Lessons from the NAHJUL-BALAGHAH
Seyyid Ali Khamenei
Translated by Hossein Vahid Dastjerdi
Islamic Propagation Organization on the Occasion of the Fifth
Anniversary of the Islamic Revolution
published by Council for Ten Days Dawn Celebration
P.0. Box 2782, Tehran
The Islamic Republic of Iran
Islamic Propagation Organization
1984 - 1404
Questions and Answers
Background to Prophethood
The, Age of Ignorance
Questions and Answers
To Which Class
of Society Do the Prophets Belong
Questions and Answers
How Are Prophets Chosen?
Responsibilities of the Prophets
The Continuity of Prophethood
Questions and Answers
The End of Prophethood
Questions and Answers
Believers' Status Before, After and at the Time of the Prophets' Appearance
The Three-Act Play of
(Two General Points...... )
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
On the eve of 5th victorious anniversary of the glorious Islamic
Revolution of Iran, and having gone through five years of struggles and
are witnessing great triumphs over all the colonizing plots of both eastern and western
Superpowers and their mercenary agents, and are celebrating the Ten Days Dawn in a most
splendid manner. The revolutionary Moslem people of Iran have triumphantly smashed down
all the obstacles and bore all the problems imposed upon them by the criminal big powers
which wanted to weaken and break down the Islamic Revolution. The revolutionary Islamic
nation continues to resist like a firm mountain inspite of suffering the loss of so many
martyrs in various scenes of combat imposed by stubborn murderous enemies of the
Revolution. The committed Iranian people steadfastly follow their reviving Islamic way-the
way which has now become a model for all Moslems and oppressed nations and have created an
Era of Spirituality that has severely terrified the arrogant world powers. This
as the preceding years, the Council for Ten Days Dawn Celebrations, on this auspicious
occasion and for the purpose of presenting a lucid portrait of the Islamic Revolution and
its Islamic and political lines, offers a number of books and pamphlets in various
languages to the dear readers. The present book-pamphlet is one of the said works and is
offered to all whom it may interest and concern. We convey best wishes for the final
victory of Islamic and Moslems in all arenas and forecast an ultimate defeat of the
sinister international powers, while we pray for liberation of all oppressed and dominated
Council for Ten Days Dawn Celebrations
In the Name of God
the Merciful, the Compassionate
The book Lessons from the Nahj-ul-Balagha by the great Islamic
scholar, Seyyid Ali Khamenei, one of the leading theologians and politicians of Iran
and presently its president and the Friday Ritual Prayer leader of Tehran, is a precious
book presented to the world of Islam as a brief introduction to the vast phenomenon of
prophethood as it appears in the Nahj-ul-Balagha of the Commander of the
Ali, peace be upon him. 'The efforts made in translating this book were aimed at providing
the Muslims, and even non-Muslims, outside the country, who communicate in the English
language, with a valuable interpretation of Ali's sayings concerning the issue of
prophethood. It is hoped that this aim has been achieved with this translation. Readers,
however, are kindly asked to observe the following points;
1. The translator has adopted the method of blank verse" in
rendering the author's views into English. However, on many occasions, an exact, word by
word translation has been employed.
2. In some rare cases, unnecessary or repeated parts of the original
text have been omitted in translation.
3. The source for the translation of the Sermons of the Nahj-ul-Balagha
has been Seyyid All Radis translation of it (1979, Tehran).
4. The Quranic verses have been taken from Marmaduke Pickthall's
"The Glorious Koran".
April 1983, H. Vahid Dastjerdi
In the Name of God,
The Merciful, The Compassionate
It is necessary, at the beginning, to provide our brothers and sisters with a brief
introduction to the Nahj-ul-Balagha. As you know, the Nahj-ul-Balagha is a
collection of Sermons, Letters and miscellaneous Sayings left as a memorial from the
Master of the Pious, the Commander of the Faithful, All, peace be upon him. This book is
divided into three sections of Sermons, Letters and short Sayings or' wise
(hikam), as they are usually called, some of which have been selected from among the
Sermons and Letters.
The Nahj-ul-Balagha dates back to about one thousand years ago when
the late Seyyid Radi compiled these Letters and Sermons at the end of the third and the
outset of the fifth century (400A.H.) the Hejra after. It is, thus, a one thousand year
old book. It is to be noted, however, that before Seyyid Radi made efforts in compiling
All's Sermons and Sayings, they were scattered in the books of the Traditions' and
history. Other scholars had also begun to perform this task in one way or
but no one succeeded in accomplishing what Sayyid Radi did. Therefore, we are indebted to
the endeavors and initiatives of this great scholar who left the Nahj-ul-Balagha for
Another point to be noted here is that, in addition to the contents of
the Nahj-ul-Balagha, a number of Sermons, Letters and short Sayings of Ali, peace
be upon him, can be found in different books which recent scholars have tried to compile
and introduce as appendices to the Nahj-ul-Balagha. Therefore, in addition to the N2hjal-Balagha
which is, in itself, a rich and invaluable treasure, here are some other books of
All's Sayings which shall later be introduced to the readers in detail so that they may
obtain a general acquaintance with the bibliography of the Nahj-ul-Balagha and its
Another point to note about the Nahj-ul-Balagha concerns the
invalidity of this book, a claim made by some people over the years. The motive behind
such a claim can easily be surmised, that is, the subject matter of the Nahj-ul-Balagha
threatened the interests of some groups or classes of people who therefore found the
best device, to be discrediting the book itself. It is also true of the personality of
individuals, and for this same reason those who considered the personality of Imam Ali Ibn
Abi Talib, peace be upon him, to be against their personal or group interests, naturally
tried to distort it. In the same manner, they claimed that the Nahj-ul-Balagha was
invalid on the grounds that they said it was without any authority (sanad).
It is clear that the Nahj-ul-Balagha is in the category of
Traditions upon which we depend for the understanding of Islamic teachings, as well as the
Traditions of the Prophet and the Book (the Holy Quran). There is no doubt as to the
authority of the Holy Quran, but as to the Traditions, valid authorities are needed
to remove any doubts, i.e., the narrators of a certain Tradition, including the Imams and
the Prophet, should be known and trustworthy. This has always been the main concern
of our great narrators and jurisprudents in eliciting and understanding the divine
ordinances. Thus, we have the science of rijal which deals with the
recognition of narrators of Traditions and the science of diraya' which
concerns the recognition and analysis of Traditions and which determines the correct and
the unreliable Traditions. Thus, this attention to detail that a Tradition must have an
authority and that authority must be valid, is necessary. It is because of this that today
great emphasis is put on expertise in understanding Islamic sciences. An
is not an expert, accepts the Traditions which accord with his own intellect,
understanding and mental background and rejects all others. This leads to the weakening of
When an expert wants to rely on a Tradition, he first tries to
acknowledge its authority and validity through his special expertise. This necessity has
been taken care of by our jurisprudents in their recognition and understanding of Islamic
laws and regulations. Now, some people asserted that the Nahj-ul-Balagha, as a
collection of Traditions which should be based on valid authorities, was without any
authority and, therefore, was invalid and unreliable. As a matter of fact, in one way
these people were telling the truth for no chain of narrators are mentioned in the Nahj-ul-Balagha
in any of the Sermons so that they can be attributed to the Commander of the Faithful
and the truthfulness of such narrators could be sought. However, in the books of
Traditions such as Vasa-al-Shi'a, al-Kafi and the like, as well as in the old
history books. such as those of Tabari, ibn Athir and Ya'qubi, no chain of authorities can
be found concerning the contents of the Nahj-ul-Balagha.
Firstly, although the Nahj-ul-Balagha itself does not mention
the chain of authorities and narrators, this can be checked in the Shi'ite and Sunni books
of Traditions where from the Sermons, Letters and Sayings of this book have been extracted
and compiled. Several years ago, one of the Arab writers wrote a book entitled Madarik
Nahj-ul-Balagha wa Masanidu (The Documents and Authorities of Nahj-ul-Balagha) which
may later be introduced to the readers in an analysis of the books written about the Nahj-ul-Balagha.
In this book, the writer has quoted the authentic authorities of the Sermons, Letters
and Sayings of the Nahj-ul-Balagha from the books of the Traditions. it is
therefore, concluded that the content, of the Nahj-ul-Balagha should not be
considered to be without authority on the mere ground that the book itself does not
mention any authority.
Secondly, although the authorities of Traditions are proper means of
reliance or vice versa, the text of Traditions can also be a means of obtaining confidence
for one who undertakes research, i.e. when you study a text and find its contents
miraculous (as you will, God-Willing, observe when interpreting Ali's words), when you see
that in one sentence the writer has referred to something beyond the prevailing mentality
of his own time, which others have been able to understand only in the course of
centuries, when you are faced with a saying that predicts future events which cannot be
presaged except by the likes of Amir al-Muminin who are in contact with endless divine
knowledge and, in addition to all these merits, when you observe the highly eloquent words
and expressions of the writer, it becomes quite clear to you that he is not an ordinary
human being and that his saying cannot be but those of an immaculate Imam.
Based upon this, Seyyid Radi states that certain words and expressions
of the Nahj-ul-Balagha, are matchless in human expression, something which has
never been opposed, in the course of one thousand years, by eloquent writers, Islamic
thinkers and even the adversaries of Islam. These people have always accepted that some
statements of the Nahj-ul-Balagha are superior to human expression and beyond the
ordinary level of the human being's knowledge at that time. The conclusion is therefore
drawn that, despite the absence of the chain of authorities and narrators in the Nahj-ul-Balagha,
this book is undoubtedly that of the Commander of the Faithful and reliable as such.
Thirdly, as you know and as we mentioned previously, the
Nahj-ul-Balagha consists of the Sermons (i.e. lectures, not the sermons delivered in
the Friday ritual prayers, although the book may have included some of these sermons as
well), Letters and short Sayings of Ali, peace be upon him, which he expressed and
wrote as a teacher, ruler and an Islamologist. Thus, in addition to reflecting the general
lines of Islamic thought, these Sermons and Letters also cover daily matters, i.e. the
current problems and difficulties of Amir al Muminin's life.
In our own time, that is, after the victory of the Islamic Revolution,
many similar aspects can be found between our social situation and that of Amir
al-Muminin's time, although our situation is more similar in many respects (i.e.
enmities and other problems) to the Medina social situation at the time of the Prophet's
migration. The difference, however, between the social situation of Ali's rule and that of
the Prophet lies in the fact that under the Prophet's rule, the enemy had a clear and
well-known position, that is, not even one single group of the adversaries of Islam shared
an aspect common to the Prophet. The atheists among the Quraish, the Jews of Medina, the
western and eastern superpowers of the time and the Christians of Najran, each had slogans
of their own. In fact, there was no organized group to cry the same slogan as that of the
Prophet and, at the same time, to stand openly against him in fight. Accordingly, the
Prophet suffered a great deal but never felt the heavy sorrows that All ibn Abi Talib
tolerated during his reign.
There were hypocrites at the time of the Prophet as well but, first of
all, they were not organized; secondly, they did not have a manifest position against the
Prophet and they did not use the same slogans as those of the Prophet so that the people
might doubt as to whether the Prophet was truthful or his rivals. Thirdly, the hypocrites
were more or less known to all the people. For instance, everyone, including his own
knew that Abdullah ibn Ubaid was the head of the hypocrites and even his son suggested to
the Prophet to kill his father or prevent him from entering Medina if the Prophet
On the contrary, at the time of the rule of Amir al Muminin, those who
fought him used exactly the same slogans as his. Moreover, they were among the
distinguished personalities of the time, with long, past records. For example, the group
of the Nakithin (the breakers of allegiance or the front in the 'Battle of the Camel'
comprising Talha, Zubair and Ayesha) fought the Commander of the Faithful with his own
slogans - slogans in favor of Islam and the truth.
The group of Qasitin, (the front of Mu'awiya, the Damascus front),
pretended in such a way that the impartial observers fell in a state of doubt as to which
group was telling the truth. When you study Mu'awiya's letters to Ali, you find exactly
the same words as those of Ali to him. For example, Ali addresses, From the
Commander of the Faithful, Ali ibn Abi Talib to Mu'awiya ibn Abi Sufyan", and
Muawiya writes, From the Commander of the Faithful, Muawiya ibn Abi
Sufyan to All ibn Abi Talib".
Mu'awiya does not introduce himself as 'the commander of the
or 'the commander of the polytheists' but, exactly like Ali, as the Commander of the
Faithful. Then Ali advises Mu'awiya, for instance, to be pious to fear God and to refrain
from wasting the blood of Muslims, and Mu'awiya uses the same advice for Ali.
the problem of Ali is that his enemy is not a manifest enemy in the eyes of the people,
for whatever he offers is also offered by the enemy and, as a result, he cannot show the
real character of the opposing front to the people. It is true, of course, that Ali had a
great deal to say but not all the words spoken can necessarily be understood by those who
hear and this was Ali's constant sorrow. Perhaps this was the reason why he used to sit
beside a well and speak into it about his grievances. In fact, other than a group of
people who were completely faithful to Ali for a special reason, and not because they
observed his doings and prayers or they heard about Mu'awiya's evil deeds, others were
always in doubt as to which side was telling the truth, for they witnessed, as an
that in the Battle of Siffin, both sides performed the congregational ritual prayer with
humility and modesty.
Thus, a hypocritical atmosphere was characteristic of society during
the time of Ali. This does not imply, however, that all the people were
the followers of Mu'awiya were a group of honest, tribal Arabs, from the area around
Damascus, who had, from the very outset of their conversion to Islam, seen and known no
governors except Muawiya and his family.1 They knew Islam through the
words of these people. They had heard so many good things about them - that they were
scribes of the divinely revealed Book, that since Mu'awiya's sister was the Prophet's wife
and thus called 'Umm al-Mu'minin (mother of the believers), Mu'awiya was Khal al-Muminin
(maternal uncle of the believers)2 - that they supported Mu'awiya and fought
against All with the best of intentions. So they were not hypocrites. However, unlike the
time of the Prophet, society enjoyed an air of hypocrisy, about which more explanation
may, God-willing, be provided when discussing the words and sayings of the Commander of
This atmosphere of hypocrisy is also a peculiarity of our own time,
although from the point of view of social conditions, enmities, manner of
hostile parties and so forth, our time is more comparable to the time of the Prophet.
