The commentary of the word of Allah, the High:

إِنِْي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَْاسِ إِمَامًا قَالَ وَمِن ذُرِْيَْتِي قَالَ لاَ يَنَالُ عَهْدِي الظَْالِمِينَ

“Surely I will make you an Imam of men. Ibrahim said: And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the unjust, said He.”[1]

Abu al-Hasan Ibn al-Maghaazeli, the Shaafe’i jurist,  says Ahmad Ibn al-Hasan Ibn Ahmad Ibn Moosa al-Qandjaani from Abu al-Fath Helaal Ibn Ahmad al-Haffaar from Ismaaeel Ibn Ali Ibn Rezeen who narrates from his father and Ishaaq Ibn Ibraheem al-Dairi who both said that Abd al-Razzaaq narrated to us from his father from Meena, the slave of Abd al-Rehmaan Ibn Auf from Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood, who says that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) said, “I am the prayer of my father Ibraheem.” I enquired, “O Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.)! How did you become the prayer of your father Ibraheem? He (s.a.w.a.) replied, “Allah- Mighty and Glorified be He- revealed unto Ibraheem (a.s.), “Surely I will make you an Imam of men” Ibraheem (a.s.) took the joy lightly and asked, ‘Will there be Imams from my progeny like me? So Allah — Mighty and Glorified be He — revealed, ‘O Ibraheem! I will not grant you a covenant which I shall not fulfil for you!’ He (a.s.) asked, ‘O Lord! What is the covenant which You will never fulfil for me?’ He retorted, ‘I will never give an unjust person from your progeny a covenant.’ At this Ibraheem pleaded, ‘Then keep me and my sons away from idol-worship. O Lord! They (idols) have deviated a lot from the people!’ Thereafter, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) informed, “The prayer (of Ibraheem) terminated at me and Ali. Both of us never prostrated before an idol. Thus, He took me as a Prophet and took Ali as a successor.”[2]

Shaikh Toosi (a.r.) has narrated the same tradition in his Amaali from Ibn Mas’ood through this chain of narrators.[3]

Traditions from the Ahle Bait (a.s.) abound that the holy verse clear nullifies the Imamate of every unjust person[4] lest he becomes amongst the chosen ones from the progeny of the friend of Allah Ibraheem (a.s.).

I say: The noble verse proves three points:

A) Imamate is a divine covenant and Godly position. People’s choice has no role in it.

B) Imamate is a position above Prophethood.

C) Anyone who is touched by injustice is disqualified for this noble position.

Now, let us analyse the above three points in detail:

A)    The saying of Allah — Mighty and Glorified be He — that “My covenant does not include the unjust” is quite explicit that Imamate is a covenant of the Lord, the High. This is further endorsed by His saying, “Surely I will make you an Imam of men”. When it is proved that it’s a covenant of the Lord, the High, it will become apparent for you that people don’t have any role in his selection. For, people necessarily have the right to select in only those covenants and affairs that belong to them and not in the covenant of the Lord, the High.

B)    When Allah – the High — declared, “Surely I will make you an Imam of men”, Ibraheem (a.s.) sought this majestic position from Allah — the High — for some of his progeny[5]. The response of Allah “My covenant does not include the unjust” was only after Ibraheem (a.s.) had attained the position of Prophethood. For, the revelation of his appointment as Imam for the people, his seeking from Allah — the High — this position for some of his progeny, the response of Allah — Mighty and Glorified be He — “My covenant does not include the unjust” will not befit anyone except one who is already a Prophet, alive and converses (with Allah). In fact, in the traditions of the Ahle Bait (a.s.), this position (of Imamate) is after the position of Khullah (friend of Allah) while Khullah can be attained only after Prophethood and Messengership.

Ibn Yaqoob narrates from Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan from whom he has mentioned from Muhammad Ibn Khalid from Muhammad Ibn Sinaan from Zaid al-Shahhaam, who says that he heard Imam Sadeq (a.s.) say, “Surely Allah — Blessed and High be He — took Ibraheem (a.s.) as a slave before He took him as a Prophet; and surely Allah took him as a Prophet before He took him as a Messenger; and surely Allah took him as a Messenger before He took him as a friend; and surely Allah took him as a friend before He took him as an Imam. When all these were collected in him, He said, “Surely I will make you an Imam of men”. Then, due to the greatness of matter in the eyes of Ibraheem (a.s.), he pleaded, ‘And of my offspring?’ He replied, “My covenant does not include the unjust”. He (a.s.) said, “A fool cannot be an Imam of the pious.”[6]

When it is proved that his Imamate was after his Prophethood, in fact, even after his messengership and friendship, it must have become clear for you that Imamate is a position even higher than Prophethood. From here, it will also become clear for you that it (Prophethood) is a divine covenant in which there is no choice whatsoever for the people, and with the consensus of all the Muslims.

