The commentary of the word of Allah, the High:

فَاسْأَلُواْ أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ

So ask the people of remembrance if you do not know.[1]

In Ghaayah al-Maraam, he (Sayed Haashem Bahraani (r.a.)) has mentioned that ‘the people of remembrance’ implies the Ahle Bait (a.s.) and there are twenty-one traditions in this regard from our sources.[2]

Tradition One: Muhammad Ibn Yaqoob from al-Husain Ibn Muhammad from Mualla Ibn Muhammad from al-Washshaa from Abdullah Ibn Ajlaan from Abu Ja’far (a.s.) concerning the saying of Allah – Mighty and Glorified be He – “So ask the people of remembrance if you do not know”, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) informed, “I am the remembrance and the Imams (a.s.) are the people of remembrance.” And regarding the saying of Allah – Mighty and Glorified be He –

وَإِنَّهُ لَذِكْرٌ لَّكَ وَلِقَوْمِكَ

وَسَوْفَ تُسْأَلُونَ

“And most surely it is a reminder for you and your people, and you shall soon be questioned.”[3] Imam Abu Ja’far (a.s.) said, “We are his people and we are the ones to be questioned.[4]

Tradition Two: From (Muhammad) Ibn Yaqoob from al-Husain Ibn Muhammad from Mualla Ibn Muhammad Ibn Oormah from Ali Ibn Hassaan from his uncle Abd al-Rehmaan Ibn Katheer, who recounts, “I asked Abu Abdillah (a.s.) (about the verse) “So ask the people of remembrance if you do not know”, he (a.s.) replied, ‘Remembrance is Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) and we are the ones to be asked.’  I asked him (a.s.) (what about) His saying, “And most surely it is a reminder for you and your people, and you shall soon be questioned”, he (a.s.) responded, ‘We are implied by this verse and we are the people of remembrance and we are the ones to be questioned.[5]

Tradition Three: Muhammad Ibn Yaqoob from al-Husain Ibn Muhammad from Mualla Ibn Muhammad from al-Washshaa, who narrates, “I asked al-Reza (a.s.), ‘May I be held your ransom! (Inform me about the verse) “So ask the people of remembrance if you do not know”, he (a.s.) replied, ‘We are the people of remembrance and we are to be questioned.’  I enquired, ‘You are to be questioned and we should ask?’ He (a.s.) replied, ‘Yes.’ I asked again, ‘Are we duty-bound to ask you?’ He (a.s.) affirmed, ‘Yes.’ I questioned, ‘Is it obligatory on you to reply us?’ He (a.s.) responded, ‘No. That depends on us. If we desire, we will. And if we don’t desire, we will not. Do you not hear the saying of Allah – Blessed and High be He – هَذَا عَطَاؤُنَا فَامْنُنْ أَوْ أَمْسِكْ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ   This is Our free gift, therefore give freely or withhold, without reckoning.”[6] [7]

He (r.a.) continues the traditions till he (r.a.) says,

Tradition Twelve: Ibn Baabewayh narrates, “Reported unto us Ali Ibn al-Husain Ibn Shaadhwayh al-Muaddab and Ja’far Ibn Muhammad Ibn Masroor (r.a.) from Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Ibn Ja’far al-Himyari from his father from Rayyaan Ibn al-Sult, who recounts, ‘(Imam) al-Reza (a.s.) was present in the assembly of Maamoon (the Abbaside Emperor) at Marw. In this assembly, the scholars of Iraq and Khorasaan had gathered too. He (a.s.) has mentioned the tradition about the difference between the Ahle Bait (a.s.) and the Ummah. {The tradition is mentioned in its totality in ‘Oyoon Akhbaar al-Reza (a.s.)’ and has come soon[8] and has mentioned the tradition} till Imam al-Reza (a.s.) says, ‘We are the people of remembrance about whom Allah – the High – has said in His Book, So ask the people of remembrance if you do not know”. So ask, if are not knowing.’ The scholars said, ‘This verse implies the Jews and the Christians.’ Imam Abu al-Hasan al-Reza (a.s.) retorted, ‘Glory be to Allah! Is this permissible? If this is the case, they (the Jews and the Christians) will call us to their religion. They will claim that their religion is superior to Islam.’ Mamoon intervened, ‘Do you have any explanation in this regard contrary to their opinion?’ Imam (a.s.) replied, ‘Yes. ‘The remembrance’ implies the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) and we are his family. This has been elaborated in the Book of Allah when He says in Surah Talaaq, فَاتَّقُوا اللهَ يَا أُوْلِي الْأَلْبَابِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا

