The Incapable and the Powerless
The Incapable and the Powerless
The scholars of IslÄm make use of two terms; they say that some people are “powerless” (musta°Ä`afÄ«n) or are “awaiting the command of God” (murjawn li-`amrillÄh). “Powerless” refers to the unfortunate and unable; “those awaiting the command of God” denotes people whose affairs and status are to be regarded as being with God and in His hands; God Himself shall deal with them as His wisdom and mercy dictate. Both terms have been taken from the Qur’Än.
In SÅ«ratul NisÄ, verses 97- 99, we read:
Ø¥ÙÙ†Ù‘ÙŽ Ø§Ù„Ù‘ÙŽØ°ÙÙŠÙ†ÙŽ ØªÙŽÙˆÙŽÙÙ‘ÙŒØ§Ù‡ÙÙ…Ù Ø§Ù„Ù’Ù…ÙŽÙ„Ø¢Ø¦ÙÙƒÙŽØ©Ù Ø¸ÙŒØ§Ù„ÙÙ…ÙÙŠ Ø£ÙŽÙ†Ù’ÙÙØ³ÙÙ‡ÙÙ…Ù’ Ù‚ÙŒØ§Ù„ÙÙˆØ§ ÙÙÙŠÙ…ÙŽ ÙƒÙÙ†ØªÙÙ…Ù’ Ù‚ÙŒØ§Ù„ÙÙˆØ§ ÙƒÙÙ†Ù‘ÙŒØ§ Ù…ÙØ³Ù’ØªÙŽØ¶Ù’Ø¹ÙŽÙÙÙŠÙ†ÙŽ ÙÙÙŠ Ø§Ù„Ø£ÙŽØ±Ù’Ø¶Ù Ù‚ÙŒØ§Ù„ÙÙˆØ§ Ø£ÙŽÙ„ÙŽÙ…Ù’ ØªÙŽÙƒÙÙ†Ù’ Ø£ÙŽØ±Ù’Ø¶Ù Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‘ÙŒÙ‡Ù ÙˆÙŒØ§Ø³ÙØ¹ÙŽØ©Ù‹ ÙÙŽØªÙÙ‡ÙŒØ§Ø¬ÙØ±ÙÙˆØ§ ÙÙÙŠÙ‡ÙŒØ§ ÙÙŽØ£ÙÙˆÙ’Ù„ÙŒÙ€Ø¦ÙÙƒÙŽ Ù…ÙŽØ£Ù’ÙˆÙŒØ§Ù‡ÙÙ…Ù’ Ø¬ÙŽÙ‡ÙŽÙ†Ù‘ÙŽÙ…Ù ÙˆÙŽØ³ÙŒØ§Ø¡ÙŽØªÙ’ Ù…ÙŽØµÙÙŠØ±Ù‹Ø§ Ø¥ÙÙ„Ø§Ù‘ÙŽ Ø§Ù„Ù’Ù…ÙØ³Ù’ØªÙŽØ¶Ù’Ø¹ÙŽÙÙÙŠÙ†ÙŽ Ù…ÙÙ†ÙŽ Ø§Ù„Ø±ÙÙ‘Ø¬ÙŒØ§Ù„Ù ÙˆÙŽØ§Ù„Ù†ÙÙ‘Ø³ÙŒØ§Ø¡Ù ÙˆÙŽØ§Ù„Ù’ÙˆÙÙ„Ù’Ø¯ÙŒØ§Ù†Ù Ù„Ø§ÙŒ ÙŠÙŽØ³Ù’ØªÙŽØ·ÙÙŠØ¹ÙÙˆÙ†ÙŽ ØÙÙŠÙ„ÙŽØ©Ù‹ ÙˆÙŽÙ„Ø§ÙŒ ÙŠÙŽÙ‡Ù’ØªÙŽØ¯ÙÙˆÙ†ÙŽ Ø³ÙŽØ¨ÙÙŠÙ„Ø§Ù‹ ÙÙŽØ£ÙÙˆÙ’Ù„ÙŒÙ€Ø¦ÙÙƒÙŽ Ø¹ÙŽØ³ÙŽÙ‰ Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‘ÙŒÙ‡Ù Ø£ÙŽÙ†Ù’ ÙŠÙŽØ¹Ù’ÙÙÙˆÙŽ Ø¹ÙŽÙ†Ù’Ù‡ÙÙ…Ù’ ÙˆÙŽÙƒÙŒØ§Ù†ÙŽ Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‘ÙŒÙ‡Ù Ø¹ÙŽÙÙÙˆÙ‘Ù‹Ø§ ØºÙŽÙÙÙˆØ±Ù‹Ø§
“And those whose souls the Angels take while they are oppressive to themselves; they say, ‘What state were you in?’ They say, ‘We were weak in the land.’ They say, ‘Was not God’s earth wide, that you may migrate in it?’ So the abode of those people is Hell, and evil an abode it is, except the powerless among the men, women, and children who neither have access to any means nor are guided to any way; so perhaps God may pardon them, and God is Ever-Forgiving, Ever-Pardoning.”
