Translator’s Note: I will not be translating some of the quotes anymore, especially those that contain a lot of technical jargon, unless they are quick and easy to do so. Otherwise, I will simply provide a summary of the text, instead of precise translations. This is to save myself time and be able to transcribe these lessons in a shorter period, as translation of quotes from different works takes up a lot time, especially when they need to be precise. If I do happen to have time in the near future, then I will return to these blog posts and perhaps work on translating some of the quotes that I left out. Those who understand these terminologies are generally familiar with Arabic or the technical discussions already and thus can read the Arabic quotes directly. Those not familiar with these terminologies will not be able to understand them even with their translation, as they often require additional explanation and preliminaries.
In yesterday’s discussion we spoke about the texts that say if a jurist reaches reality, they get two rewards, and if they make a mistake they get one reward. We said, an important discussion needs to be resolved here, which is: can reward and punishment be given for an action that is outside the scope of free-will? A person may willingly worship God and they will be rewarded for that, or they may commit sins and they will be punished for that. However, if there is something that it outside the scope of human will, can they even be punished or rewarded for it?
One of our main critiques against those who believe in pre-destination and determinism is that if everything is outside the scope of our will, what are we being punished and rewarded for? So, the question that we need to ask is, arriving at reality or not arriving at it, is this something that is within the scope of free-will or not? The response to this is that no, it is not within the scope of free-will. Why? Because reality is not in the hands of the person, by which he can act in accordance to it or not.
The traditions we read from Sunnī works, they are reliable and in fact according to their methodology one can attain assurance that these were uttered by the Prophet (p). But have these traditions also been reported in Shi’ī works or not – we said not in these exact words and at least not in any of the reliable works. Even though we pointed out that a number of Shi’ī scholars have said these traditions are accepted by the Muslims in general.
Let us say the words do not exist in our works, but does the subject matter exist in our works or not? We read a reliable tradition from Imām al-Ṣādiq (a) yesterday that relays a similar message. But, there is another claim here that says, as a matter of fact this message is mutawātir in our traditions, a not just a solitary report. Who makes this claim? Let us look at what Shaykh al-Anṣārī in his Farāid al-Uṣūl, vol. 1, pg. 41 writes:
و قد اشتهر «أنّ للمصيب أجرين و للمخطئ أجرا واحدا». و الأخبار في أمثال ذلك في طرف الثواب و العقاب بحدّ التواتر
The statement “for one who arrives at reality there are two rewards, and for one who is mistaken there is one reward” has become famous, and the reports that concern this subject with respect to both reward and punishment have reached a level of tawātur.
Now I am not affirming these have actually reached a degree of tawātur, but rather my point is to show that there is someone from amongst our scholars who claims such a thing. Now the question here is, these traditions that we were referring to are about reward, but what is Shaykh al-Anṣārī referring to when he says punishment? He is referring to this tradition present in Musnad of Ibn Ḥanbal, and other works as well:
من سن في الإسلام سنة حسنة كان له اجرها واجر من عمل بها من بعده من غير أن ينتقص من اجورهم شيءٌ ومن سن بالإسلام سنة سيئة كان عليه وزرها ووزر من عمل بها من بعده من غير أن ينتقص من اوزارهم شيءٌ
In this tradition we see that if someone establishes an evil and wrong practice, they will also be punished for the deed of all thosewho follow this practice after him. How can God punish someone for something that they had no knowledge of, nor any ability to discern whether it was in accordance with reality or not? Furthermore, how can this be reconciled with the verse [35:18] And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another.