قَدْ أَنزَلَ اللهُ إِلَيْكُمْ ذِكْرًا

رَّسُولًا يَتْلُو عَلَيْكُمْ آيَاتِ اللهِ مُبَيِّنَاتٍ

“…therefore be careful of (your duty to) Allah, O men of understanding who believe! Allah has indeed revealed to you a remembrance, an Apostle who recites to you the clear communications of Allah…”[9]

So, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) is the remembrance and we are his (s.a.w.a.) family.[10]

These are some of the traditions from our sources.

As for the Sunni sources, he (Sayed Bahraani (r.a.)) has mentioned three traditions in Ghaayah al-Maraam. These are as follows:

Tradition One: al-Tha’labi records in his Tafseer concerning the saying of Allah – the High – “So ask the people of remembrance if you do not know”, “Jaaber said, ‘When this verse was revealed, Ali (a.s.) said, ‘We are the people of remembrance.[11]

Tradition Two: In the exegesis of Yusuf al-Qattaan from Wakee’ from al-Thauri from al-Suddi, who chronicles, “I was with Umar Ibn al-Khattaab when Ka’b Ibn al-Ashraf, Maalek Ibn al-Saif and Hayy Ibn Akhtab came and asked, ‘Verily, it is in the Book of Allah, وَجَنَّةٍ عَرْضُهَا

السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالأَرْضُ  “…and a Garden, the extensiveness of which is (as) the heavens and the earth,…”[12]  When the extensiveness of one garden (paradise) is like seven heavens and seven earths, then where will all the gardens be on the Day of Judgment?’ Umar replied, ‘I don’t know.’ While they were engaged in this discussion, Ali (a.s.) entered, ‘Are you busy with something (an argument)?’ The Jews put the same question to him (a.s.). He retorted, ‘Inform me about the day, when night dawns, where is it?’ They replied to him (a.s.), ‘In the knowledge of Allah – the High.’ Ali (a.s.) shot back, ‘The same is for the gardens. They are in Allah’s knowledge.’ Later, Ali (a.s.) came to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and informed him about this conversation and the verse “So ask the people of remembrance if you do not know” was revealed.”[13]

Tradition Three:  Whatever al-Haafez Muhammad Momin al-Shiraazi has narrated in al-Mustakhraj Min Tafaaseer al-Ithnaa Ashar (Derivations from Shiite commentaries) concerning the saying of Allah – the High –  “So ask the people of remembrance if you do not know” refers to the Ahle Bait (a.s.) of Prophethood, the treasure-chest of Messengership, the place of descent of the angels. By Allah! A believer is not called so but as a honour for Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.).[14]

I say: The word ‘remembrance’ refers to the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) – like His Word in Surah Talaaq[15] – and also to the Holy Quran like His Word, وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ

الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ   “…and We have revealed to you the Reminder that you may make clear to men…”[16] So, the meaning is one and the difference lies in the applications because both of them are purely and exclusively dedicated and devoted to the remembrance of Allah –High is His Glory. Similarly, the Ahle Bait (a.s.) are the family of both of them together. As for the first (i.e. the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.)), it is obvious. As for the second (i.e. the Holy Quran), it is because they (a.s.) are the ones whom the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has associated with the Book of Allah, appointed them as his (s.a.w.a.) successors in his (s.a.w.a.) Ummah and ordered it to fasten unto both of them, emphasising, ‘Know that these two shall never separate from each other till they meet me at the Pond of Kauthar’. Thus, they are the people of the Holy Quran and those who know it thoroughly. They (a.s.) shall never separate from the Holy Quran and the Holy Quran shall never separate from them (a.s.). Hence, the interpretation of the word ‘remembrance’ in most of the traditions as the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) is not contrary to its interpretation in some of them as the Holy Quran because both the interpretations end up with the same meaning.

