In The Name of Allah ÓÈÍÇäå æÊÚÇáì, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful.
Firstly, without delving into the particularities of the essay itself, I would like to mention one weakness in your essay, which Brother Ali H Syed has also mentioned. This is the fact that your essay is too dependent on “what ifs” and speculations which do not, generally, contribute towards an intellectual discussion. Of course, if without these “but ifs” the same results, then they may be used to make a point but, in the end, it all depends on the subject at hand whereby sometimes it may be extremely useful to use such devices while at other times it is extremely naïve and unpractical to do so. I believe that this discussion is an example of the latter. Why? I will discuss this later on.
Another point I want to talk about is your principle of LONAP. I would, to a large extent, agree to this principle but there are instances whereby you either consider something to be an infringement of LONAP while I don’t or else I would disagree that Allah (SWT) never breaks this principle. An example of this is you saying, “The carrier of authority will have to be kept safe and secure till doomsday which would need a continued miracle and continuation of miracles goes against the LONAP Principle.” We must realise here that if you consider Allah (SWT) protecting the Imam as a violation of LONAP, then you must also do so for Allah (SWT) protecting the Quran from any adulterations for more than 1400 years! Surely - as in the case of the first 11 Imams (peace be upon them all) - protecting 11 humans for a maximum period of about 250 years is much less of a breach of LONAP than is protecting a book from corruption for 1400 years. Also, then you must also consider Allah (SWT) protecting the Prophet of Islam
from the hordes of his enemies that existed. Another example of such a “breach” that comes into mind is the protection of the Prophets (peace be upon them all) from the temptations of Satan, as indicated by the following verses:
All I am trying to do by this example is to show you that protecting the Imams (peace be upon them all) is not something that God would not do. Whether you do consider these examples as breaches of LONAP or whether you try and explain them away is not my concern. The only point I am trying to make is that all of these are examples of prolonged protection or intervention provided by Allah ÓÈÍÇäå æÊÚÇáì. If these are acceptable to you, then why is the notion of Allah (SWT) protecting the Imams (peace be upon them all), His Hujjahs on the Earth, illogical to you?
Now coming to your article itself, the first set of arguments you raised were for the successful implementation of the system.
Firstly, the Imam himself, is a protector of the message. Now you argue that “why would Allah send a series of successors (Imams) to protect the message when the message was already protected as Allah says in the Quran? The answer to this is twofold:
1. Allah (SWT) is going to protect the Quran, yes, but how? Just like God is going to guide all humans but does he just miraculously do it? No. He uses Prophet (an apparatus) to do so. In the same way, according to Shias, the Imams (peace be upon them all) are the apparatus who are going to protect it.
2. Is the message only consisting of the Quran? Unless you belong to the Quran only sect, you would agree with me that the Quran is very essential but the Hadith and the Sunnah of the Prophet
also form part of the message. Now, even if Allah (SWT) is going to somehow protect the Quran, how will the Sunnah be protected? In fact, this Sunnah has been constantly violated and attacked over the centuries and there is a need for us to have someone to go back to who knows the Sunnah and can be trusted 100%. This is the Imam. Now, if you try to argue that God can miraculously protect the Sunnah and the Quran, then is this not a violation of LONAP?
You have said, “Why would Allah go against LONAP and continue a series of custodians of the message when writing had been invented, records were being kept, the message was recorded not only on paper but also in human memory. In reality, this was the reason why the last messenger was sent at this stage when these landmarks in human civilization had been achieved,” and are therefore blaming the corruption of the previous messages on the lack of writing and recording. This is a gross error on your part. You are ASSUMING that either writing was not invented in the times of the previous messages or that these messages were not written down. As for the first option, it is an utter lie since writing was invented long before the Torah and Injeel were sent down yet these messages have been corrupted. There is ample historic evidence to support this. Also, these books had been written down and the proof for this comes from the fact that the present day New Testament contains many books which were either written by the disciples themselves or during their time, as according to Christian records. Now, I find it very hard to believe that the disciples did not know how to write during the time of Jesus (peace be upon him) and, miraculously, learnt how to do that after his death. So, they knew how to write during the time of Jesus (peace be upon him). Just as you can figure out that writing the message would have greatly contributed towards preserving it in its original form and I am sure Allah (SWT) and Jesus
could have figured that out as well. So, they would have obviously commanded the disciples to write the message.
