The Differences between Jihad and Terrorism

Whereas the Arabic term “al-Harb” means war, and the word” jihad” means struggling or striving but mistakenly the Arabic word “jihad” has been often translated as “holy war”. According to the Quranic and prophetic teachings “jihad” refers to internal as well as external efforts to be a true Muslim and believer.

It must be noted that military use of force or power to protect Islam against its enemies must be performed according to the religious authorities such as the prophet (S), Imam (A) the Imams. To protect faith against other Muslims can use anything from legal, diplomatic and economic to political means.

Another important point which must be taken into consideration while using the term jihad is that the usage of power is not the first step to protect Islam rather it is the final way and solution. If Muslim leaders and legitimate Imams did not have any peaceful alternative except for war in that case, they use force against their enemies.

But if we look at the wars which are waged against innocent civilians, by terrorist and Takfiri groups, such as women, children, or invalids who must never be harmed, we understand that terrorist attacks can never be categorized as jihad that should be based on strict rules of engagements. Therefore, in case military action appears necessary, not everyone can declare jihad. The religious military campaign has to be declared by a proper authority, advised by scholars, who say the religion and people are under threat and violence and it is imperative to defend them.

Killing innocent civilians is not jihad rather it is misuse of power and force which is totally opposed to the major jihad. The Prophet Mohammed (S) told his followers returning from a military campaign:

“This day we have returned from the minor jihad to the major jihad which is the Jihad of the servant against his self (carnal desires)”.[1]

[1] بحارالانوار،ج۶٧/ص۶۵،حدیث ٧ رسولُ اللّه صلى الله عليه و آله ـ مُخاطِبا أصحابهُ قَدِمْتُم خَيرَ مَقْدَمٍ ، و قَدِمْتُم مِن الجِهادِ الأصْغَرِ إلى الجهادِ الأكْبَرِ : مُجاهَدَةِ العَبدِ هَواهُ

Islam and Art

The Holy Quran’s meaning as well as its letters, sounds, prosody, and cadences exert a powerful influence over Muslims’ soul and mind. When Islam emerged in Arabian Peninsula, there were many Arab poets, eloquent orators, and dexterous lecturers who were competing with each other to get the best and highest position amongst others. In such an environment the Holy prophet Mohammad (S) brought about a masterpiece of literary works that became the source and origin of Islamic civilization in the coming centuries. Like other creatures, revelation is also the manifestation of God’s beauty, because, Almighty Allah (J), according to a narration, is

“the most beautiful and loves beauty”. [1]

Since Almighty Allah is the creator of all beauties as well as beautiful creatures in the universe, Islam as a divine manifestation upon the world is also the origin and source of beauties and arts. In fact, the beauty of the Holy Prophet’s soul was reflected in the Holy Quran and in the sayings (traditions) of the Holy Prophet. These two main sources of Islam brought into being a civilization that is still alive and in which the arts always held a position of central importance.

Based on the direct injunctions in the Quran to appreciate the beauty of creation and of all objects created by Allah; [2] Muslims built the great masterpieces of Islamic arts, such as the grand mosques in Spain, Tunisia, Cairo, Istanbul, Isfahan and Samarqand that represent the spirit of Islamic revelation. According to the Islamic teachings and principles, Islamic arts must provide an ambience in which Muslims can live and function in the state of the remembrance of Allah and the vision of His divine beauty.

So Islamic art in both form and spirit, seeks to reflect Divine Unity, emphasize the fragility of the world and the permanence of what lies beyond it. Contrary to the current Western sense of the term, art means making and doing anything correctly and well. Because of it there is a close relationship between art and knowledge as it

“has been asserted traditionally in the Islamic world by many of the great masters craftsmen and artists who have emphasized over and over again that art comes from the wedding of fann and hikmah or technique and wisdom”.[3]

In accordance with aforementioned points we have to look at cinema and stage arts in the light of the Quranic revelation, because every kind of arts must be characterized by the divine and Islamic values. It must be noted that the question of the origin of Islamic art, and the nature of the forces and principles which brought this art into being, must therefore, be related to the world view of Islam itself, to the Islamic revelation, one of whose radiations is directly the sacred art of Islam and indirectly the whole of Islamic art. [4] Traditional art is concerned with the truths contained in the tradition of which it is the artistic and formal expression. Its origin therefore is not purely human. Moreover, this art must conform to the symbolism inherent in the object with which itis concerned as well as the symbolism directly related to the revelation whose inner dimension this art manifests. [5]

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei once addressed a large delegation of cultural workers and artists in a gathering, saying that the play writers and cinematographers should utilize the art of writing to offer a correct visage of concepts and values. Moral realities are not comparable to any of the material concepts, he said:

“Islamic values are the loftiest realities that can fully absorb us, and on that basis, film makers and film directors are expected to find visual representation of religious concepts in such a way that they will be more appealing to the viewers.”

