Prophet Ibrahim’s (as) demotion!

Peace be upon our readers, in this short article we will show that Prophet Ibrahim (as) was demoted as opposed to be promoted according to Shia beliefs.

This article centers around the following verse:

{And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham was tried by his Lord with commands and he fulfilled them. [Allah] said, “Indeed, I will make you a leader for the people.” [Abraham] said, “And of my descendants?” [Allah] said, “My covenant does not include the oppressors.”} [2:124]

The Shia believe that prophet Ibrahim (as) was promoted in this verse to the rank of “Imam”. The Shia also claim this verse restricts leadership to those who are infallible but we have discussed this in detail in our article “Verse of Imamat Ibrahim: Shia understanding of “Oppressors”, is it Qat`i or Dhanni?

We begin by citing our evidence from Shia books as to why we reached this conclusion.

Evidence 1: Shia believe their Imams to be greater than the prophets of God.

Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi says in “Bihar al-Anwar” vol.26 pg.82:

[On the whole, after admission of the fact that the Imams are not prophets, we are bound to acknowledge the fact that they are superior to all Prophets and legatees except our Prophet salutations and peace upon him and his family.]

Nasir Makarim al-Shirazi says when explaining the verse 124 from the chapter “al-Baqarah” in his book “al-Amthal”:

[It becomes clear from the verse that the rank of Imamah that was bestowed upon Ibrahim after all these tests is superior to prophets and messengers (…) as the position of Imam is higher than what he mentions, even higher than prophet-hood and the message-hood]

So according to them, prophet Ibrahim (as) was promoted to this special rank called “Imamah”.

Evidence 2: Shia scholars admit there’s no real difference between a Prophet and an Imam.

Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi says in “Bihar al-Anwar” vol.26 pg.82:

[To our knowledge there is no reason not to describe the Imams as Prophets except consideration to the status of the Final Prophet. Our intellect too, cannot perceive a distinction between prophet-hood and Imamah.]

Al-Mufid says in “Awa’il al-Maqalat” pg.45:

[ 8- The difference between the Prophets and the Messengers (as):

The Imami (Shia) have consensus that every messenger is a prophet but not every prophet is a messenger. From the prophets of Allah are those who preserve/protect the religious laws passed down by the messengers, they are their successors in this matter. The religious law only prohibits us from claiming prophet-hood for our Imams although the intellect does not conflict with this, because the Imams have acquired all we’ve discussed from the qualities of the prophets peace be upon them.]

In short, after using their intellect they couldn’t find any special difference to distinguish between a prophet and an Imam.

Evidence 3: The only minor difference cited was in favor of prophets.

In al-Kafi 1/176 #1 as authenticated by al-Majlisi from Zurarah: I asked abu Ja`far (as) “What’s the difference between a Messenger and a Prophet?” He replied: “A prophet can only see (the angel) in his dreams and hear their voices but he cannot see the angel while awake. A messenger can hear the voice, see in the dream as well as while awake.” I asked:”What is the position of the Imam?” he (as) said: “He hears the voice but does not see or observe the angel.” Then he recited the following verse of the Holy Quran: {Satan would try to tamper with the desires of every Prophet or Messenger or Muhaddath whom We sent}.

Here is a summary of the differences between a Messenger (Rasool), Prophet (Nabee), and Imam (Muhaddath).

-Messengers: They see & hear the angel whether they are asleep or awake.
-Prophets: They see & hear the angel while asleep, but when they are awake they can only hear.
-Imams: They can ONLY hear the reports, but they DO NOT see the angel whether they are asleep or awake.

CONCLUSION:

Ibrahim (as) according to Shia was demoted from the status of Messenger who can see and hear the angels to the status of Imam who cannot see the angel neither in dreams or consciousness.

THE SUNNI POSITION:

Ahlul-Sunnah do not believe the Imamah discussed in the verse of Ibrahim (as) is related to a promotion of rank such as “colonel” or “general”, this is because the word Imam simply means “leader” and all prophets in our belief are leaders by default. Believing otherwise is simply preposterous!

So is this verse useless or random? No, this verse is honoring Ibrahim (as) and informing him that instead of being a prophet that leads his own community or tribe, he shall be leading “the people” in general. Thus Ibrahim (as) is a leader to be followed by all humanity, this is why in the Qur’an we are ordered to follow the example of our leader Ibrahim (as) not of Yunus (as) or any other divine guide.

