The commentary of the word of Allah, the High:

وَاعْتَصِمُواْ بِحَبْلِ اللهِ جَمِيعًا وَلاَ تَفَرَْقُواْ

“And hold fast by the rope of Allah all together and be not disunited.”[1]

al-Ayyaashi narrates through his chains (of narrators) from Jaaber from Imam Abu Ja’far (a.s.) who said, ‘The progeny of Muhammad, they are the rope of Allah for whom Allah has ordered to fasten unto by saying, “And hold fast by the rope of Allah all together and be not disunited.”’[2]

The Sayyid[3] (may Allah sanctify his grave) has brought six traditions from our (Shia) sources while four from theirs (Sunni) in the book Ghaayah al-Maraam under the explanation of the aforementioned verse that the term ‘the rope of Allah’ implies the progeny of Muhammad (a.s.).[4]

Consecutive traditions from both the sects also explain that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) has ordered to fasten unto the two weighty things (ثَقَلَيْن) viz. the Book of Allah and his progeny. He (s.a.w.a.) admonished, ‘I leave behind you two weighty things, the Book of Allah and my progeny. Till you fasten unto both of these, you will not be deviated. Know that they will never separate from each other till they meet me at the pond.’[5]

In the narration of Abu Saeed al-Khudri, he (s.a.w.a.) said, ‘O people! I leave amongst you two ropes. If you fasten unto them both, you will never deviate after me. One of them is greater than the other: The Book of Allah — the extended rope from the sky to the earth — and my progeny, my Ahle Bait. Know that these two will never separate from each other till they meet me at the pond.’[6]

In Ghaayah al-Maraam, he has mentioned eighty-two traditions on this subject from our sources and thirty-nine from their sources. He has mentioned these traditions in detail.[7]

I say: Slight differences in the wordings of the traditions are not harmful due to their consonance and harmony in meaning.

And know that the consecutive (متواتر) tradition of Etrah, the authenticity of it is not doubted at all by either of the sects, proves:

a)      the progeny of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is the best of the people and the finest of them after him (s.a.w.a.);

b)      the people need them (a.s.) while they (a.s.) are needless of the people;

c)      their infallibility;

d)     their knowledge of the Book in its entirety;

e)      their caliphate of Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.);

f)       confinement of Imamat to them;

g)      receiving of guidance by fastening unto them; and

h)      the earth will not be devoid of them till the Day of Judgment.

(a)        By deeming the Book and the Ahle Bait (a.s.) as inseparable associates and equal to each other, (ordering this Muslims) to fasten unto all of them and declaring this fastening as a cause of removal of deviation, it is known that had there been amongst them anyone who was superior to the Ahle Bait (a.s.) or equal to them in excellence, he would not have made him fasten unto them (a.s.). Nay, had there been somebody who deserved preference over them, it would have been obligatory that the Ahle Bait (a.s.) should fasten unto them.

(b)        The mutual inseparability of the Book and the Ahle Bait (a.s.) proves firstly, the entire Muslim Ummah needs the Ahle Bait (a.s.) and secondly, they are needless of all.

Explanation: The entire Ummah are in need of the knowledge available in the Book of Allah due to the recognition of their laws, their duties, judgments in the disputes, recognition of their rights, establishment of justice amongst them, improvement of their livelihood and their resurrection.

