The Quran Challenge, Part IV
In Part I, we discussed how important Imamah is to the Shia, and how they view it as more important than Prophethood/Messengership. In Part III, we looked through every instance in the Quran in which the word “Imam” is used, and we found that not once is the Shia concept of Imamah referred to in the Quran.
Now we compare this with the plethora of verses in the Quran which discuss Prophethood/Messengership. Verse after verse mentions the Prophets and Messengers, their names, their roles, and their stories. And yet, we fail to see any similar such discussion of the Shia Imams. In fact, no mention of the twelve Imams is in the Quran. The obvious question is why would Allah mention Prophethood/Messengership so many times in the Quran, but fail to mention Imams, whichโaccording to the Shiaโare more important than the Prophets/Messengers? This is a very big anomaly that is difficult to explain away.
The following is an excerpt is from โImaamah and the Quran: An Objective Perspectiveโ by Sidi Abu Salih:
After going through the instances where the word โImaamโ is mentioned in the Quran and determining that none of them proves nor supports the concept of Imaamah in Shiaism, it was only apppropriate to examine the context and meaning provided to the words โNabiโ and โRasoolโ in the Quran.
Examining the Word Nabi in the Quran
The case with the usage of the word Nabi is quite different from that of the word Imaam. While the root word from which โNabiโ originates is used in different ways, such as โNabaโโ (news), โNabaโtukumaโ (inform you), โAnbaakaโ (informed you), the terms Nabi and Nabieen/Anbiyaa (plural forms of Nabi) themselves are used in a very specific manner in the Holy Quran. From the approximately 80 instances wherein the words Nabi or Nabieen occur, not one of them refers to anything other than a Prophet of Allah.
Below is a list of a few instances when the word Nabi is used in the Quran. The list is categorized, to show that Allah has revealed a variety of topics surrounding His Prophets.
Rejecting and killing Nabis without just cause and its punishment
๏ดฟ ุถูุฑูุจูุชู ุนูููููููู ู ุงูุฐูููููุฉู ุฃููููู ู ูุง ุซููููููุงู ุฅููุงูู ุจูุญูุจููู ู ูููู ุงููููู ููุญูุจููู ู ูููู ุงููููุงุณู ููุจูุขุคููุง ุจูุบูุถูุจู ู ูููู ุงููููู ููุถูุฑูุจูุชู ุนูููููููู ู ุงููู ูุณูููููุฉู ุฐููููู ุจูุฃููููููู ู ููุงูููุงู ููููููุฑูููู ุจูุขููุงุชู ุงููููู ููููููุชูููููู ุงูุฃููุจูููุงุก ุจูุบูููุฑู ุญูููู ุฐููููู ุจูู ูุง ุนูุตููุง ูููููุงูููุงู ููุนูุชูุฏูููู ๏ดพ
Ignominy shall be their portion wheresoever they are found save (where they grasp) a rope from Allah and a rope from men. They have incurred anger from their Lord, and wretchedness is laid upon them. That is because they used to disbelieve the revelations of Allah, and slew the prophets wrongfully. That is because they were rebellious and used to transgress. (Quran 3:112)
True believers accept all Nabis of Allah
๏ดฟ ูููู ุขู ููููุง ุจูุงููููู ููู ูุง ุฃููุฒููู ุนูููููููุง ููู ูุง ุฃููุฒููู ุนูููู ุฅูุจูุฑูุงูููู ู ููุฅูุณูู ูุงุนูููู ููุฅูุณูุญูุงูู ููููุนููููุจู ููุงูุฃูุณูุจูุงุทู ููู ูุง ุฃููุชููู ู ููุณูู ููุนููุณูู ููุงููููุจููููููู ู ูู ุฑููุจููููู ู ูุงู ููููุฑูููู ุจููููู ุฃูุญูุฏู ู ููููููู ู ููููุญููู ูููู ู ูุณูููู ูููู ๏ดพ
