of the worshiper. For ordinary people, recitation means uttering the words of Ṣalāt correctly and worthily. The perfection of their recitation is that they deliberate the apparent meaning of the words they are reciting. However, the recitation of the elect is recalling the truths and subtleties of the divine words—as much as they are able to understand—within their hearts and souls. The deeper degrees of recitation are specific to the illuminated [ahl-e ma‘rifat] and the advocates of divine love [ahl-e dil]. For them, after they have gained knowledge of the truths behind God’s words and have realized the higher degrees of the interpretation of the Quran within their souls, recitation is the interpreter of their religious ecstasies and spiritual intuition in Ṣalāt.

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1- - Sūrah Sajdah 32:16.
2- - The holy prophet (ṣ) has stated: “The best of people is one who loves worship, embraces it, and likes it with one’s whole heart…” (Uṣūl-e Kāfī, vol. 3, p. 131)

There are secrets in the recitation of the holy Sūrah Ḥamd and Sūrah Tawḥīd (and other Quranic Sūrahs that the worshiper recites in Ṣalāt) that for the sake of brevity, we cannot even mention within this treatise.(1)

6. Bowing [rukū‘]

It is proper that the worshiper say a Takbīr after recitation and before rukū‘. The etiquette of Takbīr is that worshipers keep in mind the greatness and glory of the Divine and remember their own weakness, inability, destitution, and abjectness compared to God. In this state, they must raise their hands beside their ears with their empty palms toward the Qiblah(2) and empty-handedly with a heart brimming with fear and hope, regard God superior to all descriptions, and declare His Takbīr, then they must go to rukū‘.

The heart of rukū‘ is that worshipers enter a state of humility and wretchedness before their Lord and observe His glory. Rukū‘ includes glorification [tasbīḥ], magnification [ta‘ẓīm], and praise [taḥmīd] of God:

سُبحانَ رَبّیَ العَظیمِ و بِحَمدهِ.

“Glory be to my Lord, the Magnificent, and praise be to Him.”

The truth of “tasbīḥ” is elevating God over all descriptions and definitions and the truth of “ta‘ẓīm” and “taḥmīd” is extricating the worshiper from the confines of comparison [tashbīḥ] and agnosticism [ta‘ṭīl].(3) In rukū‘ the worshiper sees through his heart all objects as a manifestation of the names and attributes of the Divine Truth.

این همه عکس می و رنگ مخالف که نمود

یک فروغ رخ ساقی است که در جام افتاد

حسن روی تو به یک جلوه که در آینه کرد

این همه نقش در آینة اوهام افتاد

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1- - For information regarding these issues, see exegeses of the Quran, especially mystical exegeses such as Imam Khomeinī’s interpretation of Sūrah Ḥamd.
2- - This is the direction of the Ka‘bah in Mecca towards which Muslims turn to pray in Ṣalāt. [trans.]
3- - Refer to the discussion “Understanding Divine Attributes” in section two of current chapter.

All these contrasting colors and images of wine that appear;

Are the reflection of the brilliance of the cupbearer’s visage.

With one materialization of your beautiful countenance in the looking glass;

All these images were cast into the mirror of apprehensions.

7. Prostration [sajdah]

According to the illuminated, sajdah is the apex of Ṣalāt and the ultimate position of intimacy with the Beloved. The heart and soul of sajdah is rejecting all but God and ascending from all multiplicities [kithrat] to the height of Unity. In the state of sajdah, which is the state of annihilation in God, the worshiper observes that all objects are transitory and perishable and the truth of their essence is nothing but destitution and neediness towards the Divine Oneness.

عرضه کردم دو جهان بر دل کار افتاده

به جز از عشق تو باقی همه فانی دانست

I presented both worlds unto my weary heart;

Except for your love, it regarded all as transitory.

8. Testimony [tashahud]

The essence of tashahud is return of worshipers from the state of annihilation and absolute Unity to the world of multiplicities [‘ālam-e kithrat] while the world of Unity has been unveiled to them. Thus, they testify to God’s unity, and append their testimony with praise and veneration of the Divine and repudiation of polytheism. Then they bear witness to the prophethood of the Seal of the Prophets(1) (ṣ) and focus on his status of God’s servant.

9. Salaam


After returning from this spiritual journey and departing the spiritual world—that is, the place of divine prophets and angels—worshipers first say Salaam to the holder of the rank of Seal of the Prophets and

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1- - According to the Quran (Sūrah Aḥzāb 33:40), prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) is the Seal of the Prophets. This means that he is the final prophet or the Seal in the line of divine prophets, which are said to number 124,000. Hence, the teachings of Islam are God’s final revelation unto humanity. [trans.]
2- - This is the Islamic salutation wishing health and peace. [trans.]

due to his divine holiness, they specifically address the Prophet (ṣ) by saying:

السَّلامُ عَلَیْکَ اَیُّهَا النَّبیُّ وَ رَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَ بَرَکاتُه.

“Salaam to you, O Prophet and Allah’s mercy and blessings upon you.”

Then they center their attention on the divine angels and the rest of the prophets—who were their companions in this spiritual journey—and because the worshipers too were their companions in this spiritual journey, they include themselves in their Salaam by saying:

السَّلامُ عَلَیْنا و عَلی عِبادِ اللهِ الصّالِحینَ.

“Salaam upon us and upon the righteous servants of Allah.”

Finally, they address them all and say Salaam to them. By retiring from this status, the ascension of Ṣalāt ends.

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Section Four: Cosmology [jahān shināsī]


In addition to endeavoring to understand our Lord and ourselves, our human curiosity and inquisitiveness provokes us to attempt to understand the world by studying the phenomena around us and the laws governing them. Basically, we can regard the inception and development of many human sciences an effect of the innate human need to understand the universe. In other words, the sphere of our awareness is not restricted to Allah-awareness and self-awareness. In fact, the perfection of humanity’s knowledge depends on understanding the third side of the triangle of knowledge, that is, world-awareness.(1)

In previous sections, we briefly explained the Islamic perspective about theology and anthropology. Herein, the question discussed is whether Islam has presented information regarding understanding the world in addition to these two subjects. In other words, essentially, can one speak of an issue called Islamic cosmology?

A glance at Islam’s revelational knowledge (i.e. the Holy Quran and authentic narrations [riwāyāt-e mu’tabar]) presents us with an affirmative answer. Yea, Islam has presented many truths regarding the origin of the universe, natural and metaphysical phenomena, and the laws governing them. There are innumerable Quranic verses and Hadith that speak of cosmological matters. Due to the infallibility of divine revelation, the intellect requires that all Moslems have faith in

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1- - We must note that by world-awareness or cosmology in the present discourse, especially when used in contrast to understanding God and humanity, we mean the study of all beings in existence except God and humans. Thus, from this perspective, cosmology is more specific in meaning than worldview. Naturally, due to the close rapport between God, humanity, and the world, sometimes cosmology is interwoven with theological and anthropological issues such that accurately distinguishing between them would be difficult.

the eternal verity of these teachings and consider them the absolute truth.

Religious and Scientific Cosmology

The existence of cosmological truths in the Quran does not make it a cosmogonical, geological, or biological textbook; rather, there are differences that completely differentiate the Quran from texts on natural sciences. Even disregarding the infallibility of Quranic teachings, one of the fundamental differences is in its objectives. The ultimate mission and aim of the Quran is guiding humans toward true perfection, salvation, and bliss. Therefore, everything that the Quran states about the world is related to and serves this purpose. Even though the cosmological verses of the Quran present us with truths about world phenomena, understanding these truths is not the ultimate purpose, but a passageway to better understanding God, His attributes, humanity’s status in existence, and the telos of human creation. In other words, cosmology is in the service of religious anthropology and theology. Consequently, the general method of the Quran is to introduce natural phenomena according to their connection and relation with God and humanity. However, understanding phenomena and the laws governing them is the final purpose in the natural sciences. If there is any other purpose in natural sciences, it is nothing but human domination and exploitation of nature.

This difference is the basis for various additional differences. For example, because the purpose of natural sciences is understanding the world, scientists regard themselves obligated to research all phenomena in connection with their field of study.(1) However, since the Quran’s ultimate purpose is guiding humanity towards salvation and bliss, it is selective of natural phenomena and only stresses phenomena that are related to the telos of the Quran. Accordingly, it has only presented cosmological issues that are effective in attaining

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1- - One of the positive points of cosmogony—i.e. scientific cosmology—is its unique precision and fastidiousness which is applied throughout various experiments and calculations. On the other hand, due to its reliance on physical perceptions, it is unable to explain metaphysical phenomena. Therefore, it is befitting that these sciences remain reticent regarding these phenomena and refrain from attempts to deny or refute them.

this purpose. This distinction has an important consequence; the expectation that the Quran should answer all conceivable questions regarding all the diverse natural sciences (such as physics, chemistry, biology, cosmogony, etc.) is completely irrelevant.(1)

Doubtless, presenting a somewhat comprehensive discussion on Islamic cosmology would require the composition of many books and articles. Here, we shall suffice with several general trends in religious cosmology. Afterwards, we shall present a short account of Islam’s view regarding several natural and metaphysical phenomena.

The Invisible [ghayb] and the Manifest [shahādat]

An important principle in Islamic cosmology is differentiating between the Invisible world [‘ālam-e ghayb] and the Manifest world [‘ālam-e shahādat]. The words “ghayb” and “shahādat” respectively mean “invisible” and “manifest”. The definition of “ghayb” is that which is outside the sphere of our perception and awareness; as opposed to “shahādat” which is that which is perceivable. According to these definitions, it is clear that “ghayb” and “shahādat” are relative. That is, it is possible for a specific object be “ghayb” with respect to a particular person with distinct sensory faculties and be “shahādat” for a different person with dissimilar sensory faculties.(2)

With regard to this explanation, in Islamic cosmology, the Invisible world [‘ālam-e ghayb] is the part of existence that is imperceptible by human senses and is indiscernible with normal sensory experience. According to Islamic belief, part of existence is invisible to us humans and thus, we cannot perceive all truths about the world and external entities using sensory faculties. The Islamic teaching that segregates “ghayb” from “shahādat” situates Islam in opposition to materialist and secularist schools—which refute all nonmaterial and imperceptible facts. According to this doctrine, there are truths that human senses can never understand. The Holy Essence of God,

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1- - Some scholars believe that all sciences, technology, and knowledge have been expressed in the Holy Quran, but we have yet to find the necessary tools to extract them. Naturally, proving this theory would be extremely difficult and as long as it is not proven, it shall remain a hypothesis.
2- - For instance, a truth may be “shahādat” for our intellect and be “ghayb” regarding our senses.

angels, and revelational phenomena are examples of the Invisible World. The Holy Quran regards faith in the Invisible the first characteristic of the pious and the prerequisite for human guidance:

﴿ذلکَ الکتابُ لا رَیْبَ فیهِ هدیً لِلمُتَّقینَ. الّذینَ یُؤمِنونَ بالغَیبِ...﴾

“That is the book wherein there is no doubt [and it is] a guidance to the pious. They who have faith in the Invisible…”(1)

Obviously, the invisible part of existence only pertains to beings with limited knowledge and awareness. This segregation is meaningless regarding God—who is omniscient. This is why the glorious Quran introduces God as the “‘ālim ul-ghaībi wa ash-shahadah”(2) (Knower of the Invisible and the Manifest) and “‘allām ul-qhuyūb”(3) (Knower of All Things Hidden).

This distinction signifies that existence is not restricted to the natural world; rather, the world of perceptions is merely one of the worlds in existence. It is, in fact, the lowliest of worlds. More elevated worlds exist that cannot be perceived by the senses.(4) The Quran swears by both these worlds in order to emphasize the existence of an unseen world beyond the natural world:

﴿فلا أُقسمُ بما تُبْصِرون. و ما لا تُبْصِرون﴾

“No [it is not so]! I swear by what you see; and by what you see not.”(5)

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1- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:2-3.
2- - Sūrah Tawbah 9:94.
3- - Sūrah Tawbah 9:78.
4- - Islamic thinkers have uniquely depicted the various aspects of existence. According to philosophers, after the essence of God is the world of pure intelligents [‘ālam-e ‘uqūl], and inferior to that is the world of ideas [‘ālam-e mithāl]. Finally, there is the natural world which is the lowliest world regarding its existential status. In addition, Sufis divide the main worlds into five planes: realm of the divinity [lāhūt], realm of omnipotence [jabarūt], angelic realm [malakūt], the realm of sovereignty [mūlk], and the realm of humanity [nāsūt]. The three first planes are invisible and the other two are manifest.
5- - Sūrah Ḥāqqah 69:38-39.

Even though there are fundamental differences between the Invisible and Manifest Worlds, there is a deep and unbreakable bond between them. Everything in the Manifest World is rooted in the Invisible. The Quran reveals the profound fact that the source of all things is in God’s possession and that all natural entities are in fact, a relegated form of a truth that resides in the metaphysical world:

﴿وَ إِنْ مِن شیءٍ إِلّا عندنا خزآئِنُهُ و ما نُنَزِّله إلّا بقدرٍ مَّعلوم﴾

“And there is naught but that its treasuries are with Us, and We send it down not save in specific amounts.”(1)

چرخ با این اختران نغز و خوش و زیباستی

صورتی در زیر دارد آنچه در بالاستی

The heavens full of stars are wonderful, delightful, beautiful;

What is above has an appearance below.

The Justness [ḥaqq madārī] of the World

Another prominent principle in Islamic cosmology is that the world has been founded upon justice and it revolves in the orbit of equity. The Noble Quran speaks of the justness of the world in various verses:

﴿ما خَلَقَ الله السّماوات وَ الأَرض و ما بینهمآ إِلّا بالحقِّ و أَجَلٍ مسمّیً و إِنَّ کَثیراً مِنَ النّاسِ بِلِقآئِ رَبِّهِم لَکفِرُونَ﴾

“Allah has not created the heavens and earth and all in between save in justice and an appointed end, yet surely many people deny the encounter with their Lord.”(2)

Additionally, the Quran retells the state of people of God who after contemplating Creation call upon their Lord in this manner:

﴿ربنّا ما خلقتَ هذا باطلاً﴾

“O Lord! You have not created this [world] in vain!”(3)

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1- - Sūrah Ḥijr 15:21.
2- - Sūrah Rūm 30:8.
3- - Sūrah Āl ‘Imrān 3:191. The Quran introduces justness in the world in various manners. Sometimes it talks of the creation of the heavens and earth based on justice (such as Sūrah An‘ām 6:73; Sūrah Ibrāhīm 14:19; Sūrah Ḥijr 15:85; etc.). At other times it emphasizes that, the creation of the world is not in vain (such as Sūrah Ṣād 38:27). In addition, in some verses it states that God has not created the world for sport (Sūrah Anbiyā’ 21:16): ﴿و ما خلقنا السّماواتِ و الأَرضَ و ما بینَهُما لاعبین﴾ “And we have not created the heavens and earth and all that is in between for sport.” We must note that in the Quran, the term “heavens and earth” especially when accompanied by the term “ما بینهما” (all in between) is generally an allusion to the entire natural world.

Due to the extensiveness of the word “justice” [ḥaqq], the justness of the world of creation has a comprehensive definition with various aspects. One facet of this truth is that the world is ordered and based on divine laws and traditions. Islamic cosmology verifies that natural and metaphysical laws govern worldly phenomena and introduces these laws as divine traditions. In other words, divine fate [taqdīr] requires that the world be organized by specific laws and that worldly phenomena work under set restrictions. In representation of this truth, the Quran declares that the ordered movement of celestial bodies is divine fate:

﴿و الشّمس تَجری لمستقرّ لّهآ، ذلک تقدیرُ العزیزِ الْعَلیم﴾

“And the sun moves within a set orbit; that is the destiny (or decree) of the Omnipotent, the Omniscient.” (1)

There is an aspect of God’s providence regarding the governing laws of the universe that has a significant effect on the Islamic worldview: God who has made these governing laws can also violate them. His will and providence is transcendent to all laws. In other words, God is the “rule-maker” and “rule-breaker”:

از سبب سازیش من سوداییم

وز سبب سوزیش سوفسطاییم

I am lovesick due to His rule-making;

And I am sophist due to His rule-breaking.

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1- - Sūrah Yāsīn 36:38.

God’s hands are not tied by traditions and laws that He Himself has ordained. In fact, whenever divine wisdom requires, nature’s course is altered and something occurs contrary to the normal order of the world. Accepting that the Divine Will is not restricted to the framework of natural laws opens the foundation to understanding and accepting other tenets of faith, such as the concept of miracles.

Finality of Creation

The justness of the world also manifests in the purposefulness or finality [hadafmandī /ghāyatmandī] of the world of creation. According to Islamic cosmology, the caravan of existence neither travels in a confused and bewildered way towards an unknown objective nor walks randomly and accidentally towards some obscure future. In actuality, the Creator guides the world towards a predetermined end. The term “Ajal im-musammā”(1), which has been mentioned earlier, reveals the fact that existence is advancing towards a determined and set terminus.

It must be said that a person’s belief in the principle of existential finality and non-futility of Creation serves an important role in one’s life. One who believes in this principle has no room for nihilist thoughts and does not perceive life and the world as vain and futile. Such persons continually endeavor to harmonize the music of their lives with the general rhythm of creation synchronizing their life objectives with their ultimate telos.

Best Possible System

In Islamic cosmology, the pervading order in the world is considered the best of all possible systems. As we have stated in the discussion on divine wisdom, the sagacity of God requires that He create the best and most perfect world among all illimitably possible worlds. It seems that the Quran indicates this fact where it states:

﴿الّذی أحسنَ کلَّ شیءٍ خَلَقَهُ﴾

“[He is] who has created all things perfect.”(2)

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1- - Sūrah Rūm 30:8; ﴿أَجَلٍ مُّسَمّی﴾ means appointed end. [trans.]
2- - Sūrah Sajdah 32:7.

Naturally, it may seem that because this world contains evils, and a world free of evils is better than one soiled by them, this world is therefore not the best of all possible worlds. However, by briefly referring to our concise discussion on the philosophy of evil, the fallaciousness of this idea is revealed because within each evil various wisdoms are embedded that justify their existence and make them beneficial to the ideal perfection of the world.

جهان چون چشم و خال و خط و ابروست

که هر چیزی به جای خویش نیکوست

The world is like eyes and moles and hair and brows;

Everything is beautiful in its appropriate place.

In short, according to Islam, all of creation is virtuous, beautiful, and perfect, and what our superficial eyes perceive as ugly is, in actuality, a part of the beautiful masterpiece of creation and a building block in the balanced structure of the cosmos.

Belief in the virtuosity and beauty of the world has a great impact on one’s happiness and bliss. This is because, believing in essential wickedness of existence and ugliness and imbalance of creation traps humanity in the snare of pessimistic philosophies and results in nothing but cynicism and despair. Divine saints always see the world as a manifestation of the absolute beauty of God. They love the world because they deem it a symbol and display of the perfections of their Beloved; they cry out that, “By the world I swear, I am exuberant that the world is made exuberant by Him.”(1)

Intrinsic Consciousness and Universal Praise [tasbīḥ-e ‘umūmī]

According to materialist schools, material objects do not enjoy consciousness and awareness. However, Islamic cosmology states that all elements of existence even the lifeless phenomena of the natural world possess a type of intrinsic consciousness [shu‘ūr-e bāṭinī] relating to their Creator. By virtue of this consciousness they praise, glorify, and thank their Lord:

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1- - That is, “به جهان خرم از آنم که جهان خرم از اوست”.

“The seven heavens and the earth and all within them extol Him, and there is nothing that does not proclaim His praise, and yet you do not realize their exaltation.”(1)

This verse clearly states that all of God’s creations are engaged in veneration and exaltation of the Divine. Since these actions cannot be executed without awareness and understanding, this verse reveals a universal consciousness in all components of the world.

Nonetheless, various exegetes believe that this universal praise means nothing more than the fact that each creation is a symbol of the existence of the Creator and His attributes of beauty and greatness. Allegorically, it is similar to a work of art that conveys the artistry and proficiency of its creator, and in a way, praises the perfection of its designer and glorifies Him of fault and inadequacy. However, this interpretation is incompatible with various evidences regarding this verse. In explanation, this definition of praise and exaltation is not something we cannot understand because the Quran states:

﴿... و لکن لّا تفقهونَ تسبیحَهُم﴾

“…and yet, you do not realize their exaltation.” (2)

کوه و دریا و درختان، همه در تسبیح اند

نه همه مستمعی فهم کند این اسرار

The mountains, seas, and trees are all praising Him;

Not all listeners can perceive these secrets.(3)

Thus, according to Islamic belief, even though we cannot perceive this general consciousness and universal praise with our superficial senses, all constituents of existence are engaged in praising their Lord.(4)

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1- - Sūrah Isrā’ 17:44.
2- - Ibid.
3- - This verse is from Sa‘dī. The second hemistich is a poetic interpretation of ﴿... لا تفقهونَ تسبیحَهُم ﴾.
4- - Due to this fact, it has been stated of some illuminated mystics that in some of their transcendental spiritual and mystical states, they have heard the entrancing exaltation of various creations. It is also said of the prophet of Islam (ṣ) that one of his miracles was that he could hear the praise and glorification of grains of sand.
God and the Universe

As we have stated at the outset of this section, one of the qualities of Islamic cosmology is that world phenomena are not regarded separate from their Creator. Islam always considers the relation of the world with regard to its originating agent and recognizes all beings in light of their connection with God. All schools that believe in some manner in God as the First Cause depict the connection between God and the world. Sometimes He is regarded by other schools as the Prime Mover, who gave the caravan of existence its initial momentum in the eternal past. At other times, the relationship of God and the universe is reduced to the relationship of a watchmaker and a watch—a watchmaker who created and refined the world in the eternal past, after which the inner workings of the watch automatically caused the continuation of existence!(1)

However, according to the Islamic perspective, the connection of God and His creation is much more profound. Not only is God the Creator and Originator of all creatures, He is their Contriver and Preserver. To state matters differently, in every moment of existence, the entire universe and its constituents are dependent upon and sustained by God such that if divine grace were to be interrupted for even a moment, their existence would instantaneously become void. In philosophical terms, the world not only needs God for its inception, it also needs Him for its perpetuation. Therefore, Islam teaches that God does not sit by and merely watch the events and incidents occurring in the world; rather, the Divine Essence, despite being exalted and magnificent, accompanies even the lowliest elements of existence:

﴿و هو معکم أَینَ ما کُنتُم﴾

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1- - In divine philosophy and theosophy, the relationship of God and the world is rendered in unique manners. Philosophers mostly explain it in the form of a causal relationship, whereas mystics mostly emphasize theophany [tajallī] and manifestation [ẓuhūr], and regard the universe a manifestation and symbol of divine names and attributes.

“And He is with you wherever you may be.”(1)

Obviously, this is not spatial accompaniment because God transcends space. This accompaniment signifies that God is the absolute preserver and upholder of all of existence.(2) Therefore, God is the closest being to His creations—while this proximity does not cause His limitation or incarnation in mundane objects—and also He is the apogee of sublimity and ascendancy—while this culmination does not result in His neglect of or remoteness from His creations. In our religious texts, there are profound interpretations of the relationship of God and His creations. Imam ‘Alī (‘a) has elucidated this connection in various erudite sermons using varied terms:

مع کل شیء لا بمقارنة و غیر کلّ شیء لا بمزایلة.

“[God] is with all things without being their partner and is apart from all things without being distant from them.”(3)

عالٍ فی دُنوّهُ و دانٍ فی علوّه.

“[God] is close in His sublimity, and is Sublime in His closeness.”(4)

Thus, in Islamic cosmology, the transcendence and immanence of God coexist in an appropriate manner, whereas most other creeds only emphasize one of these two issues and have refrained from converging them.(5)

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1- - Sūrah Ḥadīd 57:4.
2- - Islamic philosophers term this accompaniment, “sustainment simultaneity” [ma‘iyat-e qayyūmī]; that is, the togetherness of a sustainer entity and beings whose preservation depend on that entity.
3- - Nahj ul-Balāghah, sermon 1.
4- - ‘Allāmah Majlisī, Baḥār al-Anwār, vol. 9, p. 189.
5- - For instance, in Hinduism, God’s transcendency is emphasized to such degree that His existence is totally severed from the world. In contemporary Christianity, even though the principle of Jesus (‘a) as the incarnation of God depicts a close relationship between God and the World, God’s purity and transcendence is thoroughly impaired.
Unity in Action

One of the tenets of Islam, which facilitates understanding the relationship between God and the world, is the principle of unity in action [Tawḥīd-e af‘ālī]. Correct understanding of unity in action can help us understand the depth of God’s link with creation and the critical presence of the Divine Will on the stage of existence.

Unity in action means, the only independent agent—whose agency does not rely on any other entity—is God. Consequently, the agency of all other entities is a token of His agency and cannot be realized without His explicit permission and providence. Thus, all occurrences in existence are acts of God and under His influence and will.

Belief in unity in action opens new portals to understanding the world. A person who believes in unity in action perceives the Divine Will in all places and discerns the effects of His agency in all phenomena and incidents. The world, in all its vastness and immensity, and with all its colorfulness and diversity, is the manifestation of a united will. Moreover, all alterations and transformations originate from a changeless and exclusive fountainhead:

لا حولَ و لا قوّةَ الّا بالله.

“There is no force or power but Allah.”

Heeding the cosmological tenets of Islam assists us in sketching the general lines of Islamic cosmology. Additionally, in light of these precepts, we may better understand the theological and anthropological teachings of Islam. Here, it is appropriate that we explain, in short, various religious standpoints about world phenomena. As we have already stated, Islamic cosmology is not restricted to deciphering natural and material phenomena—it also includes supernatural creatures. Accordingly, we shall divide our discussion into two chief parts: Natural phenomena (the natural world) and paranormal entities (the supernatural world).

The Natural World

The Quran speaks of natural phenomena in many verses. The variety of natural phenomena, the multitude of Quranic verses on this issue, and the limitation of this treatise all compel us to condense the material and shorten our discussion.

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Creation of the Natural World

Various Quranic verses state that the world was created in six days.

﴿إِنَّ ربّکم اللهُ الّذی خلق السّماوات و الأَرض فی سِتَّةِ أَیّامٍ ثُمَّ استوی علی العرش﴾

“Surely your Lord is Allah, who created the heavens and earth in six days, then established Himself atop the Throne.”(1)

Keeping in mind the fact that in the Quran, the term ﴿السّماوات و الأَرض﴾ (the heavens and earth) usually indicates the entire natural world,(2) this verse signifies that the process of the natural world’s creation took six days. However, what does day signify here? Due to the two following facts, we can state that in this verse, “day” [yaūm] indicates a specific time interval whose exact span is unknown to us. First, before the formation of our solar system in its current form, there was no such thing as day and night (according to the common usage of these words). Second, the Quran also uses the word “day” [yaūm] to indicate a specific time span.(3) Therefore, we can only accurately state that the creation of the natural world occurred during six time spans or eras. Other verses indicate that the skies were created in two eras;(4) the earth was created in two eras,(5) and finally, the reserves and provisions of the earth were also created in two eras.(6)

1. The Heavens and the Earth

Many verses speak of the seven heavens:

﴿اللهُ الّذی خلق سبعَ سماواتٍ﴾

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1- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:54.
2- - Sometimes, in the Quran, the word ﴿سماء﴾ [samā’] is used with another meaning disparate from material skies; it seems rather that it means the metaphysical planes. For examples, see: Sūrah Mā’idah 5:112, 5:114.
3- - Sūrah Ḥajj 22:47; and Sūrah Ma‘ārij 70:4.
4- - Sūrah Fuṣṣilat 41:12.
5- - Ibid 41:9.
6- - Ibid 41:10.

“It is Allah who created the seven heavens.”(1)

Additionally, various verses state that in the beginning, there was a homogeneous universe consisted of a smoky or vaporous substance or aerosol [dukhān], which God later formed into seven skies:

“Next, He proceeded with the sky, which was as aerosol. Then He said to the sky and the earth, ‘Come thou in obedience or by force!’ They said, ‘We come in obedience!’ He subsequently ordained them as seven skies in two days.”(2)

In truth, we know very little of the seven skies. What we do know has been extracted from the Quran.

These skies are arranged above one another:

﴿الّذی خَلَقَ سَبْعَ سَماواتٍ طِبَاقاً﴾

“[Allah is] who created the seven heavens in layers.”(3)

Additionally, the stars that shine at night exist in the lowest of the seven skies:

﴿إِنّا زیّنّا السّمآءَ الدُّنیا بزینةِ الکواکِب﴾

“Surely, We have adorned the sky of the world with the ornamentation of stars.”(4)

In contrast to sky, the Quran speaks of the earth as a singular noun.(5) In describing the earth, the Quran mostly emphasizes qualities that

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1- - Sūrah Ṭalāq 65:12. Some scholars believe that the literal meaning of the number “seven” is not intended in this verse. They believe it signifies the copiousness of its noun (heavens). However, this belief is not compatible with the semblance of such verses, especially verses that employ the number seven without a noun: ﴿و بنینا فوقکم سبعاً شداداً﴾ “And We have built above you seven robust [heavens].” Sūrah Naba’ 78:12.
2- - Sūrah Fuṣṣilat 41:11-12.
3- - Sūrah Mulk 67:3. Also, see: Sūrah Nūḥ 71:15.
4- - Sūrah Ṣāffāt 37:6. Also, see: Sūrah Fuṣṣilat 41:12.
5- - The term “Seven Terras” is used in a small number of Hadith. This may be an indication of the large pieces of land on the earth. This is because the word terra or earth [arḍ] is also used to mean pieces of land.

illustrate the benefits of this telluric haven for humanity and naturally, it reminds of God’s characteristic of Creativity in all places.(1)

According to the Quran, God has ordained the world for humans as an expansive bed,(2) a docile mount,(3) a place of lodging(4) and tranquility,(5) and a reserve for sustenance.(6) Moreover, in various verses, after indicating that God brought new life to the earth by sending down rain, the Quran states that this phenomenon is an example of resurrection:

“And of His signs is that you see the earth lifeless, and then when We send down water upon it, it quivers and flourishes. Surely, He who revives it is also reviver of the dead.”(7)

2. Celestial Bodies

The Quran regards celestial bodies submissive to God. It stresses that the movements and effects of these bodies are according to a plan that the Creator of the World has set for them:

﴿وَ الشَّمسَ وَ القَمَرَ و النُّجُومَ مُسَخَّراتٍ بِأَمرِه﴾

“And [He created] the sun and moon and stars, subservient to His command.”(8)

Of the benefits of stars, other than that they are the adornments of the sky and make it beautiful,(9) is that we can use them to find our way on

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1- - These verses are interesting examples of the synthesis of cosmology, theology, and anthropology in the Quran.
2- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:22.
3- - Sūrah Mulk 67:15.
4- - Sūrah Ghāfir 40:64.
5- - Sūrah Zukhruf 43:10; and Sūrah Naba’ 78:6.
6- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:10.
7- - Sūrah Fuṣṣilat 41:39.
8- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:54.
9- - Sūrah Ṣāffāt 37:6.

land and sea.(1) Furthermore, various Quranic verses reveal the fact that celestial bodies move in determined orbits such that they do not collide in normal circumstances. In Sūrah Yāsīn, after speaking of the movements of the earth and moon, it is stated that these two celestial bodies never collide, because they float in set orbits:

﴿وَ کلٌّ فی فَلَکٍ یَسبَحون﴾

“And each drifts in an orbit.”(2)

ماه و خورشید به منزل، چو امر تو رسند

یار مه روی مرا نیز به من باز رسان

The sun and moon attain their places at your command;

So also, return to me my pale-faced sweetheart.

3. Terrestrial Phenomena

Many Quranic verses speak of natural earthly phenomena. Mountains have been identified as anchorages [rawāsī] or nails [aūtād] that cause the steadiness and solidification of the earth and prevent earthquakes(3) and they are also convenient refuges for humans.(4) Various verses also indicate that even though mountains seem tenacious and immobile, they move like clouds.(5) Moreover, various verses indicate the effect of rain in generating stationary waters (seas),(6) free-flowing springs,(7) and plant growth.(8)

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1- - Sūrah An‘ām 6:97.
2- - Sūrah Yāsīn 36:40. This verse shows that at the time that the Ptolemaic system was prevalent in scientific circles, the Quran rejected this theory. This is because this verse states that celestial bodies drift in space; whereas, according to the Ptolemaic system, the skies cannot be lacerated and mended and that heavenly bodies move with the skies not within them.
3- - Sūrah Ra‘d 13:3; Sūrah Anbiyā’ 21:31; and Sūrah Naba’ 78:7.
4- - Sūrah Naḥl 16:81.
5- - Sūrah Naml 27:88. This may be an indication of the axial spin or the orbital revolution of the earth.
6- - Sūrah Mu’minūn 23:18.
7- - Sūrah Zumar 39:21.
8- - Sūrah ‘Abas 80:25-32; and Sūrah A‘rāf 7:57.

Additionally, the Quran states that God has made the seas obedient to humanity, so that they may both sail upon it(1) and utilize its food reserves and hidden jewels(2)—such as pearls. Other verses illuminate the functions of wind and clouds and their advantages to humans.(3)

4. Plants and Animals

The Quran indicates the gendered system (the state of being female or male) of plants and emphasizes their balance and beauty.(4) According to the Quran, God causes the germination of seeds and fruiting of trees by sending down rain and thus provides the sustenance of humans, and wild and domestic animals.(5) Furthermore, the diversity and range of plants are considered signs of God.(6)

The Quran regards the soaring of birds an act of God and thus enumerates this phenomenon as one of His signs.(7) Additionally, several uses of domestic animals are specified in various verses, including transportation of loads, source of food and clothing, etc.(8) The Quran also declares that the milk-making process in animal bodies is a lesson.(9)

The Quran especially favors various specific animals such as the honeybee and regards the structure of their hives and their honey making industry a sign for the thoughtful.(10)

Again, we must stress the fact that due to their function of guidance our religious texts regard phenomena of the natural world from a

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1- - Sūrah Jāthīyah 45:12.
2- - Sūrah Naḥl 16:14.
3- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:57; Sūrah Rūm 30:48; and Sūrah Fāṭir 35:9.
4- - Sūrah Ra‘d 13:3; Sūrah Qāf 50:7; Sūrah Shu‘arā’ 26:7; and Sūrah Ḥijr 15:19.
5- - Sūrah ‘Abas 80:25-32.
6- - Sūrah An‘ām 6:99.
7- - Sūrah Naḥl 16:79; and Sūrah Mulk 67:19.
8- - Sūrah Naḥl 16:5-8.
9- - Sūrah Naḥl 16:66.
10- - Sūrah Naḥl 16:68-69.

specific point of view and pursue explicit objectives by presenting cosmological issues. Some of these objectives are:

1. Laying the foundation for human contemplation of the order of the world

2. Familiarity with divine attributes; such as knowledge, wisdom, and power

3. Presentation of evidence for divine unity, especially unity in action and its various branches such as unity in lordship and world administration [tadbīr-e ‘ālam]

4. Preparing humans so they may rise above the appearances of the world and realize the truths that lay beyond worldly veneers and perceive God’s hand above all natural causes

5. Cultivation of love, passion, and affection towards God

6. Arousing the feeling of gratitude through enumeration of divine blessings

The Supernatural World

We previously stated that in Islamic cosmology, portions of the world of creation pertain to supernatural creatures. Here we shall take a glance at Islam’s perspective on immaterial entities.

1. Angels

One of the definite tenets of Islamic cosmology is the existence of entities called angels [malak]. Many Quranic verses and Hadith speak of angels and their qualities, attributes, and actions. Here, we shall succinctly indicate some of Islam’s teachings regarding these divine creations:

a. The Nature of Angels:

The Holy Quran does not clearly speak of the nature and essence of angels. It is evident that angels have a different nature than humans and other intelligent creations, such as jinn.(1) However, the reality of

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1- - In differentiation between humans and angels, Imam ‘Alī (‘a) has stated: لَم یَسْکُنوا الأصلابَ وَ لَم یَغتَنِموا الأرحامَ وَ لَم یُخْلَقوا مِنْ ماءٍ معینٍ “Angels do not reside in loins [of fathers] and are not born of wombs [of mothers] and have not been created from ignoble water.”

their essence is a controversial issue. Some Muslim scholars believe they are immaterial and incorporeal entities. Others believe that they have subtle bodies, which are different from non-subtle bodies, that have three dimensions, weight, and mass and can be perceived by normal senses. Nevertheless, all agree that angels cannot be perceived by the outward senses of humans.(1)

b. The Immaculacy and Worship of Angels:

The essence of angels is completely intellectual and has no taint of carnality or hedonistic desires. Thus, they continuously worship and glorify their Lord and never defy or rebel against God. The Quran describes angels thus:

﴿بَلْ عِبادٌ مُکْرَمون. لایَسْبِقُونَهُ بِالقَولِ وَ هُم بِأَمْرِهِ یَعْمَلُون﴾

“Rather, [angels] are noble servants. They do not overtake Him in speech, and they perform as He commands.”(2)

In addition, of the angels that guard hell it states:

﴿لا یَعْصُونَ اللهَ مآ أَمَرَهُم وَ یَفْعَلُونَ ما یُؤْمَرُون﴾

“They disobey not Allah in what He commands and perform what they are commanded.”(3)

c. Divine Mission [risālat-e ilāhī]:

Angels have been appointed by God with divine missions:

﴿اللهُ یَصْطَفِی مِنَ الملائِکَةِ رُسُلاً...﴾

“Allah appoints of the angels, messengers …”(4)

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1- - Muslim philosophers regard angels as incorporeal entities, some of whom possess absolute intellectual incorporeality while others enjoy transitive incorporeality and therefore can hold various material qualities such as shape.
2- - Sūrah Anbiyā’ 21:26-27.
3- - Sūrah Taḥrīm 66:6.
4- - Sūrah Ḥajj 22:75. Additionally, see: Sūrah Fāṭir 35:1.

With regard to the role of angels in world administration [tadbīr-e ‘ālam], we can state that their mission encompasses two functions. That is, their genetic mission [risālat-e takwīnī], which is administration of world affairs and performing divine commands, and their legislative mission [risālat-e tashrī‘ī], which is intermediacy in divine revelation unto prophets.

d. The Occupations of Angels:

The Noble Quran has enumerated many deeds for angels.(1)

Transmitting divine revelation to the prophets,(2)

administration of world affairs and mediation in imparting divine blessings upon God’s creatures,(3) repentance and intercession on behalf of the faithful,(4) aiding the faithful(5), damning unbelievers,(6) recording people’s deeds,(7) and taking souls at the time of death(8) are several divine commissions that angels undertake. Angels are also present in the world of Barzakh(9) and the afterlife; some reside in heaven,(10) and others are the keepers of Gehenna/Hell [jahannam] and its inhabitants.(11)

In addition, Angels continuously worship, revere, and praise God. They never stop and never do anything else. According to the Quran:

﴿و مَنْ عندهُ لا یَستَکبِرُونَ عَن عِبادَتِهِ و لا یَستَحْسِرُون. یُسَبِّحُون اللَّیلَ و النّهارَ لا یَفتُرُون﴾

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1- - It must be noted that some of these affairs are specifically stated in Quranic verses while others are inferred from various signs and indications in the Quran.
2- - Sūrah Naḥl 16:2, 16:102; and Sūrah ‘Abas 80:16.
3- - Sūrah Nāzi‘āt 79:5; and Sūrah Ma‘ārij 70:4.
4- - Sūrah Ghāfir 40:7; Sūrah Anbiyā’ 21:28.
5- - Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:124-125.
6- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:141; and Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:87.
7- - Sūrah Yūnus 10:21; Sūrah Zukhruf 43:80; and Sūrah Infiṭār 82:11.
8- - Sūrah An‘ām 6:61; Sūrah Nisā’ 4:97.
9- - Sūrah Naḥl 16:28, 16:32. Barzakh literally means the barrier between two things. It is an intermediate state between death and resurrection. The Hebrew equivalent to Barzakh is Sheol. In Catholic doctrine a close equivalent is purgatory. [trans.]
10- - Sūrah Zumar 39:73; and Sūrah Anbīyā’ 21:103.
11- - Sūrah Muddaththir 74:31.

