The Conception of the Fallibility of the Prophet is an Evil Innovation

“There are a few passages in the Qur’an which are quoted against the view of the total infallibility of the Prophet such as v 43 in Ch. IX, the first verse in Ch. LXVI, and the first eight verses of Ch. LXXX.34 It is said that on these three occasions the Prophet was reproached and censured for what he had done, which means that the actions undertaken by him on those occasions had no divine approval. But this statement is not correct. On the first two occasions, though God addressed the Prophet, the tone of each of the verses relating to the respective occasions shows that the censure was directed against those toward whom the Holy Prophet showed leniency. Such leniency is an aspect of that universal grace with which he was commissioned, so he was already allowed by God, as the sentence, ‘God forgives thee (O Our Apostle)’ signifies, to permit those unstable in faith to remain behind, but that permission was expressed in the usual rhetorical manner of addressing the one who is innocent, meaning to censure and warn the real culprit. So God addressed the Prophet on both occasions and the Prophet did what God had already allowed him to do. He did nothing but what God wanted him to do. Therefore God warned the wrongdoers involved in both cases not to take undue advantage of the grace and leniency with which God had sent the Prophet. In the first eight verses of Ch. LXXX, the personal pronouns, which some commentators have wrongly taken as referring to the Holy Prophet refer actually to some other person who belonged to the aristocratic class of the companions of the Prophet. He had brought a few people of his class to the Prophet, and he was anxious to see the Prophet more attentive to the people of his class than the people of the class of the poor such as the blind companion, Ibn Maktoom, who came to see the Prophet on that occasion. The whole blame is against the attitude of the Quraysh aristocrat who frowned and turned his face from the blind companion. Otherwise the Prophet, who was ‘with the Qur’an and the Qur’an was with him’ from the beginning to the end of his life, was far from deviating from its teachings, even for a moment. The Qur’an repeatedly states the stand taken by the previous prophets against the arrogant aristocrats who used to despise those believers of their time who were poor. Among the followers of the Prophet there were some arrogant aristocrats of the Quraysh who used to consider themselves superior to the poor followers of the Prophet like persons known as Ashab al-Sufa35 those homeless persons who used to sleep on the platform of the mosque (such as Salman, Abu Dharr, ‘Ammar, Miqdad, etc.). So in order to warn those arrogant people the Qur’an repeatedly addressed the Holy Prophet not to despise the poor believers and turn towards the rich people. But actually the admonition was directed against those who used to despise the poor followers. Even if it is granted that the Prophet was addressed, he was certainly not meant to be the person warned, for as the sixth Imam of the House of the Prophet, Ja’far as-Sadiq, says, ‘All the reproving addresses of this kind in the Qur’an which apparently refer to the Prophet are actually directed at others. “It is like the proverb in Arabic — Thee do I address, but hear ye O neighbour”.’

There are three more verses in the Qur’an which have been quoted to prove that the Prophet had committed some sin for which in two of the verses (55 of Ch. XL and 19 of Ch. XLVII)36  he is ordered to pray to God for forgiveness; and in one place, in the first and second verses of Ch. XLVIII God forgives all the sins committed by the Prophet in the past or those that might be committed by him in the future. This total forgiveness is presented as due to the victory which God achieved for the Prophet. In the first two verses it is clear that the dhcmab (sin) referred to is the creaturely shortcoming, in devotion and submission, to which all the highly conscious finite beings are always alive. They always feel that however great may be their obedience, and deep and wide may be the degree of their realization, yet they are unworthy of His greatness and His transcedent sublimity.

It is the awareness of their creaturely shortcoming which keeps them in a state of supplication and incessant prayer for mercy and forgiveness. This humble petitioning attitude is the basic condition of their infallible devotion and submission. It does not imply the committing of any sin or disobeying any of the divine commands. This is a precautionary measure which every righteous man has to take against the possible display of the inherent defects. When we recite in prayer ‘O God, guide us to the right path,’ it does not mean that we are out of it now. It means ‘O God, keep us on the right path so long as we are on the move towards thee.’ It is a precautionary measure against possible deviation.