Today, the so-called followers of 'progressive Islam' in our society are those groups who
oppose each other quite openly. Also, those who claim to be followers of the 'line of the
Imam' sometimes draw swords against one another. Those who claim to act for the benefit of
the Islamic Republic or to follow the policy of 'neither East nor West' are often so
divided among themselves that nothing but a hostile relationship can be attributed to
them. In fact, it cannot be said that they have differences of opinion, for they are
exactly at the opposite side of one another. Therefore, taking into account that each of
these groups finds some followers for itself, we see that our society resembles the
society at the time of Ali.
The importance of the Nahj-ul-Balagha then lies in two
dimensions. First, it speaks about the fundamental of Islam such as the matters concerning
God, the human being, Islamic views of humanity, prophethood and its position in human
history, the dignity and prophethood of the Prophets and other matters which are today, a
means of understanding Islam and thus necessary for us to study. Secondly, the Nahj-ul-Balagha
refers to the social problems of a hypocritical society with which we deal today.
Accordingly, this book can be a source of Inspiration for us as regards the social and
political problems of life and the possible solutions to them.
The fourth point about the Nahj-ul-Balagha is that a great
number of its sermons are unfortunately incomplete, i.e. either from the beginning or from
the end of each sermon some statements have been omitted. Even, in some cases, Seyyid Radi
has omitted statements from the middle of a sermon and then continued the rest of it with
the phrase "and from that", which is what the journalists and reporters do
repeatedly today. Now, we know nothing about the omitted parts and this creates some
difficulties in interpreting the content of the Nahj-ul-Balagha. The reason why
Seyyid Radi has made these omissions is that the Nahj-ul-Balagha (The Peak of
Eloquence), as its name indicates, has been compiled from an artistic point of view,
i.e. eloquence of expression. This does not mean, however, that he has been heedless of
the subject matter and has merely paid attention to the artistic aspects of Ali's Sayings.
Yet', this eloquent man, one of the great Arab poets of his own time, has dealt with the Nahj-ul-Balagha
with a poetic outlook. He has endeavored to pick out All's most beautiful and eloquent
words and statements just as one tries to choose the best distich of a sonnet. This is why
a type of semantic disconnection is observed among the statements of some Sermons.
It is to be noted, of course, that both the highly eloquent and
non-eloquent Sayings of Ali carry very magnificent purports, and it is these
purports which make us appreciate the Nahj-ul-Balagha, now, in the fourteenth
century (A.11.) more than a great scholar of the fourth century (Seyyid Radi) did. As a
matter of fact, the human being has naturally faced so many hardships in the course of
centuries that he or she understands Ali's words and message and the call of Islam from
his tongue more easily than those who lived centuries ago.
It is important, as well, to know that when Seyyid Radi was compiling
Ali's words and sayings, there were few people who valued All and his words as much as you
value them today. Thus, Ali's lines of thought were only followed by a minority.
On the other hand, those people who took care of All's Sayings and
tried to compile them, attached more (or at least equal) importance to the form and beauty
as to the content of his statements and omitted some parts which they considered
less beautiful than others. Hf you were Seyyid Radi you would definitely not treat Ali's
words in this way. You would instead, try to benefit more from the contents of Ali's
sayings. This is why we believe that today Ali and his words are more appreciated than hn
the fourth century, and this is why history is moving towards All and his message,
something that we should accelerate.
The main subjects of the Nahj-ul-Balagha which we are going to
discuss in this book `re as follows:
@ part of Nahj-ul-Balagha is about monotheism, humanity, the
Last Day, prophethood, Imamat and other fundamental principles of Islam. Of course,
contrary to the manner of the dialecticians in the third and the fourth centuries, these
subjects have been discussed in the Nahj-ul-Balagha with a kind of mystical and
spiritual approach. Thus, the words of All about monotheism, for instance, are quite
different from the words of Nasir al-din Tusi and other Islamic philosophers and
Social and Political Matters
These matters consist of both general and specific social affairs
including the administration of or Islamic country, the relation between governors and
subordinates, letters to the rulers of different states (the famous letter to Malik
Ashtar, for instance), the, way of facing the enemy, decisiveness free from improper hate
and revenge, treating both friends and enemies exactly as they deserve, being not
subjected to credulity and naivety and many other social matters of that time and of the
The training and purification of the human being's soul are among other
subjects discussed in the Nahj-ul-Balagha, which we shall, God-willing, talk about
in the coming pages.
Peace and the mercy of God be upon you.
Prophethood (nubuwwah) Prophethood (nubuwwah)
Prophethood is among the subjects which have been dealt with in the Nahj-ul-Balagha
and a discussion about which can help us understand one of the basic principles of
Islam. In fact, it is not only a subject which can be followed throughout the Nahj-ul-Balagha
but one of the most important and fundamental principles of Islamic ideology. I have
repeatedly mentioned in various discussions that in order to analyze and understand
the numerous matters of Islamic thought and ideology, the principle of prophethood is an
axis around which these matters can be discussed as well. As -to the principle of
monotheism, we believe that its social and revolutionary dimensions can only be clarified
when we discuss it within the vast spectrum of the matters concerning prophethood.
Accordingly, our method in this chapter is to point out and analyze the different
dimensions of prophethood and to support our discussion with an explanation of Ali's ibn
Abi Talib's sayings wherever necessary. In this manner, two aims will be fulfilled, i.e.
some important sections of the Nahj-ul-Balagha will be translated and interpreted,
and an issues among the basic Islamic principles will be made apparent.
It is to be mentioned at the beginning that in the discussion about
prophethood, revelation and its relevant matters will not be discussed. Rather,
prophethood will be viewed as a historical reality and an unquestionable event.
Undoubtedly, prophethood has existed as a phenomenon in the history of mankind. There is
no difference of opinion in this regard between us and those who disbelieve in lt.
However, the difference lies in the interpretation of this event and the message it
conveys. In fact, no one denies such personalities as Moses, Jesus and other Prophets
whether or not the history of their lives be more or less known or vague. History reports
that all of them have existed.
Therefore, prophethood will be considered as a historical event in our
discussion and the following questions will be answered in the analysis which follows:
1. What was the social background (social, temporal and historical
situation) when this event occurred?
2. Where did this event originate? Did it appear among the kings, the
oppressed, the scholars and thinkers... which class of people?
3. What position did it enjoy? Was it to the benefit of a special class
of people? Was it directed towards material advantages? 'Was it directed towards mystical
and spiritual aspects of life? What was its social and intellectual direction?
4. What was the pros and cons when the Prophet first offered his
message? Who were those who opposed it and to which class of the society did they belong?
What were their motives and means of opposition? Who were in favor of it and to which
class did they belong? What were their motives and how did they assist the Prophet?
5. What was the aim behind the message of prophethood? Was prophethood
aimed at material welfare? Was it aimed at class distinction? Was it aimed at enhancing
the level of people's knowledge and understanding? Was it aimed at opposing or accounting
for the powers of the time?
6. Did the Prophet call the people? Was it 'monotheism' with its social, political,
economic and revolutionary dimensions?
Answering these questions, with regard to Islamic texts and records,
will shed light on different aspects of this social reality and will acquaint us with a
vast scope of Islamic thought. Of course the Nahj-ul-Balagha will be the axis of
our discussion, although different verses of the Holy Quran as well as mental
reasoning may be of great help both in answering the questions and in interpreting All's
The first question which is relevant is "What grounds were
available for the manifestations of prophethood?» What was the social, economic and
historical setting for the appearance of the Prophets? And among which class of people
have they appeared? The Nahj-ul-Balagha has answered these questions on several
occasions. In the first sermon, speaking about monotheism, the creation of heavens and the
earth, the angels and other matters, the appearance of the Prophets and the background to
prophethood in general are discussed as well.
We read the preceding sentence so that the connection to this matter is
From his progeny (Adam) God chose prophets and took their pledge for
His revelation and for carrying His message as their trust. In the course of time, many
people perverted God's trust with them and ignored His position and took partners along
with Him. Satan turned them away from knowing Him and kept them aloof from His worship.
Then sent His messengers and series of His prophets towards them to let them fulfill the
pledges of His creation, to recall to them his bounties....3 The last part of
this quotation reveals some peculiarities of the community in the 'Age of Ignorance', in
which Prophets were sent by God to people. These peculiarities are hereunder explained.
It says that 'in course of time many people perverted God's' trust. The
Holy Quran speaks about 'ahd on several occasions, examples of which are
Thy Lord has decreed you shall not serve any but Him ... "
(17:23) Made I not covenant with you, children of Adam, that you should not serve
Satan - surely he is a manifest foe to you ... ?" (36:60) ... and God made them
testify concerning themselves, 'Am I not your Lord?
'they said,' Yes, we testify ... " (7:172)
These verses imply that God's covenant ('ahd) is to abstain from
servitude to Satan, that man's servitude should be exclusively for God and that human
beings have primordially admitted that they are servants of God and should serve Him
This is the meaning of 'ahd (trust and covenant)to which the
Commander of the Faithful refers in the Nahj-ul-Balagha. In fact, he says that most
of the people broke their allegiance with God and disobeyed His commands by worshipping
idols, taking partners (holders of power and possessions) along with Him, imposing
themselves on other people as worship-deserving idols and perverting the divine decree
through ignoring or exclusive obedience to God.
It was under these conditions, the Commander of the Faithful asserts,
that God brought about prophethood and appointed His Prophets. This is also emphasized in
other statements of the first Sermon after describing the appearance of the Prophet of
Islam and not the appearance of the prophets at large, although the social conditions and
mental atmosphere in which all the Prophets, including Abraham, Moses, Jesus and others,
have appeared have been the same, and thus what is said about the Prophet of Islam fits
other Prophets as well.
The statements run as under the people of the earth at this time
were divided in different Parties, their aims were separate and their ways were diverse.
They either likened God with His creation or twisted His Names or turned to other than
It says that the Prophet was appointed to prophethood at a time when
people were divided in groups with different ways of thinking, i.e.. a universal mentality
did not govern the is minds of all people, which indicates the lack of an acceptable
culture at that time, separation among people and, finally, ignorance. It continues with
the statement that 'their aims were separate'. This has two implications. The simple one
is that in different parts of the community or in different corners of the world people
enjoyed desires and manners of their own. The members of each community or class of people
favored something which the members of other classes and communities despised. In fact,
the society at large lacked a common aim and aspiration, which shows the decline of that
The second implication is that there was not more than a few poles of
power throughout the world at that time, and they were Sassanian Kings, Roman Emperors,
Ethiopian Sultans and other despots, dictators and idols who stood at the peak of their
communities, ruling over the people with tyranny and according to their own aims, desires
and self-centeredness. The existence of insufficiencies and oppression in the Iranian
community, the existence of impenetrable classes among the people, the boundless mastery
of Brahmans, aristocrats and soldiers over the lower classes and the existence of moral,
cultural, economic and class tyrannies, the pressure of which tortured the people, were
all a manifestation of the sensuality and selfishness of the idols (kings) who possessed
the leadership of the Iranian community. Thus, the whims and desires of a minority
dominated all the affairs of a majority of mankind.
They likened God with His creation". It implies that those
people who, according to their nature and spiritual feelings, believed in the existence of
a diety and a creator, found it in the form of creatures and small, imperfect beings. Some
of them worshipped cows as their gods. Others worshipped stone or wooden idols. In fact,
all the people were in some way or another worshippers of God as their nature
demanded but they were devoid of a perfect knowledge concerning God. This was the most
"They twisted His Names or turned to other than Him». This was a
kind of mental deviation prevailing among the believers of God. They were actually so
involved in the Name of God that they could not take step beyond it. In ancient times, for
example, those who had a vague view of God in their minds, being unable to know God
perfectly, turned to His Names Allah, Mannan or Ilah and worshipped them. They were
ignorant of the reality of God.
Another example can be observed in the extremist ideologies of today.
Advocates of these ideologies claim to believe in God but if they are asked what God is,
they cannot explain the true concept and meaning of this word. Rather, they take the
'whole existence', the rules governing nature and the cause and effect, conventions
current in nature and history to be a god. They lack the ability to know the real meaning
of God, i.e. to know Him as an independent 'Necessary Being' who is undoubtedly the
Creator of this universe rather than being Himself the universe. They cannot perceive this
reasonable, philosophical concept. Thus, they are confused about the Name and the real
Being of God.
Naturally, wisdom, love, knowledge, spiritual attractions and moral
Attributes, all of which originate from monotheism and a knowledge of God, do not develop
in them and, therefore, prayers, incantations and the wise prayers of Imam Sajjad,
peace be upon him, for example, become meaningless to them. Accordingly, what such people
worship is 'God' as a word without being concerned with its meaning and concept. This is a
sign of the decline and deviation of religious as well as a characteristic of the people
who lived at the time when Prophets appeared.
In the second Sermon, the Commander of the faithful has more detailed
statements concerning the social background to the appearance of the prophets. They run as
follows At that time people had fallen in to vices whereby the rope of religion had
been broken, the pillars of belief had been shaken, principles had been sacrileged,
systems had become topsy turvy, openings were narrow, passages were dark, guidance was
unknown and darkness prevailed. God was being disobeyed. Satan was given support and
Belief had been forsaken. As a result, the pillars of religion fell down, its traces could
not be discerned, its passages had been destroyed and its streets had fallen into decay.
People obeyed Satan and tread his paths. They sought water from his watering places.
Through them Satan's emblems and his standard was raised in vices which trampled the
people under their hoofs, and treaded upon them with their feet. The vices stood on their
toes (in full stature) and the people immersed in them were strayed, perplexen, ignorant
and seduced as though in a good house with bad neighbors. Instead of sleep they had
wakefulness and for antimony they had tears in the eyes. They were in a land where the
learned were in bridles (keeping their mouths shut) while the ignorant were honored."5
This is a very beautiful and artistic picture (in the form of an
ordinary lecture from the pulpit) of the social conditions in the age of ignorance, in
which the Commander of the Faithful portrays the adversities, deficiencies and disorders
casting shadows over the people's life- the people who were mentally bewildered and
perplexen and who did not know the aim and purpose of life.
We can easily and clearly understand the meaning of these words of his,
because they provide us with an exact portrait of the situation of our own time, when the
Iranian nation was severely oppressed and fell victim to the tyrannies brought upon it by
the Pahlavi executioners and American mercenaries. In fact, what in this Sermon and other
Sermons has been expressed about the background to the appearance of the Prophets (which
the writer used to interpret consciously in connection with the situations of
strangulation at the Pahlavi time conforms exactly to the conditions under which we
lived during the Pahlavi rule).
