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Section 7: The Return

1. The Resurrection, The Bridge, The Scale, All Must Be Accepted

219. Concerning the Return (al-maad). The Muslims are agreed as to the necessary of the physical (badani) return, because if there were no return taklif would be evil, and because it is a possible thing, and the veracious (the Prophet) has informed us that it is assured – hence it is real – and because of the verses which teach it and which deny him who contradicts it.

220. Ma‘ad is the time of return, or its place. But what is intended here is the new existence (al-wujudu’th-thani) for bodies (ajsad) and their return after their death and decomposition. And it is real and comes to pass, contrary to the philosophers (hukama). And the proof of that is of several kinds.

(1) First, the agreement of Muslims regarding it, without any denial of it among them. And their agreement is a convincing proof (hujja). (2) Second, if the ma‘ad were not real then taklif would be evil. And the consequence is false, hence, the precedent is false also. And in explanation of the conditional statement – taklif is labour which requires a compensation.

Hence, labour without recompense would be injustice. But recompense cannot be acquired in the period of taklif. Hence, in this case there must be another abode in which the reward for good actions can be acquired, otherwise taklif would be injustice, and that would be evil – and Allah is exalted above that!

221. (3) Third, the assembling of bodies is possible, and the Veracious informed us of its occurrence, hence, it is real. And it is possible, for the members of a corpse have the capacity of being united and of having life bestowed upon them, otherwise they could not have previously possessed the quality of life. Allah the Most High knows the members of every person, because of what has been previously said as to His knowing all knowable things and His having power to unite them. For that is possible (existence), and Allah the Most High has power over all possible existences.

Hence, it is established that the making alive of bodies is possible. And the Veracious informed us of its occurrence, for it is established by mutawatir tradition that the Prophet used to prove the physical ma‘ad and to believe in it. Hence, it is real, and that is what we sought.

(4) Fourth, the teaching of the Qur’an that it is established and its denial of one who contradicts it. Hence, it is real. And the first proposition is true, for the verses which teach it are many. For instance, the word of the Most High,

And he meeteth us with arguments, and forgetteth his creation: "Who," saith he, "shall give life to bones when they are rotten?" (36:78).

Say: He shall give life to them who gave them being at first, for in all creation is he skilled (36:79).

And other verses.

222. And the resurrection (ba‘th) of every one to whom a recompense must be given or who must give a recompense is necessary (wajib) by reason, and the return of every other is necessary by tradition.

223. Those whose return is necessary are of two classes, the return of the first of them is necessary by reason and tradition, and everyone who has a right (haqq) to reward or recompense will get his right, and everyone against whom anyone has a right of punishment or recompense will have to give it. And the second class are those who have no right to receive or to give, be they men or some other animals either domestic or wild. And their return is necessary by tradition, because the Qur’an and mutawatir traditions teach it.

224. And the acknowledgment of all that the Prophet taught is necessary, such as the bridge (Sirat) and the scales (Mizan) and the speaking of the members (of the body) and the flying of the books. For these things are possible, and the veracious has informed us of them. Hence, the confession (itiraf) of them is incumbent.

225. Since the Prophetship and Immunity to sin of our Prophet are established, it is also established that he is veracious in everything which he related , whether it be (1) previous to his age, as what he related of the previous prophets and their people and of former generations, and so forth; or (2) in his own age, as what he related of the incumbence of the things incumbent and the unlawfulness of things unlawful and the preference (nadb) of things preferable and the appointing of the Imams, and other information; or

(3) after his age, either (a) in the world of taklif, as what he said to ‘Ali, “After me thou shalt fight with the covenant-breakers (an-nakithin) and the wrongdoers (al-qasitin) and the heretics (al-mariqin),” or (b) after taklif, such as the states of death and what is after it, namely, punishment and the grave and the Bridge and the Scales and rewards and the speaking of the members and the flying of the books and the states of the rising up (qiyama) and the nature of the assembling of bodies and the states of the mukallaf in the resurrection. And it is incumbent to acknowledge and attest all that, because it is all possible and there is no impossibility about it. And the Veracious has informed us of its occurrence, hence it is real.

