SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — One of the main verses which the Islamic Schools of Thought have conflicts in interpreting is the verse of Uli Almr (The People of Authority/Command). The verse in question gives these people a very high position as we will discuss and at least a level of infallibility if not more. In this article we will talk about this position and who holds it as well as mention the different opinions from other schools of thought on the matter.
“O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and Uli Alamr (those who have the amr among you). And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result. “ (4:59)
The verse states a direct command from Allah (SWT) to obey him and obey his Messenger and those who have the amr. Regardless of who those people are, the way the verse is structured requires them to be infallible. One of the top Sunni scholars on Tafseer says "It is not possible for "uli alamr" to not be infallible. It is impossible for Allah to give an unlimited authority to someone who is not infallible." (Tafseer Alfakhr Alrazi, verse 4:59).
Allah's authority on the people is not limited and unquestioned. His right to obedience is inherent in the fact that he is the creator of everything. He then extends that right with the statement “and obey” the Messenger and Uli Alamr. Thus, whatever authority and scope of obedience we have towards Allah (SWT) we must have towards the Messenger and Uli Alamr without any conditions or limitations. If we say that these people are not infallible, that means they might make a mistake. If for example they tell us that drinking blood is permissible and it was actually not then we have two commands from Allah: 1) Drinking blood is permissible by the unlimited authority he has given to Uli Almr, and 2) Drinking blood is not permissible by the actual order of Allah (SWT). These two commands are contradictory; therefore Allah (SWT) would ensure that does not happen.
What are the Opinions on the Topic?
There are four opinions on who Uli Alamr are in this verse:
The Four Caliphs
Every Caliph that has ruled the Islamic Nation
Every person who has authority in an Islamic Nation/Society
Since the verse refers to a certain group of people which are infallible as discussed above the second and third option are silly and not worthy of discussion. (It is amazing that people have such a problem with the Shia saying there are 14 infallible and yet they are willing to extend infallibility to millions of people across the Islamic World just to move it away from AhlulBayt).
As far as the first option we say that:
None of the three first Caliphs has ever claimed infallibility and if they were deserving of such a position and the verse was revealed about them, they would have used the verse to unite the Muslims on their ruling and to support their decision making.
The mistakes of the first three are many and they are widely spread in Sunni books of Hadeeth such as Abu Bakr cutting the wrong hand of the thief or Omar stoning a pregnant woman and so on. No one can claim their infallibility and because of that even Sunni scholars who believe in their khilafah do not claim that they are infallible.
Othman was killed by Muslims and the Companions of the Prophet as well Aisha rallied against him and openly objected to his decisions and if he was infallible that would not have been the case.
There is no evidence supporting a limit on Uli Alamr or any other description on the first four Caliphs except convention and opinion of Sunni scholars and that is not sufficient evidence to establish the meaning of a verse in the Quran.
Given this evidence the only people in the history of Islam who have claimed infallibility and who are pure by the agreement of all (with varying degrees) are AhlulBayt. Therefore, they are Uli Alamr.
Who Does the Quran Say Are Uli Almar?
In order to understand who the people of amr are, we must understand what amr refers to in this verse. “Amr” in Arabic means “order” or “command”. The literal meaning of the phrase is “those who have the authority among you”. However, the Quran uses the word amr in a different way:
Unquestionably, His is the creation and the command (amr); blessed is Allah , Lord of the worlds. (7:54) : The separation between creation and amr means they are distinct from each other. Creation refers to appearances and amr refers to the reality of creation as explained below.
And Our command (amr) is but one, like a glance of the eye. (54:50) : The verse is indicating the special reality related to amr and that it does not require time and other things which normal things require.
And thus We have revealed to you an inspiration of Our command (amr). (42:52) : Revealing the amr to the Prophet (S) means that he is able to use this sort of special creationary authority on things through the power given by Allah (SWT).
His command (amr) is only when He intends a thing that He says to it, "Be," and it is. (36:82)
He arranges [each] command (amr) from the heaven to the earth; then it will ascend to Him in a Day, the extent of which is a thousand years of those which you count. (32:5) : This is confirming that the amr and the power related to it involves everything from the heaven and earth. Whoever Allah gives this authority to will have the power to control all of this.
Thus the people of amr are those who these commands come down to:
Indeed, We sent the Qur'an down during the Night of Decree. And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every command (amr). Peace it is until the emergence of dawn. ( 97)
Indeed, We sent it down during a blessed night. Indeed, We were to warn [mankind]. On that night is made distinct every precise command (amr) – [Every] command [proceeding] from Us. Indeed, We were to send [a messenger]. As mercy from your Lord. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Knowing. (44:3-6)
Then We put you, [O Muhammad], on an ordained way concerning the command (amr); so follow it and do not follow the inclinations of those who do not know. (45:18)
He sends down the angels, with the inspiration of His command (amr), upon whom He wills of His servants, [telling them], "Warn that there is no deity except Me; so fear Me. (16:2)
Every creation has two sides to it: the appearance of it and the true reality which is hidden. The appearance is something that we can see such as the world. The true reality is what lies underneath and what is going on behind the scene which we are not able to see. When Allah says “Unquestionably, His is the creation and the command (amr)”, the “creation” here refers to the appearance and the “amr” is referring to the true hidden reality and the creationary power. This is why it describes the “amr” as “when He intends a thing that He says to it, "Be," and it is”.
The last verse indicates that this command comes down to whomever Allah chooses and it is not restricted to prophets. This goes to the matter creationary role of the prophets and the representatives of Allah and that Allah (SWT) gave them access to the unseen reality of things. This concept maybe difficult to understand here but it is explained in other places.
The sum of it is amr refers to the aspect of creation which is unseen by the people. And that the amr of the heavens and the earth is brought down by the angels on the night of decree (qadr). The people of amr are the ones who receive this and they are the representatives of Allah on earth. The verses indicated that they are not necessarily prophets. This is because prophethood ends but the need for guidance does not. Thus the verse: “And We made from among them leaders (Imams) guiding by Our command (amr) when they were patient and [when] they were certain of Our signs.” (32:24) The word used by the Quran is Imam and this is the position of Imam that the Shia call for.
Objection: This is just a collection of verses which you combined together with no real authority in order to support your position.
Answer: We must understand that the Quran is the Holy Book of Allah (SWT) and it is not for the people to understand and interpret as they may. Just as we work hard trying to figure out the meaning of words said in a constitution or legal document or a medical book, we must be very careful trying to figure out the meaning of verses in the Quran.
When we see a verse like this talking about “amr” we can take the literal meaning and understand something from the verse. However, finding other verses which talk about “amr” in the Quran will help us understand the verse in more depth and more accurately. This theory is based on the idea that the Quran can be used to explain itself and therefore combining these verse to make a logical argument is not forcing the Quran to say something it did not say but only enhancing our understanding as long we are not changing the meanings of verses or cutting words out of context. Anyone who ponders on the verses used and the meanings provided will see that this is a very natural progression used and understood from the Hadeeths of AhlulBayt (A) who are the speaking Quran.
The verse gives an unrestricted level of authority to a group of people labeled as the people of the command. Giving them such an authority necessarily implies their infallibility. The literal and basic meaning refers to those who are in authority. Given the four options listed above and using the process of elimination, the only ones left are AhlulBayt (A). Furthermore, if we think more deeply about the verses on “amr” in the Quran we get a deeper meaning which again refers to the high positions held by AhlulBayt (A) as the representatives of Allah and the holders of his hidden knowledge.—www.shafaqna.com/english
Source: Shia Answers