Say (O Muhammad): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and that which was vouchsafed unto Moses and Jesus and the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. (Quran 3:84)
Belief in the Nabis is a basis of faith
๏ดฟ ูููููููููู ุงููุจูุฑูู ู ููู ุขู ููู ุจูุงููููู ููุงููููููู ู ุงูุขุฎูุฑู ููุงููู ููุขุฆูููุฉู ููุงููููุชูุงุจู ููุงููููุจููููููู ๏ดพ
โฆbut righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the prophetsโฆ (Quran 2:177)
Allah sending Nabis as bringers of both good news and warnings
๏ดฟ ููุงูู ุงููููุงุณู ุฃูู ููุฉู ููุงุญูุฏูุฉู ููุจูุนูุซู ุงููููู ุงููููุจููููููู ู ูุจูุดููุฑูููู ููู ููุฐูุฑูููู ููุฃููุฒููู ู ูุนูููู ู ุงููููุชูุงุจู ุจูุงููุญูููู ููููุญูููู ู ุจููููู ุงููููุงุณู ูููู ูุง ุงุฎูุชููููููุงู ููููู ๏ดพ
Mankind were one community, and Allah sent (unto them) prophets as bearers of good tidings and as warners, and revealed therewith the Scripture with the truth that it might judge between mankind concerning that wherein they differedโฆ (Quran 2:213)
Allahโs covenants with the Nabis
๏ดฟ ููุฅูุฐู ุฃูุฎูุฐู ุงููููู ู ููุซูุงูู ุงููููุจูููููููู ููู ูุง ุขุชูููุชูููู ู ููู ููุชูุงุจู ููุญูููู ูุฉู ุซูู ูู ุฌูุงุกููู ู ุฑูุณูููู ู ููุตูุฏูููู ูููู ูุง ู ูุนูููู ู ููุชูุคูู ูููููู ุจููู ููููุชููุตูุฑูููููู ููุงูู ุฃูุฃูููุฑูุฑูุชูู ู ููุฃูุฎูุฐูุชูู ู ุนูููู ุฐูููููู ู ุฅูุตูุฑูู ููุงูููุงู ุฃูููุฑูุฑูููุง ููุงูู ููุงุดูููุฏููุงู ููุฃูููุงู ู ูุนูููู ู ูููู ุงูุดููุงููุฏูููู ๏ดพ
When Allah made (His) covenant with the prophets, (He said): Behold that which I have given you of the Scripture and knowledge. And afterward there will come unto you a messenger, confirming that which ye possess. Ye shall believe in him and ye shall help him. He said: Do ye agree, and will ye take up My burden (which I lay upon you) in this (matter)? They answered: We agree. He said: Then bear ye witness. I will be a witness with you. (Quran 3:81)
Forbidden to take Nabis as Lords
๏ดฟ ูููุงู ููุฃูู ูุฑูููู ู ุฃูู ุชูุชููุฎูุฐููุงู ุงููู ููุงูุฆูููุฉู ููุงููููุจูููููููู ุฃูุฑูุจูุงุจูุง ุฃูููุฃูู ูุฑูููู ุจูุงููููููุฑู ุจูุนูุฏู ุฅูุฐู ุฃููุชูู ู ููุณูููู ูููู ๏ดพ
And he commanded you not that ye should take the angels and the prophets for lords. Would he command you to disbelieve after ye had surrendered (to Allah)? (Quran 3:80)
Some Nabis favored over others
๏ดฟ ููุฑูุจูููู ุฃูุนูููู ู ุจูู ูู ููู ุงูุณููู ูุงููุงุชู ููุงูุฃูุฑูุถู ููููููุฏู ููุถููููููุง ุจูุนูุถู ุงููููุจููููููู ุนูููู ุจูุนูุถู ููุขุชูููููุง ุฏูุงูููุฏู ุฒูุจููุฑูุง ๏ดพ
And thy Lord is Best Aware of all who are in the heavens and the earth. And we preferred some of the prophets above others, and unto David We gave the Psalms. (Quran 17:55)
Nabis sent to previous nations
๏ดฟ ููููู ู ุฃูุฑูุณูููููุง ู ูู ูููุจูููู ููู ุงููุฃููููููููู ๏ดพ
How many a prophet did We send among the men of old! (Quran 43:6)
The reader may think of other categories where to place some of these Verses in addition to the ones provided, and there exist many other cases when the word โNabiโ is used in the Quran that are not listed (this would prove repetitive in the context of the discussion).
