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The Infallibility of the Prophets

The Infallibility of the Prophets

Holy Imam(AS) Debates Ali ibn al-Jahm

The Holy Imam (AS) conducted a very magnificent debate with Ali al-Jahm dealing with the infallibility of prophets in which he explained in a very beautiful way the actual meaning of some verses which may on the surface give the impression to the contrary.
Interpreting the Holy Qur'an According to One's Opinion

The Holy Imam (AS) started his discussion with Ali ibn al-Jahm by criticizing him and those who interpreted the Book of God according to their own viewpoint, stating that he and those have to refer to those whom God endowed with the faculty of knowledge and understanding in order to learn the actual and accurate interpretation of its verses according to the sacred verse which says, "And none knows its interpretation except God and those deeply grounded in knowledge."
(Sura Al-Imran,Ayah 7)

Interpreting Verses Whose Superficial Meaning Suggests Prophet's Fallibility

Then the Holy Imam (AS) started explaining the verses whose superficial meaning indicates the fallibility of and possibility of sinning by prophets.

He indicated that Adam's transgression took place while he was in Paradise, not on earth, and the infallibility in question is earthly, and that he did not commit any act as long as he lived on earth which contradicted his infallibility as proven by the sacred verse: "God did indeed choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of Imran above all people."(Sura Al-Imran,Ayat 33) As regarding the verse which states:

"And remember Zun-nun when he departed in wrath; he imagined that We had no power over him, but he cried through the depths of darkness, `There is no god but Thou! Glory to Thee; I was indeed wrong,'"(Sura Al-Anbiya,Ayat 87) what is meant by "he imagined that We had no power over him" is that he realized that God was not going to sustain him." Had he thought that God was unable to overpower him, he would have then committed kufr (disbelief) and he would have also committed 'isyan, transgression.

As regarding the verse "And (with passion) did she desire him, and he would have desired her,"(Sura Yusuf,Ayat 24) the case regarding what the wife of al-'Aziz wanted, and what Yousuf (AS) desired to do, are two different things, for she wanted to commit a sin while he desired to kill her if she forced him; therefore, God saved him from the deed of killing her and its terrible consequences, and saved her from her own wishful desire to commit a sin.

As regarding David, his statement that the defendant had committed injustice by asking for the goat, it was an error only within the framework of the case, and it took place before he had asked the defendant about his defense against the plaintiff's claim, and it is not a transgression, for God corrected for him his decision by bringing him the example of the two kings. As regarding his marriage with the widow of Oorya, which was regarded by people at that time as a sin and criticized him for it, it was done for the sake of effecting a legislative interest whereby David wanted to shatter the then prevalent custom of a widow not getting married after the death of her husband.

It is similar to what happened to the Holy Prophet(p.b.u.h) with Zainab daughter of Jahsh, wife of Zayd ibn Haritha who had been adopted by the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h), for the Holy Prophet(p.b.u.h), by marrying Zainab after granting her divorce from Zayd, wanted to shatter the pre-Islamic custom whereby a man would not be permitted to marry the former wife of someone he had adopted as is clear in the text of the Holy Qur'an.

The Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) was apprehensive of the criticism of the hypocrites of his action, so the Almighty addressed him by saying, "Do not fear people; it is more fitting that you should fear God,"(Sura Al-Ahzab, Ayat 37) since it was God Who ordered him to marry her as we understand from the verse, "Then when Zayd had dissolved (his marriage) with her, with the necessary (formality), We joined her in marriage to thee in order that (henceforth) there may be no difficulty to the believers in (the matter of) marrying the wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have dissolved with the necessary (formality, their marriage) with them, and God's command must be fulfilled."(Sura Al-Ahzab,Ayat 37)
By providing such glorious knowledge of the exegesis of sacred Qur'anic verses, and by giving such honest interpretations which safeguard the integrity of the context, the Holy Imam (AS) used to dispel the unusual confusion of those who did not have a deep actual understanding of the Glorious Book of God.

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