2. Reward And Punishment

226. And other things are reward (thawab) and punishment (‘iqab). And the explanation of these things (that is, the extent of the reward and punishment) which has been handed down is from the side of the law (that is, not by reason) – may Allah bless the lawgiver!1

227. He means that among the number of things which the Prophet taught are reward and punishment. And there has been a difference of opinion as to whether they are known by reason or tradition. And some of the Mu‘tazilites say that reward is known by tradition, because acts of obedience are not proportionate to their reward and are not sufficient to merit the great favours which he shows us, in view of which no one is worthy of reward. And that is the belief (madhhab) of al-Balkhi. And the Mu‘tazilites of Basra say it is by reason, because taklif demands it, and because of His word,

“In recompense (jaza) of their labours past” (56:24).

And the Mu‘tazilites hold that punishment is necessary (wajib) irrevocably (hatman) for the unbeliever and the person guilty of a great sin. And our belief (madhhab) is that which has been stated above, which proves the necessity of reward by reason. And as for punishment, even though it includes kindness (lutf – in preventing sinning), its occurrence in the case of one who is not an unbeliever who dies in his unbelief (namely, in the case of a believer who dies in great sin) is not fixed (that is, such a one shall not remain in hell).

228. And there are here several matters of importance: (1) First, one deserves reward and praise for doing what is incumbent (wajib) and preferable (mandub) and what is opposed to evil, and for forsaking evil, on the condition that he does what is incumbent because it is incumbent or because of the reward (wajh) of its being incumbent, and (that he does) what is preferable and what is opposed to evil, and forsakes evil, in the same way. And he deserves blame for doing evil and forsaking what is incumbent.

229. (2) Second, the continuance of merited reward and punishment is absolutely necessary in the case of one who dies in faith and of one who dies in unbelief, because of the continuance of praise and blame for what they deserve, and (because) the opposite of each of them comes into effect if it be not continuous (if there is not reward there must be punishment), since there is no middle ground between them, and they must of necessity be pure from the blending of the opposite, otherwise we will not understand them properly. And it is necessary that reward be accompanied by exaltation and punishment by contempt, for he who obeys is worthy of exaltation absolutely, and he who commits sin is worthy of contempt absolutely.

230. (3) Third, it is possible for the deserving of reward to depend upon a condition, since if it did not, then he who knew Allah the Most High but did not know the Prophet would be worthy of reward, and that is false. Hence, (reward) is conditioned upon fulfilment (muwafat), according to the word of the Most High,

“Verily, if thou join partners with Allah, vain shall be all thy work” (39:65).

And His word:

“And whoever of you shall turn from his religion and die an infidel, their works shall be fruitless in this world, and in the next: they shall be consigned to the fire” (2:217).

231. (4) Fourth,

“they who believe, and who clothe not their faith with error” (6:82).

They are worthy of lasting reward absolutely, and

“they who are infidels and die infidels” (2:161).

They are worthy of lasting punishment absolutely; and he who believed,

“and with an action that is right… mixed another that is wrong” (9:102).

If the wrong was a small sin then it is forgiven him, by the agreement of all, and if it was a great sin, then he either (a) repented, and then is absolutely of those who are rewarded, by the agreement of all; or (b) he did not repent of it, in which case he either deserves reward for his faith, or he does not, and the second alternative is false, because it would result in injustice, and because of the word of the Most High,

“And whosoever shall have wrought an atom’s weight of good shall behold it” (99:7).

Hence, the first is appointed (that is, he deserves reward). Then either (a) reward comes first, and afterwards he is punished, which is false by agreement of all that whoever enters the Garden will not come out of it. Hence, in this case (the doctrine of) punishment would have to be false, or (b) he is first punished, then rewarded, and that is what was sought. And (this is true) because of the word of the Prophet about those who came out of the fire (looking) like charcoal. And when the people of the Garden see them, they will say, “These are the people of Hell.” Then they will be commanded to wash themselves in the Spring of Life, and they will come out with their faces like the moon on the night when it is full.

