The commentary of the word of Allah, the High:

يَا أَيُْهَا الَْذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَطِيعُواْ اللهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ الرَْسُولَ وَأُوْلِي الأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ

“O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those in authority from among you;…”[1]

In Ghaayah al-Maraam from Muhammad Ibn Yaqoob from Ali Ibn Ibraheem from his father from Hammaad Ibn Eesa from Ibraheem Ibn Umar al-Yamaani from Ibn Odhainah from Abaan Ibn Abi Ayyaash from Sulaym Ibn Qais who recounts, “I heard Ali (a.s.) say when a person came to him (a.s.) and asked, ‘What is the minimum thing by which a person becomes a believer? And what is the minimum thing by which a person becomes a disbeliever? And what is the minimum thing by which a person becomes deviated?’ He (a.s.) replied, ‘Indeed you have asked, then understand the answer: As for the minimum by which a person becomes a believer that he recognises Allah[2] — Blessed and High be He — Himself and confesses for Him obedience; then he recognises his Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and confesses for him (s.a.w.a.) obedience;’ I (Sulaym) asked, ‘O Ameer al-Momineen (a.s.)! Even if he is ignorant of all the things except what you described?’ He (a.s.) responded, ‘Yes. When he is commanded, he obeys and when he is prohibited, he keeps away.

And the minimum by which a person becomes a disbeliever is that he thinks that Allah has ordered a thing while in reality He has prohibited it; consequently, he takes it a religion that he follows and he thinks that he is worshipping what he has been commanded while he is worshipping naught but the Satan.

And the minimum by which a person becomes deviated is that he does not recognise the Proof of Allah — Blessed and High be He — and His Witness upon His servants whom Allah — Mighty and Majestic be He — has ordered for his obedience and made his mastership compulsory.’ I asked, ‘O Ameer al-Momineen (a.s.)! Describe them for me.’ He (a.s.) said, ‘Those whom Allah — the High — has associated with Himself and His Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and said, “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those in authority from among you;…” I pleaded, ‘O Ameer al-Momineen (a.s.)! May I be held your ransom! Elaborate for me.’ He (a.s.) explained, ‘Those about whom the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) said in his (s.a.w.a.) last sermon the day Allah — Mighty and Majestic be He — captured his (s.a.w.a.) soul, ‘Surely I have left behind amongst you two things; if you fasten unto them, you will never deviate after me; the Book of Allah — Mighty and Majestic be He — and my progeny my Ahle Bait (a.s.). For surely, the Gracious, the All-Knowing (Allah) has taken a covenant from me that these two shall never separate from each other till they meet me at the Pond — and he (s.a.w.a.) joined the index fingers of both his hands. And I don’t say like this — and he (s.a.w.a.) joined his index finger and his middle finger — lest one may be ahead of the other. Then fasten unto both of them, you will never slip and don’t overtake them, you will never deviate.’”[3]

Traditions conveying the above concept are abundant in our sources. In fact, they are almost to the level of consecutiveness.[4] As for the references of the Ahle Sunnah, he (Sayed Haashim Bahraani) has mentioned four traditions in Ghaayah al-Maraam.[5]

It is appropriate to draw the attention to a few points through which it will be extremely clear that the term, ‘those in authority among you’ does not apply for anybody except our master Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) and his pure progeny (a.s.) and that the verse proves their Imamate and their caliphate from Allah — the High — and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.).

A)    Verily, the title of ‘those in authority’ is applicable only for the one who well and truly the owner of authority, not the one who has snatched the authority wrongly. Like, a wealthy person is the one who is its actual owner, not the one who has usurped it or stolen it; or a wise man is he is actually wise and sagacious, not the one who simply pretends to be wise but is no so in reality. So, the conclusion is that the ownership of a thing is proved through its actual presence, not through pretension or mere claim, as is apparent. Exactly in the same way, the possession of authority is acquired for the one who has its right and none has the right except the one who has the proof of mastership of affairs.

B)    Most surely, the mastership of affairs — originally and firstly — is for the Creator — High be His Glory — because His mastership is expropriated from His creation and His bringing them into existence.  The creatures don’t have any mastership over each other, originally. Some of them have become masters over others only because Allah has appointed them as such and the series of mastership ultimately terminates at Allah — Mighty and Majestic be He. For, all secondary existents have to inevitably terminate at the original and essential being. It is irrational to think that mastership is acquired through the appointment of some by others because the master is himself devoid of mastership, then how can he confer mastership on others from his side?