In those days, especially in the last three years of the Pahlavi
reign, the people were so mentally deceived and misled that they got on the buses and
trucks in many cities, applauded, played the flute and shouted, Long live the
Shah". Meanwhile, the awakened conscience of a group of people was severely wounded;
yet, this was not the common conscience of our community, for even those who refrained
from participating in such shows, whether they were government employees, clergymen of
other classes of people, accepted the ways and procedures of the ruling regime by their
indifferent and apathetic behavior towards the prevailing situation. The people were
actually bewildered and dead. No one was aware of the aim behind his daily labor. They
worked day and night but they were ignorant of the aim, aspiration and the future for the
achievement of which human beings endeavor. The similitude of them was the like similitude
of the 'mill donkey' who constantly moves in a circular direction and never reaches an
end. They were endowed with the best dwellings and lands, having all the God-given
bounties and with the territory of human conscience, faculties and beauties which have
been hidden but now have bloomed in our revolutionary boys and girls, fathers and mothers.
In fact, such a blessed background existed in people but the 'neighbors were bad' in the
words of the Commander of the Faithful, i.e. the rulers and holders of power were
incompetent and dishonest.
On the whole, under such conditions which he recounts in the
above-quoted statements, and we experienced in our own time, the Prophets were appointed
to prophethood. We shall, God-willing, give more details about the background to
prophethood, as pointed out in the Commander of the Faithful's words, which are very
important so far as the philosophy of history is concerned, and which is misunderstood by
some deviated individuals who draw wrong, material conclusions on the basis of their
incorrect analysis in this regard.
Questions and Answers
Q. What is the difference between prophethood (nubuwwah) and
appointment to prophethood (ba'tha)?
A. Appointment to prophethood is the sudden resurrection and awakening
of an individual or a community of people who have plunged into the sleep of negligence,
ignorance and bewilderment. Prophethood is the principal factor of the appointment, i.e.
after the necessary competence and readiness is found in someone to connect with god and
the Divine revelation then he is appointed as a prophet. Thus, the appointment is the
consequence of prophethood.
Q. Is Alis view a universal one, applicable to all communities
such as the corrupt western ones? Are these communities subject to destruction without
anyone saving them?
A. Yes, it is applicable to all communities at all times. But it should
be added that at a time when the chain of prophethood ends in the Last Prophet and no one
is appointed to prophethood any longer, it is the religious scholars as heirs of the
Prophets who will lead the people and save human communities from destruction.
Q. Are, the signs which Hadrat Ali provides us for the appearance of
the Prophets the same as the signs which we have received concerning the appearance of
A. Concerning Hadrat Mahdi, mention should be made of the fact that
before his reappearance the world will achieve a relative perfection. In fact, the
universal government of Mahdi would be a perfectly just government. Half of this justice
should be provided by you and the coming generations before his reappearance. Today, due
to the establishment of the Islamic government of Iran, which conveys a remarkable
percentage of the message of Islam in this strategic region of the world, we have
approached nearer to the reappearance of Hadrat Mahdi.
Q. It is true that all these signs are existent in our Revolution and
in the whole world. Is the reappearance of Hadrat Mahdi possible in this period?
A. Yes, it is possible. But another thing which is quite possible is
the decline of the superpowers of the world and the appearance of new movements and
resurrection which we have pointed out repeatedly. This is because the world has entered a
new period with the advent of our Revolution, a period in which the deprived of the world
and the weak nations will no more remain indifferent to the tyrannies of the great powers,
will stand against them and will finally demolish them as a small animal can destroy a
huge elephant by mounting its back and biting its ears.
BACKGROUND TO PROPHETHOOD
In the previous lesson, the background to the appointment of the Prophets was discussed
with regard to a few statements of the Nahj-ul-Balagha. This lesson is aimed at
completing what was mentioned before by analyzing in detail the peculiarities of two
periods which are of concern in our discussion, i.e. the pre-Islamic period or the 'Age of
Ignorance' (the period before the appointment) and the Islamic period (the period after
The Age of Ignorance
According to Ali's words, in the Age of Ignorance, the people suffered
from two kinds of inadequacies: material and spiritual.
In this period, the level of social welfare and security was very low.
This is explicitly expressed both in the Nahj-ul-Balagha (in different sermons) and
the Holy Quran. The Quran refers to the Age of Ignorance saying (106:4)
Spiritual inadequacy is the very ignorance and bewilderment of the
people, i.e., they are devoid of a clear way of living and an aspiration for life. It is,
in fact, a great suffering for man and society not to seek a sublime aim in life but only
to try to provide for the daily requirements and necessities. Unfortunately, this state of
living was characteristic of the 'time of strangulation' (Pahlavi reign), when life was
without any aspiration and the best and most active individuals, in the eyes of people,
were those who made their utmost effort to enjoy a life of welfare or those who did not
have any involvement at all but spent their time in lewdness and buffoonery.
Generally speaking, the middle class, i.e., traders, workers,
housewives, university students and others were all endeavoring to provide for the
ordinary requirements of their lives. The similitude of them was the similitude of the car
which refuels from one gasoline station to another gasoline being a means for it to
constantly go from station to station.
In fact, the people worked in order to gain their daily bread which
enabled them, in turn, to work again. They actually spent their lives in eating bread and
gaining bread. This state of living cannot be perfectly felt by the idealist youth of
today who have specific aims and aspirations in mind, who work for the establishment of
the true Islamic government and who seek the fall of the superpowers. It is the existence
of these aspirations in the society of today which reveals the spiritual inadequacy (lack
of aims and aspirations) of the society during the Pahlavi rule.
Society during the 'Age of Ignorance', i.e. before the appointment and
revolution of the Prophet, was likewise an aimless and deviated society. The people were
bewildered. They turned round themselves just like the 'mill donkey' that permanently
turns round the millstone, perhaps traversing ten or fifteen kilometers a day, but never
moving more than a short distance away from the mill. They were ignorant but more ignorant
than them were those who followed destructive aims and aspirations which, if realized,
would destroy themselves as well as the whole community.
In this regard the Holy Quran says, Hast thou not seen
those who exchanged the bounty of God with unthankfulness, and caused their people to
dwell in the abode of ruin?-Gehenna, wherein they are roasted,- an evil
In fact, all the holders of power and authoritative rulers of the
world, all the great capitalists who commit any crime to establish their vast economic
networks and all those who have brought about great corruption upon the earth in the
course of history can be categorized among the spiritually deviated people with
destructive aims and aspirations.
To say the least, it was in such a deviated society and among
such a misled people that the Prophets were appointed to prophethood. The most outstanding
characteristic of such a society is the alienation of man which causes the development of
material aspirations in a group of people who follow the aim of making material,
monopolies and increasing the rate of material products which, in turn, results in the
poverty of other people.
The Commander of the Faithful says, I never saw an ample blessing
(wealth) unless beside it I saw a trampled right." Poverty gives rise to class
distinctions which bring about deeper gaps among the different classes of people and
causes other problems such as the unjust division of social authority under which rich
classes gain more power than others, although money is not always efficacious in gaining
power, but sometimes social power, too, is effective in making use of money and creating
Thus, both social and economic factors are influential in the
appearance of tyranny, exploitation, ignorance and deceit in a society where perversive
and destructive aims have replaced noble aims and aspirations.
This is where Islamic analysis and material analysis come face to face,
for according to materialists, mental possessions, beliefs and whatever comprises one's
soul, mind and thought originate from one's 'class position' which includes the social,
economic and even the cultural dimensions of life, whereas the Islamic viewpoint is that
the origin of all pressures and adversities existing in a society results from the
dominance of ignorance and alienation in that society. Islam says that it is alienation
which brings about class distinctions and which divides society into two classes, i.e. the
oppressed and the oppressors.
Spiritual alienation is, therefore, an outstanding characteristic of
the Age of Ignorance and the Prophets appear, in effect, to lead the people to the
straight path and to remove their spiritual depravities. This is what the Commander of the
Faithful emphasizes in the second Sermon of the Nahj-ul-Balagha which was
previously mentioned and which is hereunder reviewed and explained in detail.
He says, I also stand witness that Muhammad, peace and the mercy
of God be upon him and his descendants, is His slave and His Prophet. sent him with the
illustrious religion, effective emblem, written Book, effulgent light, sparkling gleam and
decisive injunction in order to dispel doubts (shubuhat) present clear proofs ...
Shubuha is the plural form of 'shubha' and means doubts and
differences of opinion which exist in the human mind and thought as regards truth and
falsehood. These doubts and differences appear, as far as the people's beliefs are
concerned, when the society at large goes astray. In fact, society comes to believe that
it lacks reality and to disbelieve the most manifest realities.
For instance, during the rule of the previous regime, the people had
come to believe in and accept 'monarchy' which was an untrue phenomenon, and had
completely forgotten a clear and undeniable reality named, 'Imamat'.
Thus, the Prophet was sent by God to remove mental doubts and errors
and to "present clear proofs," as the Commander of the Faithful says i.e. to
save people from the perplexity of philosophical reasoning by offering them clear proofs.
This does not mean, however, that such reasonings are basically useless and
philosophy must be abandoned. Some people today, find fault with Islamic philosophy, the
classic philosophy of Islam on the false basis that it is mixed with Greek philosophy.
They insinuate that Islamic philosophy is mixed with Aristotelian philosophy. They do not
realize that Islamic scholars and philosophers, centuries ago, cleansed Islamic philosophy
of Greek philosophy. Moreover, they are unaware of the fact that a philosophy with a
heavenly world-view cannot be mixed with a philosophy having a material world-view,
although they may share some common aspects.
Thus, philosophy should not be abandoned, although philosophical
reasoning is not very effective in awakening and provoking people at a time when a
revolution is to be conceived. At such a time, only the clearest proofs and reasonings can
make the people aware of the prevailing
situations, the wrong ways upon which they step and the right path they
This has been the manner of all Prophets of God. They called people to
the belief in the One God. They called them to their nature and to their natural beliefs,
without exposing them to ordinary, spiritual reasonings
In the case of the Islamic Revolution of Iran the reasonings of the
intellectuals for fighting the West never contented the least number of people because the
intellectuals themselves were not satisfied with their own reasonings due to the fact that
they never made their appearance in the battle arena, whereas the words and lectures of
the Imam Khomeini, which contained clear realities concerning the dependence of the
tyrannical regime of Pahlavi on the superpowers and the prevention of the society from
practicing their religion (Islam), doctrinal beliefs and worship, could be perfectly
understood by the people, and finally resulted in that great movement in our society. It
can be concluded, therefore, that the Prophets presented clear proofs and reasonings which
not only elicited but also which the middle class of people could understand and then
The Commander of the Faithful continues to enumerate the tasks of the
Prophet saying, administer warning through signs and to warn of punishments.» In fact, he
means that the Prophet came to acquaint the people with the signs of chastisement and with
the punishments which happened to the past nations in the course of history, and to tell
them that they would also be afflicted with the same punishments if they followed the
manners of those nations.
Then he portrays the situations during the Age of Ignorance (before the
appointment of the Prophet) and points out the troubles and calamities which endangered
the minds, hearts and the spirituality of the people, which blocked the ways of guidance
to them and which led them astray - the troubles which did not have anything to do with
the material life and apparent welfare of the people.
He says ... At that time, people had fallen in to vices, whereby
the rope of religion had been broken, the pillars of belief had been shaken, principles
had been sacrileged, systems had become topsy turvy, openings were narrow, passages were
dark, guidance was unknown and darkness prevailed. God was being disobeyed. Satan was
given support and belief had been forsaken. As a result, pillars of religion fell down,
its traces could not be discerned, its passages had been destroyed and its streets had
fallen into decay."
The general message of these words is that the society in which the
Prophets were appointed to prophethood was devoid of guidance and the Prophets' mission
was to lead the people to the straight path so that they could forsake the state of
indifference prevailing among them and seek good aims and aspirations.
As was mentioned before, should a motive more sublime and nobler than
eating, drinking and providing for the ordinary requirements of life become dominant in
the people's efforts and endeavors and should destructive aims and aspirations forsake
society, then social, political and economic conditions will prosper, class distinctions
will vanish and the idols of wealth and power will be smashed.
This was experienced during early Islam, at the time of all the
Prophets and even in our own revolutionary society (if the opponents let us finish this
experience). This is why we believe that our Islamic Revolution has rendered useless all
the social, political and revolutionary formulas which support the idea that movements and
revolutions originate from material motives, class distinctions and class quarrels in
societies which have apparently political systems of their own and which are not subject
to colonial rule (like Iran during the Pahlavi regime). What happened in Iran was exactly
the experience of the Prophets, i.e. the people who lived in a mentally-perverted society
were awakened by factors of guidance and hurried towards their natural promise to worship
naught but God, to appreciate God's plentiful blessings and to believe in their own social
Guided in such a way, these people who had for many years been
subjected to the oppression and coercion of the so-called masters and kings, suddenly
arose, revolted by the millions and brought about the Islamic Revolution. Today, to
continue the Revolution and to guarantee its survival, it is necessary to keep the
people's mental guidance intact in order to deepen their belief in God and Islam and to
make them more aware of their human dignity and responsibility.
The Commander of the Faithful continues his Sermon with the following
statements, providing more details about the mental and spiritual atmosphere of the Age of
Ignorance (before the appearance of the Prophet). He says ... People obeyed Satan
and tread his paths. They sought water from his watering places. Through them, Satan's
emblems flew and his standard was raised in vices which trampled the people under their
hoofs, and treaded upon them with their feet. The vices stood on their toes (in full
stature) and the people immersed in them were strayed, perplexen, ignorant and seduced as
though in a good house with bad neighbors. Instead of sleep they had wakefulness and for
antimony they had tears in the eyes ... ".
In fact, he believes that the origin of all adversities, oppressions,
corruptions, sufferings, disorders and crimes existing in society during the Age of
Ignorance, resulted from obedience to the satans of the time who, with reliance on their
social authority, i.e. wealth, power and deceit, wasted God's noble blessings and
devastated the plentiful, vital resources of the time with unthankfulness and the
transient lives of the people or exploited them for their own benefit, regardless of what
happened to the real owners of those valuable resources. It was on the basis of such
obedience that the people went only the ways which the masters and dominant groups showed
them, the ways which ended in no desired destination, which brought them nothing but
increasing poverty, ignorance and captivity and which provided the dominant groups of
society, i.e. the creators of evil, corruption and decadence, with their personal
In the Islamic world-view, the human being is considered a thoughtful,
innovative and independent creature. From these three characteristics, the power of
thinking of the human being is more important than others, for it provides one with
awareness which enables one to move and make progress.
