Ask Ahl al-Dhikr If You Do Not Know
All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the universe. May the best of blessings and greetings be upon our leader and master Muhammad, who was sent as a mercy to the universe, he is the master of the foremost ones and the last ones, he was purified from all disgraces. May Allah's choicest blessings and greetings also be upon the illustrious and purified ahlul-bayt, the standards of guidance, light of those in darkness and the Imams of the Muslims.
".... Ask ahl al-dhikr if you do not know". (Quran 16:43)
".... Ask ahl al-dhikr if you do not know". (Quran 21:07)
The Meanings of Ahl al-dhikr:
Those who know
The people of al-dhikr (the Book)
The followers of the Remembrance
The followers of the Reminder
[ See the translations of the Holy Quran. ]
Who Are Ahl al-Dhikr ?
This noble verse instructs the Muslims to refer to the people who know in all things which perplex them so that they may discern the path to the truth, because Allah, having taught them, has nominated them for that purpose. Their knowledge is deeply rooted and they know the interpretation of the Quran.
This verse was revealed to introduce the ahlul-bayt. They are The Holy Prophet Muhammad (s), Imam Ali, Fatima, Imam Hasan and Imam Husain. This occurred in the time of prophecy, since, after the Prophet and up to the coming of the hour of reckoning, the aforementioned five are the people of the blanket, in addition to them are nine Imams from the progeny of Imam Husain whom the Holy Prophet (s) designated on many occasions and he called them the Imams of guidance and light of those in darkness and "the people who know". He also called them "those deeply embedded in knowledge and those to whom Allah, Glory be to Him, has bestowed the knowledge of the book".
These narrations are well established, true and repeatedly narrated (mutawatir) by the Shias since the time of the Holy Prophet (s) and some Sunni scholars and commentators have also reported them, confirming that they were revealed concerning the ahlul-bayt. I cite from these Sunni scholars by way of example:
1. Tafsir al-Kabir of al-Tha'labion in the meaning of chapter 16 (al-Nahl).
2. Tafsir al-Quran of Ibn Kathir in the 2nd volume, p. 570.
3. Tafsir of al-Tabari in volume 14, p. 109.
4. Tafsir Ruh al-Ma'ani of al-Alusi in volume 14, p. 134.
5. Tafsir al-Qurtubi in volume 11, p. 272.
6. Tafsir al-Hakim, called Shawahid al-Tanzil, volume 1, p. 334.
7. Tafsir al-Tustari called Ihqaq al-Haqq, in volume 3, p. 482
8. Yanabi' al-Mawadda of al-Qunduzi al-Hanafi, p. 51 and p. 140.
The apparent meaning of the verse suggests that the ahl al-dhikr refers to the people of the book, i.e. Jews and Christians. It therefore becomes necessary for us to make it clear that they are not the ones intended in the noble verse.
· Firstly: Because the noble Quran has mentioned in a number of verses that they altered the word of God and they wrote the book with their hands, claiming that it was from God so as to purchase a small price. It also bore witness to their lies and turning the truth upside down. Given this state of affairs, it is not possible for it (the Quran) to instruct the Muslims to refer to them on issues which they do not know about.
· Secondly: Al-Bukhari has reported in his Sahih in "The Book of Testimony" under the chapter "The ahl al-shirk (polytheists) aren't to be asked", volume 3, p. 163. The Prophet (s) said: 'Do not believe the people of the book and do not consider them as liars but say: 'We believe in God and what was revealed'.
This means we should not to refer questions to them, rather, we should abandon and ignore them because the command not to believe them nor to consider them as liars would nullify the goal of questioning, i.e., awaiting the correct reply.
· Thirdly: Al-Bukhari has reported in his Sahih in "The Book of Unity" in the chapter: "Everyday He is concerned with matters" volume 8, p. 208,
Ibn Abbas said: "O Muslims! How come you ask the people of the scriptures, although your book which was revealed to His Prophet has the most recent information from Allah and you recite it, a book which has not been distorted? Allah has revealed to you that the people of the scriptures have changed with their own hands what was revealed to them and they have said: 'This is from Allah' in order to get some worldly benefit thereby". Ibn 'Abbas added: "Isn't the knowledge revealed to you sufficient to prevent you from asking them? By Allah, I have never seen any one of them asking (Muslims) about what has been revealed to you".
· Fourthly: Among the people of the book, if we ask the Christians today they will claim that Jesus is God whilst the Jews will consider them to be liars and will not accept him even as a Prophet. Both of them belie Islam and the Prophet of Islam and they call him a liar and an antichrist. Bearing this in mind, it is incomprehensible that Allah would command us to ask them if we accept that the ahl al-dhikr from the apparent meaning of the verse refers to the people of the book amongst the Jews and Christians. This does not contradict the view that it was revealed for the household of the Prophet as is established amongst the Shi'as and Sunnis from authentic reports. It is understood from this that Allah, Glory be to Him, the Most Exalted, bestowed the knowledge of the book, which does not neglect anything in it, to these Imams whom He has chosen among His slaves so that people can refer to them on the commentary and interpretation of the Quran. Therein lies their guidance - if they obey God and His Messenger.
As Allah, Glory be to Him, and sublime is His wisdom, wished the people to submit to the selected ones amongst them, He chose them and taught them the knowledge of the book so that the leadership could be facilitated and the affairs of the people organized due to that. If they were absent from the lives of the people, the opportunity would be open for (false) claimants and ignorant ones. Everyone would then follow his vain desires and the matter would be confusing for the people since everyone could claim to be the most learned.