Although the Book of Allah comprises of whatever the people need as there is no wet or dry thing but that it is available in it, yet in it are the brief verses like the beginning of the chapters, the clear verses like the documents of the verses, the ambiguous verses that has several connotations, the apparent and the concealed, the descent and the interpretation. For each of its concealed interpretations there are further hidden meanings till each of these branches out into seventy coded meanings. As for its clear verses, only a few laws can be derived from it, and there is no way for anybody to know the interpretation and esoteric meanings of its brief and ambiguous verses, their explanation and hidden aspects except whom Allah — the High — has chosen as its interpreter and informed him about it. Indeed, by announcing that ‘they shall not separate from each other’, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) has made it explicit that the interpreters of the Book of Allah and the informed ones of its brief, clear and ambiguous verses, its interpretation, descent, apparent and concealed aspects are none except the holy Ahle Bait (a.s.). They (a.s.) are the divine translators. His (s.a.w.a.) declaration ‘they shall not separate from each other’ also proves that the Ahle Bait (a.s.) have the knowledge of everything that is available in the Book — otherwise  they (a.s.) would have certainly separated from it — and that they (a.s.) are distinguished[8] with this knowledge — otherwise the Book would have been separated from them (a.s.). Therefore, non-separation from both the sides establishes the knowledge of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) of all that is present in the Book and none except them possesses this knowledge. Hence, their needlessness from one and all due to their knowledge of the Book in its entirety and the dependence of everybody to them due to the confinement of the path of knowledge of what is in the Book by referring and fastening unto them is proved.

(c)        By their (a.s.) non-separation from the Book and impossibility of deviation by fastening unto them, their infallibility is established. For, had they not been infallible from the commitment of sins and forgetfulness, they would have certainly been separated from the Book during the perpetration of the undesirable act or the moment of forgetfulness and negligence. Consequently, fastening unto them would not be a guarantee from deviation.

(d)       Their (a.s.) knowledge of the Book in its entirety is apparent from the two statements because if — we seek refuge in Allah — they were ignorant of some portions of the Book, they would have separated from it. For, an ignorant person is distinct and separate of what he is unaware. In this case too, fastening unto them (a.s.) would not tantamount to protection from deviation.

(e)        By his (s.a.w.a.) declaration, ‘…till you fasten unto them, you will not deviate…’ it becomes clear that essentially, fastening unto them (a.s.) is a security for the one who fastens. Thus, his (s.a.w.a.) declaring them as companions of the Holy Quran and as a center of attachment for the Muslim Ummah clearly establishes their Imamate, mastership and caliphate of Allah — the High — and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.). In some traditions, the term ‘two caliphs’ (خَلِيْفَتَيْن) has been used instead of ‘two weighty things’ (ثَقَلَيْن).

Logic also demands that the term ‘they shall not separate from each other’ is evidence enough of their needlessness from one and all and the dependence of everybody to them, as you know.

Wisdom refutes the leadership of an ignorant and the reliance of a needless scholar on a needy person.

As for the condition of his ignorance and his need for knowledge, it is quite evident. Nay, the same would apply after his reference to the needless scholar and acquiring knowledge from him. Essentially, his reference to the needless scholar and acquiring knowledge from him is not in harmony with the leadership of the ignorant and the following of the learned scholar. Will the ignorant be satisfied to say ‘it is obligatory on a learned scholar, who derives the laws, to follow an ignorant, who refers to the former vis-à-vis his recognition and duties after the scholar has informed him about the edict and the duty?’ No, never.

The classification by Allah — the High — of the majestic Book into brief, clear and unclear proves that He has appointed divine interpreters for His Book, to whom the Ummah should refer and He surely knew the presence of persons claiming their positions.

For, had Allah — the High — not appointed an interpreter from His side after classifying the Holy Book into the aforementioned aspects, it would be contrary to divine wisdom and prudence because His speech, instead of being the medium of guidance, would have become the cause of perplexity and deviation. Allah is High and Transcendent than to perform such an action.

Had there not been anybody in the Ummah who was raised to their (a.s.) station, it was not necessary for Him to do this. For, the sole purpose of maintaining coded and ambiguous language in the Holy Quran is to keep it concealed except from its knower. If the Ummah would have gathered on obedience and submission unto them (a.s.), their would be nobody undeserving to receive this knowledge, leave alone the need for codes and ambiguity.