From the few examples provided, it is obvious that the term is used with the meaning of โProphet of Allahโ and nothing else. The Sunni and Shia commentaries do not even spend time in trying to prove that the โNabiโ refers to a Prophet sent on a mission from Allah, save for perhaps the first time the term occurs in the Quran. This is because the inference is so obvious it needs little explanation. Even the bitterest enemy of Islam does not attempt to show that โNabiโ means some other type of โprophetโ that is not related to its religious connotation.
The different ways in which the functions and roles of the Prophets are delineated in the Quranic verses themselves is very straightforward, while the term โImaamโ is not treated in such clarity. I personally found myself amazed at such a contrast. The reason for this is the weight given to the doctrine of Imaamah in Shaism to the point that many Shia scholars consider it as being higher than Nubuwwah. It seems strange that in the โmore importantโ case only 12 examples are mentioned, some of which go against the doctrine under discussion, while the โless importantโ dogma has been mentioned much more often (almost seven-fold), all of them pointing towards โDivine Prophethoodโ.
Examining the Ayahs of the Quran it is seen that there is not a single Verse with the word โNabiโ that speaks against the concept of Nubuwwah. Moreover, the belief of Nubuwwah can easily be put together by using the Quran as the prime reference without stretching the meaning of any of the Ayahs. Later it will be seen that some of the Verses discussing Prophets and Messengers contradict and seriously undermine the essence of the Shia Imaamah doctrine. For the time being however, it is enough to note the difference between the manner in which Nabis and Imaams are discussed in the Quran in terms of clarity and importance given to them.
Examining the Word Rasool in the Quran
The next topic to look into is the Quran and its usage of the word โRasoolโ (Messenger). Like in the previous case with the word โNabiโ, the root word has been used in different ways, with the terms โArsalnaโ, โArsalaโ, โโYursilโ sometimes referring to Allah sending Messengers, or to Allah sending a punishment, or at other times to a Ruler sending a delegation.
However, with respect to the specific word Rasool (and its plural โMursalinโ/โRusulโ), we see that the total number of times the term has been used exceeds 360 times. There are a few instances (around 15) where the Messenger being referred to is either an Angel, or a Messenger that is not divinely sent. However, in the remaining cases (about 350 cases) it can be seen that the Rasool is in effect a human sent by Allah to declare His religion to a given people. So yet again, the level of clarity the Quran uses in describing Rasools and its coherence with Islamic belief is quite unlike the comparison between the term โImaamโ and the doctrine of โImaamahโ in Shiaism.