These narrations in Sunnī works are reliable. As for our books, when we look at al-Kāfī, vol. 5, pg. 9, we find this tradition:
قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص مَنْ سَنَ سُنَّةً حَسَنَةً فَلَهُ أَجْرُهَا وَ أَجْرُ مَنْ عَمِلَ بِهَا إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ مِنْ غَيْرِ أَنْ يُنْقَصَ مِنْ أُجُورِهِمْ شَيْء
It only speaks about the reward, and not the punishment. Furthermore, everyone who has commended on this tradition in our books says that the chain of transmission for this narration is weak. I want to mention an interesting point here: a lot of traditions in our books that are weak, happen to be reliable and strong narrations in Sunnī works. This is true not just for jurisprudential traditions, but even theological. A lot of theological traditions in our books may be solitary reports, but in their works, they may be mutawātir and maqṭū’ al-ṣudūr. A good example of this is the Ḥadīth of al-Thaqalayn, which is a solitary report in our works, but in their works, it is mutawātir. Therefore, a strong researcher will make sure to study their works as well.
In any case, there isn’t another place that this tradition can be found in our works, but Shaykh al-Mufīd does refer to it himself in his work al-Fuṣūl al-Mukhtarah, where he writes:
وهذا مبيّن في قول النبي من سنّ سنة حسنة كان له أجرها واجر من عمل بها إلى يوم القيامة ومن سن سنة سيئة كان عليه وزرها ووزر من عمل بها إلى يوم القيامة
We should engage in a rational discussion regarding the matter. We may say it is possible for Allah (swt) to reward someone for something that was not within the scope of their free-will, out of His Grace. However, can we really justify God’s punishment for something that was not within the scope of our free-will? Apparently, Shaykh al-Mufīd seems to realize that this tradition has an issue, and so he tries to bring verse [29:13] from the Qur’ān to justify it. He writes:
وقد قال سبحانه واليحملن اثقالهم واثقالاً مع اثقالهم، يريد به عقاب اضلالهم لمن اضلوهم من الناس والأصل في هذا تعاظم العقاب عليهم بما يفعل من القبيح في الاقتداء بهم وتعاظم الثواب
These are all discussions that need to be resolved, and you should discuss these questions amongst yourselves.
In any case, we should now return to our main discussion now.
One of the main verses used to argue that women are condemned, is [12:28] So when her husband saw his shirt torn from the back, he said, “Indeed, it is of the women’s plan. Indeed, your plan is great.
When this verse is read in contrast with another verse, where God says, [4:76] Indeed, the plot of Satan has ever been weak, it seems that women are worse than Satan and may perhaps have been Satan’s teachers (sarcastic remark). Because, her plot and planning is great, but Satan’s plot and planning is weak.
Side point: some people think thematic commentaries on the Qur’ān have no cons, and are great. As a matter of fact, one of their biggest cons is that they just take one single word or concept and evaluate its usage in all the different verses. A thematic commentary will tell us that the word kayd (plot/planning) has been used in these two verses, and what we conclude from it is that women’s plots are greater than Satan’s.
However, what often times gets overlooked in these commentaries is the context. The description of Satan’s plot being weak comes in one context, and the description of women’s plot being great comes in a different context. We end up neglecting the context of these verses and simply focus on the usage in a given verse – this is one of the problems with thematic commentary, and one must be mindful of it.
