Well-Wisher: You good people
are aware that the word "Imam" has many meanings. Literally
it means "leader." Imam-e-Jama'at means "one who
leads the congregational prayers." He may also be the leader
of men in political or spiritual matters. Imam-e-Jum'a means "one
who leads the Jum'a prayers." Therefore, the Sunnis, followers
of the four schools of law, call their leaders "Imams,"
such as Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi'i, and Imam Hanbal.
These theologians and jurists are their leaders in religious matters,
and they have set forth religious laws based on their research
or on their own speculation regarding the lawfulness of actions.
Accordingly, when we study the books of jurisprudence of the four
Imams, we find many differences among them concerning the fundamentals
of faith and the articles of the practice of the faith.
Similarly, all sects have such leaders, and among the Shias the
ulema and jurists hold the same position. With the disappearance
of our living Imam of the Age, they issue legal pronouncements
based on their knowledge of the Holy Qur'an, the authentic sayings
of the Prophet, and the apostolic Imams. But we do not call them
Imams because the Imamate belongs exclusively to the twelve successors,
descendants of the Prophet. There is another difference. The Sunnis
later closed the door of ijtihad (striving to interpret the law).
From the fifth century A.H. when, by order of the king, the opinions
formulated by the ulema and jurists were collected, the so-called
Imamate was confined to the four Imams, and the four schools of
law (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, and Hanbali) were established. People
were forced to follow one of them, as is the practice at the present
time. It is not known on what grounds following one Imam is preferable.
What characteristics does the Imam of the Hanafis possess which
the Imam of Malikis does not? What characteristics does the Imam
of the Shafi'is possess which the Imam of Hanbalis does not? And
if the Islamic world is forced to confine itself to following
one of the four schools, then the progress of the Muslim community
is totally blocked, even though Islam teaches us that we should
move forward with the times. To do this, we need the guidance
of the ulema. There are many matters in which we should not follow
the verdict of a deceased mujtahid (from jihad, to strive, meaning
in this case, one who strives to interpret and to formulate religious
practice and law, as ijtihad refers to the process of striving)
but should turn to the living mujtahid for guidance. Many mujtahids
were born later among you who were of higher rank in learning
than those four "Imams." I do not know why preference
is given to the latter so that none but they may be followed and
the right of others ignored. In Shia jurisprudence, mujtahids
in every age until the appearance of the Holy Imam of our time
have the right to practice. In regard to new problems, we cannot
follow the verdict of a deceased mujtahid.
It is strange that you call the Shias innovators and worshippers
of the dead. They follow the injunctions of the twelve Imams,
the descendants of the Prophet. However, it is not known on what
grounds you attempt to force Muslims to follow the Ash'aris or
Mu'tazalis regarding the fundamentals (usul) and one of the four
Imams in the articles of the practice (furu') of the faith. Those
who do not follow them are called Rafizis. Since Abu'l-Hasan Ash'ari,
Abu Hanifa, Maliki Bin Anas Muhammad Bin Idris Shafi'i, and Ahmad
Bin Hanbal were like many other Muslim ulema and jurists, and
since there is no injunction from the Holy Prophet to follow them,
the restriction to follow them alone is an innovation. If I were
to make this charge, what would you say in reply?
Hafiz: Since the four Imams
possessed a high degree of devotion to Allah, piety, uprightness,
and integrity, along with a vast knowledge of jurisprudence, it
has become necessary for us to follow them.
Well-Wisher: We are not compelled by logic to confine ourselves to follow them alone. Many others of your ulema possessed these same qualities. The restriction to follow them alone is an insult to other ulema of equal merit. We cannot be forced to follow any one person or persons without an authoritative instruction from the Holy Prophet. There is no such authorization by the Prophet about your four Imams. So how can you restrict religion to these four schools of law?
Only a few nights ago you called the Shia sect "political,"
and said that since it did not exist during the Prophet's time
- that it came into being during Uthman's caliphate - it was unlawful
to follow it. The night before last we proved that Shia'ism was
founded in the time of the Prophet on his own instructions. The
chief of the Shias, the Commander of the Faithful, Ali, was brought
up and trained by the Prophet from early childhood and received
his religious knowledge from him. According to the records in
your own authentic books, the Holy Prophet called him the Gate
of Knowledge. He explicitly said: "Obedience to Ali is obedience
to me, and disobedience to Ali is disobedience to me." In
a gathering of 70,000 people, he appointed him Amir and caliph
and ordered all Muslims, including Umar and Abu Bakr, to pay allegiance
But it is not known how your four schools of law came to be established, nor which of the four Imams saw the Prophet nor whether any authorization has been reported from the Prophet about them so as to explain why Muslims should be forced to follow them. Without any compelling reason you follow your elders and offer nothing to authorize their Imamate except that they were great mujtahids, men of learning and piety. But, if these qualities are present to the highest degree in the progeny of the Prophet, then isn't it obligatory for us to follow them? Are these schools of law, which have no link with the Prophet, innovations, or is that sect founded by the Prophet and led by his descendant an
innovation? In the same way, there are the other eleven Imams
about whom there are separate hadith showing that they are the
equals of the Holy Qur'an. In the Hadith-e-Thaqalain it is clearly
stated that "Whoever is attached to these two is rescued,
and whosoever stays away from them is lost." In the Hadith-e-Safina
the Prophet said: "Whosoever keeps aloof from them is drowned
and lost." Ibn Hajar in Sawa'iq (Bab-e-Wasiyyatu'n-Nabi,
page 135), quotes a hadith from the Prophet saying that: "The
Qur'an and my progeny are my Trusts; if you keep yourselves attached
to these two, never shall you go astray."
In support of this, Ibn Hajar quotes another hadith from the Prophet
about the Holy Qur'an and his purified progeny: "Do not go
beyond the bounds of the Qur'an and my progeny; do not neglect
them. Otherwise, you will be destroyed. And do not teach my descendants
since they know more than you do."
After this, Ibn Hajar comments that the above hadith proves that
the descendants of the Prophet are superior to all others in knowledge
and in discharging religious responsibilities.
It is, however, astonishing that, knowing that the progeny of
the Prophet are superior to all others, the Sunnis follow Abu'l-Hasan
Ash'ari in the fundamentals of Islam and the four Imams in the
articles of practice of the faith. To follow such a course is
due to fanaticism and arrogance. And even if we suppose what you
say is true, that your four Imams are worthy of your allegiance
because they were learned and pious, then why has each of them
accused the other of infidelity?
Hafiz: You are very unkind.
You say whatever comes to mind. You malign our Imams. This statement
is a lie. If anything has been said against them, it is from the
Shia ulema. From our side nothing has been said against them.
We have shown them respect.
Well-Wisher: You apparently
haven't read your ulema's books. Your own distinguished ulema
have written books concerning their rejection. Even the four Imams
have charged one another with violating divine laws.
Hafiz: Who are those ulema?
What are their statements?
Well-Wisher: The companions
of Abu Hanifa, Ibn Hajar (Ali Bin Ahmad Andalusi, who died in
456 A.H.), and others have always censured Imam Malik and Muhammad
Bin Idris Shafi'i. Similarly, the companions of Imam Shafi'i,
like Imamu'l- Haramain, Imam Ghazali and others have condemned
Abu Hanifa and Malik. Let me ask you something: what sort of people
were Imam Shafi'i, Abu Hamid Muhammad Bin Muhammad Ghazali, and
Hafiz: They were great jurists,
learned scholars, pious men, and our Imams.