The Fourth Flash: This solves and elucidates with complete clarity one of the major points of conflict between the Sunnis and the Shi‘a, the question of the Imamate, and expounds two important verses in four points.(1873-1960)
The title, The Highway of the Practices of the Prophet was considered appropriate for this treatise.
[The Imamate question is a matter of secondary importance, but because of the excessive attention paid it, it was as though included among the matters of belief and dealt with by the sciences of kala\m and the principles of religion.1 Here, it is discussed partly in this respect and partly in respect of its relevance to our basic duties towards the Qur’an and belief.]
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Now has come a prophet from among yourselves; it heavily weighs upon him that you might suffer; full of concern is he for you, and full of compassion and mercy towards the believers. * But if they turn away, say: God is enough for me, there is no god but He. In Him have I placed my trust, for He is the Lord and Sustainer of the Mighty Throne.(9:128-9) * Say: I ask no recompense of you save love of close kin.(42:23)
We shall point out in two stations two of the many vast truths contained in these glorious verses.
The first station consists of four points.
This describes the perfect compassion and mercy of God’s Noble Messenger
(Upon whom be blessings and peace) towards his community.
1 al-Iji, Kitab al-Mawaqif, iii, 331; Ahmad b. Muhammad, Kitab Usul al-Din, 269, 279
According to sound narrations, when at the terror of the resurrection everyone including the prophets will cry out for themselves, God’s Messenger (UWBP) will demonstrate his pity and compassion2 by calling out: “My community! M y community!”3 As is affirmed by those who disclose the realities, when he was born, his mother heard the same words among his supplications.4 Then the whole history of his life, as well as the benevolence he taught demonstrate his perfect compassion and clemency. Also, by evincing an infinite need for his community’s innumerable prayers,5 he showed a boundless compassion, for he showed that because of it he was concerned with the happiness of all of them. You can understand, therefore, how
lacking in gratitude and conscience it is not to observe the practices of so kind and compassionate a leader.
Among the universal, general duties of his prophethood, God’s Noble Messenger (Upon whom be blessings and peace) displayed great compassion in certain particular, minor matters. Superficially, his behaving so kindly in such matters seems unfitting for the supreme importance of the prophetic mission. But in reality, such minor matters were the tips or samples of a chain that would be the means whereby a universal, general function of prophethood would be fulfilled. The greatest importance was therefore given to the sample for the sake of the mighty chain.
For example, the extraordinary gentleness God’s Messenger (UWBP) showed towards Hasan and Husayn in their childhood and the great importance he gave them6 was not only out of love and natural kindness and family feeling, it was rather
because they were each the tip of a luminous thread of the office of prophethood, and the source, sample, and index of a community of great consequence which would receive the legacy of prophethood.
Indeed, the Messenger (UWBP) used to take Hasan (May God be pleased with him) tenderly into his arms and kiss his head7 for the sake of the luminous, blessed, Mahdi-like descendants who would spring from him, such as Shah Geylani, the Ghawth al-A‘zam,8 who would be the inheritors of prophethood and would uphold the sacred Shari‘a of Muhammad.
2 See, Bukhari, Tawhid, 32; Muslim, Iman, 326.
3 Bukhari, Tawhid, 36; Tafsir Sura 17:5; Fitan, 1; Muslim, Iman, 326, 327; Tirmidhi, Qiyama, 10;
Darimi, Muqaddima, 8.
4 See, Suyuti, al-Khasa’is al-Kubra, i, 80, 85, 91; al-Nabhani, Hujjat Allah ‘ala’l-’Alamin, 224,
5 See, Tirmidhi, Qiyama, 24.
6 See, Bukhari, Fada’il al-Ashab, 22; Muslim, Fada’il al-S˘ahaba, 56, 60.
7 See, Musnad, v, 47; al-Tabarani, al-Mu‘jam al-Kabir, iii, 32; xx, 274.
8 Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir Gilani, d. 561/1165-6. The eponymous founder of the Qadiri Order. (Tr.)