So, when a lower position (Prophethood) is a divine covenant in which the people don’t have any choice, then how is it permissible for the people to have the power to choose for a higher position (Imamate), regardless of them being the elite or not?

C)    It becomes clear from the second point that whatever is considered as valid at a lower position will definitely be considered so at a higher position. Thus, since infallibility is regarded as a criterion in Prophethood, it should be deemed so with a higher degree. Consequently, whosoever commits any form of injustice cannot be an infallible and as a result, cannot be an Imam.

So, in the noble verse, the word ‘unjust’ refers to the one who has committed injustice or is prone to it or in whom injustice was found but he has ceased to commit it now.

Objection: A derivative (mushtaqq) is real (haqeeqat) when wrapped in the infinitive (mabda or masdar) but its application for the one whose being wrapped in the infinitive is permissible or in whom the infinitive has ceased to exist, is metaphorical (majaaz). One cannot proceed towards it except through a proof.

Answer: A derivative will not be considered as real for what is wrapped in the infinitive when the infinitive is from the kind of attribute (sifat) like a learned man, an ignoramus, a standing person, a sitting person, etc. But when the infinitive is from the actions (fe’l) that are considered as the occurrence of the infinitive from essential being like a beater, a killer, a father and a son, the derivative in it will revolve around the occurrence of the infinitive and its continuity in it will not be considered. Do you regard a father as a father metaphorically? Similarly, don’t you regard a son as a son, the killer of Amr and the beater of Bakr as real? Thus, an unjust person is from the second kind because oppression is an act, not an attribute. If the one in whom oppression or injustice is found is intended, then he is its application in reality and it will not be contrary to the apparent unless one proceeds unto it with a proof.

Yes, when the one who is prone to injustice is intended, then it is contrary to the apparent but the proof to proceed towards it is present and it is the rejection of non-infallibility and tendency to commit injustice to attain the status of Imamate, which is a divine covenant above the level of Prophethood.

The above verse clearly proves the non-eligibility of the three caliphs for the esteemed status of caliphate for the following three reasons:

I)                   Verily, Imamate is a divine covenant that is not established except through a divine notification from the side of Allah — the High — and the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.). While the Imamate of the first caliph transpired only through the allegiance of the elite — according to their thinking — because as per our view, general consensus was absent amongst the elite in his allegiance. For, the best of the companions walked out on him or protested against him. The Imamate of the second caliph was based on the nomination of the first caliph and the Imamate of the third caliph was through the Council constituted by the second caliph. Thus, none of the three claimed divine appointment from the side of Allah — the High — and from the side of His Messenger (s.a.w.a.).

II)                Their not being infallible, a necessary criterion for Prophethood which was a lower status than Imamate. Thus, even a higher degree of infallibility should be essentially considered for this extremely lofty status.

Objection: The accepted degree of infallibility is only during the Prophethood, not prior to it. Thus, infallibility would be binding and essential for an Imam only during his Imamate and their being polytheists and idol-worshippers before accepting Islam will not be contrary to their Imamate.

Answer: The truth is that infallibility should be present in a Prophet from birth till death. For the sake of argument, even if we consider the essentiality of infallibility during his tenure of Imamate, then too, their caliphate will be rendered null and void as they lacked infallibility at the time of being appointed as caliphs and continued to remain so during it. This is the general consensus of the Muslims. None of the three caliphs claimed infallibility and if at all they have claimed, it is absolutely false and untrue. For, there is no way to know the infallibility of a person except through divine information and according to the unanimous opinion of all Muslims, there is no divine document on their infallibility. On the other hand, divine document is available only for the infallibility of the holy Ahle Bait (a.s.).

III)             The clear announcement from Allah — the High — that the unjust will not          reach to the unjust and they were unjust. From what you have understood from the verse, either in the meaning of the one who is inclined towards injustice and or the one who in whom injustice is found, it is applicable to the three of them in both the meanings.

From what we have explained, it has become clear that Imamate is from the principles of religion and acknowledging the Imamate of an Imam and his mastership, like the acceptance of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), is from the principles and not from the branches of religion. Therefore, he (s.a.w.a.) declared, “Whoever dies without recognizing the Imam of his time dies the death of ignorance.”[7] Nay, the recognition of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is an obligatory principle from the aspect of him (s.a.w.a.) being a Messenger or an Imam. For, if you remove the positions of Messengership and Imamate from him (s.a.w.a.), it will not be obligatory for the people to recognize him (s.a.w.a.), like the one who was a Prophet only for himself and was neither a Messenger for anybody nor was he an Imam for an Ummah.