Firstly, what this does is refutes your premise that these past messages were lost due to the recording of them. It also brings forth one important point: even though these messages were written, they had been lost. So why is it that Quran has been protected for centuries? Considering the conditions of the past nations whose messages been written but yet were changed or corrupted, it can be said that this is the “normal” thing to happen since God did not intervene and keep the previous messages intact. Now, if the Quran has been protected for more than 1400 years, would you not consider this an infringement of LONAP?
In fact, I would argue that the Imams are, in a way, there to reduce this miraculous intervention of Allah (SWT) in stopping the message from getting corrupt. What we must realise is that all the past messages were prone to corruption but since the office of Nabuwwah had not yet been closed, Allah (SWT) would have allowed the messages to have, atleast on a mainstream basis, to have become corrupt since He would send other Prophets later on to correct these distortions.
I have said that Allah (SWT) allowed the message to get corrupt on a mainstream basis because due to the Justice of Allah ÓÈÍÇäå æÊÚÇáì, the right message must have been present in the world at all given times. This is because if the original message had been totally obliterated, then it would be injustice on God’s part as the generations living in these times could easily argue against Allah (SWT) saying that there was no right message for them to follow so how much ever they could have tried, they would not have found the right path and, therefore Allah (SWT) cannot punish them. Also, if we look at the example of Ashab al Kahaf, we find that these men had come years after Jesus (peace be upon him) and were, therefore, in a time where the wrong teachings in Christianity had already been spread and yet they were so steady on the right path that Allah ÓÈÍÇäå æÊÚÇáì, although they were not Prophets, provided a great miracle for them! Now, if these people were not following the original message, why would Allah (SWT) provide them with a miracle? If he did so, it would be encouraging the wrong beliefs of these people to be accepted more. This shows that they were on the right path and that, even in such turbulent times, Allah (SWT) did keep his message alive, even though it was only in small quarters.
Coming back to my discussion, the option of sending a new Prophet to correct the past nations was open for all the Prophets (peace be upon them all) except the Prophet of Islam
. This is, exactly, why after the Prophet
, Allah (SWT) chose successors to act as guardians to this message and protect it from corruptions as had happened in the case of the past generations because once it got corrupted, no new Prophet was going to come and correct these adulterations and innovations. It was, therefore, incumbent on Allah (SWT) due to His Justice, to provide a means of keeping this last message secure and away from adulterations.
One may argue that Allah (SWT) could just miraculously protect His message and there is just no need for special “guardians” to protect the message but this is a violation of LONAP and a far bigger one than you may consider the protection of the lives of 12 individuals. If Allah (SWT) would have willed to do such miraculous things, then he may not have even sent any Prophets or books and just guided people in their heads so such an argument is asking too much!
The answer to your second point, “It needed extraordinary measures to be taken for the safety and security of the Imam and that of his announced successor,” is already given above.
This is also one of the reasons why I had started off by saying your article is too reliant on “what if” discourses. The “what ifs” here have no meaning because the things you mentioned – I chose to not paste them to save space – did not happen. Also, like brother Ali H Syed mentioned, if we are going to use this line of reasoning, then even Prophet hood is going to seem like an impractical system because I could argue “what if Prophet Muhammed
had died without finishing his message?” I could easily use this – and other similar arguements – to try and do away with many Islamic concepts such as Prophet hood and even Khatm e Nabuwwah.