He saw with the eye of prophethood the sacred services they would perform in the future, and applauded them.9 He kissed Hasan’s head as a sign of approval and encouragement.
Also, he embraced Husayn (May God be pleased with him) and showed him importance and tenderness on account of the illustrious Imams like Zayn al-‘Abidin and Ja‘far al-Sadiq, and the numerous Mahdi-like luminous persons, the true inheritors of prophethood, who would spring from his effulgent line, and for the sake of the religion of Islam and office of prophethood.
Since with his heart with its knowledge of the Unseen, the Prophet Muhammad’s (UWBP) luminous vision and future-penetrating eye observed from the Era of Bliss in this world the Assembly of the Resurrection on the side of post-eternity, and from the earth saw Paradise, and watched events which had occurred since the time of Adam and were concealed in the dark veils of the past, and even beheld the vision of the All- Glorious One, he surely saw the spiritual poles and the Imams who were to be the inheritors of prophethood, and the Mahdis, who would follow on in the lines of Hasan and Husayn. And for sure he would kiss their heads in the name of all of them. Yes, Shah Geylani has a large part in his kissing Hasan’s head.
According to one interpretation, the verse:
Say: I ask of you no recompense save love of close kin(42:23)
has the meaning: “God’s Noble Messenger (UWBP) wants no reward for fulfilling the duties of messengership; he wants only love for his family.”
If it is asked: According to this, it seems there is an advantage to be gained from a family relationship. Whereas, according to the meaning of:
The most honoured of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you,(49:13)
prophethood functions in respect of closeness to God, not of family relationships?
The Answer: With his vision that penetrated the Unseen, God’s Most Noble Messenger (UWBP) saw that his family would become a light-giving tree in the world of Islam. It would be from his family that the overwhelming majority of those persons who would act as guides and preceptors instructing every level of the world of Islam in human attainment and per fection would emerge.
9 See, Ibn Maja, Muqaddima, 11; Musnad, iv, 172.
He divined that his community’s prayer for his family in the final section of the prescribed prayers: “O God, grant blessings to our master Muhammad and to the family of our master Muhammad, as You granted blessings to Abraham and to the family of Abraham; indeed, You are Worthy of Praise, Most Exalted”10 would be accepted. That is to say, just as the vast majority of the luminous guides among the people of Abraham were prophets of Abraham’s family and line,11
so he saw in his community the spiritual poles of his family performing the momentous duties of Islam, and in most of the paths and Sufi orders, like the prophets of Israel.12 Therefore, being commanded to say: “Say: I ask of you no recompense save love of close kin,” he wanted his community to love his family.
There are numerous narrations corroborating this fact. He repeatedly decreed: “I leave you two things. If you adhere to them, you will find salvation: one is God’s Book, the other is my Family.”13 For members of his family were the source and guardians of his practices (Sunna) and were charged with complying with them in
every respect. This is why what was intended by this Hadith was adherence to the Book and the Prophet’s practices. That is to say, in respect of the office of messengership it was the Prophet’s (UWBP) practices that were sought from his family. So no one who abandoned his practices could truly be a member of his family, nor could such a person not be a true friend to them.14
Also, the reason he desired his community to gather round his family15 was that, with God’s permission, he knew it was going to become very numerous in the course of time, and that Islam was going to become weak. An extremely strong and large mutually supportive group of people was therefore necessary to be the instrument through which the Islamic world would progress spiritually and morally, with divine permission. He thought of this and desired that his community should gather round his family.
Indeed, even if the members of the Prophet’s (UWBP) family were not greatly in advance of others in matters of belief and faith, they were still far ahead of them in regard to submission, partiality, and partisanship. For they were followers of Islam by nature, birth, and temperament. Even if natural partiality is weak and unworthy, or unjustifiable even, it cannot be given up.