It has been narrated from our master Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) that “Allah — the High — has classified His Book into brief, clear and ambiguous so that those who have imposed themselves on the caliphate could be separated from the one who is worthy of caliphate and he be His caliph.”[9]

(f)        The confinement of Imamate to the Ahle Bait (a.s.) is known from his (s.a.w.a.) saying, ‘they shall not separate from each other’ because his proof about the need of the Ummah to the Ahle Bait (a.s.) and not vice-versa informs about the non-admissibility of caliphate and Imamate in the former. Otherwise, there should have been an Imam from amongst the Ummah needless of the people like the Ahle Bait (a.s.), which in turn would have been contradictory to his (s.a.w.a.) saying ‘they shall not separate from each other’. This is also proved by his (s.a.w.a.) saying, ‘…till you fasten unto them, you will never deviate after me…’ Since, if there was an Imam in the Ummah other than the Ahle Bait (a.s.), he would be an exception from those who have been ordered to fasten unto them (a.s.). Besides, the fact is that an Imam does not fasten unto anybody from the Ummah.

(g)        Confinement of receiving guidance by fastening unto them and referring to him is proved by the two statements, clearly and explicitly.

Its clear proof lies in the first statement. For surely, his (s.a.w.a.) saying, ‘…till you fasten unto them, you will never deviate after me…’ explains that the path of guidance is confined to the two (i.e. the Holy Quran and the Ahle Bait (a.s.)). The Ummah will be safe from deviation till it attaches itself unto both of them. That the statement is apparent in the limitation of the rendezvous is explicit.

Its explicit proof lies in the second statement because had the knowledge of the Book been found with other than them (a.s.) and guidance acquired by referring to anyone else except them (a.s.), the non-separation of the Book from the Ahle Bait (a.s.) would not hold true.

(h)        When the last part of the statement i.e. ‘they shall not separate from each other’ is joined with his (s.a.w.a.) saying, ‘till they meet me at the Pond’, it becomes clear that if the earth would be devoid of them before they meet the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) at the Pond, then it would certainly imply the separation of the Book from the Progeny (a.s.). As a result, his (s.a.w.a.) saying, ‘they shall not separate from each other till they meet me at the Pond’ would not hold true. Although, this is manifest with the very first statement because association of the Progeny (a.s.) with the Book in protection from deviation shows the dependence of the Book for divine interpreters in explaining its purposes, as is clear. And none is its interpreter except the guiding progeny (a.s.) as you have understood through the confinement of guidance by fastening unto them (a.s.). If the earth would be devoid of them (a.s.) even for a single moment, it would entail the termination of the path of guidance and in the incompletion of religion after its perfection. It is impossible for a Wise and Prudent Being that He does not complete His religion and path of guidance or renders it imperfect after its perfection. The occultation of our Imam (a.t.f.s.) in these times does not contradict this fact because people derive benefit from him (a.t.f.s.) during occultation just as they do so from the sun after it has hidden behind the clouds.

When whatever we have explained has become clear for you, it would certainly be apparent for you that the tradition of the progeny (a.s.) is from the most comprehensive statements in which the virtues of the pure progeny (a.s.) have been collected.

Objection: The aforementioned tradition does not command to fasten to both of them. He (s.a.w.a.) only said, ‘…till you fasten unto them, you will not deviate’. Thus, he (s.a.w.a.) informed the Ummah that in fastening unto both of them, lies protection from deviation but he (s.a.w.a.) has certainly not ordered them to do so.

Answer: The usage of such terminology is more complete and perfect in implying necessity and obligation than the use of the imperative tense. For, the imperative tense can also be applied for recommended acts when the distinct aspects are not considered. But confinement of guidance and protection from deviation in fastening unto both of them, as used in the above terms, is absolutely clear in the necessity and obligation of fastening unto them. At the same time, the possibility of recommendation is also disallowed because it is essential that attachment to the path of guidance and keeping away from the way of deviation is obligatory, according to wisdom. Here, the simple mention of the subject suffices from elaborating its judgment due to the completion of its explicitness and apparentness. As it is necessary to fasten unto the Book, there is no scope on possibility to separate it from the progeny (a.s.), which has been connected with the Book and both together have been termed as the two weighty things (ثَقَلَيْن) that he (s.a.w.a.) has left amongst them. Deeming them to be the two ropes (حَبْلَيْن) to which the Ummah should attach itself as a security from deviation, fastening unto either of them, inevitably leads to attachment with the other.