He said the language of arts should be used to make values all the more appealing. The grand Ayatollah added that:

“Arts is the worthy gift of God to man. The arts are dear and exalted. Arts are everlasting. Arts are universal and are not limited to specific lands or specific periods of history,” [6]

Finally it could be concluded from the aforementioned points that Islam, as an everlasting and universal religion, does place a high value on art and cinema; because one of the main purposes of Islam is to guide the mankind to the right path. This guidance could not be fulfilled if Muslim cultural workers and artists would not make use of the language of arts. As a result, the message of Islam could not be delivered to the mankind.

[1] Muslim, Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Hadith No. 164.
[2] see Sūrah al-Nahl: 5-6; Sūrah al-An’ām: 115; Sūrah al-Nahl: 8.
[3] S. H. Nasr, A young Muslim’s guide to the modern world, p: 104.
[4] S. H. Nasr, Art and spirituality, 1987, p: 4.
[5] S. H. Nasr, Knowledge and the Sacred Gifford Lectures, 1989, p: 222.

Islamic Unity in the Quran and the conduct of the Prophet (S)

The Holy Qur’an invites all human beings to unity—Muslims, Christians, Jews, etc. — and this invitation is not exclusive for the time of the Prophet (S) or a certain group of the People of the Book {Ahl al-kitab}: [1]

Say, ‘O People of the Book! Come to a word common between us and you: that we will worship no one but Allah, and that we will not ascribe any partner to Him, and that we will not take each other as lords besides Allah’. [2]

The Glorious Qur’an speaks about the synagogue, temple, church and mosque in the same line because the Name of God is mentioned in all of them. As such, they must be held in high esteem and respect.

Although the blessed verse quoted invites all to unity, the greater emphasis is on the solidarity of Muslims. This is because, in addition to their unity and commonality in Tawhid {Unity of God}, prophethood {Nubuwwah} Qiblah {the direction where one faces in prayer and other acts of worship}, etc., Muslims also have a commonality with some branches of religion. Thus, among the followers of the various religions, Muslims are more deserving of having unity, and thus the possibility of scientific, cultural, political and other interactions among them is stronger

The life conduct of the prophet (s) and Ahl-Albait (‘a)

The life conduct {Sirah} of the Holy Prophet (s) [3] serves as a proof, guideline and model for all of us. Through compassion, magnanimity, and endeavor, he (s) was able to unify the people of Hijaz,[4] most of whom had been idol-worshipers, under the banner of Islam.

After their acceptance of Islam, some of them, known as the Munafiqun {hypocrites}, engaged in open confrontation with the Prophet (s) who had to deal with them. They were those who ostensibly embraced Islam, but in intention and practice they were not assisting him (s). In spite of this, the Prophet (s) peacefully associated with them and his objectives were the accomplishment of the mission as well as imparting the understanding and implementation of the Holy Qur’an. The very same conduct was adopted by the infallible Imams (‘a) and they never kindled the flame of discord among Muslims.

We can see that although ‘Ali (‘a) had reproached the early caliphs as recorded in Nahj al-Balaghah, in other instances he would lead them. All this was primarily to foster the freedom of thought and the spread of Islamic beliefs. The conclusion is that in the present age, indulging in magnifying Sunni-Shi’ah differences, apart from not being useful, will result in an irreparable loss.

Proximity between Sunnis and Shi’ah advances the interests of both. It opens the ways for the spread of Shi’ah thought and culture in the Muslim world, and as a result, makes the further proximity of these two sects even more possible.

Wahhabis and unity

More than anyone else, the Wahhabis are apprehensive and endangered by this proximity. It is for this reason that during the Hajj season, they prohibit the entry into the country all religious books, including the Qur’an (in Persian translation), Tafsir, history and hadith books, and even Iranian magazines and newspapers. This is because they are afraid that these printed materials would present facts against their particular policy and doctrines. This is in spite of the fact that those matters are never repugnant to the truth of Islam.

In terms of outlook, they oppose not only the Shi’a but also the four Sunni schools of thought. They write books against the proximity of Sunnis and Shi’a, campaigning against it, regarding it as an impossible venture.

One of the best means of replying to such a plot is that the ‘Ulama’ of both schools of thoughts should be the promoters of unity more than anyone else. They should teach their people the true teachings of Islam regarding unity so that we can live in tranquility and be united against our common enemies and avoid dispute which would result in losing courage and losing our power and strength,

“And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute and [thus] lose courage and [then] your strength would depart; and be patient. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” [5]

1. The People of the Book [Ahl al-Kitab]: the respectful title given to the Jews and Christians in the Qur’an. [Trans.]
2. ﴿قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ تَعَالَوْا إِلَى كَلِمَةٍ سَوَاءٍ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمْ أَلاَّ نَعْبُدَ إِلاَّ اللَّهَ وَلاَ نُشْرِكَ بِهِ شَيْئًا وَلاَ يَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُنَا بَعْضًا أَرْبَابًا مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ.﴾
Surat Al ‘Imran 3:64.
3. The abbreviation, “s”, stands for the Arabic invocative phrase, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa alihi wa sallam [may God’s salutation and peace be upon him and his progeny], which is used after the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s). [Trans.]
4. Hijaz: the region in Western Arabia bordering the Red Sea that includes Ta’if, Mecca and Medina. Here, it alludes to the entire Arabian Peninsula. [Trans.]
5. وَأَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلَا تَنَازَعُوا فَتَفْشَلُوا وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ ۖ وَاصْبِرُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ
Holy Quran verse 46 of chapter 8. Al-Anfaal
6. A New Analysis of Wahhabi Doctrines, p. 5.