10 Bukhari, Anbiya’, 10; Muslim, Salat, 65-6.
11 See, Ibn al-Hajar, Fath al-Bari, xi, 162.
12 See, al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, iv, 384; al-‘Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa’, ii, 83.
13 Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 31; Musnad, iii, 14, 17, 26.
14 See, al-Tabarani, Mu‘jam al-Awsad, iii, 338; Abu Da’ud, Fitan, 2; Musnad, ii, 133.
15 See, al-Bazzar, al-Musnad, ix, 343; al-Tabarani, al-Mu‘jam al-Kabir, iii, 45-6; xii, 34.
So would it be possible for a person to give up his support for a truth to which all his forefathers – who were most strong, most constant and true, and most illustrious – had been bound, and through which they had won glory, and for which they had sacrificed their lives, a truth the person clearly felt to be so fundamental and natural? Thus, due to this intense partiality and natural submission, the Prophet’s (UWBP) family accepted the least hint in favour of the religion of Islam as though it were a powerful proof. For they were partial by nature. Others become partial only after some powerful proof.
In connection with the Third Point, we shall indicate briefly a matter that has been disputed by the Shi‘ites and the Sunnis and has been magnified to such an extent that it has been included in the books on doctrine, among the fundamentals of belief.16
The Sunnis say: “‘Ali (May God be pleased with him) was the fourth of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs. Abu Bakr the Veracious (May God be pleased with him) was superior to him and was more deserving of the Caliphate, therefore it passed to him first.”17 While the Shi‘ites say: “It was ‘Ali’s right. An injustice was done to him. ‘Ali was the most worthy of them all.” A summary of the arguments for their claims is
this. They say: “The Hadiths of the Prophet (UWBP) about ‘Ali,18 and with his title of King of Sainthood his being the recognized authority of the vast majority of the saints and spiritual paths, and his extraordinary knowledge, courage, and worship, and the Prophet’s (Upon whom be blessings and peace) intense concern for him and towards his descendants all show that he was the most worthy. The Caliphate was always his right; it was seized from him.”
The Answer: The fact that ‘Ali (May God be pleased with him) followed the first three Caliphs, whom he repeatedly acknowledged,19 and held the position of their Shaikh al-Islam, refutes these claims of the Shi‘ites. Furthermore, the victories of Islam and the struggles against its enemies in the time of the first three Caliphs and the events in ‘Ali’s time, refute the Shi‘ites’ claims, again from the point of view of the Islamic Caliphate. That is to say the Sunnis’ claim is rightful.
16 See, al-Taftazani, Sharh al-’Aqa’id (Turk. tr. Süleyman Uludağ), 321.
17 See, Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-‘Aqida, i, 123; Ibn Abi ‘Izz, Sharh ‘Aqida al-Tahawiyya, i, 545, 548.
18 Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 19; Ibn Maja, Muqaddima, 11; Musnad, i, 84, 118; iv, 281.
19 See, Bukhari, Fada’il Ashab, 5; Abu Da’ud, Sunna, 7; Musnad, i, 106.
If it is said, there are two sorts of Shi‘ites, the Sainthood Shi‘a and the Because they mixed hatred and politics the second group may have been unjust, but the first group were not concerned with partisan politics. However, the Sainthood Shi‘a joined the Caliphate Shi‘a. That is, some of the saints of the Sufi orders looked on ‘Ali as superior and they endorsed the claims of the Caliphate Shi‘a.
The Answer: ‘Ali (May God be pleased with him) has to be considered in two respects. One is from the point of view of his personal perfections and rank, and the other is from the point of view of his representing the collective personality of the Prophet’s (UWBP) family. As for this collective personality, it displays an aspect of the Most Noble Messenger’s (UWBP) essential nature.