“And those who are with Him never wax too proud to serve Him and never grow weary. They glorify Him night and day without remit.”(1)

e. The Hierarchy and Order of Angels:

According to the previous discussions, angels are divided into various echelons based on their various commissions. The fact whether various orders of angels are typically and essentially different or not is obscure to us. This much can be derived from the Quran and traditions that angels do possess various ranks and echelons and some are subordinate to others. The Quran declares that each angel possesses a determined station and rank:

﴿وَ ما مِنّآ إِلّا لَهُ مَقامٌ مَعلومٌ﴾

“And there are none of us (angels) save who has a determined rank.”(2)

Moreover, various Quranic verses reveal that the Angel of Revelation (i.e. Gabriel) has various aides that are subordinate to him.(3) The Angel of Death (i.e. Azrael) also has agents among the angels.(4) Various traditions indicate that Gabriel [jibrā’īl], Michael [mīkā’īl], Israfel [isrāfīl], and Azrael [‘izrā’īl] possess uniquely lofty ranks.

f. Incarnation of Angels:

Even though angels are intangible, they can be incarnated in human form. The Quran verifies this fact by relating various historic occurrences. For example, various visits by angles to Abraham (‘a) and Lot (‘a) and the embodiment of a divine angel as a human to bestow Jesus (‘a) upon Mary (‘a) were some occurrences of the incarnation of angels in human form.

2. Jinn

The jinn are another of God’s creations that cannot be experienced with the senses under normal circumstances. The existence of jinn is

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1- - Sūrah Anbīyā’ 21:19-20.
2- - Sūrah Ṣāffāt 37:164.
3- - Sūrah Takwīr 81:21.
4- - Sūrah Sajdah 32:11; and Sūrah An‘ām 6:61.

an unequivocal concept in Islamic cosmology since various Quranic verses and Hadith clearly confirm this truth. The seventy-second Sūrah of the Quran is named Jinn in which a conversation of a group of jinn who had become Muslim has been recorded.

a. The Essence of Jinn:

In contrast to the angels, the Quran explicitly speaks of the essence of the jinn’s creation:

﴿وَ خَلَقَ الجآنَّ مِن مارِجٍ مِن نار﴾

“And He created the jinn of a smokeless fire.”(1)

However, it is not clear whether the fire that is the essence of the jinn is the result of combustion or if it is essentially different.(2)

What is clear is that the fiery nature of the jinn permits them to traverse vast distances at staggering speeds and perform miraculous deeds that normal humans cannot accomplish without special tools.(3)

b. The Creational Antecedence of Jinn over Humans:

Another item extracted from the Quran is that the jinn have been created before humans. In Sūrah Ḥijr it is stated:

﴿وَ الجآنَّ خَلَقْناهُ مِن قَبلُ مِن نارِ السَّمُوم﴾

“And We created the jinn before [humans] of a blazing fire.”(4)

c. Reason, Free Will, and Responsibility:

Jinn possess reason and free will; therefore, they are responsible [mukallaf] just like humans. Some are believers, righteous, and the

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1- - Sūrah Raḥmān 55:15.
2- - It has been surmised that fire signifies a type of energy that cannot be evaluated using contemporary instruments and that can transmute into matter by concentration. Through this speculation, the fact that the jinn have been seen on occasion can be rationalized.
3- - In the story of the conjuration of the throne of the Queen of Sheba [saba’], the Quran attests to the fact that one of the jinn, an afreet [ifrīt], in the service of Solomon (‘a) declared that he could present her throne, before Solomon (‘a) could rise from his seat. (See: Sūrah Naml 27:38-39)
4- - Sūrah Ḥijr 15:27.

elect of God and others shall be condemned to Hell due to their deviation from the path of righteousness:

“And surely among us, some have submitted [to Allah] and others have deviated. Those who have submitted seek rectitude. But as for those who have deviated, they shall be firewood for Hell.”(1)

Various Quranic verses also suggest that God has appointed prophets from among the jinn as well so as to impart divine signs upon them.(2) Another point of correspondence among humans and jinn is that the purpose of both races is servitude and worship of the One Allah:

﴿وَ ما خَلَقْتُ الجِنَّ و الإِنسَ إِلّا لِیَعبُدُون﴾

“And I have not created the jinn and humans but that they worship Me.”(3)

d. Communal Life:

Various Hadith and Quranic verses indicate that like humans, the jinn live in communities. The Quran states the fact that nations of jinn existed in the past. The word “ummah” (nation) is an explicit indicator of the social lives of jinn. Furthermore, the system of marriage and reproduction exists among the jinn as well.

e. The Relationship of Jinn and Humans:

Even though the jinn are normally intangible, sometimes a unique liaison is created between various jinn and humans. According to the Quran, various jinn were among the subordinates and soldiers of Solomon (‘a).(4) On the other hand, at various points in time, groups of humans worshiped jinn and on occasion, some became subservient minions to jinn.(5)

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1- - Sūrah Jinn 72:14-15.
2- - Sūrah An‘ām 6:130.
3- - Sūrah Ḍārīāt 51:56.
4- - Sūrah Naml 27:17, 27:39; and Sūrah Saba’ 34:14.
5- - Sūrah Saba’ 34:41; and Sūrah An‘ām 6:100, 6:128.
3. Satan [shaytān]

A third intangible entity who has been named in our religious texts is Satan [shaytān] or Iblis. Shaytān is sometimes used as a qualifier—meaning wicked and evil. This usage pertains to both humans and jinn:

﴿وَ کَذلِکَ جَعَلنا لِکُلِّ نَبیٍّ عَدُوّاً شَیاطینَ الإِنسِ وَ الجنِّ﴾

“And thus We appointed for each prophet an enemy—satans of human and jinn.”(1)

In addition, sometimes it is used referring to the object of our discussion.(2)

However, the name Iblis is a proper noun and thus, it is not used for other entities except metaphorically, allegorically, or innuendo.

a. The Nature of Satan:

The Quran explicitly states that Satan is of the jinn:

﴿فَسَجَدُوا إَلّآ إِبلیسَ کانَ مِنَ الجِنِّ﴾

“Then they [all] bowed save for Iblis who was of the jinn.”(3)

As a rationale for his transgression against the divine order to bow before Adam (‘a), Satan emphasized the fact that he was created from fire whereas Adam (‘a) was created from clay. As we have previously stated, the Quran attests to the fact that the essence of jinn is fire.

Nevertheless, religious texts about Satan reveal the fact that before his insurrection, he worshiped God for a very long time. Due to the exuberance of his worship, he entered the order of angels and as a result, God’s command to the angels to bow before Adam (‘a) included Satan as well.

b. The History of Satan:

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1- - Sūrah An‘ām 6:112.
2- - In the Quran, Shaytān is used both with the definite article “ال”, indicating it as a proper noun and without the definite article, denoting it as a qualifier.
3- - Sūrah Kahf 18:50.

Satan has a singularly amazing and edifying history that is indicated in various sections of the Quran. Here is a short version of the Quranic story of Satan: At the beginning, due to the profuseness of his worship, Satan was affiliated with the order of angels. After creating Adam (‘a), God commanded the angels—including Satan—to prostrate themselves before Adam (‘a). However, Satan was too proud to prostrate himself and refused.(1)

In order to vindicate himself of this defiance, Satan resorted to a fallacious argument. Due to his fiery essence, Satan considered himself superior to Adam (‘a) who was created of clay.(2)

This was a great test and Satan failed it in disgrace. Because of this blatant rebellion, Satan fell from his lofty station and he was cast out of the divine court.(3) Thus, Satan was cursed by God until the Day of Judgment.(4)

Thereupon, Satan professed his enmity with Adam (‘a) and in order to seduce and corrupt Adam (‘a) and his children, he asked God to respite him until the Resurrection.(5) Consequently, in His divine wisdom, God gave Satan amnesty for a fixed period—the duration of which is unclear to us.(6)

c. Satan’s Campaign:

Satan employs various methods to corrupt humans. One of these methods is instigating evil whispers [waswasah] or suggestions within humans. The Quran attests that by evil whispers [waswasah], Satan tempted Adam (‘a) and Eve (‘a) to eat from the forbidden tree and deceived them through perjury.(7) Another of his methods is beautifying

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1- - Sūrah Ḥijr 15:28-31.
2- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:12; and Sūrah Ḥijr 15:33.
3- - Sūrah Ḥijr 15:34.
4- - Sūrah Ḥijr 15:35.
5- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:14; and Sūrah Ḥijr 15:36.
6- - Sūrah Ḥijr 15:37-38. It is self-evident that Satan’s amnesty and means for temptation is a part of God’s tradition of trialing humans. The existential philosophy of Satan is indicated in Sūrah Saba’: ﴿وَ ما کانَ لَهُ عَلَیهِم مِن سلطانٍ إِلّا لَنَعلَمَ مَن یُؤمِنُ بالأَخِرَةِ مِمَّن هُوَ مِنها فِی شَکٍّ﴾ “And he [Satan] had no sovereignty over them save that We might differentiate those who believe in the Hereafter from those who doubt it.” (Sūrah Saba’ 34:21)
7- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:20-22.

and glamorizing evil deeds.(1) Satan illustrates the pleasures of sins more ardently than they truly are so as to trap humans in the snare of vices.

Additionally, Satan makes promises to his followers; promises that shall never be realized.(2) In order to prevent benevolence or charity [infāq] he discourages people with the threat of poverty and destitution.(3) He induces humans to forget God.(4) In précis, Satan is humanity’s most significant external motivator of evil and wicked deeds.(5)

It must be noted that none of the seductive and deceptive methods of Satan can overrule free will. In fact, ultimately, humans themselves consent to Satan’s dominance over them. They themselves put on the collar of Satan’s discipleship and say labbayk (6) to his call. The Quran depicts a scene from the Hereafter in which Satan addresses the souls of the damned and says:

﴿وَ ما کانَ لیَ عَلَیکُم مِن سُلطانٍ إِلّآ أَن دَعَوْتُکُم فَاستَجَبتُمْ لی، فَلا تَلُومُونی و لُومُوۤا أَنفُسَکُم﴾

“And I had no dominance over you except that I called to you and you answered me; so do not reproach me but reproach yourselves.”(7)

Hence, the existence of Satan and his schemes and tricks do not contradict our free will or responsibilities toward ourselves. We are ultimately accountable for our own actions in the end—no excuses whatsoever.

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1- - Sūrah Ḥijr 15:39.
2- - Sūrah Ibrāhīm 14:22.
3- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:268.
4- - Sūrah An‘ām 6:68.
5- - Sūrah Nūr 24:21.
6- - This means, at your service. [trans.]
7- - Sūrah Ibrāhīm 14:22.




Section One: The Human Essence

Section Two: Death

Section Three: Philosophical Approaches to Human Immortality

Section Four: Life in the Hereafter as stated by the Quran

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All humans in this world are temporal beings whose lives have a beginning and end. Their past reaches oblivion and so does their future. The span between the beginning and end, which is the repository of one’s life, is surrounded by nihility. We experience life and existence but we have not experienced oblivion and never shall. Our experiences are restricted to our existence. Thus, we learn from experience that, “No human life is permanent and it has a finish just as it has a start”. Even though we have not reached the end of our lives (i.e. death), we realize from the deaths of our fellow humans that there is no escape from this unavoidable juncture. The two points of start and finish draw our attention; two disparate and sensitive phases or rather—two extremities.

People see their inception as a transferal from inexistence to existence and the opposite point as a transferal from existence to inexistence. However, in becoming existent, we traverse an eternally long path—what distance is longer than the gap between nullity and reality?

This apparently impassable distance brings up various questions. Such as, how is our genesis possible? Where have we come from? Who is our originator? We cannot find the efficient cause for our existence and continuity either in ourselves or in the beings around us. The intellect drives us to seek the entity that has invited us into existence—an entity to which the whole world is indebted for their existence; an entity who is sufficient of all others and who is untainted by any restrictions and conditions.

Endeavoring to understand and contemplate our end makes the question of our origination more sensitive and important, and it suffuses every moment of our lives. The Master of the World has made all beings in existence His guests; He maintains this feast, and has made humans exempt from facing oblivion. This end has confronted us with oblivion and the span between existence and inexistence. It has made us aware that not only are we needy in our genesis, we are also needy in our continuation. We humans believe

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that the gap between existence and nonexistence is miniscule. However, coming into existence out of the void is a miracle that has removed humanity’s genesis from the restrictions of nature.

On the other hand, the eventide of our existence, as opposed to our dawning, is a terrifying and macabre juncture. We humans live and relish our lives and existences. We have tasted of the exotic drink of existence and thus, all our endeavors are based on preserving it. We guard our existence against anything that will bring about our ends. Our aspiration is to eradicate exterminative factors and their symptoms (such as weakness and frailty). We dream of finding the elixir of life. We aim at the ideal of freedom from the constricted and impenetrable prison of time. We wish that our past and future sorrows would not hurt us. We abhor this final juncture, thus, we ask ourselves:

Is there a way to cheat death? Will I continue to exist after death? Moreover, if I am not obliterated after death, where shall I be and where shall I go from there?

These questions confront the human identity. Hence, thoughtful people cannot disregard such questions and cannot delude themselves into believing that they are exaggerated. This essential quality has released these questions from historic and geographic boundaries. Archeological and anthropological studies have attested to the fact that understanding our beginning and end has always been a universal issue. For instance, the relics of ancient graves and primitive customs regarding the method of interment of the dead are telltales of their particular beliefs about life after death and the state of the dead.(1)

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1- - In their findings from primitive peoples, researchers have encountered issues that reveal various types of beliefs in life after death; regardless of whether these beliefs are superstitious or not. For example, they state that primitive humans have devised plans in order to ease the transportation of the dead that have various forms all over the world. For instance, they would cover the dead with heaps of stones, or they would tie their dead with strong ropes. In some places, they would even impale their dead into the ground with sharp poles through their chests. Moreover, mummifying the dead; placing pictures, icons, and food in graves; burying the friends and family of the deceased in its grave; etc. were various ancient customs that reveal early humans beliefs. For more information, see: Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, vol. 1, pp. 49, 155, 180, 283, 429, 851, 925; vol. 2, p. 18; vol. 3, p. 9; and Nass, John B., The Comprehensive History of Religions.

Modern humans also seek answers to these questions in both their personal lives and scientific and philosophic studies.

Whenever a question agitates the sea of our intellect, our mind’s ambition is to reach the truth even though in this context the obscure truth of creation is not easily discerned. The deeper a question penetrates into the profundity of existence, the harder it is to determine its answer. Existence is profound, complex, involute, exquisite, and tenacious. Thus, even discovering all facets of its most apparent layer has no end. We must have perceptive eyes and acute ears and think straight. All fantasies regarding existence will be repelled some day. Even though it may be hard, we must understand the language of existence. The world is not mute. It speaks and does not allow any utterance to be forced upon it.

Due to various mental-spiritual reasons, in order to answer their complex questions, many people seek refuge in delusive thoughts and fabricate beliefs by fantasizing and making groundless suppositions. Sometimes these superstitious beliefs turn into incontrovertible and dogmatic beliefs in future generations due to the predominance of followership mentalities. Thus, these beliefs dominate the minds and souls of a people for centuries. Doubtless, many weak and superstitious beliefs about death and the afterlife are thus originated.

In Quest for an Answer

Two repositories of knowledge open the path for human understanding:

1. The Results of Scientific Research and Investigation:

In modern day, we divide this repository into science and philosophy. Science comprises empirical knowledge or knowledge based on inductive syllogism and philosophy comprises non-empirical knowledge or knowledge based on intellective syllogism. The common attribute of these two divisions is that the scientist or philosopher endeavors to arrange and prove a hypothesis according to logical principles. Whether its accordance with actuality is proven or its fallaciousness is revealed, both have a great part in human

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knowledge. The caravan of human knowledge has traversed many treacherous and unpredictable paths in order to reach its contemporary state while accelerating every moment. However, our lack of knowledge is indubitably incomparable with our knowledge.

Obviously, in order to attain stable and trustworthy knowledge regarding life after death, we cannot utilize empirical knowledge. Even if science can successfully present a natural explanation of life and death, it cannot reveal knowledge of the state of death and the dead. This is because, empirical knowledge relates to perceptible and repeatable phenomena and it is mute regarding other phenomena. Those who have gone are silent and those extant are unaware of these tidings.

Various thinkers have attempted to answer questions regarding our finale using their intellectual findings and rational contemplation of humanity and the cosmos. Varieties of philosophical schools have presented diverse theories on this issue. However, these theories are typically general and can at most prove the continuation of individuals. The intellect cannot depict postmortal spiritual incidents or even the experience of death. In order to advance in this field the intellect has fixed its eyes upon a different source. This source must present the intellect with conceptual and factual intuitional elements so it can begin its progress in this field.

2. Revelation:

Revelation is knowledge that has been given to humanity freely and that is not a result of human toil. Thus, it does not have the limitations and flaws of human knowledge. This cascading fount of knowledge has set forth the main lines for all exterior and interior discoveries regarding existence and has presented a solid image of the whole truth or, in other words, the big picture. Without this knowledge, humans can neither truly understand their current state nor their continued existence. Divine prophets and messengers have bestowed this vital knowledge upon humanity. They are the first to whisper the song of eternality in our ears. They have reminded us that the thirst for everlastingness is a true thirst and can only be quenched with the elixir of eternal life.

The prophets have illustrated our beginning and end, and our fall and ascension. They have engraved absolute perpetuity and immortality in

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our minds. Knowledge of our origin and destination is an element of guidance that may only be found in the teachings of divine prophets. The result of this knowledge is true self-awareness; it is never falling astray in the world; it is precise awareness of one’s path and destination. Prophets are experienced voyagers who warn travelers of the dangers and deviations of the path and guide them to the depths of existence. We humans may learn endless knowledge and wisdom from the prophets. With the aid of these immaculate souls, we may purify all aspects of our existence and attain perfection.

In exchange for these blessings, all they ask for is faith. The messengers of God (‘a) bestow something upon humans that they can never attain on their own and all they ask for in return is what logically entails from their enjoinment. Faith [īmān] is a process in which all human systems—such as the system of knowledge or emotions—participate. Faith in our origin is faith in prophethood, and faith in our destination is faith in returning to our origin. Faith in the Prophet (ṣ) is faith in God and faith in God and the prophet is faith in life in the Hereafter. Denying the Resurrection and life after death is denying our origin, both of which are denying prophethood. By disseminating divine messages, the prophets show us our true station and shed us of the stain of negligence towards God and ourselves. By aiding our intellect, they purify our worldly lives. They increase our passion for righteousness and free us of despair, fear, and anxiety; thus, they swiftly guide us to the harborage of tranquility. They present us with the past and future of existence and from within nature, they make us a guest of the supernatural. These experienced voyagers reveal the essence of natural phenomena through their divine identities. In other words, prophets tear the veils between nature and the extramundane. Thus, the paths between the heavens and earth are opened and earthly humans can perceive the supernatural just as they see nature.

The teachers of logic and certitude and the deniers of blind advocacy present their enjoinment such that it leaves no intellectual justification for doubt or refutation, unless mental states or psychological conditions interfere to simulate inner doubt.

Revelation has specific attributes that differentiate it from the first source of knowledge (human knowledge):

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1. Freedom from all errors and faults

2. Benefiting from the divine fountainhead of absolute knowledge and the prophets’ needlessness of methods of knowledge acquisition that have the possibility of fault

3. Dependency of these teachings upon objective scientific arguments

The Noble Quran and the compendium of the teachings of the Prophet (ṣ) and the Immaculate Imams (‘a) have provided us with a valuable treasury of truths regarding death and life in the Hereafter. Researchers must have the same attitude towards revelational and religious statements as they have towards all other aspects of existence. These descriptive revelational statements explain reality and accurately report the past, present, and future of existence. Thus, any researcher who knows the laws of apprehending and discovering truths can theorize regarding religious statements, including statements about death and immortality, and attempt to prove their theories. Interpretation and elucidation of religious propositions and concepts is a scientific endeavor. In scientific research, we must prevent influence of personal and psychological conditions that separate us from the path of truth. This is not easy, but it is possible. We must not forget that we humans are subject to errors and the probability of these errors is high. However, we must not let this discourage us; rather, we must increase our resolve and precision. Therefore, even though this second source is complete and infallible, our scientific knowledge is progressive (not absolute) and sometimes erroneous. Our cognitive system acknowledges its limitations; however, it does not tolerate a standstill.

Reliance upon revelation does not mean that the intellect is faulty and must be put aside; rather, correct understanding of revelational concepts requires reason. We mean to say that without the aid of revelation and by utilizing only reason, one cannot fathom life in the Hereafter. Even with the guidance of religion, reason cannot answer all its questions at once. Thus, many illuminated philosophers—while they have been successful in philosophical research about various issues regarding death and life in the Hereafter—have found themselves at an impasse regarding other philosophic issues on this subject. As a result, they have sufficed themselves with faith in the

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concepts and teachings in the Quran and Hadith(1) or have organized their philosophic theories with inspiration from divine revelation.(2) It must be reminded that the path of discovery of truth, like all human affairs, is progressive.

ع_قل، چ_ون جبریل گوید احمدا

گ_ر یک_ی گ_امی ن_هم سوزد مرا

تو مرا بگذار زین پ_س پیش_ران

حدّ من این ب_ود ای س_لطان ج_ان

As Gabriel says O Ahmad, reason;

Burns me if I (revelation) take a step.

Hence, set me as the navigator;

This is my station O leader of hearts (reason). (3)

Eschatology and Anthropology

Since death and life in the Hereafter deal with human states, understanding humans and humanity has a direct effect in eschatological discussions. To state the matter differently, we must first harmonize our opinions on immortality with our views regarding the nature of humankind. Therefore, anthropology is an important prerequisite of eschatology. Accordingly, it is befitting that we first take a glance at several important anthropological principles that have a close link with immortality. Then, we shall commence the discussion on death and eternality.

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1- - Ibn-e Sīnā (Avicenna), Ilāhiyāt-e Shifā’ (Healing, Theology), disquisition 9, chap. 7.
2- - Mullāsadrā, Asfār (Journeys), vol. 9, p. 179.
3- - Jalal ad-Din Maūlavī, Mathnavī-e Ma‘navī (Spiritual Couplets), Book I, verses 1069-1070.

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Section One: The Human Essence


As far as the history of human knowledge shows, we humans have continuously endeavored to discover our station in the world and our relationship with other creatures. These endeavors were obstructed at the very beginning of history and today, this obstruction has not been relieved even in advanced scientific communities. Humanity’s existence is not analogous to the existence of other natural entities. It seems that among the discovered creatures in nature, we humans are unique and that our existence is not in concord with the image of the natural world. The existence of humans in this collection has made it difficult to explain and elucidate this structure overall. Experts in natural science tell us that the world is made up of chaotic and mindless physical particles. However, we perceive ourselves as purposeful and intellectual creatures. How can a creature with awareness come about in a world full of mindless particles? How can the mechanical world produce an entity that can present itself unto the world? How can we conceive of an essentially purposeless world that nurtures beings with transcendent purposes? How can a being with free will emerge from a world that according to determinism has foreshadowed its elements? Yea, human qualities and attributes have resulted in these questions and have made the coordination of humans and other natural beings challenging.

According to common belief, human qualities reside in two general vessels: body and soul. Languages attest to the existence of this common belief. There are two types of concepts in all languages. Consequently, we are faced with two classes of statements that possess a common subject (humans) with the variation of the predicate. For instance, regard these two statements:

1. Mary is 90 pounds.

2. Mary hopes to attend college.

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One class of statements, like the first, describes the states and conditions of the human body. Even though the predicate of this type of statement relates to the human body, it is usually common with other corporeal beings, such as predicates that indicate weight, shape, or size. In contrast, other statements, such as the second sentence, sometimes mostly and sometimes absolutely pertain to humans and do not indicate bodily statuses. These predicates encompass thought, reasoning, deduction, love, intimacy, faith, etc. As a result, in studying humans, we are faced with two sets of qualities:

· Material or corporeal attributes such as heat, size, color, weight, etc.

· Incorporeal or spiritual attributes such as fear, love, courage, aspiration, hope, etc.

These two classes are essentially different. For example, the attributes in the first class are obvious and can be perceived with the senses. However, the attributes of the second class, such as sorrow, belief, fear, impatience, etc. are not such. The first type of states can be perceived by everyone; yet, the second type can only be cognized by the person experiencing them. Each individual’s intentions are clear to themselves but obscure to others. No one can hide their height or width, nevertheless intentions, sorrow, and happiness can be concealed.

Additionally, the manner in which an individual realizes each of these qualities is not the same. For example, we can feel pain without any intermediates. Therefore, if someone asks us, “How do you know you have pain?”, we would deem the question irrational. However, becoming aware of a physical disorder such as a gastric ulcer requires reasoning. Consequently, if someone asks, “How do you know that you have an ulcer?”, we would have to present our reasons, which may be the physician’s diagnosis. Therefore, at least the three factors of spatiality, general exposure, and indirect accessibility dissociate corporeal qualities from spiritual qualities.

The public, scientists, and philosophers all agree on this matter. Everyone concurs with the duality of all languages regarding humans, which indicates duality in humanity’s attributes and characteristics. Here, the question exists: Are these two classes based on one essential

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aspect or two disparate essential aspects that, while linked, are independent of one other and can be intellectually separated? Advocates of the first theory are called monists and supporters of the second theory are called dichotomists or dualists.(1)

The first view states that the first-class attributes—that describe the human body—are fundamental human attributes and each of the second-class attributes depend upon the quality of the first class.

Consequently, second-class attributes cannot exist without first-class attributes. For example, “hope” is a function of specific states within the human body, especially the brain and the nervous system. Thus, we do not possess two distinct and independent aspects; rather, humans are similar to machines comprised of cellular blocks and have two distinct classes of attributes. However, they both, directly or indirectly, pertain to the human body such that visualizing a person without a standard body is visualizing the inexistence of that person.

Advocates of the second view however, have discovered these attributes so inherently different that they have attributed the first class to the body and the second class to another entity called soul. Some have even stressed that the soul equates with the human identity. Even though these two entities are linked in a mysterious and mystical manner and they create a single human identity in this world, one can imagine them existing apart from each other. It is worthy of note that the issue of the intercommunication of the body and soul—according to this view—or mental states—according to the first view—has been problematic throughout history.

Duality of Humans and Our Rationale

Advocates of the second view maintain that our introversive contemplations attest to this duality. Each of us discovers a truth within ourselves separate of our body, which we call “self”. This “self” signifies our essence as opposed to our bodies; it is not

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1- - These are the major theories regarding the human constitution. However, there are minority theories regarding the nature of the person, such as trichotomism, which states that humans are made up of three distinct components: body, soul, and spirit. [trans.]

identifiable with our bodies. This averment includes various rationales some of which are enumerated below.

i. In every person, there exist actions and manifestations that cannot be rendered as pertaining to the body. The body cannot manage these phenomena; however, they must have an originator. Since the body cannot be considered the author of these occurrences, they must be predicated by another entity. We call this entity the soul. Intuitive perception, thought, analysis, judgment, religious experience, emotions, and sentiments are a number of phenomena that signify the existence of the soul.

ii. Contrary to other creatures in existence, human actions do not occur according to a standard routine. Human actions are not similar in identical situations. This makes it almost impossible to predict human behavior. Discovering the laws governing human behavior is not like discovering the laws governing natural objects. This rationale is indicative of the element of free will. Explaining and interpreting free will based on mechanical determinist laws of nature is not possible.

iii. We relate all our internal and external actions to our “self”. We say, “I walk”, “I see”, “I think”, etc. Since there in no organ in the body to which we may attribute all our actions, it is revealed that there is a distinct aspect to humans that is transcendent to the body and that holds the status of originator of all actions. In addition, we can say regarding the body and its parts, “my hand=hand belonging to the self”, “my heart=heart belonging to the self”, etc. We can clearly perceive an “otherness” between the noun (i.e. hand, heart, etc.) and the pronoun (i.e. my). Because this apprehension is intuitive and thus infallible, it is conclusive evidence that we have a dual constitution.(1)

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1- - One might say that in normal speech we use terms such as “my essence=essence belonging to the self” or “myself=self belonging to the self”. We must bear in mind that in these cases, we do not intuitively apprehend discord or otherness between the possessive and noun; and with little thought, we realize that these two are in fact, one and the same.

iv. Moreover, in differentiation of natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences, scientific philosophers stress issues that indicate the duality of the human constitution. The following issues have resulted in the natural sciences overshadowing the liberal arts:

a. Existence of free will in humans and the superfluity of causality and determinism in virtue of this factor

b. The purposefulness of humanity

c. The significance of human actions

Incorporeality of the Soul

Our previous rationales indicate that those who advocate the existence of the soul both stress the identification of self with the soul and its incorporeality. An incorporeal entity is an entity that transcends material attributes such as volume, mass, direction, shape, size, location, time, etc. After proving the disparity of the body and soul, Islamic researchers have brought various arguments for the incorporeality of the soul. Here, we shall briefly discuss these arguments.

One of the properties of corporeal entities is their divisibility. Scientifically, all material objects can be divided into smaller parts, even though this may be unfeasible in practice. On the other hand, we distinctly realize that dividing “self” into two or more constituents in meaningless and impossible. Thus, the human soul is not a material and divisible object.

Moreover, human capacities, such as our capacity for knowledge, are inexhaustible, but unlimited affairs cannot be explained in terms of the human body.

The modern science of parapsychology speaks of mental phenomena that support existence of the soul. These phenomena are divided into two groups:

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1. Phenomena that do not necessitate life after death, but are credible evidence of the incorporeality of humans: These include psychokinesis (PK) and extrasensory perception (ESP) in its various forms, such as telepathy and clairvoyance.

2. Phenomena that are related to life after death: These include communication with the dead by means of mediums, revival of the dead, and out-of-body experiences.

In telepathy, the thoughts in one person’s mind are transferred to the mind of another without using normal channels of communication under conditions that cannot be regarded as chance, such as mental communication over vast distances through steel shields. Clairvoyance is the knowledge of objects and affairs without the intermediacy of sensory organs and without physical contact of the clairvoyant with the perceived object. Psychokinesis is the ability to move objects by mental effort without using physical devices.(1)

In short, these affairs, which are called paranormal phenomena, attribute abilities to humans that cannot be explained in terms of the physical framework, from subatomic and submolecular approaches to neurological and physiological approaches.

Below is a summary of the theories about the human nature as regards the issue of immortality:

1. The human being is an indissoluble unity and its entire existence is limited to its corporeal frame. The monotheist advocates of this theory believe in the existence and perpetuity of humans after death in a future age.

2. Humans have a dual constitution with disparate and heterogeneous qualities. Most supporters of human immortality advocate this theory, although, they are divided into two groups:

a. Those who believe in the duality of the human nature, however, because they identify humans with their souls, they understand that only the spiritual aspect is immortal.

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1- - For more information, see: John Hick, Philosophy of Religion.

b. Those who regard the identity of humans as the sum of their body and soul; therefore, they regard humans as a spiritual-corporeal entity in all aspects of existence.

Aspects of Human Existence in the Quran

﴿ثم جعلناه نطفة فی قرار مکین. ثم خلقنا النطفة علقة فخلقنا العلقة مضغة فخلقنا المضغة عظاما فکسونا العظام لحما ثم انشأناه خلقا اخر فتبارک الله احسن الخالقین﴾

“Then We made it a sperm in a secure receptacle (womb). Then of the sperm We created blood-clot, next of the blood-clot We created tissue, and then of the tissue We created bones, afterwards We covered the bones with flesh, and then We originated within it a different existence. Glory be to Allah, the fairest of creators.”(1)

﴿ثمّ سوّاه و نَفَخَ فیه من روحِهِ و جعل لکم السمع و الابصار و الافئدة﴾

“Then He shaped it and breathed in it of His spirit and He appointed for you ears, eyes, and hearts.”(2)

﴿و یسئلونک عن الروح قل الروح من امر ربی و ما اوتیتم من العلم إلا قلیلاً﴾

“And they ask you about the soul; say, ‘The soul is my Lord’s Command and you have not been given knowledge save a little.’”(3)

﴿ألا له الخلق و الامر﴾

“Know that Creation and Command solely belong to Him.”(4)

﴿انّما امره اذا اراد شیئاً ان یقول له کن فیکون﴾

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1- - Sūrah Mu’minūn 23:13-14.
2- - Sūrah Sajdah 32:9.
3- - Sūrah Isrā’ 17:85.
4- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:54.

“His Command is such, when He wants something, the moment He says to it, ‘be’ it immediately is.”(1)

Commentary and Interpretation

As can be seen, the first verse previously mentioned contains terms that signify the corporeal structure of humans and its origination. The stages of development of the body are distributed through a determined time span. In each stage, the simpler form slowly evolves into a more complex anatomy. The stages of embryo and fetus growth are identified as sperm/zygote [nuṭfah], blood-clot [‘alaqah], tissue [muḍghah], bone [‘iẓām], and flesh/muscle [laḥm]. These stages encompass the introduction of the sperm into the uterus throughout the emergence of the human limbs. From beginning to end, this body feeds from nature, develops within it, and ultimately returns to it.

The term “سوّاه” [sawwāhu] in the second verse indicates the period of anatomical formation. At the end of this period, as it is also indicated at the conclusion of the first verse, something occurs that is essentially different from the previous stages. Here the Quran speaks of a “different existence” in contrast to the previous gradual stages. In order to describe this stage, the verb “انشأ” [ansha’a] was used. According to the second verse, the “originated” being is the soul [rūḥ] that is firmly established in the body by the “divine breath”. We cannot say that the soul is breathed into the body from the outside; however, it is evident that the origination of the soul is inherently different from preceding occurrences. Henceforth, the body is charged with an abode of the soul. Prior to the establishment of the soul, this body had eyes, but did not see; it had ears, but did not hear; it had a form but no content. The body was matter therefore possessed the qualities of matter. Yet now, this matter has been transferred to a different level, that is, adorned with qualities such as awareness, life, knowledge, volition, etc.

We can only see the body; therefore, the question is, “What kind of creature is this esoteric and imperceptible entity?” This question is answered by the third verse, which identifies the soul as the Lord’s Command [amr].

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1- - Sūrah Yāsīn 36:82.

The second verse, in a manner, attributes the soul to God; while the third verse clarifies that this attribution means that the soul is God’s Command. However, what does “Command” mean? The fourth verse provides the answer. God identifies some of His creatures as “Creation” and some as “Command”. Thus, in a manner of speaking, there are two extant worlds: the world of Creation and the world of Command. Usually, the Quran identifies these worlds as the Manifest world and the Invisible world. The Invisible world is the world that cannot be perceived by the senses and is considered the spiritual or inner world [ālam-e baṭin], whereas the Manifest world is discernible and apparent. Humans partake of both worlds; they are the conjunction of the natural and supernatural or the Manifest and Invisible planes. The human soul is an entity of Command and has no kinship with the corporeal world, while the human body has developed in the context of nature.

Yea, humans have both form [ẓāhir] and essence [bāṭin], both eyes and perception, both brain and mind since they have both body and soul. The human body is discernible to all; however, its soul is hidden to all but itself. The soul is the individual’s sanctum. It is so profound that at times, its depths are obscure even to the self and thus must be discovered. The body is alive, energetic, and animated as long as its soul is its confidant. When the soul, which was established within the body by the Divine Breath, is recalled by the draw and summons of the Lord, the body submits to silence.

The fifth verse reveals that entities of Command—such as the soul—transcend time, space, and gradual conditions, and that they occur at the behest of the Divine.(1)

In short, we explained that:

· According to the Quran, humans are the integration of body and soul

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1- - For more information refer to Allāmah Ṭabāṭabāī, Tafsīr-e Al-Mīzān (Al-Mīzān Exegesis), vol. 13, pp. 196-198; and Allāmah Ṭabāṭabāī, Rasā’il-e Tawḥīdī (Monotheistic Disquisitions), Disquisition of Humans before this World, pp. 169-170.

· The soul is incorporeal since it belongs to the world of Command

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Section Two: Death


Humans are death-aware creatures; we know in advance that our current lives are unstable and ephemeral. We realize that terminating factors numerous and our lives are so fragile that it is miraculous that we linger in existence. While we observe life with the depths of our being, a small part of us also looks ahead to death. Our lives are worthwhile only if our deaths are worthwhile. We are immortality-loving creatures; however, we cannot attain unity and tranquility except through death. Yea, life and death must coexist in order for them both to have significance. We realize that life and death are not under our control. Before we can take full advantage of the buffet that life has set before us, we are faced with the heralds of death—weakness and frailty. This infirmity increases every moment and saps our strength and vitality, but it does not decrease our thirst for life. Our dream is neither life with a finale nor life intermingled with death; we desire eternal life. There is no death in eternal life and an eternal human is one whose life surges from within and who is not shadowed by the notion of death. This is not possible save with the promise of life. Death guides us to the Life-provider, and true eternality can only be realized through this union.

Nature of Death

The issue of death can be studied through philosophical, psychological, and biological approaches. Due to the variety of these approaches, there are numerous interpretations of death. Whatever the nature of death may be, that which is certain is that it is contingent upon on the nature of life. If human life is interpreted in terms of biology, its death must also be interpreted through biology. If we regard life philosophically, such that life is predicated on the supernatural, so also is death. There is no contradiction between these various perspectives since each deals with the means, causes, and purposes of its respective field, and assesses and interprets phenomena within this framework.

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As a consequence of these varying perspectives regarding human nature, our philosophic endeavors have resulted in varied expositions of death. The following are several of these views:

1. Those that identify humans with the material body and regard the human individual equatable and restricted to the corporeal frame view death as the termination of life. This is because humans have no other reality that can protect them from deterioration and extermination. Death of the body equates with extinguishment of the individual. Death of the body truly severs off the thread of the person’s existence. The question of whether or not the person shall later return to life is a separate issue that will be discussed later. In short, this perspective states that death is the termination of the human existence.

2. Some dualists believe that the body does not consist of the essence of the individual and that the human consciousness pertains to the soul. According to this viewpoint, death is not the end of the individual’s life. Some advocates of this view believe that the soul is trapped within the body and that death is nothing but freedom from corporeal restrictions. During every moment of the soul’s captivity, the body presents it with additional troubles. It continuously demands food, water, and other necessities and exploits the abilities of the self to satisfy its needs. Natural death ends this incarceration and returns the soul to its true station.(1)

3. Those who believe that the individual is a synthesis of body and soul regard death as the separation of the soul’s intellectual link with its natural body and the world. Thereafter, it persists in union with a different body free of material qualities.

The common factors of the two prior theories are that human life is not discontinued at the time of death and that death is regarded as a transition from one existential state to another. Some advocates of the third view interpret death as follows:

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1- - See: Plato: Complete Works, Phaedrus (Phaedon).

Contingent beings are divided into incorporeal beings and material beings or rather, perfect entities and imperfect entities. Incorporeal entities are not characterized with movement and change, and they perpetuate exclusively through the maintenance of their efficient cause. However, material beings or beings that are linked with materiality essentially evolve, change, and strive towards their purpose. Because we are a part of the natural world, we too are evolving beings. Our development has an end and by arriving at it, we reach our deaths. Our end is not a place external to ourselves that we can reach by making effort; rather, it is like maturity for an adolescent. Maturity is not external to the adolescent’s being; the adolescent gradually develops towards maturity. In other worlds, the human aim is evolution from absolute materiality towards incorporeality and the supernatural plane. Our life in the natural world is the span of this evolution. When we humans adequately develop our capacities through worldly life, we are ready to elevate to a higher plane where our material bodies are not necessary. Thus, we end our journey in this world by leaving behind our corporeal form.