The Qur’an, the Eternal Miracle

History clearly shows that the Prophet of lslam performed diverse miracles in the course of his mission. But he laid stress above all else upon that miracle which is eternal, the Holy Qur’an. And the secret as to why the Prophet of Islam, and not any other Prophet, should have been distinguished by this miracle resides in this: The religion brought by him is the last religion, and it is to last until the end of time. An everlasting religion needs an everlasting miracle, so that it be a decisive proof of prophecy in each age and for each succeeding generation; and so that mankind might, throughout the course of the centuries, have recourse directly to this miracle itself, rather than depend on the words of others.

He declared his prophecy by means of the revealed Book and challenged anyone in the world to produce the like of it; but nobody at the time of the Revelation could respond to the challenge. Even to this day, after the passage of centuries, the Qur’an ‘s inimitable uniqueness remains; as it says in the Book:

Say, “If mankind and the jinn gathered in order to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like of it, even if they were to each other assistants.” (Sura Bani Isra’Il, 17:88)

Here, the Qur’an is saying, in effect, with regard to its own uniqueness: ‘O Prophet, challenge the people to bring a book like this one’. Elsewhere; it challenges them to bring even less:

Or do they say, “He invented it”? Say, “Then bring ten surahs like it that have been invented and call upon [for assistance] whomever you can besides Allah, if you should be truthful.”(Sura Hud, 11:13)

And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah, if you should be truthful. (Sura al-Baqara, 2:23)

We know that the enemies of Islam have not spared any effort in their attempts, over the course of fourteen centuries, to harm Islam; they have not ceased accusing the Prophet of being a magician, a madman and other such things; but they have never been able to take up the challenge of producing anything comparable to the Qur’an. Today, despite all the different fields of contemporary thought and learning, and all the modern epistemological tools at their disposal, they are unable to refute or confound the limpid, inimitable uniqueness of the Qur’an; this, alone, bears witness to the fact that the Qur’an is something utterly beyond the speech of a human being.

The literary miraculousness of the holy Qur’an

The Holy Prophet performed various miracles, the commentaries upon which are recorded in books of Hadith and history. But the eternal miracle which radiates throughout all the ages is the Holy Qur’an; and the secret as to why the Prophet of Islam, and not any other Prophet, should have been distinguished by this miracle resides in this: The religion brought by him is the last religion, and it is to last until the end of time. An everlasting religion needs an everlasting miracle, so that it be a decisive proof of prophecy in each age and for each succeeding generation; and so that mankind might, throughout the course of the centuries, have recourse directly to this miracle itself, rather than depend on the words of others.

The literary miraculousness of the holy Qur’an

From the time of the descent of the Holy Qur’an, the first thing that struck the Arabic-speaking world and those versed in oratory and rules of eloquence, was the beauty of the language, the elegance and originality of its composition, and the sublime meanings contained in the Scripture. This special feature of the Qur’an was clearly evident to the Arabs of that time, as it is for those of today. Thus, the pprophet challenged anyone in the world to produce the like of it; but nobody at the time of the Revelation could respond to the challenge. Even to this day, after the passage of centuries, the Qur’an ‘s inimitable uniqueness remains; as it says in the Book:

Say, ‘Should all humans and jinn rally to bring the like of this Quran, they will not bring its like, even if they assisted one another.’(Sura Bani Isra’Il, 17:88)

and because of this, the Prophet, through continuous recitation of its verses, and through repeated invitations to ponder the uniqueness of the Qur’an, cast the champions of oratory and the masters of eloquence into abasement and humiliation, causing them to gnaw at their fingers in bewildered rage at the majestic speech of the Qur’an, bitterly acknowledging its super-human quality.

Walid b. Mughayra, a renowned poet and a master orator among the Quraysh, declared, after hearing the Prophet recite some verses:

‘By God, I have just heard something from Muhammad that is unlike the speech of man or the speech of jinn. It is a speech with its own unique sweetness and beauty. The branches of its words are laden with fruit, its roots are full of blessings; it is a surpassing discourse, than which no more distinguished speech exists. Indeed, nothing can begin to rival its excellence. ‘[1]

It was not just Walid b. Mughayra who extolled the outward beauty and inward profundity of the Qur’an; other great orators also, such as ‘Utba b. Rabi’a and Tufayl b. ‘Umar, also expressed their utter incapacity to compete with the Qur’an and acknowledged it as a literary miracle.

Of course, the Arabs of the Jahiliyya, because of their low level of culture, did not grasp anything but this aspect of the miraculous nature of the Qur’an. But when the sun of Islam illumined a quarter of the inhabited world, the great thinkers of the world reflected deeply upon the profound verses of the Qur’an, and were able to benefit not only from its miraculous literary aspects, but also from the evident connection that each of its other aspects had with the sacred and the miraculous; and in every age, new dimensions of its endless verities would be discovered, a process which continues to this day.