Thus, the most significant and fundamental factor for the movement of
history and society are the knowledge and awareness which stimulate human beings to
action. It is awareness which induces humanity to move and act. In the course of history
spontaneous actions and movements have never resulted in a Revolution.
Maxim Gorki in his book, Mother, endeavors to prove that it was
the labor movements which gave rise to the October Revolution in Russia, whereas a careful
study of his book indicates that these blind movements could obtain no results. In fact,
without the existence of awareness and guidance, the spontaneous movements brought about
in the history of revolutions could never end in the desired aims.
Thus, class conflicts and wars which materialists emphasize as the
origin of all movements and revolutions have not been effective at all.. Rather, the most
significant factor for the movement of history and society have been understanding,
guidance and stimulating awareness. Without these, all actions and endeavors have usually
ended in undesired effects which can be observed in a great number of the revolutions
throughout the world.
Now, since awareness is the main source of inspiration in societies
in which ignorance is dominant, the antihuman elements (holders of corrupt authority), in
order to retain their tyrannical system, have always tried to stifle any liberating
thought by exposing people's minds to stupefaction and poisonous instructions and to
destroy the origins of consciousness.
As a result, in such societies, the people follow only the desires of
these satans, learn only what they teach and, like sheep, go only towards the water to
which they are led by these treacherous shepherds (they sought water from his
It is quite painful that, in the light of the sacrifices and endeavors
of the oppressed people, those who stand against the oppressors and criminals are usually
defeated and killed, while the chiefs of the atheists are rarely killed. For instance,
Mu'awiya, the manifest example of blasphemy, never accepted Ali's call to challenge him in
person because, as a Satan, his emblems flew through the deprived people who have always
been employed in the course of history as a ladder which the arrogant have climbed to
approach their self-centeredness, dominance and power.
The life of the deprived has always been blended with fear, anxiety,
confusion, poverty, hunger, ignorance, disgrace and lack of awareness. This has been an
out standing characteristic of the ages of ignorance. But according to the principles of
our religion and Islamic ideology and according to the Holy Quran which says, We
have honored the children of Adam ... >", human beings are honorable. In fact,
the belief in the Oneness of God is followed in Islamic thought by the dignity and worth
of human beings.
Generally speaking, those societies in which human beings are honored
because of believing in God and having will-power, and not on the basis of their social
positions, move towards perfection and prosperity; while those societies which grant no
worth to human beings and their thoughts do not tread the path of improvement and goodness
and are usually administered through dictatorship. Today, other than the Iranian community
upon which Islam has shed its light, all human communities throughout the world are ruled
either by black strangulation (such as the socialist communities in which the Proletariat
dictatorship is dominant and the so-called supporters of the labor classes, i.e. their
leaders, have never felt the hardship and poverty of the laborers) or by despotism
prevalent in such despotic countries as Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and so forth.
There are, however, other communities (Western ones) which are ruled by
the stupefaction of the people, i.e. keeping the people amused with passions, sexual
matters, alcoholic drinks and other means of corruption and adversity.
Ht is only the Islamic community which establishes equal rights for all
the people, whether they be workers, physicians or peasants. But that very Islamic
community will keep aloof from Islam, should decision-making, judgment and awareness be
confined to a special class of people (whoever they might be) and others be compelled to
follow them blindly.
On the whole, what the Commander of the Faithful says is that in
societies which are dominated by ignorance and alienation, although humility and
worthlessness cast shadows over all human aims and aspirations and hunger, horror,
disease, captivity, corruption and bewilderment threaten the society, the people are
surprisingly tolerant and in agreement with the oppressors. This is what he calls
sedition and calamity (fetna), something which brings a person to the state of
consternation and deception, which causes damage to one's heart and mind and which
destroys one's life completely. It is, in fact, under these circumstances that the
They do not appear merely to remove poverty, to establish social
welfare, to eliminate ignorance and to teach the people how to read and write. But each of
these is a part of a great whole which comprises the aims of the Prophets. The Prophets'
aim is to eradicate human deviation, alienation and bewilderment and to give one spiritual
elevation. The realization of this aim will, however, be followed by material welfare,
social security, eradication of ignorance and class distinctions and so forth.
Questions and Answers
Q. You said that alienation gives rise to class distinctions. Now what
are the causes of alienation?
A. The cause of alienation is the lack of the use of the power of
thinking, for this faculty can be effective only if it is trained, educated and used
properly. It is just like a very powerful projector which can offer its sparkling nature
only if it is clean and not covered by dust and mist. The power of thinking may lose its
usefulness under the influence of various factors, the most important of which being whims
and passions. Of course, other spiritual factors as well as the holders of worldly power
are also effective in this respect, but material and economic factors alone should not be
regarded as a basis for lack of thinking and alienation. Thinking is the faculty by which
the human being analyzes different matters and comes to a general conclusion. It is,
therefore, independent and can provide people with reasons concerning their doings.
Q. In one of his sermons, Ali says, I shall bring out
the truth from falsehood.» How do you interpret the leftists' justification of the
'dialectic conflict' on the basis of this statement?
A. 'Dialectic conflict' cannot be justified by this statement. By this
statement he implies that he can analyze a collection of saying in vhich right and wrong
have been mixed, distinguish the right from the wrong and introduce it to the people. This
is the `rt nf `ll the thinkers who jnow the truth.
Q. Vhat is ` classless, monotheistic society? Are monotheism and class
not two contradictory notions?
A. A classless society is one in which there is no legal distinction
among different groups of people and all the individuals are provided with equal rights
and opportunities. In such a society, every individual makes efforts in accordance with
one's physical and mental faculties and whatever one earns belongs to one's self. No one
has the right to ask another for a part of what one has earned. Of course, if an
individual kept a long distance from others, that person would be advised to assist them.
Islam holds equal possibilities and opportunities for all individuals. Every one has the
right to educate one's self, to enhance one's knowledge, to take one's desired job, to
work in the best possible manner and so forth. At the same time, lazy people are not
permitted in Islam to have a share in what hardworking people acquire. In Islam the people
are free to work and endeavor for themselves, contrary to socialist communities in which
all productive jobs and services are a monopoly of the governments and thus being wrongly
As to the 'monotheistic society', it should be stated that it is a
society in which all the people stand at the same level so far as legal, judicial and
social laws and regulations are concerned. In a monotheistic society, there is no
difference between the ruler and a layman before the law. A Jew and a Muslim are equally
treated (the judge calls Ali and the Jew to his presence and addresses both of them in the
A monotheistic society is an Islamic society and a classless one is
also Islamic but only within the limits which were explained above. We do not believe in
the classless society which Marxists define. We do not believe in what they call class,
classlessness and class war. These are all Marxist concepts which the group of so-called
Mujahidin (the anti-Islamic group of hypocrites) have mixed with Islamic notions to
deceive people. To say the least, society should either be called 'monotheistic', which is
in conformity with Islamic culture, or classless (as defined by the Mujahidin) which
reminds one of Marxist ideology.
Q. Are all human beings equipped with equal talents and faculties?
A. No, not all human beings enjoy the same talents and faculties and
not all of them are equal in understanding different matters and performing various tasks.
In fact, every individual has a talent for certain types of work and no one is found to be
devoid of certain gifts and talents.
CLASS OF SOCIETYDO THE PROPHETS BELONG?
In this chapter we are going to discuss the social origins of the
Prophets themselves, i.e., to find out the social class to which the Prophets belonged. We
are going to see whether they belonged to the rich people, aristocrats and holders of
worldly power or to the poor, the needy and the deprived. It is, in fact, very import-ant
to know the social and economic classes from which the Prophets have arisen in the course
of history, founded monotheistic movements and revolutions and provided the masses with
divine words and messages.
The Holy Quran, the Traditions and the Nahj-ul-Balagha are
rich sources which can help us in the analysis of this matter, but here the emphasis is
only on the words of the Nahj-ul-Balagha. In the long and famous sermon of al-Qasi'ah
(the Sermon of Disparagement) there are statements which deserve careful reflection
and which offer information concerning the matter being discussed.
The statements run as follows: Certainly , if God were to allow
anyone to indulge in pride, He would have allowed it to His selected prophets and
vicegerents. But God, the Sublime, disliked vanity for them and liked humbleness for them.
Therefore, they laid their cheeks on the ground, smeared their faces with dust, bent
themselves down for the believers and remained humiliated people (they were from the
oppressed people). God tested them with hunger, afflicted them with difficulties, tested
them with fear, and upset them with troubles."6
Here, the Commander of the Faithful speaks about pride and vanity and
emphasizes that since God disliked these two qualities, He misrepresented them in the eyes
of His Prophets and righteous beings. Therefore, the Prophets hated self-deceit and
superiority complexes, but liked humbleness and humility. Thus, they bent themselves down
for the believers, lived among the lowest classes of the people, rubbed their faces with
the dust (in prostration) before God and refrained from indulging in haughtiness. They
did, in effect, what the Holy Quran orders to be done to the parents. It says:
... and lower to them (one's parents) the wing of humbleness out of mercy ... "
The Prophets., according to the Commander of the Faithful were from the
oppressed masses of the people. They knew the, pains and agonies of the needy. They felt,
for instance, what hunger was, because God had tried them with hunger. The Holy
Quran quotes Moses, peace be upon him, to have said, Oh God! I need what
you shall send me." According to narrations, Moses, peace be upon him, was hungry
and implored God in this manner to send him bread so that he could satiate his hunger.
Thus, the Prophets felt the pains of hungry people. They had tasted the sufferings of
life. They knew well the troubles of hard physical labor in cold and hot weathers. They
understood the meaning of hardship.
Timidity and the state of being fearful are characteristics of the
oppressed. They are usually fearful of the future, poverty and the dominance of a powerful
hand over their destinies. They are always worried and in a state of mental disturbance,
concerning the existing situations and the coming conditions. They expect at any moment to
be put under pressure by a Powerful oppressor. Likewise, the Prophets suffered from such
fears and anxieties and, to say the least, were so surrounded by hardships and
difficulties as to become pure in the same way as gold derives its purity under the
pressure of very hot temperature. In fact, the Prophets were not pampered individuals to
suddenly come Out of their Palaces and call the people to make a revolution.
There was a close link between them and the common people. They had,
like all members of the society been subjected to ignorance, tasted the pains and
sufferings of life and then became worthy to be called 'Prophets'.
The Definition of the Deprived (mustadaf)
A society dominated by ignorance is always made up of two groups of
people. One group consists of those who make Plans, administer society and have total
authority over all affairs. The other group consists of the subjects and subordinates who
have nothing to do with different affairs of society. They work hard (and thus they are
not good-for-nothings as they are usually called, compared for example, to the amount of
work Pharaoh performed with the slaves in building the Pyramids), but they have no right
to apply their will, personality and points of view in the administration of the affairs
of their society.
The first group is a minority consisting of the powerful families and
dynasties with various degrees of authority over society. They are called 'the arrogant' (mustakbirin).
The second group are the common people and the masses who are regarded as the weak and
who are devoid of authority whatsoever. They are called 'the deprived'
(mustadafin). Our own country, during the corrupt regime of Pahlavi, was
administered by a limited number of individuals, with the Shah at the head of them. It is
true that an institution named the 'National Consultative Assembly' existed but all the
decisions were made by the Shah and his American advisers and dictated to the members of
the Assembly, who had no will of their own.
At the lower levels, decisions were made by the big money makers who
acted in collusion with governmental personages, by governor generals and so forth. In
fact, the total authority was centralized in the hands of one person, the Shah. If all the
ministers, Assembly members, director
generals and the like agreed on something, but the Shah opposed; it was
his will and decision which prevailed. The rest of the people, i.e. the masses, had no
authority (even over their own destinies) to hnterfere with the affairs pertaining to
foreign relations (with Russia and America, for instance), internal industries,
agriculture, animal husbandry, etc. let alone matters concerning religion and morality.
They had no right to meddle with the total course of affairs of their society due to the
absolute lack of democracy, voting `nd elections in the country.
This state of affairs is nowadays an obvious characteristic of all
socialist countries but in a more respectable form, i.e. one party (the Communist Party)
possesses the total power and authority in administering the affairs of these countries.
In fact, all the affairs of these countries are determined by the high governmental
cadres, supreme councils and the general secretary himself. Other people have no right to
express their viewpoints, and their will and decisions are not taken for granted. Thus,
mental development is repressed in such countries, and perhaps this is why the youth
usually engage in Sports and physical training and blossom out as the first rate
athletes in international competition such as the Olympics as we observed in the recent
Olympic games held in Russia.
In western societies, too, the situation is more or less the same
(mostly in the so-called civilized countries of America and Europe where 'freedom' and
'democracy' have widespread literal application). Nowadays, there are unfortunately some
people who try to transform freedom and democracy to western conceptions of freedom and
democracy, without knowing that the West itself is bereft of real freedom; (in America,
West Germany and the likes, people imagine that they elect their representatives freely
whereas the reality is that it is specific currents which lead them to one side or
another to cast their votes in favor of one party or another. Recent elections in America
and the conflicts between the Democratic and Republican parties are the best evidence,
verifying this reality).
Generally speaking, in all countries of the world, people are
divided into two classes: the deprived and the arrogant. The deprived masses are
themselves two groups: the needy and the non-needy. In fact, a poor and wretched peasant
who performs fifteen hours of physical labor a day under the difficulties of rain, snow
and hot weather and one who lives an ordinary life, being a shopkeeper, or employee, etc.,
without suffering so much, are both in the category of the deprived, because both of them
are considered to be worthless and good-for-nothing and are devoid of the right to
participate in the administration of their society.
According to the Commander of the Faithful in the quoted Sermon, the
Prophets belonged to the deprived classes and, like them, have been deprived of the
authority to carry out a responsibility in their society. A historical review of the
life-accounts of Muhammad, peace and the mercy of God be upon him and his descendants, and
other Prophets will clarify this matter further.
Moses, peace be upon him, was born to a deprived family among the
children of Israel who lived under severe pressures. But after birth he was brought in a
completely arrogant house and became a favorite with the Pharaoh's family although he had
not been born of the Pharaoh's wife.
He was brought up under the best living possibilities, the most
delicious food and different kinds of luxuries (as a perfect aristocrat). Then, when
Pharaoh noticed that he was nourishing an enemy within his house, Moses decided to escape.