232. And as for the verses which teach the punishment of the disobedient and the wicked and their abiding in the fire – now the intention in abiding (khulud) is a long stay, and it is frequently used in this sense. And the intention in wicked and disobedient is those who are perfect (kamil) in their wickedness and disobedience, and they are the unbelievers (al-kuffar), by reason of the word of the Most High,

“These are the Infidels, the Impure” (80:42).

Thus, reconciling this verse with the verses which teach that punishment belongs exclusively to the unbelievers, as for instance the word of the Most High,

“Verily, this day shall shame and evil fall upon the infidels” (16:27).

and the other verses.

233. Then know that he who commits a great sin (al-kabira) will verily be punished when (idha) he does not have one of two things. (a) First, the forgiveness of Allah. For His forgiveness is hoped for and expected, especially because He has promised it in His word,

“He forgiveth their sins” (42:25).

“and to pass over many things” (5:15).

“Verily Allah will not forgive the union of other gods with Himself! But other than this He will forgive to who He pleaseth” (4:48).

“Full truly of mercy is thy Lord unto men, despite their sins” (13:7).

And breaking a promise cannot be approved in the Absolutely Generous. And also because of His praising Himself as being “the Forgiving, the Merciful.” And that does not apply to small sins (as-saghira), nor to great sins that have been repented of. For all have agreed that punishment falls from them (they are not punished), for in this case there would be no value in their forgiveness. Hence, it is specified that it be the great sins preceding repentance (that is, unrepented of), and that is what was sought.

234. (b) Second, the intercession (shafa‘a) of our Prophet, the Messenger of Allah (on him be peace!). And his intercession is expected, rather it has occurred, according to the word of the Most High,

“Ask pardon for thy sin, and for believers, both men and women” (47:19).

Now he who commits a great sin is (still) a believer, because of his attestation of Allah and His Messenger and his confession (iqrar) of what the Prophet brought, and that is faith (iman). Because iman as a word means attestation (tasdiq), and here it is like that. And good works are not a part of it. (And the Prophet will intercede for believers, for the term) is connected with the verb, which requires that it be different from it (that is, the word believers in the verse is connected with the verb ask pardon by the conjunction and, which shows that he is to ask pardon for believers as well as for himself). And since Allah commanded the Prophet to seek pardon he did not disobey, for he is immune to sin, and his seeking pardon was accepted for his people, that he might be satisfied, according to the word of the Most High,

“And in the end shall thy Lord be bounteous to thee and thou shalt be satisfied” (93:5).

This is according to his (Muhammad’s) word, “I have stored up my intercession for those among my people who have committed great sins.”2

235. And know that our belief (madhhab) is that the Imams can intercede for sinners among their Shiites just as the Messenger of Allah can, without any difference. For they have informed us of that, and their immunity to sin prevents them from lying.

236. (5) Fifth, it is necessary to confess and attest the states and situations of the Resurrection, and the nature of the reckoning, and the coming of men from their graves, naked and barefoot, and the presence with every soul of a driver and a witness (two angels), and the states of men in the Garden, and the explanation of their ranks and the nature of their blessings of foods and drinks and marriage and so forth, of what eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard nor the heart of man conceived (cf. 1 Cor 2:9).

And likewise (it is necessary to attest) the states of the Fire and the nature of punishment in it, and the various pains in it, according to what the verses and sound traditions have taught, and about which the Muslims are agreed. For the Veracious has informed us of all that, and there is no rational difficulty in it, hence, it is the reality, which is what we sought.

3. Repentence

237. And repentance (at-tawba) is incumbent.

238. Repentance is contrition (nadam) for evil (al-qabih) in the past, and forsaking it in the present, and the determination not to return to it in the future. And it is incumbent, because by agreement contrition for every evil and every remissness in what is incumbent is incumbent; and because tradition also teaches that it is incumbent; and also, because it is a protection against harm, and protection from harm, even if it be supposed (maznun), is incumbent. Then there must be contrition for evil because it is evil, not from fear of the Fire, and not to protect one’s soul from harm, otherwise it is not repentance.