A thing that is itself devoid of the bounty of existence

How can it grant existence to others?

C)    The necessity of obedience revolves around mastership because obedience is not possible if the master does not have any authority over the subject. So, the eligibility of obedience is merely from the states of mastership and no other qualification or attribute, not even infallibility, can replace it. Thus, only mastership can be the cause of the verification of his saying and surely what he says is true and correct. If an infallible person says, ‘I am the possessor of authority’ his verification will be obligatory on us through mastership. And after mastership is proved through his saying, his obedience is obligatory upon us in whatever he commands and prohibits. There is no need for any other thing for the necessity of his obedience after his mastership has been proved because its necessity is an independent judgement of the intellect and whatever has come in the Shariah is merely an endorsement of the judgement of the intellect and its guidance towards this matter.

D)    Surely, the presence of mastership through appointment is an offshoot of the presence of mastership in the appointer; otherwise his (the appointer’s) appointment will not be executed. In this case, the necessity of obedience of the master will be with relation to other than his appointer. The presence of mastership for the appointer himself through his appointment is irrational and unwise, leave alone the necessity of the obedience of the appointee through him. Nay, it is obligatory on the appointee that he does not violate the limits for which he has been appointed (by the appointer); therefore, he is under the obedience of the one who has appointed him for the affair and it cannot be vice-versa i.e. the appointer will be under the command of the appointee.

E)     Mastership can be classified into two categories: Absolute and Limited

Absolute and complete mastership is only for Allah — High be His Glory — because the source of expropriation linking mastership and servitude between Him and His servants is His creation and His nurturing them. It is a known fact that the creature and the nurtured returns to Him — Mighty and Majestic be He — in its entirety. Hence, at this level, confinement or limit in mastership is irrational lest the contingent creature becomes independent in some of his aspects, while this (independence) is contrary to his being contingent. Absolute mastership is not available for any of the creatures except through His conferment and endowment. Therefore, it was this kind of mastership that was available for our Prophet (s.a.w.a.), about which Allah — the Mighty — says, “النَْبِيُْ أَوْلَى بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ

“The Prophet has more authority on the faithful than they have on themselves…”[6] which unveils the presence of the greatest caliphate for him (s.a.w.a.) from the side of Allah — the High.

As for the limited mastership, its presence is permissible through divine appointment like the mastership of a representative by the Governor of Shariah in minor affairs; or in other matters like the mastership of the father over his minor son or of an employer over his employee or of a husband over his wife, all of which emanate from the relations of paternity between the father and son, marriage between husband and wife and terms of employment between the employer and his employee.

In all circumstances, mastership arises due to the decree of the Maker of the Shariah, originally, and follows as per the terms of its subject. The source of its expropriation differs with the differences in instances. So, sometimes the source of this expropriation is directly Allah — the High — and at other times, there are other causes.

When this matter has become clear for you, it will also be apparent for you that there is no limit for the obedience of Allah — the High — nor is there any limit for the obedience of His Messenger (s.a.w.a.), an obedience that is absolute sans limitation or confinement.

Explanation: Had Allah — the High — only said, ‘O ye who believe! Obey those in authority from among you’ and not limited it with any restriction, it would have been apparent in absoluteness and generality, as is apparent. But Allah — the High — commenced the verse with His own obedience and the obedience of His Messenger (s.a.w.a.), both of which are essentially absolute. Thereafter, He has brought the obedience of those in authority without any restrictions and limitations, emphasizing the usage of absoluteness and elaborating it further. This is the very meaning of the statement of our master Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) — may our lives be sacrificed for him (a.s.) — “…those whom Allah has associated with Himself and His Prophet (s.a.w.a.).”  It is not wise and rational for such a level of complete mastership to be present in any creature except the one who is associated with His Messenger (s.a.w.a.) in the knowledge of the Book – all of it – infallibility and purity. Moreover, it is determined that this mastership cannot be for anybody except for those about whom the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has informed that they will bear the aforementioned qualifications. It is for this very reason that when the questioner asked for further explanation, Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) replied, ‘…those about whom the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) said in his last sermon…’ till the end of the tradition.