An example that can better formulate this perspective in the mind is that for the duration that humans exist as a fetus, they continually evolve from faultiness towards perfection and the course and distance of this evolution is the time spent in the womb. During this transition, the fetus needs and belongs to the uterus; such that if for any reason its evolution terminates before reaching its perfection, it remains premature and faulty. However, when its course is fully traversed, it must be delivered outside the abdomen and birth is vital. At this point, the existence of the former fetus is so altered that it no longer requires its embryonic receptacle.(1)

Consequently, it must be understood that death is not the annihilation and extinction of human individuals; rather, it is a transition from one existential plane to the next or in other words, it is the evolution of human beings from faultiness to a certain level of perfection.

This interpretation of the nature of death reveals it as a part of humanity’s existence. In fact, death is an upholder of our existence not

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1- - Mullāṣadrā, Asfār (Journeys), vol. 8, pp. 105, 106.

its eliminator. More precisely, we humans die and come to life every moment, in the sense that we cross over from our previous states to reach new ones. The condition for reaching the next state is traversing our previous more flawed state. Hence, death shall expire in the world of perfection and perpetuity where our actions shall become manifest.

Jalāl ad-Dīn Mawlavī has versified this interpretation using a beautiful analogy:

This world is like a tree, O Bountiful;

And we, like green fruit.

The unripe hold fast to the branch

For in their immaturity, they not suitable for a palace.

When they ripen and become lip-stingingly sweet;

Their hold on the branch weakens.

When a mouth is sweetened by its fate;

To the person, the world becomes cold.(1)

Death as stated by the Quran and Hadith

﴿الله یتوفی الانفس حین موتها و التی لم تمت فی منامها فیمسک التی قضی علیها الموت و یرسل الاخری الی اجل مسمی﴾

“Allah completely retracts souls at the time of their deaths and also retracts those that have not died, while they sleep. So, He holds souls upon which He has decreed death and returns the rest until an appointed end.”(2)

In this verse, death is represented with the term tawaffa an-nafs (complete retraction of the soul). Tawaffā happens at death and in sleep. During each phenomenon the soul’s connection with the body—and thus the natural world—is severed is some way. During each phenomenon, the soul is withdrawn; however, one is temporary and partial and the other is permanent and complete. At the moment of death, our essence or soul, which is the body’s sustaining agent, is completely retracted. Thus, the soul completely abandons the natural

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1- - Jalal ad-Din Mawlavī, Mathnavī-e Ma‘navī (Spititual Couplets), Book III, verses 1293-1296.
2- - Sūrah Zumar 39:42.

world and enters an invisible quarter of existence. Sleep provides us with a muted perception of the experience of death. As long as the soul is linked to the corporeal body, it may remain asleep; but if this link is severed, death occurs. As a result, death is not annihilation; rather, it is the launch of a new state of human existence, different from life in this world. Consequently, the soul discards its corporeal body, which belongs to the natural world.

﴿الی ربّک یومئذ المساق﴾

“That is the day of propelling towards your Lord.”(1)

This type of verse indicates a deeper facet of death. The day of death is the day of return to God. God is the master of existence and whatever enters His presence is protected from inexistence. At the Lord’s command, the soul leaves the natural world at the time of death and enters an alternate world, which is its original residence and exempt from time and space. Death shreds all veils and reveals to us the reality of existence. Even though we might not have volitionally observed this reality in life, in death we are compelled to notice all truths.

Accordingly, death is a passageway on which we travel from one facet of existence (the Manifest) to the other (the Invisible). On one side it is an exit and on the other it is an entrance. Imām ‘Alī (‘a) has stated:

“So, surely the world has not been created for you as a place of permanent stay; rather, it has been created for you as a passageway so that you send forth your actions as provisions for the abode of permanence.”(2)

﴿ما کان لنفس ان تموت الا باذن الله کتابا مؤجلا...﴾

“No soul dies save by the leave of Allah, at an appointed time.”(3)

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1- - Sūrah Qiyāmah 75:30.
2- - Nahj ul-Balāghah, Sermon 132.
3- - Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:145.

Death, like life, occurs by the hand of God. No person comes to life by their own efforts and no one retrieves their own soul. The agent that gives and takes life is not the self because life and death are not volitional phenomena.

The soul cannot pass into the next world until an appointed time, just as it could not enter this world at will.

﴿کل نفس ذائقة الموت﴾

“All souls shall taste death.”(1)

The general law of death has no exceptions. Immortality in this world is nothing but a dream—nature cannot endlessly sustain the human individual. In order to overcome a law of nature one must make use of an alternate natural law. There is no law in nature that can prevail against the law of death. Humanity cannot violate the laws of nature. All we can do is to resort to a different natural law through scientific endeavors. However, there is no law in nature that can free us of death. This is because death is one of our existential conditions—it is not exterior to our nature. Therefore, we cannot create in an impregnable fortress against death in which to hide. Death is a reality that emanates from our beings; thus, escape from death can only result in a checkmate.

﴿اینما تکونوا یدرککم الموت و لو کنتم فی بروج مشیّدة﴾

“Wherever you may be, death will find you; though you be in secure towers.”(2)

Fear of Death

Fear is one of the most common feelings that dominate us. It is an experience that no person enjoys; one that everyone attempts to circumvent. Due to its variable sources, the nature of this phenomenon is not constant, even though we indicate it with a single term. Fear of poverty, fear of disease, fear of loosing one’s reputation, fear of other people, fear of disasters and natural phenomena, etc. each have their

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1- - Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:185.
2- - Sūrah Nisā’ 4:78.

own conditions and effects. However, among the various factors that cause terror and dread, none is more dreadful than death. The mention of death quivers hearts and turns pleasure to mourning. Nowadays, many intellectuals have abandoned study of the reality of death due to inability to gather empirical data and have therefore inclined towards study of the psychological and physiological aspects of death instead. They endeavor to present us with methods of delaying or prevailing over death. Some common ideas regarding fear of death include:

1. Death alters life into oblivion.

2. Even though death is inevitable, its time is unspecified. Thus, we are continually fearful and distraught regarding death.

3. Death is an unidentified phenomenon and we have no experience regarding it. In fact, it seems that death is the end of experiences. Thus, we do not know what happens to us at that moment, and if we have continuity, what will happen after it.

4. Each person has to face death alone. If we could experience it with others, it would not be so fearsome and horrendous.

5. By reaching death, all our hopes and wishes are lost and thus, we are severed from all our desires.

There is a great gap between those who support individual immortality to overcome their fear of death and those who seek to alleviate this fear by regarding humans mortally perishable and introducing death as the finale of the individual’s existence. Socrates is of the first group:

“A man who has grown grey in the love of wisdom must be cheerful at the approach of death, because he can promise himself the greatest happiness after it… If this is the case, what an absurdity would it be if he, who points all his efforts here on earth at one single object, were to feel affliction, when the long-wished-for aim was at last accomplished.”(1)

However, materialists such as Epicurus attempt to banish fear of death by denying life after death and introducing death as the termination of

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1- - Plato: Complete Works, Phaedrus (Phaedon).

awareness and absolute painlessness. These ideologists neglect the fact that our fear of death is not because we regard it painful; rather, it is love for life that makes the taste of death bitter to our tongues. How can one soothe people by declaring that death is the end of their lives? Regarding fear of death, Spinoza states:

“A free man thinks of death least of all things; and his wisdom is a meditation not of death but of life.”(1)

This statement signifies that humans can alleviate fear of death merely by not thinking about it. Spinoza neglects that remembrance and fear of death is not a volitional feeling that one can evade. To say, “do not think of death” is not enough. It has to be explained how one can not think of death and whether not thinking about death is truly wise or ideal.

Religion and Fear of Death

One of the ethical aims of religion is purifying our being of all internal conflicts and saving us from bitter and costly psychological experiences such as grief, fear, and anxiety. Religious education evolves us existentially by propelling us, and all our aspects and states, toward our Creator whereby transforming all our interactive states. For example, a believer in God fears Him. However, this fear is essentially different from fear of beings other than God. God is an entity that the faithful are fearful of in their hearts; even so, they still seek refuge with Him. Besides God, nothing can simultaneously be an agent of fear and an agent of security and trust. If fear of anything except God penetrates into one’s soul, it will continuously grow and ultimately imbue one’s being. However, fear of God sears the roots of all fears within one’s being. Hence, fear of God is a human perfection and fear of created things is a fault. Courageous persons are those who fear nothing besides God while the memory of God imbues their hearts with humility, modesty, and fear—a fear that suffuses them with felicity and joy.

Lā takhāfū(2) is the offering of the fearful;

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1- - Spinoza, Ethics, prop. LXVII.
2- - Lā takhāfū, which means ‘fear not’, is a phrase from the Quran. [trans.]

It is worthy of those who are fearful of Him.

Whoever fears is made safe and secure;

Thus, all quaking hearts are made calm.

Those who shed their fear when it is said: ‘Fear not!’

Whether you teach them or not, they need no lesson.(1)

Therefore, the only solution for fear is based on the main pillar of Islam, which is Tawḥīd or belief in the One God. No one can escape the fear of death, nor can they convey themselves from a state of unrest to the harborage of tranquility, save by having faith in God and surrendering to Him. This is why religion does not ask that we forget death; rather, it constantly asks us to contemplate death and remember always the boundaries of our current lives. It does not tolerate neglect of this fact and regards this negligence a cause of squandering the opportunities of life. Islam teaches us to live objectively. It describes the stages of life and encourages us to recognize them all. Ultimately, Islam fashions humans into loving beings, not fearful ones because it interprets death as the point of acceleration towards our Creator and the encounter of the limited with the Infinite.

The main lines that divine religions present for confronting fear of death are briefly described below:

1. Divine religions introduce humans as immortal and eternal beings and regard the desire for eternality rational and with cause. Fear of death cannot be eradicated by regarding death as complete annihilation and nihility of the self because our love of perpetuance is incompatible with this approach. It causes internal conflict within the human soul and adds to our pain instead of relieving it. While revering life, divine religions remind us that this world is transitory and that a person who regards death as the end becomes dominated by intense attachment to this world and fear of death. This sort of person unduly lauds this ephemeral life. Religious teachings emphasize the negligibility of this life compared with otherworldly life. These teachings consider it unbefitting for humans to lower themselves by sufficing themselves with this world.

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1- - Jalal ad-Din Mawlavī, Mathavī-e Ma‘navī, Book I, verses 1432-1434.

﴿قُل مَتاعُ الدُّنیا قَلیلٌ و الأَخِرَةُ خَیرٌ لِّمَنِ اتَّقی و لا تُظلَمونَ فَتیلاً﴾

“Say, ‘The goods and chattels of this world is little and the Hereafter is better for those who fear Allah and you shall not be wronged [even as much as] a single date-fiber.’”(1)

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1- - Sūrah Nisā’ 4:77.

﴿وَ ما هذِهِ الحَیاةَ الدُّنیآ إِلّا لَهوٌ و لَعِبٌ و إِنَّ الدّارَ الأَخِرَةَ لَهیَ الحَیَوانُ﴾

“And this worldly life is naught but diversion and sport but surely the abode of the Hereafter is true life.”(1)

This sort of worldview mitigates our pains and hardships, and because of it, recalling death is a consolation.

2. If the first factor of fear regarding death is eliminated, unawareness of the time of one’s death will become insignificant. In fact, it is not clear whether knowing the time of death would truly comfort us or not. Not knowing the time of death helps us utilize every moment of our lives in the best possible manner. It is important to remember death so that we may sustain a correct course in every moment of our lives and so that our lives do not fall into a monotone. Forgetting death results in forgetting eternal life and also causes self-neglect. Noble ‘Alī (‘a) advised his followers thus:

“May God pardon your sins. Provide for the journey as you have been ordered insistently to march and regard your stay in this world as brief.”(2)

مرا در منزل جانان چه امن عیش چون هر دم

جرس فریاد می دارد که بربندید محمل ها

How can I live securely in the abode of the living while every moment;

The bell continually cries, ‘Hitch your supplies!’

3. The third factor causing fear is averted by those whose knowledge surpasses the boundaries of the limited—that is, the wellsprings of eternal knowledge. Divine legates and prophets have made us aware of this hidden abode and have revealed unto us the invisible countenance of existence. It was asked of Imam Jawād (‘a), “Why does death distress some Moslems?” He replied, “It distresses them because they do not understand it. If they understood it and were

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1- - Sūrah ‘Ankabūt 29:64.
2- - Nahj ul-Balāghah, Sermon 28. From the translation of Fayz ul-Islam.

friends of God, they would love death and they would know that the Hereafter is better for them than this world.”(1)

4. Death is a stage in human existence and it is an upholder of our existence. Like all our existential aspects, death is a constituent of our self. We cannot make others partner in our experiences of sorrow and happiness, adolescence and maturity, sickness and health, or even our sleep and wakefulness. These affairs are not within the domain of common experience. People’s death, like their birth, is unique to each person.

5. The mentioned states in the fifth fear factor of death are the conditions of the world of separation and schism [between humans and God]. It is not evident whether these states will endure with the continuance of our existence. Everything in this world is subject to change and vicissitude. There are no stable states in this world. Divine religions expound and explicate the circumstances of the natural world. They interpret them objectively and factually and thus free humanity from fallacious interpretations.

The trials and tribulations of the natural world induce the founts of perfections within humans to gush forth and they make our virtues shine. That which belongs to us will not be taken away and we shall enter the next world with all the true wealth that each of us has amassed in the course of this life.

Moreover, another fear factor for death is fear of the reckoning. The faithful believe in the reckoning and do not fear death in spite of it. However, the unfaithful fear death because of the reckoning. The divine religion guides humans by showing the way to prepare for their future and it frees humanity of this deadlock.

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1- - Sadūq, Ma‘ānī ul-Akhbār (Meanings of Narrations), p. 290.

Section Three: Philosophical Approaches to Human Immortality


Various interpretations have been presented regarding human immortality. In this discussion, by immortality we mean the imperishability of humans after death of their body. Impersonal immortality is not the subject of this discussion. An example of impersonal immortality is the representation of immortality through our progeny and descendants. Various psychologists state that mental states such as preference of male children over female children and mental disorders such as discontentment due to lack of children originate from this feeling. In addition, conviction of the legendary status of one’s name and memory among the living is another type of impersonal immortality. Humans regard endurance of their names, works, and progeny as the endurance of their selves. Some of those that regard humans as entirely corporeal and do not believe in human immortality, sometimes comfort themselves and others by impersonal immortality, yet the chief aspiration of humanity is not this type of immortality.

Because of the differences of opinion regarding the nature of humanity, personal immortality has been portrayed in various manners. Therefore, some portrayals are based upon the existence of the soul and its incorporeality and others, which do not advocate the incorporeal soul, depict human immortality solely in terms of the body. Herein, we have included some renditions that are not based on the existence of the soul:

1. Corporal Reanimation:

Those who believe that the human essence is restricted to its material body and that the individual identity is determined through its respective body yet accept human immortality usually explain it as restoration of the dead or reassembly of the decomposed body through divine providence. Hence, we are faced with two opinions. One is the belief that the human body, which constitutes the entire identity of the

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individual, is annihilated after death and recreated by God at the Resurrection.(1) The other is the belief that the human body in composed of both main and subsidiary elements. According to this belief, personal identity is related to the body’s main elements, which are constant throughout life and are not destroyed after death but are disjoined and shall be rejoined at the Resurrection.(2)

According to these two views, humans lack life until the Resurrection and they gain new life in the true sense of the term when they are resurrected.

2. Subtle or Ethereal Body:

This theory pertains to those who believe in the soul’s independence from the body but do not regard it incorporeal. According to this belief, the soul is a subtle body that has no mass or weight but possesses some material qualities such as shape and size. The subtle body exists within the corporeal body throughout one’s worldly life. It departs the body after death and persists thereupon independent of the body.

As per this concept, life of the corporal body is not inherent; rather, it is essentially inanimate and acquires life through association with the subtle body whose life is intrinsic. The body that is continually changing throughout the life of the individual is the corporal anatomy. This anatomy is an excrescence upon the subtle or ethereal body and is shed at the time of death.(3) This theory is grounded on contemporary spiritual research.

The common factor in these two theories is that they do not consider the incorporeal soul to be the origin of the identity and do not support an eternal soul. In the discussion on human nature, we have shown that the human constitution cannot be considered solely material and some of humanity’s states and conditions cannot be explained without the existence of a soul. Hence, the inaccuracy of these theories regarding immortality is made obvious.

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1- - See: ‘Aẓud ad-Dīn-e ’Ījī, [Sharḥ-e] Muwāfiq (Commentary of Muwāfiq), vol. 8, p. 289.
2- - See: Allāmah Ḥillī, Sharḥ-e Tajrīd ul-I‘tiqād (Commentary of the Belief of Incorporeality), pp. 402-403.
3- - Murtaḍā Muṭaharī, Ma‘ād (Eschatology or Resurrection), p. 24.

The ensuing theories regarding immortality are based on the existence of a spiritual and immaterial aspect to humanity.

1. The Unincorporated [nāmutajassid] Soul

The first person to explicate and expound this theory was Plato. According to his perspective, the human soul, which belongs to the plane of divine and incorporeal beings, has existed before its body. After its fall, the soul became entangled in the tenebrous world of materiality. The body is only a tool for the soul in worldly life. After the death of the body, the soul returns to its original abode, which is free of material and body. When Socrates was asked how he should be buried, he replied:

“As you please, provided I remain still with you, and do not make my escape elsewhere… as soon as the poison has operated I shall remain no longer here, but be transported to the mansions of the blest…”(1)

This perspective does not regard corporeal existence to have a share in human immortality. Advocates of this theory explain parapsychological phenomena in diverse manners.

A noteworthy point is that Plato’s theory regarding the existence of the human soul before creation of the material body is accepted among many Moslem mystics and philosophers; even so, the theory that the incorporeal soul is eternally severed from a material body is unacceptable to them.

Regarding severance from the divine plane, Jalāl ad-Dīn Mawlavī declares:

بشنو از نی چون حکایت می کند از جدایی ها شکایت می کند

ک_ز نیس_تان تا م_را بُبریده اند در نفیرم مرد و زن نالیده اند

Listen to the reed pipe (humanity) as it tells a story;

It complains of separations.

That as I was severed from my true abode;

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1- - Plato: Complete Works, Phaedrus (Phaedon).

Men and women wailed of my sorrow.(1)

In his renowned elegy, Ibn-e Sīnā (Avicenna) states:

“A mighty and self-disciplined dove (the human soul) descended towards you (the natural world) from its lofty heights… I guess it has forgotten the covenants it had pledged in its homeland and the habitats that it was unwilling to leave…”

Of course, these two words can be interpreted differently, so that this passage does not signify the existence of a soul before its body but merely that the soul is a supernatural entity.

As we shall explain in the Quranic section, return of the soul without any material body at the Resurrection is not accepted by the Noble Quran. Therefore, even though various Muslim philosophers such as Ibn-e Sīnā (Avicenna) reached an impasse in attempting to prove the reattachment of the soul to a corporeal body, they would accept spiritual-material resurrection because of their faith in divine revelation. This acceptance signifies the clarity of the Quran in depicting the presence of a body in the afterworld, such that Muslim philosophers, who prefer divine revelation and utilize reason to explicate religious statements, regarded material presence in the afterlife a certainty. Humanity does not have a short-term relationship with the body; rather, the body is an integral part of the reality of humankind. If it is such that neither the body nor the soul can be disregarded in the nature of humanity, the interpretation of Ibn-e Sīnā must be challenged as to how it can be possible that there is no body in the span between this life and the next while there is a soul and human individual.

2. Metempsychosis (Reincarnation)

According to this tenet, which is advocated by most Indian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, only few humans continue their existence with an incorporal soul after death while most return to worldly life in a new form and body in successive cycles. This regenerative cycle of life and death continues without

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1- - Jalal ad-Din Mawlavī, Mathnavī-e Ma‘navī (Spititual Couplets), Book I, verses 1-2.

interruption until individuals are successful in purifying their respective souls of material restrictions, which is the only way to realize freedom from this unending cycle. Persons that cannot purify their souls shall perpetually remain in the cycle of corporal and worldly life.

There is a difference of opinion among advocates of this belief in whether the soul necessarily enters human bodies or may also enter animal bodies after disjunction of the soul and prior body. At any rate, the law that determines the manner of rebirth and causes transmigration of the soul into a superior or inferior body is called Karma. Karma determines the future life of each human. This law states that our deeds, speech, and beliefs dictate our future fate and the connection between one’s current and subsequent body is justified in this manner. In their rebirth, the soul enters a body corresponding to the habits and ethical characteristics of the individual’s previous life. This is why religions that support this concept prohibit consuming meat and harassing animals. After death, evil humans are reincarnated within human fetuses that possess inferior social statuses or in weak or lowly bodies as the consequence of their deeds.

According to the concept of metempsychosis, persons who free themselves of the continuous cycle of rebirth shall live on in an absolute spiritual state and as long as they remain in the regenerative cycle, they endure spiritual-physical punishment.(1)

Proponents of this concept have presented many philosophic, dialectic [kalāmī], and empiric rationales. However, not only are these rationales unjustified but there are grounds that show the absence of demonstrability and invalidity of the doctrine of metempsychosis.

In the first place, one must ask, how can the sameness of a person at time A and time B be demonstrated? Each of us lives through stages whose material and psychological qualities differ; nevertheless, links called memories connect these stages to each other. The existence of memories validates the individual unity of a person. However, how can the concept of metempsychosis show the sameness of the soul in the two periods of A and B? If the criterion is persistence of

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1- - Nass, John B., The Comprehensive History of Religions.

memories, in nearly all instances the individual has no recollection of previous existences. If the criterion is material persistence, again this is not applicable in metempsychosis because according to this concept, the individual is sometimes reincarnated as a woman, sometimes as a man, and sometimes as an animal. If the criterion is similarity of psychological tendencies, the duality of individual X and individual Y who live at the same time cannot be justified. In other words, the problem is how much similarity in mental attributes demonstrates the sameness of two individuals.(1) Consequently, the persistence of an individual identity in two time periods is not possible.

In the second place, the doctrine of metempsychosis is fundamentally fallacious because as we have stated in our analysis of the nature of death, death is traveling beyond the natural world not mere detachment of the body and soul. Accordingly, we cannot accept that the soul can be incarnated within a new body after disjuncture from its previous body and persist in the natural world. To state matters differently, in their essential evolution, humans pass through various stages—one of which is the stage of corporal attachment—and reach a state in which they no longer need the mundane world. Therefore, this doctrine is like the return of an adult to childhood or return from perfection to fault which is not acceptable.

In addition, the relationship of every soul with its body is unique. Thus, there cannot be a relationship between a soul and another body.

Various divine verses and narrations [riwāyat] of the Immaculates (‘a) do affirm the transformation of some humans into animal forms. Some of these verses state that God damns some people and they turn into apes or pigs. Additionally, various narrations state that some people shall be resurrected with faces much uglier than the faces of apes and pigs.

These statements do not affirm this doctrine of reincarnation since the issue of resurrection in the Hereafter is essentially different from the concept of metempsychosis, which is the return of the soul to the natural world after its disassociation from its previous body.

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1- - John Hick, Philosophy of Religion.

Therefore, statements regarding manifestation of individuals in the afterworld in bodies that are formed of their worldly beliefs and actions—in other words, the manifestation of the reality of each human in the Hereafter—is unrelated to the concept of metempsychosis. The two main reasons for this are as follows:

i. The supposed bodies that the concept of metempsychosis speaks of are not truly related to each other; however, the body that is the manifestation of actions is a body that has directly resulted from the self and its volitional beliefs and actions.

ii. The successive bodies in the concept of metempsychosis are natural bodies; however, the body that is the manifestation of actions is not natural.

According to Jalāl ad-Dīn Mawlavī:

So the resurrection of the envious on the Day of Judgment;

Shall doubtless be in the form of wolves.

The resurrection of the avaricious carrion-eating scoundrel;

Shall be in the form of a pig on the Day of Reckoning.

Fornicators shall have stinking private parts;

Alcohol-drinkers shall have foul-smelling mouths.

The character that is predominant within your being;

Must necessarily be the basis for your constitution at Resurrection.

One moment a wolf will spring from humanity;

The next, a second Joseph shining as the moon.(1)

3. Life in the Barzakh and Qīyāmat (Resurrection)

The third view regarding immortality is based on segregation of the afterworld into the two planes of Barzakh and Qiyāmat (which literally means the rise). According to this view, which has been extracted from the Quran and traditions, in this world humans are an amalgam of soul [nafs] and corporal body. At the time of death, their intellectual attachment is temporarily severed. The soul persists in a plane called Barzakh and the body is decomposed and diffused

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1- - Jalal ad-Din Mawlavī, Mathnavī-e Ma‘navī (Spiritual Couplets), Book II, verses 1413-1415, and 1420-1421.

through the natural order of the world. Ultimately, at Qīyāmat the bodies are recollected, the souls regain intellectual attachment with their respective bodies, and thus humans, that is, amalgams of body and soul, enter the afterlife.

Adherents of this ideology are not like-minded on the question of the attachment of soul and body in the plane of Barzakh. In the theory of unincorporated soul, we have stated that some Muslim intellectuals regard the human soul without a body in the plane of Barzakh. However, others regard the soul attached to an ideal body [badan-e mithālī] that is similar to the material body of the individual. Of course, the properties of these two bodies are very different from each other. Additionally, this ideal body is unlike the subtle or ethereal body discussed previously.

In any event, according to this theory, because humans are an amalgam of body and soul and have partial material perceptions, there is a body corresponding with the plane of Barzakh in the essence of every human. At the time of natural death, the soul and its attached ideal body enters the plane of Barzakh. Mawlavī says:

For the soul, the unity of God is more pleasurable;

Other than its apparent form, it has other hands and feet.

These hands and feet can be seen in dreams and divine union;

Deem it true, do not regard it as an exaggeration.

It is your bodiless self that has a body;

So fear not of the withdrawal of the soul from your body.(1)

In Qīyāmat, the soul will have a corporal body, but not with the precepts and requisites of the worldly body; instead, by reaching perfection the material body becomes congruent with the afterworld, which is the world of perpetuity and lack of deterioration. We shall return to this issue in later discussions.

The Quality of Immortality according to Islam

Among the previously stated perspectives, other than the theories of metempsychosis and subtle body, which have some supporters among

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1- - Jalal ad-Din Mawlavī, Mathnavī-e Ma‘navī (Spiritual Couplets), Book III, verses 1611-1613.

Muslim intellectuals, the preceding perspective is more proportionate with Islamic anthropological principles and the Quran and traditions.


Literally, Barzakh means the barrier or boundary between two things. In eschatological discussions, it is the gap between the end of worldly life (i.e. death) and the commencement of Qīyāmat. As we have indicated, the segregation of life after death into Barzakh and Qīyāmat is one of the teachings of the prophets and divine scriptures and philosophers, who have speculated upon eschatological issues, have utilized these sources. According to this tenet, humans experience three disparate lives: Natural life, Barzakh life, and Ākhirat(1) Life. Accordingly, it is clear that the eternal life spoken of by divine religions is the Ākhirat Life, which begins after the initial stages of Qīyāmat.

Many Quranic verses attest to the existence of the span of Barzakh:

﴿حَتّی اذا جاء اَحَدَهُمُ الموتُ قالَ ربِّ ارجِعُون. لَعَلِّی اَعمَلُ صالحا فیما تَرَکتُ، کَلّا اِنَّها کَلِمَةٌ هو قائِلُها و مِن وَرائِهِم برزخٌ الی یومِ یُبعَثُون﴾

“Until, when death comes unto one of them, he says, ‘My Lord! Return me! Surely I shall act righteously in that which I have forsook.’ Never! It is just a word he speaks and behind them is an intermission (Barzakh) till the day they shall be resurrected.”(2)

According to this verse, it seems that returning to the world is not possible after true death. Moreover, between the end of worldly life and the Day of Judgment or Qīyāmat there is an intermission called Barzakh.

﴿قالوا ربّنا اَمَتَّنا اثنَتَینِ و اَحْیَیتَنا اثنَتَینِ فاعْتَرَفْنا بِذُنُوبِنا فَهَل إِلی خُرُوجٍ مِّن سَبیل﴾

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1- - This is derived from the Quranic term dār ul-ākhirah, which means ‘the Last Abode’.
2- - Sūrah Mu’minūn 23:99-100.

“They shall say, ‘Our Lord! You have caused us two deaths and have given us two lives. We confess to our sins, now, is there any escape route [from Hell]?”(1)

This verse reveals two issues:

i. That which was also revealed from the first verse, that is, there is an interval, called Barzakh, between death and afterlife.

ii. Humans are alive and aware in the recess of Barzakh, not annihilated and silent.

According to this verse, after unbelievers realize two deaths and two lives after their worldly lives, they attest to their faith and confess their sins in order to be delivered from retribution. The story of the two deaths and two lives is thus: at the end of their worldly lives, God causes the death of humans and introduces them into the life of Barzakh. At the end of Barzakh life, again He causes the death of humans and accords them with new eternal life. Therefore, there is life in Barzakh because otherwise two deaths cannot come about.

One might state that by accepting Barzakh life, each individual would have three lives (worldly life, Barzakh life, and later life in the hereafter). That which frees unbelievers of doubt and brings about their conviction are two resurrections in Barzakh and Qīyāmat.(2) Their worldly life did not cause conviction within them because in their earthly life they denied life after death:

﴿إِِنَّ هؤُلآءِ لَیَقولون. إِنْ هیَ إِلّا مَوتَتُنا الأُولی وَ ما نَحنُ بِمُنشَرین﴾

“Surely these [unbelievers] say: There is nothing but our first death and we shall not be revived.”(3)

The following verse signifies that the Quran regards death as transferal from one type of life to another:

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1- - Sūrah Ghāfir 40:11.
2- - Allāmah Ṭabāṭabāī, Tafsīr-e Al-Mīzān (Al-Mīzān Exegesis), vol. 17, p. 313.
3- - Sūrah Dukhān 44:34-35.

﴿و لا تقولوا لمَن یُقتَل فی سبیل اللهِ امواتٌ، بل احیاءٌ و لکن لا تشعرون﴾

“And do not call those who have died in the way of Allah dead; rather, they are alive but you do not realize.”(1)

This verse is a short but clear report of the Barzakh life of the martyrs [shuhadā’] of God because the life of martyrs only differs in the manner of their Barzakh life not its reality. Since the terms “do not call…dead” and “you do not realize” are addressed to the faithful, one cannot say that the meaning of this verse is that martyrs are alive at Qīyāmat because this fact was already evident and accepted by the faithful.

Barzakh Body

Visualizing life in Barzakh without allowing for an immaterial aspect in humans is difficult. This is because after death, the material body decomposes and alters into constituent elements that can no longer be called a human body. Furthermore, according to the verse “Allah completely retracts souls at the time of their deaths and also souls that have not died, in their sleep. So, He holds souls upon which He has decreed death and returns the rest until an appointed end…”(2) essentially, the buried material body has no soul. Therefore, life and retribution in Barzakh cannot be attributed to such a body. On the other hand, if humans are merely soul, which according to philosophers can only perceive general and intangible truths, how can it perceive the material punishments and rewards of Barzakh, which are mentioned in the Quran and Hadith? Thus, some Muslim philosophers regard humans in Barzakh as possessing an ideal body that corresponds with the plane of Barzakh and which has been derived from the individual’s actions and beliefs, that is, the person’s volitional identity.

In this world, our earthly bodies are attached to our souls. By abandoning its corporeal body our soul enters the plane of Barzakh with a body similar in appearance to its material body. Moreover, various Hadith state that when God withdraws the soul, He gives it a

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1- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:154.
2- - Sūrah Zumar 39:42.

form similar to its worldly form such that an acquaintance that sees the individual will recognize him or her. The perception of bodily forms in dreams, helps in understanding the Barzakh body. Even though this body possesses geometric dimensions and corporal qualities such as color, it is devoid of materiality and its qualities including mass and weight.

Advocates of the ideal body are not in agreement regarding the manner of its genesis. According to one perspective, this ideal body is created independently and after severance of the soul’s bond with its material body, and then it unites with its ideal body. Another view states that the ideal body is not a detached reality from the soul but an existential facet of the soul that appears after death.

Ākhirat Life

According to logical and traditional rationales for the incorporeality of the soul, the fact that the soul endures after death and is present in the plane of Barzakh and the Ākhirat is indisputable. Various Quranic verses describe nonmaterial rewards in Ākhirat that can only be attributed to the existence of the soul in Ākhirat. For example, in Sūrah Tawbah it is stated:

“Allah has promised faithful men and women gardens underneath [the trees of] which rivers flow, therein to dwell forever, and also pure abodes in perpetual paradises and greater [than all these] is the satisfaction of Allah. That is the great triumph.”(1)

Apparently, in this verse, the Noble Quran places the satisfaction and gratification of God against the material pleasures of the faithful and regards it greater than these pleasures. It is clear that it is a pleasure that is realized not with the material body but with the human intellect and soul. Therefore, there is no doubt that Islam agrees with the spiritual immortality of humans. However, the discussion does not end here because there are many verses that indicate the material presence of humans in Ākhirat.

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1- - Sūrah Tawbah 9:72.

1. Some of these verses attest to the existence of the human body on the Day of Judgment. These verses can be divided into various categories:

a. Some verses denote that in the wake of death humans return to the earth and afterwards on the Day of Resurrection, they reemerge from it. For example:

﴿مِنها خَلَقناکم و فیها نُعیدُکُم و منها نُخرِجُکُم تارةً أُخری﴾

“Out of the earth We created you, into it We shall return you, and We shall withdraw you from it once more.”(1)

b. Other verses explicitly state that on the Day of Resurrection all humans shall rise from their graves:

﴿وَ نُفِخَ فی الصُّورِ فَإِذا هُم مِّنَ الاجداثِ إلی رَبِّهِم یَنسِلُون﴾

“And the Horn shall be blown. Then suddenly they shall emerge from their graves to hasten towards their Lord.”(2)

It is self-evident that emergence from one’s grave pertains to the human body not soul.

c. Various verses speak of parts of the human body in the Ākhirat. These verses are also clear denotations of corporeal resurrection since it is evident that the immaterial soul does not have body parts:

﴿الیَومَ نَختِمُ علی افواهِهِم وَ تُکَلِّمُنا أََیدیهِم وَ تَشهَدُ أَرجُلُهُم بِما کانوا یَکسِبون﴾

“Today, We seal their mouths and their hands speak to Us and their feet bear witness to what they have been earning.”(3)

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1- - Sūrah Ṭāhā 20:55. Also see: Sūrah Nūḥ 71:18; Sūrah Rūm 30:25; and Sūrah A‘rāf 7:25.
2- - Sūrah Yāsīn 36:51. Also see: Sūrah Ḥajj 22:7; Sūrah Yāsīn 36:52; Sūrah Qamar 54:7; Sūrah Ma‘ārij 70:43.
3- - Sūrah Yāsīn 36:65. Also see: Sūrah Nūr 24:24; Sūrah Fuṣṣilat 41:20-21; Sūrah ‘Abas 80:38, 80:41. Additionally, the Noble Quran has enumerated historical examples of resurrection, such as the story of ‘Uzīr (Ezra) and the story of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus [aṣḥāb-e kahf], all of which are congruent with the corporal aspect of the resurrection.

Fundamentally, the people’s understanding of the Prophet’s (ṣ) enjoinment to immortality was somatic resurrection and the Prophet (ṣ) did not refute this understanding.(1)

2. In addition to the first genre of verses, which denote the presence of the human body in the Ākhirat, other verses openly speak of bodily rewards and punishments in Ākhirat. Many Quranic verses speak of “heavenly gardens”, “pleasant shade”, “varieties of foods and dishes”, “medleys of clothes and adornments”, etc. On the other hand, many verses speak of “burning in the fires of Hell”, “appalling food and drink”, “fiery malodorous clothes”, “deathly winds”, “iron maces”, etc. Each of these denotes a part of the physical rewards or punishments of the inhabitants of Ākhirat. This genre of verses also indicates corporal presence since without a body, perceiving material bounties or chastisements is not possible.(2)

In light of these accounts, we can conclude that according to Islam, the immortality of human beings is physical/spiritual and that our existential reality, in both material and spiritual aspects, will be completely present in the Hereafter.

Ākhirat Body

We have made it clear that according to Islam, the human resurrection includes both spiritual and corporal aspects. Now, it may be asked: Is our Ākhirat body the same as our earthly body or is it different? In answer, some Muslim scholars support the first possibility and believe that on the Day of Resurrection each person’s earthly body will be restored and reattached to the soul. These scholars maintain that specific verses, such as those that indicate the exodus of humans from their grave,(3) distinctly demonstrate the factuality of this opinion. In addition, divine justice demands that the next world’s physical

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1- - See: Sūrah Mu’minūn 23:35-36; and Sūrah Yāsīn 36:78.
2- - In addition to Quranic verses, many narrations also indicate the corporal facet of resurrection. However, in favor of brevity, we shall refrain from further elaboration.
3- - Such as Sūrah Yāsīn 36:51; Sūrah Qamar 54:7; Sūrah Ma‘ārij 70:43; and Sūrah Ḥajj 22:7.

rewards and punishments be delivered upon the same body that was occupied in righteous or immoral deeds.

Other Islamic authorities hold that even though people’s Ākhirat bodies are material—and of clay—it is not necessary that they be the same as their earthly bodies; rather, they are merely similar to their previous bodies in form. In order to prove their theory, these experts make use of various Quranic verses that speak of the creation of a “likeness” of each person in the Hereafter:

﴿أَوَ لَیسَ الّذی خَلَقَ السَماواتِ و الأَرضَ بِقادرٍ علی أن یَخلُقَ مِثْلَهُم؛ بَلی وَ هُوَ الخَلّاقُ العَلِیمُ﴾

“Is not He who created the heavens and earth able to create the like of them; yes indeed [he can], and He is the Creator (of all), the All-knowing.”(1)

Naturally, these scholars maintain that there is no contradiction between the material dissimilarity of earthly and otherworldly bodies and the “sameness” of the individual. This dissimilarity does not result in the reunited person at Resurrection being different from the person that existed in the natural world. This is because the identity of an individual pertains to its soul and the person’s soul in the Hereafter is the same soul that was attached to the individual’s physical body in the mundane world.

Meanwhile, various Islamic theologians have taken a different path that more comprehensively illuminates Islamic teachings on this subject. They believe that our otherworldly bodies are perfected versions of our natural bodies and even though they are distinct in their existential perfection, they are individually equivalent to our respective natural bodies.

On this basis, the otherworldly bodies of all individuals are the same as their mundane bodies with the difference that they have left behind the limitations and faults of their natural stage and have become perfect and complete bodies. This is because the Ākhirat is an absolutely perfect world not a revision of the natural world. Hence,

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1- - Sūrah Yāsīn 36:81.

Ākhirat bodies are exempt of all diseases and blights and never become old and decrepit. Naturally, this perspective is grounded on specific philosophical principles that are too comprehensive to be discussed in this brief treatise.(1)

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1- - This view was first presented by Sadr ul-Muta’allihīn Shīrāzī (Mullāṣadrā) in the form of a philosophical theory. Later, Ḥakīm Āqā ‘Alī Mudarris Zunūzī reformed it. This theory is based upon principles such as Basicality of Being [iṣālat-e wujūd], Analogicity of Being [tashkīk-e wujūd], and Evolution of Quiddity [ḥarikat-e jawharī].

Section Four: Life in the Hereafter as stated by the Quran


The Noble Quran extensively examines the issue of Ākhirat life. Some Quranic verses concern the principle of resurrection (eschatology) [ma‘ād] and respond to the criticisms of deniers. Other verses in this regard shed light on the resurrection of the dead and the state of humans in the Hereafter (Ākhirat). These two issues shall be briefly elucidated in the following sections.

