The Structure of Authority in Islam

Currently in the Muslim world there are many formats for authority, some have taken a western style democracy approach, others have a autocratic monarchy and some have a meritocracy. This article will see what the Quran and authentic Sunnah reveal about Islam’s view of the concept of authority and how it would impact the Muslim world if properly established.

 

 

Introduction

 

During the life time of the Prophet (SAW) matters were simple, either a companion would know what was right or wrong, or they asked the Prophet SAW for some clarity. After the Prophet SAW died, matters became more complicated, and it is that complication that has led to such issues within the Muslim community. Some have tried to suggest there is no authority, others have claimed that any learned person can give Islamic legal advice and some have said you should seek only certain opinions.

 

It is no great surprise that the Muslim Monarchs are keen to push the idea that there is no authority structure in Islam, so as can be seen from the the official website of the Saudi Embassy to the United States, they mention such. However this innovated idea of “no authority” flies in the face of history, as well as over 1000 years of Islamic tradition.

 

Taken from the Saudi Embassy website  http://www.saudiembassy.net/about/country-information/Islam/understanding_Islam.aspx
Taken from the Saudi Embassy website, click to go to page.

 

 

It would have been a strange conversation to witness if a Saudi scholar would have been able to say to the Prophet’s Companions that “there is no authority”, when they felt so strongly that there must be one, and that not obeying the caliph is tantamount to treason. When Abu Bakr became a Caliph many of the Arab tribes did not accept him as a leader, Abu Bakr lead many campaigns against such groups, even though many did not object to Islam, only to his rule, the Sunni ideology renders such people as apostates. There are now also a new wave of “modern” Muslims who say that there is no such thing as scholarship, and they add there is no such thing as hadith, they only accept the Quran, “Quranists” as they have been known are becoming more popular due to their “puritan” approach, one such Quranist, Dr. Safdar DushanTappeh argues that the terrorists and deviant Muslims are acting this way because they have been tricked by bad leaders:

 

Once in a while the news are filled about a group of radical, extremist Muslims who slaughter people and commit the most unthinkable crimes under the name of Islam. ISIS is a recent example. If you ask such people that why they are committing such obvious wrong deeds and still consider it the command of the God, they would answer that they are trusting a Muslim scholar and that they receive the commands of the God through him. Based on this trust they consider the scholar’s commands equivalent to the God’s commands and blindly follow the scholar’s instructions to make the God happy.

http://simpleislam.weebly.com/scholar-en

 

Dr Safdar has a point, there are many deviant people who claim leadership and lead others astray, and this is heavily criticized in the Quran:

 

9|31|They have taken their rabbis and their priests as lords instead of God, as well as the Messiah son of Mary. Although they were commanded to worship none but The One God. There is no god except He. Glory be to Him; High above what they associate with Him.

 

The commentary of this verse is revealing, as there are traditions (B2, C18, T1 Al Kafi) that state that the Rabbi’s and Priests did not ask anyone to worship them, but the people worshiped them because they were obeyed without any right, whatever they had deemed allowed the people accepted it, and what ever they forbid, the people accepted it.

 

So within Sunni ideology there is a variety of viewpoints, there are the classical views that the is authority but some confusion as to who should have it, and the modern view that there simply is no authority. A prominent Sunni theologian, Abdal Hakim Murad writes :

 

It is often claimed Islam has no institutionalized authority but if we honestly look at history we can see that there have in fact always been certain ‘centers of authority’. The first khalifs, the Al-Azhar University, the scholars of Damascus, the Ottoman Sultan,… they have all been examples of concentrated authority. Today, however, it seems very difficult to find such centers or to assess the authority of the many different groups, institutions and individuals. Would you say then, that today’s situation is an anomaly in the history of Islam?

http://www.halalmonk.com/abdal-hakim-murad-authority-within-islam

 

The democratic principle is not one found in Islam, in fact, the Quran frequently highlights the fact that if a person was to follow the majority on Earth, they would be lead astray :

 

6|116|If you were to obey most of those on earth, they would divert you from God’s path. They follow nothing but assumptions, and they only conjecture.

 

There are some examples of committee style democracies however, where council of selected experts are asked to vote on matters, but nothing like the mass voting systems that are seen in the modern West where every individual votes. The issue that the Quran raises is that most people do not have a good understanding of everything, so just as it would be pointless to ask all school children to vote about the correct answer to an advanced maths problem, it is pointless to ask the masses about a advanced social problem, such as choosing a suitable leader. This principle is used in the West as well, democracy is not used in Medicine for example, it would not be wise to ask 10 of your friends who are not doctors would the correct treatment would be for a sickness, when there is a qualified doctor available to ask. 

 

 

With all the debate about there being no leadership structure within Islam, its important to steer opinion back to the clear argument, there is definitely a leadership structure in Islam, those closest to the Prophet SAW knew that would declare those that shunned authority as renegades, the debate is then, not if there is authority, but how is it formed and what does it do.

 

To complete the introduction, some verses from the Quran that explicit detail the authority structure in Islam :

 

9|122|It is not advisable for the believers to march out altogether. Of every division that marches out, let a group remain behind, to gain understanding of the religion, and to notify their people when they have returned to them, that they may beware.

 

4|59|O you who believe! Obey God and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you dispute over anything, refer it to God and the Messenger, if you believe in God and the Last Day. That is best, and a most excellent determination.

 

4|83|When some news of security or alarm comes their way, they broadcast it. But had they referred it to the Messenger, and to those in authority among them, those who can draw conclusions from it would have comprehended it. Were it not for God’s blessing and mercy upon you, you would have followed the Devil, except for a few.

 

The last option is the meritocracy, whereby a leader is in the position of leadership based on their qualities, this is will now be explored in the rest of the article.

 

 

What Is Authority?

Authority means  “the right to give instructions or orders“, this extends from the family, the country and the religion. This does not mean the one in authority is better, or superior to the other people, everyone is accountable for their own actions.

 

Islam is a religion with an authority structure, humanity is told to obey Allah, people are told to follow the Prophets and Imams, children are told to obey their parents, and so on. In fact one could argue the disastrous mistake Iblees (Satan) made by incurring Allah’s anger was that he did not accept the authority of Allah, the authority that Allah had given to man.