Again, some of the places where the word Rasool has been used are presented below, placed in categories for us to understand the various ways in which the Quran explains the role, function, and duties of Messengers:
Messengers sent to Every Nation
๏ดฟ ููููููููู ุฃูู ููุฉู ุฑููุณูููู ููุฅูุฐูุง ุฌูุงุก ุฑูุณููููููู ู ููุถููู ุจูููููููู ุจูุงููููุณูุทู ููููู ู ูุงู ููุธูููู ูููู ๏ดพ
And for every nation there is a messenger. And when their messenger cometh (on the Day of Judgment) it will be judged between them fairly, and they will not be wronged. (Quran 10:47)
People will not be punished until a Messenger is sent to them
๏ดฟ ู ูููู ุงููุชูุฏูู ููุฅููููู ูุง ููููุชูุฏู ููููููุณููู ููู ูู ุถูููู ููุฅููููู ูุง ููุถูููู ุนูููููููุง ูููุงู ุชูุฒูุฑู ููุงุฒูุฑูุฉู ููุฒูุฑู ุฃูุฎูุฑูู ููู ูุง ูููููุง ู ูุนูุฐููุจูููู ุญูุชููู ููุจูุนูุซู ุฑูุณูููุงู ๏ดพ
Whosoever goeth right, it is only for (the good of) his own soul that he goeth right, and whosoever erreth, erreth only to its hurt. No laden soul can bear another’s load, We never punish until we have sent a messenger. (Quran 17:15)
Peoples rejecting Messengers
๏ดฟ ููููููุฏู ููุฐููุจูุชู ุฑูุณููู ู ููู ููุจููููู ููุตูุจูุฑููุงู ุนูููู ู ูุง ููุฐููุจููุงู ููุฃููุฐููุงู ุญูุชููู ุฃูุชูุงููู ู ููุตูุฑูููุง ูููุงู ู ูุจูุฏูููู ููููููู ูุงุชู ุงููููู ูููููุฏู ุฌูุงุกูู ู ูู ูููุจูุฅู ุงููู ูุฑูุณูููููู ๏ดพ
Messengers indeed have been denied before thee, and they were patient under the denial and the persecution till Our succour reached them. There is none to alter the decisions of Allah. Already there hath reached thee (somewhat) of the tidings of the messengers (We sent before). (Quran 6:34)
Punishment for those who reject the Messengers of Allah
๏ดฟ ููููููุฏู ุฃูููููููููุง ุงููููุฑูููู ู ูู ููุจูููููู ู ููู ููุง ุธูููู ููุงู ููุฌูุงุกุชูููู ู ุฑูุณูููููู ุจูุงููุจููููููุงุชู ููู ูุง ููุงูููุงู ููููุคูู ููููุงู ููุฐููููู ููุฌูุฒูู ุงููููููู ู ุงููู ูุฌูุฑูู ูููู ๏ดพ
We destroyed the generations before you when they did wrong; and their messengers (from Allah) came unto them with clear proofs (of His Sovereignty) but they would not believe. Thus do We reward the guilty folk. (Quran 10:13)
Belief in Messengers as a Pillar of Faith
๏ดฟ ุขู ููู ุงูุฑููุณูููู ุจูู ูุง ุฃููุฒููู ุฅููููููู ู ูู ุฑููุจูููู ููุงููู ูุคูู ูููููู ููููู ุขู ููู ุจูุงููููู ููู ููุขุฆูููุชููู ููููุชูุจููู ููุฑูุณููููู ูุงู ููููุฑูููู ุจููููู ุฃูุญูุฏู ู ููู ุฑููุณููููู ููููุงูููุงู ุณูู ูุนูููุง ููุฃูุทูุนูููุง ุบูููุฑูุงูููู ุฑูุจููููุง ููุฅููููููู ุงููู ูุตููุฑู ๏ดพ
The messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) believers. Each one believeth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers - We make no distinction between any of His messengers - and they say: We hear, and we obey. (Grant us) Thy forgiveness, our Lord. Unto Thee is the journeying. (Quran 2:285)
๏ดฟ ููุง ุฃููููููุง ุงูููุฐูููู ุขู ููููุงู ุขู ููููุงู ุจูุงููููู ููุฑูุณูููููู ููุงููููุชูุงุจู ุงูููุฐูู ููุฒูููู ุนูููู ุฑูุณูููููู ููุงููููุชูุงุจู ุงูููุฐููู ุฃููุฒููู ู ูู ููุจููู ููู ูู ููููููุฑู ุจูุงููููู ููู ููุงูุฆูููุชููู ููููุชูุจููู ููุฑูุณููููู ููุงููููููู ู ุงูุขุฎูุฑู ููููุฏู ุถูููู ุถููุงููุงู ุจูุนููุฏูุง ๏ดพ
