The Imamate, Resurrection and necessity of prophecy according to Imamite Shi’ite

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The philosophers of Islam, whose leader in Ibn Sina (Avicenna), argue that the necessity of sending prophets hinges upon Divine Providence. Ibn Sina (1960, section 6) defines Divine Providence thus:

It must be known that Providence is the reality through which the Originator is aware of his person and of the state of existence in the system of goodness, and the causation of his person in goodness and perfection in so far as it is possible. He is satisfied with it in the same manner. The system of goodness must be understood in the most effective way possible. There emanates from it a comprehensible system and goodness in the most effective way possible overflows into a perfect manageable system according to the circumstance. This is the meaning of Providence.

According to this premise, since beings, in their dealings with their fellow human beings, need a code of practice and justice, and there has to be equitable legislator from among them sent by Allah, the most Exalted, the need for such a person is more pressing than the need for the growing of their of hair on the eyebrows. “It is inconceivable that Divine Providence necessitates those benefits and does not necessitate the latter ones which are its foundation” (al- Shifa, Ilahiyyat). Imam al- Razi, Khwajah Nasir al- Din al- Tusi and the author of al-Asfar are of the same opinion.

The prophet and the principle of graciousness
However, theologians stuck to be principle of graciousness (lutf) saying that we cannot understand what may benefit us and be detrimental to us in our conduct towards our Lord and His Supreme Perfect Being. Since this is case, it was incumbent on Allah, out of His mercy and benevolence, to send a Messenger to guide us as a harbinger and warner. Being gracious to us a quality of Allah’s Absolute Perfection. He is the Kind, the Knowing and Generous, not miserly with His creatures. hood of the messengers, their performance of miracles whereby they challenged the people to whom they were sent.

INFALLIBILITY OF THE PROPHETS
The Imamites hold that the Lord is polytheism, injustice and is incapable of evil deeds and creating sins, then punishing us for committing them. By the same measure, they consider prophets above committing disobedience, lying, meanness of character and baseness of conduct both outwardly and inwardly. They believe in the impeccability (ismah) of prophets throughout their lifetime:

All apostles of God were inerrant concerning wrong deeds prior to prophet hood and after it, and all misdemeanors which the doer may take lightly. And Muhammad is a prophet who did not infringe upon the command of Allah, the Most High, from his birth until his death. He did not sin either on purpose or though forgetfulness. This has been proclaimed in the Qur’an and attested by successive reports from members of the Household of Muhammad. It is the belief of the generality of Imamites. All the Mu’tazilites, however, are diametrically to this view. (al-Mufid 1993a)

THE IMAMATE
The Imamate was the first issue on which the Islamic ummah (community) differed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (s. a .w .a. s.) and, because of this dispute, bloody wars between Muslims ensued. In any case, the Imamite Shi’ah Muslims believe:

The Imamate is a divine position, for the spiritual and temporal leadership of Muslims. It is a grace from Allah bestowed on His bondsmen, making it second to prophet hood. The Imam is appointed by Allah through the prophet. He must be inerrant with respect to grave wrongdoings and petty misdemeanors. There must be, at all times, an impeccable Imam who is the proof of Allah to mankind. His presence is the safeguard of complete religious interest. He must be knowledge in all religious sciences. The appointment of the Imam by Allah is act of grace from Him towards His bondsmen. And the graciousness of sending the prophet and appointing the Imam are incumbent upon Allah. The Imamites. are of the view that the inerrant Imams are the best among their contemporaries of different times and in all fields, in knowledge and intellectual capacity. They do not know the unseen, but they know the intentions of people though a process of inspiration imbued by Allah. (al-Mufid 1993a)

Allamah Tabatabai’s view on the issue of Imamate
Commenting on al- Baqarah, chapter 2, verse 124, Allamah Tabatabai’ in the Qur’anic commentary, al-Mirzn, has deduced seven fundamental points which may throw light on the Imamate. These are:
1. The Imamate is Allah’s prerogative.
2. The Imam must be immune against sin and error by Divine Providence.
3. As long as there as people on the earth, it will not be
without a true Imam.
4. The Imam must be supported by Allah, the Exalted.
5. The actions of people are not veiled from the Imam.
6. The Imam must be knowledge in all that the people need in their daily life as well as the provision for the hereafter.
7. It is impossible that anyone could surpass him in sublime qualities.

the necessity of Imam with respect to rationalism tradition, esoteric produces
Imamite theologians and philosophers have presented documented evidence, as well as rational proof, on the people for a competent authority (hujjah), and that the earth shall never be void of such an authority, be it an apostle and messenger or an infallible Imam.