 

2|30|When your Lord said to the angels, “I am placing a successor on earth.” They said, “Will You place in it someone who will cause corruption in it and shed blood, while we declare Your praises and sanctify You?” He said, “I know what you do not know.” 

2|34|And We said to the angels, “Bow down to Adam.” They bowed down, except for Satan. He refused, was arrogant, and was one of the disbelievers.

17|62|He said, “Do You see this one whom You have honored more than me? If You reprieve me until the Day of Resurrection, I will bring his descendants under my sway, except for a few.”

 

Here the Qur’an equates not accepting the one Allah has given authority as disbelief. It is reported in Bihar Al Anwar regarding the situation :

 

Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) was quoted as saying, “Satan was ordered to bow down to Adam. He replied: O Lord! If You forgive me for not prostrating to him, I would worship You the kind of worship that no one else could match. God Almighty said: I wish to be obeyed whence I have decreed.”

 

It was not the case that satan did not believe in Allah, or did not want to listen to Allah, he was willing to do anything, any worship of Allah, but he did not want to accept the role of Adam, he was not able to accept that Allah has put a human in authority above him. He was arrogant and did not accept that someone who he felt was of  lower status could be in authority, satan’s pride was stronger than his obedience to Allah.

 

 

The Problem Today

 

If Islam is a religion of authority structure, how should it look? Should there be an organised structure or a loose local arrangement?

In everyone’s life there are situations where they need to make a decision, but sometimes they are not sure what to do. In order to make a decision a person requires two aspects, knowledge of the subject matter and then the intellect to process and analyse that knowledge, generally the better the knowledge and intellect, the better the decision will be. In Islam we have two primary sources of religious knowledge, the Quran, as well as the Prophet’s Sunnah, it is this information that allows people to know how their daily lives should be. A question most people instantly think of is how sure do we need to be, before we can make a decision? Is it OK to be quite sure, so that we are more likely to be right rather than wrong, or is only absolute certainty allowed?

 

2|78|And among them are uneducated who know the Scripture only through hearsay, and they only speculate.

 

52|23|They will exchange therein a cup; wherein is neither harm, nor sin.

 

53|28|They have no knowledge of that. They only follow assumptions, and assumptions are no substitute for the truth.

 

 

The reason assumption/guessing is not allowed is because it is relying on making the decision on a basis other than sound reason or divine knowledge. This means a complete understanding of the knowledge of religion, as well as a robust, logical system to analyse it. So we are left with the question, how do people make life decisions when they do not have either the knowledge or the intellect to be certain about making the right decision? 

 

For example, if I want to know if Chess is allowed or not I have 3 options.

1. I can try to learn about all the different texts (Quran and hadith) and analyse everything my self, and then make my own mind up.
2. I can do precaution (ihtiyat) (in most cases basically do nothing)
3. I can refer to the most knowledgeable scholar.

 

There is actually an unusual fourth option, and that is suggested in a statement linked to Imam Reza AS in the book Uyun akhar ar redha:

 

حدثنا علي بن أحمد بن عبد الله بن أحمد بن أبي عبد الله البرقيو محمد بن موسى البرقي و محمد بن علي ماجيلويه و محمد بن علي بن هاشم و علي بنعيسى المجاور رضي الله عنهم قالوا حدثنا علي بن محمد بن ماجيلويه عن أحمد بن محمدبن خالد عن أحمد بن محمد السياري عن علي بن أسباط قال قلت للرضا ( ع ) يحدث الأمر لاأجد بدا من معرفته و ليس في البلد الذي أنا فيه أحد أستفتيه من مواليك قال فقالايت فقيه البلد فاستفته في أمرك فإذا أفتاك بشي‏ء فخذ بخلافه فإن الحق فيه

Told Ali b. Ahmad b. ‘Abdullah b. Ahmad b. Ahmad b. Abi ‘Abullah al Barqio Muhammad b. Musa al Barqi and Muhammad b. Ali Majiloyeh and Muhammad b. Ali b. Hashim and Ali Bina’see al Majaawar radhi Allah Anhum said “Told Ali b. Muhmmad b. Majiloyeh from Ahmed b. Muhammad b. Khalid from Ahmed b. Muhammad al Sayyari from Ali b. Asbaat said to Imam ar Redha(as) “Sometimes an issue/affair occurs and I don’t have recognition/knowledge(of its ruling) and in the town I live there’s no mawali(of ahlul bayt) who I can ask.” Imam(as) replied “Ask the fatwa from the town’s faqih(i.e. the town’s non shia mufti) about the issue and whatever fatwa he gives do the opposite for haq(truth) is in it(i.e doing opposite of the mufti’s fatwa).”  

 

However as mentioned in the statement, this is a last resort when someone is completely stuck, so we can rule this out as a “best” option. There are several such hadiths like this in our books, and the point that can be made is this, there seems to be value applied to the method of obtaining knowledge, not just in the knowledge itself, seeking knowledge in a particular way is in itself a deed, so if one was completely stuck and the matter was not clear in the Quran or Sunnah then if they reject the ways of the Amma (commoners/sunnis) this is recognised as a good thing. A further example that the method of obtaining knowledge is critical is this statement in Al Kafi:

Hazrat Abu Baseer   reported from Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) that he   asked Imam (a.s) that often some questions appear before us about which we do not find answers in Quran and Sunnah. Should we strive to search about this? Imam (a.s) replied “Do not try to seek the answer because if you will conclude a true answer, you will get no reward for it and if you will conclude something wrong then you attributed lie to Allah”
[Usool e Kafi P. 33, Vol. 1]

 

So now if we return to the problem about Chess, lets assume the person who wants to know the answer to this question is not very gifted intellectually, he may or may not be aware of this, and may think he has reached a logical conclusion, but he could be in error, and may have not read all the sources, or misunderstood it. To obtain all the relevant knowledge could take decades, you would need a fluent understanding of Quranic Arabic, the strengths of each hadith, know the abrogating from the abrogated, the clear verses rather than the allegorical and so on.

If the person decides to “play it safe” and avoid any doubtful situation, they will certainly live a miserable, isolated life, it would not be possible to live in such a way.

This leads to the final option, and that is asking a scholar, someone who is knowledgeable about the matter. However is there any basis for following a scholar in religious matters? would it be acceptable to Allah if questioned on the day of judgement to say ” such and such told me it was ok” ?