In the first verse, mention is made of the interrogation of some people by the Divine appointees (in the grave). The Angels ask them, “What state were you in, in the world?” They forward the excuse: “We were unfortunate, our means were inadequate (and we were unable change our state).” The Angels will say, “You were not powerless, since God’s earth was spacious and you could have migrated from your homeland and gone to an area where you had greater opportunity; thus you are culpable and deserving of punishment.”
In the second verse, the state of some people is mentioned who are truly powerless; whether they be men, women, or children. These are people who had no means and no way out.
In the third verse, the Qur’Än gives tidings and hope that God may show forgiveness towards the second group.
In his commentary of the Qur’Än, al-MÄ«zÄn, our most esteemed teacher, `AllÄmah Å¤abÄ’Å¥abÄ’Ä« , has this to say regarding these very verses: “God considers ignorance of religion and every form of preventing the establishment of the signs of religion to be oppression, and Divine forgiveness does not encompass this. However, an exception has been made for the powerless who did not have the ability to move and change the environment. The exception has been mentioned in such a way that it is not exclusive to when powerlessness takes this form. Just as it is possible for the source of powerlessness to be an inability to change the environment, it is possible for it to be because a person’s mind is not aware of the truth, and thus remains deprived of the truth.”
Many traditions have been narrated in which those people who, for various reasons have remained incapable, have been counted among the “powerless.”
In verse 106 of SÅ«ratul Tawbah (9), God says:
ÙˆÙŽ Ø¡ÙŒØ§Ø®ÙØ±ÙÙˆÙ†ÙŽ Ù…ÙØ±Ù’Ø¬ÙÙˆÙ†ÙŽ Ù„ÙØ£ÙŽÙ…Ù’Ø±Ù Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‘ÙŒÙ‡Ù Ø¥ÙÙ…Ù‘ÙŒØ§ ÙŠÙØ¹ÙŽØ°ÙÙ‘Ø¨ÙÙ‡ÙÙ…Ù’ ÙˆÙŽ Ø¥ÙÙ…ÙŽÙŒØ§ ÙŠÙŽØªÙÙˆØ¨Ù Ø¹ÙŽÙ„ÙŽÙŠÙ’Ù‡ÙÙ…Ù’ ÙˆÙŽ Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‘ÙŒÙ‡Ù Ø¹ÙŽÙ„ÙÙŠÙ…ÙŒ ØÙŽÙƒÙÙŠÙ…ÙŒ
“And others who are awaiting the command of God, He will either punish them or He will forgive them; and God is Knowing, Wise.”
The term murjawn li-`amrillÄh (those awaiting God’s command) has been taken from this verse.
It has been narrated that ImÄm Muhammad Ibn `AlÄ« al-BÄqir (as) said about this verse: “Verily there was a people in the early era of IslÄm who were once polytheists and committed grave misdeeds; they killed Hamzah and Ja`far and people like them from among the Muslims. Later, they became Muslims, abandoning polytheism for monotheism, but faith did not find its way into their hearts for them to be counted among the believers and become deserving of Heaven, while at the same time they had forsaken denial and obstinacy, which was the cause of their being (deserving of) punishment. They were neither believers, nor unbelievers and deniers; these then are the murjawn li-`amrillÄh, whose affair is referred to God.”