1. Fadl b. al-Hasan al-Tabarsi, Majma’ al-bayan (Tehran, n.d.), vol. 5, p. 387.

Different aspects of the Qur’an’s miraculous nature

Apart from the literary miracle of the Qur’an there are some other manifestations of its miraculous nature. If the literary miracle of the Qur’an can only be grasped by one who has some mastery in the Arabic language, the other miraculous qualities can, fortunately, be grasped by everyone.

1. The person who brought the Qur’an was unlettered and unlearned, not having been schooled; nor had he studied at the feet of a great master; nor had he read a single book, as it is stated:

And you did not recite before it any scripture, nor did you inscribe one with your right hand. Otherwise the falsifiers would have had [cause for] doubt. (Sura al-‘Ankabut, 29:48)

The Holy Prophet recited this verse to people who were well aware of his life-history. Naturally, had he studied previously, he would have been contradicted by those who knew of his past; so if he was accused by some of having had the Qur’an ‘taught to him by a man’, we know for sure that it is baseless, as are all the other accusations made against him. The Qur’an refutes this accusation, saying that the one who was supposed to have taught him was a non-Arab; while the Arabic of the Qur’an is classical, eloquent Arabic. 1

2. The Qur’an was revealed in recitation to the Holy Prophet over the course of twenty-three years, under various conditions (peace and war, whilst journeying or residing at home, etc.). The nature of such an oral discourse normally imposes at least two or more different styles or modes upon the speaker. Even authors who compose their works under unvarying, stable conditions, and who attempt to maintain thematic consistency and stylistic harmony, are often unable to avoid discrepancies and disharmony in their works; such problems are even more likely to befall one who delivers a verbal discourse gradually, and under extremely variegated conditions and circumstances.

It would be appropriate here to recall that the Qur’an contains discourses on themes as diverse as theology, history, religious law and legislation, ethics, the natural world and other matters; but despite this immense variety of subject-matter, it maintains, from beginning to end, the most supreme harmony, its style of discourse flowing marvellously through its diverse contents. The Qur’an itself mentions this aspect of its own miraculous nature:

Then do they not reflect upon the Qur’an? If it had been from [any] other than Allah, they would have found within it much contradiction.( Sura al-Nisa’, 4:82)

3. The Qur’an recognizes the capacity of human nature for farsightedness, and on that basis establishes laws. Given this fundamental capacity for insight, all aspects of the spiritual and material life of man are encompassed by the Qur’an; universally applicable principles-ones which will never fade or become outmoded-are also given in this Scripture. One of the special features of the universal laws of Islam is that they are valid in the most diverse conditions and environments. When Muslims had conquered vast parts of the world, they were able to rule with authority and dignity over generations of different human collectivities by virtue of these laws. Imam Baqir said:

‘Everything of which mankind has need and has asked for is given by God in this Holy Book, and has been explained by Him to His Prophet; and He has established for everything a limit, and for each limit, a rationale has been given.’2

4. In different verses, the Qur’an explains the intricate relationships between the mysteries of the created universe, relationships and connections of which the people of the time had no inkling. The disclosure of these mysteries, by an unlettered individual, living in the midst of people ignorant of all such things, could only have come about by means of divine revelation. Many examples of this can be given, but we shall restrict ourselves here to one alone:
The discovery of the law of universal polarity is a major finding of modern science; the Qur’an, at a time when there was not even the slightest information on such matters, refers to this law as follows:

And of all things We created two mates; perhaps you will remember. (Sura al-Dhariyat, 51:49)

5. The Qur’an has prophesied events, giving precise and definite information about them before they unfolded, exactly as predicted. There are several examples of this, but we shall refer to just one, When the God-fearing Christian Byzantines (al-Rum) were defeated by the fire-worshipping Sassanids, the pagan Arabs took this as a good omen, declaring that they, too, would prevail over the God-fearing Arabs of the peninsula. As regards this event, the Qur’an gives precise information:

The Romans have been defeated in the nearer land, and they, after their defeat, will be victorious in afew years- to Allah belongs the command before and afterr- and on that day believers will rejoice. (Sura al¬Rum, 30:4)

The events took place exactly as predicted, and both God-fearing groups, the Byzantine Christians and the Arabian Muslims, prevailed over their respective enemies (Iranian Sassanids and the pagans of Quraysh), Thus we find at the end of the verse a reference to the happiness of the believers, for these two victories were simultaneous.

6. The Qur’an has spoken of the lives of the Prophets and of past communities, in a number of Suras and in various ways. It might be said that, being the final Revelation, the Qur’an clarifies much of the information found in previous Scriptures pertaining to the Prophets of the past, their missions, and their communities. In the Qur’anic accounts of the lives of the Prophets, there is not the slightest divergence either from the dictates of the intellect or of innate human nature, on the one hand, or from what the supreme status of the Prophets implies, on the other.