In fact, Moses had begun his invitation and calling people to God, had started his
revolutionary propagations within the royal palace and had succeeded in converting the
Pharaoh's wife to submission to God when Pharaoh experienced a feeling of danger and
decided to prosecute him. Moses escaped to Egypt.
To say the least, Moses became a Prophet and invited the people to make
a revolution when he was within the royal house and at the peak of arrogance (this
biographical account of Moses is narrated in the Quran, and no use was made here of
Our Prophet, Muhammad, peace and the mercy of God be upon him and his
descendants was born in a tribal house of high rank. He was the grandson of and a favorite
with 'Abd al-Muttalib, the chief of Mecca (although he was, unlike Pharaoh, a pious, chief
and a believer in God). When his father, Abdullah, who was one of the dearest children of
'Abd al-Muttalib, died in youth, the latter brought up Muhammad, peace and the mercy of
God be upon him and his descendants, until he became four years of age (although Moses was
the favorite with a great emperor and Muhammad with a tribal chief, both of them enjoyed
the favor of highly respectful families). Then 'Abd al-Muttalib passed away and Muhammad
came under the guardianship of his uncle Abu Talib who did not enjoy the same respect as
his father, 'Abd al-Muttalib, but who was himself a distinguished personality, not
belonging to the masses.
Abu Talib acted as a good guardian for a period of time and then he was
afflicted with poverty. Thus, Muhammad lost the (financial) support of his uncle at this
time. But before long he married Khadija, a rich woman. He first acted as a functionary to
Khadija but later on, (fifteen years before his appointment to prophethood) he married
her, thus becoming a relatively rich man in Medina.
The very financial state remained with him until he became a Prophet at
the age of forty (this is why it is said that Islam advanced through Khadija's wealth and
Accordingly, the Prophet of Islam was born to an aristocratic family
and lived a comfortable and affluent life until he was appointed to prophethood by God.
After the appointment, however, due to the high expenses of propagation and calling people
to monotheism and due to the lack of opportunity for conducting business, he became poor.
Other prophets, too, were more or less wealthy. It is in the Traditions
(although there is no clear, historical accounts available) that Job, for example,
possessed lands, gardens and trees which were destroyed when God wanted to test his
belief. David, too, had a rural origin. He was a commoner. Yet he became a commander and a
ruler. Solomon was born in the house of this commander (David). In fact, this chosen
Prophet of God (although there is no difference between him and Moses as far as his
purity, piety, revolutionary spirit and prophethood are concerned) was the son of a
ruler. Abraham was born in the house of an idol-carver, and the history of nations and
religions reveals that idol-carvers were not only not among the low, deprived classes but
were also considered to be saintly and respectable.
We come to the conclusion, therefore, that a considerable number (not
all of them) of the Prophets have been brought up among affluent and powerful families.
Thus, we have two points here to be considered along with each other: First, in the
Commander of the Faithful saying that Prophets have belonged to the deprived and humble
masses of the people. Second, the Prophets (some of them), as we see above, have been born
among the socially, comfortable families of high ranks.
Are these two realities incompatible? No It is not the main point here
to see whether they are compatible or not, The main point is to nullify the (communists')
imaginary legend that all the revolutionary agents have originated from the proletarian,
bare-footed and needy classes. What is essential is that a revolutionary person (be he a
leader of the revolution or a commoner) should be dressed with revolutionary morals and
Attributes. Materialists and the interpreters of Marxism, in fact, hold a wrong belief
that only those individuals can enjoy revolutionary morals and Attributes who themselves
belong to the poor, bare-footed or proletarian classes, for man is always and everywhere a
human being and thus corrigible. He can, like the Prophets about whom Ali says, They
were from the deprived people," equip himself with correct, revolutionary habits and
with the attributes of the deprived.
It is true that aristocratic training and education entail no result
but an aristocrat human being, yet it is untrue to believe that such an education (in a
person who is brought up in an aristocratic atmosphere) is unchangeable and
indestructible. In fact, should divine guidance (either in the form of thinking,
meditation and the awakening of conscience of the individuals themselves or through
training and purification of the soul by the teachers of morality, i.e. the Prophets)
enlighten the sick bodies of those who are under the influence of aristocratic habits and
training, they would come out of their spiritual depression and become dressed with
Two points are perceived when the social origin of the Prophets is put
to discussion: First those who are appointed to prophethood are dressed with the
Attributes of the deprived, revolutionary morals and combative spirit against the existing
class systems of the arrogant, i.e. at the time of the appointment (and even before it)
they have an anti-arrogant position in support of the deprived.
Second, having these Attributes does not necessarily imply that all the
Prophets belong to the deprived classes. They can either belong to these classes or not
but, as was mentioned before, even at the time of appointment to prophethood and at the
beginning of their revolution they may belong to the arrogant strata, having a comfortable
life. There is no need for them to have suffered from forced labor and hard work before
the appointment. Of course, they should have felt pain and distress but this does not
necessarily mean that they should curtail the bonds of relationship with their social
class and their (comfortable) life.
Spiritually-exalted Beings Have Understanding as Well as the Feeling of
Subsequent to the discussion concerning the arrogant and the deprived,
it should be added here that such a class division does not exist in monotheistic
societies. It is, in fact, the exclusive characteristic of' societies suffering from
ignorance and alienation. We have of course, rulers, ruling classes, caliphs, holders of
religious authority and governments in monotheistic societies but none of them are
arrogant enough to manage the affairs of these societies on the basis of personal beliefs.
Also, there are commoners in such societies, consisting of workers, businessmen, peasants,
bricklayers, government employees and so forth, but none of them arrogant either. Each
class has, in fact, some authority over its own social affairs in proportion to the total
number of its members.
For example, under the present situations of Iran (although Iran is not
a 100% or even 50% Islamic society at the present time), every individual has some
authority and the right to vote as a member of a society with thirty-six million
individuals. It is on this basis that the great movements and even the political affairs
of our country are nowadays managed and led by the people themselves, although it may be
considered wrong so far as the prevailing patterns of politics on the international level
are concerned. The truth is that if the people were not inclined towards certain actions
and policies, connections and disconnections, the government (itself consisting of Muslims
belonging to the low classes of people) would not dare take such positions as it does
today and perform such courageous actions. This is indicative of an Islamic country
(although Iran is still not a perfect Islamic country).
When Islam shall, God-willing, shed its light on our society in all its
dimensions, the role of every individual in the administration of the whole country will
be to the extent that he or she (although being the lowest in social position) can act and
promise on behalf of the Islamic community. Today, if a given government or a certain
action be condemned in the sermons of the Friday ritual prayer in front of a multitude of
people, or if a treaty between our country and a given government be orally made (or
violated) in such sermons, neither our own government nor the addressee will take care of
But in a perfect Islamic community, there is no irresponsible
individual. In such a community, in which Islamic culture and education are perfectly
dominant, every individual (being a businessman, a housewife and so forth) can conclude a
treaty or announce an agreement for the cessation of hostilities or a special occasion and
the Islamic government is obliged to take it into account, although that individual not be
a minister, an army commander or a diplomat. In fact, every individual can decide for the
whole community on specific occasions, and his or her decision is accepted by all.
This is not, however, practicable under the present culture and habits
of our society. But as the society gets closer to Islam and its teachings, this is more
likely to be accomplished. It should be added, of course, that when we say something is
not for the time being practicable, it does not mean that Islam as a whole cannot be
materialized. It can, but only when the world has ` complete readiness for its acceptance.
Questions and Answers
P. You said that Khadija's wealth and Alis sword made the
progress nf Islam possible. Does this not lead to ` deviating concept that wealth and
material things have been the nnly factors for the spread of Islam?
A. We do not believe that wealth alone played a role in this regard,
but the truth is that wealth, too, had certain roles and this is undeniable. It was, is
fact, necessary for the satiation of the newly-converted people's hunger as well as for
providing the expenses of those who were sent here and there by the Prophet. This does not
negate the influence of the spirituality and dynamism of Islamic thought and ideology,
since the very dynamism is in need of material things when acting and making progress in
the same way as it needs physical labor and activity.
Q. You defined the deprived in its social and political aspects. Is it
not necessary to explain the economic and cultural aspects of it as well?
A. The economic activities of the deprived (as previously defined) are
also under the influence of the powerful, i.e. economic activities are usually centralized
where power is centralized (under the previous regime of Iran, for example, no productive
and economic activity took place except through the direct or indirect interference of the
government). Therefore, economic aspects are dependent on political aspects. It may,
however, be argued that political power originates from economic power. This is possible
but it lacks universality. Sometimes political power is the cause for the absorption of
money and sometimes money gives rise to political power. They are inter-connected, but in
a society wherein political power is centralized in a certain group, economics cannot grow
and progress independently. The cultural aspects (culture in its prevailing, not in its
revolutionary sense) of society, too, are affected by the opinion of those who possess
political and economic power. Thus, when political oppression dominates society, the
existing cultural and political aspects of the deprived are also influenced by lt.
Q. Is the following tradition, narrated from the Imams concerning
deprivation, authentic? The deprived are those who endeavored in the way of God
but could not achieve their aim in establishing the divine system. The highest of them are
the Prophets and saints, next to them are the believers who make efforts in the way of
A. It may be authentic for all the Prophets and their true followers
belong to the category of the deprived. It provides us with the definition of the deprived
not with the concept of deprivation.
How are Prophets chosen?
What are the Prophets' responsibilities towards God? What is the
social, cultural and intellectual background in which the Prophets appear? To answer these
questions, we analyze the following statements of the first Sermon of the Nahj-ul-Balagha.
From his progeny (Adam), God chose (istafa) Prophets and took their
pledge for His revelation and for carrying His message as their trust."
Istafa (to choose the best) is a very important and fundamental
issue. In Arabic, not all selections are indicated by this word. Only when a pure element
is recognized and chosen from amongst a collection of elements is the 'istafa' used. It is
actually employed when the pure and the impure are separated in a collection of things and
the pure portion is extracted.
As far as physical and spiritual aspects of humanity are concerned, the
Prophets have been ordinary human beings but, at the same time, they have possessed the
competence needed for gaining high ranks and positions. Accordingly, they have been
selected, distinguished individuals, born of parents none of whom have been involved in
polytheism and human Corruption Thus 'istqfa' in its general sense implies that
a trained and educated Generation deliver a more trained Generation to society.
As an example, the Prophet of Islam was born in a pure and holy family,
from a father and mother who were, in turn, distinguished from the point of spirituality
and morals (and not on the basis of race, blood, wealth and aristocratic privileges). In
fact, 'Abdullah was superior to all fathers and Amina was superior to all mothers. These
two spiritually trained beings married and provided society with a child nobler to all
children, a better spiritually-trained being.
So much is certain that the Prophets who appeared before Moses; peace
be upon him, enjoyed lesser spirituality than those who came after him and after Jesus
Christ, peace be upon him, for every Prophet has been the product of the training and
education brought by the Prophets before him, i.e. the prevailing divine and spiritual
training provided by past Prophets have been quite influential for the growth of the
coming ones. Thus, the Commander of the Faithful uses the word 'istafa' to indicate
that God has appointed those beings to prophethood who have had this spiritual training.
... and took their ledge for His revelation and for carrying his
message as their trust." Here the Commander of the Faithful mentions the Prophets'
commitments and says that they are committed in two respects: First they have a commitment
towards the divine revelation, meaning that they are obliged to say merely what they
receive as revelation and not to intermix their personal views with the divine message.
Second, they are obliged to deliver the message they have received and not to bury it with
in the course of time many people perverted God's trust with them
and ignored his position and took partners along with Him. Satan turned them away from
knowing him and kept them aloof from his worship." In five short sentences, the
Commander of the Faithful provides us with a precise account of the mental, practical,
social and cultural background of the people at the time of the Prophets' appearance.
In the first sentence he uses the Phrase 'aktharu khalqihi' (the
majority of His creatures) to indicate that not all the people, but a great many of them,
had perverted God's prescription and commands because absolute darkness or ignorance has
never had dominance over a society, that is, in no age and era People have been
left without heavenly guides, teachers and messengers who have themselves had some
faithful followers. In tact he refers to a society and a time in which people ignored
God's orders, changed the general principles delivered through the chain of prophethood
and deviated the course and program of life determined by the Prophets through the
application of prejudices, perversions and Personal grudges.
He continues with the phrase 'facahiluhaqqah' (thus they ignored
His Position), meaning that people forgot about God's power and providence in
administering the affairs of society (the same situation is dominant today among the
westerners who do not feel the absence of God in their lives, because they have remained
far away from their true nature. They have forgotten the existence of God although they
apparently believe in God and hear His name repeatedly. They actually do not know God's
Position and status in society).
What is God's trust and covenant (ahd)? Almighty God has provided human
beings with a general pattern of life and a specific course within which people should
move. This course or pattern is the very reality to which all the Prophets have invited
people throughout history, i.e. monotheism, respect for humanity and moral , natural and
legal quality of human beings. This is the divine program, a command and covenant.
Satans try to pervert this course and command and to induce people to
obey and worship God's creatures instead of God. God calls people to honor the human being
and satans invite them to humiliate and belittle him. Thus, the perversion of the
divine covenant is to deviate from the mentioned course and pattern, to ignore God's
position and to transform society into a satanic one in which partners are taken along
Taking partners along with God is not merely confined to worshipping an
object. But when God's position remains unknown and the people do not know that creation
and Legislation belong to God (i.e. in the same way as the laws of creation - laws
relating to the movement of heavens and the earth, day and night, man, birth and death -
are in possession of God alone, Legislation or administration of the society and
life, too, is under His authority. This is the meaning of God's position in human life).
They accept certain lines of thought as their guide, certain human beings as their rulers
and certain false customs and traditions as their manners of living. They thereby replace
God with ignorance, unawareness and satans (which only in our limited minds are regarded
as rivals to God for, in reality, God has no rival). For example, Egyptians were actually
taking a Pharaoh like Anwar Sadat as a partner along with God when they left their
destinies in his hands.
The Commander of the faithful continues with the statement, Satan
turned them away from knowing Him.." to emphasize that when God's position remains
unknown in a society, satans try to fill up the human mind, which is bereft of the
knowledge of God in some way or other. Sometimes one lacks something and he knows that he
lacks it, but more painful is the case when one lacks something and he knows it is not due
to the fact that the empty place of what he lacks has been filled with something else of
his thirst has been quenched with muddy water. (This is the greater oppression the victims
of human beings, i.e. suppression of man's God seeking sense or imposition of unawareness
on man). Later on we shall see that Prophets have the responsibility to remove this
oppression and compensate for it.
