عنوان مقاله [English]
This paper in the field of Islamic theology scrutinizes the implication of the verse Aṭīʿū on the infallibility. The verse (اطِیعُوا اللَّهَ وَ أَطِیعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَ أُولِی الْأَمْرِ مِنْکُمْ) “Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those of you who are in authority” (Q. Nisa /59) is one of the most important Quranic reasons that Islamic theologians have prepared for proving the infallibility of prophets, especially Islam prophet. Muslim theologians have made a reason like this: 1) God has absolutely commended Muslim believers to obey the Messenger and those who have authority on others among them. 2) If they were not infallible, God’s absolute command to obey them would be wrong. 3) But God never is wrong. 4) Therefore, they were infallible. The author thinks that this reasoning is wrong. According to some evidences, God’s command to obey the Messenger and who are in authority is not absolute. On the other hand, there is no correlation between God’s absolute command to obey someone and his infallibility.
The Infallibility of God’s prophets is one the most significant issues in Islamic theology (Kalam). Muslim theologians have posed some rational and traditional reasons to prove the infallibility of prophets. One the main traditional reasons is this verse of the Quran which says: (أَطِیعُوا اللَّهَ وَ أَطِیعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَ أُولِی الْأَمْرِ مِنْکُم); “Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those of you who are in authority” (Nisa, 59). The aim of this paper is criticizing this reason after explaining.
Explaining the Reasoning to the Verse
The logical form of Muslim theologians’ reasoning to the verse ʾAṭīʿū (اطیعوا) is like this:
1) God has absolutely commanded people to obey the Prophet.
2) The absoluteness of the command indicates that the Prophet is infallible.
3) Then, the Prophet is infallible.
In explaining the correlation between the absoluteness of God’s command and infallibility (premise 2), Muslim theologians say that if the Prophet was not infallible and it was probable that he committed a sin or lapse, it was wrong that God absolutely commanded people to obey him. Since, the absolute command to obey a fallible man will lead people into obey him in his wrong commands and sins. This is against God’s aim of sending the Prophet. However, God never is wrong. Therefore, the absoluteness of God’s command implies that the Prophet is infallible (see: Hillī, 1365: 183-184; Muẓaffar, 1422: 4/ 221; Āmidī, 1423: 5/ 217).
Shiite theologians also assert this reason for affirming the infallibility of their Imams, since they believe that the word ‘أُولِی الْأَمْرِ مِنْکُم’ (those of you who are in authority), which has been mentioned after the prophet’s name, refers to their Imams.
Critique of the Reasoning
The author thinks that Muslim theologian’s reasoning is wrong in both premises 1 and 2. Firstly, God’s command to obey the prophets is not absolute in a way that people are obligated to obey their all commands even their wrong commands. Secondly, the absoluteness of the command to obey someone does not indicate that his is infallible. In explaining the first objection, I must to mention a subject in Islamic ʿIlm al-ʿUsūl which is called Muqaddamāt Ḥikmat (the premises of wisdom). This subject deals with the condition of understanding an absolute meaning from a statement that some unconditional words has been used in. Islamic jurisprudents are not in agreement about the number of these conditions, but there is general consensus about both of them. The first one is that the speaker who uses an absolute proposition to be in the state of asserting his complete intention not in the state of saying a brief outline. Sometimes a speaker is in a position that just wants to say a brief outline of his/her opinion and intention, then he/she uses general words and propositions without saying details. However, he/she will state the details and conditions of his/her general judgments in other situations. Here, it is wrong if someone thinks that his/her main intention of those words and propositions has been general and absolute. The second premise of Muqaddamāt Ḥikmat is lack of continuous or discontinuous conditions. It is clear that when a speaker states a condition for his absolute statement, it is wrong to take his main intention absolute. Sometime the speaker uses a continuous condition and sometime discontinuous. A continuous condition is like saying first “buy meat. I mean lamb meat”. A discontinuous condition is a condition that the speaker add after a while, short or long.
The author thinks that both of these conditions are absent in the verse ʾAṭīʿū (اطیعوا). In this verse, God is in the state of giving the outline of His law about obeying the Prophet. The reason for this claim is citing three different subjects in one proposition. These are God, the Prophet and the ʾUlulʿamr (those who have authority on others). God is an eternal, omniscience, omnipotent, omnibenevolent existent and the creator of humans who has absolute authority on the world. The Prophet is a human being who receives God’s revelation, the man who God has said about him “The Prophet is more protective towards the believers than they are themselves” (Ahzab/ 6). And ʾUlulʿamr which literally means the governor and who has authority and sovereignty on others. God has never made the meaning of this word clear in the Quran. Muslims are not in agreement about its meaning. Shiite says they are our Imams, ʿAli and his children. Sunni says they are our Islamic caliphs. By the way, ʾUlulʿamr are individuals who are in lower state of the Prophet. They have never received God’s revelation. Therefore, due to these differences, the extents of obeying these three subjects are not the same. Hence, we can conclude that the order of obeying them in one statement is a brief outline.
On the other hand, by a brief search we can find several evidences that show the conditions and qualifications of obeying the prophets. The first evidence is rational. According to the idea of rational goodness and badness which most Islamic sects like Shiite and Muʿtazilites believe in, understanding moral principles is done by reason. Therefore, observing moral principles is necessary for all people and rational beings even for God. Thus, if someone, God or the Prophet, gives a command against apparent moral principles, like killing an innocent person, we are not obligated to obey it.
Also, there are some traditional (naqlī) evidences in the Quran that make clear where people can disobey the prophets’ commands. The Quran says: “No person to whom God had given the Scripture, wisdom, and prophethood would ever say to people, ‘Be my servants, not God’s” (Āl-ʿImrān/ 79). And in another verse: “It is inconceivable that a prophet would ever dishonestly take something from the battle gains” (Āl-ʿImrān/ 161). In these verse, God has put two conditions for obeying the prophets’ command. First, if they say: “Be my servants, not God’s”, people are not obligated to obey. Second, if they want dishonestly to take something from the battle gains. The third case is when their order is against God’s judgment in the Scripture. As we read in the Quran: “Mankind was a single community, then God sent prophets to bring good news and warning, and with them He sent the Scripture with the Truth, to judge between people in their disagreements” (al-Baqara/ 213); “We revealed the Torah with guidance and light, and the prophets, who had submitted to God, judged according to it for the Jews”. In addition, there are some traditions from the Prophet and Shiite Imams that we can put them as the conditions of the verse ʾAṭīʿū (اطیعوا) like this: “No obedience of a creature is permissible as long as the creator is being disobeyed”, the Prophet said (Hurr ʿĀmilī, 1409: 11/ 157).
The second objection to Muslim theologians’ reasoning to the verse is criticizing the correlation between the absoluteness of God’s command to obey the Prophet and his infallibility. Since, it is reasonable to say people that have to absolutely obey that man in whatever said, who is most knowledgeable and righteous among them. Although, he is not infallible and it might be that he makes a mistake, but obeying him has more advantages than disobeying.
According to the mentioned objections, the author of this paper thinks that Muslim theologians’ reasoning to the verse ʾAṭīʿū (اطیعوا) for proving the Prophet’s infallibility is not correct.