Therefore, recognition is compulsory for either of the two attributes. So, if recognition is obligatory due to messengership, the necessity of recognizing the Imam becomes even more binding and important because Imamate is above messengership. And if recognition is obligatory due to Imamate, then the obligation is even clearer due to the unity of the subject and the impossibility of separation.

NOTE:  From what we have explained, it has become clear that Imamate is the highest position and more perfect in status than Prophethood and Messengership. The secret of his (s.a.w.a.) offering his position before the Ummah was from the aspect of Imamate, not from the aspect of Prophethood when he (s.a.w.a.) appointed our master Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) in his (s.a.w.a.) place and established his (a.s.) mastership, he (s.a.w.a.) asked, “Don’t I have more authority upon you than you yourselves?” He (s.a.w.a.) did not ask, “Am I not your Prophet or your Messenger?” Thus, the Imamate of the offshoot and its mastership emanates from the Imamate of the root and its mastership, and not from his (s.a.w.a.) Prophethood or Messengership because his (s.a.w.a.) Prophethood or Messengership cannot be a cause for proving the Imamate of his (s.a.w.a.) successor and his (s.a.w.a.) caliph.

From what we have explained, it has also become clear that our Imams (a.s.) were superior to all the Prophets (a.s.), even the great (ulul azm) ones amongst them.

As for their supremacy over the non-great Prophets (a.s.), it is clear for you from the fact that the status of Imamate is above that of Prophethood and Messengership.

And as for their superiority over the great Prophets (a.s.) along with the presence of Imamate in them (a.s.), it is because Imamate and mastership has degrees and levels. The most complete and most perfect of these levels is what was found in our Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and hence, he (s.a.w.a.) is the most superior of all divine Prophets (a.s.). Now, since the level of the Imamate of the offshoot is from the level of the Imamate of the root, the Imamate of our Imams (a.s.) too is the most complete level of Imamate and mastership.

It is also clear that Prophethood and Imamate both can be found in one person as it was found in our Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Prophet Ibraheem (a.s.), the friend of Allah. In fact, it was found in all the great Prophets (a.s.). Indeed, Prophethood does separate from Imamate as was in the case of the non-great Prophets (a.s.) and similarly, it did separate in our Imams (a.s.).

Objection: You mentioned that Imamate is a level higher than Prophethood. But this is contradictory when you separate Prophethood from Imamate because reaching to a higher level is after reaching to a lower level.

Answer: The eligibility of the higher level i.e. Imamate over the eligibility of the lower level i.e. Prophethood and its deservedness is proved in our Imams (a.s.). The only thing that is between them is the level of Khaatemiyyat i.e. the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) being the seal of the Prophets (a.s.) and Messengers (a.s.). This is the fact that has been narrated in some traditions narrated from the Ahle Sunnah that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) said to Ali (a.s.), “…except that there is no Prophet after me. And if there was a Prophet, it would have been you (O Ali).”[8]


[1] Surah Baqarah (2): Verse 124

[2] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 270; Manaaqeb of Ibn Maghaazeli, p. 276

[3] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 270 narrating from al-Amaali of Shaikh Toosi (a.r.), vol. 1, p. 388

[4] Refer Ghaayah al-Maraam, pp. 270-272 and Tafseer al-Burhaan, vol. 1, pp. 147-151

[5] The opinion that what Ibraheem (a.s.) sought from his Lord for his progeny was apparent worldly material kingdom and not a divine and spiritual sovereignty is completely absurd and baseless because worldly kingdom cannot be a kingdom for Allah the High which will not reach to the unjust ones. For, many an unjust tyrant has acquired worldly kingdom. On the contrary, only very few believers have gained worldly empire. Moreover, such an opinion also contradicts the beginning of the verse as what Ibraheem (a.s.) was asking from his Lord for his progeny was what Allah — the High — had conferred on him and distinguished him with it. Thus, the thing that Allah — the High — had granted him was Imamate and mastership, and not apparently worldly kingdom and monarchy.- The Author (r.a.)

[6] Al-Kaafi, vol. 1, p. 175; Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 271

[7] Al-Kaafi, vol. 1, p. 278; al-Mahaasen, p. 153; Manaaqeb-o-Aale-Abi Taalib (a.s.), vol. 1, p. 246; Behaar al-Anwaar, vol. 68, p. 339

[8] Manaaqeb-o-Aale-Abi Taalib (a.s.), vol. 3, p. 16