In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Knowledge of the Chosen
Shiites hold the belief that the Prophet and the Imams are chosen by Allah (SWT), and hold exceptional virtues. Just as a teacher must have certain characteristics that would make him suitable for teaching, a representative of Allah (SWT) must also carry certain qualities that identify him as someone sent by Allah (SWT). Alongside the qualities such as infallibility and the ability to perform miracles, a representative of Allah (SWT) must have the knowledge which is bestowed to him by Allah (SWT).
In all acts of worship two parties, the master and the servant are mentioned. Of the necessities of following a person is that his obligations and prohibitions are wise; because as mentioned by the Holy Quran, “Assuredly conjecture can by no means take the place of truth.”(1)
The Holy Quran identifies the act of obeying the Imam just as one would obey the Prophet without any conditions, “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority (Imams) from among you.”(2)(3)
Now if a person is put in the position where following him is a required act of duty, then it would be necessary that the person has certain qualities and characteristics like infallibility and knowledge. Otherwise, the person would make a mistake due to his lack of knowledge, and following such a person would be unwise.
This issue is an important factor that Ahl al-Bayt (PBUT) have referred to in their logical arguments and sayings in numerous occasions.
Let us turn to an example narrated by Zurais Kanaasi who narrates that he heard Imam Baqir (PBUH) speak the following phrases in a gathering of his companions, “I am surprised at the group of people who claim they follow our path and consider us their Imams, and who believe following our orders to be obligatory just as following the Prophet’s orders are obligatory, yet despite all these they break their vows, stand weak against the opponents, and take away from our right. And regarding those whom truth has been revealed unto them about following us, they find fault with us.
Does it seem logical that Allah (SWT) has made it obligatory onto His servants to follow His chosen people, and yet hide the information of the earth and the sky from His chosen people? Likewise can you accept that Allah (SWT) deprive His chosen people of the knowledge of what they might be asked about, while the stability of the religion depends upon this knowledge?”
According to Imam Baqir (PBUH), Allah will not appoint someone to the position of Imamate and order us to follow him, yet He disguises the knowledge and realities of the world from him. This belief is an offense to the Lord, and a lack of understanding about the divine wisdom.
But this leads us to this question that if indeed Allah (SWT) has given the Imams (PBUT) the knowledge of the realities of the world, then why were they faced with so many difficulties and problems from their enemies, and eventually were martyred as a result? This was exactly the same question Humran (a companion of Imam Baqir (PBUH)) asked Imam Baqir (PBUH).
Humran once said, “May my life be sacrificed for you, do you know of the difficulties Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (PBUH), Imam Hassan (PBUH), and Imam Hussain (PBUH) endured in their rise for Islam? And in this path what were the problems? What did the rulers and oppressors do to those infallible Imams until they martyred them?”
Imam Baqir (PBUH) said, “O’ Humran, Allah (SWT) ordained those difficulties on the infallibles, and the difficulties came into practice by their own will. Imam Ali, Imam Hassan, and Imam Hussain (PBUT) rose by the knowledge handed down to them from the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP), and any others of us who remained quiet, did so based on his knowledge and insight.
O’ Humran if any of them (the Imams) in their times of difficulty and hardship had requested and if they insisted such from Allah (SWT), certainly they could have been freed, and Allah (SWT) would have saved them from the miseries. And the enemies would be destroyed in a blink of any eye.
O’ Humran, the hardships that they endured was not due to their sins or punishment from sins, rather the hardships was for escalating their position to the highest that Allah (SWT) desired to give them. Be aware not to fall for false schools that can overcome you and make you astray the straight path.”(4)
And based on this it becomes clear that the persistence of Imamate and accepting religion which requires revelation, can only take place when the Imams answer all the questions of people in all areas. This requires that they own comprehensive knowledge. Therefore their rise, shout, and silence are all tools for carrying on Islam. The Imams (PBUT) base the necessity of performing these actions on their knowledge about the result of their action.
(Selection taken from the book “The Knowledge of the Chosen in Narration, Wisdom, and knowledge” by Dr. Muhammad Asadi Garmaroudi, with minor changes)
We offer our condolences on behalf of Roshd website on the 7th of Dhi al-Hijjah martyrdom of the inheritor of the Prophet’s knowledge, and scholar to the realities of the world, Imam Muhammad ibn Ali al-Baqir (PBUH) to all Muslims around the world, especially to you dear friend.
Roshd Shia Islamic Website
1. The Holy Quran, (10:36)
2. The Holy Quran, (4:59)
3. Further explanation about interpreting “those in authority” as the Imams (PBUT) have been brought in Shiite interpretation books and books regarding theology such as second volume of “Lessons from Principles of Religion“ by Dr. Asadi Garmaroudi.
4. Usul al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 261-262