Regarding the first two verses of Ch. XLVIII, the Qur’an asserts that God ’caused victory’ for the Prophet to cover past and future sins. Another purpose was to complete His bounties on the Prophet. The third purpose was to guide him to the right path and the fourth was to render to the Prophet unique help. It is obvious that there should be some relevancy between the victory and all the four purposes mentioned in the verses, particularly the first purpose: the forgiveness of the past and future sins of the Prophet. Unless the sin in question is not rooted in defeat and frustration, the victory cannot be the cause of its removal. The Qur’an does not mention anything done by the Prophet against the will of God, except the three cases already referred to. Suppose that on all three occasions he acted against the will of God, and suppose that God also, like human despots, forgives the sinners and sets the prisoner free on some happy occasion like victory over an enemy, yet no despot will give a general license to a sinner to commit sin even after the victory or the happy occasion is over, for that would mean allowing a person to live licentiously throughout his life. Satan, after thousands of years of devotion was condemned for ever on account of one sin. Would God, for an ordinary victory over a few pagans of Mecca pardon the Prophet’s sins of the past and license him to sin in the future? On the same pattern of thinking a report is made popular, that the Prophet said, ‘Perhaps God has looked at the people of Badr (those Muslims who took part in the first battle against the pagans of Mecca) and said unto them: “Do whatever you like; I have, verily, forgiven you”.’ These sort of concoctions were allowed to creep into the minds of Muslims to protect certain companions of the Prophet, who despite their participation in the celebrated battle misbehaved afterwards and committed crimes which were deterimental to the very cause of Islam.

The above is the wishful interpretation of some people; but the Qur’an here and elsewhere confirms the reasonable view of the Ahl al-Bayt that the Holy Prophet in particular, and all the Prophets in general, are far from being influenced by Satan and satanic forces and are also far from deviating from the right path to which God has guided them. It is not possible that God gave the Prophet in particular and other prophets or any other rational being in general, a license to commit any wrong which they liked for the sake of some good deed already done by them. It is against the Qur’anic facts and assertion: ‘Whosoever does a bit of good shall see it and whosoever does a bit of evil shall see it.’ (Ch. XCIX: vs 7-8)

Moreover, if God intended to forgive any sin that might be committed by the Prophet, then there was no sense in mentioning the third purpose of the victory in the verse ‘and to guide thee to the right path? because once license is given to him to commit sin the third purpose becomes redundant for there is then no need of guidance to the right path. He is forgiven, whatever path, right or wrong, he may adopt. Therefore, there should be no doubt that the term ‘sin’ used here or elsewhere in the Qur’an concerning the prophets does not signify what it generally is taken to mean. The Prophet never did anything which could displease God. As for what the Qur’an asserts, viz that God will not be pleased to see the breast (the mind and heart) of His devoted servants and messengers get constricted on account of people’s doing wrong and disobeying God, it does not mean that God is displeased with the Prophet. It is a very commend­able manifestation of fatherly affection and grace that the misbehaviour of the children should pain the father and cause his breast to become constricted. Thus the one sent by God with the fatherly status of universal grace for all the worlds, if he sees the slightest misbehaviour in any one in any corner of the world to which he is sent, he would feel distressed and pained and as the head of the worlds under him he would also feel ashamed and guilty before the Almighty for the misdeeds of those to whom he is like a father. God points out on the one side the amount of the fatherly grace and anxiety of the Prophet for the people, and on the other the effect of the misdeeds of the people on the Prophet.

We already know how cramped your breast feels because of what they say: (Ch. XV: v 97)

‘And be thou patient (O Our Apostle Muhammad!) and thy patience is not but by (the help of) God: (Ch. XVI: v 127)

‘And grieve not for them and be not distressed of what they devise.’ (Ch. XXVII: v 70)

God does not like His vicegerent to suffer such mental anguish. Therefore, to remove the cause of such suffering He blesses His Prophet with the spiritual victory of having a clear view of the whole universe and every part and particle so that he may realize that in the total view of the whole, nothing is wrong or evil, and nothing is out of His control and domination.

