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The Infallible Prophets

Can the Prophets commit sins?Imperfection is loved by humans because of the presence of natural emotions within us such as envy, hatred, greed. As we ourselves are imperfect, we want to see our reflection in others. This human behavior of searching for and presenting all the imperfect things, and then showing contempt towards them is innate. This behavior of expressing imperfection and criticism exists not only in the media, but also in all human systems such as politics, technology, business enterprises, science, sports and other industries because it is the cause of their existence. If they cannot reveal other people’s faults, they will not survive in the market or in life.

Can the Prophets commit sins?The most important question after the existence of God is of the infallibility of His Prophets (peace be upon them all). Through the flow of mixed emotions in ourselves, we observe a variety of thoughts about all the Prophets of God that are conveyed by what we read or what we are told. Human beings are gifted with the powers of thinking and analysis. This analysis is presented by a number of means, such as the powerful media.

During the time of Prophets, the only medium of communication to the next generations was through the words of books and the Hadith. Before analyzing every aspect here, let us first focus on where we are today. Addicted to electronics and the influence of satellites, we are dependent on the internet and television channels for getting media coverage. News we hear – or rather, news we want to hear – is mostly offbeat and bizarre. It seems as if what we are honestly interested in is the Tiger Woods scandal and Lindsay Lohan’s drug addictions. What we don’t understand is that their basic idea is to sell the news, either by fabricating it or by showing what people love to see: imperfection.

Imperfection is loved by humans because of the presence of natural emotions within us such as envy, hatred, greed. As we ourselves are imperfect, we want to see our reflection in others. This human behavior of searching for and presenting all the imperfect things, and then showing contempt towards them is innate. This behavior of expressing imperfection and criticism exists not only in the media, but also in all human systems such as politics, technology, business enterprises, science, sports and other industries because it is the cause of their existence. If they cannot reveal other people’s faults, they will not survive in the market or in life.

Going back to the times of our Prophets, human behaviors were still the same. Various systems such as monarchies and governments, buyers and sellers, the public and authors were all fighting for life. They could not accept the fact that someone can come and change their existing beliefs and rituals. Rulers used to arrest the Prophets and the public used to humiliate them. This humiliation as we read today through fabricated stories and books is something our Shi’i school of thought cannot accept. As people went astray generation after generation, the need for Prophets was always there. But our way of treating and presenting their lives has never changed. Even today, other schools of thought believe in the imperfection of the Prophets and talk about several sins that they have supposedly committed, so that people can commit them and then repent like the example of the Prophets.

There have been 124,000 Prophets sent on earth, of which 28 have been mentioned by name in the Holy Qur’an. Many of them have also been mentioned in other holy books. If we are to analyze the infallibility of the Prophets, let us go to the time of our first Prophet who came on earth. In verses 2:34-37, the downfall of Iblis has been described as taking place because of his arrogance and a sense of superiority to Prophet Adam (peace be upon him). This is followed by Allah’s advice given to the Prophet to not eat from a specific tree in the gardens. This was not a command – so it was not a sin that Allah was telling him not to commit, but instead he had to choose from the better option. These verses do not in any way prove that Prophet Adam committed a sin or was fallible. Irrespective of the actions of Prophet Adam in the Garden, he would have been brought to Earth by the order of God. Allama Tabatabai also explains that Prophet Adam was placed on this garden to be given the opportunity to decide when his trial should begin. Thus, it clearly was not a sin that Prophet Adam chose to go near the tree, eventually causing him to come down to Earth – it was God’s will.

Some directly related verses of the Qur’an on infallibility (38:45-48) say: “And commemorate Our Servants Ibrahim, Ishaaq, and Yaqub, possessors of Power and Vision. Verily We did choose them for a special (purpose) – proclaiming the Message of the Hereafter. They were, in Our sight, truly, of the company of the Elect and the Good. And commemorate Isma’il, Elisha, and Zul-Kifl: Each of them was of the Company of the Good.” These verses reveal the importance of the Prophets, and it requires but simple understanding to relate them to infallibility. Other verses (38:82-83 and 15:39) talk about what Iblis said: “Then, by Thy power, I will put them all in the wrong – Except Thy Servants amongst them, sincere and purified (by Thy Grace).” Thus, the Prophets would never commit sins because they are the most sincere, purified, possessors of the greatest faith, and are God-loving and God-fearing at all times. Further, in verses 6:84-90, emphasis is put on the importance of Prophets Is’haaq, Yaqub, Nuh, Dawud, Sulayman, Ayyub, Yusuf, Musa, Haroon, Zakariyya, Yahya, Isa, Ilyas (peace be upon them all) and our Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) explaining that they are the rightly guided ones by Allah. Verse 37 of Chapter 39 says that nobody can misguide the one whom Allah guides. Certainly, these two series of verses clearly indicate that all of the Prophets are perfectly guided and would never commit sins.