239. And know that sin (dhanb) is either against the Most High or against men. If it be against the Most High it is (a) either an evil act, in which case contrition and the determination not to repeat it are sufficient for it; or (b) it is remissness in what is incumbent. In the latter case there either remains time to purpose to do it, which is repentance for it; or else the time is past. In this case either the duty disappears with the passing of the time for it, like (omitting) the prayers of the Feast (‘Idu’l-Fitr – which cannot be said on another day), in which case contrition and the determination not to repeat (the offence) are sufficient; or it does not disappear, in which case it is incumbent to make it good (qada).

240. And if it is against men, it consists either of leading someone astray in religion by an erroneous decision (fatwa), in which case repentance and guiding him aright and making known to him the error (are incumbent), or else of injustice regarding some right or other, in which case repentance for it, recompensing him or his heirs, or asking him to forgive it (are incumbent). And if he is not able to do that, then it is incumbent that he determines to do it.

4. Command And Prohibition

241. And commanding (men to do) what is approved by Allah (al-ma‘ruf) and prohibiting (them) from doing what is disapproved by him (al-munkar) (is incumbent), provided that he who commands and prohibits knows that what is approved is approved and what is disapproved is disapproved, and that it concerns things that are yet to occur, because the command to do something that is past or the prohibition from doing it is nonsense, and that it is possible that it should have some effect, and that it is safe from harm.

242. And command (al-amr) is seeking an act from another authoritatively, and prohibition (an-nahy) is seeking the forsaking (of an act) authoritatively. And what is approved is every good (hasan) act which is characterized by some quality in addition to its goodness. And what is disapproved is evil (al-qabih). And since this is settled, there are here two matters for discussion:

(1) First, the doctors have agreed that the commanding (men) to do what is approved and the prohibiting them from doing what is disapproved are incumbent, but they then disagreed in several points:

(a) First, is it incumbent by reason or by tradition? Shaykh Tusi held the first (position), and Sayyidu’l-Murtada the second, and the author also held the second. And the Shaykh gave as his proof that this commanding and prohibiting were kindness (lutf) in doing what is incumbent and forsaking what is evil, and hence they were incumbent by reason. We say in reply that what is incumbent by reason does not belong exclusively to the individual (but belongs to Allah). (What is wajib by reason belongs exclusively to Allah, what is wajib for man is all traditional).

Hence, in this case it would be incumbent upon the Most High, and that is false. For if He did these things (command what is approved and prohibit what is disapproved), then every evil thing would have to be removed and every incumbent thing would have to be performed, since commanding is inciting (haml) to a thing and prohibiting is hindering from it. But what occurs is the opposite of that. And if He did not do that (that is, if the evil in the world is due to His not having commanded and prohibited), then He would have failed to perform what is incumbent. But He is the Wise (Hakim), and this objection needs examination (cannot be accepted).

243. (b) Second, are they incumbent upon the individuals themselves, or may another act as substitute? The Shaykh held the first and the Sayyid the second. The Shaykh gave as his proof that incumbency is universal without any specialization, according to the word of the Most High,

“Ye are the best folk that hath been raised up unto mankind, ye enjoin the Just (al-ma‘ruf) and ye forbid the Evil (al-munkar)” (3:110).

And the Sayyid gave as proof the fact that what was desired (al-maqsud) was that what was incumbent should be performed and what was evil should be removed, and therefore he who performs it (commands to do good and forbids evil) suffices for another (who does not). And also because of the word of the Most High,

“And that there may be among you a people who invite to the Good, and enjoin the Just, and forbid the wrong” (3:104).

244. (2) The second discussion is about the conditions of their being incumbent, four of which the author has here mentioned:

(a) First, the knowledge on the part of him who commands and prohibits that what is approved is approved and what is disapproved is disapproved, since if it were not thus he would surely command what was not approved and prohibit what was not disapproved.