In any case, this meaning is generally accepted by some – why? Because there are some traditions backing up this understanding. A narration in volume 4 of Tafsīr al-Burhan says the following:
عمر بن إبراهيم الأوسي، قال: روي عن رسول الله (صلى الله عليه و آله): إن كيد النساء أعظم من كيد الشيطان، لأن الله قال: إِنَّ كَيْدَ الشَّيْطانِ كانَ ضَعِيفاً
It has been reported from the Prophet (p) who said: The plot of women is greater than the plot of Satan, because Allah (swt) said: ndeed, the plot of Satan has ever been weak
For those who say one should not study logic, they should know that verse [12:28] is using form one of syllogism. This is a good example of it. Furthermore, we find a number of scholars reiterating this as well. For example, in Minhāj al-Barā’ah – a book we referenced earlier as well – of Ḥabībullah al-Hāshimī al-Khū’ī, vol. 5, under sermon 79, he writes:
ینبغی لنا ان نذکر هنا شطرا من اوصاف النساء و اخبارهن و بعض مکایدهن من طریق الاخبار و غیرها، والمقصود بذلك التحذير عنهن والتنبيه على كيدهن حيث وصفه الله سبحانه في كتابه العزيز بالعظمة مع أنه جعل كيد الشيطان ضعيفا
Then, some scholars tried to determine the exact point of difference which makes a woman’s plot greater than that of Satan’s. They took it for granted that this is the case, and went into explaining why this is the case. Fayḍ al-Kashānī in his exegesis al-Aṣfa fī Tafsīr al-Qur’ān, vol. 1, pg. 578 writes:
فَلَمَّا رَأى قَمِيصَهُ قُدَّ مِنْ دُبُرٍ قالَ إِنَّهُ مِنْ كَيْدِكُنَّ إِنَّ كَيْدَكُنَّ عَظِيمٌ لأنّه يعلق بالقلب و يؤثّر في النّفس، لمواجهتهنّ به، بخلاف كيد الشّيطان، فإنّه يوسوس به مسارقة
He takes it for granted that women’s plots are greater. He says, this is because Satan only whispers , but a woman’s plot attaches itself to the hearts and affects a person’s soul. ‘Allāmah Ṭabaṭabā’ī does not allude to this difference, but does in fact say that a woman’s plot is greater simply on merit of being a woman. This makes the cause an ontological matter. He writes, in volume 11, pg. 143:
و نسبة الكيد الى جماعة النساء مع كونه من امرأته الدلالة على أنه إنما صدر منها بما أنها من النساء، و كيدهن معهود معروف، و لذا استعظمه و قال ثانيا إِنَّ كَيْدَكُنَّ عَظِيمٌ
What he is saying here does not make this verse restricted to the wife of the ‘Azīz, rather he understands it to be the case for all women. We also find in Baḥr al-Muḥīṭ, vol. 6, pg. 262 al-Andalūsī writing:
و الخطاب في من كيدكن لها و لجواريها، أو لها و للنساء. و وصف كيد النساء بالعظم، و إن كان قد يوجد في الرجال، لأنهن ألطف كيدا بما جبلن عليه و بما تفرغن له، و اكتسب بعضهن من بعض، و هن أنفذ حيلة. و قال تعالى: وَ مِنْ شَرِّ النَّفَّاثاتِ فِي الْعُقَدِ و أما اللواتي في القصور فمعهن من ذلك ما لا يوجد لغيرهن، لكونهن أكثر تفرغا من غيرهن، و أكثر تأنسا بأمثالهن
He is saying, such plots are essentially part of a woman’s nature. What we are quoting here are just a few examples, but many of the exegetes have said similar things. Over here we now need to discuss how we are to understand these Qur’ānic verses. There are four things we need to look into.
First: This comparison between Satan’s plot and a woman’s plot, does doing a commentary of the Qur’ān with the Qur’ān allow us to just take these two verses and compare them and reach this conclusion? This is why I have said in my work Manṭiq al-Qur’ān that I do not agree with the way Qur’ānic commentary through the Qur’ān is done and explained by some scholars, including Sayyid al-Ṭabaṭabā’ī. In one sense of the meaning, it ends up being a thematic commentary of the Qur’ān. This is not only not precise, but it results in this sort of understanding mentioned above.
Second: This event, is it an actual proposition referring to all women, or is it restricted to an individual (i.e. Zulaykha)? We are not realizing that the person being quoted in this verse is not Allah (swt) – He (swt) is not the one speaking, rather it is a statement made by Zulaykha’s husband. So, this discussion concerns whether all verses of the Qur’ān are to be understood in an unrestricted sense, or should they be predicated on individual and restricted instances? If we know that this verse concerning the wife is restricted to her (qaḍiyah fi al-waqi’), do we have the right to turn it into a general principle? Of course not. Some people think every verse that comes in the Qur’ān must be turned into a principle and that it should be applicable for all times – no, it is not so simple as some people make it out to be. We must investigate this matter and not take it for granted.