1. See Sura al-Nahl, 16:103.
2. al-Kulayni, al-Usul min al-kafi, vol. 1, p. 59.

Is the Holy Qur’an Distorted?

The revealed scriptures brought by previous Prophets have, unfortunately, been gradually subjected to alteration and interpolation over the years. In addition to what is said in the Qur’an to this effect, there is historical evidence to corroborate this fact.

In contrast, nothing has been added to or taken from the Holy Qur’an itself. The Holy Prophet of Islam received 114 chapters of the Qur’an, and this constitutes, among other things, an eternal memorial of himself, and he delivered them intact into this world. The scribes of the Revelation, especially Imam ‘Ali, who wrote down the revealed verses from the very beginning, have preserved it ever since from all interpolation. Despite the passage of fourteen centuries since its descent, not a single verse or chapter has been added to or taken away from the Holy Qur’an. We allude below to some of the reasons why the Qur’an has, of necessity, remained free of any alteration.

1. How could the Qur’an possibly be subject to alteration when God Himself has guaranteed its preservation and protection? It is said:

Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.” (15:9)

2. God has prohibited the entry of any kind of falsehood into the Qur’an:

Falsehood cannot approach it from before it or from behind it; [it is] a revelation from a [Lord who is] Wise and Praiseworthy.” (41:42)

As God has denied all possibility of falsehood entering the Qur’an, this means that anything that might lead to the weakening of the Qur’an-such as adding words or verses, or taking them away-is likewise excluded; thus, one can say with absolute certainty that this Scripture has not been altered in anyway.

3. History shows us that the Muslims were graced in a special way as regards learning and memorizing the Qur’an. At the time of the Revelation, the Arabs were famed for their excellent, powerful memories, so much so that after hearing a long sermon just once, they were able to repeat it by heart afterwards. In such a context, where there were so many people who knew the Qur’an by heart, how could anyone claim that it might have been altered?

4. There is no doubt that Imam ‘Ali had a difference of opinion, in certain matters, with the other three caliphs, and that he expressed these differences in a clear and logical manner, in, for example, the sermon entitled Shiqshiqiyya, one of his most famous discourses.1  But we observe that this great soul, to the end of his life, never said anything about even a single word of the Qur’an having been altered. If, God forbid, such an alteration had in fact taken place, a person such as he would never have remained silent. Rather, we see the contrary: that he continuously called upon people to meditate upon the Qur’an:

O people, for whosoever follows the Qur’an, there is no poverty or indigence; and without following the Qur’an, there is no riches or freedom from want. So throughout your lives, sow the seed of the Qur’an [in your hearts] and follow it.” 2

For these, and other reasons, the great scholars of the ahl al-bayt, from the beginning of Islam to the present day, have stressed the immunity of the Qur’an against any alteration (tahrif). It must be stressed that this has been the position of all Shi’i authorities’ in all periods; and to this day, all the Shi’i leaders without exception uphold this position. 3

In some books of Hadith and Qur’anic exegesis, there are certain narrations which have given grounds for the idea that some alteration of the Qur’an has in fact taken place, but the following points should be borne in mind:

1. Most of these narrations are transmitted by persons and in books that are not trustworthy, such as the Kitab al-qira’a of ‘Ahmad b. Muhammad Sayyri (d. 286 AH). His narrations are classified as weak by those versed in knowledge of transmitters of hadith (‘ilm al-rijal); and his legal school is classified as corrupt.4 Another such book is that of Ali b. Ahmad al-Kufi (d. 352 AH), about whom the same scholars said:

At the end of his life, he took the path of fanaticism (ghuluw).” 5

2. Those parts of these narrations that ostensibly relate to alteration are more akin to commentaries on verses. In other words, the content of a given verse is brought together with its meaning in a single narration, and some have wrongly supposed that the commentary is part of the verse, having elided it therewith.
For example, the ‘straight path’ of the Sura al-Fatiha is read in some narrations along with its commentary, ‘the path of the Prophet and his family’. It is clear that such commentary is a way of affirming the sublimity of the Prophet.

3. Imam Khumayni has divided those narrations on the basis of which alteration is deemed to have taken place, into three categories: (a) weak reports, in which nothing is proven; (b) forged reports, in which interpolations are clearly evident; and (c) strong reports, which, if their import be carefully considered, reveal that what appears to be an alteration of Qur’anic verses is in fact a comment upon the meanings of these verses, not a change in the literal wording of the Qur’an. 6

4. Anyone wishing to attain a true understanding of the actual beliefs of a given school of thought must study the authoritative books on doctrine and belief as found in that school, rather than looking at some books of narrations compiled by those whose aim was but to gather up material, leaving to others the task of verification and evaluation. Similarly, referring to a few unusual opinions held by some followers of the school is insufficient for arriving at a sound knowledge of the school, as is basing oneself on the words of one or two people who oppose the majority of the authoritative scholars in the school of thought.