It should also be known that the phrase, ‘…the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) said in his last sermon…’ does not mean that he (s.a.w.a.) did not say this except in the last sermon. For, he (s.a.w.a.) has made this declaration repeatedly on various occasions and in numerous instances – like on the Day of Ghadeer – as traditions from both the sects testify. So, factually it means that he (s.a.w.a.) has mentioned it in his (s.a.w.a.) last sermon, as an emphasis for what he (s.a.w.a.) had declared earlier and to repel any misgiving that he (s.a.w.a.) had handed over the mastership from the Ahle Bait (a.s.) to somebody else.

The forged tradition attributed to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) that he (s.a.w.a) said after this, ‘Allah — the High — has chosen us Ahle Bait (a.s.) and preferred the Hereafter for us to this world and hence, Allah will not gather for us Ahle Bait (a.s.) Prophethood and Caliphate both’ is an absolute lie for the following reasons:

  • The tradition in discussion falsifies this forged tradition
  • The confession of the first caliph, ‘Leave me alone! I am not the best of you while Ali is amongst you’[7] because if the forged tradition was true, there was no scope for him to forsake his caliphate in favour of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.)
  • The formation of the Advisory Council by the second caliph for electing the third caliph because he placed Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) in this council and considered him as the sixth of those who were suitable for caliphate
  • Caliphate, like Prophethood, is from the religious and divine affairs, not worldly. Essentially, the appointment of a caliph, like the sending of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), is only for the guidance of the Ummah, enjoining them with good and restraining them from evil; and not merely for ruling over the people and becoming their masters.

After it has become clear for you that the term ‘those in authority’ in the noble verse refers to the one who has absolute mastership like the mastership of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) with reference to context and the absoluteness of the statement, it will also become apparent for you that its interpretations like Muslim emperors, judges appointed by them, army chiefs, etc. are plain fiction – fabricated by whimsical interpreters – and clearly erroneous.

As for its interpretation that it refers to the scholars, like some of them done by justifying it through the following verse                                                      وَلَوْ رَدُْوهُ إِلَى الرَْسُولِ وَإِلَى أُوْلِي

الأَمْرِ مِنْهُمْ لَعَلِمَهُ الَْذِينَ يَسْتَنبِطُونَهُ مِنْهُمْ

“…and if they had referred it to the Apostle and to those in authority among them, those among them who can search out the knowledge of it would have known it…”[8]

Then, such an interpretation would be right if by scholars, they intend the Ahle Bait (a.s.), those whom he (s.a.w.a.) has associated with the Book, left both of them in his (s.a.w.a.) Ummah and ordered the people to fasten unto both of them; as has come in the tradition of the Ahle Bait (a.s.), “We are the scholars and our Shias are the students”[9]

But if they imply all the scholars in general, then this too is incorrect because absolute mastership is limited only to the Ahle Bait (a.s.) of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), those from whom Allah has kept away all uncleanness and purified them as they ought to be purified, and has made them the inheritors of the Book.

From what we have explained, it’s clear that the effect of the people’s allegiance to one amongst themselves, leading to his becoming the possessor of authority whose obedience is obligatory on them, is unreasonable and illogical. For, the necks of the subjects are tied with the rope of Imamate and mastership of affairs. This rope is not in their hands but in the hands of the One who is the Master of all affairs and He is Allah — the High — and through His representation, His Messenger (s.a.w.a.). It is clear that the one whose neck is the rope does not have any choice. The allegiance of the people to any one amongst them is ineffective except through betrayal and rebellion against the obedience of the master of the affair appointed by Allah — the High — and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.). If it is assumed that they have the authority to appoint a caliph, it would be necessary for the appointed caliph to obey those who have appointed him and paid allegiance to him; and to obey him will not be obligatory upon them because his authority has ensued from their authority and is a consequence of their mastership.

It is clear and apparent that it is not obligatory for the root to obey the offshoot and the reality is vice-versa i.e. it is for the offshoot to obey the root. Hence, the obedience of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) is obligatory on the Imam (a.s.) as he (a.s.) is the latter’s successor because his (a.s.) mastership and authority is an offshoot of the authority of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

Objection: According to what you mentioned, the absence of mastership for a husband over his wife and an employer for his employee is proved because their masteship emanates from the authority of the wife and the employee over themselves and their permitting the husband and the employer to become their masters respectively due to the contracts of marriage and employment.