From what we have explained it has become clear that to interpret ‘the people of remembrance’ for all scholars – as has been conjectured by some – is improper.

As for its application for the scholars of the Jews and the Christians, as they (Sunnis) have deemed, its falsity is extremely clear and obvious. For, if the word ‘remembrance’ had implied all the heavenly books, it would not have included the people of remembrance because the addition of the word ‘people’ to ‘remembrance’ would be correct only if they (the people) had the knowledge of these books, agreed with its contents and followed them. But if they only had its knowledge but opposed them, then it would not be true to the one who is aware of it. Exactly the same applies for the people of remembrance. The scholars of the Jews and the Christians opposed the remembrance; otherwise, they would have submitted. Nay, if they were included in the people of remembrance, they would not have been included in the command to question and ask, essentially because the order to question is related only to the followers of the remembrance, while the Jewish and Christian scholars opposed the remembrance, how could Allah – Mighty and Glorified be He – order to question and ask them?

When this has become apparent and clear for you, then know that the noble verse proves the distinction of Caliphate and Imamate for them (a.s.) to the exclusion of others from the Ummah. For, they are the people of remembrance and Allah – the High – has ordered the entire Ummah to question and ask them (a.s.) for what they don’t know amply demonstrates that they are the guides appointed by Allah and He has made them as a reference for the Ummah in the acquisition and derivation of knowledge from them (a.s.). Thus, inevitably they (a.s.) are the caliphs of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) and the Imams of the Ummah because the Caliphate of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) in his Messengership entails the necessity of obedience and the obligation of allegiance with him. This can be applicable when they are the guides of the Ummah, their leaders towards the Truth, their mentors towards propriety and their escorts from the darkness of ignorance to the light of certainty. It is irrational for the one who has not been granted these qualifications by Allah – the High – to be the Caliph and successor of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) and an Imam for his (s.a.w.a.) Ummah. Even more obviously absurd and irrational is to give preference to such an unworthy person over the guide appointed by Allah – the High – for the Ummah, a source of knowledge whose obedience has been made obligatory and whom Allah – the High – has ordered to be the referential authority for the people and that they follow him.

Objection: The noble verse only establishes their (a.s.) eligibility for Caliphate and Imamate and not them being distinguished with it. For, those who preceded Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.) in caliphate could also be described as the people of remembrance and hence, were eligible for caliphate.

Answer: That the preceding caliphs were not the people of remembrance is absolutely clear as they often referred in most of the problems, in which they expressed their ignorance, to our master Ali Ameerul Momineen (a.s.), a fact recorded in the books of both of the sects[17]. Therefore, they should be enlisted among those who have been ordered to ask questions from the people of remembrance. So, how can they become eligible for caliphate, leave alone their being preferred to this divine post?



[1] Surah Ambiya (21): Verse 7

[2] Ghaayah al-Maraam, pp. 240-242

[3] Surah Zukhruf (43): Verse 44

[4] Al-Kaafi, vol. 1, p. 210; Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 240

[5] Al-Kaafi, vol. 1, p. 210; Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 240

[6] Surah Suaad (38): Verse 39

[7] Al-Kaafi, vol. 1, p. 210; Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 240

[8] That is, in Ghaayah al-Maraam

[9] Surah Talaaq (65): Verse 10, 11

[10]Al-Amaali by Shaikh Sadooq (r.a.), p. 428, 79th Session; Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 241

[11] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 240

[12] Surah Aale Imraan (3): Verse 133

[13] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 240

[14] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 240

 

[15]Surah Talaaq (65): Verses 10, 11 فَاتَّقُوا اللهَ يَا أُوْلِي الْأَلْبَابِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا

قَدْ أَنزَلَ اللهُ إِلَيْكُمْ ذِكْرًا

رَّسُولًا يَتْلُو عَلَيْكُمْ آيَاتِ اللهِ مُبَيِّنَاتٍ

“…therefore be careful of (your duty to) Allah, O men of understanding who believe! Allah has indeed revealed to you a remembrance, an Apostle who recites to you the clear communications of Allah…”

[16] Surah Nahl (16): Verse 44

[17] Refer al-Ghadeer, vol. 6, p. 327