Al- Kulayni, in his compendium of the Hadith, al- Kafi, collected all traditions related from the Prophet and his pure progeny on the subject of the Imamate and the need for a competent authority. Also, the great philosopher Sadr al- Din Shirazi, in his philosophical exposition of Usul al- kafi, discussed the rational arguments for the necessity of the existence of the Imam at all times.

The function of the Imam is not confined to him being a teacher, interpreter and ultimate guide in religion. It transcends those areas into esoteric practices resulting in benefits to people, although these may not be tangible. He has unseen spiritual proximity to humanity. The Imam is, therefore, at one and the same time, master and a friend in the journey of the spirit, guiding and initiating us into the inner truth of religion. His similitude, when unseen, is that of the sun which, though hidden behind the clouds, yet has effects which are felt. The Imam is the most perfect person, both in knowledge and in practice, whether he is seen or unseen.

The Imamites believe that the Prophet made Ali his deputy during his lifetime and designated him to be the Imam after him. The Imamate of al-Hasan, al-Husayn and Ali ibn al-Husayn was also designated by the Prophet. And after that, every Imam designated the Imam who followed him up to the twelfth Imam (may Allah hasten his reappearance). All these Imams are inerrant and of impeccable character, innate probity and endowed with filial piety.

Resurrection from Shi’ite point of view
Resurrection is one of the five fundamentals of religion in which the Imamites believe. It is one of the philosophical and theological issues dealing with the “feasibility or otherwise of bringing back to life that which had perished.” The question also deals with the issue of whether or not “the human soul is immortal.” The discussion which stems from this subject, therefore, concerns, the truth about the human body –what is it? Or, what does it consist of?

The Imamite Shi’ah Muslims believe in what the Noble Qur’an spelt out regarding resurrection in that will be a bodily one and in a new(from of) creation and that resurrection will be both body and soul: “Paradise will be the abode of perpetual comfort. Those who reside in it will face neither hardship nor fatigue. They will enjoy food, drink, scenery and marriage. He will be the abode of those who disregard Allah. No one is going to stay in it for good except the unbelievers” (al- Mufid, Tashih al-I tiqad).

Resurrection from Ibn- Sina point view
As for the philosophers they differed over the question of resurrection as to whether it will be in body and soul or in the soul alone. The Shaykh( master) of Islamic philosophers. Ibn Sina, who was of a Shi’ite persuasion, believed in bodily resurrection by way of traditional evidence and religious dictates, although he could not demonstrate it rationally. In two books, al- Shi’fa and al- Isharat, he tried to prove that reward and punishment would be meted out to both the body and soul. He wrote an epistle on resurrection and condition of the soul. In the seventh section of chapter 9 of his book al- shifa, he wrote:

It must be known that proof of resurrection can be derived from religious knowledge. However, there is no other is no other way to proving its occurrence than that of the Shari’ah and the acknowledgment of Prophetic tradition, it is that of body resurrection. Good and evil aspects of the body are well known, they do not need to be delved into, in that the ture Shari’ah, brought to us by our Prophet and master, Muhammad (s. a. w. a. s) explained both the states of body – happiness and wretchedness. As for happiness or wretchedness of the soul, it is proved both rationally and through logical deduction and tradition evidence as acknowledged by Prophet hood

Resurrection from Mulla Sadra point view
The philosopher Sadr al- Din Shirazi discussed the argument for bodily resurrection in his two book al- Asfar and al- Mabba wa’l-ma’ad He also discussed the subject in his book Sharh al- hidayyah, with a slight variation in argument. However, he too eventually resorted to acknowledged traditional evidence produced by the Islamic religion. To this effect he wrote, “The truth upheld by us is that the crux of the matter pertaining to the acknowledged of and belief in the question of resurrection is that which has been proved by the holy Book, and the Sunnah, and all that which is reached at in the body of religious teaching. It is true in the full sense of the literal meaning”(1976:407).

It is noteworthy that, while acknowledged the veracity of bodily resurrection as reported by the Shari’ah, Shirazi maintained that this did not require interpretation and inferring meanings from utterances other than their literal meanings. Thus he wrote (1976), “It is a matter of fact that bodies in the hereafter shall be bereft of many of their necessary manifestations. The body in the hereafter shall be a shadow of the soul, a reflection and an image of it.”

Sources

History of Islamic philosophy – seyyed Hossein Nasr- pages:138to142

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