Objection: Progeny (عِتْرَة) does not imply the Ahle Bait (a.s.) of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) since it has come in the meaning of group. Just as Abu Bakr said, ‘We are the progeny of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) from which he (s.a.w.a.) has emerged and his (s.a.w.a.) ovary which has come out from him (s.a.w.a.).’[10]

Answer: Firstly, the term progeny has not come in the absolute meaning of group. It has come only in the meaning of the offspring of a person and his family.

In al-Misbaah al-Muneer, it is said, “Progeny implies the offspring of a person. Al-Azhari said, as has been narrated by Tha’lab from Ibn al-A’raabi, ‘Surely the progeny are the sons of a person, his offspring and his descendants from his loin. The Arabs do not understand any other meaning from the term progeny other than the aforementioned meanings. And it is said ‘his closest relatives’ — which will be mentioned later — and it is said ‘surely he and the family’ have one and the same meaning. From it is the saying of Abu Bakr.’”[11]

Except for the fact that the statement of Abu Bakr exceeded the definition as Ibn Abi al-Hadeed has pointed out. While explaining the statement of our master Ameerul Momineen (a.s.),

وَ آخَرُ قَدْ تَسَمْٰى عَالِمًا وَ لَيْسَ بِهِ، فَاقْتَبَسَ جَهَائِلَ مِنْ جُهَْالٍ، وَ اَضَالِيْلَ مِنْ ضُلَْالٍ…

While the other is he who calls himself learned but he is not so. He has gleaned ignorance from the ignorant and misguidance from the misguided.[12]

Ibn Abi al-Hadeed explains, ‘The progeny of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) is his family and his offspring. It is not right that it implies his group even if distant. On the day of Thaqeefah or after it, Abu Bakr had stated merely metaphorically, ‘We are the progeny of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) from which he (s.a.w.a.) has emerged and his (s.a.w.a.) ovary which has come out from him (s.a.w.a.)’ because he was his (s.a.w.a.) progeny only due to being attributed to him (s.a.w.a.), not in reality. Don’t you see that an Adnaani prides over a Qahtaani and says, ‘I am the cousin of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.)’ while the fact is that he is not the cousin of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) but when compared to the Qahtaani, he is closer to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in relation. Therefore, he uses it merely as a metaphor.’[13]

Secondly, the traditions are quite explicit in their meaning that the progeny is his (s.a.w.a.) Ahle Bait (a.s.), as even Ibn Abi al-Hadeed has acknowledged in his commentary. After the aforementioned quote, he writes, ‘And indeed the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) has explained who his progeny is when he (s.a.w.a.) said, ‘I leave behind you two weighty things’ then he (s.a.w.a.) said, ‘And my progeny are my Ahle Bait (a.s.)’.’[14]

It is mentioned in the traditions, which the Ahle Sunnah has attributed to Zaid Ibn Arqam — after he has explained that progeny refers to the Ahle Bait (a.s.) of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) — that Zaid was asked about the Ahle Bait (a.s.) of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), ‘Are his wives included in it?’ He replied, ‘No. But the Ahle Bait (a.s.) are those on whom charity (صَدَقَه) is prohibited.’[15] It shows that the word progeny implied the Ahle Bait (a.s.) was absolutely clear for them and therefore they enquired whether his wives could be included in his (s.a.w.a.) Ahle Bait (a.s.) and not in his progeny.

Thirdly, the attributes by which the progeny has been described like infallibility and purity, and that fastening unto them is protection from deviation and that they have the knowledge of the Book in its entirety, are only applicable on the Ahle Bait (a.s.) from whom Allah has dispelled all uncleanness and purified them, a purification. The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) has stated a number of traditions in their praise, which are to the level of consecutiveness from both Shia as well as Sunni sources:

“The likeness of my Ahle Bait (a.s.) is like that of the Ark of Nooh (a.s.). Whoever boards it will be saved and whoever keeps away from it will be destroyed.”[16]

“Surely Ali is the best of creatures, the chief of the Arabs and the finest of successors.”[17]

“I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate.”[18]

“Ali is from me and I am from him.”[19]

“Ali is with the Quran and the Quran is with him.”[20]

“Truth is with Ali and Ali is with the truth. It goes wherever Ali goes.”[21]

“The right of Ali upon this nation is like the right of a father upon his son.”[22]

There are numerous such traditions speaking about the excellences and virtues of the Ahle Bait (a.s.). It is not possible to enumerate over here what both the sects have narrated and in which there is no doubt whatsoever.

