We discussed in our previous talk that the Imams and the Prophets have given us a principle to use when faced with contradictory traditions. And that principle is the necessity of referring to the Qur’ān. This principle that they have left us illustrates that the Qur’ān is the foundation and the pivot of the entire religion, and that the Qur’ān is the “heavier weight” as has been mentioned in some forms of the traditions of Ghadīr. What is meant by the Qur’ān being “heavier” is its foundational nature, in that everything orientates around it and not around the Hadīth.
If someone says that the Imāms are equivalent to the Qur’ān, my response is that I am not referring to the Imāms I am referring to the traditions that have reached us, which unfortunately have been attributed to them but in reality are in clear contradiction to what they have said. I do not reject the traditions of the Ahlul Bayt, I reject those traditions that are falsely attributed to them. My reason for doing so is the Qur’ān, which is greater reason than these false traditions. First prove to me that Imām Sādiq said such and such, or that Imām Alī said such and such, on that basis I won’t criticise what Imām Sādiq has said, I will criticise and judge with the Qur’ān what is falsely attributed to him. There is a big difference between these two. That’s why I have stressed in my works the difference between what the Imāms definitely said and did, and what has been falsely attributed to them.
The entirety of this discussion is on the actions that are merely reported and attributed to the Imāms. If I was with Imām Sādiq and he gave me a command I would act according to that, as that command has probative force. That is because the Imām himself is the speaking Qur’ān. My issue is with those narrators or individuals who attributed words and actions to the Imāms. On top of this we know very well that 99% of the traditions we have are paraphrased by the narrators. What they are narrating isn’t the exact words or sayings of the Prophet or the Imāms but their own interpretation, and their interpretation has no probative force.
So now we have two sets of contradictory traditions, one that says the condition for going to Paradise is belief in wilāya, and the other set which says the opposite and that a person can go to Paradise without belief in wilāya. Now let us apply the criteria that the Imāms advised and refer these traditions to the Qur’ān. Surā Nisā, verses 97 to 99, says the following “Surely (as for) those whom the angels cause to die while they are unjust to their souls, they shall say: In what state were you? They shall say: We were weak in the earth. They shall say: Was not Allah’s earth spacious, so that you should have migrated therein? So these it is whose abode is hell, and it is an evil resort”. This verse is very clear, those who were doing wrong and were from the weak (mustaḍ’afīn) will go to Hell. However, the following verse brings an exception to this, and this exception is of utmost importance. “Except the weak from among the men and the children who have not in their power the means nor can they find a way (to escape)”. So those who were weak won’t enter Hell. The following verse explains what will happen to them “So these, it may be, Allah will pardon them, and Allah is Pardoning, Forgiving”. So will God forgive them or not? We have it established that God’s mercy precedes His anger. Of course, they will be forgiven and enter Paradise.
Now let’s look at the traditions and see who exactly is considered a weak person (mustaḍ’af). Someone might protest that I am returning to the narrations again to solve this. No, not at all. My proof is the three fundamentals I have previously mentioned. These three fundamentals are rationally deduced and not found explicitly in the traditions. These are rational concepts that certainty has probative force. It is not permissible to act in contrary to the certainty, not in the realm of permanence (thubūt) and neither in the realm of evidence (ithbāt). This technical discussion I will leave for those who are experts, as you know there is a difference between the popular consensus of the Usūli scholars and what my teacher Shahīd Sadr would say on this topic, on whether certainty in and of itself had probative force (dhātan hujjat). I have discussed this extensively in my commentary on al-ḥalaqa al-thālitha as well as other areas in my baḥth al-khārij. The issue of certainty, and whether or not a person can act in contrary to it is an epistemic discussion. Let it not occur to you that I am basing this entire discussion on one or two traditions so that you might contest and criticise the validity of these traditions. I am only bringing these traditions because you base everything on what is in the text so I am responding to you in such a fashion.
The tradition in al-Kāfī is as follows:
سألته عن الضعفاء، فكتب إلي: الضعيف من لم ترفع إليه حجة
I asked [the Imām] about those who are weak. He replied, the weak are those who have not had the proof established on them yet.1
So if the proof is established on him, and he understood it, and his heart was satisfied with it, but after all of this he rejects it. Would he be considered to be amongst the mustaḍ’af or not? However if the proof wasn’t established in the first place, as is the situation with pretty much everyone today. In all honesty, [before we talk about others] even the Shi’a today don’t even know the proof behind the truthfulness of the Shi’i school, so what about everyone else then? First there needs to be the establishment of a proof. Secondly the person needs to have the capacity to understand that proof. Thirdly his heart needs to be satisfied with that proof, meaning the person accepts that this proof is complete, final and irrefutable. After this if he rejects it he is not a mustaḍ’af.
On the contrary, when the first condition is not satisfied and the proof has not been established, or the second condition of understanding it does not take place. Or he understood it but his heart was not satisfied with it as his critique and analysis found it to be incomplete, in such an instance the person would be a mustaḍ’af. This is what the first tradition says. The second tradition Imām Alī mentions in Nahjul Balāgha, and I’ll mention the tradition from al-Mīzān of Tabatabā’ī:
وفي النهج ، قال عليهالسلام : ولا يقع اسم الاستضعاف على من بلغته الحجة ، فسمعتها أذنه ، ووعاها قلبه
It is found in Nahj by Imām Alī: The title of istiḍ’āf does not apply to someone for whome the proof has reached, he has heard it and his heart is satisfied by it.2
So if the proof does not reach the person, or it reaches him but he doesn’t understand it, perhaps due to a weak intellect and that he doesn’t have the capacity to understand what’s said to him. Or he has a strong intellect but he finds the proof incomplete, like for example when a person uses the verse of Taṭhīr (33:33) to prove infallibility. The other person will say I accept the verse, I accept it speaks about the Ahlul Bayt but it doesn’t prove their infallibility and nor is it limited in number to them five. In this case, the proof has reached him, he heard it, the only difference is his heart wasn’t satisfied with it.
To conclude, we have three conditions to ascertain a person’s istiḍ’āf. If these three occur then he isn’t included as a mustaḍ’af, and if one of these three conditions are missing then he is to be considered one. And we previously said that these people are included in the forgiveness of God. So does this now reconcile with the traditions that speak of wilāya being a condition to enter Paradise or not? It does, because the Imām is saying that the condition of wilāya is predicated on the existence of these three conditions, and that the person is not a mustaḍ’af. Yes, for a person who has had the proof established on the wilāya of the Ahlul Bayt, and he has understood it, and his heart is satisfied with it, and in this circumstance he rejects the wilāya, his actions won’t be accepted. However as for a person who lacks one of these three conditions, he will enter Paradise even though he did not believe in the wilāya of the Ahlul Bayt.
On this note we finish the discussion on this topic, and that it is permissible for anyone to act not only according to any Islamic school, but in fact any religion in general, on the one condition that he has certainty producing evidence to back up his beliefs.
Sadiq Meghjee is a frequent contributor to Iqra Online and has been studying in the seminary of Qom for 6 years. Prior to entering the seminary he pursued an accounting qualification and worked in London. His field of interest is intellectual history.