In another tradition, it has been narrated that Ä¤umrÄn Ibn A`yan said, “I asked ImÄm Ja`far Ibn Muhammad as-ÅœÄdiq (as) about the powerless.” He replied, “They are neither of the believers nor of the unbelievers; they are the ones whose affair is referred to God’s command.”
Though the purport of the verse regarding those whose affair is referred to God’s command is that one should say only that their affair is with God, still, from the tone of the verse regarding the powerless, a hint of Divine forgiveness and pardon can be deduced.
What is understood in total is that those people who in some way were incapable and are not blameworthy, will not be punished by God.
In al-KÄfÄ«, there is a tradition from Hamzah Ibn Å¤ayyÄr who narrated that ImÄm Ja`far Ibn Muhammad as-ÅœÄdiq (as) said: “People are of six groups, and in the end are of three groups: the party of faith, the party of unbelief, and the party of deviation. These groups come into being from God’s promise and warning regarding Heaven and Hell. (That is, people are divided into these groups according to their standing with respect to these promises and warnings.) Those six groups are the believers, the unbelievers, the powerless, those referred to God’s command, those who confess their sin and have mixed good deeds with evil deeds, and the people of the heights (a`rÄf).”
Also in al-KÄfÄ«, it is narrated from ZurÄrah that he said: “I visited ImÄm Muhammad Ibn `AlÄ« al-BÄqir (as) with my brother Ä¤umrÄn, or with my other brother BukahÄ«r. I said to the ImÄm, ‘We measure people with a measuring tape: Whoever is a ShÄ«`a like ourselves, whether among the descendants of `AlÄ« or otherwise, we forge a bond of friendship with him (as a Muslim and one who will achieve salvation), and whoever is opposed to our creed, we dissociate from him (as a misguided person and one who will not achieve salvation).’”
The ImÄm said, “ZurÄrah! God’s word is more truthful than yours; if what you say is correct, then what about God’s words where He says, ‘Except the powerless among the men, women, and children who find no way out nor find a path?’ What about those who are referred to God’s command? What about those regarding whom God says, ‘They mixed good deeds and other, evil deeds?’ What happened to the people of the heights? Who, then, are the ones whose hearts are to be inclined?”
Ä¤ammÄd , in his narration of this event from ZurÄrah , narrates that he said, “At this point the ImÄm and I began to argue. Both of us raised our voices, such that those outside the house heard us.”
JamÄl Ibn DarrÄj narrates from ZurÄrah in this event that the ImÄm said, “ZurÄrah! [God has made it] incumbent upon Himself that He take the misguided (not the unbelievers and deniers) to Heaven.”
Also in al-KÄfÄ« it is narrated from ImÄm MÅ«sÄ Ibn Ja`far al-KÄdhim (as) that he said: “`AlÄ« (as) is a gate among the gates of guidance; whoever enters from this gate is a believer, and whoever exits from it is a unbeliever; and one who neither enters from it nor exits from it is among the party whose affair is referred to God.”
In this tradition, the ImÄm clearly mentions a party who are neither among the people of faith, submission, and salvation, nor among the people of denial and annihilation.
Also in al-KÄfÄ«, it is narrated from ImÄm Ja`far Ibn Muhammad as-ÅœÄdiq (as):
Ù„ÙŽÙˆÙ’ Ø£ÙŽÙ†Ù‘ÙŽ Ø§Ù„Ù’Ø¹ÙØ¨ÙŒØ§Ø¯ÙŽ Ø¥ÙØ°ÙŒØ§ Ø¬ÙŽÙ‡ÙŽÙ„ÙÙˆØ§ ÙˆÙŽÙ‚ÙŽÙÙÙˆØ§ ÙˆÙŽÙ„Ùˆ Ù„ÙŽÙ…Ù’ÙŽ ÙŠÙŽØ¬Ù’ØÙŽØ¯ÙÙˆØ§ØŒ Ù„ÙŽÙ…Ù’ ÙŠÙŽÙƒÙ’ÙÙØ±ÙÙˆØ§
“If only people, when they are ignorant, pause and don’t reject, they will not be unbelievers.”