It is to be noted here that Satan (shaitan), referred to in
Ali's sermon, should not be mistaken for Iblis, the creature who, according to the text of
the Quran, refused to bow down to Adam and then implored God to keep him alive till
the Day of Judgment but God promised only to keep him alive, <until the Day of the Time
Appointed>. This creature should not in any way be assimilated with other creatures. We
should grow accustomed to accepting the exact concepts of the Quranic statements,
and not merely what our prejudices warrant.
Satan has a different meaning. Generally speaking according to the
Quran, it is applied to those forces which, create corruption, wickedness and
deviation. On this ground, we have in the Quran" satans among men and
jinns», i.e. satans among humankind who put on clothes, walk and do the like, and
satans of the kind of jinns. These satans who sometimes dwell within the human being and
are called selfishness, carnal desire, avarice, Aggression, negligence and so forth.
Sometimes they dwell outside the human being and are titled king, ruffian refractory,
corrupt religious leader, aphrodisiac scene, etc.
Now, should we not develop satans within ourselves, outside satans
cannot influence us. For the very reason we cannot put the blame of our own deviations on
social conditions or on those who have led us to negligence. It is in the Quran that
the arrogant and the deprived will quarrel on the Day of Judgment. The deprived accuse the
arrogant of having misled them but the arrogant deny it and argue that they themselves
should not have listened to them. Both of them tell the truth and at the same time, both
"... and kept them aloof from His worship." By this statement
the Commander of the Faithful means that when human beings do not know God, it is quite
natural for them not to worship Him and not to serve Him (servitude is submissive action
* God has chosen the best of His servants (istafa) as His Prophets.
* He has bound the Prophets to two responsibilities: To tell people
only what they received as revelation and to hide not any part of revealed matters.
* At the time of the Prophets' appearance, the people had taken
partners along with God due to lack of knowledge concerning Gods position, and thus satans
had led them away from God - seeking course towards the negligence of God.
Responsibilities of the Prophets
In the previous lesson, it was concluded that the chosen Prophets of
God have certain responsibilities towards God and the people. This lesson is aimed at
discussing these responsibilities.
Our discussion here does not include such matters as the establishment
of a monotheistic society and a prophetic government, not meaning that these matters have
not been part of the Prophets' missions. They have definitely been aimed for and the
Prophets have come to establish the ideal society for mankind). If fact, responsibility or
mission here means the change that the Prophets bring about within the human being, for
founding a just, monotheistic society is impossible without constructed human beings in
the same way as a social revolution is inseparable from an inner revolution among people.
This change and provocation originate from the heart of the Prophet, encompass the hearts
of people and finally lead to inner explosions among the arisen and faithful individuals.
Should the means of such provocation be available (for which the Prophets are responsible)
then it would be time to construct society and establish the monotheistic system.
Now, we will study the Prophets' responsibilities in the following
words of the Commander of the Faithful Then God sent His Messengers and series of
His Prophets towards them to help them to fulfill the pledges of His creation, to recall
to them His bounties, to exhort them by preaching, to unveil before them the hidden
virtues of wisdom and show them the signs of His Omnipotence ..."
With this general policy, the Prophets connected themselves with the
people and their inner selves. i.e., with these aims and manners of developing human
beings in their mind, they began their missions and on these same bases they tried to
establish the Islamic community. Thus, in all dimensions of the Islamic community such as
education, economics, government, human relations, etc., nothing contradictory to these
aims should be found.
For example, if in an Islamic community something creates forgetfulness
instead of 'recalling', that is against the philosophy behind the Prophets' appointment to
prophethood. In fact, all the social signs of an Islamic system, i.e. all those things
which constitute the minor and Major structures of an Islamic community, should induce
people to fulfill the pledges of His creation".
These five programs (to which the Commander of the Faithful refers)
were compensatory for the deficiencies existent among people during the age of ignorance
when Prophets were absent - deficiencies and short comings mentioned in this same Sermon,
which we analyzed before under the title 'mental, social and ... backgrounds to
prophethood' (In the course of time many people perverted God's trust with them
What is this 'trust' or 'covenant'? It is the human being's absolute
servitude towards God, the human being has a commitment towards God and that is
worshipping none but Him. Worshipping other than God means submission to others, whether
it be mental, physical, doctrinal or practical. The human being is actually responsible to
submit to no one except God but this does not mean that one has accepted this
responsibility without having had power and a free will to reject it. The human being's
nature and one's inner mechanism conform to the servitude and worship of God. These are,
in fact, hidden in humanity's primordial nature. The Holy Quran says
"Made I not covenant with you, children of Adam, that you should not serve Satan -
surely he is a manifest foe to you?... And that ye should worship Me, (for that) this was
the straight way?" (36:60-61)
After appointment, the Prophets ask human beings to destroy the change
and distortion which they have brought about in God's trust and to make contact with God
on the basis of their covenant with Him ("fulfill the pledges of His creation,».
This is the very removal of deficiencies of the age of ignorance, the age in which 'God's
position remains unknown', the age when Prophets come to recall God's bounties to people.
Asking people to fulfill their natural covenant with God is not a
complementary matter. It has a general and, at the same time, absolute concept involving
propagation through mere speaking, providing the addressee with final reasoning and
teaching purification of the people through controlled behavior. In the Holy Quran
we read", Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching;
and argue with them in ways that are best ... » (16:125)
In this verse, God asks the Prophet to expose the simple minds of the
people and the adversaries to wisdom at the beginning stages and after a firm
foundation for reasoning is achieved, guide them by preaching. This results in the
purification of the mind and soul and, as the final stage, prevent them from establishing
wrong reasoning, argue with them and convince them.
Concerning their relationship with human beings, Prophets are obliged
and responsible to remove mental obstacles. Thus, those individuals or regimes that bring
about such obstacles are opposed and fought by the Prophets. Accordingly, the Prophet's
asking the people to fulfill their natural covenant ranges from wisdom and reasoning to
the Islamic jihad (religious and spiritual struggle in the way of God for the removal of
The 'natural covenant' and humanity's primordial nature (i.e.
worshipping God alone) are in conformity with the natural structure of the whole universe.
Therefore, all the decrees and regulations of the Divine Law, which are incumbent on human
beings, conform to human nature. This is clarified in several verses of the Holy
Quran. Examples are as follows, <So set thou thy face steadily and truly to the
faith: (establish) God's handiwork according to the pattern on which He has made mankind:
no change (let there be) in the work (wrought) by God ... >, (30:30) In Sura
Ar-Rahman, some of the verses speak of humanity's structure and Attributes and
of the time of creation such as (God) most Gracious! It is He who has
taught the Quran... He has created mankind...,",
Some others refer to natural phenomena such as the following, "
The sun and the moon follow, courses (exactly) computed; and the stars and the trees -
both (alike) bow, in adoration. And the firmament hat He raised high, and He
has set up balance (of justice..." (55:5-7)
It should be noticed here that by 'bowing in adoration' the Quran
implies that natural phenomena are in a state of submission towards God and move
according to specific rules and regulations. It should also be observed that the ,<
balance,> has nothing to do with plants, sun, moon, etc., but exclusively for
humanity's good and evil deeds to be recognized and measured.
Then the Quran continues, "In order that ye may not
transgress (due) balance. So establish weight with justice..". This means that
human beings should not violate the laws of creation (natural laws) and religious
laws which are in a state of balance and conformity. Accordingly human beings are obliged
to maintain this practical connection with nature (i.e. natural laws). Thus, when human
beings or the community move against the Divine Law and regulations, they are actually
moving against the primordial nature of humanity and the world. And the Prophets come to
bring this 'natural covenant' (covenant with God which originates from humanity's heart
and warrants a kind of harmony between one's actions and movements and the structure of
the Universe) to the stage of action.
Another duty of the Prophets, according to the Commander of the
Faithful is to recall to people the forgotten bounties of God. Human beings forget many of
God's bounties and blessings, the most important of which being one's 'self' which is the
axis for all God's blessings. We read in the Quran: "And be not like those
who forget God, and whom He hath therefore caused to forget their proper selves". (59:18)
One's 'self' (that great but forgotten blessing), despite being not
more than one thing, has various effects and manifestations. Thus, forgetting it is to
forget those tools and means by which one can attain knowledge and recognition means of
thinking, means of decision-making, means of innovation and means of accepting
responsibility, the lack of each, damages one as a human being. By means of thinking and
the power of analysis, one acquires knowledge and understanding and finds the ways. And
through one's 'free will' one has the ability to choose.
Now when one distinguishes the right way from the wrong and chooses it,
one can perfect the self through hnnovation and disclose the dead-ends. In fact, lack of
innovation and initiative prevent one from going the way of perfection and making progress
in the fields of culture, civilization, industry knowledge and morality. Finally, when one
consciously chooses the way, one becomes responsible. A person confronts cases in
which one should act as well as cases in which one should refuse to act. If one does not
understand the case well and if one lacks free will to choose, one will have no
responsibility. But if one understands it well and one has freedom of choice, then a
person will be responsible.
On the whole, in an ignorant society, human beings forget one or all of
these four characteristics, and the Prophets came to recall to them what they had
forgotten. This is why the empty-handed and uncultured people who are reminded by the
Prophets of their own 'self' and, as a result of their beliefs in God, they can stand
firmly against the most stable political systems and gain victory.
The Commander of the Faithful enumerates the duties of the Prophets,
saying, to exhort them by preaching ...". The Prophet is responsible to
propagate his message; otherwise, revelation remains a monopoly with him and, thus, two
dimensions of prophethood are left unrealized. The Holy Quran affirms this "And
remember God took a covenant from the people of the Book, to make it known and clear to
mankind, and not to hide it ..." (3:187)
Should the Prophet not fulfill this responsibility, the problems
related to prophethood will remain unsolved. This is also true with an Islamic community
in which propaganda plays a great role. In fact, it is not Islamic if a community falls
short in propagating the message of God.
The Commander of the Faithful continues, «to unveil before them the
hidden virtues of wisdom», meaning that the Prophets should call people to thinking,
contemplation and wisdom which all human beings possess in their nature. The power of
thinking and contemplation may be weak in a community and land or among a Generation not
necessarily because of geographical conditions, racial deficiencies or stupidity but due
to the fact that powerful classes and seekers of dominance prevent people from correct
thinking and stop the development of minds by different means (such as the wrong systems
of education, prevailing nowadays in underdeveloped countries, which cause minds to be
accustomed to various formulas and remain undeveloped due to lack of necessary practices).
As was mentioned before, the power of thinking is a property common to
all human beings. But sometimes it is buried (by customs and traditions or by ruling
systems) and made a treasure from which no benefit is derived, a treasure hidden behind
the curtain of whims and fancies, false imaginations, legends, distorted matters and
absurd ideas under the name of religion, philosophy and science.
In fact, the holders of power, wealth and deceit (kings, priests,
pseudo-theologians and the wealthy) dispossess human beings from the power of thinking or
do not provide them with the means for the development of thought (this is the very
colonial program enforced in colonialized countries).
This is where the Prophets arise and unveil the treasures of thought
and wisdom, inviting people to contemplation. This is observed in the following verses of
the Quran which call people to think about the most common phenomena of the world
and to see in them the wonder which is usually hidden from the eyes of human beings.
Do they not look at the canels, how they are made?" (88:17), Then let
man look at his food (and how we provide it) ..." (80:24) "For what We
pour forth water in abundance and We split the earth infragments.." (80:25-26)
These events and phenomena to which the Quran refers are quite
common and familiar to human beings, yet when they contemplate them, their minds gradually
develop and become active. This development of the mind is clearly seen in the Islamic
community during early Islam when Muslims arose 'n a short period of time from the depths
of ignorance and short sightedness to such heights that they soon came to be known as the
founders of experimental sciences and great universities.
Another task that the Prophets fulfilled and to which the Commander of
the Faithful makes a reference is "and show them the signs of His Omnipotence",
meaning that they provided the people with manifestations of the divine power. This is
what he himself does in this very Sermon (Sermon No. 1), i.e. he refers to some examples
of the heavenly signs to persuade people to think about them. He continues: <His
Omnipotence, namely the sky which is raised over them, the earth that is placed beneath
them, means of living that sustain them, deaths that make them die, aliments that turn
them old, incidents that successively betake them.>,
What is this ceiling (sky) over our head? It is a collection of air,
space, stars and so forth, to which we have grown accustomed, yet something that provokes
us to think what it really is and, as a result, provides us with understanding and
recognition. Newton acquired the very recognition concerning a great reality by paying
careful attention to a natural and very common incident to which no one before him had
contemplated. He simply asked why the things did not go up but rather fell vertically down
when they were freed in the air, and subsequently he discovered the powerful force of
gravity. In fact, all scientific progress and developments in the field of astronomy have
originated from the very attentiveness to which the Prophets always called the people.
What is this bed (earth) beneath man's feet? What has it been created
from'? What is beneath it? Where would we reach, should we excavate the earth? These are
the questions from which such sciences as geology, mining, etc., originate.
What is the food which maintains life? How is it prepared? Why is it
needed and why should we try to obtain it? What is living with all its aspects such as
speaking, walking, eating, etc., and what is death and becoming lifeless and silent'? What
causes one to grow old? Why is one happy and glad at one stage of life and exhausted, weak
and disable at another stage? The answers to these questions and the careful study of such
events and phenomena (life, death, youth, old age etc.) induce human beings to employ
their minds and activate them. This is why the Prophets have to show the signs of God's
power to the people.
The Continuity of Prophethood
Continuity is one of the main points in the discussion of prophethood.
In the first Sermon of the Nahj-ul-Balagha, the Commander of the Faithful aims at
picturing the line of prophethood as a consistent and continuous line in the course of
history extending to the time of the Prophet of Islam. In fact, never in the course of
history has there been a time or place devoid of a Prophet or signs of a Prophet in the
past, i.e. either a Prophet has lived among people appointed by God to provide them
with good tidings or to make them fear (God's wrath) or there has been something left
behind by a Prophet, which the people obeyed as they obeyed the Prophet himself.
Thus, believing in the fact that the earth has never been devoid of a
'proof' (of God) does not necessarily mean that in a given nation or community, a
Prophet has always lived who has been immediately taken, over by another Prophet at the
time of death. It rather implies that after a prophet's death and before the advent of the
next prophet there was something (a book or a faithful disciple) which the people followed
and obeyed as the successor of the dead Prophet.
