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Introduction

1. Allah the Most High did not create the world in vain, in which case He would be only a trifler, but with purpose and wisdom which can be ascertained by those who consider. And He specified that purpose expressly when He said,

I have not created Djinn and men, but that they should worship me:” (51:56).

Hence, it is incumbent upon everyone who belongs to the company of rational beings to respond to the Lord of the Worlds. And since that is impossible without a certain knowledge (ma‘rifa) of Him, it is incumbent upon every responsible person who knows Allah to arouse the slothful and guide the erring by writing out and explaining the introductory treatises of men of understanding.

And among these introductions is the one called Al-Bab al-Hadi ‘Ashar (“The Eleventh Chapter”), one of the compositions of our Sheikh and Imam, and the Imam of the world, the most knowing, the most excellent, and the most perfect, the Sultan of the masters of investigation, the preceptor of those who search and examine, the writer on subjects for intellectual investigation, the arranger of legal reasons, the sign of Allah in the worlds, the heir of the wisdom of the prophets and apostles, the perfection of the People and the Religion, Abu Mansur al-Hassan ibn Yusuf ibn Ali ibn al-Mutahhar al-Hilli (‘Allama al-Hilli) – may Allah sanctify his spirit and illumine his tomb.

2. And in spite of the conciseness of its expression this treatise abounds in knowledge, and in spite of the abbreviation of its style it abounds in wealth. And in time past I had had the desire to write something as an aid to the understanding of it by composing the reason and proofs, in response to the request of some of the brethren. The hindering events and the rebuffs of treacherous fortune held me back from finishing it, for these things cut a man off from accomplishing his will and attaining his purpose, and stand between him and his desire.

Then there occurred gatherings and discussions on several journeys, along with the piling up of business and the disturbance of my thoughts. And some of the great besought me to go back to the consideration and thought of what I had first written and to return to what I had collected. So I agreed to their request, for Allah the Most High made it incumbent upon me to respond to it, in spite of the lack of worldly goods and the excessive number of engagements which hindered me from doing it.

And I began it seeking aid from Allah the Most High for it, and drawing near to Him by means of it, and I called it al-Nafi‘u li-Yaum l-Hashr in explanation of al-Bab al-Hadi ‘Ashar. And there is no success except through Allah, in whom I trust and to whom I shall return.

The Necessity Of The Knowledge of The Principles of Religion

3. Concerning what is incumbent (wajib) upon all mukallafs regarding the knowledge (ma‘rifa) of the foundations of religion (din).

It is called the Eleventh Chapter because the writer made an abbreviation of the “Misbahu’l-Mutahajjid” which Sheikh Tusi wrote concerning worship and prayer, and arranged it in ten chapters and gave to this abbreviation of the “Misbah” the title of “Minhaju’s-Salah.” And since that book was concerned with the science of conduct (‘amal) and worship and prayer, these things required a knowledge (ma‘rifa) of the Object of worship and of Him to whom prayer is offered. So, he added this eleventh chapter.

4. Being incumbent (wujub) as a word means established and fallen, as in Allah’s word,

“And when they are fallen (wajibat) over on their sides” (22:36).

And in usage wajib is that the neglect of which involves blame under certain circumstances. And it is of two kinds. (1) that which is incumbent in itself, that is, that which no one can perform for another; and (2) that which is incumbent by sufficiency (kifayatan), and it is the opposite of the first. Knowledge (ma‘rifa) is of the first kind, and for that reason he said, “it is incumbent upon all mukallafs.”

5. And a mukallaf is a human being, alive, adult (males over fifteen and females over nine years of age), and rational. So dead persons, children, and insane persons are not mukallafs.

6. And foundations (usul) is the plural of asl, and is that upon which something else is built.

7. And religion (din) as a word means requital, as said the Prophet, “As thou treatest men (tadinu) so shalt thou be treated.” And in usage it means way (tariqa) and law (shari‘a), and that is the meaning here. And this science is called “foundations” because the other religious sciences, tradition and jurisprudence and exegesis, are built upon it. And it depends on the veracity of the Messenger.

And the veracity of the Messenger depends on the veracity of the Sender and His qualities and His justice and the impossibility of there being evil in Him. And the science of “foundations” is that in which the unity of Allah the Most High and His qualities and His justice and the prophecy of the prophets and the imamate of the Imams and the return (ma‘ad) are investigated.