As for your third point, “It would also need an extraordinary condition of the successor (such as a son in case of Imamate) to be ready at time of the current Imam’s departure from the world,” your argument is pretty atheistic, in my view. If Allah (SWT) willed, Jesus (peace be upon him) as an infant talked! We must remember that the wisdom, knowledge and experience of Prophets (peace be upon them all), and likewise the Imams, is not worldly or gained through worldly means such as attending a school. If this were to be the case, then Prophet Muhammad
who had never been to any sort of school or learned from anyone could not have been the best of Prophets (peace be upon them all) since he, as the best, possessed more knowledge than any other Prophet. The following verse of the Quran will be of interest to you:
يَا يَحْيَى خُذِ الْكِتَابَ بِقُوَّةٍ وَآتَيْنَاهُ الْحُكْمَ صَبِيًّا (19:12)
· 19:12 (Asad)
[And when the son was born and grew up, 
he was told,] "O John! Hold fast unto the divine writ with [all thy] strength!" - for We granted him wisdom "while he was yet a little boy,
· 19:12 (Y. Ali)
(To his son came the command): "O Yahya! take hold of the Book with might": and We gave him Wisdom even as a youth,
· 19:12 (Picktall)
(And it was said unto his son): O John! Hold the Scripture. And We gave him wisdom when a child.
NOTE: All the translations are Sunni.
In this verse, Allah (SWT) is clearly stating that he endowed wisdom to Prophet Yahya (peace be upon him) when he was only a child. If you find this, as the Will of Allah ÓÈÍÇäå æÊÚÇáì, strange, then so be it – you would be going against the Quran if you did - and if you don’t, then it would be inconsistent and contradictory if you found the concept of Imams being children strange. After all, it does not matter how old you are but all that matters is that you are guided by Allah (SWT) and then, even if you have no experience through worldly means, you would still outshine those who did. This time, I am providing a verse of the Quran, which every Muslim believes in, as opposed to a Shi’ite book so I hope you would consider this argument more credible.
Something I find more interesting is related to the response you have provided to Brother Ali H Syed’s response:
ambrosechappel, on 16 December 2011 - 06:34 AM, said:
I am not arguing about anyone’s belief(you have the right to hold any beliefs) I am talking about the practicability of an institution based on logic for which a person has to be ready at time of acceding to the office. Remember, the portfolio of this office i.e. Imamate entails the gigantic task of both religious and political leadership of a huge Ummah and not just being an Aalim (even for being an aalim you need to be mature enough). Going by your logic, if age is irrelevant then a one-day-old neonate can be an Imam to take over the charge of leading the ummah. Does that sound rational to you? Any examples of child-prodigies don't count here(and i can argue on that but because of being irrelevant i will not touch upon it) because in your criterion age doesn't at all matter even if a neonate-prodigy being an Imam is in question.(Just as a side note, how strange is it that in order to establish the truth of the capabilities of an Infallible Imam you are presenting the example of the fallible Allama Hilli which is itself doubtful as to whether he was a mujtahid at the age of nine or not but it's still irrelevant from the point I made above. Is it not better to present some books written by the Imams while being young or some political decisions taken by them to show their extraordinary abilities)
Your arguement that a child could be an aalim as this just requires knowledge but a child cannot be an Imam since his duties incorporate not only knowledge but also have a political dimension to them as they are supposed to govern the Muslims is in stark contradiction with the above verse. The verse above provides the most decisive response you could ever get since it does NOT say “…We gave him Ilm
(Knowledge) when a child,” but rather, it says, “We gave him Hukm
(Wisdom) when a child.” Wisdom encompasses experience as well as knowledge. This is why it is very common to hear the term “wise” in relation to kings and political leaders and rarely do we hear “knowledgeable king”. If Allah (SWT) provided him with Wisdom, could he not do so for the Imams (peace be upon them all)? If you consider our Imams being children when they took on their duties to be a breach of LONAP and, therefore, illogical then what would you think about God giving Prophet Yahya (peace be upon him) wisdom when he was yet a child?
Your third objection was as follows:
ambrosechappel, on 14 December 2011 - 11:54 AM, said:
¨ We see that even the presence of Prophets at all times was not considered necessary and nowhere in Quran does Allah make this claim. This would have been an ideal situation in order for the message to be protected especially when it was neither recorded in writing nor memorized.