 

The Response

 

In order to understand how to proceed, we must understand the concept of authority in Islam, as this is actually the underlying issue, where is the authority to refer such questions to and on what basis are they given the authority. If we consider a person who believes in Allah, the last day, the angels and messengers, the books and the all of the rest, but does not believe in the authority that Allah has given to a man? 

 

Ultimately for humanity the truth is what gives someone authority, if someone brings some knowledge which is certainly true, then those that do not possess that knowledge are some what reliant on the person who possess the truth. For example, if someone is particularly gifted mathematically, and someone who is terrible at calculations asked him a question, that person has given the mathematician authority in the area of maths, he as acknowledged his ability. In a religious sense, for a believer the truth starts from Allah, and is passed down to His Prophets and Messengers and those whom have authority among us. However having authority does not make one person better than another, for example a wife should obey her husband, but she maybe a much better person, and a child should obey there parents, even though they may also be bad people. In each case the purpose of the authority is to regulate society, whether it is a a couple, or large family, or a whole society, without an authority system, there will be problems.

In matters of religion, the authority is Allah, so all truth comes from Him, all that is correct we find in the Quran and among the Hadith, Allah has send messengers and judges to rule the people. Here is a verse demonstrating this:

 

 

38|26|“O David, We made you a ruler in the land, so judge between the people with justice, and do not follow desire, lest it diverts you from God’s path. Those who stray from God’s path will have a painful punishment, for having ignored the Day of Account.”

 

 

So we can see that Allah has asked Nabi David AS to judge based on the truth. Now does this kind of judging and ruling apply today?

 

9|122|It is not advisable for the believers to march out altogether. Of every division that marches out, let a group remain behind, to gain understanding of the religion, and to notify their people when they have returned to them, that they may beware.

 

 

The verse makes it clear, in any group of Muslims, there needs to be a a collection of people who study the Quran and Sunnah so that they can judge in the community and warn them about potential bad things. Now if Allah has made this statement that there must be a group who judges in the community, then it also follows that there must a responsibility on the others to follow their judgements, so there is a clear precedent that such a role of a “faqiya”, a judge, exists.  There are many traditions from the Prophet SAW and his household supporting such a position:

From Al Kafi

 

  Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): Be either a learned person or a student or be in affinity with the learned people and never join any fourth category, otherwise you will perish.(B2, C3, T3)

Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): There are three kinds of people: the Scholars, the Seekers of Knowledge and the Scum of Humanity.(B2, C3, T2)

Prophet Muhammad (p): There is no good in life except for two categories of people; the scholar who is obeyed and the listener who listens attentively.(B2, C2, T7)

 

The Quran says the following:

 

29|43|These examples—We put them forward to the people; but none grasps them except the learned.

 

 

21|7|We did not send before you except men, whom We inspired. Ask the people of knowledge, if you do not know.

 

 

 

16|43|We did not send before you except men whom We inspired. So ask the people of knowledge, if you do not know.

 

 

We can see Allah is asking those who do not know, to ask those who know, again, if one is told to ask, surely they should listen to the answer?

 

 

Ijtihad 

 

Ijtihad comes from the word “juhud”, which means to struggle, ijtihad  means to struggle with all one’s energy. Amongst jurists, there have been many definitions of ijtihad. In the writings of early Shi’ite jurists, the term was usually a pejorative (negative) one. The negative implications of the concept are related to the way ijtihad was defined by the major Sunni jurists. Ash-Shafi’i argued that ijtihad and qiyas (analogy) were one in the same, saying “Ijtihad and qiyas are two names with one meaning.” (cf. Muhammad Taqi al-Hakim, الأصول العامة للفقه المقارن, p. 545). Other Sunni scholars, such as Abu Hanifa, generally used the phrase as being synonymous with personal opinion (ra’i), and was regarded as an independent source of Islamic law alongside of the Qur’an  sunnah, and other sources. Sunni scholars, especially Hanafis, considered ijtihad to be what a scholar does in the absence of evidences, rather than a process applied to those evidences.

 

  • Shaykh as-Saduq, speaking of the story of Musa and Khidr, writes:

“Musa, even with the perfection of his intellect, his nobility, and his position with Allah the Exalted, was not able to derive any proofs for the actions performed by Khidr, and he became confused. If the Prophets and Messengers of Allah are not allowed to do analogy or deduction [istidlal] and derivation [[istikhraj]], then most certainly, other people should not be allowed to do so either. If Moses was not given the choice, then how can the Muslim community be given the choice in their Imam? And how can it be appropriate for them to deduce and derive legal rulings with their incomplete intellects, and their conflicting personal opinions?”

أن موسى مع كمال عقله وفضله ومحله من الله تعالى لم يدرك بإستنباطه وإستدلاله معنى أفعال الخضر حتى إشتبه عليه وجه الامر به، فإذات لم يجز لانبياء الله ورسله القياس والاستدلال والاستخراج كان من دونهم من الامم أولى بأن لايجوز لهم ذلك… فإذا لم يصلح موسى للاختيار – مع فضله ومحله – فكيف تصلح الامة لاختيار الامام، وكيف يصلحون لاستنباط الاحكام الشرعية وإستخراجها بعقولهم الناقصة وآرائهم المتفاوتة

  • Ash-Sharif al-Murtada writes:

“Indeed, ijtihad is invalid (batil). The Shi’a do not allow a person to act on the basis of speculation (zann), opinion (ra’i), or ijtihad.”

إن الاجتهاد باطل، وإن الامامية لا يجوز عندهم العمل بالظن ولا الرأي ولا الاجتهاد “. وكتب في كتابه الفقهي

  • Shaykh Tusi writes:

As far as analogy (qiyas) and (ijtihad) are concerned, they are not evidences; in fact, Islamic law prohibits the use of them.

إما القياس والاجتهاد فعندنا إنهما ليسا بدليلين، بل محظور في الشريعة إستعماله

  • Ibn Idris al-Hilli writes:

Analogy (qiyas), istihsan, and ijtihad are invalid (batil) for us.