8. And the doctors have all agreed in considering incumbent the knowledge (ma‘rifa) of Allah the Most High and of His positive and privative qualities and of what is proper for Him and of what is impossible for Him and of Prophecy and of the Imamate and of the Return.

9. Those of the people of Muhammad who have the power to loose and bind (that is, the mullas, cf. Matt 16:19) have agreed in saying that a knowledge of these things in incumbent, and their agreement is a convincing proof for all – for us Shi‘ites, because of the presence among them of the One Immune to Sin (al-ma‘sum, that is, the Imam whose authority alone is sufficient for the Shi‘ites); and for the rest (the Sunnites) because of the Prophet’s word, “My people will not agree in an error.”

10. And in addition to agreement, the proof that knowledge is incumbent is of two kinds, rational (‘aqli) and traditional (sam‘i). (1) Now the rational proofs are two. (a) The first is that knowledge guards against the fear which results from differences. And guarding against fear is incumbent, for fear is pain to the soul. Now guarding against pain is possible. Therefore, reason pronounces incumbent the guarding against fear, hence guarding against it is incumbent.1

[From the presence of religious differences among men it is evident that many men do not know God, and therefore they will go to hell. This results in fear, from which only the knowledge of God can save us.]

(b) Second, expression of gratitude to a benefactor is incumbent. But this cannot be done unless one knows him. Now it is incumbent, for all rational beings know that failure to express gratitude deserves blame. But it cannot be done without knowledge. For the expression of gratitude must be of a kind suitable to the condition of the one to be thanked, and that comes only from knowing him – otherwise it is not an expression of gratitude.

Now the Most High Creator is a Benefactor. Therefore, expression of gratitude to Him is incumbent. Therefore, the knowledge of Him is incumbent. And since taklif (the imposition of a task) is necessary (wajib) on rational grounds, as shall appear later (see pars. 131-143), it is incumbent that one knows the announcer (muballigh) of it, that is the Prophet, and the guardian of it, that is, the Imam and the Return, because taklif requires the necessity (wujub) of requital.

11. (2) Now for the traditional proof, which is of two kinds: (a) First, the word of the Most High,

“Know then, that there is no god but Allah” (47:19).

And this is a command making it incumbent. (b) Second, when there descended the word of Allah,

“Verily, in the creation of the Heavens and of the Earth, and in the succession of the night and of the day, are signs for men of understanding heart;” (3:190).

The Prophet said, “Woe be to him who reads this with his tongue but has not reflected upon it!”

Thus, he attributes blame in case of failure to reflect upon it, that is, the failure to make deduction (istidlal) from what the verse contained in the mention of the heavenly and earthly bodies, because in them are evidences of workmanship and power. And the knowledge (‘ilm) of these things certainly proves the existence of their Creator (Sani‘) and His power and His knowledge. Hence reflection and deduction become incumbent, and that was what we were seeking to demonstrate.

12. And all of this is by proof (dalil), not by imitation (taqlid).

13. And proof (dalil) as a word means a director (murshid) and guide (dall), and in usage it means a thing the knowledge (‘ilm) of which necessitates the knowledge of another thing. And since knowledge (ma‘rifa) is incumbent, it is necessary that it be acquired by means of reflection and deduction. For ma‘rifa is not of necessity (daruri), for what is known of necessity is that in which rational beings do not differ.

Now ‘ilm is acquired by means of the smallest cause by the direction of the mind upon it, or by the perception of it by the senses, such as the judgment that one is a half of two, and that fire burns, and that the sun is bright, and likewise that we are subject to fear and anger and strength and weakness and so forth.

14. But ma‘rifa is not like that, because there is a difference of opinion about it, and because it cannot be acquired merely by the direction of the mind upon it, and because it cannot be perceived by the senses. Hence, the first statement is demonstrated, because ’ilm includes both necessary knowledge and speculative (nazari) knowledge. Hence speculation and deduction become incumbent.

For that without which a thing absolutely incumbent cannot be performed and by which it is controlled is itself incumbent. (There are two kinds of obligations (wajib), absolute, like namaz and conditioned, like hajj.) Because whenever anything on which a thing absolutely incumbent depends is not itself incumbent, then the thing absolutely incumbent either remains incumbent or it does not.