‘Say: (0 Our Apostle Muhammad!) (unto the people), ” We believe in God, and in what hath been sent down to us, and what hath been sent down to Abraham and Ishmael, and Issac, and Jacob, and the Tribes, and in what was given to Moses, and Jesus and the Prophets from their Lord, we make no difference between any of them, and we unto Him are Muslims.’ (Ch. III: v 84)

It is this view of the whole that removes the cause of distress. The mental anguish commendable from one aspect, yet is unpleasant from another and as such is termed as dhanab (sin), and is removed from its root. The relative and partial view of the universe is the root. In this view the good and bad, things pleasing God and displeasing Him are discriminated. On this ground, the Imams (of the Ah! al-Bayt) have interpreted the sin here as the sin of the Ummah; the group to whom the Prophet was sent. According to this interpretation the manifest victory is not confined to the temporal conquest of Mecca or even the whole of Arabia or the entire globe. These conquests are, comparatively speaking, of less importance, though the conquest of Mecca was the occasion on which gradual revelation of the Qur’an was recited by the Prophet.37

However, here in this Ch. XLVIII, the term fatha (victory), has been qualified as manifest (mubin) in the beginning verse, and as near victory (fathan qariba) in v 27, and also in Ch. LXI: v 13. But in Ch. CX the term victory has been used without qualification. According to some commentaries the near victory refers to the establishment of the godly kingdom on earth during the reign of the last Imam al-Mahdi.

‘Verily, they regard it to be far distant, And We see it (very) near: (Ch. LXX: vs 6-7)

The manifest victory refers to the realization of divine domination of the universe in the stage of viewing it as a whole. These victories refer to the spiritual states of the Prophet’s realization, be it associated with temporal victories or not. This realization covers people’s sins, misdeeds and ungodly actions. Thus, the victory would cover the unpleasant scenes which would make the Prophet feel ashamed before God, who has given him the responsible status of vicegerency. This view relieves the Prophet of the heaviest burden of responsibility as outlined in v 6 of Ch. VII.

‘Verily We shall question those to whom (the messengers) have been sent; and verily We shall question (too) those (messengers) who have been sent:

It is obvious that of all the Prophets the one who is the last and final is the supreme and as such his responsibility before God is greater than that of the others. Nothing can relieve the Holy Prophet from feeling the heaviness of the burden of his responsibility, but the realization of divine victory and his hold over all that comes under his (the Prophet’s) responsibility; the assurance given to him by God that ‘the end is better for him than the beginning’ and that his Lord Cherisher would give him very much to please and satisfy him:

‘And verily, the end is better for thee than the beginning (of life)! And soon will give thee thy Lord that thou shalt be well pleased!” (Ch. XCIII: vs 4-5)

and the appointment of one to assist him in shouldering the burden. To this effect, ‘Ali as the nearest person to the Prophet in blood, spirit and character was declared by the Prophet as his brother, assistant, executor of his will and his successor after him to be listened to and obeyed by all. This declaration was made by the Prophet along with the announcement of his mission in the third year of his ministry (vide Tarikh-e Tabari and al-Kamil of Ibn al-Athir). This kind of strengthening of the hands of the Prophet by giving him an assistant of the same spirit and blood, qualification and excellence is exemplified in the Qur’an by the story of Harun being appointed by God as the assistant, supporter and successor of Musa. To this effect the Prophet of Islam declared that ‘Ali was to him what Harun was to Moses.

In dealing with the Qur’anic evidence of the infallibility of the Prophet two opposite terms, Sharh-e Sadr and Ziq-e Sadr, have been explained. The former means broadmindedness and as such it is a very commendable virtue and no Prophet or vicegerent of God can be lacking in it while the latter means narrowmindedness, which has been presented as a condemnable vice with which no prophet can be tainted. Here in answer to those who have quoted the first verse of Ch. XLVIII as evidence to the Prophet’s sin, we have pointed out that the sin referred to here is the distress felt by the Prophet owing to the ungodly behaviour of the people. So, it was actually the sins of others that caused him distress. We have said that this constriction of the chest is a commendable virtue from one aspect, though God does not will to let his vicegerent continue to suffer even this distress.