In the Arabian Peninsula, for example, it took a very long time before
the Prophet of Islam appeared. There was a long transition between the disappearance of
Jesus Christ, peace be upon him and the appearance of Muhammad, peace and the mercy of God
be upon him and his descendants. In Sermon No. 88 of the Nahj-ul-Balagha, the Commander
of the Faithful points out this matter saying, God sent the Prophet when the mission
of other Prophets had ended and people had fallen into".
Now we pursue our discussion concerning the continuity of prophethood
with regard to his words in the Nahj-ul-Balagha. In Sermon no. 1 he says, God never
allowed His creation to remain without a Prophet (nabi) deputed by Him, or a book
sent down from Him or a binding argument (proof) or a standing plea.
The difference between nabi and rasul is that a nabi merely
receives the message from God but a rasul in addition to receiving the message, has
the mission to propagate it and deliver it to the people. This is, of course, not
totally acceptable because the aim of receiving a message is nothing but propagating and
the deliverance of it to others. However, we might suppose that a nabi takes the
message but it is not the time to deliver it, just as the Prophet of Islam received the
message (revelation) on the 'Night of Power' We have indeed revealed this Message
in the Night of Power." but it took twenty-three years before he could fulfill
the duty of conveying it to the people.
In the Sura Ta Ha, verse 114, the Holy Quran addresses the
prophet, saying: "... Be not in haste with the Quran before its revelation
to thee is completed .. » Accordingly, nabi mursal (the deputed prophet),as
the Commander of the Faithful puts it, is referred to as a Prophet who actually conveys
his message to the people.
What is the meaning of 'Kitabun munzal (a book sent down)? Does
this sending down refers to a place? The fact is that to send down a book actually means
to transform the book into letters and words (language) which humanity understands, i.e.
to adapt the high heavenly concepts and realities to the level of one's
thoughts and understanding.
In fact, God, the exalted, inspired the Prophet with the highly
complicated facts and learnings in the form of the most simple words and expressions which
could be understood by all and which later came to be called the Quran, just as a
teacher simplifies difficult matters and gives them to his students. This comparison may,
however, be wrong, for in any case there is a logical and ordinary connection between a
teachers' mind and heart and those of his students, whereas there is a great gap between
an ordinary man's heart and the divine lofty teachings. The Commander of the Faithful
asserts that in the absence of Prophets and heavenly books, there was either a 'binding
argument' (an unfading proof by which people could convince the enemies) or a 'standing
plea' (a clear and permanent way) on which people could depend.
On the whole, every nation in the course of history has enjoyed one of
the following: First a Prophet (like Moses, Jesus, Abraham, etc.). According to a
Tradition there has been 124,000 Prophets, the first of them being Adam and the last one
being Muhammad, peace and the mercy of God be upon him and his descendants.
Second, a heavenly Book, left behind by a Prophet. In this very Sermon
(Sermon No. 1) he speaks of the Last Prophet, saying, ... The Prophet left among you
the same (the Book) which other Prophets lefts among their peoples..." By 'Book' he
means a collection of vritten teachings and commandments which all the Prophets possessed.
Some of these books were, however, descended to the Prophets themselves (these are not
more than a few) but others were those left behind by previous Prophets, either distorted
or misunderstood, which the Prophets after them undertook to correct or interpret.
As an example, after Moses, the Torah was misunderstood by some, even
mingled with polytheistic ideas, and thus such Prophets as Salomon, David, etc., who
succeeded Moses, tried to provide the people with the true meanings and concepts of this
This is also true with the Quran. That is to say that there is a
considerable difference between our understanding of the Quranic teachings and that
of the past generations (taking into account the fact that the text of the Quran and
its concepts and realities have remained untouched). In the past, these teachings
were considerably misunderstood because distorted matters and wrong ways of thinking
obsessed the people's minds and prevented them from the correct understanding of the
Quran. But today, the Quran is correctly understood and it is likely that in
the future some Quranic realities be unveiled that we do not perceive today
(According to some traditions, when eventually Imam-Mahdi reappears, he will introduce a
new religion-the true Islam. Today, some Sunni and non-Sunni jurists have announced that
the religion which people follow in Iran is not Islam. They tell the truth because this is
not that Islam in which they believe-that distorted Islam which contains idolatry,
polytheistic and anti-Islamic ' values. Our Islam is different from that Islam whose
mosque is inaugurated by the President of America and whose Quran is printed by the
Shah of Iran. There is a great and changing distance between these two forms of Islam).
The Books of the Prophets were, however, sufficient as long as they
remained untouched, their concepts were rightly expounded and they were correctly
interpreted. In the case of Moses, for example, his Book remained perfect and undistorted
after he died, during the time when the Children of Israel were in a state of bewilderment
and sought to reach Jerusalem, and guaranteed the victory of Israelites as well as the
establishment of the Mosaic community. (This community, which was powerful and enjoyed a
government, came into being after Moses' death. In fact, Moses made preparations for the
revolution and provoked the people but he did not live long enough to witness the
establishment of his ideal community, and it was the people who accomplished this task).
The Torah was actually preserved and kept aloof from distortion by the successors of Moses
(Yusha ibn Nun and Kalib ibn Yuhanna) who succeeded in pursuing that heavenly,
Islamic and monotheistic dynamism, i.e. the genuine Torah.
Third, a fixed and undeniable proof. This can be seen in the period
after Jesus Christ ascended to the heavens (he was not killed), during which time
Christians were subjected to manifold oppression; namely, the oppression of the Roman
Empire whose foundations were based on polytheism, which severely persecuted the followers
of this progressed monotheistic religion; and the oppression of non-Christian Israelites
(the Jews) who did not believe in the Message of Jesus Christ. As a result, Orthodox
Christian Israelites lived for many years in concealment and in a state of strangulation
without the opportunity to gather together or convey the prophetic legacy to one another
freely. The famous disciples of Jesus Christ had to tolerate a great deal of distress in
traveling between the cities and lands in order to propagate Jesus' Message.
To say the least, the prevailing state of oppression kept the true
Bible of Jesus Christ far away different versions of this heavenly Book; namely, the four
Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, none of them containing the exact words, sayings
and signs of Jesus Christ. Thus, the original Book (the Bible) was not among the people,
yet the existence of the Torah's commandments, which Jesus Christ had announced to be
valid and practicable if modified, the existence of the mentioned calamities and the
existence of Jesus' guidelines were all an undeniable proof preventing people from
refuting the prophecy of Jesus Christ and provoking them to transfer Christian teachings
to the coming generations who could, in turn, move and act on the basis of such teachings.
Fourth, a clear and manifest way, i.e. the means and decrees which are
not found in the Book but the people possess. It is in a Tradition related from Imam
Hassan al'Asgari, peace be upon him, in which he has explained the qualities and
Attributes of Islamic jurisprudents. Someone asked the Imam why the learned men of the
Christians and the Jews (priests and monks) are reproached in the Quran whereas the
learned men of Islam are praised. What is the difference between the two? The Imam gave a
detailed answer, the epitome of which is that the learned men of Islam, too, are not
unconditionally praised. They are praised provided they possess the Attributes that Islam
has determined. But should they contrarily follow the same perversions and disgraces
adhered to by priests and monks, they will also be blameworthy.
Priests and monks were actually dependent on the powerful and supported
them. Although the realities had reversely been manifest in the people's eyes, they did
not take action to provide the people with a true portrait of their religion. But the
people could discern, on the basis of a series of natural (primordial) principles, the
perverseness of the way to which they had been led. Basically, at any age there is a set
of accepted natural principles among the people, resulting from the continuous
instructions of the Prophets in the course of centuries, which enables them to distinguish
the truth from falsehood (for example, when a religious scholar or a man of God
compromises with the enemies of God, it can be said without reasoning that he is in the
wrong. It is quite obvious and natural that he goes the wrong way, for one cannot obey God
and His enemies simultaneously). People can, in effect, distinguish the right way from the
wrong by a reference to their hearts and according to their intrinsic beliefs which are
the very 'standing pleas' and manifest ways.
These four elements (this clear way) always existed in man's life
before the advent of Prophet of Islam. It sometimes happened, however, that two
Prophets were living at the same time in different corners of the world or two heavenly
Books were followed by two different nations. But the important point was that heavenly
guidance made its appearance in all places and at all times (even among the wild,
primitive people). Yet, more important of the number of those who denied them never caused
the Prophets to neglect fulfilling their obligations.
In Sermon No. 1 of the Nahj-ul-Balagha the Commander of the
Faithful says, These Messengers were such that they did of not feel little because
of the smallness of their number or of largeness of the number of their falsifiers."
In fact, none of the Prophets fell victim to disappointment but rather
all of them succeeded in achieving their aims although the number of them was small
(124,000 in proportion to the world population from the very beginning till now) and the
number of their falsifiers was large. Falsifiers were the ones who spread out falsely the
point that the Prophets' way, message and prophethood were wrong. They were great in
number and in some cases they even killed some of the Prophets. yet the Prophets never
fell short in pursuing their general and ultimate aim, i.e. prosperous community, and
never became hopeless in accomplishing their mission.
They not only struggled for the spiritual elevation of the people of
their own time but they also tried to attain the total prosperity and historical evolution
of human beings as a whole. And they were successful in this respect. Even those Prophets
who were killed had the opportunity beforehand to convey their message and introduce their
heavenly lines of thought which although were kept hidden for some time, were finally
unveiled and practiced again.
Muddarres, as a follower of the Prophets, had a message to convey at
the time of the strangulation of Reza Shah's reign. He believed in the policy of,
Negative Equilibrium" or in his own terms "adami", meaning
that we shall neither pay tribute to the West nor to the East. He said, Religion
should not be separated from politics." For the deliverance of such a social and
political message, he was arrested, exiled and finally poisoned and choked by stuffing his
own turban in his mouth (his grave is now besides a small farm in Kashmar).
He departed and was buried in the remote deserts, but gradually one of
his beliefs, Negative Equilibrium" (before the announcement of this policy by
Muddarres, Russian and British governments were equally privileged in Iran. For example,
in 1919, Vuthuq ad-Dulih granted the western part of Iran to Britain under a treaty.
Russians objected to it, and he granted the north to them.«Positive Equilibrium») was
revived eighteen or twenty years later, at the time of Dr. Mussadiq.
Muddarres, Seyyid Jamal (of Asadabad) and others, all being messengers
of truth and justice and compassionate lecturers of their own time, were so devoted and
courageous that they expressed their views and left behind their lines of thought. But it
could be much better if they themselves could have the opportunity to materialize their
messages in a better manner and could witness the overthrow of the Pharaoh and the freedom
of the people after they had been exposed to so much trouble and distress. However, their
names, actions and messages are recorded in history despite their untimely death. They
did not neglect their aims and duties and history will not neglect them either.
Q. Will Jesus Christ appear after the reappearance of Imam Mahdi?
A. Yes, the Traditions attest this.
Q. We know that the Torah and the Bible have been subjected to
distortion. Why has the Quran been an exception?
A. It has been proved with sound reasonings that not even a
"," (and) has been deleted from or added to the Quran. During the time of
the third Caliph (Uthman) someone recited the following verse of the Quran but
intentionally omitted the «,» before alladhin" which changed the
meaning of the verse to a great extent, implying that only those priests and monks who
bury gold and silver are condemned, whereas the verse refers to two groups of people -
priests and monks who devour the substance of men in falsehood and the people(they may be
by priests and monks or not)who pile gold and silver. The verse reads as follow, "0
ye who believe! There are indeed many among priests and anchorites, who in falsehood
devour the substance of men and hinder (them) from the way of God. And there are those who
bury gold and silver and spend it not in the way of God.- announce unto them a most
grievous penalty ... » (9: 34)
At this event, 'Abdullah ibon Mas'ud, who was present there, put his
sword on his shoulder and said angrily, If you do not recite the verse with the
"," you deleted, I will secede from Islam." They were this sensitive. They
themselves had heard the Prophet reciting the verses of the Quran and had recorded
them in their hearts and writings and, thus, they preserved them at the expense of their
life. In this way, the Quran, which came down to the Prophet was preserved in the
original form by the retentives and recitors who permanently recited the Quran and
kept it from additions and deletions.
Q. What is the difference between bayyeneh" and
A. Bayyeneh is a clear and manifest proof which merely convinces a person but
hujjat is a proof or reasoning by which a person disputes with his enemies.
... Among them was either a predecessor who would name the
one to follow or the follower who had been introduced by the predecessor." (Sermon 1,
In the previous lesson, we mentioned that human beings have never
suffered from the absence of the Prophets or revealed Books. Here in the above statement,
the Commander of the Faithful points out that all the Prophets have had the same
direction, although their followers stand against each other today (Jews against
Christians and Christians against Muslims ... ) He actually means that there have been no
dispute or quarrel among the Prophets, all of them traversing the same path, conveying the
same message and knowing each other quite well. Everyone of them introduced the Prophet
after him and talked honorably about the one before him. For example, Moses informed his
followers that Jesus Christ would be his successor and Jesus Christ mentioned, in turn,
the name of Moses. Thus, the disputes and wars running among the followers of the Prophets
are quite illogical, originating from egotism and selfishness.
We see, therefore, that this situation (the successive coming of the
Prophets, heavenly Books and the Prophets' followers such as the Imams) continued along
with history and humanity's evolution till God appointed Muhammad peace and the mercy of
God be upon him and upon his, descendants as the last Prophet.
In this regard, the Commander of the Faithful continues with the
following words: «In this way, ages passed by and time rolled on, fathers passed away
while sons took their places till God deputed Muhammad (peace and the mercy of God be upon
him and his descendants) as His Prophet, in fulfillment of His promise and in completion
of His Prophethood.»
What has God promised which should definitely be fulfilled? The answer
can be traced in the Quran where it gives good tidings, in the words of Jesus
Christ, of the advent of Muhammad, saying: And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary,
said.- 0 children of Israel, I am the apostle of God(sent) to you, confirming the Law
(which came) before me, and giving glad tidings of an Apostle to come after me, whose name
shall be Ahmad. ...It is He who has sent His Apostle with Guidance and the Religion of
Truth, that he may proclaim it over all religion ... » (61: 69)
Thus, God's promise is the victory of Mohammeds religion (or
prophethood) over all nf humanity's intellectual courses and social experiences. This does
not mean, however, that during the Prophet's lifetime this aim rhould have been achieved
(as it was not achieved in practice due to the Prophet's departure), nor does ht mean that
the Prophet of Islam rhould, hn the long run, overcome all religions, nations and schools
of thought (although this has been realized many times in history and the Islamic
government has approached a worldwide extent)
The proclamation of truth actually has a more delicate significance. In
fact, the thought and mentality of human beings and their creativeness, initiative and
innovation increasingly provide them with new ways and manners. Ideologies come into
being, grow up and become widespread in this way, and thinkers and philosophers
(such as Plato Socrates and ... ) make their plans for humanity's social life or the basis
of these new ways and manners.