{Then be patient for the decision of your Lord, [O Muhammad], and be not like the companion of the fish (Yunus)} [68:48]

The examples are many and we list the following:

{And who would be averse to the religion of Abraham except one who makes a fool of himself.} [2:130]

{Say, “Allah has told the truth. So follow the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth; and he was not of the polytheists.”} [3:95]

{Then We revealed to you, [O Muhammad], to follow the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth; and he was not of those who associate with Allah.} [16:123]

SOME SHIA ARGUMENTS:

What if Shia argue and claim that all leaders in the Qur’an are divinely appointed and thus it is the rule and non-appointed leaders cannot be accepted?

Shia like to argue “Bring us a verse of the Qur’an where Imams were not appointed by God.” To which we counter and say “Bring us a verse from the Qur’an where a non-prophet was appointed as Imam”

Aside from the verses talking about evil Imams and the above-mentioned verse of prophet Ibrahim (as) being an Imam. We have the following:

{We gave him, in excess, Isaac, and Jacob (for a grandson); and We made each righteous – and appointed them Imams to guide by Our Command and We revealed to them to do good deeds, and to establish the prayer, and the giving of charity, and they were for Us worshipers.} [21:72-73

These are the only verses that specify by name individuals who were called “Imams”, what they all have in common is that they were all prophets. Therefore, we can argue that the Qur’an teaches that ONLY prophets can become Imams and thus `Ali and his progeny are out of the folds of Imamah since they aren’t prophets.

What if Shia argue that Talut was appointed although he was not a prophet?

We say, Talut according to you folks was not an Imam rather he was a Malik(King).

{Their Prophet said to them: ‘Allah has raised Saul(Talut) to be your king‘} [2:247]

And peace be upon Muhammad and his nation.

 

9 Comments

  1. Salaam,

    Nice points regarding Imamat. There is one thing I wanted to know regarding Imamat as you have stated in your article that all Prophets are Imams and specifically Nabi Ibrahim (a.s) is mentioned as Imam in Al-Quran so why isn’t there any Imam for this nation after Prophet Mohammed (s.a.w.w) like previous nations? I do believe that Al-Quran is our Imam but why not like previous nations (Bani Israel) do we have Human Imam (like Prophet) together with Holy Book?

    The problem with non-divinely appointed Imam is that he might misled his followers and become like Pharaoh and other evil Imams.

    01. Either there be no concept of Imamat in Islam or

    02. if there is in Islam Imamat then there should exist a Prophet under whose Imamat everyone could unite and be saved or

    03. if there is in Islam Imamat and no Prophet exist then we Muslims should not be held accountable for following non-divinely Imam. If we were to be held accountable for the actions of Imam then it would be problematic as the Imam is not infallible and his actions are prone to error.

    • Salam dear brother,

      Keep in mind that Imam simply means “leader” in Arabic, so when you say why isn’t there an Imam for this nation, this isn’t accurate as we have tons of leaders ranging from good to bad. God has been guiding humanity, message after message and prophet after prophet until we reached a stage where humanity was mature enough to withstand the trials on their own and continue their journey without anybody holding their hands.

      We’ve had a bunch of evil leaders and not one was able to put-out the light of God or mislead the nation, he can only mislead those individuals who are not destined for guidance. Besides, misleading factors will always be there and it is all a part of the test. Youtube alone has much greater misleading effect on the nation than all “evil Imams” put together.

      This is a nation whose victory has been prophesied, a nation of scholars and learned men who inherited their prophet and are now being tested. The importance of a prophet is not the presence of his person but the availability of his teachings, to be honest a prophet right now would have nothing to add or subtract from what we already have.

  2. Thanks brother for your reply.

    I understand what you are saying but wouldn’t having many leaders be problematic? As this would be a cause of disunity among Muslims and having bad leaders means that there would be struggle for power i.e. Bad leader wanting to take power and authority of other leaders. Muslims are to be united under one leader who would be a means of protection for them and guide them towards goodness. Islam can only survive when Muslims have a leader who does Amr bil Maroof Nahi anil Munkar. For e.g. after the death of Prophet Mohammed (s.a.w.w) Muslim Ummah was without a leader and for this Abu Bakr and Umar went to Ansar to decide a leader for Muslim Ummah. If Abu Bakr hadn’t become a Imam/Khalifa at that time don’t you think Muslim Ummah would be in chaos as they would be without a leader? It would had been easy for Persians and Romans to kill Muslims. Khilafa of Abu Bakr proved successful in dealing with internal threats such as apostates (Ridda Wars) and emergence of False Prophets. And Khilafa of Umar proved successful in dealing with external threats such as War with Persians and Romans. Do you think Muslims could have survived such threats without there being a Leader to unite and protect them?