Thus, in regard to the first point, foremost ‘Ali himself and all the people of truth gave precedence to Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.20 They saw their ranks as higher in the service of Islam and closeness to God. As for the second point, as the representative
of the collective personality of the Prophet’s (UWBP) family, which represents an aspect of the Muhammadan Truth, ‘Ali has no equal. The highly laudatory Hadiths about ‘Ali21 look to this second point. There is a sound narration that corroborates this: the Noble Messenger (UWBP) decreed: “The descendants of each prophet are from himself. My descendants are those of ‘Ali.”22
The reason the Hadiths praising ‘Ali more than the other three Caliphs have become so widespread is that the people of truth, that is, the Sunnis, spread many narrations about him in response to the Umayyads and Kharijites attacking and disparaging him unjustly. The other Rightly-Guided Caliphs were not subject to such criticism and detraction, so no need was felt to spread Hadiths about them.
Furthermore, the Prophet (UWBP) saw with the eye of prophethood the grievous events and internal strife to which ‘Ali would be exposed in the future, and in order to save him from despair and his community from thinking unfavourably of him, he consoled him and guided his community with significant Hadiths like “Whosever master I am, ‘Ali too is his master.”23
20 See, al-Ghazali, Qawa’id al-‘Aqa’id, i, 228; al-Kalabazi, al-Ta‘arruf li-Madhhab Ahl
Tasawwuf, i, 57.
21 Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 19; Ibn Maja, Muqaddima, 11; Musnad, i, 84, 118; iv, 281.
22 Tabarani, al-Majma‘ al-Kabir, no: 2630; al-Haythami, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, x, 333; al-Munawi,
Fayd al-Qadir, 223, no: 1717.
23 Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 19; Ibn Maja, Muqaddima, 11; Musnad, i, 84, 118, 119, 152, 331; iv, 281,
368, 370, 383; v, 347, 366, 419; al-Kattani, Nazm al-Mutanathir fi’l-Ahadith al-Mutawatir, 24; al- Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, vi, 218; Ibn Hibban, Sahih, ix, 42; al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak, ii, 130; iii, 134.
The excessive love of the Sainthood Shi‘a towards ‘Ali (May God be pleased with him) and – influenced by the Sufi Orders – their deeming him superior, does not make them answerable to the degree of the Caliphate Shi‘a. For those who follow the path of sainthood look towards their spiritual guides with love, and the mark of love is excess;24 it wants to see the beloved as greater than his rank. And that is how it sees him. Ecstatics may be forgiven excesses of love. So their deeming ‘Ali more worthy because of their love may be excused on condition it does not turn into disparagement of the other Rightly-Guided Caliphs and enmity towards them, and does not go beyond the fundamental teachings of Islam.
As for the Caliphate Shi‘a, since political prejudice took a hold of them they could not rid themselves of hatred and aggression, so forfeited their right to be excused. Even, confirming the saying, “Not for love of ‘Ali, but out of hatred of ‘Umar,” since Persian national pride was wounded at ‘Umar’s hand,25 they showed their revenge in the form of love of ‘Ali. So also ‘Amr ibn al-‘As’s rebellion against ‘Ali and ‘Umar ibn al-Sa‘d’s tragic war against Husayn26 aroused in the Shi‘a an intense anger and enmity towards the name of ‘Umar.
The Sainthood Shi‘a have no right to criticize the Sunnis, for the Sunnis have not decried ‘Ali, indeed, they love him sincerely. But they avoid the excessive love which is described as dangerous in Hadiths.27 The Prophet’s (UWBP) praise of ‘Ali’s followers in the Hadiths28 refers to the Sunnis. For it is the Sunnis among ‘Ali’s followers who love him in a moderate fashion and are the people of truth. Just as excessive love of Jesus (Upon whom be peace) is dangerous for Christians, so it has been made clear in sound Hadiths that that sort of excessive love for ‘Ali is dangerous.29
If the Sainthood Shi‘a say: “Once ‘Ali’s consummate spiritual attainments are accepted, it is impossible to give precedence to Abu Bakr the Truthful.”