The Possibility and Necessity of Resurrection

The Holy Quran has reinforced the intellectual basis of the resurrection of the dead on two fundamental levels. Firstly, it proves the possibility of the occurrence of resurrection, and shows that the presence of the human body and soul in the Hereafter is not impossible. Secondly, it presents rationales for the occurrence of the resurrection of the dead and it not only shows that bringing back to life of all human dead before the final judgment shall occur, but it proves that it is necessary for it to occur.

Generally, in Islam all enjoinments of the prophet are concomitant with challenges [taḥaddī]. The prophet challenges all people and encourages them to express any rationale or evidence they have against his enjoinments. Alongside his enjoinment, the prophet was appointed by God to tell the people, “Produce your proof if you speak truly.”(1) The purpose of this challenge is abandonment of skepticism and doubt and embracement of rational arguments and evidence.

A. Possibility of the Resurrection

The Quran shows the possibility of the resurrection of the dead in various manners.

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1- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:111.

1. Lack of Reasoning for Denial of Resurrection:

Various verses declare that deniers of Ākhirat life have no firm and reasonable rationale for their claims. On the one hand, by studying verses that quote the claims of deniers we realize that these people have no weapon other than considering the resurrection of the dead to be improbable. Using various questions, they endeavor to show that the issue of renewed life and return to God is irrational.(1) In addition, they sometimes slander the prophets and divine representatives who inform people of the resurrection and they call them mad or liars(2), or they regard the tenet of resurrection a superstitious myth.(3) On the other hand, many verses state that refutation of resurrection is an untrue and baseless assumption and is not grounded on logical foundations:

“And they say, ‘there is nothing but our worldly lives; we die and we live and nothing but time annihilates us’ and they have no knowledge of this; they merely assume. And when Our clear signs are recited unto them, their only argument is that they say, ‘Bring us our fathers if you speak truly.’”(4)

In the first verse, after indicating the claim of the deniers of resurrection, it is lucidly stated that this claim is not based on knowledge, but originates only from speculation and conjecture. In the second verse, it is stated that when faced with rational arguments for the resurrection and Ākhirat life, deniers attempt to justify themselves

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1- - “And they say, ‘When we become bones and broken bits shall we really be raised up again in a new creation?’” (Sūrah Isrā’ 17:49) “And they say, ‘When we disappear into the earth, shall we truly have a new creation?’” (Sūrah Sajdah 32:10)
2- - “And the unbelievers say, ‘Shall we show to you a man who will tell you that when you have been utterly torn to pieces, then you shall have a new creation? Has he forged against God a lie or is he insane?’” (Sūrah Saba’ 34:7-8)
3- - “This has been promised to us and our forebears before; it is nothing but the fantasies of the ancients.” (Sūrah Naml 27:68)
4- - Sūrah Jāthiyah 45:24-25.

with an unfounded rationale. The say, “Raise our ancestors in order that we accept the resurrection.”(1)

2. Creation of the First Human:

Contemplation of the primary genesis of humanity facilitates accepting the Resurrection since God who created humans in the first place is surely able to revive them:

﴿و هو الذی یبدء الخلق ثم یعیده و هو أهون علیه﴾

“And He is the one who originates Creation then renews it and this is easier for Him.”(2)

﴿قل یحییها الذی انشأها اوّل مرّة﴾

“Say, ‘He shall resurrect them who originated them the first time.”(3)

As stated by the Quran, human Ākhirat life is like a new creation and He who was able to create humans in the first place is also able to recreate them. Nonetheless, deniers of Resurrection doubt the recreation even though they accept the original creation!(4)

﴿افعیینا بالخلق الاوّل بل هم فی لبس من خلق جدید﴾

“Have We been wearied by the first creation? [Indeed not]; however, they doubt the new creation.”(5)

Yea, little thought regarding our original creation is enough to make us fathom the possibility of our renewed life after death and resolve all doubts.

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1- - Also see: Sūrah Inshiqāq 84:14; Sūrah Qaṣaṣ 28:39; and Sūrah Kahf 18:36.
2- - Sūrah Rūm 30:27.
3- - Sūrah Yāsīn 36:79.
4- - A denier of the Resurrection brought a decayed bone to the Prophet (ṣ) and asked, “Who shall resurrect this?” While regarding this question a result of forgetting the original genesis of humanity, the Quran replies, “Say, ‘He shall resurrect them who originated them the first time.” (Sūrah Yāsīn 36:78-79).
5- - Sūrah Qāf 50:15.

﴿یا ایّها الناس ان کنتم فی ریب من البعث فانّا خلقناکم من تراب ثمّ من نطفة...﴾

“O people! If you are in doubt about the Resurrection, hence [know] We have created you from dust then from sperm…”(1)

3. The Illimitable Power of God:

The unlimited power of God is another reason for the possibility of the Resurrection. After reminding us of the aspects of God’s power in the creation of the universe, the Noble Quran emphasizes the fact that such a potent Creator can surely restore the dead to life. All possible deeds are easy for the Omnipotent. In fact, basically, the ease or difficulty of an action is stated in terms of limited powers. Therefore, one should not doubt the possibility of the occurrence of Resurrection because of its magnitude:(2)

“Have they not seen that Allah who created the heavens and earth and was not wearied by creating them is able to revive the dead? Yes indeed; verily, He is capable of all things.”(3)

4. Examples of Resurrection in Nature:

A further method the Quran uses to resolve doubt of Resurrection is enjoining humans to contemplate nature and the exhibition of the life and death of natural phenomena. According to the Quran, the growth of beautiful and vigorous plants from dead earth is an objective and palpable example of the resurrection in Qīyāmat and it further clarifies its possibility:

“And He is who sends the winds as a foretoken before His grace [of rain], till when they are charged with heavy clouds, We convey them to a dead land, then, from them We send down

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1- - Sūrah Ḥajj 22:5.
2- - If we regard this issue from a philosophic point of view, it is clear that the occurrence of Resurrection is not an essential or logical impossibility, which would necessitate a contradiction. By keeping in mind that the absolute power of God is comprised of the ability to accomplish all possible acts, Resurrection is not outside the domain of Divine Power.
3- - Sūrah Aḥqāf 46:33.

water, and from them We bring forth all types of fruits. In this manner We shall bring forth the dead [from their graves]; haply you will remember.”(1)

5. Historic Examples of Resurrection:

Some Quranic verses reveal historic occurrences or objective examples of human resurrection. Hence, a person who witnessed these occurrences or accepted their occurrence on authoritative grounds should not have any problem with accepting the possibility of the Resurrection. After relating these historical phenomena, the Quran indicates their relationship with the Resurrection and regards these miraculous incidents as portents of the Day of Resurrection.

One example of these historical events is the experience of a person who was passing by the ruins of a city and the question crossed his mind as to how God would bring the bodies of the dead back to life. By divine providence, this person dies and is resurrected one hundred years later.(2)

“Or such as he who passed upon a city whose walls and roofs had collapsed and said [to himself], ‘How shall Allah bring this back to life now that it is dead?’ So Allah made him die for a hundred years and then raised him…”(3)

B. Necessity of the Resurrection

As we have previously stated, the Holy Quran does not suffice at showing that the Resurrection is possible. In fact, various Quranic verses explain the necessity of the Resurrection. The content of these verses is such that a logical argument for the necessity of Resurrection can be extracted from them. These verses usually emphasize a divine attribute and consider the occurrence of Resurrection as a necessary

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1- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:57.
2- - The Quran does not mention this person’s name or the place of this occurrence. However, various narrations indicate that this individual was Ezra [‘Uzayr] the prophet and others state that it was Jeremiah [Irmiya’] the prophet. Moreover, some narrations declare that the place of this incident was the city of Jerusalem [bayt ul-muqaddas].
3- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:259.

condition of this respective attribute. Herein, we shall enumerate several such rationales:

1. Divine Wisdom:

In the discussion on divine attributes, we stated that God is wise. That is, He does not perform useless acts and all His actions have logical purposes. Of course, the finality of divine acts does not contradict His absolute needlessness of others since these purposes pertain to His creations and contribute to their perfection and their interests. They are surely not in answer to a need of the Creator of the Worlds.

Consequently, the creation of humans, who are the greatest of creations, cannot be in vain; rather, its purpose is that they attain perfections befitting their unique station.

On the other hand, it is apparent that the natural world, and our worldly lives within it, cannot by itself guaranty our perfection. This is because this world is fleeting and our lives in it are suffused with restrictions and deprivations, whereas humanity is a creature that has both an innate tendency to eternal life and also the capability of immortality due to the existence of an incorporeal soul.

Accordingly, divine wisdom requires that the purpose of our creation be realized and that we humans attain our worthy perfection. Complete fulfillment of this purpose is not possible in this world. Therefore, it is necessary that human life endure after death in order to prevent it from being in vain. Regarding this issue, the Holy Quran states:

﴿افحسبتم انّما خلقناکم عبثا و انکم الینا لاترجعون. فتعالی الله الملک الحق...﴾

“Did you think that We created you in vain and that you will not be returned to Us? And exalted is Allah, the King, the Righteous…”(1)

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1- - Sūrah Mu’minūn 23:115-116.

This verse reveals the fact that if there is no return to God after death and our existence ends with our passing then our creation would be in vain whereas the judicious God is too great to perform a useless act.

The Quran holds that if there is no Resurrection and Ākhirat, not only would the creation of humanity be in vain, but also the creation of the natural world would be for nothing:

﴿و ما خلقنا السماوات و الأَرضَ و ما بینهما الّا بالحق، و انّ الساعة لآتیة...﴾

“And We have not created the heavens and earth and all in between save in justice; and surely the Hour shall come.”(1)

After stating the fact that the creation of the heavens and earth and all in between is righteous and exempt from futility, God immediately indicates the inevitable occurrence of the Resurrection. It seems that the purposefulness of creation depends on the existence of the Resurrection and Ākhirat. This is why many deniers of otherworldly life become nihilists. By restricting the existence of humans to worldly life, they see it as nothing but extra-redundancy and a cause for bewilderment. According to nihilists, humanity is a lost and confused caravan that has entered the desert without purpose, following a cycle rotating in vain.

2. Divine Justice:

Justice is one of God’s attributes. One aspect of divine justice is that the faithful and righteous must be worthily reimbursed, and unbelievers and sinners must be punished accordingly. However, we see that because of its various restrictions, the natural world does not possess the capacity to reward and punish all the deeds of human beings since all worldly blessings and pleasures cannot wholly recompense the deeds of the truly faithful and even the heaviest of punishments are not enough chastisement for some crimes. Can a person whose crime is the murder of thousands of innocent people be completely punished in this world? On the one hand, many virtuous and righteous people live in hardship and privation and some sacrifice their lives for what they believe. While on the other, so many

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1- - Sūrah Ḥijr 15:85.

malefactors and oppressors live their whole lives in luxury, persecuting others.

Hence, because complete recompense for all humans is not possible in this world, divine justice requires that God’s court of justice be established in another place or world in which people may again be faced with all their righteous and evil deeds. This world is called the Ākhirat.

In various verses, the Holy Quran indicates the fact that equality of the retribution of the righteous and the wicked is unfair and something that the intellect cannot accept. The Quran has asked many times that:

﴿افنجعل المسلمین کالمجرمین. ما لکم کیف تحکمون﴾

“So shall We make those who are submissive [to Allah] as the sinners? What is wrong with you; how [ill] you judge!”(1)

﴿ام نجعل الذین آمنوا و عملوا الصالحات کالمفسدین فی الارض ام نجعل المتقین کالفجّار﴾

“Or must We make those who believe and do good as the corrupt of the world or must We make the pious as the transgressors?”(2)

Moreover, in another place, after stressing that the equality of the requital of sinners and the righteous is unjust, the Quran states that one of the purposes of the creation of the heavens and earth is that every person receives rewards or punishments according to their deeds, such that no one is wronged:

“Or do those who commit evil deeds think that We shall make them as those who believe and do righteous deeds; [such that they be] equal in life and death? How ill they judge! While Allah has created the heavens and earth in justice and that

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1- - Sūrah Qalam 68:35-36.
2- - Sūrah Ṣād 38:28.

each soul is recompensed for what it has earned and they shall not be wronged.”(1)

Hence, since the just retribution of all humans cannot be realized in this world, divine justice shall accomplish this end in another world.

Depiction of the Ākhirat in the Quran

The qualities of the Ākhirat are all beyond sensory experience and the intellect can only begin to apprehend some of its general qualities such as “immortality” and “a just reckoning of our deeds”. Thus, in order to understand the details of Resurrection we have no choice but to resort to another source of information beyond sensory experience: divine revelation.

این راه را نهایت صورت کجا توان بست

کش صد هزار منزل بیش است در بدایت

در این شب سیاهم گم گشت راه مقصود

از گوش_ه ای برون آی ای کوک_ب ه_دایت

Where can be the ultimate end of this path?

Even at first glance there can be more than a hundred thousand halting places!

In this Stygian night, I have lost the path towards my destination;

Come out of your hiding place, O star of guidance!

One of the reasons that the Resurrection has been so extensively described in the Quran may be that our intellect and experience are useless in this issue.

In any case, there are hundreds of Quranic verses on this topic. We shall present a succinct discussion on the content of some of these verses in order to depict the general appearance of otherworldly life as shown in the Quran. Some of the elements will be discussed in greater detail.

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1- - Sūrah Jāthīyah 45:21-22.
1. The Events Prior to the Resurrection

The Quran attests that before the Resurrection suddenly and unforeseeably phenomenal events shall occur in the world around us that are portents of Qīyāmat. At that time, a great revolution will occur in the cosmos such that it will seem like it is the end of the world. Mountains shall tremble,(1)

crumble, (2)

become as scattered dust,(3)

and ultimately nothing but a mirage will remain of them.(4) The seas will swarm over(5) and ignite.(6) A titanic earthquake will transpire.(7)

The pillars of the earth will break up and what is hidden in the bowels of the earth will be revealed.(8) The sun will be darkened, the stars shall be extinguished,(9) and celestial bodies will be scattered.(10) The firmament will be rent asunder,(11) become as molten metal,(12) and shall be rolled up as a scroll is rolled up.(13)

2. Winding the Horn

The word ṣūr (horn) has been used ten times in the Holy Quran and all these cases indicate the end of the world or the initiation of Qīyāmat. The horn will be blown twice. The results of the first blast [nafkh] are different from the second. The following verse explicitly indicates both resonations:

“And the Horn shall be winded and all in the heavens and on earth will fall unconscious save those who Allah wills; then it

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1- - Sūrah Muzzammil 73:14.
2- - Sūrah Wāqi‘ah 56:5.
3- - Wāqi‘ah 56:6.
4- - Sūrah Naba’ 78:20.
5- - Sūrah Infiṭār 82:3.
6- - Sūrah Takwīr 81:6.
7- - Sūrah Ḥajj 22:1-2; Sūrah Muzzammil 73:14; and Sūrah Wāqi‘ah 56:4.
8- - Sūrah Zilzal 99:1-2.
9- - Sūrah Takwīr 81:1-2; Sūrah Mursalāt 77:8.
10- - Sūrah Infiṭār 82:2.
11- - Sūrah Inshiqāq 84:1; Sūrah Infiṭār 82:1.
12- - Sūrah Ma‘ārij 70:8.
13- - Sūrah Anbiyā’ 21:104.

shall be winded again and suddenly all shall stand beholding.”(1)

We have extracted the following points from Quranic verses and Hadith regarding this issue:

a. Universal unconsciousness [ṣa‘iqa] (euphemistic of death) and disbandment of the current state of the world is a consequence of the first blast, and the collective rise of humans and the uniting of the ancients and future generations for reckoning pertain to the second blast.

b. The first blast results in the death of contingent beings while the second gives them life. Various savants analogize this to blowing on a fire that may douse it or enflame it.

c. There is an interval between the two blasts. The first blast is performed by an angel named Israfel, and the second is performed by God.(2)

3. Advent of Ākhirat Life

3. Advent of Ākhirat Life(3)

After the second blast, which is the breath of life, our otherworldly souls and bodies are united, humans exit their graves,(4) and confused, afraid,(5) and bewildered scatter about like moths.(6) They seek a method of escape but there is none.(7) They flee from their families(8) and while their eyes are dropped in shame,(9) they speed towards the divine presence.(10) Here, all people, from first to last, are gathered in an

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1- - Sūrah Zūmar 39:68.
2- - For more comprehensive information, see: Amīr Dīvānī, Ḥayāt-e Jāvdānah (Eternal Life).
3- - Again, this section does not include the complete translation of Quranic verses. Therefore, in order to complete the study it is necessary to refer to the respective verses in the Quran.
4- - Sūrah Zūmar 39:68; Sūrah Yāsīn 36:51; Sūrah Kahf 18:99; and Sūrah Qāf 50:42.
5- - Sūrah Qāf 50:20.
6- - Sūrah Qāri‘ah 101:4.
7- - Sūrah Qiyāmah 75:10-11.
8- - Sūrah ‘Abas 80:34-37.
9- - Sūrah Ma‘ārij 70:44.
10- - Sūrah Yāsīn 36:51.

immense arena.(1) The lineaments of unbelievers contrast to those of believers and their visages attest to their faith or unbelief.(2) Thus, the Ākhirat begins.

4. The Reckoning of Deeds

The Quran has various designations for the Last Day, each of which signifies a specific quality. Some of these names include the Day of Rising [yawm ul-qiyāmah], the Day of Gathering [yawm ul-jam‘], the Day of Resurrection [yawm ul-ba‘th], the Day of Egress (from graves) [yawm ul-khurūj], the Day of Regret [yawm ul-hasrah], the Day of Separation (of good from evil) [yawm ul-faṣl], the Imminent Day [yawm ul-azifah], the Final Day [yawm ul-ākhir], the Day of Immortality [yawm ul-khulūd], etc. Another name for this day is Judgment Day [yawm ul-ḥisāb] and together with issues such as book of deeds, witnesses, scales, etc. these words all pertain to the establishment of the divine court of justice in the next world.

All people’s deeds in this world are their respective capital in the next. This capital belongs to no one save its respective agent. It persists with the endurance of its agent and will persist for all time. The reality of this wealth will manifest in another world. The world in which these deeds are reckoned must be a complete world in order that the truth of the deeds are correctly manifested and so that the judged may correctly and completely perceive the reality of their actions.

﴿وَ أَنْ لَّیسَ لِلإِنسانِ إلّا ما سَعی. و أَنَّ سَعیَهُ سَوفَ یُری﴾

“And humans have nothing save what they have labored. And [the fruits of] their labors shall soon be seen.”(3)

Further Reading

1. Every person’s actions, consistent with his or her existential make-up, are divided into external (manifest) and internal (hidden) acts. Manifest acts are those that are performed by various parts of the body such as hands, eyes, ears, etc. In contrast, hidden acts are those that stem from the mind regardless of whether they attain corporal

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1- - Sūrah Kahf 18:99; Sūrah Taghābun 64:9.
2- - Sūrah ‘Abas 80:38-41; and Sūrah Qiyāmah 75:22-25.
3- - Sūrah Najm 53:39-40.

manifestation or not. External and internal acts are both considered deeds and will be considered in the Reckoning.

﴿وَ إّن تُبدُوا ما فی أَنفُسِکُم أَو تُخفُوهُ یُحاسِبکُم بِهِ الله﴾

“And whether you show what is in your hearts or hide it, Allah will account you for it.”(1)

2. The actions of all individuals are part of them. Not only that, but they make up a person’s essence and determine their identity. Action is not accidental to the human substance and is not uninfluential with our essence; rather, it pierces into the human nature and becomes an integral part of the individual. All humans are free to fashion their true selves with their actions. Thus, due to the difference among their deeds, humans are typically diversified. Various issues can be inferred from this fact, including:

2.1. Before an action, the individual is free to fulfill it or not. In other words, unperformed actions are in the domain of a person’s volition and authority. However, after an action is realized the person becomes dominated by the action, because it achieves union with the existential reality of the individual.

﴿کُلُّ نَفسٍ بِما کَسَبَتْ رَهِینَةٌ﴾

“Every soul is prisoner of what they have earned.”(2)

2.2. The union of persons and their deeds signifies that persons cannot relieve themselves of their actions, they cannot produce associates, they cannot place their blame on others, and they cannot dissimulate and make themselves seem innocent. Here, another difference between this world and Ākhirat is revealed.

﴿وَ لاتَزِرُ وازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخری وَ إِن تَدْعُ مُثْقَلَةٌ إِلی حِملِها لایُحمَلْ مِنهُ شَیءٌ وَ لَو کانَ ذا قُربی﴾

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1- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:284.
2- - Sūrah Muddathir 74:38.

“No laden person [with sin] bears the load of another and if a heavily laden person calls for someone’s help, no fraction of it will be carried [by the other] even if the person is close family.”(1)

2.3. The unity of the ego and its deeds shows that an action, even if it is forgotten, will have a constant presence in the individual’s being until the conditions for its remembrance accrue.

3. God, whose knowledge is absolute and who is immanent throughout all things, shall not carry out the reckoning of human deeds for the purpose of discovering unknowns. The reckoning is for people to become aware of the complete reality of their own manifest and hidden actions. Hence, reckoning of the reality of actions necessitates infinite knowledge. No person is able to assess one’s own deeds or the deeds of others.

﴿قُل إنّ الموتَ الذّی تَفِرُّونَ مِنهُ فإنّهُ مُلاقیکم ثمَّ تُرَدُّونَ إلی عالِمِ الغَیبِ و الشَّهادةِ فیُنَبِّئُکُم بِما کُنتُم تَعمَلُون﴾

“Say: Verily, death, from which you flee, shall encounter you, then you shall be returned to the Knower of the Invisible and Visible and He will inform you of what you have been doing.”(2)

5. Witnesses of Deeds

There are witnesses in the divine court of justice that attest to the deeds of people. These testimonies must be true, accurate, and complete; therefore, not everyone is allowed to testify. A witness in Qīyāmat must have special characteristics in order that their testimonies are free of all error, ignorance, and bias which may alter the semblance of the truth. Some of these features include the following:

a. Testifiers must have witnessed the actions where and when they occurred. If witness A testifies to the actions of person B based on the word of person C, even if person C is truthful, the

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1- - Sūrah Fāṭir 35:18.
2- - Sūrah Jum‘ah 62:8.

testimony in incomplete since the witness testified to the saying of C, not the actions of B.

b. Because actions have both an exterior and interior, a complete witness is someone who can perceive the heart of actions. No complete and conclusive judgment can be made on grounds of the superficial aspect of an action. The distinguishing facet of many actions is not just based on their outer shell but the intentions behind them.

c. Witnesses must be exempt from error in committing deeds to memory and then testifying to them. In its conventional sense, justice does not obstruct all types of errors although it may prevent deliberate errors. However, divine justice must be free of all errors.

Hence, the immaculate saints of God—the Prophets and Imams (‘a)—will give complete testimonies and even the testimonies of other creations, such as each person’s body parts (arms, legs, etc.), must ultimately refer to the testimonies of the Immaculates. It is evident that such testimonies cannot be achieved in conventional human judgments in this world. Thus, religion as practiced in this worldly life puts appearances and principles into effect in order to settle disputes but leaves complete adjudication to the Judgment Day, which is the perfect manifestation of justice.

6. Retribution

One of the names of the final day is the Day of Requital or Religion [yawm ud-dīn]. One meaning for dīn is requital and to requite means to make appropriate return. Therefore, rewarding and punishment may also be called requital [jazā’] because they are returns for actions committed. Another meaning for dīn is religion. The final day is called the Day of Religion because it is when all elements of religion are revealed.

Otherworldly rewards and punishments are essentially different from the recompense prevalent in this world. Worldly retribution is convention based hence two disparate judicial systems may determine contrasting punishments for a uniform crime. Punishing criminals is usually done with intents such as “prevention of similar cases”, “disciplining wrongdoers”, and “easing the minds of those whose

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rights were abused”. However, in the Ākhirat, recompense for one’s actions is genuine. It is a place where none of the worldly intentions and purposes for retribution are applicable. What is given in reward to the faithful and righteous or in punishment to the unbelievers and sinners is purely the reality of their manifest and hidden actions, which results in bounties or tribulations.

Even though walls throw long shadows;

Their shadows return to themselves anew.

This world is as a mountain, our deeds as shouts;

The echoes of our shouts return to us in kind.(1)

Many verses explicitly speak of the identicalness of actions and their recompense:

﴿و ما تقدّموا لأَنفسکم من خیرٍ تجدوه عند الله﴾

“And whatever good you send forth for yourself, you shall find with Allah.”(2)

﴿هل تجزون الّا ما کنتم تعملون﴾

“Are you recompensed save for what you did?”(3)

﴿إِنَّ الّذین یأکلون اموال الیتامی ظلماً انّما یأکلون فی بطونهم ناراً و سیصلون سعیراً﴾

“Verily, those who unjustly consume the properties of orphans are in fact devouring fire in their bellies and shall soon burn in flames.”(4)

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1- - Jalal ad-Din Mawlavī, Mathnavī-e Ma‘navī (Spiritual Couplets), Book I, verses 214-215.
2- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:110.
3- - Sūrah Naml 27:90. Additionally, see: Sūrah Muzzammil 73:20; Sūrah Qiṣaṣ 28:84; Sūrah Zilzal 99:6-8; Sūrah Āli‘Imrān 3:30, 3:180; Sūrah Naba’ 78:40; Sūrah Ḥashr 59:18; Sūrah Baqarah 2:272, 2:281; Sūrah Kahf 18:49; Sūrah Taḥrīm 66:7; Sūrah Takwīr 81:14; Sūrah Aḥqāf 46:19; Sūrah Zumar 39:24, 39:48, 39:51, 39:70; Sūrah Tawbah 9:35; Sūrah Naḥl 16:111; Sūrah Ṭūr 52:16; Sūrah A‘rāf 7:147, 7:180; and Sūrah Saba’ 34:33.
4- - Sūrah Nisā’ 4:10.

In conclusion, in Qīyāmat, everyone will face their own reality. Requital is the reality of each person’s deeds; the manifestation of each person’s true visage. An example of this can be seen in our inner attributes. The essence of ethical evils, such as envy, is literally pain and torment and the essence of virtues is ease and tranquility. Hence, some scholars hold that if someone truly perceives their inner self in this world, they can realize whether they will be delivered or damned in Ākhirat.

Moreover, the wicked will only realize equivalent retribution for their deeds, while the faithful and righteous will enjoy many more blessings than their deeds warrant.

﴿مَن جآءَ بالحسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشرُ أَمثالِها و مَن جآءَ بِالسَّیِّئَةِ فلایُجزی إِلّا مِثلَها و هُم لایُظلَمُون﴾

“Whoever comes with a good deed will have tenfold equivalent [rewards] and whoever comes with an evil deed will only be recompensed equally and they will not be wronged.”(1)

﴿لَهُم ما یَشَآءُونَ فیها و لَدَینا مَزِیدٌ﴾

“Within it, they shall have all they want and with Us is yet more.”(2)

7. Hell [jahannam]

Jahannam is the name of the otherworldly fire which is the place of punishment. Examination of various aspects of this creation is made possible by the many Quranic verses on this issue. This infernal fire is characterized using various other names. Crusher [ḥuṭamah] is one of these names. Hellfire, as opposed to worldly fire that may only consume the body, penetrates into the interior of persons and burns their soul:

P: 237

1- - Sūrah An‘ām 6:160.
2- - Sūrah Qāf 50:35.

﴿کَلّا، لَیُنبَذَنَّ فی الحُطَمَةِ. و مآ أَدراکَ ما الحُطَمَةُ. نارُ اللهِ المُوقَدَةُ. الَّتی تَطَّلِعُ علی الأَفئِدَة﴾

“It is not so, they shall be thrust into the Crusher. And what will make you realize what the Crusher is? It is the kindled fire of Allah, which reaches to the hearts.”(1)

Jahannam is a living creature that shows emotions such as rage. In Qīyāmat, it seeks out unbelievers and envelops them.

﴿إِذآ أُلقوا فیها سَمِعُوا لَها شَهِیقاً و هِیَ تَفُور. تَکادُ تَمَیَّزُ مِنَ الغَیظِ﴾

“When they are cast into it, they hear it roaring while it boils and it close to bursting asunder from rage.”(2)

The retribution of Jahannam is degrading [mahīn], massive [‘azīm], painful [alīm], constant [muqīm], eternal [khuld], intense [shadīd], engulfing [muḥīṭ], greater [akbar], unknown [nukr], and invariable and necessary [‘izām].

People who dwell there reveal their true natures such as excuse-bringing, lying, selfishness, and malice. They viciously assail and curse each other and each of them wants the torment of the rest to be more severe that their own.

In this terrible fire, death lashes forth from all sides but does not permit rest and freedom from agony. The inhabitants of Hell beg for death but there is no death in the Ākhirat, the realm of everlasting life.

﴿یأتیهِ المَوتُ مِن کلِّ مکانٍ و ما هُوَ بِمَیِّتٍ﴾

“Death comes at him from every side but he does not die.”(3)

Hell, like Heaven, is a divine blessing. Many people shun the path of wretchedness in this world for fear of eternal damnation. Simultaneous with it being the manifestation of God’s wrath, it is an

P: 238

1- - Sūrah Humazah 104:4-7.
2- - Sūrah Mulk 67:7-8.
3- - Sūrah Ibrāhīm 14:17.

aspect of His universal mercy. In a way, fear of Hell can be likened to fear of Allah’s wrath. Thus, this type of fear is not been forbidden by religion because one pinnacle of religious training is fear of God not His creations.

﴿هذِهِ جَهَنَّمُ الّتی یُکَذِّبُ بها المُجرمونَ. یَطُوفُونَ بَینَها و بَینَ حَمیمٍ آنٍ. فَبِأَیِّ آلآءِ رَبِّکُما تُکَذِّبانِ﴾

“This is the same Hell that sinners denied. Now they drift between it and burning waters. So, which of your Lord’s bounties do you deny?”(1)

8. Paradise

The Noble Quran terms the eternal dwelling place of the faithful and righteous Jannat. The word jannat literally means a garden covered with trees. The Garden of Paradise has unending facets and no form of corruption whatsoever prevails over it or its inhabitants.

﴿مَثَلُ الجَنَّةِ الّتی وُعِدَ المُتَّقُونَ تَجری مِن تَحتِها الأَنهارُ أُکُلُها دآئِمٌ و ظِلُّها، تِلکَ عُقبَی الّذینَ اتَّقَوا و عُقبَی الکافِرِینُ النّارُ﴾

“This is a description of the Paradise that has been promised to the pious: Beneath its [trees] runs rivers, its produce is perpetual, and its shade is also; this is the requital of the pious and the requital of the unbelievers is the Fire.”(2)

As for those who attain the rank of servitude—those who worship God because He is worthy of worship—neither to attain Heaven nor due to fear of Hell—they shall enter a paradise that cannot be described or even imagined.

﴿یآ أَیَّتُها النَّفسُ المُطمَئِنَّةُ. اِرجِعِیۤ إِلی رَبِّکِ راضِیَةً مَّرضِیَةً. فَٱدخُلی فی عِبادی. وٱدخُلی جَنَّتی﴾

P: 239

1- - Sūrah Raḥmān 55:43-45.
2- - Sūrah Ra‘d 13:35.

“O tranquil soul! Return to your Lord while you are well pleased with Him and He is well pleased with you. So join My servants. And enter My Paradise.”(1)

Heaven is entirely clean and pure and no defilement or foulness may enter it. Before entering Heaven, all persons are purified of all uncleanliness by divine absolution or temporary punishment.

﴿و نَزَعنا ما فی صُدُورِهِم مِن غِلٍّ﴾

“And We shall strip all rancor from within their breasts.”(2)

The virtuous shall have all they want in Paradise. In contrast to this world, Heaven does not have a constant appearance and its alteration is not subject to time, ability, deterioration, and corruption. The preference of the heavenly inhabitant determines Heaven’s form. However, heavenly inhabitants, who are unencumbered of all vileness, desire only ethical things. Their volition is suffused with ethics and divinity. In heaven, which is the abode of safety and health, there is no trace of fear, sorrow, suffering, fatigue, pain, or spiritual and corporal debilities. Heaven is the place of fulfillment of the divine human’s ideals.

“And they say, ‘Praise be to Allah who has taken from us all sorrow. Verily, Allah is All-forgiving, All-bountiful, who through His grace has settled us in the everlasting abode, wherein neither hardship touches us nor weariness.’”(3)

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1- - Sūrah Fajr 89:27-30.
2- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:43.
3- - Sūrah Fāṭir 35:34-35.

Islamic Thought (Ma‘ārif Islāmī) _Book Two

Book ID

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, The All-Beneficent, The All-Merciful

نام کتاب: معارف اسلامی (جلد 2)

نویسندگان: علیرضا امینی، محسن جوادی

تهیه کننده: اداره ترجمه، اداره کل پژوهش مجمع جهانی اهل بیت

مترجم: منصور لیمبا

زبان ترجمه: انگلیسی

Islamic Thought (Ma‘ārif Islāmī)

Book two

Author: Alī Rezā Amīnī, Mohsen Javādī

Translator: Mansoor Līmbā


supervisor: Translation Unit, Research General Office, the ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly (ABWA)

Editor: Carol Eastman

Proofread by: Sayyid Baqir Husayni

Publisher: ABWA Publishing and Printing Center

First Printing: 2012

Printed by: Mujab Press

Copies: 5000

© The ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly (ABWA)



All rights reserved

P: 1

قال الله تعالی:

﴿إِنَّمَا یُرِیدُ اللَّهُ لِیُذْهِبَ عَنْکُمْ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَیْتِ وَیُطَهِّرَکُمْ تَطْهِیرًا﴾

Indeed, Allah desires to repel all impurity from you, O People of the Household, and purify you with a thorough purification.

(Surat al-Ahzab 33:33)

Prophetic traditions, mentioned in both Sunni and Shiite most reliable reference books of Hadith and Tafsir (Quranic Exegesis), have confirmed that this holy verse was revealed to exclusively involve the five individuals of the Cloak; namely, Muhammad, Ali, Fatimah, al-Hasan, and al-Husayn, peace be upon them, to whom the term ‘Ahl al-Bayt (People of the House)’ is solely dedicated.

For instance, refer to the following reference books:

A. Sunni Reference Books:

(1) Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241 AH), al-Musnad, 1:331; 4:107; 6:292, 304. (2) Sahih Muslim (d. 261 AH), 7:130. (3) Al-Tirmidhi (d. 279 AH), Sunan, 5:361 et al. (4) Al-Dulabi (d. 310 AH), al-Dhurriyyah al-Tahirah al-Nabawiyyah, pp. 108. (5) Al-Nassa’i (d. 303 AH), al-Sunan al-Kubra, 5:P108, 113. (6) al-Hakim al-Naysaburi (d. 405 AH), al-Mustadrak ala al-Sahihayn, 2:416, 3:133, 146, 147. (7) al-Zarkashi (d. 794 AH), al-Burhan, pp. 197. (8) Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d. 852), Fath al-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:104.

B. Shiite Reference Books:

(1) Al-Kulayni (d. 328 AH), Usul al-Kafi, 1:287. (2) Ibn Babawayh (d. 329 AH), al-Imamah wa’l-Tabsirah, pp. 47, H. 29. (3) Al-Maghribi (d. 363 AH), Da’aa’im al-Islam, pp. 35, 37. (4) Al-Saduq (d. 381 AH), al-Khisal, pp. 403, 550. (5) Al-Tusi (d. 460 AH), al-Amaali, H. 438, 482, 783.

For more details, refer to the exegesis of the holy verse involved in the following reference books of tafsir: (1) Al-Tabari (d. 310 AH), Book of Tafsir. (2) Al-Jassass (d. 370 AH), Ahkam al-Qur’an. (3) Al-Wahidi (d. 468 AH), Asbaab al-Nuzoul. (4) Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597 AH), Zaad al-Maseer. (5) Al-Qurtubi (d. 671 AH), al-Jami’ li-Ahkam al-Qur’an. (6) Ibn Katheer (d. 774 AH), Book of Tafsir. (7) Al-Tha’aalibi (d. 825 AH), Book of Tafsir. (8) Al-Suyouti (d. 911 AH), al-Durr al-Manthour. (9) Al-Shawkani (d. 1250 AH), Fath al-Qadeer. (10) Al-Ayyashi (d. 320 AH), Book of Tafsir. (11) Al-Qummi (d. 329 AH), Book of Tafsir. (12) Furt al-Kufi (d. 352 AH), Book of Tafsir; in the margin of the exegesis of verse 4:59. (13) Al-Tabrisi (d. 560 AH), Majma’ al-Bayan, as well as many other reference books of Hadith and Tafsir.

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Islamic Thought

(Ma‘ārif Islāmī)

Book Two

P: 3

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صلی الله علیه و آله:

إنِّی تَارِکٌ فِیکُمُ الثَّقَلَیْنِ: کِتَابَ اللهِ وَعِتْرَتِی أهْلَ بَیْتِی، مَا إنْ تَمَسَّکْتُمْ بِهِمَا لَنْ تَضِلُّوا بَعْدِی أبَداً، وَإنَّهُمَا لَنْ یَفْتَرِقَا حَتَّی یَرِدَا عَلَیَّ الْحَوْضَ.

The Messenger of Allah (s) said:

“Verily, I am leaving among you two precious things [Thaqalayn]: The Book of Allah and my progeny [‘Itrah], the members of my Household [Ahl al-Bayt]. If you hold fast to them, you shall never go astray. These two will never separate from each other until they meet me at the Pond [hawz] (of Kawthar).”

Some of its references:

Al­hakim an­Nayshaburi, Al­Mustadrak `ala al-Sahihayn (Beirut), vol. 3, pp. 109-110, 148, 533

Muslim, Al-Sahih, (English translation), book 31, hadiths 5920-3

At­Tirmidhi, Al-Sahih, vol. 5, pp. 621-2, hadiths 3786, 3788; vol. 2, p. 219

An-Nassa’i, Khasa’is ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, hadith 79

Ahmad ibn hanbal, Al-Musnad, vol. 3, pp. 14, 17, 26; vol. 3, pp. 26, 59; vol. 4, p. 371; vol. 5, pp. 181-182, 189-190

Ibn al­Athir, Jami` al­Usul, vol. 1, p. 277

Ibn Kathir, Al­Bidayah wa’n­Nihayah, vol. 5, p. 209

Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-`A¨im, vol. 6, p. 199

Nasir ad-Din al-Albani, Silsilat al-Ahadith as-sahihah (Kuwait: Ad-Dar as-Salafiyyah), vol. 4, pp. 355-358

P: 4

Islamic Thought (Ma‘ārif Islāmī)

Book Two


Alī Rezā Amīnī

Mohsen Javādī


Mansoor Līmbā

Cultural Affairs Department

The Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly

P: 5

نام کتاب: معارف اسلامی (جلد 2)

نویسندگان: علیرضا امینی، محسن جوادی

تهیه کننده: اداره ترجمه، اداره کل پژوهش مجمع جهانی اهل بیت^

مترجم: منصور لیمبا

زبان ترجمه: انگلیسی

Islamic Thought (Ma‘ārif Islāmī)

Book two

Author: Alī Rezā Amīnī, Mohsen Javādī

Translator: Mansoor Līmbā


supervisor: Translation Unit, Research General Office, the ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly (ABWA)

Editor: Carol Eastman

Proofread by: Sayyid Baqir Husayni

Publisher: ABWA Publishing and Printing Center

First Printing: 2012

Printed by: Mujab Press

Copies: 5000

© The ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly (ABWA)



All rights reserved

P: 6

Table of contents

PREFACE - Error! Bookmark not defined.