    Today Muslims are weak because there isn’t a Imam/Khilafah to unite them and protect them against internal and external threats.

    In Sahih Bukhari there is ahadith which shows the importance of Good Leader in Islam.

    Sahih Bukhari
    Volume 5, Book 58, Number 175:

    Narrated Qais bin Abi Hazim:
    Abu Bakr went to a lady from the Ahmas tribe called Zainab bint Al-Muhajir and found that she refused to speak. He asked, “Why does she not speak.” The people said, “She has intended to perform Hajj without speaking.” He said to her, “Speak, for it is illegal not to speak, as it is an action of the pre-islamic period of ignorance. So she spoke and said, “Who are you?” He said, “A man from the Emigrants.” She asked, “Which Emigrants?” He replied, “From Quraish.” She asked, “From what branch of Quraish are you?” He said, “You ask too many questions; I am Abu Bakr.” She said, “How long shall we enjoy this good order (i.e. Islamic religion) which Allah has brought after the period of ignorance?” He said, “You will enjoy it as long as your Imams keep on biding by its rules and regulations.” She asked, “What are the Imams?” He said, “Were there not heads and chiefs of your nation who used to order the people and they used to obey them?” She said, “Yes.” He said, “So they (i.e. the Imams) are those whom I meant.”

    • God bless you I understand your points.

      I’ve already addressed your previous point about “Evil leaders are misleading to people”, we said that factors of misguidance are a normal part of humanity’s test, so that only those who are deserving (due to their efforts, sincerity and patience) will be guided. Having an evil or corrupt leader, although a terrible thing yet it was never able to destroy faith or misguide the nation as a whole; only those whose hearts were weak have been affected or those who seek the favor of rulers for material possessions. Every age has its trial and corrupt leadership was even prophesied in Islam, it is our duty to strive and bring back just and righteous leadership. We cannot say it is incumbent upon God to provide us with a divine infallible individual at all times in order to avoid the misguidance of evil individuals, it is simply not our place to speak with rudeness to God and impose our will on Him. Otherwise, some may argue about plenty of other misleading factors that God permitted to exist and He should remove all of them for our convenience.

      Here are the new points you raised:

      1- Multiplicity of leaders causes disunity.

      The best model of leadership is of a single righteous leader, a multitude of leaders may cause division as you stated. However, I wouldn’t completely dismiss the second model all together, it wouldn’t be too bad to implement a system similar to the UN where all Islamic countries govern themselves but a united body ran by a general secretary may judge between them and settle any disputes.

      2- Leaderless society is chaotic and doomed.

      I agree, we need leaders in our lives. Society and family need to follow an organized hierarchy such as this:
      God <- Prophet <- Chief <- Governor <- Head of household <- Family unit. 3- Nation is good if leaders are righteous. The narration you presented at the bottom contains the basic understanding of "Imam/leader" according to desert Arabs. If your leadership is qualified and righteous, it will reflect positively on society and state. When a leader is corrupt, it often reflects negatively and signs of a state's weakness appear which may lead to annihilation in some cases such as when the Umayyads collapsed or the Ottomans or even the French monarchy. All of this means, we must do our best to select the most qualified leaders who must be held accountable.

  3. Correct me if I am wrong… you are saying that irrespective of having Evil Leaders the Ummah’s faith and/or individaul Muslim faith isn’t affected?