والقياس والاستحسان والاجتهاد باطل عندنا

 One can see from these definitions the way that ijtihad is continuously associated with analogy in particular, which shows the way the meaning of the word had been colored by its use amongst Sunni jurists. However, by the 13th century, the understanding of the word came to change amongst Shi’ite scholars. The idea began to become popular that there is a secondary definition of ijtihad, which does not involve using probabilities, speculation, or analogy. Rather, some scholars began to view it as a process that was applied to religious sources, rather than operating alongside of them as a kind of “back-up” position when evidence could not be found for settling a particular religious question. Historically, this change in the meaning of the word ijtihad is attributed Muhaqqiq al-Hilli (d. 1277), who wrote:

“Ijtihad, as it is commonly understood by the jurists, means expending one’s effort in order to derive legal rulings. Understood in this way, it means to derive the rulings from the legal sources. It rests on speculative understandings that are not normally immediately derivable from the sources themselves. This is true whether or not the evidence is analogy or something else, and so for this reason analogy is a type of ijtihad. Now if it is said: Based on this, then the Shi’a must be people of ijtihad, I would say: Yes, this is the case. However, we must remember that analogy is a type of ijtihad; and so if we exclude analogy, then yes, we are a people of ijtihad, who try to determine legal rulings through various means of reflection, excluding analogy.”

هو في عرف الفقهاء بذل الجهد في إستخراج الأحكام الشرعية و بهذا الإعتبار يكون إستخراج الأحكام من أدلة الشرع إجتهاداً, لانها تبتني على إعتبارات نظرية ليست مستفادة من ظواهر النصوص في الأكثر سواء كان ذلك الدليل قياساً أو غيره, فيكون القياس على هذا التقرير أحد أقسام الإجتهاد. فإن قيل: يلزم على هذا أن يكون الإمامية من أهل الأجتهاد قلنا: الأمر كذلك و لكن فيه أيهام من حيث أن القياس من جملة الإجتهاد فإذا إستثني القياس كنا من أهل الإجتهاد في تحصيل الأحكام بالطرق النظرية التي ليس أحدها القياس

Subsequent definitions of ijtihad would accord with this paradigm. However, there were still disputes about its exact meaning, and it was often associated with obtaining a “probabilistic understanding” (zann/الظن) of religious sources, when a person was unable to come to certainty about a religious ruling. For example, Allamah al-Hilli, the nephew of Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, writes that ijtihad is:

“Expending one’s effort in order to obtain a probabilistic understanding of the religious law.”

إستفراغ الوسع في تحصيل الظن بالحكم الشرعي

A similar definition is offered by Shahid ath-Thani in Al-Ma’alim. Later scholars, like Ayatullah Muhammad Taqi al-Hakim, criticize this type of definition from a number of standpoints (Al-Hakim, الأصول العامة, p. 544):

1) That it does not include knowledge of Islamic laws that are clear and axiomatic, but only encompasses areas of probability and doubt.

2) It does not include religious evidences that do not give probability, and that may be quite dubious in and of themselves, but nonetheless are assigned legal value in Islamic law.

3) It includes types of probabilistic understandings that are not accepted by Islamic law.

As a result, he offers a different definition, one that generally accords with modern Shi’ite jurists understanding of ijtihad:

“An ability to obtain proofs for religious legal rulings, as well as the practical task of obtaining those proofs, either from religious sources, or sources based on natural reason.” [1]

ملكة تحصيل الحجج على الأحكام الشرعية أو الوظائف العملية شرعية أو عقلية

This definition defines ijtihad primarily as a process and an ability that a religious scholar has. In the view of Shi’ite scholars following the usuli school of thought, it is the mechanism by which a scholar seeks to understand religious texts, and to derive rulings based upon those texts. Ijtihad, according to this understanding, must work with the sources rather than parallel to them, and does not constitute an independent juristic source. These scholars would concur with the view of the earlier scholars, that ijtihad in the sense of creating a personal opinion that is relied upon in the absence of religious sources, is impermissible.

 The other issue is that in the early times of the shia scholars, including the times of the Imams AS, the rulings available in the hadiths were directly applicable to the time and situations for the people, such that there was no need to derive any new rulings, as the people had already asked the Imams AS all the relevant questions, and the answers were recorded and known to the jurists at the time. As time went on, new situations arose and it was the job of the scholars to apply the known laws to the new situations, this must be done in a sound way, and thus ijtihad was born, different to the sunni methodology in that there is no use for rai (opinion) or Qiyas (analogy).

 

Reply to Criticism

 

Criticism to following a marja can be broken into several groups:

 

  1. Not using authentic sources for knowledge.
  2. Not applying the correct methodology to derive the correct answer from authentic sources.
  3.  Following a fallible person is forbidden.

 

Generally speaking people who criticise the marja system will assume that a ruling that has been issued is from the marja’s opinion, and thus not to be followed, either because the marja has not used the Quran and Sunnah as a source or because they have made assumptions in reaching their ruling. The reality is not like that, the reality is that a scholar will search the authentic Quran and Sunnah and then apply then ruling based on that.

Some have pointed to narrations which seem to suggest that referring to scholars, or using aql (intellect) is forbidden and leads one astray, to understand this issue one needs to understand the situation at the time of the narration. Here is one such narration:

Hazrat Abu Baseer   reported from Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) that he   asked Imam (a.s) that often some questions appear before us about which we do not find answers in Quran and Sunnah. Should we strive to search about this? Imam (a.s) replied “Do not try to seek the answer because if you will conclude a true answer, you will get no reward for it and if you will conclude something wrong then you attributed lie to Allah”
[Usool e Kafi P. 33, Vol. 1]

 

Aql in the ithna ashari school of thought is not the same as aql in the Sunni school of thinking, the Sunni school allow such things as qiyas and inductive reasoning. Aql in the ithna ashari school is only deductive reasoning. When some hadiths refer to being cautious with using Aql, this is what is meant. It is important to remember that the source of knowledge must always be from Allah, so and then method used to analyse and reach the conclusion must be a sound logical one, not guess work or assumption. The analysis must lead to certainty.  Here we can see that the question is effectively, if we do not find the answer to the question in the Quran or the Sunnah  can we try to guess or assume, the Imam AS rebukes this, and implies that even if one was to get the right answer by chance, because the incorrect method was used, it invalidates the conclusion. Even worse is if something wrong is concluded, then you are basically fabricating the religion. The Akhbari group have often pointed to this issue as a means of negating the role of scholars, however in reality the Akhbari are arguing against an interpretation of the word ijtihad which is no longer applicable, they are disputing against using personal opinion, qias and assumption, this is not what the Ithna Ashari scholars use or mean by modern ijtihad.