Preface to the Farsi Edition - 19


Section One: The Necessity of Prophethood - 19

The necessity of prophethood from the Islamic theological perspective - 21

The necessity of prophethood from the Islamic philosophical perspective - 25

Some notes - 33

Section Two: The Contributions and Blessings of the Prophets - 37

The prophets and morality - 37

The prophets and knowledge - 39

The prophets and social justice - 47

The prophets and mysticism - 48

An example of the manifestation of the blessings of the prophets - 49

Section Three: Revelation and Miracle - 51

Revelation - 51

Miracles - 56

Miracles as proof of the truthfulness of the prophets (‘a) - 62

The Qur’an as the eternal miracle - 63

Finality of prophethood - 70


Section One: Period of the Presence of the Imāms (‘a) - 77

Shī‘ism - 80

The necessity of Imamate - 84

Imamate as a matter of appointment [manṣūṣ] - 86

The Tradition of Ghadīr [Ḥadīth al-Ghadīr] - 87

The role of the Imāms (‘a) - 91

Philosophy of occultation [ghaybah] - 94

A question - 97

Imamate and the duty of the faithful [mu’minīn] - 99

Section Two: Period of Occultation - 103

Religious authority - 103

Salient features of ijtihād - 104

Sources of ijtihād - 107

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Leadership - 109

1. Rational proof - 109

2. Textual proof - 111

Dimensions of the theory of wilāyah al-faqīh - 113

Index - 121

Transliteration Symbols - 126

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Publisher’s Foreword

In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful

The invaluable legacy of the Household [Ahl al-Bayt] of the Prophet (may peace be upon them all), as preserved by their followers, is a comprehensive school of thought that embraces all branches of Islamic knowledge. This school has produced many brilliant scholars who have drawn inspiration from this rich and pure resource. It has given many scholars to the Muslim ummah who, following in the footsteps of Imāms of the Prophet’s Household (‘a), have done their best to clear up the doubts raised by various creeds and currents within and without Muslim society and to answer their questions. Throughout the past centuries, they have given well-reasoned answers and clarifications concerning these questions and doubts.

To meet the responsibilities assigned to it, the Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly (ABWA) has embarked on a defence of the sanctity of the Islamic message and its verities, often obscured by the partisans of various sects and creeds as well as by currents hostile to Islam. The Assembly follows in the footsteps of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and the disciples of their school of thought in its readiness to confront these challenges and tries to be on the frontline in consonance with the demands of every age.

The arguments contained in the works of the scholars belonging to the School of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are of unique significance. That is because they are based on genuine scholarship and appeal to reason, and avoid prejudice and bias. These arguments address scholars and thinkers in a manner that appeals to healthy minds and wholesome human nature.

To assist the seekers of truth, the Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly has endeavored to present a new phase of these arguments contained in the studies and translations of the works of contemporary Shī‘ah writers and those who have embraced this sublime school of thought through divine blessing.

The Assembly is also engaged in edition and publication of the valuable works of leading Shī‘ah scholars of earlier ages to assist the seekers of the truth in discovering the truths which the School of the Prophet’s Household (‘a) has offered to the entire world.

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The Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly looks forward to benefit from the opinions of the readers and their suggestions and constructive criticism in this area.

We also invite scholars, translators and other institutions to assist us in propagating the genuine Islamic teachings as preached by the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ).

We beseech God, the Most High, to accept our humble efforts and to enable us to enhance them under the auspices of Imām al-Mahdī, His vicegerent on the earth (may Allah expedite his advent).

We express our gratitude to Alī Rezā Aminī and Mohsen Javadi, the authors of the present book, and Dr. Mansoor Limba, its translator. We also thank our colleagues who have participated in producing this work, especially the staff of the Translation Office. ?

Cultural Affairs Departmen

Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly

P: 10


The precious legacy left behind by the Holy Prophet’s Household [Ahl al-Bayt] (may peace be upon them all) and their followers’ preservation of this legacy from the menace of extinction is a perfect example of an all-encompassing school [maktab] which embraces the different branches of Islamic knowledge and this school has been able to train many talented personalities by quenching them with the fountain that gushes-forth. The school has presented scholars to the Muslim community [ummah] who, by following the Holy Prophet’s Household (‘a), have occupied the station of clarifying the doubts and skepticisms brought forth by various creeds and intellectual currents both inside and outside the Muslim society and, throughout the past centuries, they have been the presenters of the firmest answers and solutions to these doubts.

Anchored in the responsibilities it is shouldering, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly has embarked upon defending the sanctity of risālah [apostleship] and its authentic beliefs—truths which have always been opposed by the chiefs and leaders of anti-Islamic sects, religions and trends. In this sacred path, the Assembly regards itself as a follower of the upright pupils of the Ahl al-Bayt’s (‘a) school—those who have always been ready to refute accusations and calumnies and have tried always to be in the frontline of this struggle while trying to conform to the demands of our time.

Experiences in this field, which have been preserved in books of the scholars of the Ahl al-Bayt’s (‘a) school, are unique in their own right. This is because the experiences have been based upon knowledge [‘ilm] and the preeminence of intellect and reasoning, and at the same time, are devoid of any iota of blind prejudice as well as whims and caprice. These experiences address the experts, scholars and thinkers in such a manner that is acceptable to a healthy mind and pure human natural disposition [fiṭrah].

In a bid to assist those who are in quest of truth, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly has endeavored to enter a new phase using these worthy experiences within a framework of research by drawing upon works of contemporary Shi‘ah writers and those who, through divine guidance, embraced this noble school.

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This Assembly is also engaged in the study and publication of valuable works of pious predecessors and outstanding Shī‘ah personalities of the past, so that those who are thirsty for truth can quench their thirst from this refreshing fountain by understanding and embracing the truths which the Holy Prophet’s Household (‘a) has offered as a gift to the entire world.

It is hoped that the esteemed readers will assist the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly with their valuable views and suggestions as well as constructive criticisms.

We also invite scholars, translators and other institutions to assist us in propagating pure Muhammadan (ṣ) Islam.

We ask God, the Exalted, to accept this modest effort and enhance it further under the auspices of His vicegerent on earth, Hadrat al-Mahdī (may Allah, the Exalted, expedite his glorious advent).

It is appropriate here to express our utmost gratitude to the group of scholars of the Office of the Supreme Leader in the Universities for writing the book(1) and to Mr. Mansoor Limba for translating it, as well as to all our honorable colleagues in accomplishing this task especially the dear friends in the Translation Office who performed their responsibilities admirably. c

Cultural Affairs Department


al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly

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1- - Ma‘ārif-e Islāmī (Qum: Office of the Supreme Leader in the Universities, Spring 1379 AHS (2000)), volumes 1-2.

Preface to the Farsi Edition

This Islamic studies course aims to elucidate the Islamic worldview and ideological foundations and to strengthen the religious beliefs of esteemed students. The previous textbooks had been written and published by a group of scholars on the basis of the needs and conditions of the universities at that time. With some technical and substantial additions and changes in certain topics, these textbooks are still taught in the universities. For many years, the Islamic Studies Professors and Courses Affairs Department of the Office of the Supreme Leader in the Universities has included in its program the writing of new Islamic Studies textbooks based on the criticisms and assessment of the then existing textbooks and manuscripts, the suggestions of Islamic studies professors and the opinions of some students.

Thanks be to God, the Munificent, this program has been completed and the Islamic studies course notes along with other course notes have now been written and published. After using the book in experimental teaching and obtaining correctional and supplementary views of professors and students, it is hoped that a model textbook in terms of its substance and structure has now been written and published, God willing.

The present book is a product of the Islamic Studies Section of the Textbook Writing and Research Unit of the Department. After sketching out its initial table of contents, it has been written by the honorable professors and Ḥujaj al-Islām(1) Ḥamīd Pārsāniyā, Muḥammad Sa‘īdī-Mehr, Amīr Dīwānī, Muḥsin Jawādī, and ‘Alī Riḍā Amīnī.(2)

The following notes are worth considering:

1. In writing this book, intricate philosophical discussions are avoided and an average level of understanding of students is taken into

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1- - Ḥujaj al-Islām: the plural form of the religious title Ḥujjat al-Islām which literally means “proof of Islam”. [Trans.]
2- - The introduction of the book is written by Ḥujjat al-Islām Pārsāniyā; the chapters pertaining to the knowledge of God by Dr. Sa‘īdī-Mehr; the initial manuscript of the topics on the Resurrection by Ḥujjat al-Islām Dīwānī and its revised edition by Dr. Sa‘īdī-Mehr; the chapter on prophethood by Dr. Jawādī; and the chapter on Imamate and leadership by Ḥujjat al-Islām Amīnī.

account. In explaining religious tenets, Qur’anic concepts and traditions [aḥādīth] are amply used.

2. Due to the inclusion of the topics on Resurrection [ma‘ād] in the first volume of the book and the extensive citation of Qur’anic verses and narrations [riwāyāt] in the Origin [mabda’] and Resurrection [ma‘ād] Sections, the first volume is larger than the second. As such, the respected professors can use the sections in the first volume as they deem appropriate to supplement the second volume. Also, because of the importance of the chapter on Imamate and leadership in the second volume, there is more time during the second term to examine the different dimensions of this topic.

3. The general objectives are stated at the beginning of every discourse (section). It is hoped that the arrangement of the subjects in this edition will facilitate understanding and discussion.

4. In view of the lofty station and value of ritual prayer [ṣalāh] in the devotional system of Islam, selected parts of the works of Imām Khomeinī (r)(1) and a commentary of his Ādābuṣ-Ṣalāt [The Disciplines of the Prayer](2), which deals with the spiritual secrets of prayer, have been included in the last discourse on anthropology in Book One so that the students could become acquainted with the inner [bāṭinī] or celestial [malakūtī] aspects of this divine obligation. In these parts of the book, some mystical terms and phrases have been used. With the respected professors’ exposition and elucidation of the pertinent statements of Imām Khomeinī, these sections could be of much benefit to students.

In spite of diligent efforts in writing and publishing this book, the door for edition and revision is open for improvement. Suggestions and ideas expressed by concerned authorities, scholars, professors, and students can be of immense help in improving it.

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1- - The abbreviation, “r” stands for the Arabic invocative phrase, rahmatullāh ‘alayhi, rahmatullāh ‘alayhā, or rahmatullāh ‘alayhim [may peace be upon him/her/them], which is mentioned after the names of pious people. [Trans.]
2- - Imām Khomeinī, Ādābuṣ-Ṣalāt [The Disciplines of the Prayer], trans. Sālār Manāfī Anārī, 2nd edition (Tehran: Institute for the Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini’s Works, 2002). [Trans.]

Finally, we would like to express our sincere thanks and gratitude to all our esteemed colleagues who have contributed to writing, editing and typesetting this volume.

Textbook Writing and Research Unit

Islamic Studies Professors and Courses Affairs Department

Office of the Supreme Leader in the Universities

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Section One: The Necessity of Prophethood

Section Two: The Contributions and Blessings of the Prophets

Section Three: Revelation and Miracles

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Section One: The Necessity of Prophethood


General objectives

After studying this discourse, the students are expected:

1. To realize the rational necessity of prophethood;

2. To be acquainted with the views of philosophers and scholastic theologians about revelation; and

3. To understand the perspective of the Qur’an and the Sunnah regarding revelation.


The issue of prophethood [nubuwwah] or apostleship [risālah] is the subject of many pages of voluminous history books—the accounts of men who spent their lives conveying the message of God to His servants and experienced different afflictions along this way.

Here, we do not need to scan the pages of history to ascertain their existence because the signs of their existence are so obvious for us that there is no room for doubt. When our eyes are attracted to the architectural magnificence of churches or mosques, when our ears are drawn to the melodious recitation of the Qur’an or the call to prayer [adhān], and when we observe faithful men and women sincerely and earnestly treading the path shown by the apostles of God (‘a),(1) we can see within ourselves the luminous visage of the prophets (‘a).

By hearing the sound of the invitation of the prophets (‘a, seeing their celestial countenances and observing their saintly conduct, so many men and women were attracted to and believed in them. This faith

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1- - The abbreviation, “‘a” stands for the Arabic invocative phrase, ‘alayhi’s-salām, ‘alayhim’us-salām, or ‘alayhā’s-salām [may peace be upon him/them/her], which is mentioned after the names of the prophets, angels, Imāms from the Prophet’s progeny, and saints (‘a). [Trans.]

[īmān] is based on the testimony of human nature [fiṭrah] which smells the familiar scent of the celestial world in the persons of the prophets (‘a) and acknowledges their truthfulness or rightfulness without the need for rational investigation. However, this faith does not close the door for reflection [ta’ammul] and thinking. In fact, it opens it wide. For those who have not yet embraced the faith, thinking can be a fertile ground for the growth of the seeds of faith while for those who have faith, it serves as a means of defending the faith and nurturing and cultivating the bud of belief [‘aqīdah].

This point shows that the rational study or examination of prophethood is not an indispensable condition of faith in the prophets (‘a) but only substantiates or supplements this faith.

As the door for thinking about prophethood is now open, questions must be given answers which the intellect or reason [‘aql] can grasp well. This is exactly the concern of this chapter, and the following questions will be addressed:

1. Why must there be prophets in the lives of humankind? (The necessity of prophethood)

2. What services and benefits have the prophets rendered to mankind? (The blessings of the prophets (‘a))

3. How did the prophets communicate with God and receive His message? (Revelation)

4. How can we be certain about the truthfulness of their claims to prophethood? (Miracles)

5. Assuming that their presence is necessary, why has the caravan of prophethood ceased to move? (Finality of the prophethood)


In the history of Islamic thought, the debate on the necessity of prophethood has delved more into answering the following question: Why must God have sent prophets to mankind? Muslim scholars have tried to explain the philosophy behind the sending down of the prophets (‘a) which is related to the ‘action of God’.

However, there is another question here and that is: Why should we humans pay heed and take seriously the message and invitation of the

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apostles (‘a)? Could we not bother to take their invitation into account and just go along our way and pass by without paying attention to them? This question (regarding the human need to follow the prophets (‘a)) is of immense importance nowadays. In Islamic philosophy and theology books, the following question is also addressed: Why should man conduct research and investigation about the prophets (‘a)? However, this question has not been dealt with at great length. Perhaps, the reason for this is that it is believed that if the philosophy behind the sending down of prophets (‘a) is established, the philosophy behind the human need to follow the prophets (‘a) will also be proven.

Muslim scholars have answered these questions by first dealing with God and His Action, and concluding with man and his need to follow the prophets (‘a). Nowadays, however, there are some transcendent theosophers [muta’allihīn] who start by studying man and his need to follow the prophets (‘a), and concluding with God and His Action (sending down of the prophets (‘a)). This approach is widely adopted in the Christian world but is also to some extent observed in the works of Muslim scholars.

In this book, we shall follow the dominant approach in the books of Islamic philosophy and theology. By explaining the ‘Action of God’ (the necessity of sending down of the prophets (‘a)), we shall also establish the human need to follow the prophets (‘a).

The necessity of prophethood from the Islamic theological perspective

Scholastic theology or theology [‘ilm al-kalām or kalām], which is one of the important branches of Islamic sciences, has a long precedence. Scholastic theologians or theologians [mutakallimīn] are those who expound religious beliefs and defend them against the misgivings and doubts expressed by others. Sometimes, these misgivings and doubts originate from outside the Islamic world. For example, whenever the principle of the existence of God or monotheism [tawḥīd] was under attack, all Muslim theologians would come forward to defend it. However, there have also been times when doubts or misgivings were expressed by Muslims against the beliefs of fellow Muslims, and this has led to the emergence of different groups of theologians.

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In addition, theologians have also differed about the methods of defending their religious beliefs. Some of them such as the Mu‘tazilites [Mu‘tazilah] preferred the rational method while others such as the Ash‘arites [Ashā‘irah] did not much incline to rational theorization. In terms of method, the Shī‘ah(1) theology has many similarities to that of the Mu‘tazilites but has fundamental differences with it with regard to the beliefs being defended.(2)

In this section, we shall use the arguments advanced by a great Shī‘ah theologian, Sayyid Murtaḍā.(3)

Through use of their intellect, human beings know that some things are good while others are bad, and to know this, they are in no need of revelation [wahī]. Without citing any basis from revelation, we know that justice, honesty and trustworthiness are good and that injustice and violation of the rights of others are bad.(4)

Human beings not only understand the goodness of justice and gratitude for the kindness and benevolence of others but also consider themselves bound to observe justice and express gratitude towards others. In other words, the intellect is not only aware that justice is good but also knows that one must behave according to justice and not oppose it. Perception of the necessity and expediency of doing an action does not necessarily mean perception of its goodness and wholesomeness. Theologians have discussed at length the rational perception of duties (rational obligation).

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1- - In this volume, I have maintained the word “Shī‘ah” to refer to both the group (single collective unit) and the individuals constituting the group (plural). [Trans.]
2- - See Murtaḍā Muṭahharī, Understanding Islamic Sciences (London: ICAS Press, 2002), p. 57-84. [Trans.]
3- - See ash-Sharīf al-Murtaḍā, Adh-dhakhīrah fī ‘Ilm al-Kalām, p. 323. Sayyid Murtaḍā ‘Alam al-Hudā (355-436 AH): a man of versatility with a keen taste and talent for literature, jurisprudence and theology whose verdicts and opinions are taken into account even today. Both he and his brother Sayyid ar-Raḍī, the compiler of Nahj al-Balāghah, studied from Shaykh al-Mufīd. [Trans.]
4- - Some theologians point out the origin of the difference between good and bad actions, believing that its criterion is the effects they bring about in the lives of human beings. Accordingly, good deeds are the source of felicity while evil deeds lead to perdition.

The emphasis on the importance of intellect in perceiving what is good or bad and identifying responsibility shows the high station of the intellect in the life of humankind. In the Islamic traditions, the intellect is described as the “inner apostle” [rasūl-e bāṭin]. Nevertheless, such an expression should not make us negligent of its definitional scope and limitations.

Attention to the scope and limitation of the intellect and its function is the basis of the theological proof [burhān-e kalāmī] for the necessity of prophethood. Some of its limitations are as follows:

1. It is true that the intellect is capable of identifying the general principles underlying good and bad actions, but it is incapable of identifying particular cases in which a person is more involved in his practical life. Whenever the rational intellect [‘aql-e istidlālī] intends to identify the ruling on specific cases, it often makes mistakes. The human intellect perceives that expressing gratitude to God is both good and obligatory, but it does not know which actions express such gratitude. The intellect is conscious of the necessity of respecting the rights of others, but it does not know exactly how to respect those rights nor does it know precisely what those rights are.

2. No doubt, the purpose of identifying good and bad actions is for people to train themselves to do good deeds and refrain from evil deeds. The truth of the matter, however, is that just to identify the goodness of actions and to sense the rational duty to do them does not automatically turn into action. In the same manner, mere identification of wicked acts does not translate into abandonment of the same. In addition to perception of an act’s goodness and the feeling of having a sense of duty, the performance of a voluntary action depends on the decision and will of a person. The nature of human will and the manner of decision-making are also completely intertwined with a person’s feelings, inclinations and desires.

Many people know that it is detestable to misappropriate the property of others, but the pressure of hunger can lead them away from this natural sense of responsibility and urge them to sacrifice their will at the altar of needs and inclinations.

It is of immense importance to pay attention to the crucial role of feelings and emotions and it bespeaks of the fact that the guidance or direction of man toward perfection and deliverance does not depend

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solely on his intellect and reason. In fact, training or upbringing must also be given importance in such a way that feelings and emotions also assist man and not hinder him along the path of doing wholesome and righteous deeds.

The ethicists or moral teachers who reflect much on the elements of moral or righteous deeds inform us that the intellect is sometimes subdued by the desire [hawā] and delegates the guidance or stewardship of the ship of humanity’s existence to feelings and emotions. Worse still, apart from delegating the captainship of the ship of existence to the feelings and emotions, at times it even makes itself their slave. Ethicists call such intellect the “satanic intellect” [‘aql-e shayṭānī] which indulges in trickery to satiate bestial instincts and desires. As such, if man is supposed to attain salvation by doing righteous deeds and following the dictates of his reason, his feelings and emotions must be disciplined so as to abide by the intellect, and not the other way around.

Yea, it is a reality that God has made the intellect a light to show the way leading to man’s salvation, but it is also a fact that this beam does not shed light on every perspective of this way. Its brightness is not so strong that a breeze emitting from the carnal desires cannot blow it out.

Now, the following question can be raised: Does God truly intend to guide us or not? If not, why has He created the light of reason in human beings? If He does intend to guide humankind toward salvation and felicity—as He must be based on His infinite mercy—then He who knows everything, including the limitations of the “inner apostle”, would certainly send assistance so as to enhance the brightness of the light as well as to make it safe from the whirlwind of whims and caprice.

If God does not want to invite people to do righteous deeds, why has He bestowed them with an intellect which urges them towards righteousness? If He wants to guide humanity towards felicity through righteous deeds, why would He not supplement or complement the intellect’s invitation through revelation? If one is serious in inviting a friend and knows that by just reading an invitation the friend will not come, would he not send a representative to accompany the friend so that he would be assured of him coming?

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The same is true in the case of God’s invitation to do righteous deeds and worship Him [‘ubūdiyyah]. Out of His grace, He bestowed man with the intellect. In the same manner, out of His grace, He sent His chosen ones to affirm the intellect’s invitation and assist humanity by clearly showing the different dimensions of the way to salvation. In addition, by linking righteous deeds to everlasting bliss in the hereafter and evil deeds to eternal damnation in the afterlife, humanity’s feelings and emotions were resolutely set at the service of their intellects. If a person were to truly understand that by doing righteous deeds he would attain divine proximity [qurb-e ilāhī], and that divine pleasure or satisfaction, which manifests in various forms, is the most pleasant of all things, would he not desire to perform more and more righteous deeds? Theologians call these acts of God “grace” [luṭf] and consider them incumbent upon Him, for He does not withhold any grace that does not result in some type of harm or corruption among creation.

Therefore, the theologian’s approach is essentially based on the fact that God has invited man in accordance with the invitation of the intellect to good, but that without the sending down of apostles (‘a) this invitation is less productive and imperfect. Similarly, without the sending down of revelation the light of the intellect will not be sufficiently bright. He who, out of His grace, endows humanity with the intellect also grants the religion and revelation so as to make the light of reason brilliant enough to assist the intellect against whims and caprice by linking everlasting felicity to righteous deeds.

The necessity of prophethood from the Islamic philosophical perspective

Although Islamic philosophy [falsafah or ḥikmah](1) is rooted in Qur’anic wisdom and Islamic traditions, especially the sayings of Imam(2) ‘Alī (‘a), there is no doubt that its organization or systematization into an organized body of knowledge is the result of the acquaintance of Muslim scholars with Greek thoughts with the translation [into Arabic] of their works during the second and third

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1- - Regarding its literal and semantic definitions, see Muṭahharī, Understanding Islamic Sciences, pp. 11-19. [Trans.]
2- - Hadrat: The Arabic word Hadrat is used as a respectful form of address. [Trans.]

century AH. The Islamic civilization has produced great philosophers the most prominent of whom are Fārābī,(1) Ibn Sīnā,(2) Shaykh al-Ishrāq,(3)

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1- - One of Islam’s leading philosophers, al-Fārābī was born at Fārāb, situated on the Jaxartes (Syr Darya), the modern Otrar. Coming to Baghdad, he studied under the Christian doctor Johanna, son of Hilan. Another of his teachers was Abū Bishr Matta, known as a translator of Greek works. He next proceeded to Aleppo, to the court of Sayf ad-Dawlah, son of Hamdān, and led a somewhat retired life under his protection, assuming the garb of a Sufi. When this prince captured Damascus, he took the philosopher with him, and there Fārābī died in 339 AH/950. Fārābī’s literary production was considerable, but a great number of his works were lost very early. They were chiefly commentaries or explanations of the Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle. In the sphere of moral philosophy he wrote a commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics; in that of political philosophy, he made a summary of Plato’s Laws, and composed a short treatise on the Ideal City. To psychology and metaphysics he contributed numerous works, with such titles as Intelligence and the Intelligible, The Soul, The Faculties of the Soul, The One and Unity, Substance, Time, The Void, and Space and Measure. He also commented on Alexander of Aphrodisias’ book, de Anima. Believing that Greek philosophy was a unity, he labored to reconcile Plato and Aristotle, and with this idea wrote treatises on The Aims of Plato and Aristotle and The Agreement between Plato and Aristotle. He also discussed certain interpretations of Aristotle proposed by Galen and John Philoponus, and composed An Intervention between Aristotle and Galen. [Trans.]
2- - Abū ‘Alī al-Husayn ibn ‘Abdullāh ibn Sīnā, or Avicenna, entitled al-Shaykh al-Ra’īs, or Hujjat al-Haqq by his compatriots, simply Shaykh by his disciples, and the Prince of Physicians in the occidental world, was born near Bukhārā in the year 370 AH/980. When Ibn Sīnā was five years old he and his family moved to the city of Bukhārā, where the young boy had a greater opportunity to study. At the age of ten he already knew grammar, literature, and theology as well as the whole of the Qur’an. When the famous mathematician, Abū ‘Abdullāh al-Natīlī, came to Bukhārā, he was invited to stay at the house of Ibn Sīnā in order to teach him mathematics. Under his tutelage Ibn Sīnā mastered the Almagest, the Elements of Euclid and some logic, all of which he soon knew better than his teacher. Having mastered mathematics, he then turned his attention to physics, metaphysics, and medicine. By the time he was sixteen, Ibn Sīnā had mastered all the sciences of his day and was well known as a physician. In another two years, thanks to the commentary of al-Fārābī, he was also to complete his understanding of Aristotle’s metaphysics which at first had presented considerable difficulty for him. Despite the loss in part or in toto of several of his major works, such as the twenty-volume Kitāb al-Insāf on the arbitration of Eastern and Western philosophy and the Lisān al-‘Arab in ten volumes, over two-hundred and fifty books, treatises, and letters of Ibn Sīnā have survived. They range from the voluminous Kitāb ash-Shifā and Al-Qānūn fi’t-Tibb to treatises of only a few pages like Risālat al-Fi‘l wal-Infi‘āl and Risālah fi’s-Sirr al-Qadar. His books can be roughly divided into four separate groups: the philosophical, religious, cosmological and physical, and finally the symbolical and metaphysical narratives. Kitāb ash-Shifā, a vast philosophical and scientific encyclopedia, is probably the largest work of its kind ever written by one man. His dominating influence in medicine, philosophy and theology has lasted over the ages and is still alive within the circles of Islamic thought. [Trans.]
3- - A towering figure of the Illuminationist School of Islamic Philosophy [ishrāqī], Shahāb ad-Dīn Yahyā Suhrawardī (known as Shaykh al-Ishrāq), was born in Suhraward, near Zanjān, Iran in 1155. After studying in Isfahān, a leading center of Islamic scholarship, Suhrawardī traveled through Iran, Anatolia and Syria. Influenced by mystical teachings, he spent much time in meditation and seclusion, and in Halab (modern Aleppo) he favorably impressed its ruler, Malik az-Zāhir. His teachings, however, aroused the opposition of established and learned religious men [‘ulamā], who persuaded Malik to have him put to death. The appellation al-Maqtūl [the killed one] meant that he was not to be considered a shahīd [martyr]. Suhrawardī wrote voluminously. The more than 50 works that were attributed to him were classified into two categories: doctrinal and philosophical accounts containing commentaries on the works of Aristotle and Plato, as well as his contribution to the Illuminationist School; and shorter treatises, generally written in Persian and of an esoteric nature, meant to illustrate the paths and journeys of a mystic before he could achieve ma‘rifah (gnosis or esoteric knowledge). [Trans.]

and Ṣadr ad-Dīn Shīrāzī, well known as Mullā Ṣadrā.(1) Islamic philosophy deals not only with the common and prevailing subjects in Greek philosophy but also with subjects that are not covered by Greek philosophers. The most important of these are the issues of Resurrection [ma‘ād] and prophethood [nubuwwah]. The philosophical discussion on prophethood focuses more on divine revelation, but there is also an examination of the necessity of sending prophets as the conveyers of the divine revelation. The approach

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1- - Mullā Sadrā (d. 1050 AH/1640), also called Sadruddīn Shīrāzī and Sadr al-Muta’allihīn, was a philosopher who led the Iranian cultural renaissance in the 17th century. The foremost representative of Ishrāqī [Illuminationist] School of philosopher-mystics, he is commonly regarded by Iranians as the greatest philosopher of Iran. A scion of a notable Shīrāzī family, Mullā Sadrā completed his education in Isfahān, then the leading cultural and intellectual center of Iran. After his studies with scholars there, he produced several works, the most famous of which was his Asfār (Journeys). Asfār contains the bulk of his philosophy, which was influenced by a personal mysticism bordering on asceticism that he experienced during a 15-year retreat at Kahak, a village near Qum in Iran. Toward the end of his life, Mullā Sadrā returned to Shīrāz to teach. His teachings, however, were considered heretical by the orthodox Shī‘ah theologians, who persecuted him, though his powerful family connections permitted him to continue to write. He died on a pilgrimage to Mecca. [Trans.]

which is labeled “proof of general guidance” [burhān-e hidāyat-e ‘āmmeh] is a legacy of Muslim philosophers in this field.(1)

In this section of the book, we shall present the following arguments:

1. Wherever you look at the infinite creation of God, in addition to the order of existence you can also observe a sort of open and hidden guidance and direction everywhere. The order of a being shows the organization and coordination of its different components and the absence of contradiction and conflict. However, its guidance means that God has directed it towards a certain destination. God has not created contingent beings [mawjūdāt-e imkānī] just to be abandoned later. Rather, apart from designing an order or system of creation, He has provided a sort of guidance according to the natural constitution of each being:

﴿ رَبُّنَا الَّذِی أَعْطَی کُلَّ شَیْءٍ خَلْقَهُ ثُمَّ هَدَی ﴾

“Our Lord is He who gave everything its creation and then guided it.”(2)

God created the honeybee and then taught it a wonderful system of livelihood and attainment of perfection. If we try to liken the honeybee’s system of life to a strong and organized ship, the instincts which are actually God’s inspirations [ilhām] serve as the captain who will direct it toward its predefined destination:

﴿ وَأَوْحَی رَبُّکَ إِلَی النَّحْلِ أَنِ اتَّخِذِی مِنَ الْجِبَالِ بُیُوتًا وَمِنَ الشَّجَرِ وَمِمَّا یَعْرِشُونَ﴾

“And your Lord inspired the bee [saying]: ‘Make your home in the mountains, and on the trees and the trellises that they erect’.”(3)

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1- - See Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn Ṭabāṭabā’ī, Al-Mīzān fī Tafsīr al-Qur’ān, vol. 2, under the commentary of Sūrah al-Baqarah 2:213. See also Murtaḍā Muṭahharī, Nubuwwat [Prophethood] in Majmū‘eh-ye Āthār [Anthology of Muṭahharī’s Works], vol. 4, p. 398.
2- - Sūrah Ṭā Ḥā 20:50. In this volume, the translation of Qur’anic passages is adapted from Sayyid ‘Alī Qulī Qarā’ī, The Qur’an with a Phrase-by-Phrase English Translation (London: Islamic College for Advanced Studies Press, 2004). [Trans.]
3- - Sūrah Naḥl 16:68.

One plants a delicate seed and after sometime it grows, becomes a tree and bears sweet and nutritious fruit. Certainly, inside the small seed are wonderful elements that remain there until it becomes a full grown tree. In every living thing, there is a sort of program that guides its life through the rocky roads of the material or natural world—which is the arena of struggle and conflict—to a certain destination. Muslim philosophers have called this “the principle of general guidance” [aṣl-e hidāyat-e ‘āmmeh].

It is said that the credibility of the above mentioned principle is not anchored in a defective inductive reasoning or limited observation, but rather on a proof that bespeaks of the existence of a motive and purpose in the creation of every creature or thing. The reason behind this is that God is All-wise and He does not do anything futile or useless:

﴿ وَمَا خَلَقْنَا السَّمَاء وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَیْنَهُمَا بَاطِلًا ذَلِکَ ظَنُّ الَّذِینَ کَفَرُوا فَوَیْلٌ لِّلَّذِینَ کَفَرُوا مِنَ النَّارِ ﴾

“We did not create the sky and the earth and whatever is between them in vain. That is a conjecture of the faithless. So woe to the faithless on account of the Fire!”(1)

If God did not guide living things to their ideal destinations according to their natural constitutions, their lives would consist of aimlessness and lack of purpose, whereas futility and vainness is unbecoming of Allah.

Like other creatures, human beings are enveloped in God’s mercy and guidance for there is surely a purpose in his creation:

﴿ أَفَحَسِبْتُمْ أَنَّمَا خَلَقْنَاکُمْ عَبَثًا وَأَنَّکُمْ إِلَیْنَا لاَ تُرْجَعُونَ ﴾

“Did you suppose that We created you aimlessly, and that you will not be brought back to Us?”(2)

Yes, anyone who acknowledges [the existence of] God and believes in His power and wisdom has no doubt about the soundness of the proof

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1- - Sūrah Ṣād 38:27.
2- - Sūrah Mu’minūn 23:115.

of general guidance. Is there any doubt about a principle which the Qur’an explicitly affirms?

﴿ وَمَا قَدَرُواْ اللّهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ إِذْ قَالُواْ مَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ عَلَی بَشَرٍ مِّن شَیْءٍ ﴾

“They did not regard Allah with the regard due to Him when they said, ‘Allah has not sent down anything to any human’.”(1)

This verse bears witness to the fact that due recognition of God necessitates acknowledgment and recognition of His general guidance and direction especially His intervention in the lives of humankind.

2. Guidance is commensurate to the faculties and potentials of every being. Stones and other inanimate objects are guided according to certain mechanical laws. Having a more complex structure, the plants also have a more perfect sort of guidance, while the animals are guided by their instincts.

Among all creatures, humans occupy the highest station. Like the shell, the human being is an animal that has a precious gem within. In appearance, the human being resembles other animals, but in addition he has a divine spirit that bears a heavy burden of trust:

﴿ وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّکَ لِلْمَلاَئِکَةِ إِنِّی خَالِقٌ بَشَرًا مِّن صَلْصَالٍ مِّنْ حَمَإٍ مَّسْنُونٍ ٭ فَإِذَا سَوَّیْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِیهِ مِن رُّوحِی فَقَعُواْ لَهُ سَاجِدِینَ ﴾

“When your Lord said to the angels, ‘Indeed I am going to create a human out of dry clay [drawn] from an aging mud. So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, then fall down in prostration before him’.”(2)

Like other animals, man has instinctive guidance for his physical growth and perfection and lives and develops by following that instinctive guidance.

Yet, the divine spirit on which rational human life depends has endowed man with an important advantage and that is the element of freewill or volition [ikhtīyār]. Unlike other animals, man is not an

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1- - Sūrah An‘ām 6:91.
2- - Sūrah Hijr 15:28-29.

innate prisoner of his instincts for he can overcome their influence. He can even regulate his instincts and desires to be at the service of his intellect or reason.

Of course, such a creature requires access to a sort of guidance which is consistent with his freewill.

Aristotle says:

“We must not follow those who tell us that since we are humans, we must think of things human, and since we are mortals, we must engage in transient affairs. Rather, as far as possible, we must make ourselves immortal and we must try our best to live consistent with the best thing (intellect) within us.”(1)

Yet, how is it that we can make ourselves immortal and think of eternity? Is it possible except by way of divine revelation? In the absence of divine revelation, it is not possible to attain eternal happiness.

Of course God, who has not spared creating eyebrow and eyelash—which have lower albeit vital functions in the lives of human beings—does not also spare sending prophets in which lie the survival of the human race and the eternal happiness of every person.(2)

3. It is true that the “principle of general guidance” emphasizes the guidance of humanity toward eternal salvation in the hereafter; however, since worldly life is the preliminary stage of this guidance, leadership and direction in the affairs related to life in the world are among the tasks of the prophets (‘a). In this connection, it is usually emphasized that social life, which is the foundation of human civilization, is only possible under the auspices of revealed teachings. If there had been no historical record of the existence of prophets, there would also have been no trace of human civilization. Collective life is only possible with the existence of just laws and moral upbringing which in turn emanate from revealed teachings.

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1- - Quoted in Marta Nusham (?), Aristotle, trans. ‘Izzat Allāh Fūlādvand, p. 99. It can be said that Aristotle alludes to those who say that man is flesh, skin and blood and nothing else, and the perfection of human life must be sought in the same animalistic life.
2- - Ibn Sīnā, Ash-Shifā, Theology Section, p. 44.

If legislative authority had been delegated solely to humans, they would not have taken true justice into consideration and would have enacted laws according to material and personal interests. Moreover, in the absence of superior morality, which is only possible through faith in God and the hereafter, the existence of just laws cannot contribute to the perpetuity of society and serve as the groundwork for material welfare in this world as well as perfection and happiness in the next world. Given the urgent need of mankind for divine guidance and the principle of general guidance, the necessity of the mission [bi‘that] of the prophets (‘a) and their presence in human society is so evident that it cannot be denied.

Those who assert that the interests of humanity in this world do not need prophetic teachings because we presently witness civilizations devoid of revealed teachings and founded on atheism have ignored the following points:

Firstly, notwithstanding a verbal denial in terms of beliefs and moral principles, humankind of today is in fact deeply indebted to the prophets (‘a). There are many religious virtues that hold various societies intact which are actually products of the prophets’ (‘a) efforts. When looking at history it is clear that humanity has benefited much from the teachings of the prophets (‘a). Without the teachings of the prophets would humankind have a stable collective life or would people lead a more bestial life in which right and value would be the slaves of power and might.(1)

Secondly, Muslim philosophers do not claim that without the existence of the prophets (‘a) and their teachings, no society could be founded whatsoever. They are rather referring to a society which serves as the grounds for human perfection and eternal bliss in the hereafter.(2) What rational person can claim that without the guidance of God he can enact a code of law which is not only just and guarantees the perpetuity of human race in this world but is also codified in such a manner that it ensures eternal happiness and felicity

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1- - For more information see Muṭahharī, Nubuwwat in Majmū‘eh-ye Āthār, vol. 4, pp. 351, 364.
2- - ‘Abd ar-Razzāq Lāhījī, Guzīdeh-ye Gūhar-e Murād, ed. Ṣamad Muwaḥḥid, p. 252.

in the next world? Only the prophets (‘a) can teach the members of society and train them such that they would observe the rights of others completely. Only the prophets (‘a) can reform man, send him back to his original nature which is God’s spirit, and make him immortal by the grace and mercy of God:

﴿ هُوَ الَّذِی بَعَثَ فِی الْأُمِّیِّینَ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ یَتْلُو عَلَیْهِمْ آیَاتِهِ وَیُزَکِّیهِمْ وَیُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْکِتَابَ وَالْحِکْمَةَ وَإِن کَانُوا مِن قَبْلُ لَفِی ضَلَالٍ مُّبِینٍ ٭ وَآخَرِینَ مِنْهُمْ لَمَّا یَلْحَقُوا بِهِمْ وَهُوَ الْعَزِیزُ الْحَکِیمُ ﴾

“It is He who sent to the unlettered [people] an apostle from among themselves, to recite to them His signs, to purify them, and to teach them the Book and wisdom, and earlier they had indeed been in manifest error. And to others from among them [as well] who have not yet joined them.”(1)

Some notes

1. In addition to their holy scripture (the Qur’an), the Muslims have access to a great literary corpus called Sunnah. In general, Sunnah refers to the recorded narrations [riwāyāt] of the Holy Prophet (ṣ)(2) and infallible Imāms (‘a). A considerable section of these narrations explains practical laws on the individual and collective life but many narrations also expound ideological tenets and even deal with the natural world and humanity.

The issue of the necessity of prophethood and the blessings of the prophets has been also reflected in numerous narrations. Here, it suffices to mention two narrations. From the following two narrations, it can be discerned to what extent the writings of philosophers and theologians in this regard are indebted to the Sunnah.

a. In reply to someone who asked for a proof of prophethood, Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) said:

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1- - Sūrah Jum‘ah 62:2-3.
2- - The abbreviation, “s”, stands for the Arabic invocative phrase, sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa ālihi wa sallam [may God’s blessings and peace be upon him and his progeny], which is mentioned after the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s). [Trans.]