24 Abu Da’ud, Adab, 113; Musnad, v, 194; vi, 450.
25 See, Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, vi, 12, 21; al-Tabari, Tarikh al-‘Umam wa’l-Muluk, iii, 283, 289.
26 See, al-Tabari, Tarikh al-‘Umam wa’l-Muluk, iii, 298; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya wa’l-Nihaya, viii, 193.
27 Musnad, i, 160; Nasa’i, al-Sunan al-Kubra, v, 137; al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak, iii, 132.
28 al-Tabarani, al-Mu‘jam al-Awsad, vi, 354; vii, 343.
29 Bukhari, Ta’rikh al-Kabir, ii, 257; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Fada’il al-Sahaba: 1087, 1221, 1222; al-Haythami, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, ix, 133; Ibn al-Jawzi, al-‘Ilal il-Mutanahiya, i, 223.
The reply: It was as though the personal perfections of Abu Bakr, the Supremely Veracious, and ‘Umar, the Supreme Distinguisher between True and False (May God be pleased with them), had been placed in the pan of some scales together with their achievements during their Caliphates, realized through their performance of the duties inherited from the Prophet (UWBP), and in the other pan had been placed
‘Ali’s (May God be pleased with him) extraordinary personal perfections together with the internal Caliphate struggles, which resulted from the tragic events he was compelled to enter upon and were the object of suspicion and distrust, and the Sunnis saw that Abu Bakr’s or ‘Umar’s or ‘Uthman’s (Dhi’l-Nurayn) pan weighed heavier, and so they gave them precedence.
Moreover, as is proved in the Twelth and Twenty-Fourth Words, prophethood is
so elevated in comparison to sainthood that a tiny manifestation of it is superior to a large manifestation of sainthood. In regard to this, the successes of the Supremely Veracious and the Supreme Distinguisher between True and False during their Caliphates was an indication for the Sunnis that their share in the legacy of
prophethood30 and the establishment of its laws had been divinely bestowed. Since
‘Ali’s personal perfections did not dismiss that greater share, which had been inherited from the Prophet (UWBP), he acted as Shaikh al-Islam for Abu Bakr and
‘Umar, the two Illustrious Elders, in the time of their Caliphates, and esteemed them. How should the Sunnis, who love and revere ‘Ali, not love and revere the two Elders, whom ‘Ali loved and revered sincerely? Let us make this truth clear be means of an example:
One of the sons of a very rich man is given twenty batmans31 of silver and four
batmans of gold from his father’s legacy, and another is given five of silver and five of gold. So if the third is given three of silver and five of gold, of course the last two will receive less in quantity, but more in quality. Like this example, the lesser amount of the two elders’ share of the gold of the truth of divine immediacy, which was manifested in the legacy of prophethood and the establishment of its laws, would weigh heavier than the great amount of divine proximity and the perfections of sainthood which sprang from the jewel of sainthood. These points should also be taken into account when weighing them up.32 But if they are compared with one another from the point of view of personal courage, knowledge, and sainthood, the matter takes on a different complexion.
30 See, Bukhari, Fada’il Ashab, 6; Muslim, Fada’il al-Sahaba, 15-16; Tirmidhi, Ruya, 9.
31 Batman: a weight varying from 5-30 lbs. [Tr.]
32 See, Tirmidhi, Ruya, 10; Abu Da’ud, Sunna, 8; Musnad, v, 44, 50.
Also, there can be no comparison in respect of the collective personalit y of the Prophet’s (UWBP) family, which was represented in the person of ‘Ali (May God be pleased with him), and of the Muhammadan Truth, which was manifested as a total inheritance in that collective personality. For contained in it was the mighty mystery of the Prophet Muhammad himself (Upon whom be blessings and peace).