Others have said blind following of a scholar is wrong, and this is accepted, when we say that one person follows who he believes to be the most knowledgeable, he does this to obtain the best answer, what he believes to be the truth. If he later found a scholar who was more knowledgeable, but he remained with the less knowledgeable, then that person has neglected the truth in favor of following that individual scholar, this is clearly wrong.

 

One of the major issues people have with Taqleed is the concept of finding the Alam – the most knowledgeable. People often feel that they can never find the real most knowledgeable, instead they will only find someone who is thought of as to be the most knowledgeable. For example, lets imagine a man wants to know who is the Alam, he may go to a local Islamic Institution and ask a Mujtahid there who is the Alam, he does that and he finds two people that give the same name. So now he has a name, now does this mean that this person is necessarily the Alam? No it does not, but what it does mean is that from the lay persons perspective, he has reached a position of certainty that the name given as the Alam is really the Alam. Its important to distinguish between something being necassarily, or absolutely true and someone being certain about something. Certaintiy is a property of an individuals mind, it means that they are sure it is true based on what they know and in this case that certainty is based on the testimony of at least two mujtahids, so it is reasonable to accept this as true. For something to be necessarily true, it has to absolutely true and independent of human opinion and thought.

 

 

Fuqha during the Era of the Imams 

During the time of the Prophet   and first 11 Imams   people could approach them directly and get answers to their questions. And this was the preferred method even among Scholars. Therefore, it would appear that the Shia had no need of Ijtihad during the era of accessibility to the Infallible Imams  . But the fact is that some Shia jurists did confront the need to perform ijtihad occasionally under some special circumstances, and the path of deducing secondary ahkam from the basic sources was open to them. For example there were Shias who lived far away from the place where Imams lived. Also at times it was difficult for them to reach the Imam since they were kept under surveillance, not allowed to meet people or kept under confinement by the evil rulers.

Here is a list of some Fuqha from the time of the Imams:

 

1-Aban ibn Taghlub.
2-Yunus bin Abdul r-Rahman
3-Zakariyyah ibn Adam al-Qummi
4-Maaz
5-Husain b. Saeed Ahwazi
6-Ali b. Ibrahim Qummi
7-Muhammad b. Hasan b. Ahmed b. alï Waleed Qummi
8-Hasan b. Mahboob,
9-Ahmed b. Abi Nasr Bezanti,
10-Husain b. Saeed Ahwazi
11-Fadhl b. Shadhan Nishaburi
12-Yunus b. Abdal  Rahman.

 

It is clear that the Imams used to be pleased if any of their companions taught religion or gave legal rulings (fatwa) to others. There are a number of documented cases of Shias who lived far from Medina asking the Imam of the time to appoint someone in their locality to adjudicate between them in religious problems.

 

Imam Mohammad al-Baqir   said to Aban ibn Taghlub: “O Aban, go and sit in Masjid of Kufa and give fatwas to people. I like people like you among my Shia who give fatwas“. (Ahmad bin Abbas Najashi in Rijal Najashi)

Maaz used to give fatwas to people based on hadith from Masoomeen  . Imam Jafar as-Sadiq   said to Maaz: “Maaz, we have heard that you go to masjids and give fatwas to people?
Maaz said: “
Yes, whatever I have learned from you, I tell it to your followers“. Imam said: “Yes, you should do like this” ( Sheikh Hur Amuli, Wasail Shia chapter 11, vol 14book al-Qaza)

A person named Abdul Aziz came to Imam Reza   and said, “Ya Hazrat, my house is very far and I am unable to come to you to ask my problems. Do you support Yunus bin Abdu� r-Rahman. Can I receive the solutions to my religius problems from him“. Imam   said:”Yes“. ( Sheikh Hur Amuli, Wasail Shia chapter 11, book al-Qaza)

Zakariyyah ibn Adam al-Qummi and Yunus bin Abdu� r-Rahman, were named by Imam Ali Reza   to solve disputes in their own districts. (Shaykh Hurr al-Amili, Wasa’ilu sh-Shia, vol. 18, Tehran 1401 A.H., pp. 106-7)

In a famous hadith, `Umar ibn Hanzalah asked Imam Jafar as-Sadiq, peace be upon him, about the legality of two Shias seeking a verdict from an illegitimate ruler in a dispute over a debt or a legacy. The Imam’s answer was that it was absolutely forbidden to do so. Then Ibn Hanzalah asked what the two should do, and the Imam replied:

They must seek out one of you who narrates our traditions, who is versed in what is permissible and what is forbidden, who is well-acquainted with our laws and ordinances, and accept him as judge and arbiter, for I appoint him as judge over you. If the ruling which he based on our laws is rejected, this rejection will be tantamount to ignoring the order of Allah and rejecting us is the same as rejecting Allah, and this is the same as polytheism.” (Furu`u ‘l-Kafi, vol. 7, Tehran 1379, p. 412)

In another tradition from Imam Jafar as-Sadiq, this time narrated by Imam Hasan al-Askari, peace be upon them, he says, “…but if there is anyone among the fuqaha who is in control over his own self, protects his religion, suppresses his evil desires and is obedient to the commands of his Master, then the people should follow him.” (Shaykh at-Tabarsi, al-Ihtijaj, vo. 2, Najaf 1966, p. 263)

Muhaqqiq Hilli, the maternal uncle and teacher of Allama Hilli writes: “In view of the fact that we have a great number of FUQAHA who have copiously written on the subject, it is not possible for me to quote all of them. I have selected from those who were best known for their research and scholarship, quoting their Ijtehad, and the opinions they adopted for action. From amongst the earlier ones, I have selected Hasan b. Mahboob, Ahmed b. Abi Nasr Bezanti, Husain b. Saeed Ahwazi, Fadhl b. Shadhan Nisaburi, Yunus b. Abd al�Rahman. They lived during the presence of our Imams. From the later group, I quote Muhammad b. Babawayh Qummi (popularly known as Shaikh Sadooq) and Muhammad b. Yaqoob Kulaini. As for the people of Fatwa, I consider the verdicts of Askafi, Ibn Abi Aqeel, Shaikh Mufeed, Seyyid Murtadha Alamul Huda and Shaikh Tusi.”