“As we have proven that God, the All-wise, is our Creator who is Most Sublime and Exalted to be comprehended and communicated by anyone, we know that there must be prophets among the people to speak on His behalf, express His will and guide the people about what is good and bad on which depend their fate. So, there must be bidders and forbidders who are none other than the prophets (‘a).”(1)

b. In Sermon 1 of Nahj al-Balāghah,(2) Imām ‘Alī (‘a) said:

فَبَعَثَ فِیهمْ رُسُلَهُ، وَوَاتَرَ إِلَیْهِمْ أَنْبِیاءَهُ، لِیَسْتَأْدُوهُمْ مِیثَاقَ فِطْرَتِهِ، وَیُذَکِّرُوهُمْ مَنْسِیَّ نِعْمَتِهِ، وَیَحْتَجُّوا عَلَیْهِمْ بَالتَّبْلِیغِ، وَیُثِیرُوا لَهُمْ دَفَائِنَ الْعُقُولِ، وَیُرُوهُمْ آیَاتِ الْمَقْدِرَةِ: مِنْ سَقْف فَوْقَهُمْ مَرْفُوع، وَمِهَاد تَحْتَهُمْ مَوْضُوع، وَمَعَایِشَ تُحْیِیهِمْ، وَآجَال تُفْنِیهمْ، وَأَوْصَاب تُهْرِمُهُمْ، وَأَحْدَاث تَتَابَعُ عَلَیْهِمْ.

“Then Allah sent His Messengers and a series of His prophets towards them to get them to fulfill the pledges of His creation, to recall to them His bounties, to exhort them by preaching, to unveil before them the hidden virtues of wisdom and show them the signs of His Omnipotence namely the sky which is raised over them, the earth that is placed beneath them, means of living that sustain them, death which brings an end to everything, ailments that turn them old and incidents that successively betake them!”(3)

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1- - Uṣūl al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 168 (with slight modification).
2- - Nahj al-Balāghah (The Peak of Eloquence) is a collection of speeches, sayings and letters of the Commander of the Faithful, Imām ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (‘a) compiled by Sharīf ar-Radī Muhammad ibn al-Husayn (d. 406 AH/1016). The contents of the book concern the three essential topics of God, man and the universe, and include comments on scientific, literary, social, ethical, and political issues. With the exception of the words of the Glorious Qur’an and of the Holy Prophet (s), no words of man can equal it in eloquence. So far, more than 101 exegeses have been written on the Nahj al-Balāghah, indicating the importance of this treatise to scholars and learned men of research and investigation. For more information, visit: [Trans.]
3- - Syed ‘Ali Raza, Nahj al-Balāghah: The Peak of Eloquence (Qum: Foundation of Islamic Cultural Propagation in the World, 1995), Sermon 1. [Trans.]

2. Both philosophical and theological arguments show the intellect’s limitations in identifying the rational and humane way of life which raises man above the bestial form of living. These limitations are more evident with respect to the otherworldly life which is beyond comprehension of the intellect.

However, the limitations of the intellect do not negate its value and credibility. It is only in comparison with the extensive needs of humanity that we talk about the limitations of the intellect. Similarly, whenever we talk about the insufficiency of the senses, this does not mean we deny their exceptional cognitive functions. Everyone knows that in the absence of the senses, the intellect or reason cannot function properly. Conversely, without the intellect the senses cannot function at all. The same is true in the case of reason [‘aql] and revelation [waḥī]. Reason is kindled under the auspices of revelation. Without the latter, the former will wander in the valley of the unknown. Meanwhile, it is also by the hint of reason that revelation is welcomed, and it is in the hearts of those who apply reason that the tree of revelation bears fruit:

﴿ إِنَّمَا یَخْشَی اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاء ﴾

“Only those of Allah’s servants having knowledge fear Him.”(1)

“Reason [‘aql] and religious law [shar‘]have no option [but to acknowledge] that reason is the basis or foundation while religious law is the structure. A structure without foundation is baseless while a foundation without any structure is useless.”(2)

In the words of a Christian theologian, Ian Barbour, “Revelation does not negate reason but rather develops it. Reflection and research could be compatible with religious commitment.”(3)

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1- - Sūrah Fāṭir (or al-Malā’ikah) 35:28.
2- - Risālah Hidāyah aṭ-Ṭālibiyyīn in the anthology of treatises of the great philosopher Ḥājj Mullā Hādī Sabziwārī, introduced and edited by Sayyid Jalāl Ashtiyānī, p. 10.
3- - Ian Barbour, ‘Ilm va Dīn [Science and Religion], trans. Bahā’uddīn Khurramshāhī, p. 305. Ian G. Barbour (1923- ) is an American scholar of the relationship between science and religion whose 1989-91 Gifford Lectures yielded the widely recognized texts, Religion in an Age of Science (1990) and Ethics in an Age of Technology (1993). His earlier Issues in Science and Religion (1965), widely acclaimed as a groundbreaking volume, discussed the relationship of religious thought to the history, methods, and theories of science. As a physicist and theologian, Barbour was awarded the Templeton Prize in 1999 for Progress in Religion in recognition of his efforts to create a dialogue between the worlds of science and religion. [Trans.]

3. It is sometimes assumed that the concept of “the necessity of doing an action” cannot be applied to God on the grounds that accepting such necessity implies setting a duty for Him to discharge and it does not behoove Him to be obligated by others. Therefore, what do we really mean by saying that—it is ‘incumbent upon’ or ‘necessary’ for God to send down prophets? Do we want to set dos and don’ts for God?! For this reason, the Ash‘arites [Ashā‘irah] have entirely avoided discussing the necessity of prophethood.

4. What is meant by the necessity for God to do an action is that the human intellect or reason understands the continuity of this action within the context of the will of God and perceives God as the Doer of the action. For example, when we say that God is the Necessary Being [wājib al-wujūd] it means that the Being cannot be separated or detached from the Divine Essence [dhāt-e ilāhī]. When we say that it is necessary for God to send down prophets, it means nothing except that God is All-wise and so benevolent to humanity that it is impossible for Him not to send prophets.(1)

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1- - Muṭahharī, Nubuwwat in Majmū‘eh-ye Āthār, vol. 4, p. 365. For in-depth discussion on the meaning of “necessity” with respect to God, see Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn Ṭabāṭabā’ī, Al-Mīzān fī Tafsīr al-Qur’ān, vol. 14, p. 94.

Section Two: The Contributions and Blessings of the Prophets


General Objectives

After studying this discourse, students are expected:

To be acquainted with the

contributions and blessings of the prophets (‘a) in the domains of

science, ethics, social justice, and mysticism; and

To realize the status of

knowledge in religion and to be informed about the various approaches

concerning the relationship between science and religion.

In the discussion on the necessity of prophethood, we pointed out a set of blessings of prophethood the absence of which would indicate failure in the guidance and deliverance of man or at least would make it very difficult for man to tread the path of felicity. Now, we shall make an overview of the blessings of the prophets which facilitate wayfaring in the valley of deliverance in this world and the hereafter.

The prophets and morality

Ethics or morality [akhlāq] which is one of the perennial foundations of human life has always been observed. It is so valuable that even those who are practically deprived of it verbally praise and wish to have it.

Within ethics there is discussion about voluntary actions and man’s psychological judgment on their being good or bad, mandatory or not mandatory.

As the spokespersons of religion, the prophets (‘a) have a pivotal role and contribution within the domain of ethics. Some functions of the prophets (‘a) and divine revelation in the domain of ethics are related to the identification of the goodness or badness of man’s volitional actions and states. The function of revelation is to introduce and identify truths. Revelation expounds in detail what the intellect generally perceives.

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In addition to this, the prophets (‘a) and revelation have another vital role or function which is related to moral training. This role or function manifests itself in two ways:

1. Divine revelation facilitates moral training and development. That is, because it regards moral actions in this world as the preconditions for happiness and prosperity in the next world, it encourages progress in this regard. In fact, eternal happiness and prosperity is a reflection of the moral actions or righteous deeds of the world.

2. Through their actions, the prophets (‘a) set perfect examples for mankind and pave the necessary practical grounds for moral training.

Those who are acquainted with affairs related to upbringing, training and education know the extent of the necessity of functional models for the moral training of humankind. The lives of the prophets (‘a) demonstrated practical models for their respective communities. Through their innate attractive qualities, they guided their people toward their well-being and deliverance:

﴿ لَقَدْ کَانَ لَکُمْ فِی رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ ﴾

“In the Apostle of Allah there is certainly for you a good example.”(1)

Yes, the intellect and intellectuals have a role or contribution in promoting morality, but intellectual language (philosophy) is not clear, expressive and attractive enough for the common people. As such, human history has always owed its greatest moral achievements to the prophets (‘a) for they were the ones who imparted moral teachings to the common people in simple language. It is the last of the prophets who explicitly said: “Indeed I have been sent to perfect moral values.”(2) He (ṣ) also said: “Indeed I have been chosen for the perfection of good deeds.”(3)

The efforts of philosophers in searching for moral principles and those of moral teachers in identifying moral affairs cannot be denied, but if human history were devoid of the presence of the prophets (‘a) the

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1- - Sūrah Aḥzāb 33:21.
2- - Kanz al-‘Ummāl, vol. 11, p. 420, ḥadīth 31969.
3- - Ibn Sa‘d, Ṭabaqāt, vol. 1, p. 192.

discussion on ethics would be confined to the four walls of the classroom and there would be no indication of the common people’s reception to it. Since the edifice of civilization lies in morality, it can be imagined to what extent the different civilizations of the world are indebted to the teachings of the prophets (‘a) and their actual conduct in life.

The prophets and knowledge

Nowadays, science is a great facet with a crucial role in the life of humanity. At the present time, the word “science” refers primarily to the empirical sciences which are divided into two areas: (1) natural sciences and (2) social sciences and humanities. In the past, different types of knowledge were all under the rubric of “philosophy” which means “love of knowledge,” and ‘ilm [knowledge or science] was understood in its general sense and it included every science or branch of knowledge. As such, we shall assess in this book the contributions of the prophets (‘a) to ‘ilm in its general sense, i.e. “knowledge”, and also examine their influence—and basically the relationship between science and religion—to ‘ilm in its new sense, i.e. “empirical sciences.”

1. The prophets (‘a) and knowledge: Under the motto of teaching and training, the prophets (‘a) have always embarked upon propagating the religion and conveying the divine message. They exerted most of their efforts in removing the obstacles along the way of ‘search for knowledge’. The prophets (‘a) were often hated because of their incessant struggle against ignorance, superstition and blind following.

“No prophet has come with a mission other than inviting his people to desist from blindly following their forefathers and the ancients, asking them to reflect and freeing them from the bondage of dominant or prevailing unpleasant traditions.”(1)

The following famous account is familiar to all. One day the Holy Prophet (ṣ) saw two groups in the mosque—one group was busy in worship and devotional acts, and the other was engaged in learning and seeking knowledge. By conveying a hint that showed the value of

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1- - Muṭahharī, Nubuwwat in Majmū‘eh-ye Āthār, vol. 4, p. 36.

knowledge in the sight of the prophets (‘a), he expressed more pleasure towards the group that was engaged in learning and seeking knowledge.

Yes, the learned and the ignorant are not equal and in the religious value system; the learned, on account of the knowledge they possess, are always superior to the ignorant. Even a little knowledge of religious teachings and principles is an indication of literacy and love of knowledge, and everyone must know that religion is not a hindrance to knowledge but rather its vanguard. How could the religion whose motto is, “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave” encourage ignorance, illiteracy and blind following?

The following statement of the Holy Prophet (ṣ) to Ḥaḍrat ‘Alī (‘a) in this regard is quite interesting:

“O ‘Alī! In the race for nearness to God, if you mount the horse of knowledge, learning and reflection, you will be ahead of everybody including those who hasten toward God by means of worship, prayer and fasting, and you will attain divine proximity.”(1)

2. The prophets (‘a) and empirical sciences: To know and understand properly the positions of science and religion is so important for us. Alfred North Whitehead,(2) a great mathematician and philosopher of the 20th century, says:

“When we reflect on the value and importance of religion and science for mankind, it is not absurd to say that the future course of history depends on this generation’s treatment of the relationship between these two.”(3)

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1- - Ibn Sīnā, Risālah Mi‘rājiyyah, n. p.
2- - Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947): a British mathematician and metaphysician, and generally recognized as one of the greatest 20th-century philosophers. His collaboration with his former pupil, the British mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell, in writing the three-volume Principia Mathematica (1910-13) produced one of the world’s greatest works on logic and mathematics. [Trans.]
3- - Quoted in Barbour, ‘Ilm va Dīn, p. 13.

Before mentioning the different viewpoints on the relationship between science and religion, it is necessary to note that man is in need of religion as well as science. Any perspective on man not being in need of both religion and science is inconsistent with the reality of man. Throughout history, there have been those who have striven to observe natural phenomena and explain them based on religion and also search for the source of natural laws from the Bible. Sometimes, contributions in this context were even treated unkindly. An illustrious example of these oppositions was the case of Galileo whose scientific theory that the sun was the center of the universe—in opposition to the then prevailing Ptolemaic geocentrism—was strongly condemned by the ecclesiastical authority.

Under the pretext of religion, if we want to assume that human beings are not in need of empirical sciences and ignore their scientific efforts, it will bring nothing except darkness, ignorance and Bedouin life. Have not those who regard science thus in the name of religion read the Qur’an which invites us repeatedly to the study nature?

﴿ قُلْ سِیرُوا فِی الْأَرْضِ فَانظُرُوا کَیْفَ بَدَأَ الْخَلْقَ ﴾

“Say: Travel over the land and then observe how He has originated the creation”(1)

﴿ إِنَّ فِی ذَلِکَ لآیَةً لِّقَوْمٍ یَتَفَکَّرُونَ ﴾

“There is indeed a sign in that (the life of the bees) for a people who reflect.”(2)

﴿ إِنَّ فِی خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلاَفِ اللَّیْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لآیَاتٍ لِّأُوْلِی الألْبَابِ ﴾

“Indeed in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day, there are signs for those who possess intellects.”(3)

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1- - Sūrah ‘Ankabūt 29:20.
2- - Sūrah Naḥl 16:69.
3- - Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:190-191, 193.

Therefore, religion does not seek to replace or put an end to scientific theories. In fact, encouragement to learn the natural sciences is an integral part of correct religious teachings.

Regrettably though, by excessive reliance on science under the pretext of progress in empirical sciences, some have imposed restrictions on religion and regarded mankind as needless of religion in this age of scientific progress and development. Scientism has so much rubbed some of discernment that they have not only been deprived of proper understanding of religion and its role in their lives, but they have also lost sight of their object of worship (i.e. science as it must be known and its jurisdiction and limitations). This notion that science is the panacea to all problems of humankind was at its peak during the Renaissance and the scientific revolution and even now some still believe in it.

According to this idea, anything that cannot be empirically tested is meaningless and has no truth-value. Hence, religious claims such as the existence of God, angels and the Resurrection are all claims devoid of any truth-value for they cannot be put to experiment. Accordingly, even if religion once had a role in the life of humanity, it had already played its role and its period has expired.

Of course, scientific empiricism is not that prominent at present. Natural scientists acknowledge that the foundations of the sciences are elements that cannot be empirically tested. They emphasize that many scientific principles are actually derived from religion. According to these scientists, by emphasizing the reality of nature, the inherent unity of its different facets, the possibility of discovering its laws, and the status or station of nature as a reflection of divine knowledge, it is religion which has provided the necessary points of departure for the formation of science in the life of humankind.(1)

Science is indebted to religion more than is imagined or generally accepted. It is religion which considers nature as a mirror to know

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1- - For further information about this theory that the foundations of science are based upon religious teachings, see Michael Peterson, et al, ‘Aql va I‘tiqād Dīnī [Reason and Religious Belief], trans. Aḥmad Narāqī and Ibrāhīm Sulṭānī, p. 383.

God, encouraging and giving us hope to know Him and helping us in seeking knowledge at the threshold of religious civilizations.

﴿ الَّذِینَ یَذْکُرُونَ اللّهَ قِیَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَیَ جُنُوبِهِمْ وَیَتَفَکَّرُونَ فِی خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَذا بَاطِلاً سُبْحَانَکَ ﴾

“Those who remember Allah standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth [and say], ‘Our Lord, You have not created this in vain! Immaculate are You!’”(1)

﴿ إِنَّ فِی خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلاَفِ اللَّیْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ وَالْفُلْکِ الَّتِی تَجْرِی فِی الْبَحْرِ بِمَا یَنفَعُ النَّاسَ وَمَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ مِنَ السَّمَاء مِن مَّاء فَأَحْیَا بِهِ الأرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا وَبَثَّ فِیهَا مِن کُلِّ دَآبَّةٍ وَتَصْرِیفِ الرِّیَاحِ وَالسَّحَابِ الْمُسَخِّرِ بَیْنَ السَّمَاء وَالأَرْضِ لآیَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ یَعْقِلُونَ ﴾

“Indeed in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, and the ships that sail at sea with profit to men, and the water that Allah sends down from the sky—with which He revives the earth after its death, and scatters therein every kind of animal—and the changing of the winds, and the clouds disposed between the sky and the earth, are surely signs for a people who apply reason.”(2)

Moreover, if ever mankind hoped that science would solve all human problems during the past two centuries, today it has fully realized that it has not only failed to solve all problems but rather it has brought about even more serious problems. Progress in physics has heightened universal concern about destructive nuclear wars. Advanced production technologies have created worry about rapid environmental destruction. Worse still, technology has caused apprehension that humanity is now exploiting the divine blessings (natural resources) that belong to the human race at a rate that will deplete these non-renewable reserves.

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1- - Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:191.
2- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:164.

In any case, science is no more that ‘deity’ that attracts scientists from all persuasions. Today, the need to pay closer attention to the role of religion in life and even its role in establishing scientific foundations and restrictions has been heeded and acknowledged by many scientists. As such, we must have a balanced view and understanding of the role and function of religion and science and place each of them in its own domain.

There are three views regarding the relationship between religion and science as follows:

1. Science and religion are two opposing poles. Some imagine that science and religion are rivals and that if religion flourishes it will have an arbitrary effect on science and vice versa. Unfortunately, it cannot be denied that the improper attitude of the clergy—particularly during the Middle Ages—in dealing with science has strengthened the rationale behind this notion.

The basic assumption here is that religion, like empirical sciences, aims at discovering natural laws. However, in most cases the ever-changing scientific views are at odds with some immutable religious accounts especially about the natural world. The Christian Bible, according to the church leaders, supports the geocentric notion that the earth is the center of the universe, while science has acknowledged the sun as the center of the universe (solar system). As another example, religion endorses the theory of fixed creation of species while science allegedly talks about the evolution of species.

Those who enjoyed the utilities of science and considered them to be in conflict with religion denied the latter. It is said that whenever a person turns away from the true religion, another thing or a set of things will pose as “religion” though it may not explicitly assume the name “religion”. At our present period, some have replaced religion with science. The reason behind this is insufficient knowledge of the true religion and the reality of the world, which is marred with hundreds of mistakes.

2. Science and religion are two parallel lines that do not intersect each other. The contention of those who cannot agree with the setting aside of religion in the domain of life is that religion and science are two different and separate things and have their own specific yet different functions and utilities. As such, any contradiction between

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them is baseless. Contradiction between two things happens when they deal with a single subject and give different opinions about it. However, if the subject, goal and even method of one are different from that of the other, conflict between them will never happen. The basic assumption here is that the function of science is to explain natural events through observation and experiment in order to predict future events and gain supremacy over nature. In contrast, the function of religion is totally different and applicable somewhere else.

Carl Bart, a Protestant theologian, believed that theology and science dealt with basically different subjects. The subject of theology was the manifestation of God in Christ while that of science was the natural world. The Almighty God could only be known through His manifestation while nature was known through the human intellect.

Existentialist philosophers usually regard scientific knowledge as objective and impersonal and religious knowledge as profoundly personal and subjective. The subject of science is material objects and their roles and functions while the subject of religion is personal and moral realities.

Hermeneutists treat religion and science as two different linguistic games, each of which has been programmed for a specific goal. The goal of the scientific language is generally prediction and control while the language of religion is used for purposes like prayer and peace of mind.(1)

In any case, those who believe in the basic distinction between religion and science—as well as the subject, method and goal of each of them—try to bring back again religion in the life of man after being sidetracked by those who believe in their conflicting nature and assign a role to it which is different from that of science.

3. Science and religion are complimentary. In recent years, some have claimed that it is possible for religion and science to have a single subject while each has its own goal or aim. They do not accept that the subject of one must be different from that of the other, arguing that in many cases, religion has also dealt with natural events. Having an identical subject does not bring about any conflict between them

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1- - Peterson, et al, ‘Aql va I‘tiqād Dīnī, p. 366.

even though the religious explanation of a natural event may be quite different from the scientific explanation. For example, there may be two different explanations of an advertisement billboard posted at a library. One explanation may be concerned with the billboard’s quality and the like while the other explanation’s concern may be the intention of the billboard’s owner for displaying it. Both explanations pertain to one and the same thing but, since they have different goals, no contradiction between them arises. In fact, the explanations are complimentary.

Those who believe that science and religion are complimentary have asserted that whenever religion talks about the natural world, the purpose is to unravel the meaning and implications of natural events while science is concerned with the causes of natural events.

If we pay careful attention to these three views, one thing seems to be common in all of them and that is that religion does not talk about the causes of natural events. When religion discusses nature, it pertains to the significance and implications of real events—the main motive in any religious message is to highlight the meaning of events. For this reason, the Holy Qur’an considers events in the world as “signs” [āyāt] which show the power, knowledge and grace of God. It is said that the phenomena in the world are all “beauties” [jamalāt] which suggests that they are all linked to God and orient us back to Him—the origin of all beauty.

However, negligence of one important and fundamental point has led to a misunderstanding regarding the relationship between science and religion, and that point is that sometimes religion does actually discuss the causes of things and events—just as science does. Religion has mentioned the manner of the occurrence of rain, currents of rain, etc. Discussion of the meaning of events is not in conflict with examination of their causes. This is basically the distinctive feature of the religious worldview—to link meanings and ideals with events in the world and reflect them in the fundamental realities of the universe. It must not be overlooked, therefore, that some religious textual accounts do indeed have scientific relevance.

In such an interpretation of religion, there is the possibility of lack of harmony between a “religious account” and a “scientific finding”. In reply, it must be stated that there must always be a logical explanation

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for conflict between these two, and there are ways that harmony can be established. One way is to interpret religious texts as much as permissible so that they are understood in the proper context. Another method is to realize that scientific theories are mixed with speculation and need for further investigation. To pay heed to these two points is enough reason not to take these alleged contradictions between science and religion too seriously.

A more fundamental and important point is that the many contradictions between the Bible and science cannot be applied to the Qur’an. Perhaps, one of the reasons behind the occurrence of contradiction between science and religion in Christianity is the distortions [taḥrīf] made to the Bible and this blemish has not been able to taint the Qur’an with regard to science.

Many testimonies have been made and books written about the compatibility of the Qur’anic verses with scientific findings. It is clear that far from being based on realities, this alleged contradiction between science and religion derives from the conflict between religion and scientism, as well as the clash between science, and religious intransigence and narrow-mindedness. As such, belief in any sort of contradiction between religion and knowledge has no benefit except hindering scientific progress and undermining the credibility of religion, while perfect harmony and compatibility exists between the two.

All basic scientific presumptions have flourished and gained acceptance under the auspices of Islamic teachings and perhaps the following saying of Imām ‘Alī (‘a) points to this indisputable truth:

“The life of knowledge lies on faith.”(1)

The prophets and social justice

One of the proofs advanced by Muslim philosophers regarding the necessity of prophethood and the existence of prophets (‘a) is the necessity of the implementation of just laws in society so that the people can live in peace and tranquility:

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1- - Nahj al-Balāghah (Subḥī Ṣāliḥ), Sermon 156, p. 219.

﴿ لَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَیِّنَاتِ وَأَنزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ الْکِتَابَ وَالْمِیزَانَ لِیَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ ﴾

“Certainly We sent Our apostles with manifest proofs, and We sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that mankind may maintain justice.”(1)

However, the prophets (‘a) have a further role in the implementation of justice and that is their incessant struggle against tyrants and oppressors, which sometimes had led to their persecution or their martyrdoms.

Many accounts of the prophets’ (‘a) confrontations with the oppressors of their respective times, from which we can learn so many lessons, have been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. These struggles against oppression taught lessons of martyrdom and bravery to others and gave a religious and ideological color to their confrontations so as to remove forever the notion that their struggles for justice were for worldly purposes from the minds of comfort-seekers who urged people to keep silent under all conditions.

The prophets and mysticism

Having the splendid celestial fragrance, the prophets (‘a) have enlivened the sacred emotions of humanity, elevated the emotions and feelings beyond the level of animal instincts, and opened the windows of the Unseen [ghayb] and celestial world [malakūt]. The greatest mystical discovery and intuition have occurred in the midst of religious civilizations. Certainly, had it not been for the efforts of the prophets (‘a) in fostering fondness and familiarity between celestial beings and mortals, humankind could not have sensed the aroma of the unseen by the use of his intellect and perceptions.

The Lord of the prophets (‘a) is compassionate. He answers the call of anyone, anytime. He is nearer to man than his own jugular vein.(2) Such a God is always heart-ravishing for man. It is this very love of Him which is the driving force for humankind to seek His pleasure. God delivers humanity from bewilderment and confusion and informs of

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1- - Sūrah Ḥadīd 57:25.
2- - Sūrah Qāf 50:16: “Certainly We have created man and We know to what his soul tempts him, and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.” [Trans.]

the purpose behind creation. By doing so, God gives assurance, enthusiasm and interest in life. Belief in the Resurrection is not only belief in the immortality of the soul, but also a depiction of the physical existence of human beings in the next world which reflects the way they led their lives in this world. Therefore, mindfulness about and reflection upon the Resurrection play pivotal roles in dispelling hopelessness and despair in life.

The blessings brought by the prophets (‘a) are far beyond that which could be written. So, we shall end our discussion here by citing an example of the manifestation of their blessings throughout history.

An example of the manifestation of the blessings of the prophets

The most recent event of the sending of prophets (‘a) by God is related to the religion of Islam. Reflection on this event will lead to acknowledgment of what has been said. Islam was first propagated in the Ḥijāz(1) by the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ). The barren land of Ḥijāz had little trace of culture and civilization of its own. It was a land whose people used to describe in poetry their acts of aggression and plunder and vie with each other to gain reputation and glory. The people of Ḥijāz had neither clean water nor wholesome food. Out of ignorance and a spirit of infanticide, fathers would bury their innocent daughters so as to be safe from the enemies’ taunt!(2) In the Ḥijāz might was right. The emotional outbursts of the people expressed descriptions of things relevant to animal instincts not reports of spiritual experiences.

However, in the same land of Ḥijāz, there emerged men and women who not only found the way to salvation but also paved the necessary ground for the emergence of the great Islamic civilization by leading others to the path of guidance and salvation. Hearts which had no equal in hardness and darkness turned into sources of mystical intuitiveness and attracted people from every direction. The alchemy

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1- - Hijāz: the region in Western Arabia bordering the Red Sea that includes Tā’if, Mecca and Medina. [Trans.]
2- - It alludes to Sūrah an-Naḥl 16:58-59: “When one of them is brought the news of a female [newborn], his face becomes darkened and he chokes with suppressed agony. He hides from the people out of distress at the news he has been brought: shall he retain it in humiliation, or bury it in the ground! Look! Evil is the judgment that they make.”

of the presence of the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) and the assistance of his devoted companions, especially the Master of the Monotheists [mawlā al-muwaḥḥidīn] ‘Alī (‘a), turned the copper of the existence of these people into pure gold:

Yes, by the blessing of your kindness,

The soil will turn into gold.

Unfortunately, we cannot cover here all the dimensions of Islamic civilization whose seed sprouted in this very land (Ḥijāz) and whose branches and shoots extended to other lands. Even voluminous books and innumerable articles could not do the same.

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Section Three: Revelation and Miracle


General Objectives

After studying this discourse, students are expected:

1. To understand the difference between revelation [waḥī], intuition [kashf] and witnessing [shuhūd] by familiarizing themselves with the salient features and types of revelation;

2. To be acquainted with miracles performed by a prophet [a‘jazah or mu‘jizah] and the difference between these and miracles performed by a non-prophet [kirāmah] and supernatural affairs, and also the connection between miracles and the truthfulness of the prophets, specifically the miracle of the Qur’an; and lastly

3. To know, through a theoretical analysis, the reason behind the finality of prophethood and the way and manner of continuity of man’s movement towards perfection.


Every community or nation has witnessed the call of the prophets (‘a) and this call has been necessary and essential. As demonstrated earlier, the intellect can also perceive this necessity. Now, some questions come up that, in spite of their being human beings, how did the prophets (‘a) communicate with God and how did they receive His message?

Many people have regarded the idea of creatures communicating with the Creator as one of the unbelievable things:

﴿ أَکَانَ لِلنَّاسِ عَجَبًا أَنْ أَوْحَیْنَا إِلَی رَجُلٍ مِنْهُمْ أَنْ أَنْذِرِ النَّاسَ وَبَشِّرِ الَّذِینَ آمَنُوا أَنَّ لَهُمْ قَدَمَ صِدْقٍ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ قَالَ الْکَافِرُونَ إِنَّ هَذَا لَسَاحِرٌ مُبِینٌ ﴾

Does it seem odd to these people that We have revealed to a man from among themselves, [declaring], ‘Warn mankind, and

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give good news to the faithful that they are in good standing with their Lord’? The faithless say, ‘This is indeed a plain magician’.(1)

The Holy Qur’an describes God’s messages to the prophets (‘a) as “revelation” [waḥī]. Waḥī means to impart something in secret. This word is applied in many cases in the Qur’an. This term is sometimes used to reference common individuals:

﴿ وَأَوْحَیْنَا إِلَی أُمِّ مُوسَی أَنْ أَرْضِعِیهِ فَإِذَا خِفْتِ عَلَیْهِ فَأَلْقِیهِ فِی الْیَمِّ وَلا تَخَافِی وَلا تَحْزَنِی إِنَّا رَادُّوهُ إِلَیْکِ وَجَاعِلُوهُ مِنَ الْمُرْسَلِینَ ﴾

“We revealed to Moses’ mother, [saying], ‘Nurse him; then, when you fear for him, cast him into the river, and do not fear nor grieve, for We will restore him to you and make him one of the apostles.”(2)

There are also times when it is applied to animals:

﴿ وَأَوْحَی رَبُّکَ إِلَی النَّحْلِ أَنِ اتَّخِذِی مِنَ الْجِبَالِ بُیُوتًا وَمِنَ الشَّجَرِ وَمِمَّا یَعْرِشُونَ ﴾

“And your Lord revealed to the bee [saying]: Make your home in the mountains, and on the trees and the trellises that they erect.”(3)

Even inanimate objects sometimes receive “divine revelation”:

﴿ یَوْمَئِذٍ تُحَدِّثُ أَخْبَارَهَا ٭ بِأَنَّ رَبَّکَ أَوْحَی لَهَا ﴾

“On that day she (the earth) will relate her chronicles for her Lord will have inspired her.”(4)

The meaning of waḥī common in all these verses is “guidance or instruction which is hidden from others.” God “guides” the mother of Mūsā (Moses) (‘a), the honeybee and the earth, but we do not fully

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1- - Sūrah Yūnus 10:2.
2- - Sūrah Qaṣaṣ 28:7.
3- - Sūrah Naḥl 16:68.
4- - Sūrah Zalzalah 99:4-5.

understand the nature of this “guidance”. Of course, in every case the divine revelation assumes a particular form in consonance with its recipient.

There is also the guidance for mankind through revelation to special individuals chosen for this purpose:

﴿ إِنَّا أَوْحَیْنَا إِلَیْکَ کَمَا أَوْحَیْنَا إِلَی نُوحٍ وَالنَّبِیِّینَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ وَأَوْحَیْنَا إِلَی إِبْرَاهِیمَ وَإِسْمَاعِیلَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَیَعْقُوبَ وَالأسْبَاطِ وَعِیسَی وَأَیُّوبَ وَیُونُسَ وَهَارُونَ وَسُلَیْمَانَ وَآتَیْنَا دَاوُدَ زَبُورًا ﴾

“We have indeed revealed to you as We revealed to Noah and the prophets after him, and [as] We revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, Jesus and Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon—and We gave David the Psalms.”(1)

Our analysis or knowledge of revelation is only based on the prophets’ (‘a) descriptions of it. To have faith in revelation, which is an essential prerequisite of Islam, does not require complete knowledge of it. To believe in it and the prophets’ (‘a) claim to it is enough. Of course, understanding and knowledge about the revelation is important in deepening one’s religious knowledge. We have no option but to take some steps to know revelation further on the basis of the explanations of the prophets (‘a).

Revelation signifies the opening of a window to the unseen world and new horizons of the heaven of meaning to the prophets (‘a). Revelation came from God and the Apostle (ṣ) was not expecting it:

﴿ وَمَا کُنْتَ تَرْجُو أَنْ یُلْقَی إِلَیْکَ الْکِتَابُ إِلا رَحْمَةً مِنْ رَبِّکَ فَلا تَکُونَنَّ ظَهِیرًا لِلْکَافِرِینَ ﴾

“You did not expect that the Book would be delivered to you; but it was a mercy from your Lord.”(2)

This salient feature shows the superiority of waḥī to genius [nubūgh] as well as mystical intuition [kashf] or witnessing [shuhūd]. Nubūgh

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1- - Sūrah Nisā’ 4:163.
2- - Sūrah Qaṣaṣ 28:86.

means extraordinary intelligence which makes some individuals understand certain “truths” without undergoing the normal pertinent learning processes. However, these types of “truths” are those that could be grasped by the intellect, not truths that are grasped as a result of the opening of new windows. Genius is like one who has extraordinary senses and can easily sense or feel what others could sense or feel with difficulty. A prophet, on the other hand, is one who has normal senses like all people, in which geniuses are also included; however, in addition he has another sense endowed by God which the others including the geniuses do not have.

Contrary to waḥī, some may acquire mystical intuition [kashf] or witnessing [shuhūd] as a result of contentment that stems from man himself. If man were to focus his attention on his soul and after some time control his mutinous soul, he would perceive some truths within the depths of his self which others cannot perceive. He does not acquire these truths from others. Instead, control of the self effaces the indignation in his heart and uncovers the hidden truths within it. In regard to waḥī, however, the prophet only serves as the receiver of the message. He is an addressee of one who talks to with him. It is said that Jibra’īl (Archangel Gabriel) (‘a) was teaching the Prophet (ṣ):

﴿ إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْیٌ یُوحَی ٭ عَلَّمَهُ شَدِیدُ الْقُوَی ﴾

“It is just a revelation that is revealed [to him], taught him by One of great powers.”(1)

The prophets (‘a) knew very well that somebody else was teaching them what to say, and on many occasions they could see their teacher, who was an angel of God (Jibra’īl) (‘a). However, with kashf and shuhūd, this is not the case.

It is this pure perception which protects waḥī from any sort of mixture with human words. Contrary to the notion which nowadays is unfortunately advanced by some Christian sects that revelation is inferred from the religious experience of others such that the Bible (the New Testament in particular) is the interpretation or expression of the things which ‘Īsā (Jesus) (‘a) had acquired in his state of

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1- - Sūrah Najm 53:4-5.

kashf or shuhūd, revelation is free from any sort of interpolation or addition by the Prophet (ṣ) in conveying it. Perhaps the reason why in more than 300 places in the Holy Qur’an, the Holy Prophet (ṣ) is addressed with the command, “Say” [qul] is to stress the fact that his role in conveying the revelation is only to repeat exactly the divine message and that there is not the least room for him to have changed it.

The Apostle (ṣ) was aware of this heavy burden of responsibility. As such, as soon as he received a revelation, he would immediately recite it lest he forgot a word of it—even though God gave him assurance in this regard:

﴿ فَتَعَالَی اللَّهُ الْمَلِکُ الْحَقُّ وَلا تَعْجَلْ بِالْقُرْآنِ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ یُقْضَی إِلَیْکَ وَحْیُهُ وَقُلْ رَبِّ زِدْنِی عِلْمًا ﴾

“So, exalted is Allah, the True Sovereign. Do not hasten with the Qur’an before its revelation is completed for you, and say, ‘My Lord! Increase me in knowledge’.”(1)

For this reason, the prophets chosen by God were those who were not known to have been learned. Some of them did not even know how to read and write. So, it cannot be entertained in the mind that their sayings were a product of their mystical intuition expressed in the language and culture of the time.

﴿ وَمَا کُنْتَ تَتْلُو مِنْ قَبْلِهِ مِنْ کِتَابٍ وَلا تَخُطُّهُ بِیَمِینِکَ إِذًا لارْتَابَ الْمُبْطِلُونَ ﴾

“You did not use to recite any scripture before it, nor did you write it with your right hand, for then the impugners would have been skeptical.”(2)

The divine revelation has been conveyed to the people in the form that it had been revealed to the Apostle (ṣ), and in order to remove any doubt about His Messenger (ṣ), God thus says:

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1- - Sūrah Ṭā Hā 20:114.
2- - Sūrah ‘Ankabūt 29:48.

﴿ تَنْزِیلٌ مِنْ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِینَ ٭ وَلَوْ تَقَوَّلَ عَلَیْنَا بَعْضَ الأقَاوِیلِ ٭ لأخَذْنَا مِنْهُ بِالْیَمِینِ ٭ ثُمَّ لَقَطَعْنَا مِنْهُ الْوَتِینَ ٭ فَمَا مِنْکُمْ مِنْ أَحَدٍ عَنْهُ حَاجِزِینَ ٭ وَإِنَّهُ لَتَذْکِرَةٌ لِلْمُتَّقِینَ ﴾

“[It is] gradually sent down from the Lord of all the worlds. Had he faked any sayings in Our name, We would have surely seized him by the right hand and then cut off his aorta, and none of you could have held Us off from him. Indeed it is a reminder for the God-wary.”(1)

This verse does not mean that there was the possibility for the Prophet (ṣ) to have distorted the revelation had he not received a threat of an extremely harsh punishment! Such an understanding shows a lack of knowledge of grammatical rules of the language. The verse emphasizes the importance of the protection of the revealed text from any kind of change or distortion. As an example, it is sometimes said: “Even if my father were to allow it, I would not do it.” This style of statement emphasizes the distaste for an action, and does not suggest that the father would really ask one to perform the action. In the same manner, God says that the safety of revelation from any kind of distortion [taḥrīf] is so vital that even if His most beloved (the Apostle (ṣ)) were to try to distort it (which he wouldn’t), He would punish him in the way mentioned in the verse, let alone if this act were to be committed by others we could be sure that the punishment would also certainly be carried out!

In sum, waḥī is a kind of unusual “intelligence” which is beyond the frame of conventional analysis. It is only possible by the will and permission of God. The fact that it is unusual is the reason it is difficult for some people to accept, and they rightfully ask for proofs of the truthfulness of the receivers of revelation and God grants their requests by showing miracles [mu‘jizah] or signs [āyah].


The prophets (‘a) claimed to be recipients of the divine message through revelation [waḥī] and, as stated earlier, waḥī means transcending beyond the boundary of common human perceptions. In other words, revelation itself or the receipt of a message from God is a

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1- - Sūrah Ḥāqqah 69:43-48.

miracle [mu‘jizah] and supernatural. Confirmation of this claim can be made through innate testimony, certainty from the depth of one’s soul, or reasoning and inference. Asking for proof of the authenticity of the prophets’ claims is something reasonable and wholesome that is usually requested by the people:

﴿ وَقَالُوا لَوْلا یَأْتِینَا بِآیَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّهِ ﴾

“They say, ‘Why does he not bring us a sign from his Lord?”(1)

And whenever this inquiry stems from love of truth, God answers thus:

﴿ ثُمَّ أَرْسَلْنَا مُوسَی وَأَخَاهُ هَارُونَ بِآیَاتِنَا وَسُلْطَانٍ مُبِینٍ ﴾

“Then We sent Moses and Aaron, his brother, with Our signs and a manifest authority.”(2)

Whenever the people would doubt the authenticity of the prophets’ claims or the people’s certainty [iṭmīnān] would diminish for some reason, God would send His signs [āyāt] to the prophets (‘a) so as to extinguish the faith-consuming fire of doubt and make the torch of conviction brighter. In the parlance of the theologians [mutakallimīn], these signs which substantiate the prophets’ claims to revelation are known as miracles [mu‘jizah].