O ye who believe! Believe in Allah and His messenger and the Scripture which He hath revealed unto His messenger, and the Scripture which He revealed aforetime. Whoso disbelieveth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers and the Last Day, he verily hath wandered far astray. (Quran 4:136)
Some of the Messengersโ stories have been told to us, some have not
๏ดฟ ููุฑูุณููุงู ููุฏู ููุตูุตูููุงููู ู ุนููููููู ู ูู ููุจููู ููุฑูุณููุงู ูููู ู ููููุตูุตูููู ู ุนููููููู ูููููููู ู ุงููููู ู ููุณูู ุชููููููู ูุง๏ดพ
And messengers We have mentioned unto thee before and messengers We have not mentioned unto thee; and Allah spake directly unto Moses (Quran 4:164)
Purpose of Messengers
๏ดฟ ุฑููุณููุงู ู ููุจูุดููุฑูููู ููู ููุฐูุฑูููู ููุฆููุงูู ููููููู ููููููุงุณู ุนูููู ุงููููู ุญูุฌููุฉู ุจูุนูุฏู ุงูุฑููุณููู ููููุงูู ุงููููู ุนูุฒููุฒูุง ุญููููู ูุง ๏ดพ
Messengers of good cheer and of warning, in order that mankind might have no argument against Allah after the messengers. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise. (Quran 4:165)
๏ดฟ ููุฃูุทููุนููุงู ุงููููู ููุฃูุทููุนููุงู ุงูุฑููุณูููู ููุงุญูุฐูุฑููุงู ููุฅูู ุชููููููููุชูู ู ููุงุนูููู ููุงู ุฃููููู ูุง ุนูููู ุฑูุณููููููุง ุงููุจููุงูุบู ุงููู ูุจูููู๏ดพ
Obey Allah and obey the messenger, and beware! But if ye turn away, then know that the duty of Our messenger is only plain conveyance (of the message). (Quran 5:92)
Disbelievers and Messengers on Day of Judgement
๏ดฟ ูููู ูููุธูุฑูููู ุฅููุงูู ุชูุฃูููููููู ููููู ู ููุฃูุชูู ุชูุฃูููููููู ููููููู ุงูููุฐูููู ููุณูููู ู ูู ููุจููู ููุฏู ุฌูุงุกุชู ุฑูุณููู ุฑูุจููููุง ุจูุงููุญูููู ููููู ูููููุง ู ูู ุดูููุนูุงุก ููููุดูููุนููุงู ููููุง ุฃููู ููุฑูุฏูู ููููุนูู ููู ุบูููุฑู ุงูููุฐูู ูููููุง ููุนูู ููู ููุฏู ุฎูุณูุฑููุงู ุฃููููุณูููู ู ููุถูููู ุนูููููู ู ููุง ููุงูููุงู ููููุชูุฑูููู ๏ดพ
Await they aught save the fulfilment thereof? On the day when the fulfilment thereof cometh, those who were before forgetful thereof will say: The messengers of our Lord did bring the Truth! Have we any intercessors, that they may intercede for us? Or can we be returned (to life on earth), that we may act otherwise than we used to act? They have lost their souls, and that which they devised hath failed them. (Quran 7:53)
Believers and Messengers on Day of Judgement
๏ดฟ ููููุฒูุนูููุง ู ูุง ููู ุตูุฏููุฑูููู ู ูููู ุบูููู ุชูุฌูุฑูู ู ูู ุชูุญูุชูููู ู ุงูุฃูููููุงุฑู ููููุงูููุงู ุงููุญูู ูุฏู ูููููู ุงูููุฐูู ููุฏูุงููุง ูููููุฐูุง ููู ูุง ูููููุง ููููููุชูุฏููู ูููููุง ุฃููู ููุฏูุงููุง ุงููููู ููููุฏู ุฌูุงุกุชู ุฑูุณููู ุฑูุจููููุง ุจูุงููุญูููู ูููููุฏููุงู ุฃูู ุชูููููู ู ุงููุฌููููุฉู ุฃููุฑูุซูุชูู ููููุง ุจูู ูุง ูููุชูู ู ุชูุนูู ูููููู ๏ดพ
And We remove whatever rancour may be in their hearts. Rivers flow beneath them. And they say: The praise to Allah, Who hath guided us to this. We could not truly have been led aright if Allah had not guided us. Verily the messengers of our Lord did bring the Truth. And it is cried unto them: This is the Garden. Ye inherit it for what ye used to do. (Quran 7:43)