1. Nahj al-baliigha, Sermon no. 3.
2. Nahj al-baliigha, Sermon no.171.
3. The following authorities can be referred to regarding this matter: 1) Fadl b. Shadhan, (d. 260/873 AH; he lived in the time of the Imams), Kitab al-idah,, p. 217; 2) Shaykh Saduq (d. 381/991), Kitab al¬i’tiqadat, p. 93; 3) Shaykh Mufid (d. 413/1022), Majmu’at al-rasa’il; p. 266; 4) Shaykh Murtada ( d. 436/ 1044), Jawab al-masa’il al-tarabilsiyyat; 5) Shaykh Tusi (d. 460/1067), Kitab al-tibyan, vol. 1, p. 3; 6) Shaykh al¬Tabarsi (d.548/1153), Majma’ al-bayan (see his introduction where he clearly stresses the absence of any possibility of alteration with regard to the Qur’an); 7) Sayyid b. Tawus (d. 664/1265), Sa’d al-su’ud, p. 144 (where he says: ‘The non-existence of alteration-such is the position of the Imiimiyya); 8) ‘Allama Hilli (d. 726/1325), Ujubat: al-masa’il al- ·mihnaiyya,p.121(where he says;This is the truth that no addition or diminution has been effected in regard to the Qur’an, and I seek protection from God against speaking the word “alteration” (tahrif); for such an idea causes doubt to be cast on the miracle that was authentically transmitted to us by the Holy Prophet.’).
4. See Ahmad al-Najashi, Rijal al-Najashi (Beirut, 1409/1988) vol. 1, no. 1 go, p. 2 1 1.
5. al-Najashi, Rijal; vol. 1, no. 689, p. 96.
6. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khumayni, Tahdhib al-usul (Qom 1405/ 1984), vol. 2, p. 96.

How was the creation of man according to the Quran?

The Quran has explained the creation of man and his origin using different words and phrases. Some verses say that the initial material man comes from is clay. Other verses say it is water, while a third group say it is sperm. Meanwhile a fourth group says it was both clay and sperm together.
Nevertheless, what can be deduced from all of these verses is that man was dirt in the beginninga, then the dirt was mixed with water making it clay 2, then the clay became foul-smelling 3, after that it became sticky 4, then turned into dry clay 5 and finally life was breathed into it.
Meanwhile, scientists have two theories regarding the creation of creatures, both plants and animals:
a) The theory of evolution or transformism b) Fixism
The theory of evolution says that all forms of organisms weren’t created from the start, but certain organisms gradually evolved into ones we see today. The most complete and developed form of those early organisms is man. This theory is referred to as “Transformism”. As for the other theory referred to as “Fixism”, it says that all forms of life and organisms were created separately, denying any link and development between various forms.
Although the Quran doesn’t explain the creation of man in detail, not saying anything about the two theories mentioned above, yet what some verses slightly suggest is that the Quran’s standpoint regarding this issue is that different forms of animals and plants (especially man) were created separately, although no verse directly mentions such a matter.

The Quran has explained the creation of man and his origin in different ways; this signifies that the creation of man consisted of various steps.

a) Some verses introduce “clay” as the initial material for the creation of man. 1

b) Some verses say that man was created from “water”. 2

c) Other verses only name “sperm” as what man has been created from. 3

d) In other verses, “Clay and Sperm” together have been considered the origins of man. 4

There are two ways of explaining these verses:

1- To say that they are unveiling the way all people are created separately. For instance, when a verse says that man was created from clay, it means that clay turns into food and minerals, food and minerals turn into sperm cells and sperm turns into a fetus; meaning that clay is our “far” origin, while sperm is nearer to us and our creation.

2- To say that each of the four groups of verses are speaking of specific people and individuals. For instance, since Prophet Adam (pbuh) was the first person to be created, he was made from dirt and clay, and since all people today are descendants of Adam (pbuh) and trace back to him, and he was made from clay, it is correct to say clay is our origin as well.

Therefore, although it may seem at first sight that some Quranic verses aren’t in harmony with others on this issue, yet with a little focus one will be able to tell that there is no contradiction between them, because the truth of the matter is that some of these verses are only speaking of the creation of the first person created, Prophet Adam (pbuh). Clearly, the origin of the first person to ever be created is also considered the origin of those who were created from him; if his origin was clay, it is correct to say that all people were created from clay. This is from one perspective.

From another perspective, all people are looked at separately. Of course, this perspective isn’t in contradiction with the first, meaning that looking at the issue from both perspectives can give the same results. If we say that all people come from sperm, sperm comes from food, food comes from meat, fruit, plants and minerals, which all come from the ground and soil and dirt, then we can say that man is created from dirt, the same thing we said from the other perspective [that said we all come from Prophet Adam (pbuh) who was created from clay]. It is because of these two perspectives that some verses of the Quran are actually only speaking about Prophet Adam (pbuh) 5, while others are speaking of all people in general. In a verse, Allah (swt) says:

…I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit…” 6

and in another verse, He says:

When your Lord said to the angels,” Indeed I am going to create a human out of a dry clay [drawn] from a foul-smelling mud. So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down in prostration before him.” 7

Clearly in these verses, Allah (swt) is speaking of the story of the creation of Prophet Adam (pbuh) and how the angels were ordered to prostrate before him. One can’t interpret Adam (pbuh) as all people, because in the the verses that follow the one mentioned, Satan says:

{لَأَحْتَنِکَنَّ ذُرِّيَّتَه‏…}
…I will surely mislead and destroy his progeny… 8

If what was meant by Prophet Adam (pbuh) was all people, it wouldn’t make sense for Satan to say “his progeny”.