These two statements about the mental distress commending it as a virtue on the one hand and condemning it as a vice on the other seem to be contradictory and confusing. But this seeming contradiction is over if the reader keeps in mind that there are two different constrictions of one’s mind due to two opposite causes. One is the distress caused by the feeling of personal loss and sufferings resulting from the narrowness of the ego-center which makes one indifferent to the welfare of anyone else other than one’s self. The other kind of mental distress is caused by the feeling of loss suffered by others. Such feeling is due to the broadness of one’s ego-center which feels in union with others and considers their loss and suffering or their gain and happiness as one’s own. The Prophet felt happy when he saw people really prosperous and happy and he felt worried and distressed when he saw people in real loss and distress. ‘Ali, the Prophet’s successor in the status of the final vicegerency of God, says, ‘It is painful for ‘Ali as the head of the State to fill his stomach and sleep, feeling satisfied, when even one of his subjects in the remotest part of his kingdom is starving.’41 The extent of the kingdom of the final vicegerents of God is not bounded by any geographical boundaries. They are the very Al-e Ibrahim (family of Ibrahim) who have been given the Book, the wisdom and the great kingdom (Ch. IV: v 54).42 The temporal rule over a small or large region of the earth may be great in the eyes of the average man but to the Almighty Creator and Sovereign of the whole universe, His are the kingdoms of the heavens and the earth.

‘Certainly infidels are they who say: “Verily, God, He is the Messiah, son of Mary;” Say (O Our Apostle Muhammad!): “Who could hold anything against God, if He intendeth to destroy the Messiah, son of Mary, and his mother and (all) that is in the earth together?” For unto God belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth and what is between them; He created what He willeth; Verily, God over all things hath power.’ (Ch. V: v 19)

So the great kingdom given in charge of the Holy Prophet and his twelve successive vicegerents of God from the Al-e Ibrahim must be the one which is great in dimension and duration in the sight of God and not in the eyes of those whose ambition does not rise beyond earthly pleasure and gain.

‘Whosoever intendeth this (fast hastening) immediate (life) We hasten unto him in it what We please for whomsoever We intend, then assign We unto him the hell; he shall enter it despised, driven away: (Ch. XVII: v 18)

Therefore, one can imagine how great would be the concern of the person responsible who is in communion with God and with every part and member of the universe. That concern cannot be remedied but with the assurance from God of the ultimate manifest victory of good over evil, truth over falsehood, right over wrong, justice over injustice, love over hatred, and grace over wrath. It is narrated that on the eve of the departure of the prophet from this world, when all the chief angelical entities, particularly Israel, the arch angel of death, were attending the Prophet and waiting for his permission to perform their final duty, the Prophet began murmuring, ‘What about my followers?’ He was waiting for the arch angel Gabriel to bring him the final assurance from God about the destiny of his followers, for whom he was concerned, and it was only when Gabriel repeated the recitation of God’s assurance given to the Holy Prophet during the early days of his mission, that the Holy Prophet said, ‘Now death is pleasant to me.’38

In connection with the question of the infallibility of all the Prophets in general and the Holy Prophet in particular, the reader may find many points dealt with here as repetitive or overlapping with the points dealt within our treatise on the complete representative status of Prophets, particularly the last Prophet. We also quoted from the Qur’an in the light of sound reasoning to the effect that every action, talk and endorsement of the Prophet including his domestic, private and individual movements and rest, even eating, drinking, sleeping, and relations with wives and children, in fact, all aspects of his life were controlled by revelation. However, there is no contradiction between the points dealt herewith and in the said treatise. The repetition and overlapping could have been avoided, but there is justification in not doing so, owing to the importance of the matter and the fact that repetition may produce a deeper effect on the mind of the reader.

Before concluding the above discourse on the evidence which elucidates the heavenly aspect of the Prophet’s life, which dominates the material life, a brief account of the different points of view about the life and teachings of the Holy Prophet is given here to comprehend his ‘tremendous character’ {Khulq-e azim).”

ESSENCE OF THE HOLY QURAN THE ETERNAL LIGHT  –by Ayatullah Agha Haji Mirza Mahdi Pooya -pages 341-351