If one ponders upon the traditions which have come down from the pure ImÄms (as) and most of which have been collected in the sections “KitÄb al-Ä¤ujjah” and “KitÄb al-ÄªmÄn wa al-Kufr” in al-KÄfÄ«, he or she will realize that the ImÄm’s (as) position was that whatever [punishment] befalls a person is because truth was presented to him or her, and he or she showed prejudice or obstinacy towards it, or at the very least was in a position where he or she should have researched and searched, but didn’t do so.
And as for people who, out of incapacity of understanding and perception, or because of other reasons, are in a position where they are not in denial or negligent in researching, they are not counted among the deniers and adversaries. They are counted among the powerless and those referred to God’s command. And it is understood from the traditions that the pure Imams (as) view many people to be of this category.
In al-KÄfÄ«, in the section “KitÄb al-Ä¤ujjah,” Shaykh KulaynÄ« narrates several traditions to the effect that:
ÙƒÙÙ„Ù‘Ù Ù…ÙŽÙ†Ù’ Ø¯ÙŒØ§Ù†ÙŽ Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‘ÙŒÙ‡ÙŽ Ø¹ÙŽØ²Ù‘ÙŽ ÙˆÙ‘ÙŽØ¬ÙŽÙ„Ù‘ÙŽ Ø¨ÙØ¹ÙØ¨ÙŒØ§Ø¯ÙŽØ©Ù ÙŠÙŽØ¬Ù’Ù‡ÙŽØ¯Ù’ ÙÙÙŠÙ‡ÙŒØ§ Ù†ÙŽÙÙ’Ø³ÙŽÙ‡Ù ÙˆÙŽÙ„Ø§ÙŒ Ø¥ÙÙ…ÙŒØ§Ù…ÙŽ Ù„ÙŽÙ‡Ù Ù…ÙÙ†ÙŽ Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‘ÙŒÙ‡Ù ÙÙŽØ³ÙŽØ¹Ù’ÙŠÙÙ‡Ù ØºÙŽÙŠÙ’Ø±ÙŽ Ù…ÙŽÙ‚Ù’Ø¨ÙÙˆÙ„Ù
“Whoever obeys God with an act of worship in which he exhausts himself, but doesn’t have an ImÄm appointed by God, his effort is not accepted.”
Ù„Ø§ÙŒ ÙŠÙŽÙ‚Ù’Ø¨ÙŽÙ„ÙŽ Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‘ÙŒÙ‡Ù Ø£ÙŽØ¹Ù’Ù…ÙŒØ§Ù„ÙŽ Ø§Ù„Ù’Ø¹ÙØ¨ÙŒØ§Ø¯ÙŽ Ø¥ÙÙ„Ø§Ù‘ÙŽ Ø¨ÙÙ…ÙŽØ¹Ù’Ø±ÙÙÙŽØªÙÙ‡Ù
“God does not accept the actions of His servants without recognition of him (the ImÄm).”