(b) Second, that they be things which will occur in the future, for a command to do what is past, or a prohibition to abstain from it is nonsense, and nonsense is evil.

(c) Third, that he who commands and prohibits consider it possible that his commanding and prohibiting have some effect, for when he is sure that it will be ineffective, or considers it improbable, it ceases to be incumbent.

(d) Fourth, the safety from harm of him who commands and prohibits, affecting either himself or any other Muslim, resulting from his commanding and prohibiting. For if he thinks it probable that harm will result, it ceases to be incumbent. And commanding and prohibiting with the heart and the tongue and the hand are incumbent and it should not be done in a severe manner when a gentler is possible.

245. And this is what I set out to finish and to write, and what it was my lot to collect and arrange, in spite of the small demand (for such a book) and my being short-handed (as to funds), along with the occurrence of journeys and the disturbance of my thoughts. However, I have hope in the goodness of the Most High that He will make it profitable, and that He will make it pure before His face, Verily, He hears and He answers, and Allah is the Best of those who Give Success and who Appoint! Praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds, and the blessing of Allah be upon Muhammad and all of his descendants!

  • 1. The Kharijites divided sins into great (kabira) and small (saghira), and taught that a believer who committed a great sin and did not repent of it became an unbeliever, and if he died without repenting, he would remain eternally in the Fire (see Macdonald, “Development,” p. 126).

    The Mu‘tazilites said that such a sinner ceased to be a believer, but did not become an unbeliever (kafir), and must remain forever in the Fire, but his sufferings would be mitigated (see Shahrastani, p. 29).

    The Ash‘arites said, “We are of the opinion that we may not accuse anyone of unbelief (kufr), who prays towards Mecca, on account of sin committed by him, such as unchastity, theft, wine-drinking, as the Kharijites believe, who judge that these thereby become unbelievers, we teach that whoever commits a great sin (kabira), or anything like it, holding it to be allowed, is an unbeliever, since he does not believe in its prohibition” (Macdonald, p. 296). Thus, only one who holds that such sins are lawful becomes an unbeliever by committing them.

    With this agrees the creed of an-Nasafi (Macdonald, p. 311): “A great sin (kabira) does not exclude the creatures who believes from the Belief (iman) and does not make him an unbeliever. And Allah does not forgive him who joins another with Himself, but He forgives anything beneath that to whom He wills of sins small (saghira) or great. And there may be punishment for a small and pardon for a great one, if it be not of the nature of considering lawful what is forbidden, for that is unbelief (kufr)”. And according to the creed of al-Ghazzali (Macdonald, p. 307), “… the attestors of Allah’s Unity (muwahhids) will be brought forth from the fire after vengeance has been taken on them, so that there will not remain in Hell an attestor of Allah’s Unity”. Thus, the orthodox belief came to be that after a period of punishment in Hell all believers would be admitted to the Garden.

    The Shi‘ites take the same position. They hold that a believer does not become an unbeliever by committing a great sin. If the sin was against Allah, he will be forgiven whenever he repents. If, however, the sin was against man, he must first make it right, and then he will be forgiven. If he dies without repenting, he will go to Hell for a time, and then be transported to the Garden where he will remain forever. If he has the intercession of the Prophet and the Imams or the forgiveness of Allah, the Fire will not burn him, otherwise he must be tormented to the extent that his sin deserves, and then be carried to the Garden.

    The Sunnite also hope for the intercession of Muhammad – “And the intercession of the Messengers and of the excellent on behalf of those who commit great sins is established” (creed of an-Nasafi, Macdonald, p. 311). “We teach that Allah will release a few out of Hell on account of Muhammad’s intercession, after they have been scorched there” (creed of al-Ash‘ari, Macdonald, p. 296).

  • 2. The Mu‘tazilites considered good works essential to faith (Sell, “The Faith of Islam,” p. 185). But Shi‘ites and Sunnites agree in holding that “faith (iman) is assent (tasdiq) to that which comes from Allah and confession (iqrar) of it” (creed of an-Nasafi, Macdonald, p. 312), and works are separate from it.