    If for example I pledge alligence to a Muslim leader who is not acting according to Islamic Laws but enforces Secular Laws in his country would my faith remain unaffected? Muslim leader in order for his country to prosper does things contradictory to Islam such as in order to please and attract investment and tourism from developed countries legalizes wine, bars, prostituition, riba (usury), and bans hijab and Jihad so that his country could have good relations with the developed world… would this not have any impact on my faith? I heard in ahadith that if I see something contradictory to Islam then I should change it with my hands, if not then say against that thing with mounth and if I am not able to that then dislike that thing in my heart (and this is the lowest/weakest Iman)

    • Salam,

      Even if we at one point are ruled by Pharaoh himself, the faith of the nation will be protected and the Muslims will prevail. This is the `Ismah awarded to the Ummah, meaning we are a protected nation especially since we are the final nation. We will have our ups and our lows, we always have but we will be victorious as prophesied.

      You seem to be diving to an area called “Al-Khuruj `ala al-Hakim” or “The rebellion with the sword against the ruler.” There is a ton of debate concerning this matter. Initially, authentic narrations state that we are forbidden to obey the ruler or our parents for that matter in anything where there is disobedience to God. Secondly, we are advised to select the strongest and most qualified leaders to serve as successors (Caliphs). If the ruler happens to be corrupt, there are levels, some of them are simply corrupt in the sense of being greedy, taking people’s wealth and whipping them unjustly, the Prophet (saw) advised to not shed blood in this case as long as the rulers are Muslims who are establishing prayer etc.. However, if a ruler abandons prayer or does acts that take him outside the folds of Islam, no one will blame you for revolting as long as your rebellion is well planned and your intentions are sincere.

      The goal here is to always choose the lesser of two evils, a rebellion can cause ten times more damage to the nation and to Islam than some filthy lunatic ruler.

      (Sorry for not having time to elaborate)

  4. Wasalaam,

    Thanks for you answers. I wanted to know if you could provide reference(s) stating that this Ummah would be protected as I didn’t know about this.

    As far as rebelling against the ruler is concerned I totally agree with you that we should not rebel against the ruler but what I meant to say was… Ruler may be successful in worldly terms but with regards to religion he may lead his followers to hell-fire. For e.g. a Muslim ruler may make his country prosperous to such an extent that not only his people live luxurious and prosperous lives but people belonging to other countries would be willingly to give up their nationality to come to settle in his (Muslim ruler) country to enjoy prosperous lives. However in terms of religion the ruler is negligent and is not concerned. Fira’wn was successful leader in terms of Dunya whereas Nabi Musa (a.s) was successful leader in terms of both Deen and Dunya. At present we have many Muslim leaders who have given their people rich lifestyle and made their countries developed but with regards to Deen they have not made their followers feel connected with GOD.

    We need Leaders/Rulers like Prophets and Khulafa e Rashidoon who would connect us to GOD. Our stay in this world is temporary and it is the Hereafter than is everlasting so our concern should be more on Akhirah. Prophet ﷺ had prophesied that in end times Muslim Ummah would love this dunya and people would not care whether they are earning money through Halal or Haram means. Their main aim and primary focus would only become to accumulate wealth. It would be a time when a person would wake up as a believer and by the end of evening he would become a disbeliever. This is something really disturbing because once a believer becomes a disbeliever then he would be eternally damned no matter how much successfully and prosperous life he is leading in this dunya. We need Leaders like Prophets and Khulafa e Rashidoon because at present Muslims have become negligent of their prayers and recitation of Al-Quran and have put all their energy in attaining wealth and status/worldly gains.

    Leadership of Prophets and Khulafa e Rashidoon were successful because they had protection from GOD. Any leadership not protected by GOD would become like leadership of Pharaoh, Nimrud and their likes and would be bound to fail no matter how much ideal and great such leadership may be considered in the eyes of people.

    • Salam,

      The evidences are scattered about, you can think logically that if we are to succeed and be triumphant in the end as prophesied in Qur’an and Sunnah then we can’t be all misguided as that would mean that all truth is erased from the earth. Scholars will deduce from evidences such as:

      لا تجتمع أمتي على ضلالة
      “My nation shall never unite upon misguidance.” (meaning, the true belief will be upheld and no matter how many falsehood emerge the nation will retain the correct beliefs and safeguard them)

      لا تزال طائفة من أمتي ظاهرين على الحق
      “A part of my nation will always be upon truth.” (meaning, even if knowledge is lost there will still be those who are upon the true teachings)

      يد الله مع الجماعة
      “God’s support is with the united majority.” (meaning, don’t splinter into small deviant sects and remain with the guided body)

      As for the Muslims, most of them do not view their leaders as infallible, in fact they heavily criticize them.

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