I have already discussed about whether these previous messages were recorder or not. Also, I fail to understand that, even if we assume that they were not written, how were they not memorized?
ambrosechappel, on 14 December 2011 - 11:54 AM, said:
¨ It needed a continued presence of Infallible beings in the society. There is a difference of opinion between the followers of different Islamic sects about even the Prophets being infallible. Let’s take the stance of those who consider the Prophets being Infallible as correct. We see that even the presence of Prophets at all times was not considered necessary and nowhere in Quran does Allah make this claim. This would have been an ideal situation in order for the message to be protected especially when it was neither recorded in writing nor memorized. We can even see that the message was forgotten or it got corrupted during later centuries because of an absence of a protector of message. My supplementary question here is Why was the message allowed to be corrupted in the past? Why were extraordinary measures not taken to protect the message by continued presence of Prophets at that time? What was the fault of those to whom the message reached in a corrupted form? All Shias believe that the current message still got corrupted (as done by Ahl-e-Sunnah and other Shia sects) even despite the office of Imamate being in operation.
Firstly, I would like you to refer to my reply to your first point where I have talked about why the message cannot be totally obliterated and corrupted. Coming to the objection you have raised, the message has NOT been corrupted. The followers of the Imams (peace be upon them all) have the right message. Just because wrong beliefs exist in the name of Islam, it does not mean that the message has not been protected.
If you want there to be no corruptions at all, then you are going against LONAP since Allah (SWT) has given us free will and choice and, therefore, over a period of time, it is inevitable that some may diverge off from the right path.
Secondly, if you believe that having guardians for the message is against LONAP and against Allah (SWT)’s practice, then this put doubt on whether the Islam Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him and his progeny) is even there today or whether it has been lost just like the previous messages. How do I know whether the “real” Islam has not been lost today because, according to you, if Allah (SWT) protects His Message, then he is going against LONAP. So, why should I believe that any sect today has the right Islam because Allah (SWT) did not protect the message so why should I just not believe Islam was also corrupted like the previous versions of the Divine Message?
Also, if you believe that this message could be corrupted, then would this not be injustice on the part of Allah ÓÈÍÇäå æÊÚÇáì. Why should he punish me when the real message was just not there! Even if I were to agree that the previous messages were totally corrupted such that no one has the right message, there is a very fundamental difference between this message and the previous ones: the message of Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him and his progeny) is the last message.
If Allah (SWT) had let this message become corrupted, then since there is no other Prophet to come, it would stay like this till the day of Judgement. Therefore, all the generations to come after this would have been dealt with unjustly by Allah (SWT) and cannot be held to blame for choosing the wrong path but this cannot be the case. In such a case, why would Allah (SWT) punish me when the real message was just not there? In fact, even if I would agree to your arguement that that no extraordinary measures were taken to protect the older messages, this message requires that such measures be taken - when the message is in danger - so that the message of Allah (SWT) is not lost forever.
If you try to argue He kept it intact without the need of Imams, then is this not a much bigger violation of LONAP than Allah (SWT) keeping it secure with the use of the Imams (peace be upon them all)? Surely, the proposition that the Office of Imamah is there to protect the message is much less of a violation as there is, at the least, an apparatus Allah (SWT) is using to protect the message rather than just doing so using miraculous means!
As for the diversions within Islam, the Office of Imamah is just there to protect the real message until the end of times, which is their prime purpose. As long as the message is found on the face of the Earth, they have done their job. Whether others accept it or not, and diverge off to other beliefs, is not part of their responsibility, although they would try to avoid this. The diversions are an obvious consequence of the free will we possess and the result of evil people trying to manipulated religion for their own benefit.