Third: If we accept that this is a general principle regarding women, then is it an innate and natural trait of a woman, or is it a sociological trait? If it is the former, then we can say it cannot be changed. However, if we say it is the latter, then we can say it is changeable as societies change. Perhaps in a time where a woman is not able to get her rights, she may resort to such plots. But in a time or under societal conditions where her rights are given, she may not have to resort to such plots. When do we find children begin lying to their parents? When they realize that speaking the truth has a negative consequence for them. However, if they knew that speaking the truth about their mistakes will not be met with negative consequences, rather they will be dealt with in a positive manner, they will have less reason to lie.
From here, another important discussion can also be opened up, which we will not get into, and that is: why did hypocrisy become apparent in Medīnah, but not in Makkah? Why did some of the Muslims resort to hypocrisy in the Madanī period, but not during the Makkan period? Some orientalists, and those who look at the history of Islam in a negative light, including some people in some Arab countries and elsewhere, will say we will tell you why this was the case. They will say, because there was no Islamic government in Makkah, but when they came to Medīnah there was a formation of a government which was a dictatorship in nature. Thus, we see in most places where people are not free and are under a dictatorship, their apparent is different than their inner views and conditions.
Now this is a question and challenge posed to us – does this question require a response or not? Is it enough for us to say that these orientalists simply want to destroy Islam? This is one reading of Islam. You on the other hand read the history of Islam in different light, and say there were some factions who were not sincere from the beginning, like the Banū Umayyah who wanted to damage Islam. This is your reading of it, and there is another reading of it elsewhere – does that other reading require a response or not? Does it need an analysis or not? They will bring a lot of evidence for their view as well, like the narration attributed to the Prophet (p):
أمرت أن أقاتل الناس حتى يقولوا لا إله إلا الله
I have been commanded to fight people until they say ‘there is no god but Allah’
Is this dictatorship or not? Now we know there was no hypocrisy in Makkah, but in Medīnah we had hypocrites and they kept growing in numbers. There are hundreds of verses even condemning them and condemning the act of hypocrisy. There is even a whole chapter in the Qur’ān called al-Munāfiqūn (the hypocrites). This is something for you all to think and ponder about as well.
Fourth: If we were to agree with all the previous discussions: that the comparison between Satan and women’s plots is correct, that the verse is not restricted to one woman, that it is an innate nature of women – a question still remains: is this statement at the end of the day binding and proof for us or not? Because, it is not Allah (swt) saying this, rather this is a statement of the husband.
Allah (swt) quotes in the Qur’ān from inanimate objects, from animals, from the Jinns, from Satan, from the Prophets, from fallible humans and so on. Does everything and anyone the Qur’ān quotes from binding upon us? What do we do with the verses of the Qur’ān where Allah (swt) quotes one of his creation?
This is a difficult discussion. Some try to conclude the discussion by saying that whatever the Qur’ān quotes from others, and does not reject it, it therefore accepts it. However, let us take a look at Sūrah al-Naml:
[27:17] And gathered for Solomon were his soldiers of the jinn and men and birds, and they were [marching] in rows.
[27:18] Until, when they came upon the valley of the ants, an ant said, “O ants, enter your dwellings that you not be crushed by Solomon and his soldiers while they perceive not.”
[27:19] So [Solomon] smiled, amused at her speech, and said, “My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to do righteousness of which You approve. And admit me by Your mercy into [the ranks of] Your righteous servants.
So here we have an ant telling the other ants to hide, in case Solomon (p) steps on them in a state of heedlessness. This is an ant speaking about a Prophet who we believe to be infallible, yet the ant presumes heedlessness and carelessness about the Prophet. The Qur’ān does not refute the words of the ant. The subsequent verse says, Solomon smiled, but is this smile a sign of approval and surprise over the ant’s words or a rejection of it? We cannot tell from the verse it self, but what we do know is that the Qur’ān isn’t refuting the opinion of this ant explicitly. What we need to know is whether what this ant said was true or not? For those who say that the Qur’ān did not refute the words of the husband in Sūrah Yūsuf, and thus his words are true, then they should also believe what the ant has to say regarding the Prophet (p), because there is no explicit rejection of her view.
There are tens of quotes like this, and one can write a masters paper on this topic.