During minor occultation

Shia met with difficulty in this regard with the beginning of the Minor Occultation of the Twelfth Imam  , a period of 69 years from 260/874 to 328/940. During this period the Shia could obtain replies to their queries through the deputies (nuwwab) of the hidden Imam  who served as intermediaries. These deputies, one after another, were four:

 

1-Abu `Amr `Uthman ibn Sa`id
2-Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn `Uthman (d. 304 or 5/916 or 7)
3-Abu al-Qasim Husayn ibn Ruh al Nawbakhti (d. 326/938)
4-Abu al Hasan `Ali ibn Muhammad al Samari (d. 329/941)

 

After Major Occulatation began

With the end of the Minor Occultation and the beginning of the Major Occultation in the year 329/941, in the absence of access to the Imam  or his deputies, the Shia were confronted with even greater difficulty in regard to obtain�ing ahkam for new issues, which increased with the passage of time and the growing distance from the era of nass, together with the growing variety of the emergent issues and problems created by new conditions of life. Moreover, with the passage of time, increasing number of doubts took the place of the previous certainty about the meaning and import of the texts which served as the bases of legal deductions.

Early Fuqha after Major Occultation started include:

-Askafi
-al Hasan ibn Abi Aqil al Umani
-Shaykh al-Tusi
-Muhammad b. Babawayh Qummi (popularly known as Shaikh Sadooq)
-Shaikh Mufeed
-Seyyid Murtadha Alamul Huda

Why is taqlid of a dead person not permitted

Ayatullah Shaheed Murtada Mutahhari has given the following reason:

We have a principle in fiqh, which is one of the indisputable points of our fiqh, that taqlid of a dead person in the first instance is not permitted. If taqlid of a dead person is permitted, it is only when taqlid is carried on from someone who was followed [by the same person] while he was alive and is now dead. Moreover, the carrying on of the taqlid of a dead person must also be with the permission of a living mujtahid. I am not concerned here with the reasons in fiqh for this principle, so I will only say that it is a very basic idea, but only on the condition that the aim of the principle is clearly understood.

The first purpose of this principle is that it should be a means for the survival of the traditional centers of learning of the Islamic sciences, so that there should be continuity, and that the Islamic sciences should be preserved – not only preserved, but that they should advance day by day and be perfected, and that those matters which had not previously been solved should be solved.

It is not the case that all our problems have been solved in the past by our `ulama’, and that now we have no more problems and no more work. We have thousands of riddles and difficulties in kalam (theology), Qur’anic exegesis, fiqh and the other Islamic sciences, many of which have been solved by the great `ulama’ of the past, but many of which remain, and it is the duty of those who follow on to solve them and to gradually write better and more complete texts in each subject, to continue each subject and develop it, just as in the past, too, exegesis, theology and law were gradually developed. The caravan must not be brought to a halt in mid� journey. So people’s taqlid of living mujtahids, and their

 

Though, it would appear that the Shi’ah had no need of ijtihad during the era of accessibility to the Infallible Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã, the fact is that some Shi’i jurists did confront the need to perform ijtihad occasion­ally under some special circumstances, and the path of deducing second­ary ahkam from the basic sources was open to them. The evidence of it is as follows:

 1. There are traditions in which mention is made of certain common elements pertaining to the general principles of legal deduction. In these traditions, the Imams ‑‑ particularly‑ al‑’Imam al‑Sadiq Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã – are reported to have been questioned about such principles (usul) and roles (qawa’id), and they gave replies to suck questions. These traditions by themselves indicate that issues related to ijtihad were relevant for the Shi’ah during that period. `The Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã propounded such usul as that of Bara’ah, Ihtiyat, Istishab, and Takhyir, and such aqaid as that of taharah, yad, ibadah, hilliyah, sihhah, tajawuz, faragh, la darar, la haraj, etc. These usul and qawaid provide effective assistance‑ to the faqih in his effort to deduce the hukm of the Shari’ah about any contingent issue.

Historical accounts reveal that whenever the companions of the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã came across the texts of their ahadith ‑ which differed from one another in respect to ‘amm and khass, mutlaq and muqayyad, mujmal and mubin, zahir and azhar, zahir and nass ‑ they would try, to reconcile them according to the rules of objective reconciliation (jam mawdu’i) so far as it was possible (such as between `amm and khass, mutlaq and muqayyad, mujmal and mubin). But if objective reconciliation was not possible (such as between zahir and azhar, zahir and nass) they would reconcile the tradition in accordance with the rule of jam` hukmi and remove their apparent conflict. When none of these two methods of reconciliation worked (such as when there were totally divergent narrations regarding a certain issue), the narrators would ask the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã to suggest some criterion for distinguishing between reliable and unreliable traditions. In this relation numerous traditions have been reported from the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã which are termed in `ilm al ‘usul as akhbar `ilajiyyah (remedial traditions).

In Usul al-Kafi(vol. I), `Awali al‑la’ali, and other works, there are chapters related to this topic and here we shall cite one tradition as an example.  In `Awali al‑la’ali (vol. IV, p. 133) a tradition is recorded from Zurarah ibn A’yan:  Zurarah says: “I said to Abu Ja’far, ‘May I be your ransom, if two conflict­ing traditions are narrated from you which one of them are we to accept?’ The Imam Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã said, `Take the one which is well‑known among your compan­ions (i.e. the Shi’is) and leave the one which is unfamiliar: I said, `What should we do if both of the traditions are equally well‑known?’ The Imam Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã replied, `Take the one which seems more balanced (a’dal)and more reliable (awthaq)to you.’ I said, `What if both of them are equally balanced, accept­able and reliable?’ The Imam Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã said, `See which of them is in accordance with the standpoint of the `Ammah (i.e. non‑Shi`i Muslims); leave it, and take the opposite of what the `Amman hold, for the truth lies in that which contradicts them.’ I said, `Sometimes we come across two traditions both of which are in agreement with the `Amman or both of them contradict with their standpoint; what are we to do in such cases?’ The Imam‑Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã replied, `Select the tradition which is nearer to caution and leave the other one.’ I said, `What is our duty if both the traditions are in accordance with caution or if both of them are opposed to it?’ The Imam Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã replied, `In such a case, take anyone of the two and leave the other.”‘ <p> </p> The traditions which deal with the resolution of conflict between traditions are great many and there is no need to cite them here.