It is said that the miracle—though not mentioned in this way in the Qur’an and the Bible—is one of the essentials [ḍurūriyyāt] of religion. Faith in its occurrence—in the sense of faith in the unseen power of the prophets (‘a)—is a condition for deliverance. The Bible also cites examples of the occurrence of miracles:

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the

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1- - Sūrah Ḥāqqah 69:133.
2- - Sūrah Mu’minūn 23:45.

Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.”(1)

Miracles are also mentioned in many verses of the Glorious Qur’an:

﴿ قَالَ إِنْ کُنْتَ جِئْتَ بِآیَةٍ فَأْتِ بِهَا إِنْ کُنْتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِینَ ٭ فَأَلْقَی عَصَاهُ فَإِذَا هِیَ ثُعْبَانٌ مُبِینٌ ٭ وَنَزَعَ یَدَهُ فَإِذَا هِیَ بَیْضَاءُ لِلنَّاظِرِینَ ﴾

“He said, ‘If you have brought a sign, produce it, should you be truthful.’ Whereat he threw down his staff, and behold, it became a manifest python. Then he drew out his hand, and behold, it was white to the onlookers.”(2)

Regarding the Holy Prophet (ṣ), it also says:

﴿ اقْتَرَبَتِ السَّاعَةُ وَانْشَقَّ الْقَمَرُ ٭ وَإِنْ یَرَوْا آیَةً یُعْرِضُوا وَیَقُولُوا سِحْرٌ مُسْتَمِرٌّ ﴾

“The Hour has drawn near and the moon is split. If they see a sign, they turn away, and say, ‘An incessant magic!’”(3)

These verses refer to the miracle of moon-splitting done by the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ). Now, as there is no doubt regarding the occurrence of miracles in terms of faith, we shall turn our attention to miracles from the intellectual perspective.

From the intellectual perspective one may ask: Are miracles occurrences without causes? It can be said that, when Ibrāhīm (Abraham) (‘a) was thrown into a burning fire, it not only suddenly became safe for him without any apparent cause, but it even became a source a comfort. However, such an interpretation of this miracle is not only against the axiomatic principle of reasoning, which associates a cause to every occurrence, but also inconsistent with the logic of the Qur’an which endorses the law of causation. The acceptance of the occurrence of miracles without any cause is tantamount to the acceptance that things happen by mere chance, which can have dire

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1- - Exodus 14:21-22. In this volume, the translation of biblical passages is adapted from the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible (Colorado: International Bible Society, 1984). [Trans.]
2- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:106-108.
3- - Sūrah Qamar 54:1-2.

consequences. For example, if a miracle is supposed to happen without any cause, it is then possible that the entire world of possibilities [‘ālam-e mumkināt] could have been created without any cause and out of pure chance, which in turn could mean that the world is also not in need of any creator!?(1)

That, like all phenomena in this world, miracles have causes or sets of causes cannot be doubted. Therefore, it cannot be accepted that any event, including miracles, happens without any cause. However, different schools and persuasions have offered various answers to the question regarding the causes of miracles.

According to the Ash‘arites [Ashā‘irah] the motive behind the occurrence of miracles is the will of God and the fact that His will is above everything. Based on this belief, the fact that fire is usually warm or a source of heat is only a precedent [sunnah] of Allah which He can change whenever He wishes. Conventionally, fire is hot but this hotness is not its essence for it is changeable. We have no power to change the precedents [sunan] of Allah, but God who has set these precedents in the first place can change them and say to the fire:

﴿ قُلْنَا یَا نَارُ کُونِی بَرْدًا وَسَلامًا عَلَی إِبْرَاهِیمَ ﴾

“We said, ‘O fire! Be cool and safe for Abraham!’”(2)

گر تو خواهی آتش آب خوش شود

ور نخواهی آب هم آتش شود

If You wish [to favor someone], fire can become pleasant water,

And if You do not, even water can become fire!

For the Ash‘arites, every event is caused by the will of God. Whenever the fire is hot, the cause is God’s will and if it is not hot, it is again because of His will. The only difference is that the first case is

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1- - See Muḥsin Jawādī, Darāmadī bar Khudāshināsī Falsafī [An Introduction to Philosophical Theology] (n.p: n.d.).
2- - Sūrah Anbīyā’ 21:69.

repeated many times and assumes the form of a “natural law” while the second case happens rarely.

Philosophers have another view. According to them, the world is not as simple as what the Ash‘arites believe. The natural world is essentially governed by the law of causation. The hotness of the fire is a necessity. Of course, this is not in conflict with the absoluteness of divine power, for the will of God is done through an essential system manifested by the law of causation. As such, as advocated by prominent figures in the Shī‘ah world, mu‘jizah requires explanation and elaboration because it seems to go against the essential system of nature.

Under the assumption that the essential system of the world is accepted, there are two ways of explaining and elaborating the mechanism of mu‘jizah:

1. Mu‘jizah seems to outwardly violate the laws of nature, but this is not actually so. In this view, the prophets (‘a) have knowledge of processes of substitution and replacement which others do not have. They are aware of factors existing in nature which can turn a piece of wood, for instance, into a living object like a snake. By using these factors, they can perform extraordinary acts. Since we do not know the natural process of turning a stick into a snake, we imagine that it is something unnatural. It is said that the prophets (‘a) knew the secrets of nature through which they were able to perform wonderful acts.

This interpretation, in which there is no room for the intervention of a hidden power, is unacceptable due to the following questions: From where have the prophets (‘a) acquired this wonderful knowledge? Is such knowledge acquired through the usual way of learning from others and through research and study? If so, why aren’t there scientists in every period who are forerunners in this field? There is no doubt that the prophets’ (‘a) knowledge of the secrets of nature cannot assume a usual and conventional form. It must be acknowledged, therefore, that they have acquired the secrets of nature through extraordinary and supernatural means. However, if it is possible to become knowledgeable through an unnatural or supernatural way, why then whould it be impossible to turn a stick into a snake through an unnatural way? If a prophet can know the secrets of nature by relying on the knowledge of the unseen, there is no reason, through

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the same means, they cannot acquire extraordinary powers by which they can control the natural course of affairs.

2. According to the second view, with the help of the unseen, a prophet acquires extraordinary power through which he can control the natural course of affairs in the world. It is said, however, that control over the natural course of affairs takes place within the framework of special rules and this does not equate with going against natural causes. For further clarification, one may take into account a paralyzed person. This physically handicapped person is incapable of movement according to medical principles, but the same person sometimes can surprisingly be able to move in a certain spiritual state.(1) In this case, a spiritual power has exerted influence on the patient’s body and changed its natural course. What is called “psychotherapy” does not mean falsification of biological principles. It rather means utilization of a powerful spiritual force that can have natural effects. Regarding mu‘jizah, it can also be said that by using hidden powers, the prophets exert control over the natural course of affairs in such a manner that the immutable relationship between cause and effect is preserved. It is only because of the interference of hidden powers that there is a change in the natural course.

There is another issue here and that is, fakirs sometimes perform extraordinary acts, but their dissimilarity with the prophets lies in the power which causes such acts. The power of the prophets (‘a) pertains to the decree of God while the fakirs perform such acts by enhancing their spiritual power and exerting influence on the natural course of affairs. This difference becomes clear when we realize that, firstly, the human power possessed by fakirs, no matter how strong it is, can also be acquired by others and secondly, it is always inferior to the unseen power. The power of the prophets (‘a), on the other hand, is not human-based but rather God-given and extraordinary. It is therefore always dominant and can never be imparted to others.

While acknowledging the role of natural factors in the system of creation and the essential relationship between cause and effect, some

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1- - Take for example the medical treatment of Amīr Sāmānī by Ibn Sīnā. See Muṭahharī, Nubuwwat, p. 160.

Muslim scholars give justification to mu‘jizah and the intervention of unnatural forces in the natural course of affairs without invalidating their natural effects. In other words, mu‘jizah does not take place by undermining natural laws but rather by making use of a natural law and the application of an unnatural force.

Miracles as proof of the truthfulness of the prophets (‘a)

In an attempt to differentiate mu‘jizah from kirāmah, which is also a performance of extraordinary acts, books on ‘ilm al-kalām associate mu‘jizah with the claim of prophethood and the receipt of revelation, and the absence of these elements in the case of kirāmah. In contrast to mortification (practiced by fakirs), kirāmah relates to seeking help from the Unseen without the purpose of proving any claim to prophethood. The very association of mu‘jizah with the claim to prophethood is the basis of proof of the authenticity of the claim.

Apart from proving the possibility of revelation, based on the famous philosophical rule that similar things have identical rulings,(1) mu‘jizah shows that just as power can be acquired from the Unseen and a stick be turned into a snake, the word of God can also be received from the Unseen and knowledge be acquired and taught to others.

As mentioned earlier, waḥī itself is a mu‘jizah and an extraordinary occurrence. If miracles exist, there is also the possibility of waḥī. However, the role of mu‘jizah lies more in proving the occurrence of waḥī and not its possibility, and mu‘jizah’s role in proving the authenticity of the prophets’ claim lies in the receipt of revelation. We shall explain by citing an example:

If an official attributes something to a ruler in the ruler’s presence and addresses the people present, saying that the ruler has said such-and-such, and then in order to prove the authenticity of his claim, says that the sign of the truthfulness of his claim is, contrary to the customary way, that the ruler will clap his hands three times and then, after hearing this, the ruler claps three times, will the people still doubt the

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1- - For information about this ruling and its application, see Ghulām-Muḥsin Ibrāhīmī Daynānī, Qawā’id-e Kulli-ye Falsafī dar Falsafī-ye Islāmī [General Philosophical Rules in Islamic Philosophy], vol. 1, p. 208.

truthfulness of the official’s claim? The same is the case with mu‘jizah in proving the authenticity of the prophets’ claim. In the presence of God, prophets address the people, saying that God has said certain things and the proof of our truthfulness is that God gives us extraordinary power for us to do wonderful acts in nature. When the prophets perform those wonderful acts, is there any doubt that they are telling the truth? As such, mu‘jizah plays an important role in showing the truthfulness of the prophets (‘a) revelation.

Has the period of miracles ended and are miracles no longer performed? Should we look for miraculous accounts in the Bible or in another place? The reply to such inquiry is that there is actually a miracle currently at our disposal. If we open our hearts and look at it through the eye of the intellect, we will realize that there is a great extant miracle and we will come to believe in the presenter of this miracle, the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ), and if we already have faith in him, that faith will be strengthened.

The Qur’an as the eternal miracle

The Qur’an is the holy book of Islam and the foundation of Islamic teachings. Its letters, words, phrases, and sounds are all sacred and respected deeply by Muslims. Contrary to the case of the Bible, historically the Qur’an is totally within our sight and its history is as clear as limpid water. We even know which verse has been revealed on which occasion. In this regard, Muslims have written books which are called asbāb an-nuzūl [occasions of revelation].

The Muslims’ belief in the Qur’an is basically different from what is usually said about the Christians’ belief in the Bible. For Muslims, every word of the Qur’an is God’s Word while for most Christians the Bible is an interpretation of the religious experience of Jesus (‘a) which is necessarily affected by the people’s culture and language, and its words are not exactly the words as revealed from God. According to His Will, God chose the Arabic language for the guidance of mankind during the last period of prophethood:

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﴿ الر تِلْکَ آیَاتُ الْکِتَابِ الْمُبِینِ ٭ إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِیًّا لَعَلَّکُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ ﴾

“Alif, Lām, Rā. These are the signs of the Manifest Book. Indeed We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an so that you may apply reason.”(1)

The source of all Islamic sciences—ranging from scholastic theology [kalām] and philosophy [falsafah] through jurisprudence [fiqh], law [ḥuqūq] and ethics [akhlāq]—is the Qur’anic verses. The Qur’an is available to us in the same form it was revealed to the first Muslims, and it has remained safe from any sort of distortion [taḥrīf]. This is based on the promise made by God to protect it:

﴿ إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّکْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ ﴾

“Indeed We have sent down the Reminder and indeed We will preserve it.”(2)

In order to clarify the miracle of the Qur’an, three points must be settled: (1) its extraordinariness, (2) its proof of the Prophet’s (ṣ) claim, and (3) the failure of people in discrediting it. The extraordinariness of the Qur’an can be shown in a variety of ways: it is a miracle of means, a miracle of expression and a miracle of meaning.

1. A miracle of means: There is no doubt that the receiver of the Qur’an was a common man. His name was never heard among the scholars and men of letters of his time. He was Muḥammad ibn ‘Abdullāh (ṣ), grandson of ‘Abd Manāf, the chief of Quraysh, who was born in Mecca. For forty years he was with the people, he had never recited anything similar to what he recited after the age of forty when he was appointed as a prophet. His moral conduct and trustworthiness were known to everyone but he had no prior talent in composing words of wisdom, and he knew neither how to read nor how to write. The Qur’an describes him as “uninstructed” [ummī]:

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1- - Sūrah Yūsuf 12:1-2.
2- - Sūrah Ḥijr 15:9.

﴿ فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ النَّبِیِّ الأمِّیِّ الَّذِی یُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَکَلِمَاتِهِ وَاتَّبِعُوهُ لَعَلَّکُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ ﴾

“So have faith in Allah and His Apostle, the uninstructed prophet, who has faith in Allah and His words, and follow him so that you may be guided.”(1)

Not only was the Prophet (ṣ) himself ummī but also in Mecca, where he came from, knowledge and learning were not prevalent. Arts were only expressed to glorify man’s bestial inclinations. Poets recited either lovely poems to incite sensual desires or epic songs to incite anger and vengeance. Given such societal conditions, there is no doubt that only through uncommon means was it possible for the prophet to recite such extraordinary words. If the Qur’anic verses were a product of his own thinking and upbringing, at least some years earlier, words similar to the Qur’an should have been heard from him.

Not only was the Prophet’s (ṣ) receipt of the Qur’an extraordinary but in essence the revelation of the Qur’an in such a state of affairs that existed in the Ḥijāz was also unusual and beyond expectation. The striking difference between the meaning and elegance of the expression of the Qur’an with the literary and scholarly works of those days was so evident that at one glance it could be discerned by every observer. The opponents of the Apostle (ṣ) were also aware of this fact, and thus, they were not saying, “These words are senseless or beyond methodical eloquence and fluency,” or “They are just similar to other Arabic literary works.” They were rather saying: “These words must not have come from Muḥammad; he must have learned them from someone else,” or “He is practicing magic,” or “He is possessed by the jinn [majnūn].”(2) In the midst of these calumnies and allegations, an elegant acknowledgment and profound confession of the extraordinariness of the Qur’an is self-evident. In a beautiful expression in the Qur’an, we are told that if we doubt the divine origin of the Qur’an, we should look for another person like Muḥammad (ṣ) who could compose similar words:

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1- - Sūrah A‘rāf 7:158.
2- - Majnūn means that a person has connection with the jinn. The Arabs believed that the jinn could teach man and thus, they regarded the Qur’an as taught by the jinn!

﴿ وَإِنْ کُنْتُمْ فِی رَیْبٍ مِمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَی عَبْدِنَا فَأْتُوا بِسُورَةٍ مِنْ مِثْلِهِ وَادْعُوا شُهَدَاءَکُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ إِنْ کُنْتُمْ صَادِقِینَ ﴾

“And if you are in doubt concerning what We have sent down to Our servant, then bring a sūrah like it, and invoke your helpers besides Allah, should you be truthful.”(1)

However, you cannot do so. In fact, even if all humans join together and help one another in whatever way possible, still they cannot do so:

﴿ قُلْ لَئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ الإنْسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَی أَنْ یَأْتُوا بِمِثْلِ هَذَا الْقُرْآنِ لا یَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ کَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِیرًا ﴾

“Say, ‘Should all humans and jinn rally to bring the like of this Qur’an, they will not bring the like of it, even if they assisted one another.’”(2)

2. A miracle of expression: The Qur’an is the peak of eloquence and fluency. That is, as acknowledged by great scholars of language, it conveys intended meanings through elegant and lucid expressions. The Arabs who used to hear Qur’anic verses during that time were acquainted with literary styles and methods of expression. The revelation of the Qur’an with such eloquence and fluency to a people who used to regard themselves as the masters of expression was a great challenge and it can be guessed what a revolution it brought in the literary circles of the day. They did everything they could, but they failed to keep secret their true feelings about the beauty of the Qur’an, and on many occasions they would recite verses of the Qur’an in private.

The orators and poets of the pre-Islamic period of ignorance [jāhiliyyah] who had truly surpassed the men of letters of the previous periods in eloquence and fluency became so helpless in facing the astounding elegance of the Qur’an that they had no option but to accuse the Prophet (ṣ) of practicing magic and call him a powerful sorcerer who dazzles the eyes and controls the hearts of people.

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1- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:23.
2- - Sūrah Isrā’ (or Banī Isrā’īl) 17:88.

The Qur’an has special styles of expression which are neither common poetry nor prose. Its fluency and eloquence lie in the elegance of expressions and the use of parables. The elegance of poetry lies in its imaginativeness. Usually, the farther it is from reality, the sweeter it becomes to human taste. However, the Qur’an is devoid of the kind of whimsical and fallacious analogies prevalent in poetry. In spite of this, its elegance is captivating. How is it possible to speak elegantly, and at the same time, avoid any naïve simile and scenario-making? Who could create such elegance in speech without taking advantage of the strength of human imagination?

Even though we do not fathom the profundity of the eloquence and fluency of the Qur’an, we can sense its beauty and divinity. When we compare the sayings of Imām ‘Alī (‘a), who was the master of oration and whose words are the peak of eloquence [nahj al-balāghah](1), with a Qur’anic verse the beauty of the former compared to the latter is as the bezel to the gemstone.

The beauty of the Qur’an is not confined to the eloquence and fluency of its expression. In fact, the soothing melody of its sounds is also a manifestation of its miracle. The Qur’an has been essentially revealed in oral form. That is, it was made known in the form of sounds which later came out in written form. For this reason, it has an astounding harmony and its recitation is soothing to the ears and attractive to the hearts.

Beauty always pertains to the feelings, but there are diverse feelings. Beautiful love poetry incites the carnal feelings of man while an epic song stirs his sense of bravery. However, the Qur’an awakens the spiritual feelings in humanity. Its magnificence brings a person to the sublime world of spirituality, wipes the dust off his God-seeking nature [fiṭrah], and shows the sublime countenance of the divine spirit embedded in every individual.

3. A miracle of meaning: The Qur’an is a book of guidance and a luminous torch to the way of salvation. It teaches man everything he needs to know to attain felicity both in this world and the hereafter. That which is usually expected from such book is a set of programs

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1- - Nahj al-Balāghah (Ṣubḥī Ṣāliḥ), Sermon 233, p. 354.

and instructions, and not the discovery of the realities of existence. However, the technique of the Qur’an is to introduce essential instructions and injunctions through the unveiling of fundamental realities of the universe.

According to the Qur’an, the felicity of man cannot be attained without passing through the realities of life. For this reason, knowing God is the most essential reality of life, faith in the angels is an important reality in the field of action, and cognition of many other fundamental realities are all elements of man’s felicity. Based on the approaches of the Qur’an, it is only through knowledge and faith in the realities of existence that the felicity of man can be ensured. The topics of the Qur’an in introducing God, who is the Origin and Source of creation, are nature (which is the life domain of humanity), the hereafter (which is the final destination of life) and human beings themselves (who are the wayfarers in the path of salvation).

Regarding God, the human intellect cannot describe Him beyond a specified point: He is the One and Only God, who knows every particle in the universe; the overall Sovereign. The important point here is that it is the Qur’an that introduces God as far as it is comprehendible for man.

While having no similitude whatsoever to any of His creatures, the God of the Qur’an(1) is so close to man that He can hear his whisper:

﴿ وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الإنْسَانَ وَنَعْلَمُ مَا تُوَسْوِسُ بِهِ نَفْسُهُ وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَیْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِیدِ ﴾

“Certainly We have created man and We know to what his soul tempts him, and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.”(2)

Contrary to the God of philosophers,(3) the God of the Qur’an gives attention to the world of humans. As such, man can seek His assistance and rely on Him. The Qur’an has many descriptions of the

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1- - That is, God as described in the Qur’an. [Trans.]
2- - Sūrah Qāf 50:16.
3- - That is, God as usually described in philosophy by philosophers. [Trans.]

agents of Divine Action, i.e. the angels, which the human intellect cannot conceive of.

If man has taken some steps in the valley of knowing God through his deductive reasoning, he has nothing to say in the realm of unraveling the realities of his destination, such as the purgatorial world [‘ālam al-barzakh] and the Resurrection. This is while a considerable portion of the Qur’an, i.e. almost one-third, describes such fundamental realities in an elegant and pleasant, yet alarming, manner. How could these concepts and meanings, which become clearer to man with his intellectual growth, be a product of his mind?

Regarding the natural world in which we presently live, there are interesting passages in the Qur’an many of which are in conformity with the recent findings in natural sciences.

Moreover, a large part of the Qur’an deals with moral and juristic programs which have no parallel. Qur’anic ethics is not alien to the real life of humanity. In fact, it has been organized with the nature and limitations of human beings in mind. God knows that morality is observed only when it is inculcated in one’s mind that he shall enjoy everlasting benefit from behaving morally. People render sacrifice and give preference to others to enjoy worldly benefits only when they know that by doing so, they shall obtain everlasting favor like admission to paradise or winning the pleasure of God. This important point is remarkably stressed in the moral training and edification of the Qur’an. Whenever the Qur’an invites a person to help others, it says:

﴿ مَنْ ذَا الَّذِی یُقْرِضُ اللَّهَ قَرْضًا حَسَنًا فَیُضَاعِفَهُ لَهُ أَضْعَافًا کَثِیرَةً وَاللَّهُ یَقْبِضُ وَیَبْسُطُ وَإِلَیْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ ﴾

“Who is it that will lend Allah a good loan that He may multiply it for him several fold? And Allah tightens and expands [the means of life], and to Him you shall be brought back.”(1)

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1- - Sūrah Baqarah 2:245.

God considers giving a loan to others the same as giving a loan to oneself because the benefits will always return to the giver. This point has been stated in the Qur’an many times. Is there any stronger motivation for doing good deeds? For anyone who reads the verses of the Qur’an and understands their meaning, his conscience will be awakened and he will be encouraged to do good deeds.

In the field of law and jurisprudence, the case is the same. The evidence of the greatness and merit of Qur’anic-based jurisprudence is the testimony of thousands of scholars for centuries in its solution to various legal problems.

In addition, notwithstanding the challenges to the Qur’an and strong motives of the enemies of Islam to discredit it, throughout history no one has been able to produce a verse even similar to the verses of the Qur’an. Thus, the miraculous elements of the Qur’an are all-encompassing and there is no doubt that it is a miracle. Because the Qur’an is an eternal miracle that captivates the hearts of all people, then Islam must also be a religion for all times because the Qur’an is the holy book of Islam.

Finality of prophethood

To believe that the prophethood, which began with Ādam (‘a), ends with the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) is one of the essentials of the religion of Islam. Accordingly, every Muslim must believe in this point. Doubt about it is tantamount to the denial of Islam. The Holy Prophet (ṣ) has mentioned this point many times. It is recorded that during the Tabūk Expedition, the Holy Prophet (ṣ) said to Imam ‘Alī (‘a):

أما ترضیٰ أن تکون منّی بمنزلة هارون من موسیٰ إلاّ أنّه لانبیّ بعدی؟

“Are you not satisfied that you are to me as Hārūn (Aaron) is to Mūsā (Moses) except that there will be no prophet after me?”(1)

This and similar narrations [riwāyāt] have been recorded in Sunnī and Shī‘ah sources without a broken chain of narrators [tawātur](2) and thus

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1- - Sīrah Ibn Hishām, vol. 2, p. 520; Ibn Ḥajar (al-‘Asqalānī), Aṣ-Ṣawā‘iq al-Muḥriqah (Egypt, 2nd Edition), Book 9, Chapter 2, p. 121. [Trans.]
2- - By tawātur is meant the multiplicity of the sources of a certain report that leads to certitude in the listener that the report is indeed true. A mutawātir hadīth is one which has been reported by so many different chains of transmission and such a number of narrators in every generation that normally one could not fabricate such a tradition without the fact of its fabrication becoming known. [Trans.]

there is no doubt about its authenticity [ṣiḥah]. More important than these narrations are the implicit, and at times explicit, verses of the Qur’an regarding this:

﴿ مَا کَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَا أَحَدٍ مِنْ رِجَالِکُمْ وَلَکِنْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِیِّینَ وَکَانَ اللَّهُ بِکُلِّ شَیْءٍ عَلِیمًا ﴾

“Muḥammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Apostle of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets, and Allah has knowledge of all things.”(1)

The Qur’an, which is the book of Islam, has been sent down for all people not just those who were present at the time of its revelation. This implies that everyone must put his hopes in the Qur’an for salvation. More explicit than this, however, are verses which indicate that Islam is the religion of God in its complete and final form and thus there is no need for the coming of another prophet:

﴿ الْیَوْمَ أَکْمَلْتُ لَکُمْ دِینَکُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَیْکُمْ نِعْمَتِی وَرَضِیتُ لَکُمُ الإسْلامَ دِینًا ﴾

“Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam as your religion.”(2)

Khātam literally means seal with which a letter or message is usually ended. The Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ), as the khātam, signifies that the series of prophets ends with him. Therefore, there is no doubt that one of the pillars of the religion of Islam is the finality of prophethood [khātamiyyah] in which Muslims must believe.

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1- - Sūrah Aḥzāb 33:40.
2- - Sūrah Mā’idah 5:3.

However, why has the prophethood ended? Will the reasons behind the sending of prophets not be repeated again?

In reply to these questions, Muslims scholars have different views, one of which is as follows:(1)

In theoretically analyzing the reason behind the finality of prophethood in Islam, firstly the intellectual and spiritual condition of the previous communities of people must be compared with that of the later communities after the apostleship of the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ). Reflecting on the collective life of humankind leads us to the point that just as the there are different stages—for example, sometimes humans are in the stage of childhood and the world of fantasy and at times in the stage of adulthood and intellectual maturity—humankind as a whole has also passed through different stages. The period of immaturity had passed and around the advent of Islam humans had entered a period of adulthood and maturity. The difference between the two periods is manifested in various forms. During the initial stages, humans were like children who were in need of constant care and supervision. Prophets (‘a) used to come in succession so as to constantly lead the people to the way of salvation, and assist them in every circumstance so that they would be able to identify their duties and act upon them. However, the people of today—who are the addressees of Islam–have reached such a stage of understanding and maturity that given their spiritual and material assets they can identify their duties more readily and follow the path of salvation.

The teachings of Islam, which according to the Ahl al-Sunnah are derived from the Qur’an and the sayings of the Messenger of Allah (ṣ), and according to the Shī‘ah are derived from the sayings of the infallible Imāms (‘a) as well, are at the disposal of all people so that they can easily tread their chosen path.

The concept of ijtihād, which means deduction of laws from the sources of Islam, has immense importance here for it is by means of ijtihād that Islam responds to the new and unprecedented needs of

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1- - The following view is extracted from the works of Āyatullāh Murtaḍā Muṭahharī, Khatm-e Nubuwwat [Finality of Prophethood] in his compendium of works, vol. 3, p. 151.

mankind. It must be noted that the mujtahid(1) does not bring in any new decree that contradicts the finality of Islam. What he does is whenever he encounters a new issue whose ruling is not explicitly stated in the religious texts, he deduces its ruling by using the sources of Islam—including the Qur’an and the ḥadīth—based on an organized or codified system (principles of jurisprudence [uṣūl al-fiqh]) and relays the ruling, suitably deduced, to others.

Therefore, it can be said that the development and maturity of humanity at the present period was the reason God presented His religion in its final and complete form. At his present level of development, whenever humankind encounters a new issue, the level of maturity is available to deduce the correct way and avoid misguidance. The maturity and keenness of the people at the present age make them different from their predecessors who did not recognize the worth and value of their sacred scriptures and distorted them. One of the reasons behind the continuity of prophethood before was the distortions mankind made to the previous holy books, turning them from books of guidance into common story books and even using them as a source of misguidance for others. Today, however, after many centuries mankind has neither added nor omitted a word or even a letter from the Qur’an and, as God has promised, it has remained safe from any distortion whatsoever.

Moreover, the power of reasoning and intellectual capacity of humanity at the period of the apostleship of the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) was such that God provided everything humans needed about the fundamental realities of existence. That is, whatever is necessary for the guidance and salvation of humankind to the end of time has been mentioned in the Qur’an.

Understanding and acquisition of knowledge are closely related to one’s aptitude and readiness. God, who knows that humankind at the present time is at the peak of readiness to grasp such truths, taught it whatever is necessary and feasible. Of course, it is clear that the readiness of humanity to acquire knowledge and information about the world of nature and the secrets of creation that make them capable of dominating nature is always on the rise, but this is beside the point.

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1- - Mujtahid: one who exercises or practices ijtihād. [Trans.]

The Qur’an is meant to state the facts essential for the salvation of all people and so it has not abandoned anything in this regard. As such, the advancement in natural sciences, mathematics and even philosophy do not change the teachings of Islam, and scientific and technological progress do not bring about the need for a new prophet, because prophetic knowledge is related to the knowledge of the Ultimate Reality.

In addition, the moral values of religion are also eternal and must be given attention and acted upon in all aspects of life. If a civilization demands that lying must be the basis of action, one should not submit to it on the pretext that the exigency of time demands it. One must rather doubt the foundation of such a civilization and always rely upon the firm foundation of religious morality. However, some things that may undermine religion in modern times are changes in legal relations. Modern life has raised new issues but, as we have said, the solution to these kinds of problems is the method of ijtihād.

Given this concise explanation, it is clear that the present human is not in need of a new prophet and of course God was aware of this fact before and more than any person. Now, fourteen centuries have passed since the advent of Islam, and no new religion or new prophet has come. This is in spite of the fact that usually the time interval between two prophets had been very short and sometimes there had even been numerous prophets present at the same time. This itself is a living testimony that the door of revelation is closed and the criterion for salvation embedded in the Islamic sources, i.e. the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Hence, the complete proof or argument [ḥujjah] of God has been disclosed to all who open their ears, eyes, and hearts to the truth.

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Section One: Period of the Presence of the Imāms (‘a)

Section Two: Period of Occultation

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Section One: Period of the Presence of the Imāms (‘a)


General Objectives

After studying this discourse, students are expected:

1. To know the origin of the Sunnī and Shī‘ah schools of thought and their main differences on the issue of Imamate;

2. To be acquainted with the manner of selecting the Imāms and their continuity;

3. To understand the pivotal role of the Imāms in protecting the foundation of religion, guiding the Muslims and propagating religious teachings; and

4. To be aware of the Shī‘ah viewpoint on the savior and the constructive effect of waiting during the period of occultation.


Clarification of the principle of Imamate and the circumstances surrounding its inclusion in the intellectual body of a group of Muslims (Shī‘ah) as one of their ideological principles lies in paying attention to the following points:

1. Based on the monotheistic worldview, the One and Only God is the Creator of the universe and the Master and Cherisher of the entire creation including humanity. This is called “monotheism in Lordship” [tawḥīd fī’r-rubūbiyyah]. Accordingly, for a religious and monotheist person, God has the right to rule over human beings and assign duties to them such that every person has duties to God and there is no escape but to discharge them.

Therefore, God has the legislative right [ḥaqq-e tashrī‘ī] and the people, in turn, are duty-bound to submit and surrender to Him. On the one hand, the principle of monotheism gives this right solely to God and it is wrong for people to associate this right to any other than Him. If we believe someone else to have such a right, we have actually drifted away from “monotheism in sovereignty” [tawḥīd fī’l-

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ḥākimiyyah], and once we obey the command of other than God, we fall into the abyss of “polytheism in obedience” [shirk fī’ṭ-ṭā‘ah]. On the other hand, the requisite of the acceptance of monotheism is the all-encompassing legislative sovereignty of God in the sense that human beings cannot accept the sovereignty of God only in some decrees or in a specific domain; rather, one should abide by every commandment of God, the Sublime, in every sphere.

2. God has exercised His legislative sovereignty by sending prophets and issuing orders and decrees through them. However, if the religion is meant to put Divine Sovereignty into action, as it is, and its ultimate goal is the implementation of religious commandments, such a goal is in need of prerequisites and special conditions apart from conveyance of the message.

Historically, the tasks done by the prophets of God have been more than the conveyance and elucidation of revelation. Their incessant struggles and untiring efforts were not only confined to communication of a message. In fact, the prophets (‘a) strived hard for the Divine Sovereignty in different facets of life. The loftiest of the goals and objectives of the prophets (‘a) was the emancipation of man from the bondage of the ṭāghūt(1) and drawing him to the servitude and worship of God.

3. For the monotheistic logic to rule over the life of man, first of all, we are in need of revelation and the conveyance of the message which is the primary function and duty of the prophets of Allah (prophethood). We are also in need of the elucidation, exposition and teaching of the conveyed message so as to avoid difference of interpretations (religious authority). In addition, there is a need for an executive and administrative institution to actually implement the religious commandments (leadership).

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1- - The term tāghūt applies to any idol, object, or individual that prevents men from doing what is good, and leads them astray. The term has been used eight times in the Qur’an. Prior to Islam, tāghūt had been the name of one of the idols of the Quraysh tribe. This name is used also to mean Satan. Moreover, the term is used to indicate one who rebels against lofty values, or who surpasses all bounds in his despotism and tyranny and claims the prerogatives of divinity for himself whether explicitly or implicitly. [Trans.]

4. When the Holy Prophet (ṣ) was alive, apart from conveying the revelation, which is a prophetic function, he practically assumed two other responsibilities. In case of any difference of opinions on a religious matter, his view and opinion served as the final word. He, who recited the Qur’an to the people, considered it also his duty to explain it to them and state the rulings and cases not explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an. This task of the Apostle (ṣ) was actually complimentary to his role of receiving the revelation. As such, the Sunnah was of special importance and played the role of explainer and elucidator of the Qur’an. This is the same function of “religious authority” [marja‘iyyat-e dīnī] which was also performed by the Holy Prophet (ṣ).

The station of wilāyah(1) and leadership was among the designations of the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ). Any decision he took for the ummah(2) was binding. From the very beginning of his prophetic call, he took steps for the Islamic ummah to establish a government. His steps from the beginning to the end bore witness of the existence of a systematic program for the establishment of a religious government. The efforts made in Mecca were also a historical prelude for the establishment of a formal government in Medina. Purging of the internal enemies and the hypocrites in Medina and waging war against the infidels and foreign powers demonstrated the Muslims’ motivation to establish a global government under the leadership of the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ).

No Muslim at that time ever thought that the Prophet’s (ṣ) duty was only to convey the message. His all-encompassing authority was such that there was no separation between religion and politics.

In addition to the conveyance of revelation, the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) had two other responsibilities—intellectual authority and practical leadership of the Islamic ummah—exactly the same responsibilities shouldered by the Imāms (‘a) after the Prophet (ṣ). Apart from being

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1- - For further information about the idea of guardianship [wilāyah] and the guardian [wālī], see Murtadā Mutahharī, Wilāyah: The Station of the Master, trans. Yahyā Cooper (Tehran: World Organization for Islamic Services, 1982). [Trans.]
2- - Ummah: the entire Islamic community which knows no territorial, racial, national or ethnic distinction. [Trans.]

the recipient of revelation, the Prophet (ṣ) was also the Imām and proof of Allah [ḥujjat Allāh] for the people. His being the proof of Allah entailed responsibilities on the part of the people. Firstly, whatever the Prophet (ṣ) declared as lawful or unlawful—even though not explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an—became a duty upon the people. Secondly, whatever policy he as the leader adopted, was thereafter an inviolable administrative measure or decree. Whatever dispute, whether theoretical or practical, that was settled in the presence of the Holy Prophet (ṣ) subsequently the people had to “hold fast” [i‘tiṣām] to it as “Allah’s cord” [ḥabl Allāh].(1)

5. The Apostle (ṣ), therefore, had two functions, viz. apostleship [risālah] and leadership [imāmah]. With the declaration of the finality of prophethood by God, risālah culminated with the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) and the people were not supposed to look for another prophet after him. Until the end of the world, all must adhere to one religion—Islam—and its heavenly book —the Qur’an—must be the basis of religion.

However, after the demise of the Holy Prophet (ṣ), this question was raised: With the departure of the Prophet (ṣ), what is the designation of Imamate or religious authority and leadership [imāmah] of the Islamic ummah?


Some believed that with the passing away of the Prophet (ṣ), leadership [imāmah]—in the sense of perfect interpretation of the religion—also came to an end. They believed that after the Prophet (ṣ), God did not designate anyone to be the flawless interpreter of the religion. In this case, divine leadership [imāmah] ended and thereafter the implementers of divine sovereignty were general vicegerents, viz. the people. As such, imāmah was not a divine designation in the sense that God had not appointed someone for the post. Accordingly, the people had to assume the responsibility of religious authority and the function of interpreting the religion was delegated to them. The executive leadership of the people was determined by themselves. Consultation and election was the means to determine the successor

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1- - See Sūrah Āli ‘Imrān 3:103.

and caliph [khalīfah] of the Messenger (ṣ) for the performance of the function of leadership. In the course of time, this notion became prevalent: “The Messenger of Allah (ṣ) has entrusted to the people the affair of religious leadership.”

On the contrary, according to another group, just as prophethood is a divine designation, leadership [imāmah] is also a divine covenant. They believed that “Sovereignty or rule is the right of God and He guarantees the perpetuity of His religion by designating the flawless interpreter and infallible leader after the Prophet (ṣ).” Proponents of the second view who are called Shī‘ah are of the opinion that the institution of leadership [imāmah] has been determined and defined by God Himself through the Prophet (ṣ), and the people must abide by it. According to the Shī‘ah, twelve persons have been designated as the leaders of the ummah, interpreters of the religion and masters of the affairs, and the Qur’an also enjoins us to follow them.(1) According to this view, the sovereignty of God is observed through the Imāms who are the vicegerents of God. All their commands are binding and their interpretation of the religion is the correct interpretation.