Messengers put under hardship
๏ดฟ ุญูุชููู ุฅูุฐูุง ุงุณูุชูููุฃูุณู ุงูุฑููุณููู ููุธูููููุงู ุฃููููููู ู ููุฏู ููุฐูุจููุงู ุฌูุงุกููู ู ููุตูุฑูููุง ููููุฌูููู ู ูู ูููุดูุงุก ูููุงู ููุฑูุฏูู ุจูุฃูุณูููุง ุนููู ุงููููููู ู ุงููู ูุฌูุฑูู ูููู ๏ดพ
Till, when the messengers despaired and thought that they were denied, then came unto them Our help (Quran 12:110)
Believing in Allah and His Messengers as a way to Sincerity and Paradise
๏ดฟ ููุงูููุฐูููู ุขู ููููุง ุจูุงูููููู ููุฑูุณููููู ุฃูููููุฆููู ููู ู ุงูุตููุฏูููููููู ููุงูุดููููุฏูุงุก ุนููุฏู ุฑูุจููููู ู ููููู ู ุฃูุฌูุฑูููู ู ูููููุฑูููู ู๏ดพ
And those who believe in Allah and His messengers, they are the loyal, and the martyrs are with their Lord; they have their reward and their light (Quran 57:19)
Thus, it is seen that the way the word โRasoolโ has been mentioned in the Quran is even more commanding and authoritative than for the word โNabiโ. Only 13 of the occurrences of the word โRasoolโ were included above, and yet theer can be no doubt as to what type of โMessengerโ the Quran is referring to. As noted before, there are some cases in which the word โRasoolโ has been used outside of its religious meaning or has been used with respect to non-human Messengers. Yet the total number of occurrences where the Messenger being alluded to is in line with Islaamic doctrine are so many and so unambiguous that only a fanatic would deny the importance Allah has placed upon the concept of โRisaalahโ in the Quran. Even if a person with minimal knowledge on how to interpret the Quran where to give his opinion about these Verses, we would find that his understanding in many cases corresponds closely to that of the expert scholars of Islam. This is due to the radiating clarity with which many of these Ayahs have been revealed. Again, if we were to compare it with the โhigherโ principle of Imaamah, we would see the weakness of the Shia arguments.
I started to see the difference between what the Shia scholars were stating in terms of the importance of Imaamah and what Allah Himself has said in the Quran. Was it only a coincidence that the manners in which these doctrines are discussed are so vastly different? Or is it because Imaamah is not part of the Islam revealed to Muhammad (Salla Allahu Alayhi wa Salaam), and is the product of a different outlook?
This article was excerpted from the following book:“Imaamah and the Quran: An Objective Perspective”
By: Sidi Abu Salih
Synopsis: Imamah is one of the fundamental beliefs of the Shia, and it is the major difference between the Shia and mainstream Muslims. The Quran is the central book of Islam, and hence, it contains all of the major beliefs of the Muslims. In the book “Imaamah and the Quran”, the author analyzes how Imamah, the major belief of the Shia, is absent from the Quran. This book was instrumental in the creation of this website, and it can be purchased here.