At the same time, in that same “KitÄb al-Ä¤ujjah” of al-KÄfÄ« it is narrated from ImÄm Ja`far Ibn Muhammad as-ÅœÄdiq (as):
Ù…ÙŽÙ†Ù’ Ø¹ÙŽØ±ÙŽÙÙŽÙ†ÙŒØ§ ÙƒÙŒØ§Ù†ÙŽ Ù…ÙØ¤Ù’Ù…ÙÙ†Ø§Ù‹ØŒ ÙˆÙŽÙ…ÙŽÙ†Ù’ Ø£ÙŽÙ†Ù’ÙƒÙŽØ±ÙŽÙ†ÙŒØ§ ÙƒÙŒØ§Ù†ÙŽ ÙƒÙŒØ§ÙÙØ±Ø§Ù‹ØŒ ÙˆÙŽÙ…ÙŽÙ†Ù’ Ù„ÙŽÙ…Ù’ ÙŠÙŽØ¹Ù’Ø±ÙÙÙ’Ù†ÙŒØ§ ÙˆÙŽÙ„ÙŽÙ…Ù’ ÙŠÙŽÙ†Ù’ÙƒÙØ±Ù’Ù†ÙŒØ§ ÙƒÙŒØ§Ù†ÙŽ Ø¶ÙŒØ§Ù„Ø§Ù‹ ØÙŽØªÙ‘ÙŽÙ‰ Ø±Ø¬Ø¹ Ø¥ÙÙ„Ù€Ù‰ Ø§Ù„Ù’Ù‡ÙØ¯Ù‰ Ø§Ù„Ù‘ÙŽØ°ÙÙŠ Ø§ÙÙ’ØªÙŽØ±ÙŽØ¶ÙŽ Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‘ÙŒÙ‡Ù Ø¹ÙŽÙ„ÙŽÙŠÙ’Ù‡Ù Ù…ÙÙ†Ù’ Ø·ÙŒØ§Ø¹ÙŽØªÙÙ†ÙŒØ§ØŒ ÙÙŽØ¥ÙÙ†Ù’ ÙŠÙŽÙ…ÙØªÙ’ Ø¹ÙŽÙ„Ù‰ Ø¶ÙŽÙ„Ø§ÙŒÙ„ÙŽØªÙÙ‡Ù ÙŠÙŽÙÙ’Ø¹ÙŽÙ„Ù Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‘ÙŒÙ‡Ù Ù…ÙŒØ§ ÙŠÙŽØ´ÙŒØ§Ø¡Ù
“Whoever recognizes us is a believer, and whoever denies us is an unbeliever, and whoever neither recognizes nor denies us is misguided until he or she returns to the guidance of our obedience which God enjoined upon him or her. So if he or she dies in the state of misguidedness, God shall do what He pleases.”
Muhammad Ibn Muslim says: “I was with ImÄm as-ÅœÄdiq (as). I was seated to his left, and ZurÄrah to his right. AbÅ« BaÅir entered and asked, “What do you say about a person who has doubts about God?” The Imam replied, “He is a unbeliever.” “What do you say about a person who has doubts about the Messenger of God?” “He is an unbeliever.” At this point the ImÄm turned towards ZurÄrah and said, “Verily, such a person is a unbeliever if he or she denies and shows obstinacy.”
Also in al-KÄfÄ«, KulaynÄ« narrates that HÄshim Ibn al-BarÄ«d (ÅœÄhib al-BarÄ«d) said: “Muhammad Ibn Muslim, Abul KhaÅ¥Å¥Äb, and I were together in one place. Abul KhaÅ¥Å¥Äb asked, “What is your belief regarding one who doesn’t know the affair of ImÄmate?” I said, “In my view he or she is a unbeliever.” Abul KhaÅ¥Å¥Äb said, “As long as the evidence is not complete for him or her, he or she is not a unbeliever; if the evidence is complete and still he or she doesn’t recognize it, then he or she is a unbeliever.” Muhammad Ibn Muslim said, “Glory be to God! If he or she doesn’t recognize the ImÄm and doesn’t show obstinacy or denial, how can he or she be considered an unbeliever? No, one who doesn’t know, if he doesn’t show denial, is not an unbeliever.” Thus, the three of us had three opposing beliefs.
“When the Ä¤ajj season came, I went for Ä¤ajj and went to ImÄm as-ÅœÄdiq (as). I told him of the discussion between the three of us and asked the Imam his view. The ImÄm replied, “I will reply to this question when the other two are also present. I and the three of you shall meet tonight in MinÄ near the middle Jamarah.”
“That night, the three of us went there. The ImÄm, leaning on a cushion, began questioning us.”
“What do you say about the servants, womenfolk, and members of your own families? Do they not bear witness to the unity of God?”
I replied, “Yes.”
“Do they not bear witness to the prophecy of the Messenger?”