Now, the path (school) of the Prophets will gain absolute victory over
all the ways designed by human beings at a time when the whole content of the prophethood
is given to the people. The path of Moses was certainly the path of God but no one claims
that it was the most perfect path ever disclosed for humanity. It was quite appropriate
for the time of Moses but it lacked that much capacity to encompass various necessities of
human life at all ages and times. It is likely that such man-made schools of thought shall
appear in the course of the coming centuries as to be more perfect than the school
(religion) of Moses.
Thus, Moses' religion was not the one to overcome all other schools and
religions because the line of prophecy had not come to an end and the cup of prophethood
had not overflowed. Moses filled a part of this cup and Jesus filled another part but they
could not go forward because human beings did not have the capacity to absorb more. The
people were, in effect, mentally weak. Otherwise, God would have bestowed on them the
whole message of prophethood through His first appointed Prophet.
But when the people got the essential readiness, God deputed His Last
Messenger to provide them with all (the knowledge and awareness) that could be contained
in the human mind and to complete the culture of prophethood, fulfilling the divine
promise and overcoming all religions and man-made schools of thought.7
The completion of prophethood speaks of the end of the line through
which humanity connects itself directly with God, i.e. revelation. When this line comes to
an end by the appearance of the Last Prophet there is no further need of revelation,
Gabriel and so forth, because human beings themselves are thereafter capable of
understanding new ways and manners of life and extracting them from what has been offered
to them in a complete form by the Last Messenger of God, who stands at the end of the
chain of prophethood.
The Commander of the Faithful says, .. God deputed Muhammad
(peace and the mercy of God be upon him and his descendants) as His Prophet, in
fulfillment of His promise and in completion of His Prophethood. His pledge had been taken
from the Prophets, his traits of character were well reputed and his birth was
There is, however, a subtler significance in these statements and that
is that the Prophet's commitment was neither a written or an oral one. They had, rather, a
natural and primordial commitment to heighten the thought and understanding of human
beings and to make them ready for the advent of the Last Messenger. This commitment is
similar to the commitment of the teachers of lower grades towards the teachers of higher
grades, although they may not know one another. In fact, the former are responsible to
train the students' minds in such a proper way that the latter can make the more advanced
matters and more extended concepts easily understood.
The Commander of the Faithful continues that the Prophet's «traits of
character», i.e. his physical, familial, spiritual and behavioural signs and
characteristics were known to one and all and thus a few number of people such as Salman
of Fars could unprecedentedly, and without being exposed to his later teachings and
programs, know him an come to a perfect belief in his religion. As to the birth of the
Prophet, the Commander of the Faithful uses the adjective honorable" to
indicate that there was not weakness regarding this matter, i.e. the Prophet's father and
moth (were both chaste and pious. Also, his birth was honorable in respect to
circumstances of time and place.
Q. Can people, other than the Prophets establish connection with God
through revelation? If so, can we conclude that after the end of prophethood too, God
inspires His pure beings with some mysteries?
A. The answer to this question lies in the different between revelation
and inspiration. Revelation is the descension of specific concepts together with their
specia wordings to a Prophet. The Holy Quran is, in the eyes of the Muslims, a
revelation sent down to the Prophet of Islam through Gabriel. It is completely different
from what ordinary human beings receive in their hearts or understand in an unusual
Theirs are inspirations that pure, faithful and sincere creatures of
God occasionally receive. Thus, revelation is far beyond inspiration and there is no
matter if some people are inspired with some secrets in the period after the end o
Q. If all the Prophets have had the same line and direction why have
their followers, who have to practice their, commandments, not followed the same way?
A. The reason is that the followers of the Prophets were gradually
deceived, that is, as time passed, malicious an( ignorant hands were put to work,
beguiling the followers and distorting the teachings of the Prophets.
Q. What is, vilayat-i-faqih (the guardianship of religious
jurisprudents)? Is it among the Essentials of Religion" or among the
Secondary Principles" of Religion?
A. Vilayat" means the guardianship of the community and
faqih» is a jurisprudent or theologian. Thus, vilayat-i-faqih" is
the guardianship of the Islamic community by the religious theologians or jurisprudents in
the period when the immaculate Imam is absent. It is one of the Secondary Principles
of Religion", a ruling system, and those who do not believe in it and deny it are
disbelievers in Islam.
Q. What are common to monotheistic religions and what are their
A. The doctrinal principles which they offer are common to all
monotheistic religions (i.e. heavenly religions, for we do not have non-monotheistic
heavenly religions), and the differences among them lie perhaps in the special decrees and
commandments, each of them provides for that specific era in which it is founded.
Q. What is hjtihad?
A. Its literal meaning is «to try or endeavor» but in its
technical sense it refers to a theologian's effort in understanding Islamic rules and
regulations and deriving them from the Book (the Holy Quran), Traditions, etc.
through the special skill he has acquired in his long course of discipleship under great
Islamic experts and authorities. A person who has the ability to perform this job is
called a «Mujtahid.».
Q. Why did the Prophet of Islam appear among the Arabs and not among
the Persians, for example? Is it true that had he not appeared among the Arabs, the
Arabian civilization would have been forgotten?
A. There is no definite reason concerning this matter but perhaps it
can be argued that since Arabs were the most untrained and uneducated as well as the most
quarrelsome nation of that time, and since they could more easily be affected and
influenced than others, they possessed a proper background for the acceptance of the
Prophet's invitation to Islam. Their lack of education and training was not, however, an
obstacle to their acceptance of the invitation but, rather, caused more trouble and
distress for the Prophet in attracting their attention. Perhaps if this religion appeared
among other nations, it would be more difficult to convince them. Arabs, though fastened
to the chain of superstitions, possessed certain privileges such as bravery, devotion,
tolerance (against hardship) and freedom (not being under the rule of satanic powers)
which made them the most deserving nation to be exposed to this heavenly religion of
As to the Arabian civilization it should be said that the Arabs, having
a civilization, a culture and a history of their own, would not have been forgotten, had
the Prophet not appeared among them, in the same way as the Turks, Tajiks, Spaniards and
so forth have remained up to this day.
It means that we should look deep into the circumstances of the
believers who lived before us, not treating them in a perfunctory manner because we cannot
learn much from the formal appearance of the past events. Only when one traces the causes
of these events and contemplates them deeply will one perceive that the believers of the
past have been under severe pressure' and that they have been subjected to such hardships
as hunger, torture, imprisonment and so forth and greater hardships than those we suffer
today, i.e. facing political problems and happenings and recognizing the true character of
different groups and fronts and the stance they take.
The Commander of the Faithful continues with the following statements,
were they the most over-burdened among all the people and in the most straightened
circumstances in the whole world?"
The true believers have always been the most overburdened, the most
pain-suffering and the poorest creatures of God before the advent of the Prophets and the
realization of Islamic revolutions (all the revolutions led by the Prophets have been
Islamic in the sense that they have all been primarily aimed at submission to God). Why?
First, because the believers have to provide for their own sustainance.
In fact, the true believers, those who have touched the spirit of the belief in God, never
compromise with oppressive powers. They usually refuse to enter their service and to help
them should they not be able to fight them." Thus, under tyrannical governments, the
believers are constantly face to face with hardships and inconveniences as far as their
economic affairs are concerned. This can be traced in Islamic traditions. On the contrary,
disbelievers compromise with the oppressors very easily, enter the service and thus enjoy
a comfortable life.
Second, in addition to providing for their own living, the believers
are usually obliged to rhoulder the burden of the oppressors' impositions concerning their
luxurious life. As an example, we all know that the overthrown regime (of Pahlavi) faced
exorbitant expenses which had to be paid by those who did not compromise with it. Those
who compromised with that regime were not subjected to such burdens and impositions. They
themselves took advantage of the prevailing situations as well.
Third, the believers have to tolerate the political impositions of the
oppressive ruling powers with whom they fight. Such powers do not let them express their
beliefs and have their own free thoughts and opinions. They force the believers to accept
their own oppressive thoughts. Thus, the prevailing strangulation in a society is a great
burden on the shoulder of the believers who refuse to adhere to the thoughts and opinions
imposed by the oppressive ruling powers. They are, in effect, the most combative people,
always fighting the oppressors in order to eradicate calamities and corruptions.
It is narrated that the believer is always in a state of struggling in
some way or other. Under unlawful and corruptive governments, he involves himself in
organized hidden and underground battles and lives in a precautionary, dissimulative
manner, and under lawful, legitimate governments, he deals with political, ideological and
military involvements or fights the enemy to safeguard the way of God. Thus, the believer
is always in a fighting state which is very troublesome. Fighting does not necessarily
mean receiving wounds and bearing distress. It includes, in addition to these, fears and
failures, worries and anxieties. The true fighter is thus the one who does not surrender
to these and who only fights for the sake of God and duty, not for the sake of victory.
Accordingly, fighting is more troublesome and difficult than all the trials of life.
Finally the Commander of the Faithful says, that are the poorest and
the most straightened people because they have to live in a state of strangulation,
poverty, force and precautionary silence.
He continues to explain the believers' status in the following
statements: The Pharaohs took them as slaves. They inflicted the worst punishments
and bitter sufferings on them. They continuously remained in this state of (spiritual)
ruinous disgrace and severe subjugation. They found no method for escape and no way for
The first statement implies that the believers were forcefully made to
obey Pharaohs (holders of tyrannical power) or deities other than the One God, although
they were servants of God by nature. Sometimes, of course, such deities or objects of
worship believe in God themselves and, therefore submission to them is submission to God.
But when they induce people to the worship of their own selves, submission to them is
submission to non-gods. It has been narrated that he who listens to a speaker,
becomes his servant. If the speaker speaks of God, that person will be the servant of God
and if he speaks of Satan that person will be the servant of Satan.»
And Satan is sometimes the very human 'self' and concupiscence'
to whose obedience the Pharaohs forced the believers in God, who knew no way of defending
their human dignity and getting rid of such servitude.
Such was the status of the believers in God and followers of the
Prophets who dealt with satanic ruling powers before the victory.
The status of the people before, during and after the Prophets'
appointment can be likened to a three-act play, the first act of which shows hardship and
distress, the second speaks of resistance and perseverance and the third pictures, victory
and freedom. In fact, the believers will never gain victory without resisting hardships
and struggling for their aim. The Commander of the Faithful continues, Till when
God, the Glorified, noticed that they were enduring troubles in His love and bearing
distress and of fear for Him, He provided escape from the distress of trials. So, He
changed their disgrace into honor and fear into safety."
In these statements, the Imam shows that the direction of the
believers' struggles is towards God and they tolerate hardships and undesirable problems
such as hunger, torture, imprisonment, cudgel-punishments and so forth upon His way and
for the sake of His love so that God, seeing their patience and perseverance, would reveal
to them the ways of escape from nuisances and calamities, maintain their convenience and
tranquillity, change their disgrace into honor and fear into security and finally their
defeat into victory.
It should be added here that honor (i.e. not submitting to contempt)
and safety (i.e. not fearing any enemy) are the most important things the oppressed people
are concerned about. Under the rule of satans (tyrannical powers) the people are not
immune concerning their lives, properties, morality and so forth, whereas under the rule
of God and the oppressed people such worries and anxieties do not exist at all.
The Commander of the Faithful continues his discussion with these
statements, Consequently, they became ruling authorities and conspicuous leaders,
and God's favors over them reached limits to which their own wishes had not reached,"
meaning that the whole community of believers, after God, bestowed victory upon them,
became leaders (Imams, guides and patterns) and objects of imitation for other oppressed
people and nations who followed their ways and manners and made movements. This is clearly
observable in the world of today in which a nation of believers (i.e. Iranians), after
having struggled for a long time and gaining victory over a tyrannical regime, has now
become the leader of the whole world of the oppressed, and achievement which had never
been imagined by Iranians.
They thought, in fact, about victory but they never imagined to become
leaders and guiding patterns for all of the oppressed people of the world such as those of
Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Persian Gulf countries, Africa and America, who have been
greatly influenced and motivated by Iranians' achievements. And this is nothing but God's
favor as he says.
First, in this Sermon (No. 191) the emphasis is mostly on the spiritual
aspects of the people's calamities and adversities.. In fact, such factors as
strangulation, lack of security, the burden of mental impositions and the burden of
providing for the satanic wishes of illegitimate governments, all of which cause humanity
to suffer spiritually and invoke one to campaign, are more emphasized than such material
misfortunes (or trials) as hunger for which the people rarely campaign. To say the least,
human beings' honor and dignity are the dearest things to them, which stimulate them to
seriously struggle and campaign. Hunger and the like can be removed in other ways. These
are the points of emphasis in this Sermon.
Secondly, the Imam emphasizes here that in a community of believers,
when the arrogant government is overthrown, it is the oppressed who take it over another
arrogant group. As an example, after the revolution of Moses and destruction of Pharaoh,
it was the believers themselves and the masses who became rulers and established a true
government. Also, during the lifetime of the Last Prophet, as well as during the reign of
the rightly guided Caliphs, the people themselves were masters of their own affairs and
played significant roles in resolving the rnatters which came about. They loved the
Prophet and accepted what he said but not blindly and under propagandic pressures. They
freely accepted his decisions and they themselves made minor decisions. Unfortunately, as
time has passed, people's participation in and contribution to the ruling affairs of the
Islamic communities have gradually decreased and these communities have turned out to be,
like the communities predominated by ignorance, consisting of two classes of people - the
arrogant and the deprived; whereas a true Islamic community consists only of one class of
people and they are the believers.
2) This title is still found in many books of our Sunni brethren.
3) Ash-Sharif Ar-Radi, the of Ali (Tehran: World Organization for
Islamic Services, 1979), part one, page 19.
5) Ibid. p. 30.
7) For a better understanding of this matter, refer to Martyr Murtada Mutahhari's The
End of Prophecy
8) Nahj-ul-Balagha of Ali, part two, page 410.