Their case is just like the Prophets (peace be upon them all). I will take the example of Jesus (peace be upon him): when the original message of Moses (peace be upon him) had been lost by the majority, Jesus (peace be upon him) was sent to revive the message but if the Jews did not listen to him – which was the case for the majority – he cannot be held accountable. He tried to bring them to the right path – just as the Imams (peace be upon them all) tried to bring people to the right path and stop them from diverting – but if they did not accept, he is not to be blamed. Similarly, as long as the Imams (peace be upon them all) did their task honestly, they are not to be blamed for the actions of others as they have free will and are at liberty to choose what they believe in and want to do. Protection is not
ambrosechappel, on 14 December 2011 - 11:54 AM, said:
¨ On the other hand, there would have been expected the display of completely ‘non-resistant’ attitude from Ummah regarding the God-Appointed Imam in such highly controversial matters as politics which are always fraught with difference of opinion. No matter what the opinion of others (even if they were allowed to have one), the Imam had to give the final decision which would have reduced the contemplative faculties of the minions as they would always be expecting the Imam to give the final verdict. Consultation, which encourages cogitation, is alien to the system of Imamate. This would have harmed the followers in three ways a. reducing their thinking abilities b. reducing their competitive abilities c. making them completey servile without new ideas and thoughts. They would merely have to be The Followers Par Excellence.
I have a simple question for you: would you agree and recognize that all these arguments can also be raised against Prophet hood and, since Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him and his progeny) also used to be the political leader of the Ummah, then are you as willing criticise the legitimacy of his political leadership as you are in trying to critcise the political leadership of the Imams (peace be upon them all)? Don’t you think you are using double standards?
For your next point, the reply is the same questions.
ambrosechappel, on 14 December 2011 - 11:54 AM, said:
It would have needed a continuous chain of persons, each and every act of whom in government would be perfect, immaculate and exemplary. They would be successful in each and every of their endeavor and policy in order to keep the Ummah satisfied. This would have been their duty to keep the Ummah happy even if conditions were not good. This is an extraordinary task and too much to expect from the Imam. And if he does not maintain excellent conditions, it is too much to expect from the Ummah to keep following him.
Also this goes back to how legitimate you think the political leadership of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) was? The answer is the same as for the last and second last points.
ambrosechappel, on 14 December 2011 - 11:54 AM, said:
It also needs a team of !00%(virtually Infallible) sincere, perfect, and obedient comrades who would assist the Imam to run the affairs of the state as any mistake of theirs would be considered the mistake of the Imam himself. Not only that, but their mistakes would disrupt the whole system and things would go wrong. See, the example of Ali’s® forced arbitration at Siffin when his followers changed the whole course history and that of the institution of Imamate.
For one, I don’t understand how the mistake of the followers can be considered the mistake of the Imams (peace be upon them all)? If this is the case, then I would ask you to call the “mistake” (as Sunnis believe it to be) of Khalid ibn Walid when he killed so many to be the mistake of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny).
As for the second point you made, I would ask you to consider the leadership of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) yet again! This argument can, easily, be made against the leadership of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) as well. What would you do then? Like I have said before, the duty of the Imam is to guide the people and do the right thing at the right time and they cannot be blamed for the wrong doings of their followers. This is like blaming Prophet Aaron (peace be upon him) for the Jews worshipping the calf because he was, after all, the political and spiritual leader of Bani Israil when Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) had left for Mount Sinai. If I were to extend this “faulty” argument, then we would have to blame Prophet Solomon and Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon them both) for every crime that happened during their period of rulership; from every mugging to murder, all the blame should, according to your logic, be on them!
I would say that in all the four points you made in this sections, you were applying extra ordinary amounts of double standards because all the arguments you are trying to make can, just as legitimately, be made against Prophets (peace be upon them all) and yet you choose to disregard this and believe in one concept while you refuse to accept the other!
I am stopping here and will continue later on because this post is getting extraordinarily long – the longest post I have ever made on Shiachat – and will write the next part of my response in another post.
I apologise for the length of this post but since the opening post was so long, I could not answer amply without writing at length myself.
INSHALLAH, I have been helpful, clear and objective in my reasoning and have not hurt anyone!
May Allah (SWT) bless us all, our families and loved ones, may He guide us all to The Straight Path with His Perfect Guidance and may He, The Forgiver of Sins and The Oft-Forgiving, forgive all our sins for, indeed, there is neither any refuge not any respite for the sinners except in Allah ÓÈÍÇäå æÊÚÇáì.