Some verses which are more general and have taken the creation of all people into consideration are:

He is the one who created man from water…” 9


He [man] was created from an effusing fluid”. 10

In verses like these, in which it has been stated that man has been created from water or sperm and the like, all people in general are meant.

Anyway, what can definitely be concluded by Quranic verses regarding man’s creation and origin, is that in the beginning, man was soil and dirt 11, that was mixed with water, making it clay 12, then became a foul-smelling clay 13, becoming sticky afterwards 14, and finally becoming dry clay 15b.

How long each step of the process took and what things factored into each of them is something the human mind currently has no answer to, and it is only Allah (swt) who is truly aware of the answers to these questions.

One point which needs to be kept in mind is that the Quran doesn’t explain the creation process of man in detail, because it is a book of guidance, not a science book, therefore, it shouldn’t be expected to deeply explain subjects like evolution, anatomy, embryology, etc. Of course, this doesn’t make it impossible for the Quran to sometimes make a few scientific points at the right time as well.

There are two scientific viewpoints on the creation of living organisms including plants.

a) Evolution or Transformism which says that organisms weren’t in the forms they are seen today, but were lifeless things that turned into single live cells in the oceans and seas because of certain circumstances. These tiny and invisible live organisms gradually developed into different forms of animals and plants. The most developed form they evolved to is the human being, who had descended from the same single cell as apes and monkeys have.

b) The theory known as “Fixism” which says every form of living organisms was there from the beginning (man being one of them), denying any type of evolution from one form to another.
What the Quran apparently says is that Prophet Adam (pbuh) was created from a dark clay and after his body took form, life and divine spirit was breathed into him and the angels were commanded to prostrate before him; all did so except for Satan. These verses suggest that there is no gap between the creation of Adam (pbuh) from clay and the current form humans have, and that people had this form from the start.

Conclusion: Although the Quran hasn’t directly engaged in explaining which of the two theories is correct, yet its verses suggest that the second theory is correct (of course regarding the creation of man), although once again, these verses don’t explicitly mention it.
One good reminder before closing is that man was created from two different entities; one being very high and the other very low in value. Man’s material side, which consists of reeking dark clay, is very low, while his spiritual side is very high, because it bears the divine spirit Allah (swt) has granted him.

What is important regarding this subject, is that the initial material used to create man is worthless and very low, but Allah (swt) has created such a valuable creature from it than can ascend to the highest levels of nearness to Him.

For further information, refer to:
1- Allamah Tabatabai, Al-Mizan, vol. 4 and 17.
2- Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 11, p. 82 and on and vol. 23.
3- Mohammad Taqi Mesbah, Rahnama Shenasi.
4- Mohammad Ali Rezai, Pajooheshi dar I’jaze Elmiye Quran, vol. 2, pp. 429-564.
5- Yadollah Sobhai, Khelqate Ensan.
6- Saduq, Ilalul-Sharaye’, vol. 15, chapter 11.

[1] Hajj:5.
[2] An’am:2.
[3] Hijr:28.
[4] Saffat:11.
[5] Rahman:14
[1] An’am:1; Sajdah:7; Saffat:18
[2] Furqan:54; Tariq:6.
[3] Nahl:4; Yasin:77; Dahr:2; Abas:19; and other verses.
[4] Hajj:5; Ghafir:67; Fatir:11; Kahf:37.
[5] Sad:72; Hijr:29.
[6] Sad:72.
[7] Hijr:29.
[8] Isra’:62.
[9] Furqan:54.
[10] Tariq:5-6.
[11] Hajj:5.
[12] An’am:2.
[13] Hijr:28.
[14] Saffat:11.
[15] Rahman:14.

What is Imam Ali’s perspective in respect to the Quran?


In the eyes of Imam Ali (as), the Quran holds a tremendous position. Some of the qualities he has attributed to this divine book have been collected in Nahjul Balaghah. A brief list of the qualities he has mentioned in regards to the Quran have been summarized as: an advisor who never deceives, the best of guides, the one who speaks the truth, the strongest and most dependable source of refuge and support, a cure, the source of knowledge, the highest form of prosperity, that which gives life to and enlightens the heart, the best means of intercession, the most complete and comprehensive book, etc.