As for the Caliphate Shi‘a, they can claim no rights before the Sunnis other than shame. For although they say they have tremendous love for ‘Ali (May God be pleased with him), they disparage him, and their creed necessitates accusing him of immorality. For they say that although Abu Bakr the Veracious and ‘Umar were acting unjustly, ‘Ali feigned approval for them; according to Shi’i terminology, he
dissimulated. That is, he was frightened of them and behaved hypocritically.33 But it is not love to hold that someone who was such a hero of Islam, won the title Lion of
Allah,34 and was the commander and guide of the faithful, was simulating love for people he did not love out of fear and deception, and was feigning approval for them
in fear for more than twenty years, and was following wrongdoers. ‘Ali (May God be pleased with him) would disclaim love that sort.
Thus, the people of truth’s creed in no way disparages ‘Ali, nor levels accusations of immorality at him. It does not attribute cowardice where there was such remarkable courage, but says that if ‘Ali had not considered the Rightly-Guided Caliphs to be right, he would not have recognized them for a minute, nor obeyed them. It means that since he thought them right and preferable, he made over his courage and striving
to the way of justice.35
I n S h o r t : Too much or too little of anything is not good. Moderation is the middle way36 and has been chosen by the Sunnis. But, alas, Kharijite ideas have infiltrated the Sunnis to an extent; so too addicts of politics and some atheists criticize
‘Ali. They say, God forbid, that he did not understand politics so was not entirely worthy of the Caliphate and could not govern, and because of these unjust accusations, ‘Alawis feel affronted at the Sunnis. Whereas Sunnis hold no principles or basic beliefs that necessitate such ideas. Indeed, they prove the opposite.
33 See, al-Razi, I’tiqad Firaq al-Muslimin wa’l-Mushrikin, i, 60, 61; Ibn Taymiyya, Minhaj al- Sunna, vi, 320.
34 See, Ahmad b. ‘Abdullah al-Tabari, al-Riyad al-Nadira, i, 245; Zaha’ir al-’Uqba, i, 92.
35 Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Sharh Nahj al-Balagha, i, 130-2.
36 See, al-Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Iman, iii, 402; v, 261; al-‘Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa’, i, 470.
The Sunnis cannot be condemned because of ideas that come from Kharijites and atheists. Indeed, the Sunnis are firmer followers of ‘Ali than the ‘Alawis. They mention ‘Ali in the laudatory fashion he deserves in all their khutbas and prayers. And the saints and purified scholars, the vast majority of whom belonged to the Sunni school, recognized him as a spiritual guide and the king of sainthood.37 The ‘Alawis should ignore the Kharijites and atheists who have deservedly earned the enmity of both the ‘Alawis
and the Sunnis, and not take sides against the people of truth. Some ‘Alawis even abandon the Prophet’s (UWBP) Sunna out of spite for the Sunnis. Anyway, we have said too much on this matter, for it has been discussed inordinately by the religious scholars.
O Sunnis, who are the people of truth, and ‘Alawis, whose way is love of the Prophet’s (UWBP) family! Quickly put an end to this meaningless, disloyal, unjust, and harmful dispute between you. Otherwise the atheistic current which is now so influential will make one of you a tool against the other, and use the one to crush the other. And after defeating the one it will destroy the tool. As believers in divine unity, it is essential that you leave aside unimportant matters that cause division, for there are a hundred fundamental sacred bonds between you that enjoin brotherhood and unity.
The Second Station will be about the second truth of the verse,
But if they turn away, say: “God suffices me, there is no god but He; in Him do I place my trust – He the Sustainer of the Throne [of Glory] Supreme!”(9:129)38
37 See, Imam Rabbani, al-Maktubat, i, 134 (No: 251).
38 The Second Station was designated the Eleventh Flash.
*Note: Our Master, Hazret-i Ustad, said in explanation of these two phrases in the footnote of the Sixth Chapter of the Twenty-Ninth Flash, which is in Arabic: “The degrees of these two phrases were written in Arabic because they are reflection and remembrance of God rather than intellectual knowledge….. ” The Fourth Ray, called Hasbiye Risalesi, about the verse “For us God suffices, and he is the Best Disposer of Affairs,” was written subsequently in Turkish.