The aim of quoting the above tradition was to show that the principles of jurisprudence were often discussed during the era of the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã and that these principles were generally employed for the practice of ijtihad. On this basis, the practice of ijtihad was not limited to the period of inaccessibility to the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã.

2. The presence of books dealing with some issues of `ilm al‑’usul among the writings of the contemporaries of the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã is indicative of the fact that the practice of ijtihad was current and the principles of jurisprudence were relevant during the era of accessibility. We shall discuss this matter in detail while studying the various periods in the history of ijtihad; here we shall cite few instances of it for the sake of example:

Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã Hisham ibn al‑Hakam, a pupil of al‑’Imam al‑Sadiq Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã, compiled a treatise on word usage (alfad ).

(B) Yunus ibn `Abd al‑Rahman, a pupil of al‑’Imam al‑Rida Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã , wrote a short treatise on usul al‑fiqh.

© Al‑Fadl ibn Shadhan al‑’Azdi al‑Nishaburi, a pupil of al‑’Imam al‑Hadi Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã, was the author of a number of fatawa issued on the basis of jurisprudential principles. For instance, he gave a fatwa upholding the validity of prayers offered in an usurped place, in accordance with his belief in the permissibility of the concurrence of amr and nahy. Appar­ently he was the first to believe in the permissibility of the concurrence of amr and nahy in matters of primary significance.

3. During the era of accessibility to the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã, the Shi`is who lived in distant lands, such as Khurasan and Ray, could not easily con­tact the Imam Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã and question him about the problems they came across. Although historical accounts show that the Shi`is sent their queries to the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã through travellers and pilgrims, who brought them the Imam’s answers on returning, it should be noted that this method was not followed in respect to all the problems encountered. Secondly, the replies in such cases arrived after the passage of consider­able time during which we cannot say that they remained without any obligation to fulfill. Thirdly, the travellers and the messengers sent were not always successful in getting access to the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã, because most of the time the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã were either under surveillance or in the prisons of tyrannical caliphs, so that the Shi`is could not contact their Imam. For instance, al‑’Imam al‑Sadiq Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã was under such strict and oppressive surveillance of the `Abbasid caliph al‑Mansur that no one could easily approach the Imam Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã. The Shi’‑is had to resort to various kinds of tactics to approach the Imam’s house in the garb of peddlers or tradesmen to ask questions while observing intense caution. after al‑’Imam al‑Sadiq Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã, the next Imam, Musa ibn Ja’far Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã, spent long years in the prisons of Basrah and Baghdad until his mar­tyrdom. During such periods, eminent Shi’i fuqaha’, such as Zurarah, Muhammad ibn Muslim, al‑Fadl ibn Shadhan, Safwan ibn Yahya and others fulfilled the legal needs of the Shi`is through their own ijtihad.

4. There are traditions which indicate that the Imams’ companions and pupils were required to apply the general juristic principles to par­ticular instances. The following tradition of Safinat al‑Bihar(vol. I, p.22) is an example:  Al‑’Imam al‑Sadiq Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã said: “Our duty is to teach you the principles and your duty is to ramify.” <p> </p> Ayan al‑Shi`ah records the following tradition of al‑’Imam al‑Rida Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã:  From the book of Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Nasr al­-Bizanti from al‑Rida Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã: “Our duty is to teach the principles and yours to ramify.”

5. Another evidence of the existence of ijtihad during the era of accessibility to the Imam are the fatwas issued by the legists among the Imams’ contemporaries, and the Imams’ approval of their verdicts. The following tradition narrated by Mu’adh ibn Muslim is recorded in Wasa’il al‑Shi’ah (vol. 18, 11th of the chapters on sifat al‑qadi, hadith 37): < Mu’idh ibn Muslim said: “Al‑’Imam al‑Sadiq Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã said to me, `I have ‑been told that you sit in the mosque and give fatwa to the people’. I said, `Yes, I am doing it.’ Then I said, `Before I leave you I have to ask you a question: (My practice is that) When I sit in the mosque (giving fatwas) a man comes and asks me a certain question. If I know that he is one of your opponents and does not act according to your views, I narrate to him a fatwa which is accept­able in his legal school. If I know that he is one of your followers, I give a fatwa in accordance with the Shi’i school. But if I cannot find out to which group he belongs I explain to him various fatwas putting in your views amongst them.’ The Imam Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã replied, `Carry on in the same fashion, for such is also my method.”‘

6. Some traditions show that the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã ordered the outstanding among their companions to give fatwas to the people. In Usd al­-ghabah (vol. 4, p.197) it is reported that Imam `Ali Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã, while appoint­ing his cousin Qutham ibn al‑’Abbas as governor of Makkah, said to him:  Give fatwa to the initiated and teach the ignorant.  Al‑’Imam al‑Sadiq Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã is reported to have said to Aban ibn Taghlib (Jami’ al‑ruwat, vol. I, p.9):  Sit in the Mosque of Madinah and give fatwas to the people, for I love the like of you to be seen amongst my Shi’ah.