Imam Ali (as), the greatest disciple of the Quran and the Holy Prophet (pbuh), had continually mentioned in his speech, sermons, and letters (now collected in Nahjul Balaghah) the innumerable qualities of the Quran. Through these means, he informed the people of the values encompassed within it and encouraged them to understand the immense status of this divinely inspired book. His dedication to the message of the Quran can be observed up until the very last moments of his life. In his will he urges his descendants to sacrifice all that which they posses in the way of the Quran and its message. In that will he states: “(Fear) Allah (and) keep Allah in view in the matter of the Quran. No one should excel you in acting upon it.”[1]

The emphasis placed upon this divine book tells us how significant Imam Ali (as) considered it. In describing the Quran, the following qualities have been mentioned in the words of Imam Ali (as):

1. An advisor who never deceives: “And know that this Quran is an advisor that never deceives.”[2]

2. The best of guides: “(The Quran is) a leader who never misleads.”[3]

3. The one who speaks the truth: “(The Quran is) a narrator who never speaks a lie.”[4]

4. The strongest and most dependable source of refuge and support: “You should adhere to the Book of Allah because it is the strong rope, a clear light, a benefiting cure, a quenching for thirst, protection for the adherent and deliverance for the attached. It does not curve so as to need straightening and does not deflect so as to be corrected.”[5]

5. A cure: “Therefore, seek cure from it for your ailments and seek its assistance in your distress. It contains a cure for the biggest diseases, namely unbelief, hypocrisy, revolt, and misguidance.”[6]

6. The source of knowledge: “… (it contains) the springs of knowledge.”[7] In another sermon of Nahjul Balaghah, Imam Ali (as) speaks of the immeasurable amount of knowledge found in the Quran: “Allah has made it a quencher of the thirst of the learned, a bloom for the hearts of religious jurists, a highway for the ways of the righteous…”[8]

7. The highest form of prosperity: “You should also know that no one will need anything after (guidance from) the Quran and no one will be free from want before (guidance from) the Quran.”[9]

8. That which gives life to and brings joy to the heart: “It contains the blossoming of the heart…”[10]

9. The best means of intercession: “Know that it is an interceder and its intercession will be accepted. It is a speaker who is testified. For whomever the Quran intercedes on the Day of Judgment, its intercession for him would be accepted.”[11]

10. A book that is everlasting: “Then Allah sent to him the book as a light whose flames cannot be extinguished, a lamp whose gleam does not die, a sea whose depth cannot be sounded, a way whose direction does not mislead, a ray whose light does not darken, a separator (of good from evil) whose arguments do not weaken…”[12]

11. The comprehensiveness of the Quran: The Imam (as) mentions the following in regards to the comprehensiveness of the Quran: “But the Prophet left among you the same which other Prophets left among their peoples, because Prophets do not leave them unattended without a clear path and a standing ensign, namely the book of your Creator clarifying its permissions and prohibitions, its obligations and discretion, its repealing injunctions and the repealed ones, its permissible matters and compulsory ones, its particulars and the general ones, its lessons and illustrations, its long and short ones, its clear and obscure ones, detailing is abbreviations and clarifying is obscurities.”[13]

The Imam (as) also states: “In the Quran, you will discover news of those who came before you and those who will come after you, as well as the necessary rulings which you will need to live by.”[14]

In sermon 198 of Nahjul Balaghah, the Imam (as) has extensively discussed the immense value of the Quran. These eloquent and expressive words of Amir al-Mu’minin (as) effectively illustrate the Quran’s significance and the qualities it possesses, to the extent that any further explanation or commentary is rendered unnecessary.

What has been mentioned is a modest example of the qualities attributed to this divine book from the words of Amir al-Mu’minin (as), the second greatest muffasir (commentator) of the Holy Quran.

May we be guided to the straight path through adherence of these teachings.

For further information, you may refer to the following sermons of Nahjul Balaghah: 110, 183, 169, 157, 158, 133, 176, and 198.

[1] Nahjul-Balaghah, letter 47.

[2] Sermon 176 “وَ اعْلَمُوا.أَنَّ هَذَا الْقُرْآنَ هُوَ النَّاصِحُ الَّذِی لَا یَغُشُّ”.

[3] Sermon 176 “وَ الْهَادِی الَّذِی لَا یُضِلُّ”.

[4] Sermon 176 “وَ الْمُحَدِّثُ الَّذِی لَا یَکْذِبُ”.

[5] Sermon 156.

[6] Sermon 176 “فَاسْتَشْفُوهُ مِنْ أَدْوَائِکُمْ وَ اسْتَعِینُوا بِهِ عَلَى لَأْوَائِکُمْ فَإِنَّ فِیهِ شِفَاءً مِنْ أَکْبَرِ الدَّاءِ وَ هُوَ الْکُفْرُ وَ النِّفَاقُ وَ الْغَیُّ وَ الضَّلَالُ”.

[7] Sermon 176 “و ینابیع العلم”.

[8] Sermon 198.

[9] Sermon 176 “و اعلموا انه لیس على احد بعد القرآن من فاقة و لا لاحد قبل القرآن من غنى”.

[10] Sermon 176 “فیه ربیع القلب”.

[11] Sermon 176 “وَ اعْلَمُوا أَنَّهُ شَافِعٌ مُشَفَّعٌ وَ قَائِلٌ مُصَدَّقٌ وَ أَنَّهُ مَنْ شَفَعَ لَهُ الْقُرْآنُ یَوْمَ الْقِیَامَةِ ُفِّعَ فِیهِ”.

[12] Sermon 198.

[13] Sermon 1.

[14] Nahjul-Balaghah, short sayings, saying 313.