Several verses of Holy Qur’an cannot be understood by their literal meaning only (3:7). Deep and careful interpretation (Tafseer and Tawee’) of these verses of the Qur’an is needed to confirm the infallibility of all the Prophets. As explained above (2:34-37), the infallibility of Prophet Adam has been understood. Similarly, verses which mention “sins” committed by other Prophets such as Dawud, Musa, Yusuf, Nuh, Ibrahim, Ayyub, Yunus and Sulayman can also be derived by a thorough understanding of the hidden meanings of the Qur’an, such as explained by Allama Tabatabai. It is recommended to read the Tafseer of the Qur’an and about the Prophets and their infallibility.

Prophets have always been tested so that they provide excellent examples and evidences to the people about what is the best and perfect way of avoiding sins. Infallibility implies that our Prophets would never sin, but it does not mean that they cannot commit sins. They are not born unable to sin, but their strong will-power prevents them committing any sin, and this quality that Allah has bestowed upon them is infallibility (‘Isma). Therefore ‘Isma, a quality created by Allah in His Prophets, governs their actions through their will and always in the obedience to Allah (Al-Mizan). Also, they simply never commit sins because of their love to Allah and their constant awareness of His Existence. Infallibility, thus, can be called the method in which there is a consistent feeling of love for Allah.

Imam Ali (peace be upon him) said, “Hell fire is sweet to me, if Allah is pleased by it.” This shows the perfect example of Imam Ali’s devotion to Allah, signifying his infallibility. Allama Tabatabai says “Infallibility is the presence of a quality in a person that prevents him from committing any impermissible act such as a sin.” It is illogical that Allah would send any representative on earth who would not know Him completely and give flawed examples to the people to follow. It becomes more reasonable when you consider real-life imperfections. Imagine: would you buy a car which does not have brakes and then later think of buying new brakes for it? Or would you study from a teacher who teaches you wrong subjects, repents and then teaches you again? Similarly, how can a Prophet – our teacher and guide – commit a sin and then later repent on it? It would not make sense to follow such a Prophet of God.

Now the question arises: if all the Prophets are infallible then who is the best of the Prophets? In to the Qur’an (59:7), Allah asserts the perfection of Prophet Muhammad when He asks us to accept whatever the Prophet tells us and to refrain from whatever he forbids. In several other verses, Allah tells us about the perfect last Prophet and his infallibility (5:15, 33: 56). Following our Prophet Muhammad, there are Lady Fatima (peace be upon her) and the Twelve Imams (peace be upon them) who have protected the Truth until now, and will keep doing so until the Day of Judgment. These 14 Infallibles also protect humans from going astray, as people had after the time of each Prophet.

The 14 Infallibles are the best and favorites among the Prophets, and the best among them is Prophet Muhammad.

 

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3 comments

  1. Super like it ! .. 🙂

  2. JazakAllah for this! Indeed, Imam Zayn al-Abidin (as) said, “An Imam from among us can only be infallible. Infallibility is not an outward physical feature that can be noticed which is why it must be documented (in the Qur’an or traditions).” He was then asked, “O son of the Prophet, and what does infallible mean?” To which he replied, “It refers to one who clings fast to the rope of Allah, and the rope of Allah is the Qur’an. They do not separate from each other until the Day of Resurrection, and the Imam guides to the Qur’an and the Qur’an guides to the Imam… which alludes to Allah’s saying, “Verily this Qur’an guides to what is most upright” (Qur’an 179).” [Ma’ani al-Akhbar]

  3. mashallah, wonderful article. Very well written.

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