There is none in the Ummah, other than the Ahle Bait (a.s.), who is infallible and pure from uncleanness, having the knowledge of the Book in its entirety, does not separate from the Quran nor does the Quran separate from it lest the term progeny be applied for him.

When this is clear for you, know that the noble verse talks about the necessity of fastening unto the holy progeny (a.s.).

For, if the term ‘the rope of Allah’ refers to them (a.s.) — as has been suggested by the explaining traditions[23] — then the fact is so. And, if it is interpreted as the Holy Quran — as has been attributed to Abu Saeed al-Khudri, Abdullah, Qataadah and Sudi[24] — then too, in the light of consecutive traditions, it would imply attachment to the Ahle Bait (a.s.) because the two cannot be separated from each other, as discussed earlier. And if it is interpreted as Islam and the religion of Allah — as is attributed to Ibn Abbas and Abi Zaid — again, fastening unto Islam and the religion of Allah automatically implies attachment to the Book of Allah, which in turn, is inseparable from the Ahle Bait (a.s.) and its laws cannot be unveiled except by them.

Surely, the term ‘fastening’ (اِعْتِصَام) suggests that the one who fastens will be saved from deviation and it is more appropriate than the term ‘attachment’ (تَمَسُْك) or its ilk.

As for the traditions, they have used the term ‘attachment’ (تَمَسُْك) to further elaborate and explain the term ‘fastening’ (اِعْتِصَام) because attachment to them (a.s.) is security from deviation.


[1] Surah Aal-e-Imraan (3): Verse 103.

[2] Tafseer al-Ayyaashi, vol. 1, p. 194.

[3] Referring to Sayyid Haashim al-Bahraani, the author of Ghaayah al-Maraam and Tafseer al-Burhaan.

[4] Ghaayah al-Maraam, pp. 242-244

[5] Refer Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 211

[6] Majma’ al-Bayaan, vol. 2, p. 482

[7] Ghaayah al-Maraam, pp. 211-234

[8] It also explains that had there been anybody in the Ummah who was having the total knowledge of the Book, it was necessary to associate him with the Ahle Bait (a.s.) and the nation should have fastened unto them like the Ahle Bait (a.s.). But the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) has ordered the entire Muslim Ummah, without exception, to fasten unto the Ahle Bait (a.s.), which proves that they are in need of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) and none except them (a.s.) possesses the knowledge of the Book in its entirety. — The Author.

[9] Tafseer al-Saafi under Surah Aale Imraan (3); verse 7, narrating from al-Ehtejaaj of Shaikh Tabarsi (r.a.). The author (r.a.) has narrated this tradition meaningfully, so don’t be negligent.

[10] Al-Misbaah al-Muneer, vol. 1, p. 45.

[11] Al-Misbaah al-Muneer, vol. 1, p. 45.

[12] Nahj al-Balaaghah, Sermon 87.

[13] Sharh Nahj al-Balaaghah, vol. 6, p. 375.

[14] Sharh Nahj al-Balaaghah, vol. 6, p. 375.

[15] Tafseer al-Burhaan, vol. 3, p. 324 narrating from Saheeh al-Muslim.

[16] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 237.

[17] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 326 and 618.

[18] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 521.

[19] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 456.

[20] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 540.

[21] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 539.

[22] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 543.

[23] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 242; Tafseer al-Saafi, vol. 1, p. 337; Majma’ al-Bayaan, vol. 2, p. 482; Tafseer al-Ayyaashi, vol. 1, p. 194.

[24] Majma’ al-Bayaan, vol. 2, p. 482.