“Do they recognize the ImÄmate and wilÄyah (Divinely-appointed authority) like yourselves?”
“So what is their position in your view?”
“My view is that whoever does not recognize the ImÄm is an unbeliever.”
“Glory be to God! Haven’t you seen the people of the streets and markets? Haven’t you seen the water-bearers?”
“Yes, I have seen and I see them.”
“Do they not pray? Do they not fast? Do they not perform Ä¤ajj? Do they not bear witness to the unity of God and the prophethood of the Messenger?”
“Well, do they recognize the ImÄm as you do?”
“So what is their condition?”
“My view is that whoever doesn’t recognize the ImÄm is a unbeliever.”
“Glory be to God! Do you not see the state of the Ka’bah and the circumambulation of these people? Don’t you see how the people of Yemen cling to the curtains of the Ka’bah?”
“Don’t they profess monotheism and believe in the Messenger? Don’t they pray, fast, and perform Ä¤ajj?”
“Well, do they recognize the ImÄm as you do?”
“What is your belief about them?”
“In my view, whoever doesn’t recognize the ImÄm is an unbeliever.”
“Glory be to God! This belief is the belief of the KhÄrijites.”
At that point the ImÄm said, “Now, do you wish me to inform you of the truth?”
HÄshim, who in the words of the late Faydh al-KÄshÄnÄ« , knew that the ImÄm’s view was in opposition to his own belief, said, “No.”
The ImÄm said, “It is very bad for you to say something of your own accord that you have not heard from us.”
HÄshim later said to the others: “I presumed that the ImÄm affirmed the view of Muhammad Ibn Muslim and wished to bring us to his view.”
In al-KÄfÄ«, after this tradition, Shaykh KulaynÄ« narrates the well-known tradition of the discussion of ZurÄrah with ImÄm Muhammad Ibn `AlÄ« al-BÄqir (as) in this regard, which is a detailed discussion.
In al-KÄfÄ« at the end of “KitÄb al-ÄªmÄn wa al-Kufr,” there is a chapter entitled, “No action causes harm with belief, and no action brings benefit with unbelief.”
But the traditions that have come under this heading do not affirm this heading. The following tradition is among them:
Ya`qÅ«b Ibn Shu`ayb said, I asked ImÄm Ja`far Ibn Muhammad as-ÅœÄdiq (as):
Ù‡ÙŽÙ„Ù’ Ù„ÙØ£ÙŽØÙŽØ¯Ù Ø¹ÙŽÙ„Ù‰ Ù…ÙŽØ§ Ø¹ÙŽÙ…ÙÙ„ÙŽ Ø«ÙŽÙˆÙŒØ§Ø¨ÙŒ Ø¹ÙŽÙ„Ù‰ Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‘ÙŒÙ‡Ù Ù…ÙÙˆÙ’Ø¬ÙØ¨ÙŒ Ø¥ÙÙ„Ø§Ù‘ÙŽ Ø§Ù„Ù’Ù…ÙØ¤Ù’Ù…ÙÙ†ÙÙŠÙ†ÙŽØŸ Ù‚ÙŽØ§Ù„ÙŽ: Ù„Ø§ÙŽ
“Does anyone aside from the believers have a definite reward from God?” He replied, “No.”
The purport of this tradition is that God has given a promise of reward to none but the believers, and without doubt He will fulfil His promise. However, aside from the believers, God has not given any promise for Him to have to fulfil of necessity. And since He has not given any promise, it is up to Him Himself to reward or not to reward.
With this explanation, the ImÄm wishes to convey that the non-Believers are counted with the powerless and those whose affair is referred to God’s command in terms of whether God will reward them or not; it must be said that their affair is with God, for Him to reward or not to.
At the end of this chapter of al-KÄfÄ« there are some traditions which we will mention later under the heading, “The Sins of Muslims.”
Of course, the relevant traditions are not limited to those mentioned here; there are other traditions as well. Our deduction from all of these traditions is what we have mentioned above. If someone deduces something else and doesn’t affirm our view, he or she may explain his or her view with its evidence, and perhaps we can benefit from it as well.