The two schools of thought—Sunnī and Shī‘ah—are the two main trends in the Muslim world. The issue of Imamate is the main issue that has divided Muslims into two groups.(2)

These two schools of thought differ on some issues:

1. The Shī‘ah regard the sayings and actions of the Ahl al-Bayt(3) (‘a), in addition to those of the Prophet (ṣ), as the decisive proof and criterion of truth. According to this view, after the Apostle (ṣ) a sort of

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1- - Sūrah Nisā’ 4:59: “O you who have faith! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those vested with authority among you.”
2- - See Shahristānī, Al-Milal wa’n-Nihal, vol. 1, p. 24.
3- - Ahl al-Bayt: according to authentic hadīths recorded in both Sunnī and Shī‘ah sources, the term Ahl al-Bayt, and interchangeably Itrah and Āl, is a blessed Qur’anic appellation that belongs exclusively to the Prophet, ‘Alī, Fātimah, Hasan, and Husayn (‘a). The members of this Family of five, with the Prophet Muhammad (s) at its head, were the ones present at the time the Qur’anic verses regarding their virtues were being revealed to the Prophet (s). However, nine other Imāms from the descendants of Imām al-Husayn (‘a) are also included in this chosen Family, the final one being Imām al-Mahdī (‘a). For further information, visit: [Trans.]

religious authority based on “inspired knowledge” [al-‘ilm al-ladunnī] is entrusted to the Imāms (‘a). Through means beyond our comprehension, the Imāms (‘a) had acquired the Islamic sciences from the Holy Prophet (ṣ). Each of them then passed to his successor whatever he had inherited from the Prophet (ṣ).(1)

The Ahl as-Sunnah, however, assert that only the Prophet (ṣ) is infallible and only his sayings are devoid of any error, and none of his family members, companions and caliphs has such merit. As such, according to the Sunnīs the sayings of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are at most as authoritative as those of religious scholars.(2) Hundreds of mistakes of the companions and caliphs have been recorded in Sunnī books.(3)

2. According to the Shī‘ah, religious authority and leadership [imāmah] is a divine trust which must be determined by God. As such, Imamate is not a customary position or designation that depends on public acceptance and allegiance. It is rather a program set up by God for the guidance of mankind which does not necessitate the acceptance and approval of the people. Linking the fate of religion to the will of the people is tantamount to the mixture of the will of God with that of the people, and this is incompatible with the necessity of Imamate and the infinite wisdom of God. The commandments of God constitute His religion and Imamate, which in God’s design for the guidance of humanity is an integral part of religion and one of the divine obligations. The people are duty-bound to implement this program. That is, the ummah has no option but to accept it and this acceptance is a religious obligation and a prerequisite of faith. From this perspective, there is no difference between nubuwwah and imāmah. All those who accepted prophethood [nubuwwah] must also accept Imamate [imāmah].

It is true that without the acceptance of the people, no program or design can be implemented successfully. Therefore, the materialization of Imamate depends on the will and approval of the people. It must be noted, however, that materialization is not identical

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1- - Murtaḍā Muṭahharī, Imāmat va Rahbarī [Imamate and Leadership], p. 52.
2- - See Sunnī books on the principles of jurisprudence and Sayyid ‘Abd al-Ḥusayn Sharaf ad-Dīn al-Mūsawī, Al-Murājā‘at, Correspondence 13.
3- - Muṭahharī, Imāmat va Rahbarī, p. 53.

with the rightfulness of a thing. According to the Shī‘ah, some dimensions of the authority of the Imāms (‘a) were not put into practice, but this does not nullify in any way the legitimacy of Imamate. Similarly, the people’s non-acceptance or denial of true prophets never affected the truthfulness of their messages.

According to Sunnī scholars, Imamate is an affair without any specified divine decree and religious authority can be assumed by common religious scholars. Leadership, therefore, is also an affair without any specified divine decree. They maintain that the caliph or Imām can be determined through general suffrage,(1) appointment or designation by the preceding caliph,(2) or by the use of force and violence.(3)

3. According to the Shī‘ah, Imamate is one of the fundamental ideological principles which every Muslim must believe in and in which there is no room for emulation [taqlīd]. Since designation of the Imām is one of the prerogatives of God, it is one of the roots of religion [uṣūl ad-dīn] and scholastic theology [‘ilm al-kalām] is its proper place for discussion.(4) The Ahl as-Sunnah, however, who regard Imamate as an affair of the people without any specified divine decree include it in the list of secondary duties in jurisprudence and discuss it in the science of jurisprudence [fiqh].(5)

4. In view of the aforementioned points, the Shī‘ah definition of Imamate is totally different from that of the caliphate or leadership by the Ahl as-Sunnah, where the issue of leadership and government is only an outward aspect of the functions of Imamate and is not comprehensive in all its aspects.(6)

5. Most of the Shī‘ah give a special position to the Imāms (‘a) in addition to their religious authority and political leadership. According to the Shī‘ah, just as the legislative will of God is manifested through

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1- - Sa‘ad ad-Dīn Taftāzānī, Sharḥ al-Maqāṣid, vol. 5, p. 233; Shahristānī, Al-Milal wa’n-Nihal, vol. 1, p. 72.
2- - Abū’l-Ḥasan Māwardī, Al-Aḥkām as-Salṭāniyyah, p. 7.
3- - Taftāzānī, Sharḥ al-Maqāṣid, vol. 5, p. 233.
4- - ‘Abd ar-Razzāq Lāhījī, Gawhār-e Murād, p. 467.
5- - Taftāzānī, Sharḥ al-Maqāṣid, vol. 5, p. 232.
6- - See Muṭahharī, Imāmat va Rahbarī, p. 70.

the infallible Imāms (‘a), who are in charge of religious guidance and sociopolitical leadership of the people, they also have guardianship or authority [wilāyah] in the cosmic world [‘ālam-e takwīnī] and serve as the medium between God and the people. According to this perspective on Imamate, the Imāms (‘a) have a third function, i.e. esoteric imāmah. In other words, like the Prophet (ṣ), the Imāms (‘a) are mediums of divine grace and, by the will of God, they have exceptional power over the world and mankind. Based on the Shī‘ah teachings, the earth will not remain without the existence of a proof of Allah [ḥujjat Allāh]. The miracles shown by the infallible Imāms (‘a) are signs of this kind of wilāyah.(1)

The necessity of Imamate

No doubt, the compulsoriness [wujūb] of following the Imām is not the same as proof of the rational necessity of Imamate, but even if such necessity is not proven, the fact that we know that God has been kind to His servants and entrusted the Imāms to the people is sufficient. Therefore, to search for the rational reason and at times to challenge the necessity, cannot affect in anyway the compulsoriness of obedience to the Imāms (‘a). If the true sovereignty belongs to Him, as it does, He can also set a specific program for its materialization.

At the same time, great religious figures have never neglected discussing the rational justification of Imamate and have written much in this regard. Of course, Imamate in its broad sense—general Imamate—can be rationally justified very well but the number of the Imāms or their names—specific Imamate—is beyond the confinement of rational proofs as it can only be proved textually [naqlī], i.e. by citing religious textual sources. The argument on the necessity of the existence of an infallible Imām is like the argument on the necessity of prophethood [nubuwwah] and revelation. This argument can be used in both functions of the Imām—religious authority and political leadership.

Regarding religious authority it can be argued that if religion is necessary and divine wisdom dictates, it must be clearly declared to the people and this declaration is not only confined to the Qur’an. In fact, a great portion of the laws needed by mankind cannot explicitly

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1- - See Uṣūl al-Kāfī, “Abwāb al-Ḥujjah”; Muṭahharī, Imāmat va Rahbarī, p. 56.

be inferred from the Qur’an. As dictated by divine wisdom, therefore, there must be infallible interpreters of the religion. This is the same principle which is sometimes called “grace” [luṭf] and this extent of grace is incumbent upon God.

This argument can also be confirmed historically and objectively. Practically, the Holy Prophet (ṣ) did not find the opportunity to completely explain the Islamic law [sharī‘ah] to all people. By briefly referring to Shī‘ah books on tradition [ḥadīth], it will become clear that many laws that can be deduced from the sayings and actions of the Infallibles (‘a) cannot basically be found in the Sunnah of the Prophet (ṣ).(1) Notwithstanding all his efforts, the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) did not find the opportunity to relay all the laws needed by Muslims, for during the 23 years of his prophetic mission, he had to deal with colossal problems such as three years of confinement in the valley of Abū Ṭālib and ten years of struggle and war with the enemies and the conspiracies of hypocrites. Besides, after him, people even differed on some laws which he taught to the people including the manner of performing ablution [wuḍū].(2)

Concerning the necessity of the second function, i.e. political leadership, it can also be argued that after we acknowledge that sovereignty belongs to God and the people are in need of a leader, divine wisdom dictates that the Islamic society must not be devoid of righteous leaders. If obedience to individuals disapproved by God is supposed to be considered obedience to the ṭāghūt, life in society is impossible without the ruler’s exercise of authority and the people’s adherence to it. So, religious arrangement for this post must have been formulated.

The historical reality or state of affairs of the Islamic society at that time also confirms this point. Firstly, it cannot be accepted that during

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1- - By referring to the Shī‘ah books on tradition [ḥadīth], it will become clear that the magnitude of narrations [riwāyāt] is ten times greater than the Holy Qur’an and sayings of the Messenger of Allah (ṣ). For instance, Wasā’il ash-Shī‘ah compiled by the late Shaykh Ḥurr al-‘Āmilī consists of 30 volumes; Mustadrak al-Wasā’il by Muḥaddith Nūrī in 18 volumes; and Biḥār al-Anwār by ‘Allāmah Majlisī in 110 volumes contain narrations from the Infallibles (‘a).
2- - See Muṭahharī, Imāmat va Rahbarī, p. 93; Muḥammad Taqī Miṣbāḥ Yazdī, Āmuzesh-e ‘Aqā’id, p. 305.

the particular time when the Apostle (ṣ) was pursuing his great mission and goal and the Islamic society was not yet well established, the ummah would be devoid of just leadership. Secondly, delegation of the issue of caliphate and leadership to consultation and general suffrage cannot be part of the Prophet’s (ṣ) instructions, for general suffrage at that time was an unknown method in society. As a proof of this claim, the first and second caliphs also adopted appointment [istikhlāf], i.e. designation of the succeeding caliph (either by direct appointment or through a council). Thirdly, the peculiar conditions of Arabia at that time such as the prevalence of fanaticism and tribalism, the haughtiness of powerful foreign enemies, the conspiracy of the hypocrites, the possibility of schemes against the political authority of the Prophet (ṣ), and the emergence of false prophets dictated that the Holy Prophet (ṣ) would give special attention to the issue of leadership and leave no stone unturned in clarifying the ambiguities and doubts surrounding it.

Therefore, according to the Shī‘ah, by settling the issue of religious authority and political leadership after him the Holy Prophet (ṣ) had perfected the religion and guaranteed its implementation. What is mentioned as the last point of perfection in the religion was the scheme related to the existence of proof [ḥujjah] in society that could ensure the perfection of religion so that no loophole could be found in the religious authority. For this reason, from the Shī‘ah viewpoint, Imamate is a complementary of apostleship. The Apostle (ṣ) also strongly links the Qur’an which is the symbol of apostleship to his pure progeny [‘itrah] (‘a) which embodies the Sunnah.

Imamate as a matter of appointment [manṣūṣ]

Infallibility [‘iṣmah], which is an essential characteristic of the designated intellectual authority and perfect interpreter of the religion, requires that the individuals occupying the post of Imamate must be identified by God. A study of the life of Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) clearly shows that he had strived throughout his life to introduce the Imāms (‘a). During the third year of the prophetic mission [bi‘that] when the Apostle (ṣ) was commanded by God to openly invite his relatives to Islam,(1) he referred to Imām ‘Alī (‘a) as his brother, the

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1- - Sūrah Shū‘arā’ 26:214: “Warn the nearest of your kinsfolk.”

executor of his will [waṣī] and successor [khalīfah] before an assembly of his kith and kin, asking them to recognize ‘Alī (‘a) as the caliph of the Muslims.(1) Elsewhere, he introduced the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) as one of the Two Weighty Things [thaqalayn] inseparable to the Qur’an.(2) It is clear that what must always be with the Qur’an is like the Qur’an in the compulsoriness of following it as an intellectual authority of the Muslims. Similarly, the Holy Prophet (ṣ) had also likened the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) to the Ark of Noah (‘a). That is, those who will embark the Ark will be saved while those who will refuse to do so will be drowned.(3) In some instances, he introduced his Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) as the twelve caliphs after him and had not spared repeating and emphasizing this.(4)

The Tradition of Ghadīr [Ḥadīth al-Ghadīr]

The most explicit statement of the Holy Prophet (ṣ) about Imamate is the Tradition of Ghadīr [Ḥadīth al-Ghadīr]. According to historians, on his way home from his Farewell Pilgrimage [Ḥajj al-Wadā‘], the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) received a Qur’anic verse [āyah] in a place called Ghadīr Khumm in which he was commanded to convey a message to the people, and he was inspired that if this message were not conveyed, his prophetic mission as a whole would not be

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1- - This account is recorded as Ḥadīth ad-Dār in Sunnī history books. For example, see Tārīkh aṭ-Ṭabarī, vol. 2, pp. 319-321; Al-Kāmil fī’t-Tārīkh, vol. 2, p. 62; Ibn Abī’l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ Nahj al-Balāghah, vol. 13, pp. 22, 244; Kanz al-‘Ummāl, vol. 15, p. 115. The text of the ḥadīth is as follows: “Verily, this is my brother, executor of will and my caliph after me. So, listen to him and obey him.”
2- - Known as Ḥadīth ath-Thaqalayn, this statement is recorded without a broken chain of transmission [mutawātir] from the Holy Prophet (ṣ). It is narrated by 53 companions of the Prophet (ṣ) [ṣaḥābah] and recorded in more than 200 Sunnī books on history, tradition and Qur’anic exegesis [tafsīr]. See, for example, Ṣāḥīḥ Muslim, vol. 4, p. 873; Ṣaḥīḥ Tirmidhī, vol. 5, p. 663; Musnad Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, vol. 5, p. 182; Sunan ad-Dāramī, vol. 2, p. 231.
3- - This statement of Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) is known as Ḥadīth as-Safīnah, narrated by famous ṣaḥābah such as ‘Ali ibn Abī Ṭālib, ‘Abd Allāh ibn ‘Abbās, Abū Dharr al-Ghifāri, Abū Sa‘īd al-Khidri, Anas ibn Mālik, and others, and recorded in Sunnī books.
4- - In some of these narrations, the names of the twelve caliphs or Imāms are mentioned while in some others only the names of the first and the last.

fulfilled.(1) As soon as he received this verse, he decided to convey the message and gathered the people for this purpose. In this historic speech, he first asked the people: “Am I not your master [mawlā]?” When the people replied in the affirmative, he held and raised the hand of ‘Alī (‘a) declared him as the guardian or master [walī] after him. Then, the verse on the perfection of the religion and the completion of God’s favor was revealed whereby the universality of Islam and God being pleased with this revered religion was highlighted.(2)

This event is recorded in history and books of ḥadīth as indisputably authentic, and more than a hundred companions of the Prophet (ṣ) [ṣaḥābah] have narrated it. From the beginning of the second century up to the fourth century AH, more than 360 Muslim scholars have reported this event.(3) Many books have also been written about the Tradition of Ghadīr. There is no doubt about the event and the statement of the Messenger of Allah (ṣ). If there is any difference between the Sunnīs and the Shī‘ah, it is in the interpretation of the Prophet’s (ṣ) statements. The Shī‘ah believe that the use of the word walī was in the sense of ‘Alī (‘a) being the leader of Islamic society, while the Sunnīs are of the opinion that by using this word the Apostle (ṣ) only wanted to introduce ‘Alī (‘a) as “a person who must be respected and befriended by everybody.”(4)

In examining the Sunnī interpretation of the event in Ghadīr, it is necessary to consider the following points:

1. According to what Muslim exegetes [mufassirīn] have reported, this event took place after God commanded the Prophet (ṣ) to fulfill his duty and convey to the people a particular message, and after the conveyance of that message, the perfection of the religion and the completion of God’s favor would be fulfilled. As such, apart from being consistent with the purport of the two above mentioned verses,

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1- - Sūrah Mā’idah 5:67: “O Apostle! Communicate that which has been sent down to you from your Lord, and if you do not, you will not have communicated His message.”
2- - Sūrah Mā’idah 5:3.
3- - See ‘Allāmah Amīnī, Al-Ghadīr, vol. 1, pp. 14-151.
4- - Sharaf ad-Dīn al-Mūsawī, Al-Murāja‘āt, Correspondences 57-58.

the message must be so important that its conveyance would signify the fulfillment of the prophetic mission and, in case of failure to convey it, it would mean that the religion of God would be imperfect and His favor incomplete. Obviously, respect and friendship, even if it be for ‘Alī (‘a), would not be important enough to signify the fulfillment of the prophetic mission. On the contrary, it is negligence regarding the designation of the intellectual authority and religious leadership which could be tantamount to negligence in the fulfillment of the prophetic mission and bring about the imperfection of the religion.

2. In this ḥadīth, the Holy Prophet (ṣ) asked those who were present: “Have I not more authority over you than yourselves?” All replied in unison: “Yes, it is so.”

This question is a hint—no, not just a hint, but an explicit referral, to this verse: “The Prophet is closer to the faithful than their own souls”(1) which clearly proves the Prophet’s (ṣ) authority [wilāyah] over the Islamic society. After the people acknowledged his wilāyah, the Messenger of Allah (ṣ) said: “Of whomsoever I am master [mawlā], ‘Alī is also his master [mawlā].” The rule of relationship among the parts of the sentence suggests that the wilāyah of ‘Alī (‘a) indicated therein is the same wilāyah of the Prophet (ṣ) which has been acknowledged by the people.

3. Love of ‘Alī (‘a) and the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) is something commanded also by the Qur’an, describing it as a sign of faith.(2) This fact is not something unmentioned in the Qur’an beforehand such that the failure to announce it would be considered imperfection of religion and negligence of a prophetic duty.

4. After this conveyance of the Apostle (ṣ), Abū Bakr and ‘Umar (later to become the first and second caliphs) congratulated ‘Alī (‘a), each of them saying: “O son of Abū Ṭālib! You became my master [mawlā] and the master [mawlā] of every Muslim, man and woman.”

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1- - Sūrah Ahzāb 33:6.
2- - Sūrah Shūrā 42:23: “Say, I do not ask of you any reward for it except the affection for [my] relatives.”

From this event which happened in the presence of a large group of Muslims and which was recorded in history, it can be deduced that the audience or addressees of this message understood wilāyah not in the sense of “friendship and support” because the expression, “You became my mawlā” is consistent only with wilāyah in the sense of authority and leadership.

5. In the same gathering, after being granted permission by the Prophet (ṣ), Ḥassān ibn Thābit, a famous Arab poet, versified the historic event of Ghadīr as follows:

فقال له: قم یا علیّ فإنّنی رضیتک من بعدی إماماً و هادیا

Then he said: “Stand up O ‘Alī! For, I am indeed well pleased that you are the Imām and guide after me.”(1)

The words “Imām” and “guide” [hādī] used in the verses clearly show that the true meaning and implication in the statement of the Prophet (ṣ) was that of wilāyah in the sense of authority and leadership.

This specific understanding of Imamate, especially in the event of Ghadīr Khumm, had always been confirmed and emphasized by the Imāms (‘a).(2) It is clear, therefore, that Shī‘ism as a school of thought is a distinct understanding and interpretation of the religion of Islam and the prophetic message. Historically, it can be traced back to the time of the prophetic call. Contrary to the notion of some people, Shī‘ism is not a school of thought which was later formed based on the emotions or feelings of a group. The necessity of the designation of the Imām as substantiated by religious text [naṣṣ] is exactly based on the Prophetic Sunnah. According to this viewpoint, based upon his divine mission, the Holy Prophet (ṣ) has set the way of the Imāms and their leadership as the guarantor of the felicity of mankind.

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1- - Khwārazmī al-Mālikī, Al-Manāqib, p. 80; Sibṭ ibn Jawzī al-Ḥanafī, Tadhkirat Khawāṣ al-Ummah, p. 20; Ganjī Shāfi‘ī, Kifāyah aṭ-Ṭālib, p. 17; and others. [Trans.]
2- - For example, it is mentioned by Imām ‘Alī (‘a) as narrated by Ibn Ḥijr in Lisān al-Mīzān, vol. 2, p. 285 and Aṣ-Ṣawā‘iq al-Muḥriqah, p. 126; adh-Dhahabī in Mīzān al-I‘tidāl, vol. 1, p. 441; Qundūzī in Yanābī‘ al-Mawaddah, vol. 1, p. 134, bāb 38; Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal in Musnad Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, vol. 1, p. 119; Imāms Ḥasan and Ḥusayn (‘a) in Al-Ghadīr, vol. 1, p. 197.
The role of the Imāms (‘a)

It is evident that the digression in the history of Islam and the society’s refusal to accept the authority of the Imāms (‘a) hindered the materialization of the true and essential role of Imamate in the Islamic society. Yet, it must not be imagined that the Imāms (‘a) had an insignificant contribution in the development of Islamic culture and civilization. In spite of events, the role of the Imāms (‘a) in fostering spirituality and religious sense, strengthening ideological foundations, expounding Islamic law [sharī‘ah], interpreting the Qur’an, and sharpening the sociopolitical insight of Muslims has been considerable and fundamental. They have been the fountains of spirituality, the standard-bearers of the Prophetic Sunnah and Qur’anic culture, and the tributes of the Holy Prophet (ṣ), and they have always been the focus of attention of the Islamic society.

A cursory glance at the history of Islam during the period of the Imāms (‘a) shows well the following points:

1. A significant part of the religion of Islam consists of its worldview and ideological principles. The people’s understanding and interpretation of Islam depends on the extent and quality of their understanding of its ideological elements. If the public sphere of a society is away from the true understanding of these elements, this society will fall into the abyss of ideological deviation. When the Messenger of Allah (ṣ) is not present in the Islamic society and the grounds for encountering other cultures gradually increase, it is to be feared that ideological deviation and superstition might threaten the culture of society. The pivotal role of the great scholars who have acquired correct understanding of religion from credible sources during such times is critically important. In dealing with ideas such as extremism [ghulū], predetermination [jabr], tafwīḍ,(1) anthropomorphism, and many others, the Imāms (‘a) as the intellectual authorities have had a crucial role in guiding the people. Sublime subjects contained in Nahj al-Balāghah, aṣ-Ṣaḥīfah as-

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1- - Tafwīḍ: the belief that after creating all beings, God has left them to administer their own affairs and follow their own wills. In other words, it is the upholding of freewill [ikhtiyār] vis-à-vis predestination. [Trans.]

Sajjādiyyah(1) and narrations [riwāyāt] of the Imāms (‘a) bear testimony to this fact.(2)

2. It is clear that in view of the limited time and the absence of total stability of the Islamic state, the Prophet (ṣ) did not have the opportunity to mention and experience all the needs of the society regarding Islamic law. Many needs came to light after him over the course of time. In that situation, the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (ṣ) were naturally consulted, but the existence of different interpretations of these two sources entailed differences and discord. In that state of affairs, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), as the true scholars and those knowledgeable of the Book and the Sunnah, played a key role. The extant numerous narrations from the Imāms (‘a) prove that the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) had a significant contribution in expounding the Islamic law and training religious scholars and jurists [fuqahā].(3) It is interesting to note that a number of Sunnī fuqahā have been students of the Imāms (‘a). By giving lessons to thousands of students, Imāms al-Bāqīr(4) and aṣ-Ṣādiq(5) (‘a) have indeed played a decisive role in training Sunnī and Shī‘ah ‘ulamā’.

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1- - The book of fifty-seven prayers known as as-Sahīfah (al-Kāmilah) as-Sajjādiyyah, which is one of the major Islamic manuals of supplications, was transmitted from Imām Zayn al-‘Ābīdīn as-Sajjād, the fourth of the Twelve Imāms and the only son of Imām Husayn to survive the massacre at Karbala. See Sahīfah al-Kāmilah, [Trans.]
2- - In addition, many volumes of narrations on beliefs can be observed in books on ḥadīth such as Al-Kulaynī, Uṣūl al-Kāfī and Shaykh aṣ-Ṣadūq, At-Tawḥīd.
3- - Many collections of juristic narrations have been compiled in books of ḥadīth the most famous of which is Wasā’il ash-Shī‘ah by Shaykh Ḥurr al-‘Āmilī.
4- - Imām Muhammad al-Bāqir: the fifth Imām from the Holy Prophet’s Progeny. He was born in 57 AH/675 CE and spent most of his life in Medina, until his martydom there in 114 AH/732 CE. See Bāqir Sharīf al-Qarashi, The Life of Imām Mohammed al-Bāqir, trans. Jāsim al-Rasheed (Qum: Ansariyan Publications, 1999). [Trans.]
5- - Ja‘far ibn Muhammad (‘a) entitled, as-Sādiq [The Truthful],” is the sixth Imām from the Prophet’s Progeny (83-148 AH). Many of the Sunnī and Shī‘ah ‘ulamā and scholars attended his teaching classes and seminars. Narrators of tradition have quoted the number of Imām as-Sādiq’s students as four thousand. The socio-economic conditions of his time necessitated utmost efforts to be made by the Imam (‘a) in the areas of expanding authentic and original Islamic teachings and in the training and education of the faithful students. For this reason the books of tradition and other books quote and cite more traditions from Imām Ja‘far as-Sadiq than from any other infallible Imāms. See Shaykh Mohammed al-Husayn al-Muzaffar, Imām Al-Sādiq, trans. Jāsim al-Rasheed (Qum: Ansariyan Publications, 1998). [Trans.]

3. As the spiritual and moral guides of the Islamic society, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) have had an undeniable impact in morally training the Muslims and spiritually nurturing them. Apart from the Shī‘ah who believe in the Imāms (‘a) as having lofty stations, others have always considered the Imāms (‘a) as their practical moral and spiritual guides and have been greatly influenced by the Imāms’ spiritual merits.

Moreover, the valuable propagational role of the Imāms (‘a) and their extremely profound and sublime supplications, which up to now have spiritually adorned the Muslim society, must not be forgotten. These individuals from the progeny of the Prophet (ṣ) who were at the peak of spirituality, morality and insight kept the sparks of spirituality in Muslim society illuminated.

4. For the Umayyad and ‘Abbāsid rulers, the infallible Imāms (‘a) were the main threats to their despotic rule, because the Imāms (‘a) consistently propounded that their right to rule had been usurped, and that the caliphate was a fundamental departure from the political philosophy of Islam. Because they put forward this belief and because they were figures in the station of Imamate—and in view of their relation to the Holy Prophet (ṣ)—they could always keep the torches of justice and anti-oppression illuminated in the hearts of the people. The spiritual power of the Imāms (‘a) as the righteous descendants of the Apostle (ṣ) had always threatened the rule of tyrants and frightened the oppressive caliphs. Their persistent decisions to persecute and martyr the infallible Imāms (‘a) were signs of this fear and apprehension.

The opinions of the Imāms (‘a) have been known to the people in every period. Everybody knew that the Umayyad and ‘Abbāsid caliphs had basically never recognized the legitimacy of the Prophet’s progeny (‘a). As such, many Shī‘ah would not even refer to judges appointed by the government and, based on the religious teachings, they regarded referral to these judges as tantamount to disbelief [kufr].(1) It is true that the principle of dissimulation [taqiyyah](2) served

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1- - Al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 67.
2- - Taqiyyah: prudential dissimulation of one’s true beliefs under conditions of acute danger to one’s life, property, or honor, a practice based on Qur’an, 3:28. As its observance depends on certain terms and conditions, it may be obligatory [wājib], recommended [mustahab], abominable [makrūh], or forbidden [harām]. For a discussion of taqiyyah, see Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi, Taqiyyah (Dar es Salaam: Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania, 1992),; Al-Taqiyya/Dissimulation,; and ‘Allamah Tabataba’i, Shi‘ite Islam (Albany, N.Y., 1975), pp. 223-225, [Trans.]

as an important rule in the sociopolitical life of the Shī‘ah, but the opposition of the Imāms (‘a) to the rule of the caliphs was no secret. The caliphs had always felt threatened by them and strived to uproot their spiritual and social standing in society.

In view of the aforementioned points, it can be concluded that in addition to the intellectual current called Shī‘ism, in which the basis is the Imāms’ interpretation of religion and leadership of the Shī‘ah who had always been a significant part of the Muslim society, the contributions of the Imāms (‘a) in the ideological, moral, legal, and political spheres are indeed significant and known to all.

Philosophy of occultation [ghaybah]

With the acceptance of Imamate as one of the principles of Shī‘ah faith, the following questions are raised: According to the Shī‘ah viewpoint and ideological foundations, Imamate is an essential principle, therefore what is the justification for occultation [ghaybah]? Since divine wisdom demands the existence of an Imām in every period, how is the long deprivation of the Muslim society from Imamate justified and analyzed?

The answer to these questions can be inferred from the following points:

1. As stated earlier, only general imāmah can be proved rationally, but based on divine exigency, [the philosophy behind] the number of Imāms (‘a) is unknown to us and we cannot comprehend it based on rational means.

2. The presence of an Imām is a grace from God, but the deprivation from the presence of an Imām can be traced back to the actions of the

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people.(1) This deprivation also existed to some extent during the periods of the Imāms (‘a) prior to the 12th Imām (‘a).

3. The people’s open connection to the hidden Imām (‘atfs)(2) is in abeyance as far as his two functions of religious authority and political leadership are concerned, but the Imām’s esoteric Imamate continues and the people benefit from the blessing of his existence.

At this time, the Imām (‘atfs) is like the sun behind the clouds. Just as the sun behind the clouds is beneficial, the Imām (‘atfs) has an esoteric connection with his Shī‘ah and the people are able to benefit from the blessing of his existence. Basically, the world exists owing to his existence and this function of the Imām which is “ontological guardianship” [wilāyat-e takwīnī], “spiritual guardianship” [wilāyat-e ma‘nawī] or “esoteric Imamate” [imāmat-e bāṭinī] does not depend on his physical presence.

Keeping in view the above mentioned points, the principle of the occultation of the Imām (‘atfs) is compatible with the general theory on Imamate and it is here that the dynamic idea of “waiting” [intiẓār] takes form. It is true that this idea also exists in other religions,(3) but in Islam to wait for the day when the Savior [munjī] removes oppression from the world, turned the imaginary state of a totally hidden subject into a belief about a true celestial living being. Attention to a savior in the future turned attention to a living person who, along with all other people, is also waiting. He lives with us and actually feels our pains and sufferings.(4) Waiting is a positive and constructive idea, entailing many benefits some of which are as follows:

a. The belief that the people are attached to his rule and consider other governments as usurpers is a kind of idealism, fundamentalism and

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1- - See ‘Allāmah Ḥillī, Kashf al-Murād fī Tajrīd al-I‘tiqād, Section on Imamate.
2- - The abbreviation, ‘atfs stands for the Arabic invocative phrase, ‘ajjalallāhu ta‘ālā farajah ash-sharīf [may Allah, the Exalted, expedite his glorious advent], which is invoked after mentioning the name of Imām al-Mahdī (‘atfs). [Trans.]
3- - See Muḥammad Riḍā Ḥakīmī, Khurshīd-e Maghrib, chaps. 4-6; Ṣāfī Gulpāygānī, Muntakhab al-Āthār.
4- - See Sayyid Muḥammad Bāqir Ṣadr, Baḥth Ḥawl al-Mahdī, p. 55. The book’s English translation is An Inquiry Concerning Al-Mahdī (Tehran: World Organization for Islamic Services, 1980). [Trans.].

legalism in their individual, social and political beliefs. It is exactly like the condition of a people who, on account of particular political conditions, feel as if their Imām is in exile and believe that they must pave the grounds for his advent or reappearance. As such, “waiting” [intiẓār] and “protest” [i‘tirāḍ] from the Shī‘ah viewpoint is an intellectual tradition within the core of the Shī‘ah political thought, and Imamate has not ended with the occultation of the last Imām (‘atfs) but it rather continues in a particular way.

b. “Waiting” naturally gives direction to the human perspective as well as meaning to the future. It removes despair and hopelessness from the hearts of humanity. It gives purpose to their actions and makes them more ready to show all their talents. Hence, “waiting for deliverance [by the Imām’s advent]” [intiẓār al-faraj] has been described as the activity of the Prophet’s ummah.(1)

“Waiting” has made the Shī‘ah always endure difficulties and afflictions with optimism and dynamism and given them a profound perspective and positive orientation. Individuals whose aspiration it is to implement global justice, righteous government, benevolent administration, human dignity, and freedom from oppression no doubt follow a correct, lofty, goal-oriented, and divine social philosophy, and these are among the blessings of “waiting” and effects of the occultation [ghaybah].

c. The meaningfulness of history and the glad tidings of victory for the faithful, which have also been repeated many times in the Qur’an, is one of the secrets of ghaybah. The promises for the faithful to inherit the earth, their assumption of power, the establishment of the government of faith, the unification of religion, the unification of government, and the unity of society, among others, give enthusiasm to the faithful to engage in social struggle.(2) From the Islamic viewpoint, therefore, the philosophy of history acquires a particular meaning. Accordingly, the future is not a condemnation of the will of the powerful and the arrogant. Rather, the will of God will prevail through the establishment of a benevolent state, the dominance of the

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1- - ‘Allāmah Majlisī, Tuḥaf al-‘Uqūl, p. 37.
2- - See Sūrah Anbiyā’ 21:105; Sūrah Nūr 24:55; Sūrah Qaṣaṣ 28:5.

divine religion, and the prevalence of divine values throughout the world. Therefore, history is leading us towards a positive future.

d. “Waiting” requires emphasis on values and negation of anti-values. These ideals embellish the sociopolitical view of the faithful. The faithful who are eager to implement social justice and the rule of values will never submit to deviant viewpoints and always focus their attention on a better society and a righteous world.

The spirit of waiting is an emphasis on the theory of Imamate and the negation of any dispute over it. The Shī‘ah waits for his Imām and this negates the sovereignty of any other.

e. For those who wait for the Imām [muntaẓirīn], any social change is valuable provided that it contributes in the realization of the ideals of the period of occultation. Thus, “waiting” itself is a positive social movement and a sublime idea within a revolutionary thought. For this reason, in terms of implementation, objectives, achievements, and elements the Islamic Revolution in Iran must be compatible with the ideals of the period of waiting. “Waiting” teaches the Shī‘ah not to gather under any banner that is incompatible with the global revolution of the Mahdī (‘atfs).

Moreover, the ideal or aspiration of “waiting” gives a particular rationality to the Revolution. Since the period of occultation is always a period of waiting, the revolution constantly continues in different aspects until the establishment of the global government of the Mahdī (‘atfs).

f. Belief in Imamate during the period of waiting endows humanity with the opportunity to follow the perfect man [insān al-kāmil] (of his time). Based on following the perfect man, the waiting person is always strengthening himself spiritually.

A question

Given the prolongation of the period of occultation, the following questions may be raised: How can it be accepted that a hidden Imām is living with us? Or, is not the belief that a perfect man could be living with us for so long in occultation a superstitious one?

In reply to these question, some points are worth considering:

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Firstly, the reality of the occultation of the Mahdī (‘atfs) has been mentioned by the infallible Imāms (‘a). Therefore, those who believe in the truthfulness of Imāms (‘a) can easily accept the 12th Imām’s (‘atfs) occultation.(1) The acceptance of the long life of an Imām who is commissioned by God is not an unusual thing in religious culture.

حکیمی کین جهان پایبنده دارد

تواند حجّتی را زنده دارد

The All-wise Who created this world,

Can prolong the life of a proof.

Also, the event of the birth of the Imām of the Time (‘a) has been mentioned in history and books of tradition [ḥadīth], and even those who witnessed the event have been identified.(2)

Secondly, the Imām of the Time (‘atfs) was in minor occultation [ghaybah aṣ-ṣughrā] for around 70 years(3) during which period, the proof of his existence had been well known to the Shī‘ah. Through his special deputies [nawwāb], he had contact with the people. Apart from the four special deputies, he had also appointed his representatives [wukalā] in different cities and towns. Naturally, his deputies and representatives were men of distinction and honor. It is absurd to think that distinguished men would have been in contact with an imaginary and superstitious person for 70 years. During that period, many individuals had submitted their requests to the Imām (‘atfs) through his envoys, and in reply to some of them, the hidden Imām (‘atfs) had written letters. These letters are technically called tawqī‘ some of which are recorded in ḥadīth books.

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1- - See Uṣūl al-Kāfī, “Kitāb al-Ḥujjah,” Bāb fī’l-Ghaybah”; Biḥar al-Anwār, vol. 51, p. 110.
2- - Gulpāygānī, Muntakhab al-Āthār, p. 355.
3- - During the first 70 years of his Imamate, the Imām of the Time (‘atfs) had special deputies to manage on behalf of the Imām the affairs of the Shī‘ah. This period is known as the minor occultation.
Imamate and the duty of the faithful [mu’minīn]

After the acceptance of Imamate as an ideological principle, this question is raised: What is the duty of a faithful believer with respect to the principle of Imamate?

Undoubtedly, the primary requisite of the belief in the Imām (‘atfs) is that we have to accept the way of the Imāms (‘a) as our intellectual, ideological and practical reference. This means that alongside the Qur’an, we have to give importance to the sayings and actions of the infallible Imāms (‘a). Relying only on the Qur’an and ignoring the authentic narrations is tantamount to ignoring the intellectual authority of the infallible Imāms (‘a) which is in no way compatible with true Shī‘ah doctrines.

Thus, one of the duties of the faithful is to love their Imāms (‘a). In the Holy Qur’an, love of the Prophet’s (ṣ) relatives [dhū’l-qurbā] has been mentioned as the reward for his prophetic mission.(1) Many of the laws and rules of etiquette prescribed in Shī‘ah collections of law for the people are meant to attain the station of affection—nay love—of the pure Imāms (‘a). In the Shī‘ah way of thinking, the Imām is the theoretical and practical leader to whom the people have also deep emotional attachment.

The emphasis on the performance of pilgrimages [ziyārāt] and establishment of esoteric relationship with the Imām (‘atfs) which are common in Shī‘ah tradition generates a particular disposition in the faithful. Attachment to the truth and the truthful [tawallā] and the establishment of affectionate relationship lead to the intellectual and emotional fondness of the faithful to the perfect man.

This characteristic naturally influences the political insight and attitude of the faithful. Love of those who have dedicated themselves to the religion and the struggle against the ṭāghūt makes the heart of the faithful overflowing with abhorrence and disgust for the oppressors and infidels. As such, tawalli and tabarri [disgust for falsehood and the people of falsehood] have a pivotal role in the attitudes and interactions of the faithful society.

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1- - Sūrah Shūrā 42:23: “Say, I do not ask of you any reward for it except the affection for [my] relatives.”

Apart from purifying man’s soul, love of the Imāms (‘a) generates similar loves, embellishes his beliefs, organizes his actions, fosters idealism, and cleanses his sociopolitical insight and outlook.

Meanwhile, the people have been invited to take the Imāms (‘a) as their mediators in their supplications and connections to God. In our religious sources, supplication without any mediator or medium [wasīlah] has been described as defective and unanswered.

The practice of tawassul(1) which is one of the elements of the Shī‘ah beliefs is in no way incompatible or inconsistent with monotheism [tawḥīd]. It is rather the acceptance of a kind of linear system in the relationship with the Creator. In the Shī‘ah culture, the Imām is the embodiment of tawḥīd on earth. In establishing communication with him, the people are actually connected with the vicegerent of God and this never contradicts the sovereignty of God. In fact, it is exactly dependence on God. Tawassul is the fostering of a special type of spiritual thinking in which the perfect man is highlighted and in the relationship between human and God the existence of the Imām is not ignored. In principle, the term tawassul, or resorting to intermediaries, is the promotion of the idea that God is the Essence of the universe and through the means of tawassul we seek to connect to this Essence. In this idea, the Imām is the cord of Allah [ḥabl Allāh]. By clinging to this cord, the people provide the means for their improvement and proximity to God. Just as facing the qiblah (the Ka‘bah) is a manifestation of tawḥīd and can never be considered worship of an object, turning to the Imāms (‘a) and seeking their intermediation is also not a negation of tawḥīd. In fact, the Imāms (‘a) are the spiritual ka‘bah of the hearts. By drawing the people toward it (the more they pay attention to the Imāms (‘a)) the more their belief in God will increase.

The other duty of the faithful is to increase their knowledge of the Imāms (‘a). In religious sources, it is stated that knowledge of God depends on knowledge of the Imāms (‘a).(2) In the words of the Imām

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1- - Tawassul: literally, to resort to intermediaries. Technically, it refers to the practice of petition prayer addressed to God through a holy personage such as a prophet [nabī] or a saint [walī]. [Trans.]
2- - Biḥār al-Anwār, vol. 5, p. 312 as narrated from Imām al-Ḥusayn (‘a).

(‘a) himself, it is thus narrated: “God has no sign greater and more important than us for the people(1) and had it not been for us, God would not have been recognized (as He ought to be recognized).”