7. Some traditions indicate that the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã referred some of their followers to some of their outstanding pupils in matters relating to hadith and fatwa.  ‘Aziz ibn Muhtadi said: “I asked Aba al‑Hasan al‑Rida Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã, ‘I am unable to meet you every time, so from whom should I take my religious instruction?” ‘Take if from Yunus ibn ‘Abd al‑Rahman,’ said the Imam Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã.” (Wasa’il al‑Shi’ah, vol. 18,eleventh of the chapters on sifatal‑qadi, hadith 34)  Shu’ayb says: “I said to al‑’Imam al‑Sadiq Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã, `Often we have to ask about something; whom should we ask? ‘The Imam said, `Ask al‑’Asadi (Abu Basir).”‘ (Ibid.) ‘Ali ibn Musayyab al‑Hamadani says, “I said to al‑Rida Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã, ‘I have to come a long distance and I cannot reach you every time (when I have to ask you something). From whom should I take the teachings of my faith?’ The Iman Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã said, `From Zakariyya ibn Adam; he is my trustee in regard to religious and secular matters.”‘ ‘Ali ibn Musayyab adds, “On returning I went to Zakariyya ibn Adam and asked him whatever I needed to ask.” (Usul al‑Kafi, vol: 1, p.67 ) <p> </p> Al‑’Imam al‑Sadiq Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã said: “The two (Shi’i disputants) should look for one who narrates our traditions and has in view our halal and haram and who as well understands our ahkam. Then (having found such a person) they should accept him as a judge.”(Ibid.) <p> </p> Al‑’Imam al‑’Askari Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã said:…”As to the faqih who preserves the integrity of his self, defends his faith, opposes his lust and obeys the command of his Master (mawla), then it is for the laymen (‘awamm)to imitate him.”(al‑Tabarsi, al‑ Ihtijaj)

8. The traditions quoted above expressly indicate the permissibility of giving fatwa in accordance with the principles of Shi’i jurisprudence. There are other traditions which, though they do not expressly state such a sanction, are relevant in that we can infer such a permissibility from them. <p> </p> Al‑’Imam al‑Baqir Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã said: “Anyone who gives fatwa without knowledge or guidance is cursed by the angels of Divine wrath and mercy. The sins of those who act upon his fatwas also lie upon him.” (Wasa’il al‑Shi’ah, vol. 18, fourth of the chapters of sifat al‑qadi, a sahih tradition narrated on the authority of Abu ‘Ubaydah) Al ‘Imam al‑Sadiq Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã said: “Anyone who acts upon qiyas destroys himself and others who act upon his verdict. Whoever gives fatwa without knowledge and without knowing nasikh and mansukh or muhkam and mutashabih, brings perdition upon himself and others.” (Usul al‑Kafi, vol. 1, bab al‑nahy ‘an al‑qawl bi ghayr al‑‘ilm, hadith9) The Prophet (S) said: “Whoever gives fatwa without knowledge or learning, his abode shall be hellfire.” (Tuhaf al‑’uqul, the riwayah of al‑Hasan ibn ‘Ali ibn Shu’bah)

 9. In regard to the books of certain Shi’i groups (such as Banu Faddall and individuals (such as al‑Shalamghani), the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã are reported to have said: `Take their narrations and leave their conclusions.’ It can be inferred from this tradition that ijtihad was practised by the Shi’is of that era. Banu Faddal and al-­Shalamghani had diverted from the right path, and, therefore, the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã forbade the Shi`is from acting upon their verdicts, judgements and opinions.

Conclusion  From the nine reasons given above it can be concluded that the practice of ijtihad, in the sense of derivation of ahkam from Shar’i sources, existed during the era of the eleven Imams (S).? The companions of the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã derived secondary ahkam from the legal sources, for issues for which there existed no nass either in the Book or in the Sunnah of the Prophet (S) or in riwayat of the Ma’sumun Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã, and this practice enjoyed the approval of the Imams Úáíå ÇáÓáÇã.

 

 

 

 

Based on the MA in Islamic Studies lectures given by Dr Shomali for Middlesex University Spring 2013.

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4 thoughts on “The Structure of Authority in Islam

  1. Thanks for the article. Here I would like to warn about out-of-context quoting even if it is from Quran. The unit of miracle in Quran is a chapter (Surah): http://tanzil.net/#trans/en.qarai/2:23 It is important that we read verses in the context of the chapter. Unfortunately we see many Muslims/non-Muslims do not apply this principle, take a verse out of its context, or even worse take a few words out of the verse and jump into quick, often wrong, conclusions.

    It seems that in this article the strong statements such as

    there is definitely a leadership structure in Islam

    suffers from the same mistake:

    To complete the introduction, some verses from the Quran that explicit detail the authority structure in Islam :

    4|59|O you who believe! Obey God and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you dispute over anything, refer it to God and the Messenger, if you believe in God and the Last Day. That is best, and a most excellent determination.

    in which the verses are quoted ignoring the context of surrounding verses.

    [rest in the next comment]

  2. [continued from the above comment]

    Lets take a closer look at one of these verses. For example this verse: 4:59

    O you who have faith! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those vested with authority among you. And if you dispute concerning anything, refer it to Allah and the Apostle, if you have faith in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more favourable in outcome. (59)

    If you also read the verse before: 4:58

    Indeed Allah commands you to deliver the trusts to their [rightful] owners, and to judge with fairness when you judge between people. Excellent indeed is what Allah advises you. Indeed Allah is all-hearing, all-seeing. (58)

    it talks about the Judging System that is inevitable in any society with moderate size, and does not have to be a divine command. Such Judging System was also suggested to Moses by his father-in-law and not through a divine commandment: exodus:18-14

    Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?”

    exodus:18-21

    “Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.

    This is about how to run a society in practical manner, not about divine authority.

    [rest in the next comment]

  3. [continued from the above comment]

    And if you look the next verse: 4:60

    Have you not regarded those who claim that they believe in what has been sent down to you and what was sent down before you? They desire to seek the judgment of fake deities, though they were commanded to reject them, and Satan desires to lead them astray into far error. (60)

    It suggests that the verse was revealed in reference to people who do not use Quran for judgement. The verse does not explicitly say Quran, but that is my interpretation based on the verse right after that: 4:61

    When they are told, ‘Come to what Allah has sent down and [come] to the Apostle,’ you see the hypocrites keep away from you aversely. (61)

    So what you translated as “to those in authority” refers to a judging system that is “inevitable” in every big society. What makes the judging system of “fake deities” or of “the God”, is the principles based on which they judge, is whether Quran is taken into account or not.

    I skip analyses of the other verses as I do not want to make this comment too long.

  4. Islam Revisited,

    Thank your for your comments.

    Im not sure what you are implying, are you implying there is no authority structure in Islam? If so then how do you explain Prophethood and the principles raised in 4:59?

    If you agree there is, and your issue is the context of 4:59, then it clearly suggests that some people are in authority of others and the ones in authority are to be obeyed. I guess the grey areas are who exactly are the people in authority, and by what means do they get this authority, however the notion of an authority structure is clearly proven.

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