If the first be the case, then there becomes necessary a taklif which cannot be performed, and this is impossible, as shall later appear (pars. 134-136). And if the second be the case, then it becomes necessary that a thing absolutely incumbent shall cease to be incumbent, and this also is impossible.

[That is, knowledge is incumbent, therefore investigation is also incumbent. For if it were not, then either a thing (namely, ma’rifa) would be incumbent which could not be attained – and this is impossible; or else a thing absolutely incumbent becomes non-incumbent – which is also impossible.]

15. And speculation (nazar) is the orderly arrangement of known facts (umur) in order to arrive at another fact. And in explanation of this – first the soul (nafs) conceives the object sought, then it acquires the sound premises necessary for making a deduction, and then it arranges them in order so as to arrive at a knowledge of the object.

16. And it is not possible (ja’iz) that knowledge (ma‘rifa) of the Most High be by imitation (taqlid). And taqlid is the acceptance of the word of another without proof (dalil). And this statement of ours has two aspects. (1) First, when mankind is equal in respect of knowledge (’ilm) and differ from one another in belief, then a mukallaf must either accept all that which others believe (in which case the agreement of things irreconcilable becomes necessary), or else he must accept some things and not others.

In the latter case there is either something to cause a preponderance of opinion (murajjih), or there is not. If there be something which causes the preponderance, then that is the proof (dalil). But if there be not, then it becomes necessary for there to be a preponderance without anything to cause it, and this is impossible.2

17. (2) Second, the Most High has blamed imitation (taqlid) by His word,

“But say they, ‘Verily we found our fathers of that persuasion, and verily, by their footsteps do we guide ourselves.’” (43:22).

And he has incited us to speculation and deduction by His word,

“Bring me a Book sent down by them before this Qur’an, or traces of their knowledge – if ye are men of truth.” (46:4).

18. And so it is necessary to mention those things regarding which it is not possible for a single Muslim to be ignorant, and whoever is ignorant as to any of them is outside the bond (ribqa) of believers and deserves everlasting punishment.

19. Since the knowledge (ma‘rifa) of the above-mentioned things has been proved to be incumbent, it necessarily follows that it is incumbent upon every Muslim. That is, he should affirm the two testimonies (that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Prophet) in order that through knowledge, he should become a believer, according to the word of the Most High,

“The Arabs of the desert say, ‘We believe.’ Say thou: Ye believe not; but rather say, ‘We profess Islam’” (49:14).

He denied faith (al-iman) to them, although they affirmed their belief in divinity and prophecy, because their faith did not derive its existence from speculation and deduction. And since reward (thawab) is conditioned by faith, one who is ignorant of the knowledge of these things deserves everlasting punishment. For everyone who is undeserving of any reward whatever, provided he is in possession of the qualities which constitute the conditions of taklif (see par. 5), is deserving of punishment by agreement (of all Muslims).3

20. Bond (ribqa) is a long rope with space enough to bind animals within it. And the author uses the term metaphorically for the inclusive command which rests upon believers, the desert (for obedience to which) is reward and everlasting honour.

  • 1. The Mu‘tazilites also “agreed that the principles of ma‘rifa and thankfulness for blessings are wajib before one hears (the Prophet)” (Shahrastani, ed. By Cureton, “al-Milal wa’n-Nihal,” p. 29). But the Ash‘arite position was that ma‘rifa is known to be incumbent not by reason but by tradition only.

    We see here that the Shi‘ites hold that the usul are all known by reason, whereas the Ash‘arite position is that they are known only by tradition.

  • 2. “And with regard to taqlid (blind acceptance) – the learned differ. Some say that it does not suffice, and that the muqallid (blind accepter) is an unbeliever (kafir). Ibn al-Arabi (d. 543) held this and as-Sanusi, and the latter gave in his commentary on his Kubra a lengthy refutation of those who hold that taqlid is sufficient” (Creed of al-Fadali, Macdonald, “Development of Muslim Theology,” etc, p. 316). The Mu‘tazilites with their emphasis on reason rejected taqlid, and the Shi‘ites have followed them.
  • 3. In the creed of al-Nasafi, “Belief and Islam are one” (Macdonald, “Development,” p. 312). But the Shi‘ites consider Islam to be wider than faith. See paragraph 234 of this book.