Answer: The contracts of marriage and employment and other similar agreements, are from the legal covenants concerning both the parties and their conditions. Both are equally participative in this contract. When both the parties choose to enter into the contract, both are bound by the clauses of the same and both exercise some authority over the other as per the terms of the contract. For instance, it is the right of the husband to derive physical pleasure from his wife while the wife is entitled to receive sustenance from her husband. In the same way, an employer can make his employee work to acquire benefits while it is his duty to pay the employee the wages agreed upon. Thus, the mastership and authority ensues as per the terms of the contract. When the contract is agreed upon in practice, mutual authority is established as per the terms of the contract.

But allegiance does not require the presence of mastership at whose hand allegiance is being done because although the reference of this allegiance is the appointment of Abu Bakr by the Muslims, it does not necessitate his obedience upon them. Essentially, it is not obligatory for the appointer to obey the appointee, even if they claim this appointment to be from the side of Allah — the High — and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.) because such an appointment is not within their jurisdiction or from their rights.

Objection: Legally, people have mastership over themselves and hence, their arrangements, decisions, dealings and contracts are binding. The same applies for allegiance to any one of them. What is the proof to specifically remove allegiance from the contracts that are binding upon them? So, when allegiance is binding, obedience becomes obligatory automatically.

Answer: Allegiance is like a mutual contract. If it is on the basis of eligibility and qualification, like the allegiance of the people at the hands of an Imam appointed by Allah — the High — and who has been made an authority over them, such a contract would be binding and consequently, the obedience obligatory. Otherwise, such a contract would be null and void. So, if those who paid allegiance at the hands of Abu Bakr, have intended the contract of his appointment, the nullity of such a contract is quite clear. And if they intended simply to pay allegiance without the intention of appointment, then its nullity is even clearer and more apparent (than the previous instance) because sheer allegiance without any subject is never the cause of obedience.

In fact, the truth is that the implementation of the allegiance always precedes the necessity of obedience. It’s not from the clauses of allegiance as is misunderstood, essentially because the allegiance of the one who is not eligible for it is not the cause of obedience. The compulsion of obedience precedes allegiance itself, if the allegiance is done at the hands of the one who is eligible and its implementation, in that case, is only from the effects of the obligation of obedience.

Objection: Perhaps, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has delegated unto the people the appointment of the Imam and the caliph and hence, their command should be implemented from the viewpoint of delegation, not from the aspect of their mastership or authority upon themselves, like occasionally, the appointment of the army chief is delegated to the Muslims when the appointed chief is killed.

Answer: The great Imamate and Caliphate, which is the general chieftainship in the affairs of religion and this world, is such a great position that cannot be equalled even by as high a position as Prophethood, and this great position depends on infallibility and the entire knowledge of the Book.

Infallibility is a veiled thing that is unknown to anybody except the Knower of all hidden things. Then how is permissible for the Wise and Prudent Allah to delegate such an important and significant position in the hands of the ignorant people? Is it not against wisdom and prudence? Allah is Higher than to commit such an act! Moreover, there is no proof for this argument of delegation nor has the opponent claimed it. They only thought (or at least pretended to think) that there are no divine texts for the appointment of anybody for this coveted post.

Thereafter, just as the holy verse proves that Allah — the High — has appointed for the Ummah a master of affairs after His Messenger (s.a.w.a.) in a way that He ordered his obedience and associated his (a.s.) obedience with His own obedience and that of His Messenger (s.a.w.a.), it also establishes the multiple numbers of these masters (a.s.) and their non-confinement and limitation to one person, as has been indicated by the plural tense used.

Then know that some of recent Sunnis have denied the proof of the Book and the Sunnah vis-à-vis the presence of the great caliphate and Imamate in the religion of Islam. They say:

As for the Book, it is erroneous to establish the aforementioned concept through the verse “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those in authority from among you;…”[10]

As for the Sunnah, it is again incorrect and faulty to prove the same with it because the traditions are few and limited, as has been narrated on his (s.a.w.a.) authority, “The Imams will be from Quraish”[11] “Whoever dies without an allegiance in his neck has died the death of ignorance.” [12] They mention some traditions that are approximate to the above two and then strive to justify the verse and traditions — after accepting the validity of their chain of narrators — from two aspects:

a)      Necessity of obedience does not prove that the caliphate is truth established in religion and that the caliphs enjoy a position near Allah — the High. They argue, ‘Are we not ordered by the Shariah to obey the rebels and the defiant and to implement their command when they overwhelm us, especially, when in their opposition there is a fear of trouble? Of course, these don’t legalize rebellion or grant license of insurgence against the government.

b)      It (Sunnah) also does not prove the necessity of a caliph’s appointment upon us or his presence externally. It merely establishes the judgement of this subject if it is found externally. They argue, ‘Are we not ordered to respect the beggars and honour the destitute? Then can a wise person claim that this order to respect and honour implies that the beggar and the destitute should be necessarily exist amongst us?

I say: As for the lack of proof in the Book and the Sunnah on the necessity of appointment of an Imam upon us, then it’s a convincing truth. In fact, you have known that the role of the people’s appointment in the establishment of Imamate is unwise and irrational. But the proof of his (a.s.) presence and that he (a.s.) is the successor of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) has been clearly established by numerous verses of the Holy Quran and authentic, abundant traditions accepted by all Muslim sects; a few of which we have already discussed and others will follow, if Allah wills.

It is appropriate now to relate the rejection of their efforts through the evidence of the verse of “those in authority” (اولي الامر) and the traditions that they have mentioned in support of their argument. I say:

As for their attempt vis-à-vis the chain of narrators, there is no scope for it after the presence of traditions in reliable books.

As for the traditions’ evidence on the presence of Imamate in religion — especially the second tradition — it’s clear and apparent. For, if there was no Imam appointed by Allah — the High — whose recognition is obligatory as also allegiance at his hands, there would be no scope for application of the saying, “Whoever dies without an allegiance in his neck has died the death of ignorance”. So, these terms clearly explicate that Imamate is from the principles of religion to the extent that whoever forsakes the allegiance to him (a.s.) has in actuality gone out of the domain of religion. If the intention was only to relate the subject, which was relevant only if found externally, as they opine, then it would be obligatory to suggest that when a person overpowers the Muslims and they fear opposing him, it becomes necessary for them to pay allegiance to him.

As for the proof of the noble verse on the great caliphate and grand Imamate, it is clear from what we have explained that the term “the possessors of authority” is applicable only for the one who is in reality the possessor and owner of authority and the affair is for him only; not that he acquires it through forceful domination without being eligible for the same to the extent that it is regarded that the necessity of his obedience is from the category of the necessity of obedience of the rebels. Moreover, the phrase, ‘among you’ after ‘the possessors of authority’ clearly outlines whatever we have explained because the necessity of refraining from the defiance of the one who has forcefully acquired the mastership and is feared cannot be from among the distinguished believers.

And from what we have explained, the other doubt is also clarified because the mastership of the affair in this meaning is not achieved except through appointment by Allah — the High. If Allah — the High — has not appointed him for the believers, He would not command them to obey him. So, Allah’s order to obey him and associating his obedience with His own obedience and that of His Messenger (s.a.w.a.) proves that it is He Who has appointed him.

The usage of the plural proves that the presence of more than one master of authority and their not being limited to only one. The major problem for the Sunnis arises from their habit in interpreting the masters of authority to those who have acquired power by force, resulting in the loss of the actual meaning and connotation, being negligent of what we have explained despite it being extremely lucid and clear.

[1] Surah al-Nisaa (4): Verse 59

[2] In the original source: Allah introduces (Himself) unto him….and introduces His Prophet to him…and introduces His Imam to him…– The Author (r.a.).

[3] Al-Kaafi, vol. 2, p. 414; Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 266

[4] Refer Ghaayah al-Maraam, pp. 265-268. In it are 14 traditions from our sources.

[5] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 264

[6] Surah Ahzaab (33): Verse 6

[7] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 549

[8] Surah Nisaa (4): Verse 83

[9] Al-Kaafi, vol. 1, p. 34

[10] Surah Nisaa (4): Verse 59

[11] Musnad of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, vol. 2, p. 129; vol. 4, p. 421

[12] Behaar al-Anwaar, vol. 23, p. 94; Sharh-o-Saheeh al-Muslim by Nawvi, vol. 12, p. 482